Monday, April 28, 2008

Brekkers, and Some Changes

This is among my favorite breakfasts, and it's quite healthy as it includes calcium, protein, and produce. I had one cup of fat free vanilla yogurt with a sliced banana and one-half cup of frozen berries, alongside a cardamom crepe with a little peanut butter and the remaining banana. Plus tea -- Lady Grey, of course!

I've been feeling the need for further organization on Muffin Love, specifically in the form of post titles. So, in an effort to dispel further future waffling on this matter (and I have already done quite a bit of waffling, and definitely not of the breakfasty Belgian variety), I decided that it's time. This post, as you will notice, has a title. Bear with me, as naming things (novels, pet rats, and, clearly, blog posts) is not my strongest suit.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Beans, beans, that musical fruit, the more you eat 'em the more you . . . well, we all know what happens when you eat a lot of beans. But, music aside, beans truly are a wonderful food. Low in fat, packed with fiber and heart-friendly protein, and an excellent alternative for those who forgo meat, there's not much to dislike about these little legumes. What I especially enjoy about beans is that there are so many different types of beans, from blacks (my favorite!) to kidneys to chickpeas and so on, and that they taste great both singly and combined in a rainbow of fibrous goodness.

Our kitchen has been seeing a good deal of bean action lately. I am focusing on incorporating healthy proteins into our meals more, and beans are one of my favorite ways to achieve this. Aside from the fact that beans are versatile, tasty, and can be prepared quickly, they don't have a big "ick" factor. What do I mean by that? Basically, I am hypersensitive to the risk of salmonella, mostly as derived from raw eggs and raw chicken. As a result, I possess a aversion to cooking (and touching, chopping, standing next to . . .) raw eggs and meats (especially chicken), so I tend to avoid cooking with them when possible. Egg replacers, by the way, do not affect me in the same way. I never said I was logical, folks. All that craziness on my part comes together to make me enjoy cooking with beans that much more.

The past week or so has seen some delicious bean-based dinners disappear into the respective stomaches of myself and the Best Husband Ever. The first was a black bean chili that I discovered on Allrecipes. It tasted wonderful, and is very hearty and filling. I served it with a little bit of shredded cheddar, and some salsa, Quark, and Ryvita crackers for me while the hubby had his with tortilla chips.

My special success, however, was an amazing chickpea curry. I always feel a little nervous about spicy eastern cooking since my taste buds are pretty wimpy. But the recipe that inspired this meal (also from Allrecipes -- what a great resource!) seemed fast, simple, and healthy, so I decided to give it a try. And . . . I loved it. The Best Husband Ever loved it. I will make it again, and look forward to that day. I can't sing this easy recipe's praises enough, so I'm just going to share the recipe and revel in the memory of this gem of cooking past.

Curried Chickpeas on Rice

1 minced garlic clove
1/4 cup diced onions
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 T curry powder
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 cup water
1 handful chopped fresh cilantro
canola oil cooking spray

Cooked brown rice

In a nonstick pan coating with a generous layer of cooking spray, cooking the onions and garlic over medium heat until just tender. Stir in the spices except for the cilantro and continue to cook for about another minute. Add the chickpeas and water, mixing thoroughly. Once the beans are warm through, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cilantro, saving a couple of sprigs to use as a garnish. Serve over brown rice (I used 1 cup of instant, prepared according to the directions on the box). Enjoy!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mo' muffins: multi-grain multi-berry muffins and scones.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The semi-success of my mango salsa muffins, an initial experiment for my entry in the May Royal Foodie Joust at The Leftover Queen, did not dampen my enthusiasm. I mean, come on -- mango, cardamom, and brown sugar? What's not to like about this combination? Toss in my ardent love of Costco's mango peach salsa and all together it's enough to fuel the culinary tinkering of this muffin chick for quite some time.

The second round of my attempts with these three ingredients turned out much better than the mango muffins, I'm happy to say. Still wanting to stay with a more breakfast-y creation, I thought that mango salsa-stuffed crepes sounded pretty darn tasty. After puttering around on the web in research mode, I ran a test batch of crepes, as I had never made one before. The first time around I made whole wheat crepes with cardamom and cinnamon. After a few mishaps (primarily in the form of too-thick crepes and funky shaping), I had a small stack of reasonable crepes. Surprised at how light the crepes were, I also didn't feel that the somewhat nutty taste of the wheat meshed well with the cardamom. However, they still tasted pretty good, especially filled with vanilla yogurt and sliced banana. In fact, they help make up quite a balanced breakfast.

In my next attempt at crepe creation, I opted to use white all-purpose flour instead of the whole wheat. The taste on these pancake-y puppies was much improved, but I again ran into trouble with turning out crepes with some interesting shapes. My favorite turned out looking like an anatomically correct heart, and I photographed it and then ate it with what probably amounts to a rather sad overabundance of giddy delight. I never said I was all that mature!

However, I didn't devour the new crepes until I made a mango salsa of my very own -- no Costco brand this time around! -- to fill them with. This salsa, adapted from a recipe I discovered on Cooking Light, is not tomato-based like most salsas. Instead, with a base of orange juice and a blend of pineapple, mango, and banana and a dash of fresh mint (the intriguing ingredient which drew me to the recipe in the first place), this salsa is sweet and very tropical tasting. The addition of a little coconut would not be out of place.

So, my salsa all chopped and mixed -- with a little assistance from the Best Husband Ever in the area of mango peeling -- I selected two crepes with the most fun shapes, including the anatomical heart crepe. I slathered the heart crepe with mango salsa, and then tried the other with a simple spread of vanilla yogurt and fresh mango. Both were yummy! I have since finished off the leftover salsa -- it tastes great over cottage cheese as well -- and have filled the remaining crepes with a number of different foods, peanut butter and banana being a favorite.

If you're anything like me, your mouth is now watering at the idea of peanut butter and bananas on cardamom crepes, so I will leave you with my May entry for the Joust!

Cardamom Crepes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp yogurt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup egg replacer (or 1 egg)
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Stir together the dry ingredients. In a blender, combine the wet ingredients. Once they are well blended, add the dry ingredients and blend until the batter is smooth. cover and chill for one hour.

Place a nonstick pan or skillet over medium heat. Pour a small amount of batter (I used a
very scant 1/4 cup) into the pan, then quickly tilt the pan so the surface is completely covered with a thin layer of batter. Cook for 1 minute. When the underside is just browned and the crepe can be shaken from the pan, flip it over and cook the other side for another 30 seconds or until it is set.

Cool completely on a towel and continue to use the rest of the batter in the same way. Be sure to keep the uncooked mixture well-stirred until it is ready to be used. Store the crepes between layers of waxed paper to keep them from sticking to one another.

Serve with mango salsa or another topping of your choice.

Mango Salsa

3/4 of a ripe mango, peeled and diced
1/2 sliced banana
scant 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 T orange juice
1.5 T lime juice
1 8-oz. can drained pineapple chunks
1/2 tsp chili powder

Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl, then cover and refrigerate. This can be served fresh, but it tastes even better after allowing it to chill for a little while, even overnight.

Monday, April 21, 2008


1 cup fat free yogurt
1 banana
1/2 cup frozen berries
1 AM Luna Bar
herbal tea


1 cup egg beaters
1/4 cup fat free cheddar
large salad with fat free dressing
3 rye crisps with fat free cream cheese
2 fruit crisps
1 apple
calcium, iron, vitamin D supplements

16 oz. fat free cappucino
1 reduced fat string cheese
1 Propel water

2 black bean burritos
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas
  • mango salsa
  • fat free quark
  • 2/3 can black beans
Small salad
1 pear

Before bed
6 slices dried mango

Saturday, April 19, 2008


1 cup fat free yogurt
1 banana
1/2 cup frozen berries
1 homemade multi-grain berry muffin
earl grey tea

1 reduced fat string cheese
1 carrot

1 cup egg beaters
1/4 cup fat free cheddar
large salad with fat free dressing
3 rye crisps with fat free cream cheese
2 fruit crisps
1 orange
calcium, iron, vitamin D supplements

1/2 cup fat free cottage cheese
1/2 cup frozen berries

Chickpea curry with brown rice
Large salad with fat free dressing
1 apple
1 Propel water

Before bed
2 pieces dried papaya
1 reduced fat string cheese

One of my current nutritional projects, for lack of a better term, is to add more protein to my diet. I need to gain some weight and rebuild the muscles associated with my heart, so I'm exploring how to include healthy proteins and wanted to share my successes and [rather inevitable] failures. However, for the time being victory's star is on the rise. Plus, I'm having quite a good time playing with my new foods in this pursuit of protein, and that is most wonderful aspect of the entire endeavor for me.

Black beans are favored items at the moment because they're packed with fiber as well as protein and are fat free. I heat 1/2 to one cup of these puppies in a nonstick pan for about ten minutes, stirring in a concoction of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, barbecue sauce, chili powder, and black pepper. Although the combination sounds a bit odd, the result is a tangy taste bud delight!

I'm also trying my spatula at tofu, which is completely new territory for me. I never really understood tofu to begin with. If I was a vegetarian, I would favor beans to replace my meat-garnered nutrition, and as an omnivore I'd just as soon go for lean chicken as the man-made chunk o' soy. However, I do like how tofu takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it with, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Sauteing diced firm tofu with barbecue sauce and black pepper has resulted in success, so I suppose I'll keep tofu on my menu. I plan to investigate tofu drizzled in peanut sauce, one of my favorite flavors of all time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

So, mango salsa muffins. What's not to like about the idea? Mango salsa (actually, the specific salsa I used in the manufacturing of these muffins is mango peach salsa, bought at Costco) is my favored kind of salsa right now, and we already know of my muffin fetish. So mango salsa plus muffin must equal taste bud bliss, right?

Maybe. This particular batch of mango salsa muffins did not turn out as pleasing as I had hoped. In hindsight, perhaps I should have stirred the salsa throughout the batter instead of filling the muffins with it. Also, the filling in itself did not go quite as I had planned. I either couldn't get enough salsa in each muffin's center to result in much of a yummy surprise, or I put in too much salsa and the centers turned somewhat soggy. Also, I used whole wheat flour for these muffins, and in hindsight a white flour would probably be lighter in both taste and texture.

That's not to say that these muffins are completely without merit, however. I enjoyed my test muffin, freshly emancipated from the oven, served with a dollop of fat free Quark. It would also have gone nicely with an extra, external side of mango salsa and perhaps a little cheddar cheese melted over the top for a savory breakfast treat. Also, the kind friends and family that accepted a muffin or two complimented my efforts. However, when I tried a second muffin a few days later, I thought the centers tasted bitter and just off. Perhaps they need to be refrigerator or frozen, or just warmed up.

These muffins were quite a fun adventure, but in the end I felt disappointed. I will not enter this recipe for participation in the May round of the Royal Foodie Joust at The Leftover Queen, but I will share it with you, dear reader and fellow muffin connoisseur!

Mango Salsa Muffins

2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)

1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup skim milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
mango salsa of your choice
canola oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir the eggs, applesauce, milk, sugar, and oats together. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and powder, cardamom, and cinnamon.

Mix the two bowls together, stirring until just combined.

Grease a muffin tin with the cooking spray.

Fill each muffin cup half way with batter. Make a thumb print-sized imprint in the center of each cup. Spoon approximately 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of mango salsa into each indentation. Cover the salsa with batter.

Bake for twenty minutes, or until the muffin tops are browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serve with your favorite garnish. Try sour cream, quark, cheese, or yogurt!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Although spring has officially arrived, it remains cool and blustery here in western Montana. So I feel no qualms about keeping my oven warm in the process of baking some warm and yummy goodies. What sorts of foods, then, have been tumbling out of my kitchen of late? Muffins, of course!

I attend a women's Bible study group every Thursday morning, and last week it was my turn to bring some snacks to nosh on while we chatted about God and life. I decided to bring corn muffins, served with a side of applesauce. I put dried cranberries in half of the muffins, and left the other half plain. They were a hit, especially the cranberried muffins, and everyone complimented the choice of applesauce as a garnish. As for me, I enjoyed my test muffin the night before with a spoonful of mango peach salsa and quark. Mmm. (Find the recipe for these puppies below.)

Then I decided to make some bread. This past Christmas, I inherited a vast tome of a Williams and Sonoma cookbook from my grandmother that is devoted to baking. The breads recipes offered in the book are all intriguing and delicious looking, but I felt tired of following everyone else's recipes. I wanted to write my own. After doing a little research on proportions of such items as flours and baking soda and powder, I pieced together a recipe of my own. The result was a hearty bread with a nutty taste and texture -- whole wheat almond pear bread. Check out the recipe here, along with the rest of a complete menu for a spring-y Mother's Day brunch.

Earlier this week, the lovely moderators of the Royal Foodie Joust over at The Leftover Queen forums revealed the three ingredients for May's event: mango, cardamom, and brown sugar. Already a huge fan of mango salsa, and having a container of if stashed in my fridge, my brain immediately began percolating exciting ideas. Since I came up with so many dishes that I want to try my spatula at, I am going to experiment with a few things before submitting my entry. First up, as is only proper, was a muffin recipe. More specifically, mango salsa muffins. It unfortunately did not turn out quite as I had planned, but that's quite all right -- I've still got more than a fortnight to play in! I want to devote a blog post just to these cute bundles of mango-y goodness, but I will leave you with a glimpse of them to satisfy -- or perhaps tantalize (she said with a wicked gleam in her eye) -- your curiosity.

And now, onto a recipe!

Classic Corn Muffins

2.5 cups AP flour
1.5 cups corn meal
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups fat-free yogurt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup egg replacer (or 4 eggs, beaten)
1 cup cranberries (adjust to your preference)
canola oil cooking spray

Turn the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the dry ingredients. Mix in the yogurt, applesauce, and eggs, stirring until just combined.

Spray a muffin tin with the non-stick spray. Distribute the batter between the muffin cups.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serve with applesauce or salsa and sour cream. Makes 24 muffins.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pancakes: they're what's for breakfast. Feeling tired of my morning routine of yogurt with granola and sliced banana, I decided to shake things up a little. Delving into my Moosewood cookbook, I selected a recipe I had never tried before: cottage cheese apple pancakes. I altered a couple of elements, such as using fat free cottage cheese, whole wheat flour as opposed to white or all-purpose, and egg replacers instead of real eggs, and I halved the recipe as I was cooking just for myself. My favorite part of this recipe, aside from the intriguing and unexpected use of cottage cheese as the only form of dairy in the pancakes (eggs not withstanding) was the sprinkle of nutmeg. I ordinarily avoid this rather strong spice, but the nutmeg gave these pancakes a delightful zing.

I have never eaten pancakes that were more moist than these puppies. In fact, they sizzled with such succulency on the skillet that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to flip them without a tragic tearing catastrophe. Fortunately, the exteriors crisped nicely and I could cook both sides without event. I served them up with maple syrup, the remaining slices of apple, and a little extra cottage cheese. I think I need to start my day like this more often!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Another month, another joust. A Royal Foodie Joust ,that is! Preparing my entry for this Joust was an exquisite and joyful experience. Many thanks to the loverly Leftover Queen for hosting this fun event.

This month's ingredients were lemon or lime, coconut, and "from the sea." A challenge to be sure. My first thought was of an amazing coconut tuna stir fry I ate at the Denver restaurant where my family and I celebrated my grandmother's ninetieth birthday this past June. A delicious and surprising meal, especially as I tend to avoid all things seafood as a rule, I wondered if I should attempt a similar dish for the Joust. However, cooking meat is not my strong suit, and that goes doubly for fish steaks. I feared ruining an expensive piece of fish through my ineptitude. So I considered using canned and shredded tuna or salmon, but that just sounded unappetizing.

Then it occurred to me -- why feel so pressed to use fish at all? This month's Joust only stipulated an ingredient that is "from the sea." Not necessarily fish, right? So I decided that my oceanic ingredient would be seaweed. I'm sure I'm stretching the meaning of the ingredients rather thin with this, but as I don't enjoy seafood much to begin with, I don't mind much. And so, without further ado, I give you riceless sushi!

Scrumptious Riceless Sushi

Vegetables of your choice
Lemon juice
Soy sauce
Canola oil cooking spray
Fat free cream cheese
Dried shredded coconut
2 Nori seaweed sheets

Slicing up my veggies -- including broccoli, mushrooms, bell pepper, cucumber, carrots, and sunflower sprouts -- I browned it all on my skillet, first just with cooking spray and then with soy sauce and lemon juice. While the vegetables cooked, I tore two Nori seaweed sheets in half, spreading a little fat free cream cheese on two of the halves and adding a little more lemon juice. (That ended up making the seaweed soggy, though, so I don't recommend repeating that step in the future.) Then I lay the cooked vegetables over the cream cheese, sprinkled on the coconut, and rolled up the bundle, using the cream cheese along the edge of the seaweed as a sealant. I wrapped the bundles a second time in the extra seaweed sheets, although that didn't really seem necessary in the end.

My final thoughts on this culinary escapade? Success -- I turned out a tasty and healthy light meal. The combination of the salty soy sauce, tangy lemon, and sweet coconut rocked my taste buds. In the future I might skip the cream cheese because I couldn't really taste it, but I do like the nutrition it adds. I might also try adding some fruit, such as pear or banana, or using pieces of seaweed instead of sheets and serving the innards of each bundle over lettuce as a salad. These would also taste great with raw, uncooked vegetables.

But the very best part of this adventure was the process. I haven't cooked in quite some time, or at least cooked something new or different. It felt like balm to my heart. The act of cooking, of creating something delicious and healthy, felt so satisfying and, strange to say, artistic. Plus, I got to take photos as I cooked, which heightened the sense of creation and art. I loved it all!