Friday, July 30, 2010

Kohlrabi Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Kohlrabi

With a bulbous base adorned by multi-directional offshoots, kohlrabi may look otherworldly, but it is very much a delicious vegetable. Of the same ilk as cabbage, whimsical kohlrabi has a similar flavour with a crisp texture. Not to mention more than a days worth of vitamin C in a mere cup. Acting as an antioxidant, vitamin C helps reduce the damage free radicals inflict on our cells.

When it comes to kohlrabi, bigger is not always better as smaller bulbs tend to be sweeter and more tender. Light green and purple kohlrabi are available at this time of year at markets and some grocers, but I find there is no significant taste difference.

Once peeled, kohlrabi can be shredded into any number of summer salads or sliced and served with your favourite dip. The edible, highly-nutritious leaves taste like a combo of collard greens and kale and are best saut̩ed with sesame oil and garlic. Kohlrabi also freezes well Рjust chop, blanch and freeze.

This recipe is a play on classic zucchini pancakes usually cooked in a skillet. Recently, I pulled up a bunch of carrots from out community garden so I decided to include them as well for some nice colour contrast.

Once you get all the shredding done with a box grater or whatever tool you may have in the kitchen for this function, this recipe is really simple. The yogurt sauce adds some nice tang.  The cakes would probably be very good with applesauce as well.

The silicon muffin cups are awesome with a recipe like this. All I had to do was bend and pop them out – no greasing required.

Kholrabi Cakes with Yogurt Citrus Sauce

1 medium kohlrabi, generously peeled and shredded
1 medium zucchini, peeled and shredded
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup flour
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Yogurt Sauce:
½ cup plain yogurt
Juice of ½ medium orange
Juice of ½ lime
1 tsp honey

Place kohlrabi, zucchini and carrot in colander.

Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Place a small plate atop veggies and weigh it down with something fairly heavy. Let stand about 30 minutes to drain. Place grated veggies on a couple pieces of paper towel and top with two more pieces of paper towel. Press down to soak up more of the water.

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine grated vegetables, cheese, flour, rosemary, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix well until all the flour is moistened. Divide mixture among 8 well greased or paper lined muffin tins.

Cook for 20 minutes or until set, being careful not to burn the tops. Let rest 5 minutes before unmolding.

As they cook, combine yogurt, orange juice, lime juice and honey in a small bowl. Top kohlrabi cakes with yogurt sauce.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Chocolate Beer Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Beer

When quaffed too liberally, there are a lot of harmful side-effects to beer. But when enjoyed in moderation, the latest batch of research papers suggests beer has some healthful properties.

Light consumption of alcohol, including beer, can reduce the risk of heart disease in men by a third or more, according to a recent Spanish study. A University of California study suggests that beer is a significant source of dietary silicon, a key ingredient for increasing bone mineral density. Interestingly, marinating beef in red wine or beer may reduce the levels of potentially cancer-promoting compounds that form during cooking, according to a study from Portugal.

Cooking with wine may be common practice, buy many cooks and bakers overlook the flavor-enhancing potential of beer in all its guises.

This is my Foodie Fights entry for this week’s battle. Foodie Fights is a type of online Iron Chef where food bloggers are provided with two ingredients and then must to do their best to make them shine together. I’ve competed twice before over at Well Fed Man, failing to reach the top of the podium so hopefully the trusty muffin tin can propel me to victory.

The two ingredients this week are beer and apples. Immediately, I thought of stout beer, chocolate and applesauce. A good way to cut down on most of the oil or butter needed in a baked good recipe is with applesauce – though I like to keep in a bit of the fat for texture. There’s really no point going out of your way to buy applesauce for baking if you have a few whole apples around as it’s very easy to make your own mash. I decided to toss in chopped dried apples for some textural variety and added sweetness. But you could get away without these and still have a perfectly great dessert.

Dark style beers, preferably stouts, are best with chocolate recipes as their rich flavors compliment the chocolate. These cakes definitely don’t have a strong beer flavor. More in the way of subtle beer undertones.

I almost always use whole wheat pastry flour over nutritionally inferior all-purpose flour when baking stuff like muffins, cakes, brownies and cookies. Milled from soft wheat, whole wheat pastry flour will produce a tender product that is not too heavy, an objection some people have to regular whole-wheat flour. Lower in protein than regular whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour has less gluten-forming potential, making it a better choice for tender baked goods.

I tossed in some nutty tasting ground flax for an added boost of omega-3 fats and fiber but this could be omitted if it's not handy.

Instead of using saturated fat laden dairy cream, you can make a really delicious chocolate ganache topping with cashews which have a healthier fat profile and buttery flavor.

The ingredient list here might look long, but this is a really easy dessert to pull together.

If this looks scarfworthy, consider voting for me over at Foodie Fights

Chocolate Stout Cakes with Dried Apples, Spiced Applesauce and Cashew Ganache

½ cup unsalted cashews

2 medium apples, peeled and diced

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp cardamom

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup flax meal

1/3 cocoa powder

½ cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne or chili powder (optional but highly recommended)

2 eggs

1 cup dark beer, preferably stout

¼ cup oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup diced dried apples (optional)

4 oz chopped dark chocolate or a little more than ½ cup dark chocolate chips

2 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Raspberries or berry of choice

Place cashews in a bowl, cover with water and soak for at least 2 hours. In a small saucepan, simmer apples, cinnamon and cardamom over low heat until apples are very tender, 15-20 minutes. Mash apples with a potato masher or fork.

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flour, flax, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne if using. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in beer, oil, vanilla and applesauce. Gently pour wet ingredients over flour mixture and stir just until all the flour is incorporated. Stir in dried apples.

Divide batter among 12 muffin greased or paper lined muffin cups and cook for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

While muffins are cooking, place cashews in a blender and add just enough water to cover them. Process until smooth.

In a small saucepan, combine cashew cream, chocolate and maple syrup. Cook over low heat until chocolate is melted, stirring often.

Serve cakes topped with cashew ganache and raspberries.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Double Chocolate Coffee Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Coffee

Coffee lovers rejoice, there are serious health perks to imbibing regularly. A new study found that those who drink about 2 cups of black gold per day are less likely to be inflicted with heart disease than those who abstain. A 2010 Journal of Nutrition study reported an inverse relationship between coffee consumption among Japanese women and mortality due to heart disease. Further, European scientists discovered daily coffee consumption was associated with improved cholesterol levels and blood levels of pro-inflammatory compounds. Harvard studies, involving more than 193,000 people, found regular coffee drinkers had a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who abstained.

Researchers surmise powerful antioxidants called flavonoids abundant in coffee may explain its disease-fighting properties. In fact, one study reported that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet.

Of course, guzzling copious amounts of the stuff or drowning it in sugar and creams will likely cancel out any healthy benefits. It’s thought that between 2 and 4 cups per day offers the most positive impact.

If you take your coffee seriously, I strongly suggest seeking out single-origin Doi Chaang coffee. This wonderfully flavoured coffee from the mountains of northern Thailand is laced with unmatched humanitarian efforts.

The coffee beans are hand harvested by Akha cooperative farms with the growers being compensated above what fair trade mandates. As half owners, the farmers take in equal profits from world-wide distribution. In contrast to much of the low-end coffee, the coffee beans are grown under the forest canopy which improves the flavour and makes indigenous birds a little chirpier. Fresh water processing to extract the bean from its pulp, ideal altitudes, fertile soils, sun-drying, and sorting by hand also elevates quality. The coffee plants are also grown organically with fertilizer coming from recycled coffee cherry pulp and manure.

I wrote an article about these guys for Fresh Cup magazine a little while back if you want to learn more about this feel-good business relationship.

They are in select stores but your best bet is ordering it online here.

Why just sip coffee when you can also bake with it. Chocolate and coffee – perfect for an afternoon treat. Freshly brewed coffee really keeps these muffins moist. If you want them to have a stronger coffee taste, mix in some instant coffee powder.

Double Chocolate Coffee Muffins

Makes 12 Muffins


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup brown sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

1 egg

½ cup neutral tasting oil

1 cup strongly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg. Mix in oil, coffee and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix just until flour is no longer dry. Stir in chocolate chips. Divide batter among 12 greased or paper lined muffin cups and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes before unmolding.

Printable Version

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Clafoutis with Mixed Berries

Featured Ingredient: Truvia

With obesity and diabetes numbers skyrocketing in North America, more people are looking for ways to satisfy a sweet tooth with less damage. Using stevia powder such as that from Truvia may help you accomplish such a feat. Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener that is meant to appease those who are a little iffy about artificial sweeteners created in a lab. Truvia is made by extracting super sweet rebiana from the leaves of the South American stevia plant. Until late 2008, stevia could be sold in the U.S. only as a dietary supplement. But in December 2008, the FDA stated they believe rebiana is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) as a food additive. This up-and-coming sweetener is 200-400 times sweeter than table sugar so a little goes a long way.

In Truvia, rebiana is paired with erythritol, which is added as a bulking agent. Pure rebiana would be crazy sweet on its own. Erythritol is a naturally fermented sugar alcohol. It is fairly benign, but in some people it could cause stomach troubles when consumed excessively.

Truvia comes in packets as well as a new spoonable container. In this clafoutis recipe, it worked very well and I could hardly tell regular sugar was given the night off. Plus, there was no curious aftertaste that has plagued some stevia products. So if you’re concerned about your sugar intake and waistline or need to get your blood sugar numbers under control, Truvia might be worth trying in your next batch of cookies.

You can find sugar Truvia conversions here. Be very aware that it is not a 1:1 substitution.

Clafoutis is a wonderful custard-like baked dessert (or breakfast for some) from the Limousin region of France. It is typically made by baking fresh fruit (often cherries) and a sweet batter similar to a crepe in a cake pan. But who needs a cake pan when you’ve got a muffin tin handy. These are so delicious, you’ll be glad for the built-in portion control. Instead of cherries, I used three seasonal berries: tart red currants, blueberries and raspberries. Most clafoutis recipes use white flour but try whole wheat pastry flour for the superior nutritional profile.

Muffin Tin Mixed Berry Clafoutis

Recipe adapted from Food & Drink

¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
8 packets (or 2 Tbsp + ½ tsp) Truvia stevia or 1/3 cup normal sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1.5 cups mixed berries of choice
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If not using silicon muffin cups or paper liners, grease muffin cups with some of the butter. In a blender or food processor, combine butter, eggs, extracts, sweetener, and salt. Process until combined. Add flour and blend just until combined. Divide berries among 12 medium sized muffin cups.

Pour the flour mixture over the berries.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until puffed and set. Let them cool in the pan to firm up and make removal easier. If you’re impatient and remove them too soon they will fall apart but will still be very much edible. The clafoutis will puff up in the oven but will sink back down in the middle as they cool.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Muffin Tin Calzones with Tomato Meat Sauce

Featured Ingredient: Tomatoes

For a large part of the year, fresh tomatoes lovers such as myself are left with little choice but to buy the fairly tasteless offerings from the megamart that are bread for the purpose of transport not juicy flavour. But now local options, in various guises, abound at markets that taste more like a tomato should – sweet and hazardously juicy.

Tomatoes are one of nature’s richest sources of lycopene. Lycopene, which gives tomatoes their rosy hue, is a carotenoid antioxidant credited with helping reduce the risk of several forms of cancer. For us guys, there is a lot of good research regarding its potential to help stave off prostate cancer.

For only about 25 calories, a medium tomato also provides a decent amount of vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin A.

Sometimes there is nothing better than biting into a warm calzone that oozes with gooey tomato sauce. A few recipes I have come across lately got me wondering if I could create a homemade version in the muffin tray. I’m happy to report, yes you can and with delicious results.

This recipe took some time only because I made the sauce and dough from scratch. To expedite things, you could use an easier filling such as chopped raw veggies and cheese. In fact, the possibility for fillings is endless. Store bought pizza dough would also slash prep time but there was something satisfying about making my own for the first time. I used a recipe from Eating Well magazine and it turned out to be much less of a high-flying kitchen feat than I thought it would be. There is enough dough to make about 10-12 calzones. I only used half the dough to make 6 and put the rest in the freezer for a future pizza. Here is some good instruction on how to properly knead dough.

For the filling, I used ground emu meat as we have a local source. You could really use any ground meat of your choice in the sauce including turkey, bison and pork. Or opt out of meat and make it vegetarian. There will be plenty of left over sauce so use it for pasta or freeze for future use.

Muffin Tin Calzones with Tomato Meat Sauce

Pizza Dough:
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water (105-115°F)
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup bread or all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

Stir water, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl; let stand until the yeast has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir in flours and cornmeal until the dough begins to come together. Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. (I found that I needed to keep my hands well floured).

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Makes about 1 pound of dough.

Meat Sauce:
1 lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed) or game meat
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 medium tomatoes
1 5 oz can tomato paste
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
½ cup torn basil leaves
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin powder
¼-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tsp oil over medium. Add ground meat, onion and garlic and cook until meat is browned, 5-6 minutes. In a blender or food processor, puree tomatoes until smooth. Add pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, zucchini, mushrooms, basil, cumin, pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for about 30 minutes.

To make the mini calzones:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a muffin tin and set aside. Break off a little larger than golf ball sized pieces of the dough and press these out on a lightly floured surface into discs. (Again, I found I needed my hands to be floured as well). Place the discs inside the muffin cups and stretch out so the dough covers the sides and if possible out the tops as well.Place some shredded Mozzarella or white cheddar cheese on the bottom of the dough and top with a heaping spoonful of meat sauce. If desired, top meat sauce with more cheese.

Fold the dough over onto itself and seal. If there is not enough dough to cover the top, tear off some from the remaining dough ball, flatten and use it to cover the top of the muffin cups.

Bake for about 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. Some sauce and cheese may escape. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Zucchini Currant Mini Breads

Featured Ingredient: Currants

For too few weeks a year, fresh currants are available at markets and should not be missed. Like other berries, tart currants abound in vitamin C and phytochemicals, which help mop-up pesky free radicals that mess around with cells in the body to initiate a variety of chronic diseases. The most common currants available are red and black with the former often being less expensive.

You can enjoy fresh currants washed and out of hand or on top of ice cream, yogurt, granola, salads and pancakes. Excellent for stewing, currants make delicious compotes, pies, jams, sauces, and syrups. They also help baked goods such as the recipe below explode with flavour in your mouth.

This recipe is a play on iconic zucchini bread making use of the really cheap and abundant summer squash this time of year. The currants give them an unexpected sweet-tart flavor. You don’t have to add chocolate chips, but if you got them around why not do so. If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, try half regular whole wheat and half all-purpose. The addition of yogurt helps cut down on the use of oil but if you want to omit it, just use about ½ cup oil.

Zucchini Currant Mini Breads

1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
¼ cup oil
¼ cup yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sugar of choice
1 ½ cup zucchini, shredded
½ cup currants
½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and mix with oil, yogurt, vanilla and sugar. Fold in zucchini. Stir in currants and chocolate chips. Divide among 10 greased or paper-lined muffin cups (better yet, use silicon!) and top each with a few currants for show. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Printable Version

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cherry Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Cherries

Oh baby, it’s cherry season. This stone fruit - a relative of plums, peaches, and nectarines – is crammed with anthocyanin antioxidants that are responsible for their rosy hue. Anthocyanin’s have been credited with reducing inflammation and helping keep the mind sharp. A big bowl of sour or sweet cherries also provides a good amount of vitamin C and potassium. And here is an interesting fact: Cherries are a rare food source of melatonin, which may help regulate sleep patterns.

I’ve been waiting till cherries showed up at the farmers’ market so I could try this recipe which is a play on iconic upside down cherry cake. So let’s call this rightside up mini cherry cakes.

Pitting cherries is certainly easier with a cherry pitter but you can also ease the process with a chopstick. Just push the pointy end of the chopstick through the stem side of the cherry and the pit will burst out. Don’t wear your best whites!

I really recommend using the cornmeal as it adds a nice texture. But if you don’t have any around just add another ¼ cup flour. Some of the cherry mixture will spill out of the cups during baking but that’s ok, this is not a beauty food contest. But make sure to only fill the muffin cups halfway with batter or you will really have a cherry tsunami on your hands.

Rightside Up Cherry Cakes

2 ½ cups pitted cherries, sliced in half
1 Tbsp cornstarch
¾ cup sugar of choice
½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk of choice

In a saucepan, combine cherries with ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for about 6 minutes, or until cherries soften and begin to break down. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with ¼ cup water and stir into cherries along with ¼ cup of the sugar. Continue cooking until mixtures thickens somewhat, about 3 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift together flours, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in oil, ½ cup sugar and vanilla. Stir in sifted dry ingredients, alternating with the milk. Spoon batter into 12 greased non-stick muffin cups. Only fill half way. Top with saucy cherries. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Swiss Chard Quiches

Featured Ingredient: Swiss Chard

I’m so pleased that our rainbow Swiss chard is doing very well in the community garden. Swiss chard is a relative of the beet, with a slightly bitter and salty flavor. Though I find the fresh picked stuff is less pungent than the bunches you find in the megamarts. The stalks, which are soft and crunchy, are very much edible. The more colorful stalks of rainbow chard are sweeter than the white stalks of common chard.

Chard is an excellent source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts to vitamin A to boost the immune system. But where this leafy green shines is vitamin K. A cup contains more than three times the daily requirement. Vitamin K is required for proper blood clotting and bone strength. Further, a 2010 study in Diabetes Care found that as vitamin K intake increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes decreased in subjects. Vitamin K may improve insulin sensitivity.

This quiche (slash) frittata recipe is really simple with outstanding flavor. If you don’t have any chard, you can use spinach or other seasonal greens. I incorporated sage because it’s also growing well in the garden. Other herbs such as basil and oregano would work as well. When working with eggs, I highly recommend silicon muffin cups to reduce the chances of sticking.

Mini Swiss Chard Quiche

6 eggs

1/3 cup milk

2 cups chopped Swiss chard

2 ounces soft goat cheese, chopped

2 tablespoons sage, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Mix in milk, Swiss chard, goat cheese, sage, salt and pepper. Divide mixture among 8 greased non-stick muffin cups. Cook until egg sets, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before unmolding. To unmold, you’ll need to guide a butter knife around the edges.

Printable Version

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lentil Spinach Cups

Featured Ingredient: Lentils

Lentils are the world’s oldest cultivated legume, a name given to them because the shape of a lentil looks a lot like the lens of an eye. Unfortunately, most North Americans are lucky to eat these earthy wonders once a month. That’s a massive shame when you consider how cheap (about a buck fifty a pound) and how incredibly nutritious they are.

Among the nutritional highlights of lentils is an abundance of protein, blood pressure lowering potassium, heart-protective folate, and dietary fiber – roughly 18 grams per cooked cup. There are very few foods that are well-rounded nutritionally. Plus, they don’t require a pre-soak like beans and cook up in half the time.

Lentils come in many fetching hues. For the recipe below, avoid red or yellow lentils which break down when cooked and are better suited for soups and purees. Insteed of ricotta cheese, you could try soft goat cheese. These are equally good cold or warm.

Lentil Spinach Cups


1/2 cup dry black, brown or green lentils

8 cups spinach, stems removed

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup good-quality Parmesan cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste


Bring lentils and 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a food processor, pulse spinach in until finely chopped. Add ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the processor bowl and process until well combined. Stir in drained, cooked lentils. Divide evenly among 10 to 12 medium-sized greased muffin cups. Bake until set, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool and loosen with a butter knife. Garnish with grated Parmesan.

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