Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hippie Muffins

With a New Year starting tomorrow after a holiday season of celebrating with lots of food and drinks, a lot of people are planning to eat healthier and drop a few pounds, myself included. I know that one of my down falls is not eating enough or any breakfast, then later when I'm starving, stuffing myself with whatever's handy.

These muffins, easily made vegan by substituting soy milk, provide a good punch of fiber and protein to keep me full, and add some fruit and a little bit of healthy fat to my diet. Plus, they actually taste good, particularly with a little dab of butter or almond butter I made in the last post.

Hippie Muffins

1 1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 mashed bananas
1/3 cup applesauce
1 cup dried fruit in bite size pieces (cut up peaches for this batch)
1/2 cup nut pieces (I used pecans)

Preheat oven to 400 F and grease or line a muffin pan.
Add lemon juice to milk, and set aside to curdle while mixing other ingredients.
Mix flour, oatmeal, zest, baking powder, baking soda, salt & cinnamon thoroughly. Stir in bananas & applesauce, then milk and finally fold in dried fruit and nuts.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full.
Bake for 18 min or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins, for roughly 200 cal apiece, if you like to count.

Almonds Galore

I hope everybody had as wonderful and tasty of a Christmas as I do. Now I'm starting off the year with a pantry filled with lots of tasty chocolates and other treats. Fortunately, thanks to more winter C.S.A. deliveries while I was being spoiled at my mother's house, I found my pantry stuffed with lots of healthy things too, including 2 1/2 lbs of almonds. Yup, 2 1/2 lbs. That's a lot of almonds. So on my day off, and preparing my house for a new year, I'm going almond crazy. My apartment smells incredible with all the toasted nuttiness. Now I've got almond butter and 2 different flavors of roasted almonds to snack on. Feel free to add your own favorite seasonings to the roasted ones.

Almond Butter

2 cups almonds
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast for 7 to 10 min, stirring once or twice.
While almonds are still hot, pour into a food processor with the salt & oil. Pulse the almonds in ten second bursts until it starts to smooth out. Then run food processor for 30 seconds or so at a time until you reach the desired texture. This part does take patience. It will look like nothing for a few minutes, then all of a sudden it turns into this gorgeously smooth butter.
Pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Eat on everything you'd eat with peanut butter.
Makes 1 1/2 cups, or 12 2-tbsp servings.

Roasted Almonds

2 cups almonds
1 tbsp vegetable oil
seasoning to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix ingredients in a bowl until almonds are thoroughly coated with oil and the seasoning is evenly distributed. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then bake for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

For seasoning, I used 2 tbsp Cajun seasoning for one batch (Tony Chachere's) and 2 tbsp sugar + 1/2 tbsp cinnamon for a sweeter second batch.

Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Favorite Greens

Way back when I started this blog, I mentioned my favorite way of preparing greens. This is so easy and perfect for stronger flavored greens, like collards, kale, turnip or mustard greens, and chard. It's a healthier, meat free version of the greens my grandmothers always prepared. And because they remind me of grandmas, I think they're the perfect side dish to mac & cheese, another traditional Southern comfort food. If I'm proactive, I pick up different flavors of cheese, keep them in my fridge, then grate them over plain hot elbow noodles. Tonight, I went the lazy route and opened a box of Amy's whole wheat & white cheddar.

Timing wise, I start heating the skillet & adding the onions & garlic after I put water on to boil. The greens are started after the noodles are added to boiling water. The greens should be finished right when the noodles are ready to be drained.

Favorite Greens:
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion, sliced thin
pinch crushed red pepper
salt, to taste
1 bunch greens, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp acid (apple cider/balsamic/red wine/flavored vinegar or lemon juice)
1 tbsp sugar

Heat oil in the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions, season with salt & red pepper, and sautee for 5 min, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft and onions are beginning to brown. Add remaining ingredients and sautee, stirring occasionally for 5-10 min, until greens are very tender. Adjust seasonings, acid/sugar balance.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Classic with a twist

I'm incapable of leaving a recipe alone. When I first started to cook, I followed every recipe to the letter, measuring out precisely. Since I've gotten more experience, cookbooks have become more of a guideline than anything. Now, baking requires much stricter rules, but you can still make a few tweaks here and there as you gain more experience, just never forget the chemistry. Don't mess with the amounts of liquids, flour or fat, or you might get something quite odd.

For this, I took a childhood favorite, oatmeal raisin. Now, this wasn't one of mine. Remember the fruit aversion? Yes, that extended to raisins and anything involved in desserts. Anyways, I took the dried peaches that came with my C.S.A. and figured the best way to introduce myself to them was coat them in butter and sugar. But, in an attempt to be healthy(er) this holiday season, I figured I add some whole grains in the form of oatmeal & whole wheat flour for a nuttier flavor.

I've found with dried fruit that doesn't come in nice bite sized pieces (like raisins or cranberries) the best way to cut them up is with scissors. Also, you can use preground spices in this, but grating your own cinnamon & nutmeg with a microplane grater adds amazing flavor. The only real cost is investing in the grater, and your spices keep their flavor longer. If you have kids, cutting up fruit and grating spices is a great way to get them involved.

Adapted from The King Arthur Baker's Companion

Peach & Pecan Cookies
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flower
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup yogurt (I use low-fat plain)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups oats
1 cup dried peach pieces
1 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together butter, oil and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, then beat in yogurt & vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon & nutmeg, stirring until thoroughly combined. Finally, mix in oats, peaches & pecans.

Drop by tablespoon full onto lined baking sheet, then bake for 14 minutes. These guys won't spread, and if you pull them out right at 14 min, they'll be cooked throughout and stay nice and soft. Cool on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.

Makes 48 cookies, if you don't eat too much dough.