Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Coconut Muffins

This weekend, hubby's sister and her husband are coming to NYC for an anniversary weekend getaway.  They'll be staying with us Friday night, and then moving to a hotel for the next 2 nights (not sure why they don't consider staying on a hard pull-out couch in a room with no door and getting woken up by the munchkin at 6am to be ideal accomodations, but to each his own! ;).  We're going out for dinner Friday night, which means I only get to make one meal for them - breakfast.  Our entertaining has declined dramatically since the munchkin was born, which means when I do actually have people over, it's a great excuse to find new exciting recipes to try. 

I thought I'd serve a couple of muffin choices along with some kind of eggs and potatoes (details still TBD, but hopefully if I'm successful you'll be hearing about it next week!), and I have had Macaroon Muffins from Sweet + Natural on my "to make" list since, well, the day they were posted!  The only thing holding me back was that they have a little more sugar than I normally go for in an every day muffin, which is why entertaining was the perfect reason to give them a try.   I LOVE coconut.  So 3 different kinds of coconut in one muffin?  How could that not be good? 

I am happy to report that this recipe does not disappoint one bit.  They are light and a little bit sweet with a nice subtle coconut flavor (not nearly as overpowering as I thought it might be) and the most amazing buttery texture.  They actually remind me of my Whole Wheat Apple Muffins, except for the key difference that these have absolutely no butter in them!  The shredded coconut does have a good bit of fat in it, but that is countered by the light coconut milk, the coconut flour which has minimal fat but all of the fiber and protein in coconut, and applesauce to eliminate the need for oil.  I think these may become a part of the regular muffin rotation in my house after all, possibly with a little pineapple thrown in next time?  I'll keep you posted, but in the mean time if you like coconut at all I highly recommend you give these a try!

Coconut Muffins
adapted from Sweet + Natural

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 egg
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together whole wheat pastry flour, coconut flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and shredded coconut.  In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together egg, coconut milk, applesauce, vanilla extract and maple syrup until well blended. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just blended.

Spoon into prepared pans (and top with extra shredded coconut if you want...I chose to keep them simple!) Bake for 12 minutes for mini-muffins (or 16-18 minutes for standard muffins according to the original recipe).

Makes 16-20 mini or 8 standard muffins

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chicken Teriyaki

In the past, one of my favorite cooking shortcuts was to pour a store-bought marinade over some meat and cook it up.  These marinades were always super-tasty and easy to have on hand, turning some chicken breasts from the freezer into an easy weeknight meal.  Unfortunately, the more I become obsessed with reading ingredient lists, the more difficult it has become to find marinades that I'm willing to use because so many have tons of sodium, artificial flavors, corn syrup, and other scary ingredients.  On the flip side, home-made marinade recipes often require tons of ingredients that are not easy to have on hand.

Until Weelicious came to the rescue, yet again, with a recipe for teriyaki sauce that only has 5 ingredients, all easy to keep around.  I could not wait to give this a try, and I'm so glad I did because it is delicious, and so easy!  Of course I did change a couple of things...skipped the garlic because I wasn't in the mood, and increased most of the other ingredients because I could only find a 14 oz can of organic crushed pineapple and I didn't want the rest to go to waste.  This ended up making a ton, so I froze half for the next time I make this, which will certainly be soon! 

Oh, and one more change - you might notice that my sauce does not look nearly as pretty as the picture on Weelicious, and that's because I didn't read carefully and therefore missed the part about thickening the sauce with cornstarch.  Oops...I would recommend either following this step (I've included the original instructions below) or just pureeing the bit you intend to spoon over the chicken because otherwise the runny marinade with chunks of pineapple is not the best texture for a sauce.  Nonetheless, this was a successful dish with hubby and me (we ate it with brown rice and some roasted broccoli), as well as the munchkin, who got bits of the chicken tossed with rice, peas, corn, and a little extra sauce - yum!

Chicken Teriyaki
adapted from Weelicious

1 14 ounce can crushed pineapple in juice
3/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger*
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Place the crushed pineapple and juice, soy sauce, honey, and ginger in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Place the chicken breasts in a zip top bag add with enough of the teriyaki sauce to coat well (reserving the remaining for the sauce).  Marinate in the refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes, or up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.

Preheat your oven to the broil setting and place the rack in the upper third of the oven (at this point you can discard the sauce that you marinated the chicken in).  Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and broil for 5-7 minutes on each side (monitor carefully for doneness; if the chicken is thick, it may take an extra minute or two).

While the chicken is broiling, put approximately 3/4 cup of reserved teriyaki sauce in a saucepan, add 1 tsp of cornstarch and cook over medium heat for 1 minute or until thickened.  Alternatively, puree sauce with an immersion blender, or in a blender or food processor to smooth out consistency.  (You can freeze any unused marinade for next time).

Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes.  Slice the chicken, cover with sauce and serve.

Serves 4
*I keep a peeled piece of ginger in my freezer - it is easier to grate this way and becomes an ingredient I can always have on hand!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Pizza Story (3) - Making Dough

If you are just joining this story, check this page for more background...

Once I had all of my ingredients, it was time to figure out what to do with them!  The recipe I was working from was based on a stand mixer, but my stand mixer is in storage until I move out of the city in a few months.  However, I recently bought a new fancy food processor which came with a dough blade.  I am nerdy enough that I actually watched the instructional video that came with the food processor, and I remembered that one of the examples they showed was making pizza dough - perfect!  I had to do a little digging on the Cuisinart website to find the clip (I'm pretty sure that dvd became a toy for the munchkin at some point), but it seemed like the recipe could be adjusted easily enough.

So the night before pizza night, I pulled out my food processor and all of the dough ingredients and got to work.  I carefully read the instructions on the back of my yeast packet on activation, and was really excited when it actually started to foam like it was supposed to (this took a few minutes, long enough for me to get nervous and google how long it was supposed to take!).  I measured out my flour and salt, blended in the food processor, and added my yeast, water, and olive oil.  I had to stop and scrape down the sides to get it to come together...I also had to hold onto my food processor which looked like it was about to jump off the counter!  Not sure if that's supposed to happen, but after several minutes of kneading, like magic, a sticky ball did form. 

The next stop was getting it onto the counter to cut into pieces.  Did I mention the dough was sticky?  When I say sticky, I mean ridiculously sticky!  I had to stop yet again to wash my hands and then thoroughly coat them with flour, in addition to coating the pile of dough with flour.  Ahh, I was finally able to cut it into pieces, roll them into balls, coat with oil, and get them into plastic bags.  I have to say that once I got the stickiness under control, playing with the dough was pretty fun :) 

Two bags went into the fridge for the next night, and the other four into the freezer for future weeks.  I couldn't wait until dinner the next night to see how it would go!

Read here to find out how it turned out!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wholesome Monster Cookies

In the last few months I have become obsessed with finding healthy muffin recipes so that I can always have wholesome snacks around.  But muffins can't be the only kind of wholesome snack, right?  On my lookout for other ideas, and I came across this recipe for "Super-Charge Me! Cookies" on a vegan blog.  I am by no means vegan, but the intro for this recipe talked about how the author was looking for a replacement for traditional cookies loaded with sugar, hydrogenated fats, and refined flour, so she developed this recipe as a nutrient-packed alternative for her daughter.  Sounded right up my alley, so I decided to give it a closer look.

This being a vegan recipe means that on top of no refined sugar or flour, there is also no egg or butter - pretty impressive for a cookie.  Instead, it is more like a healthy take on monster cookies (hence my name for them!) with ingredients like oats, whole wheat flour, flax, and almond butter.  You can also include dried fruit, but I decided to make these a little more indulgent and use chocolate chips.  The result is a soft, chewy cookie that is mildly sweet but really satisfying.  I probably wouldn't bring these to a dinner party if I were in charge of dessert, but I would certainly bring them as a tasty snack to a playgroup, and they are something I am happy to have around my home.  They are also a great option if you like baking with your kids but want a healthier option than traditional cookies :)

Wholesome Monster Cookies
adapted from Dreena's Vegan Recipes

1 cup oats (original recipe calls for quick, but I used rolled and they were great)
1/2 cup (rounded) whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup flax meal (a.k.a. ground flax, but not the same as flax seed)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbsp almond butter (or any other nut butter you prefer)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup chocolate chips (or dried fruit, or a combination of both...if you are using fruit feel free to also add up to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with the dry ingredients)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a bowl, whisk together oats, flour, salt, coconut, and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flax meal, maple syrup, almond butter, vanilla, and oil. Add wet ingredients and chocolate chips (and/or dried fruit) to dry ingredients, and stir until just well combined (do not overmix).

Drop spoonfulls of batter onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart, and flatten slightly. Bake for 13 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out). Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 9 very large cookies using my 3 tablespoon scoop

Monday, May 10, 2010

Roasted Asparagus and Smashed Potatoes

I thought that maybe I should tell you about the sides that I served with my yummy Meat Loaf - Roasted Asparagus and Smashed Potatoes.  These barely count as recipes since I have no idea what the measurements are, but here's what I do in case you're in need of some inspiration!  I love this asparagus recipe because it has very simple ingredients and takes almost no time at all, but still has interesting flavor.  And these potatoes are my favorite for at home - yukon golds are so creamy without much butter or any cream, so you can get away with using chicken stock for moisture and keep these super-healthy.

Roasted Asparagus
adapted from Epicurious

1 bunch asparagus
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 500.

Trim asparagus spears by gently bending each one and allowing them to snap at the natural point close to the end.  Place in one layer in a shallow baking pan (or baking sheet coated with foil).  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and roll around to fully coat.

Roast for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus, shaking pan once in the middle of cooking.  Asparagus should be tender but not soggy when finished.  After removing from the oven, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and toss one more time to coat.  Serve immediately.

Smashed Potatoes

Yukon gold potatoes, skin on
Butter (optional)
Chicken stock
Salt & pepper

Cut potatoes into approximately 1/2-1 inch chunks, and place in an empty pot.  Cover with cold water and bring to a boil on the stove top.  When the potatoes are cooked (they can be pierced easily with a fork and start to fall apart when pierced), drain in a collander and return to the hot pot.

Add 1-2 tablespoons of butter (depending on the size of your batch) and a splash of chicken stock to get started.  Smash with a potato masher, adding additional stock as needed to get desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Potatoes will stay hot covered in the pot for approximately 15 minutes if needed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Meat Loaf

Hi everyone, I'm back!  Sorry for the down time last's not that I wasn't cooking, I just wasn't cooking anything I haven't already told you about :)  But this weekend has been busy so I have a few posts coming up this week to make up for it!

First up is meat loaf, which is such a classic comfort food.  I already told you about my Turkey Meatloaf Mini-Bites, but sometimes you just need a basic beef meatloaf.  I found a recipe on Epicurious which is designed to use buffalo, so I thought it would be perfect for my lean grass-fed ground beef.  Like the turkey recipe, this one has the benefit of some added veggies to give it extra flavor, moisture, and texture. 

As it turns out, I used 1 pound of beef but kept all of the other proportions the same (not on purpose; just wasn't paying attention to the fact that the recipe called for 1 3/4 pound of meat - oops!).  I served it last night to hubby and another close friend, and, despite my "mistake", I got rave reviews, including a "best meatloaf ever" declaration from hubby.  So I've posted my version below.  The extra veggies make this very juicy and flavorful, but also make it a little more crumbly than your standard meatloaf, which makes the individual loaves a good choice - not sure it would have held up to slicing.  But if you want something a little more sturdy, feel free to cut back on the rest of the ingredients or use more meat.  I hope you'll give it a try and let me know what you think!

Meat Loaf
adapted from Epicurious

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 large onion
2 celery ribs, cut into chunks
1 carrot, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs*
1 large egg
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with foil.
Place beef in a large mixing bowl.  Use a food processor to very finely chop onion, celery, carrot, and garlic, and add to beef**.  Add the remaining ingredients and gently but thoroughly mix with your hands.
Score mixture into 4 equal sections and form individual meatloaves that are approximately 1-1.5 inches thick.  Place on prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
Serves 4
*I learned a great tip for fresh breadcrumbs from my friend Kara at Itty Bitty family doesn't like the ends of bread, so we've started throwing those in a separate bag in the freezer.  When I need some fresh breadcrumbs, I just take out a couple of slices, defrost in the microwave, tear into pieces and pulverize in the food processor.  So much healthier than most of the breadcrumbs you can buy!
**By making the individual loaves which only take 20 minutes to cook, even very finely chopped veggies stay pretty crunchy.  I liked it this way, but you could certainly sautee the veggies (and let cool slightly) before adding to the meat if you are so inclined.