January 29, 2012

The Easiest and Most Delicious Healthy Muffins You'll Ever Make

It's a long title for a muffin, I know. But I had to describe these muffins accurately. 

These muffins are healthy! And ridiculously easy! And simple! Best yet, they are absolutely delicious. 

Actually, they are based on a scone recipe. Have you met a scone that wasn't baked with layers of cold butter? I hadn't, until I came across this South African scone recipe. It was fabulous, and I didn't have to travel to South Africa because instead it came to me. 

An intern at work, who was in the States for grad school, but was originally from South Africa, gave a presentation.  After her slide show she passed around her freshly baked scones, which she explained were her grandmother's recipe. When I looked at the accompanying recipe I was shocked that there was no butter and that they were remarkably simple. I went home and immediately adapted the recipe for breakfast the following morning. I wanted the scones to be even more nutritious. I swapped the oil with pumpkin puree, and the white flour for wheat. 


I had a scrumptious fat-free, light and fluffy pumpkin "scone". 

Since these are baked in silicone muffin cups, I am going to just go ahead and call them muffins instead of scones.... but wonderfully, they bear the same airy, moist crumb as a scone. 

For this batch I stirred in fresh cranberries. When they baked, their beautiful magenta juice burst into whimsical swirls against the backdrop of orange batter. Doesn't it almost look like a flavor ribboned scoop of ice cream? 

You can make your own flavor combinations in these muffins, which is what's fun about it. Keep the base the same, but you could substitute apple sauce for the pumpkin puree, or toss in nuts, dried fruits, or blueberries. You could even get a bit decadent with chocolate chips. There have been far worse combinations than pumpkin and chocolate...

Enjoy these muffins gently warmed, with a smear of jam or butter. I'll warn you that they will disappear quickly (they do in my house), but they are so easy to make that you could put another batch on the table just as fast.... which is why they certainly deserve their long, descriptive title, and I hope that you agree!

...The Easiest and Most Delicious Healthy Muffins...  adapted from "Ma's Scones"
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
zest of 1 orange
2 cups white-wheat flour (I use Trader Joe's)
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup fresh cranberries

Whisk together the pumpkin, milk, egg, and orange zest. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just incorporated (do not over stir, you will get tough baked-goods!). Gently fold in the cranberries. Divide evenly among 8 silicone baking cups or greased and floured muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. They are done when a toothpick comes out clean. 

January 20, 2012

When Lunch Is Child's Play

Recently one of my co-workers observed that I eat like a child. I objected. Didn't she know that I eat everything except for mustard and caviar? Did she know about my constantly revolving cravings for Thai, Indian, Mexican, Malaysian, and other ethnic foods? If I eat like a child, I eat like a child who has conquered the kitchen tables of far off lands!

Then I realized that I was fighting what was actually a wonderful truth. Regardless of all else that I eat, I absolutely do take immense pleasure in the simple, delicious joys of childlike food combinations. There is an intense comfort in chicken fingers dipped in ketchup, a big slice of apple pie, or my regular lunches of peanut butter and jelly.

Which brings me to this lunch favorite:

 Peanut Butter Banana Pizzas. Oh, the joy!

The base is always delightfully chewy, fluffy Middle Eastern Flatbread.

Then I make them two ways:
One has a layer of rich, chocolatey Nutella, which is then layered with creamy peanut butter and topped with sliced bananas. 

The second way involves jelly and not chocolate. Peanut butter is spread on first, then the preserves, then slices of banana on top. And a sprinkle of cinnamon for that warm, inviting spice.

Cut it into pizza-shaped slices and lunch has never been more fun, simple, and nostalgic.

I'm not going to write down an ingredient list, or cooking directions. There are none -- it's exactly how I described it here, and the pictures are worth all of those words. Now go make one for yourself and experience the delights of this sweet and savory combination that will keep you both full and happy.... in your stomach, and in your memories.

And next time someone comments that you eat like a child, say, "thank you" and get back to eating.

January 18, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Super smooth, tasty, and good for a crowd. I made this last Saturday night when a bunch of friends came over for drinks before we all headed out on the town. It was quickly devoured atop crunchy multigrain crackers. At least we could say our snacking was the one healthy activity of the evening!

The red peppers give it the color of a smoldering, baking hot sunset, but the flavor is sweet, not spicy. Since it's a gourmet-feeling spin on classic hummus it's sure to impress your guests (this one got a few very rave reviews). You'll want to make enough for yourself to set aside for the next day's snack, because as I learned, if you serve it all there's not a chance of leftovers!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus:
2 (14-oz) cans garbanzo beans
1 jar roasted red peppers
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4-1/2 t. red pepper flakes
olive oil to reach desired consistency
salt to taste

Directions: Rinse and drain beans and add to food processor along with the roasted red peppers (removed from their juice or oil, but not drained.) Turn on processor and slowly add oil until it begins to turn into a smooth puree. Stop processor. Add garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Process again, adding oil until you reach your desired consistency (I like mine thick) and it is smooth. Salt again to taste. Serve with pita wedges, crackers, or sliced vegetables.

January 14, 2012

Chicken, Saffron Rice & Lime Soup

I usually don't make soup this often! I'm surprising myself with back-to-back soup entries.

But there are a couple of things going on behind my soup movement. One is that it has obviously been extremely cold out (it is Winter). The second is that I joined a gym for the first time in my life! Woah!

What does a gym have to do with soup? Well, I will tell you. Let's say I want to attend a spin class and it's at 6:00pm. Usually by 6:00pm I'm already back from my jog and lighting up the stove for dinner. So now, rather than hunkering down in the kitchen, I'm perching atop a bike at the same hour. By the time I get home from the spin class it's closer to 7:30 (okay, maybe I shouldn't stretch so much afterward, or chat so much afterward, but that's neither here nor there.) Then I shower, look in the fridge, and before I know it we're eating dinner at 9:00. I know that's normal for many, but Matt wakes up very early and it's not cool to sit down to dinner during bedtime.

Back to the soup! The moral of the story is that I needed dinner and needed it warm + fast. This soup was ready in just about the 20 minutes it took to boil the rice. It can also be made in a slow cooker. This allowed us to sit down to eat much earlier than we had been.

I know the gym is only supposed to work miracles on the body, but it's working miracles on my "stop-over-thinking-weeknight-dinner-just-make-something-good-and-eat-it!" capabilities. I'm developing major boundaries around evening time management, enjoying my nights more, and possibly even developing some arm muscles while I'm at it.

Chicken, Saffron Rice & Lime Soup
1 (32-oz) carton Organic Reduced-Sodium Chicken Broth
1 onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly into 1/2" pieces
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 package uncooked Saffron Rice (sold in rice section at grocery store)
1 cup uncooked white rice
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

Stovetop Directions:
Add all ingredients through 'chicken breasts" to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, add the Saffron and white rice to a small saucepan with 2x as much water as rice and bring to a boil. Reduce both to a simmer. Cover, and cook. When rice is done (10-15 minutes), pour directly into soup pot. Simmer both together for about five minutes. Stir in the lime zest, juice, and pepper. Salt to taste and serve.

Slow Cooker Directions:
Add all ingredients except for lime and pepper to slow cooker. Cook on low 8-9 hours or high 3-4. Stir in lime and pepper and serve.

January 8, 2012

Chorizo, Chickpea & Kale Soup

Last week was freezing!

I needed something hearty and warming, and I needed it fast. When Kale is in season (winter) I simply can't help myself from buying it in bunches every single week. But even my favorite kale preparation can get repetitive quickly when eaten that often. 

Enter this soup. The kale, which has been finely processed, is barely recognizable but for its intense and pervasive green color. It's simmered together with meaty hunks of browned chorizo (or cured chorizo for an even faster soup) and canned chickpeas. The combination is lovely. 

Since I wanted my soup to go a little farther in quantity, I went a little crazy and tossed in a cup or so of cute little dried pasta O's while it simmered for those ten minutes, then during the last five minutes added a handful of frozen edamame. These spontaneous additions added a lot of heart to the soup. Even if you don't have edamame (you could simply use more chickpeas, or a can of white beans would be very nice), definitely add the pasta. 

This soup is a one-stop power-meal of veggies, proteins, and carbs. In other words, Winter dinner perfection. 

Chorizo, Chickpea & Kale Soup
2 T. oil for the pan
1/4 lb. chorizo, removed from casing*
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 t. salt
1/8 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 lb. kale, cut from the center ribs and finely processed in the food processor
32 oz. reduced sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas
1 cup dried pasta of choice (a small variety)
Optional: 1 cup frozen edamame

*Cook's note: if you are using cured chorizo, simply dice into 1/2 pieces and stir in during the last few minutes of cooking.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook until browned, breaking up into small pieces while cooking. With a slotted spoon, remove chorizo onto a plate. Add onions to the oil in the pan and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and stir, 1 minute. Add the bay leaf, salt, pepper, red pepper, kale, broth, water, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes or until the pasta is just cooked. If desired, stir in frozen edamame during the last five minutes of cooking.

January 3, 2012

Nonna's Biscotti Two Ways

I couldn't decide what kind of biscotti to bring to my sister's house on New Year's Day, so I decided not to decide at all.

Instead, I just made both kinds I was considering.

I was accompanied on the bus to Manhattan by my tin of dark chocolate-hazelnut biscotti and cranberry-hazelnut biscotti. It was the perfect company. There were five other people on the bus who were as crazy and as sober as I to take an 8am bus on New Year's Day. They slept the whole time.

I tasted my biscotti. First the dark chocolate-hazelnut. What can I say about that combination .... other than "Baci" and "Nutella"?

Then the cranberry-hazelnut. Chewy and sweet. Slightly more tame but no less delightful.

Hazelnuts provided a great crunch to these biscotti, but you don't have to limit your flavor combinations when baking up this treat, either. It's a New Year, so take some new chances. Perhaps you enjoy peanuts and chocolate? (I do) Or little bites of dried apricots with almonds and white chocolate?(Yum, sounds good!) Do it all.

But in the meantime, here is the recipe for my Biscotti Two Ways, which is code language for "Biscotti Your Way."

Nonna's Biscotti Two Ways
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
2.5 cups flour, plus 1 extra cup for adding in
2 1/3 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon and baking powder. In another, mix the sugar, eggs, and oil. Combine all the ingredients together, then add enough flour until the batter is just no longer sticky and pulls away from the sides. Divide the batter into two bowls. To one, add 1/2 cup dark chocolate and 1/2 cup hazelnuts. To the other, add 1/2 cup hazelnuts and 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Stir until fully combined.
Form two relatively flat, long loaf and place on a floured baking sheet. 

Bake about 25 minutes, or until the loaf is just baked but still soft. Cut on a slight diagonal into 1/2 inch wide cookies, turn each cookie on its side, and bake for another 5-10 minutes per side or until crunchy and golden brown. Cool on wire racks.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...