Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sardine Cakes with Grilled Peach Salsa

Featured Ingredient: Canned Sardines

In my opinion, canned sardines are one of the most neglected foods in the grocery store. If you think you hate them, give these swimmers a try again and sample a few different brands as they can have different tastes. One of the best options out there is the wild caught California sardines from Wild Planet.

Here’s why you should eat more sardines:

They’re cheap protein.

They are positively packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

They are one of the few foods to contain a significant amount of vitamin D. Every cell in the body has a receptor for vitamin D so if you come up short you’ll function less than optimally. Over the past few years, a spate of research has linked it to protection against a wide range of maladies including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Tiny bones in sardines - so soft they’re easily consumed - are what makes these fish a great calcium source.

It is an evironmentally smart seafood choice.

Being diminutive, sardines don’t soak up significant amounts of contaminants such as mercury from the sea.

Canned sardines are amazing on hearty whole grain crackers, placed in sandwiches with Dijon mustard and mixed into pasta. Or give these sardine cakes a try, which I promise you are not at all “fishy.” They are so easy to put together and end up being really crispy and meaty. I think the coarser panko crumbs produce a better product than the finer bread crumbs. Try them with this wonderful summer salsa. Grilling the peaches caramelizes their sugars. Read: Yum!

Sardine Cakes with Grilled Peach Salsa

4 eggs
2 cans sardines, packed in water and drained
1 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup Panko style bread crumbs
½ tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. curry powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Mix in remaining ingredients. Divide mixture among 9-10 medium sized muffin tins. Cook for about 20 minutes or until eggs are set and tops begin to brown. Let cool before unmolding.

3 peaches, sliced in half and pits removed
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, sliced, white and green parts
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high. Rub vegetable oil over both sides of the peaches. Grill for about 3-4 minutes per side.

Let peaches cool before dicing. The skin should slide right off when cutting the grilled peaches. In a bowl, combine chopped peaches with the remaining ingredients.

Serve sardine cakes with peach salsa.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cups

Featured Ingredient: Peanut Butter

A staple in most people’s pantry, peanut butter contains a number of vital minerals and vitamins such as selenium, vitamin E, magnesium and niacin making it a nutritional winner. An abundance of healthy monounsaturated fats makes peanut butter a champion for heart health. But even if it didn’t contain all this goodness, I’d still eat copious amounts of the creamy stuff because it’s so damn good.

It’s always a good idea to stick with natural peanut butter to avoid added sugars and hydrogenated oils. The best peanut butters have one solitary ingredient: peanuts! Now that I have exposed my palate to natural peanut butter for several years, I can’t stand the waxy tasting mass produced stuff.

Perhaps the only thing better than peanut butter is peanut butter and chocolate. These indulgent treats are a healthier version of the iconic Reese's peanut butter cups. They are crazy easy to make and are an indulgent tasting treat if there ever was one. The powdered sugar helps thicken up the peanut butter which would probably be too moist on its own for the filling. I think these would be a great candidate for mini muffin cups for better portion control. You could also stuff them with almond butter (yeah, I think I just may try that next time around).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cups

6 ounces dark chocolate bar, chopped or dark chocolate chips (probably about 1 cup)

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper or chili powder

½ cup natural peanut butter

¼ cup powdered sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

Dash of salt

Place chopped chocolate or chocolate chips in a stainless steel or glass bowl and place it over a saucepan of simmering water (i.e. the double boiler method). Stir chocolate frequently until it is melted. You could probably melt the chocolate in the microwave as well. Stir cayenne or chili into melted chocolate.

Place paper liners in 6 muffin cups. Place a dollop of chocolate into each muffin cup and use a butter knife or back of a spoon to spread the chocolate over the bottom and half way up the paper liners. Don’t use more than half the chocolate.

Set the muffin tray in the freezer until the chocolate has hardened, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl until all the sugar is incorporated. Remove muffin tray from freezer when ready and spoon an equal amount of the peanut butter into each of the muffin cups.

Place remaining chocolate over the peanut butter and use a knife to spread it over the entire surface. Chill in the fridge for a couple hours before serving.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Blueberry Tartlets with Walnut Crust

Featured Ingredient: Walnuts

There are a lot of reasons to go nuts in the kitchen with walnuts. Walnuts are proof that nature love us: They’re packed with fibre, zinc, copper, magnesium, folate, vitamin B6 and no other nut has more of those much hyped omega-3 fatty acids. Harvard scientists found diets rich in walnuts can significantly reduce cholesterol levels. Daily consumption of nutrient-dense walnuts may improve the health of blood vessels, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease, says scientists from Yale.

There is a walnut tree outside my home office window, but I have never really got around to doing anything with them. We just hope they don’t put a dent in our neighbour’s new car as they fall.

Walnuts give the crust in this tart (slash) cheesecake recipe a wonderful nutty flavor. If you are concerned about fat calories, try low-fat cream cheese. You could also use other berries for the topping.

Blueberry Tartlets with Walnut Crust

Adapted from Eating Well


1/2 cup walnuts

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 large egg white

1 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Pinch of salt


8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably B or C grade for more flavour

1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries


Preheat oven to 325°F. Coarsely chop walnuts in a food processor or Vita-Mix. Add graham cracker crumbs and process until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Whisk egg white in a bowl until frothy. Add the crumb mixture, butter, oil and salt; toss to combine until everything is moist. Press the mixture into the bottom of 9-10 medium greased or papper lined muffin cups.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust begins to darken. Cool before applying topping.

To prepare the topping: Beat cream cheese, sour cream and maple syrup in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Top walnut crust with cream cheese topping. Before unmolding, chill for at least a couple hours to firm up. Carefully unmold tartlets and top each with blueberries.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Food Fight

If you have to decide between blueberries and strawberries what would you choose? How about chicken breast or turkey breast? Here is an article in this month's Runner's World magazine where I send similar foods to the ring to fight it out for nutritional supremacy  .

Monday, August 16, 2010

Snapper Cakes with Tamarind Chutney and Peach Gazpacho

Featured Ingredient: Tamarind

This weeks Foodie Fight challenge involves pairing tamarind and brown sugar together in a recipe. Most people are used to using brown sugar in the kitchen, but tamarind…not so much.

Tamarind is a fruit from the tamarind tree. The fruit is shaped like a tanned long bean, inside of which lies a reddish-brown sour pulp containing many seeds. The pulp is a staple in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Tamarind is a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. Who knew?

A good source of fiber, tamarinds are also abundant in B vitamins, blood pressure lowering potassium and magnesium. Though most people don’t consume nearly enough magnesium, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving more than 64,000 women reported that high intakes of this mineral is protective against type 2 diabetes. It appears magnesium helps improve blood sugar control.

Tamarind comes in three main forms - pods, paste, and concentrate - a thick, dark, ready to use syrup sold in jars. The paste is pulp pressed into block form and what I used for this recipe.

This is about 4 ounces of tamarind paste in block form. 

You can find tamarind paste and concentrate at any Asian or Indian market and it adds a nice touch of tangy sweetness to glazes, soups, vinaigrette's and this sweet and sour chutney.

Our fish monger had a great deal on red snapper this week but you could use tilapia, catfish, sole or other white fleshed fish in this recipe as well. With a bunch of local peaches in the fridge, I decided to serve a super easy peach gazpacho as an appetizer and have included this excellent recipe. It’s a perfect cold soup for a sultry August night.

If this makes you want to lick your screen, consider heading over to Foodie Fights on Tuesday and voting for moi.

Red Snapper Cakes with Tamarind Chutney

Fish cakes adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

4 oz tamarind paste
1 cup boiling water
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cumin seeds or ½ tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. coriander seeds or ½ tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. fennel seeds
¼ cup dried currants
¼ tsp. chili powder
Salt to taste

In a large bowl, pour boiling water over tamarind paste and let sit 30 minutes. If using seeds, toast them over medium heat in a dry skillet until fragrant and darkened, about 2 minutes. Grind seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (I used this). Place a sieve with large holes such as a metal colander over a saucepan and pour in tamarind water mixture. Press down on pulp to extract as much liquid as possible. In the saucepan will be a syrupy dark liquid. Add sugar, cumin, coriander, fennel, currants, chili powder and salt to the saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Fish cakes:
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut
4 large eggs
1 lb. red snapper fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour or other flour of choice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1-inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
Zest of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a dry skillet, toast coconut over medium heat until it turns golden and becomes very fragrant, about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Mix in coconut, snapper, flour, cilantro, ginger, green onions, fish sauce and lime zest. Divide evenly among 10 medium sized greased or paper lined muffin cups.

Cook until eggs are set, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding. Serve topped with tamarind chutney.

Peach Gazpacho

Adapted from Martha Stewart

6 ripe peaches, chopped
2/3 cup water
½ cucumber, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Red bell pepper, diced (I actually used a purple pepper from the market)
Avocado, diced
Green or baby red onions, sliced

Combine peaches, water, cucumber, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a blender. Process until well combined but still somewhat chunky. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Place peach gazpacho in serving bowls, stir in cilantro and top with red pepper, avocado and onion.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Zucchini

You know summer is in full swing when you can pick up a few pounds of zucchini for a couple bucks. Though not often spoken of when discussing the healthiest vegetables, summer squash is very low in calories (only 20 per cup) and contains descent amounts of vitamin C and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is needed for more than 100 enzymes involved in all sorts of metabolic functions. While, scientists at Harvard recently discovered that subjects with the highest blood vitamin B6 levels were the least likely to suffer a heart attack.

Zucchini is a tremendously versatile vegetable that can be used in a wide variety of recipes including soups, stir fries, pasta dishes, stews and baked goods. Here is a recipe that is a play on zucchini bread. I had some sour cream in the fridge so decided to use it in replace of much of the fat. Plain yogurt would also work. I used much less sugar than most recipes call for but ended up with a product that was plenty sweet enough. I was telling Tabi that this just might be one of my top 5 favourite muffins I’ve ever made. Somehow, all the flavours came together wonderfully. Make a batch and let me know what you think.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

½ cup walnuts

1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves (optional)

1.5 cups zucchini, shredded

½ cup brown sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

2/3 cup low-fat sour cream

¼ cup neutral tasting vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. In a dry skillet, toast walnuts over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring often. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. In a separate bowl, combine zucchini, sugar, egg, sour cream, oil and vanilla. Mix wet and dry until all the flour is incorporated. If the batter still looks too dry, mix in some additional sour cream or oil. Fold in walnuts. Divide batter between 10 to 12 greased or paper lined muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Muffin Tin Peach Cobbler

Featured Ingredient: Peaches

Peaches - considered a stone fruit because of their stone-like pits – are at their flavour peak right now. For me, nothing beats standing over the sink and biting into a ripe peach as the juice runs down my arms.

Their orange hue hints at significant levels of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, an essential vitamin for healthy eyes, bones and immune system. Peaches are also good sources of the antioxidant vitamin C and blood-pressure lowering potassium.

Perfect as an out of hand snack, peaches are great in cobbler recipes. Fruit cobbler’s typically contain a bottom layer of fruit topped with some type of sweet batter made with flour, butter and sugar. By using tofu  to make the batter (trust me, you won’t even know its there) you can cut out the fat calories from the butter.

Blueberries, plums, apples, apricots are other fruits that would be wonderful in this recipe.

Muffin Tin Peach Cobbler

Adapted from Vegetarian Times

2 peaches, pits removed and chopped
6 oz. firm silken tofu (1/2 pkg.)
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
¾ cup sugar of choice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1.5 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Divide peaches among 10 greased or paper lined muffin cups. In a blender or food processor, blend tofu and ¼ cup water until smooth. Add vinegar, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract and blend till sugar is incorporated. Add flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and blend until a smooth, thick batter forms, about 2 minutes. Pour batter over peaches and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before unmolding.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

The Cost of Good Grub

For each of my recipes, I try to include as many highly nutritious foods as possible. Well, according to this study, I might be costing you more money.

How did our food system come to this?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Corn Pudding

Featured Ingredient: Corn

Few foods scream summer like corn. But, in recent years, it has gotten a bad rap due to concerns over its genetic modification, how it’s used to fatten up the plethora of cattle polluting the landscape, and the fact that it’s the cornerstone of high fructose corn syrup. But that’s the barely edible field corn. Sweet corn, which is not genetically modified, is the toothsome stuff you find now at farmers’ markets or, as in the case here in Waterloo, being sold by the side of the road by Mennonite tykes. There are several hybrids of sweet corn as well.

Probably surprising to many, corn is far from a nutritional dud. 1 cup of kernels is a very decent source of folate, fiber, thiamin, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium. Plus, corn is abundant in lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant duo that are deposited in the retina to protect your peepers. So get shucking.

Corn pudding is a classic southern comfort food. There are many variations most of which are cooked in a pan. But when I came across a corn pudding recipe in the July issue of Vegetarian Times using ramekins, I knew they needed to be tried in the muffin tin. I added nutmeg for a hint of sweetness, but you could leave this out and go instead with herbs such as dill, sage or cilantro. This makes a wonderful summer side-dish for grilled meats. And best of all, its ridiculously simple.

To remove kernels from fresh corn, hold the ear of corn upright in a bowl and use a paring knife to slice off the kernels.

Corn Pudding

Makes 6 individual puddings

Adapted from Vegetarian Times

2 cups fresh corn (about 2 ears) or frozen corn, thawed

½ cup breadcrumbs (I used the panko style ones)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup low-fat sour cream

½ jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and diced

½ tsp salt, or to taste

¼ tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F. Pulse 1 cup of the kernels in a food processor until they break down. Remove blade and stir in remaining kernels and the other ingredients. Divide mixture among 6 greased or paper lined muffin cups. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until set and starting to turn golden.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blueberry Honey Cornmeal Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Blueberries

Tabi and I recently spent a wonderful morning picking blueberries – by far her favourite fruit. There are certainly worse things to have a major food crush on because if there was ever a food worthy of its superfood epithet it would be these true blue wonders.

An abundance of anythocyanins – powerful antioxidants that have been found to improve brain function, ward off heart disease and improve cholesterol numbers – make blueberries champions for health. Blueberries are also brimming with fibre, vitamin C and vitamin K. But when something tastes so awesome, the nutritional benefits are just a lovely bonus.

While local harvests continue for only a couple more weeks, blueberries freeze well for year-round enjoyment without any loss in nutritional prowess.

Here are some scarfworthy muffins that are lightly sweetened allowing you to actually taste the blueberries. Most baked good recipes with berries are overly sweetened with processed sugar which overpowers any berry flavour. Next time I make these, I may try using only honey. They would probably work without the cornmeal, but the texture they lend these muffins is great.

Blueberry Honey Corn Muffins

1.5 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
5 Tbsp neutral tasting vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and sugar. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in milk, oil and honey. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix gently until flour is incorporated. Fold in blueberries. Divide batter among 10 greased or paper lined muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and tops begin to turn golden. Let cool before unmolding.

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