Monday, June 28, 2010

Rice and Banana Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Wehani Rice

A newly published study from Harvard researchers found that of the 197,000 US adults who were followed for up to 22 years those who ate two or more servings of brown rice a week reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 11 percent compared to people who eat it less than once a month. And those who noshed onwhite rice on a regular basis — five or more times a week — are 17 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who eat it less than once a month.

This really is not surprising considering  that white rice is stripped of its bran covering which contains valuable items such as vitamins, minerals and fiber known to protect against diabetes and other chronic ailments. Whole grain rice also has a lower glycemic index (a measure of how fast a food raises blood glucose) than its white counterpart, which confers protection from diabetes.

If you’re looking for something a little more exciting than traditional brown rice you should try wehani rice. Developed by industrious Lundberg Family Farms in northern California, wehani rice is a russet-colored, slightly chewy whole-grain rice with a wonderful nutty taste. As it cooks the kitchen becomes redolent of buttery popcorn. Like brown rice, it’s chockablock with fiber, magnesium, B vitamins and many other nutrients.

You can find wehani rice at most health food stores and some larger supermarkets.

In the June 2010 issue of Bicycling magazine there was a great article about a jack-of-all-trades scientist named Allen Lim who has join Lance Armstrong’s Radio Shack team. He is a proponent of gluten-free eating for cyclists as a means to improve digestion and reduce inflammation. Chef Biju Thomas has been hired to feed the team plenty of tasty gluten-free grub during training and the upcoming Tour de France. This is an adaptation of one of the recipes accompanying the article that is meant to be some pre-ride grub. I made up a batch and have had some great rides after wolfing down a few. If you don’t have wehani rice, you can simply swap it with traditional brown rice.

Banana and Rice Cakes

½ cup rice
2 eggs
1 ripe banana
½ cup milk
1 Tablespoon flour of choice
1-inch ginger, minced
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine rice with 1 cup water, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed and rice is tender. Preheat oven too350 degrees. Combine cooked rice and the rest of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Divide among 8 muffin cups and cook for about 20 minutes or until set.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Strawberry Banana Coconut Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Coconut Flour

With strawberry season in full swing why not whip up a batch of muffins with these nutritious ruby-red gems. To add a little tropical twist, I decided to toss in some gluten-free coconut flour.

Coconut flour is simply dried, ground up coconut meat. There are several advantages to this flour:

1) It’s absolutely brimming with dietary fiber. Just 2 tablespoons of Bob’s Red Mill coconut flour (the one I used for this recipe) has a whopping 5 grams of fiber. This means baked goods made with it will have a lower glycemic index and will be more filling. I don’t know of any other flour that has this much fiber.

2) Coconut flour has a good amount of protein, about 8 grams per cup. I wonder if the bodybuilding sect knows about this?

3) Because coconut flour contains the natural sugar present in the coconut meat, you might find that you need to add less sugar to muffins, breads and cakes. Notice the recipe below only contains ½ cup and was plenty sweet. The strawberries and banana help with that as well.

When working with coconut flour keep in mind that it is very dry and tends to soak up liquids during baking so make sure your batter is well moistened. Because it’s gluten-free, you can’t just sub all the wheat flour for coconut flour in a recipe without understanding the nuts and bolts of gluten-free baking.

With gluten-free eating becoming more and more popular, you can find coconut flour at an increasing number of food stores or find it at

Milled from soft wheat, whole-wheat pastry flour produces a more tender product than regular whole-wheat flour.

Over at Well Fed Man you might be interested in my easy Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.

Strawberry Banana Coconut Muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup coconut flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 large egg
2/3 cup neutral tasting oil such as grapeseed
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar of choice
2 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and strawberries. In a separate bowl, light beat the egg. Mix in oil, vanilla, sugar and mashed bananas. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and lightly mix until all the flour is moist. Divide mixture among 10 greased, paper lined or silicon muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden on top and a tester comes out clean.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Salmon Cakes with Radish Raita

Featured Ingredient: Radishes

We are members of a community garden here in Waterloo and the first vegetable ready to be plucked out the ground were radishes. I’ve always loved the peppery kick they have so I’m happy to learn that they are fast growing and easy to grow even for a gardening newbie like me.

Radish, a root vegetable typically at their best in spring and early summer, adds a spicy crunch to sandwiches and salads. They are very low in calories and a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant which improves iron absorption and helps protect cells from the fury of those pesky free radicals. Also, don’t overlook those edible radish greens which are actually more nutrient-dense than their roots. You can chopped them up and add them to salads, use them to make pesto like I did over at Well Fed Man, gently sauté them with some garlic and sesame oil or mix them into these salmon cakes.

Raita is a simple yogurt-based sauce that is cooling making it a perfect condiment for the summer. Commonly it contains cucumber and mint, but I embellished it with some grated radish for a little kick.

The salmon cakes are really good cold, with or without the sauce, making them the perfect addition to weekday lunches. And their packed with super-healthy omega-3 fats.

Salmon Cakes with Radish Raita


Salmon Cakes:

2 150 gram cans of salmon, pink or sockeye, drained

1 medium carrot, peeled

1 bunch radish greens, chopped

1/2 cup breadcrumbs or quick-cook rolled oats

1/2 cup low-fat milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp sunflower seeds (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste


1 cup plain yogurt

½ cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and grated

3 radishes, grated

1/3 cup mint, chopped

Juice from ½ lemon

Salt to taste


Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, flake salmon with a fork. Using a grater or mandolin, shred carrots, chop the shreds up and add them to the bowl. Mix in radish greens, breadcrumbs, milk, eggs, lemon juice, sunflower seeds, salt and pepper. Evenly divide mixture between 8 to 10 medium sized greased muffin cups. (The salmon mixture should reach the rim of each cup). Bake for 25 minutes, or until browned on top and set. Let cakes rest for 5 minutes before unmolding. Meanwhile, add yogurt to a bowl and best well with a fork until it reaches a smooth and creamy consistency. You don’t want it to be watery at all. Mix in the remaining raita ingredients. Place salmon loaf cakes on a plate and drizzle raita on top.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mini Cheesecakes with Rhubarb Sauce

Featured Ingredient: Sugar in the Raw

Is it possible to indulge in sweet treats and not send your blood sugar on a Rocky Mountain high? With stevia, maybe.

Since obtaining FDA approval for use as a sweetener in 2008, an ever increasing number of stevia brands are showing up on store shelves. This no-calorie sugar substitute, extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, a herb native to Paraguay, is meant to appeases those that want a sugar alternative but aren’t willing to use sketchy artificial sweeteners like Splenda. Incredibly sweet, Rebiana (the extract from stevia) is 300-400 times sweeter than cane sugar.

I recently got my hands on a product called Stevia Extract in The Raw to try out. Their Cup for Cup bag of granulated sweetener can be used as a 1:1 replacement for sugar so you don’t have any confusing conversations to figure out. Because the stevia extract is so sweet, they blend it with a bulking agent, in this case maltodextrin, to allow it to be conveniently used as a sugar replacement. Basically maltodextrin dilutes the stevia so it’s no longer crazy potent.

Though I still need to try baking with it, Stevia Extract in The Raw worked well in the no-cook recipe below. It gave the rhubarb sauce a very slight bitter taste, but overall you could not tell that sugar was AWOL. If you’re concerned about your sugar intake but can’t shake the sweet tooth, you might want to try this product out.

Mini Cheesecakes with Rhubarb Sauce

Rhubarb Sauce:
2 cups diced rhubarb
¼ cup Stevia Extract in the Raw or regular sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
1/2 cup graham crumbs (you can find these at most grocery stores)
½ cup walnuts, very finely chopped
6 Tbsp pure maple syrup
½ cup cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
Juice of ½ lemon juice
1 Tbsp Stevia Extact in the Raw or regular sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

Combine rhubarb, sweetener and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat; reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the rhubarb begins to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together graham crumbs, walnuts and maple syrup until everything is moist. Grease 6 muffin cups and evenly divide crumb mixture among the cups and press down flat. Mix together cream cheese, ricotta cheese, lemon juice, sweetener and vanilla extract. Divide cheese mixture among the 6 muffin cups. Place the muffin tin in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours. To unmold, carefully slide a butter knife around the edges of the muffin cups and gently lift the mini cheesecakes. Serve topped rhubarb sauce.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mini Meatloafs with Cherry Juice Glaze

Featured Ingredient: Tart Cherry Juice

If there ever was a juice deserving of its “superjuice” epithet it would be the tart cherry guise. Tart cherry juice is very well-endowed with anthocyanins, potent antioxidants responsible for cherries’ rosy hue and believed to ease inflammation. Each swig also abounds in vitamin C. Tired of counting sheep? Cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, a compound touted to improve sleep patterns and lessen the effects of jet lag.

You can add a splash of this lip-puckering juice to smoothies, vinaigrettes, and iced teas. Combined with balsamic vinegar and reduced, it also makes an inspiring glaze for grilled fish, roasted veggies and these diminutive meatloaf’s. If you find tart cherry juice too intense on its own, you can dilute it with a bit of water or look for those mixed with other juices such as blueberry and grape.

Several companies are now offering tart cherry juice. For this recipe, I used the excellent juice from Michigan-based (where more tart cherries are grown) Very Cherre. 100 percent pomegranate juice would also work with for the glaze.

Baking individual portions of meatoaf in muffin tins speeds cooking and makes it more likely the end product will be perfectly moist. I found the tart cherry glaze provided a great sweet-tart contrast to the meat. Speaking of meat, we have a local emu farmer we source ground emu and steaks from. Way better than the shrink-wrap stuff at the megamarket. Bison and elk are also good game meat options here. Or splurge for grass-fed beef which is nutritionally superior to the factory farm stuff. You could also add shredded zucchini. If I had some in the fridge, I would have done so.

Mini Meatloafs with Cherry Juice Glaze

1 cup tart cherry juice
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp brown or palm sugar

1 lb ground game meat or grass-fed beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup cilantro or parsley, chopped

Place cherry juice, brown sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer, uncovered, until a fairly thick syrup forms, about 12 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, combine all the meatloaf ingredients just until everything is mixed. Do not overwork.

Divide mixture among 10 medium sized muffin tins and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 160F is reached. Serve mini meatloaf’s with a generous drizzle of cherry glaze.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Frozen Chocolate Banana Cups with Matcha Whipped Cream

Featured Ingredient: Matcha Green Tea

Green tea is at the top of the functional beverage heap, warmly promoting wellness thanks to a wallop of antioxidants. In particular, the antioxidant EGCG has been purported to help fend off a wide variety of maladies including diabetes, cognitive decline and cancer. It may even help whittle away a jiggly middle.

Traditionally served to emperors, Japanese green matcha tea is produced when green tea leaves are steamed, dried and then ground into a powder. Because the whole leaf is consumed, it delivers more EGCG than traditional green teas brewed from the leaves using water. Matcha is also abundant in L-theanine, an amino acid which helps relax you when things get hairy. It has a distinct vegetal flavor with some lingering sweetness. Wonderful when simply whisked with hot water, you can also incorporate matcha into a host of recipes including baked goods, ice-creams, smoothies and whipped cream in the recipe below.

You can find matcha at tea shops or online at

Frozen Chocolate Banana Cups with Matcha Whipped Cream

Makes 8 Servings

Recipe adapted from Alive magazine

2 ½ ripe medium bananas

2/3 cup natural peanut butter or almond butter

¼ cup honey or agave syrup

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup cold heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, palm sugar or Sucanat

1 tsp matcha powder

Put bananas, peanut butter, honey and cocoa powder in a blender and process until smooth. Line muffin pan with 8 lightly greased paper muffin liners. (You can skip this step if using silicon muffin cups). Scoop banana batter into 8 muffin cups. Place tray into the freezer and freeze for at least 2 hours.

In a deep mixing bowl, beat 1 cup heavy cream with a whisk or electric mixer on medium until soft peaks form. Sprinkle sugar and matcha over cream and beat until soft peaks return and matcha is incorporated. Do not overbeat. It’s best to chill the whisk (or beaters) and bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will help the cream whip quickly and increase its volume.

When ready to eat, remove banana cups from freezer, unmold and let stand for about 10 minutes to soften slightly. Place a dollop of matcha cream over each cup. Store extra cups in the freezer in a closed container to prevent them from taking on surrounding odors.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Lemon Muffins Stuffed with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Featured Ingredient: Palm Sugar

By no means do more natural sweeteners like palm sugar give you a license to spoil a sweet tooth rotten, but they often offer nutritional and sustainability advantages over heavily processed refined sugar and corn syrup.

To make palm sugar, harvesters climb to the top of palm trees to collect the sap from the palm flowers. The collected flower nectars are boiled into thick syrup, then dried and ground to produce a grainy, crumbly sugar. Nutritionally speaking, palm sugar is believed to retain significant amounts of the nutrients found in its source. Unlike the processed to death white granulated stuff that is devoid of any nutrients that may have been in the sugar cane. Palm sugar also has a lower glycemic index, a rating of how fast a food spikes your blood sugar, than more refined sugars.

The fairly neutral flavor of palm sugar works well in almost any recipe such as the rhubarb infused muffins below that normally call for regular sugar. You can use it a as measure for measure replacement.

For this recipe, I used the excellent palm sugar from Navitas Naturals. You can also find it in Asian markets.

You’ll have some compote left over. It’s excellent stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese.

Lemon Muffins Stuffed with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote


2 stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced

2 cups sliced strawberries

Juice of 1 lemon

1/3 cup palm sugar or maple syrup

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup palm sugar or sugar of choice

l teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2/3 cup low-fat milk

¼ cup neutral tasting vegetable oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest


Combine rhubarb, strawberries and lemon in a saucepan and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add palm sugar and cornstarch to fruit mixture, bring to slight boil and cook for 2 minutes until sauce thickens; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, palm sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add milk, oil and lemon zest.

Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture, stirring just until no more dry flour is present. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter into 10 greased muffin cups. (There does not seem to be enough batter to fill all 12 cups). Add a teaspoon (avoid the urge to add more as it will burst out the sides during baking) of rhubarb compote on top of the batter in each cup. Spoon the remaining batter over the compote. Cook for about 22 minutes, or until golden brown.

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