Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Carrot Coconut Muffins

Ok, I'll admit it right up front, this is the third time I'm posting a variation of this recipe - first as carrot cupcakes, and the second time as carrot zucchini muffins.  But I promise, these muffins keeps getting healthier AND better, so even if you're sick of hearing about them, I want to remember what I did! 

If you recall, one of my complaints about this recipe is that I found the muffins to be very sticky.  I thought maybe it was due to the agave, but substituting mostly granulated sugar didn't seem to help.  Then, when I re-read the recipe this time I had an epiphany - these muffins are practically fat free!  There is fat in the shredded coconut, but very little in the batter (only from the egg yolks) - no wonder they stuck!  I would have liked to replace the apple sauce with canola oil this time to see what would happen, but I am moving next week and trying to clear out my pantry, which meant I was down to about 1 tablespoon of canola oil.  Instead, I finished up my canola oil, filled up to 1/4 cup with olive oil, and then kept apple sauce for the other 1/4 cup.

I was also interested in cutting the sugar in this recipe, so since I am out of agave as well, I decided to use all brown sugar (pantry is really bare - I'm out of regular sugar, too!)  The third change was in the shredding of the carrots.  I tend to buy baby carrots, but have found they are basically impossible to grate by hand and a total pain in the tush to grate with the food processor (I end up with huge chunks of carrot in the bowl - anyone else have this problem??).  So instead, this time I just threw the carrots in with the chopping blade and processed until I practically had a puree.  And the final change was to cut back 3 eggs to 2 because, well, I just couldn't figure out how these muffins could possibly need 3 whole eggs!

And the outcome?  As you have probably already guessed, total success - muffins did not stick at all, even without liners, but still got nice and brown on the outside while maintaining a moist interior.  They are different from a carrot cake in that you can't see the shredded carrot, but I actually like that they have a more traditional muffin texture.  They are also definitely less sweet than the original, but again, I am ok with that given that I'm using these as a muffin instead of a cupcake (if I were making cupcakes with the glaze, I might keep the sugar at 3/4 cup while still using some oil in place of applesauce).  I hope you enjoy these - please let me know what you think!

Carrot Coconut Muffins
adapted from me!

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated (or very finely processed) carrots (approximately 1 lb)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar (I used packed brown; regular granulated should work, too!)
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or spray with oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. In a large bowl, mix together carrots, coconut, sugar, eggs, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir just until well blended.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake for approximately 20 minutes for mini-muffins (regular muffins will probably take about 25 minutes, although I didn't test this myself) until brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for a few minutes and then remove to cool completely on a rack.

Makes 24 mini-muffins (should make 12 standard size)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

**This post has been updated since it's original posting date in December 2009**

My husband and I love pasta.  We could, and do, eat it several times a week, every week.  Usually we just make some pasta to toss with veggies and some chicken, but every once in a while we need to dress pasta up for company.  And that's where this recipe comes in.  It is a combination of recipes from 2 of my favorite Food Network chefs - Ellie Krieger, who makes healthier versions of traditional dishes, and Rachael Ray, who has great ideas for making quick meals.

The dish includes turkey meatballs, quick homemade tomato sauce, and whole wheat spaghetti - incredibly healthy, simple, and impressive and tasty enough for company, especially when served with a salad (e.g., caesar, or simple arugula) and some bread.  The sauce is also versatile - you can use it whenever you need a basic tomato sauce, since it comes together so quickly!

Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti
adapted from Food Network (here and here)

Cooking spray
1 pound ground turkey meat
1 slice fresh whole-wheat bread
1/2 cup carrot
1/2 small onion
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 cup chicken stock (or beef stock if using sauce with traditional meatballs or meatsauce)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
10 leaves fresh basil leaves, torn or thinly sliced
Splash of red wine (optional)

1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
Additional parmesan/romano cheese for passing at the table
Crusty bread
Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Preheat the broiler on high.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with a non-stick spray (olive or canola oil).
Place the ground turkey in a large bowl.  Remove the crust from a slice of wheat bread, pulse to crumbs in a food processor, and add to turkey.  Finely chop onion, garlic, and carrots in the food processor and add to turkey.  Add remaining ingredients (parmesan, egg, thyme, salt, and pepper) and mix well with clean hands.  Divide mixture into 12 lightly rolled balls and place on prepared baking sheet.
Place a saucepan over medium heat.  Wipe out the bowl of the food processor and add chop onion and garlic for sauce.  Add oil, onion, garlic and red pepper to pan and sautee.  (Note that this is half the red pepper from the original recipe, which I think is enough to add subtle heat - feel free to add more if you prefer).  Once onions are soft, add crushed tomatoes and stock and simmer.
At this point, place the meatballs under the broiler for approximately 8-10 minutes, until tops are brown and meatballs are almost entirely cooked through.  Take the meatballs out of the broiler, and add to the sauce along with the basil and wine (if using)*.  At this point, salt the boiling water and add spaghetti.  The meatballs will keep cooking in the sauce while the pasta cooks.
When the pasta is ready, drain and toss with a few ladles of sauce, and pour the rest of the sauce and meatballs on top.  Serve with salad, bread, and additional parmesan or romano cheese. 
Serves 4 hungry adults

*This sauce is somewhat chunky, with obvious pieces of tomato and onion.  If you prefer a smoother sauce, feel free to use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the sauce before adding the meatballs, basil, and wine.