Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocolate Quinoa Muffins

I’ve posted a few recipes for quinoa on my blog, like Vanilla Roobios Quinoa with Coconut Milk, an Orange Spiced Quinoa, a Quick Quinoa Soup, and Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa, but I hadn't used it as an ingredient in a baked item. So when a friend posted a recipe for quinoa muffins, I immediately got excited about it. Her recipe is here and she also has a few more great quinoa recipes on her blog as well. As much as her muffin recipe looks and sounds fabulous (and I will try it, as is!), I tweeked it slightly because I had chocolate on my mind. The result is below. These taste rich and are moist and chocolately, but induce none of the guilt that may result from eating a heavy chocolate cake or pastry. I would very happily eat these for breakfast–I did this morning and I was hunger-free and full of energy even following my afternoon yoga class, which went very well, I might add. I've got ideas for several variations that I'll post after they're tested. Three cheers for quinoa!!!

Dry ingredients:

1 ¾ cup whole grain flour, like spelt

¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder

½ c sugar like sucanat or turbinado sugar

1 ½ t baking powder

1 t sea or Himalayan salt

1 t cinnamon

½ t cardamom

Wet ingredients:

¼ c oil, like grapeseed

1 large egg

1 c buttermilk

1 t vanilla

2 c cooked quinoa, cooled

1/3 c dried cherries or cranberries (or whatever dried fruit you like!)

¼ c chopped walnuts, (or again, take your pick of nuts: pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts, etc.)

1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl (the first 7 above) and mix with a wire whisk.

2. In a separate larger bowl, combine the wet ingredients (including the dried fruit and nuts) and mix well.

3. Gently fold in the dry ingredients and mix just until they are incorporated.

4. Fill lightly buttered muffin tins ¾ full with batter. Bake at 350°F for 25 min, or until cooked through. Let cool slightly before removing from the pan.

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Alternative to the Carbs and Gluten of Pasta - Spaghetti Squash!

I’m a squash lover. In fact, when I was a baby, the doctor told my mother to stop feeding it to me because I was turning orange. : ) To me, there is nothing like oven roasted butternut or acorn squash–it’s great plain or with a little maple syrup–and wonderful stuffed or even in soups. Another squash that I revisited this year that has become one of my new favorites is spaghetti squash.

It’s flesh is not orange like some of the other winter squashes, however it has another interesting property that makes it fun and satisfying to eat. At first glance, when cut open, a spaghetti squash appears like any other squash with its clump of seeds in the center surrounded by smooth, solid flesh. However, when cooked, the reason for its name becomes instantly apparent. The meat can be pulled away from the shell in thin, spaghetti-like strands that are a little bit crunchy and very juicy. This is great news if you’re a pasta lover and want a lower carb, gluten-free alternative to spaghetti. A 1 cup serving has only 42 calories versus almost 200 for whole-wheat pasta and is a good source of fiber, vitamin C and manganese. You can check out the nutritional profile here.

Spaghetti squash is versatile and can be prepared in a number of ways. It can be boiled, steamed, baked or roasted. My favorite way to cook it is to cut it in half lengthwise, rub the insides with olive or grapeseed oil, then place them cut side down onto a baking sheet and roast it in a 350° oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a fork can be easily inserted into the skin.

Once it’s ready, let it cool a little bit, scoop out the seeds, then with a fork, gently pull the stringy flesh away from the shell. This would make a great project for kids because they’re often fascinated by the result after cooking. I have to admit, I am too!

Here are three of the infinite number of ways that this squash can be seasoned:

1. Add olive oil, garlic, sea salt and pepper and gently toss. Chopped fresh herbs would be perfect here as well.

2. Probably my favorite way is to add roasted tomatoes fresh basil and garlic and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese. A friend and school mate of mine had a great blog on roasting tomatoes for a sauce that you can see here. This is, without a doubt, my favorite way to make spaghetti sauce and this one is perfect for the fresh and light texture of this squash.

3. The last time I prepared it, halfway through the roasting, I added a few halved apples to the pan and let them bake. Then I added the cooked apple, a few drops of olive oil, a little sea salt, and a dash of cinnamon. This had a mildly sweet flavor that is a nice change from the savory versions I usually prepare.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Forbidden (Black) Rice, Lentils and Kale

Black rice, also known as Forbidden Rice, is an heirloom grain that was evidently grown for the Emperors of China as a longevity food. It has a deep, nutty taste, is high in nutrients, including iron, and contains anthocyanins, compounds that act as antioxidants, in its deep pigment. It’s also high in vitamin E and fiber and is being touted as the new “superfood”.

I just found the rice the other day at Whole Foods and thought I would give it a try in a very dark dish I put together with lentils and kale. Lentils are high in fiber, folate, vitamin B6, thiamin, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron. Its protein is a great complement to the amino acid content found in rice which makes the combination a wonderful, complete-protein dish.

Kale is a superstar leafy green. For it’s health benefits, I want to direct you to this great Facebook page for a Kale Challenge that I’m following right now. The Green Lemon-Aid recipe on this page is tangy and delicious and if you're into juicing, I encourage you to try it!

Here’s the rice and lentil dish with kale:

1 T grapeseed or coconut oil

1 medium onion, chopped small

1 cup black rice, soaked in water overnight and rinsed well

1 cup green lentils, soaked in water overnight and rinsed well

water or veggie broth

2 cups kale leaves removed from stalks and broken into small pieces

Juice from ½ to 1 lemon

sea salt and black pepper

1. Place lentils in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat and allow to simmer until tender, ~10-15 minutes, but maybe less depending on how long they’ve been soaked.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a second medium saucepan. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add black rice and 1 ¾ cups of veggie broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until cooked, ~15-20 minutes since it's been soaked.

3. Drain the lentils, then add to the cooked rice and onions.

4. Pick up the kale with hands and squeeze/massage it in hands to tenderize it. Add to the hot rice and lentils and stir well to wilt the kale.

5. Squeeze half a lemon (or more) into the mix and season with sea salt and pepper.

This is a hearty dish on its own and is even good cold so would be great to take for lunch or for a simple dinner with a salad. Here's to your health!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fresh Raspberry Scones

I thought back today to remember if I had baked at all this summer and I don’t think I did. When the hot weather hits, the sweets I crave are usually fruit. I could live on juicy watermelon and berries in the heat and I turn on the oven as little as possible. Over the last couple of weeks, though, the mornings and evenings have been cool (I’m wearing socks and a hoodie right now!) and I’m suddenly longing for something fresh and warm from the oven to go with a cup of coffee or tea.

The other day, I stopped by Auer Farm in Bloomfield, CT and picked raspberries for the first time. Why have I never picked raspberries? I don’t know. But I had some time so I decided to go for it. On my walk out to the field, I ran into some company. Four pretty large, wild turkeys were hanging out a few feet away, but didn’t seem to mind me.

I was the only one picking and it was so quiet that it was almost felt like meditation for me. I quickly realized that more care is required for picking raspberries than strawberries or blueberries.

First, there are the fine thorns to deal with and second, raspberries are much more delicate, especially when they’re fully ripe and they must be handled with care to remove them intact from the bush. After about 30 minutes and one pint later, I put my money in the drop box and left with my beautiful berries.

There are an endless number of things to do with raspberries, but my favorite baked item is scones. I love them for breakfast because they’re not too sweet and the recipe that I like uses mostly whole grain spelt flour. This time around as well, I cut the butter in half and used coconut oil for the other half of the fat and it worked great. I also soaked the pumpkin seeds and even the walnuts for a couple of hours then drained and dried them well. In addition, instead of kneading, shaping and cutting the dough, I simply spooned large scoops onto parchment paper and baked them that way. They came out of the oven slightly crispy on the outside–with the warm raspberries, they were perfect…

Raspberry Scones

1.5 c whole grain spelt flour

0.5 c cake flour

2.5 t baking powder (aluminum-free)

¾ t salt

3 T sucanat or turbinado or other type of granulated sugar

2 T c unsweetened, shredded coconut

1 t cinnamon

4 T (8 oz.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks

4 T coconut oil

¾ c fresh raspberries

¼ c walnuts

¼ c pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

½ c buttermilk

1 large egg

1 t vanilla

1. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well with a wire whisk.

2. Add the coconut oil and butter and into the flour mixture and work with your fingers until it reaches a uniform, crumbly consistency.

3. Add in the raspberries, walnuts and pepitas.

4. Beat the egg and combine with the buttermilk and vanilla, then add to the dry ingredients. Gently mix with a fork until the wet ingredients are incorporated into the dry. Try not to overwork the batter.

5. Spoon ~1/4 cup heaping scoops a few inches apart onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

6. Slice the dough into 8 wedges and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Alternatively, spoon ~1/4 cup spoonsful of batter onto the parchment paper. If not using paper, lightly oil the pan.

7. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

These are so good a few minutes out of the oven with a cup of something hot! Enjoy!