Thursday, September 30, 2010

Butternut Squash Pudding

Featured Ingredient: Butternut Squash

Good gourd, it’s winter squash season. This is one of my favorite times of year to peruse the farmers’ market for the simple reason that I love checking out all the unusual gourds in various shapes, colors and weights.

Winter squash are a cinch to store, versatile in the kitchen and their nutritinonal benefits are great. Orange fleshed squash such as acorn and butternut are a large storehouse of beta-carotene. On top of being an antioxidant to help fend off those pesky cell-damaging free radicals, beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body that helps with immune defense and good vision.

While many of the more popular squash varieties are now available year round, ‘tis the season to gorge yourself silly when local winter squash are ridiculously cheap and the dropping mercury makes them almost impossibly sweet for a vegetable.

These whimsical pudding cups using the flesh of butternut squash make a wonderful side-dish or a good snack to grab straight out of the fridge. I’m thinking they would be a fun addition to a Thanksgiving feast as well. The flavors became even better after a day. I’m sure you could use a wide variety of winter squash varieties with delicious results.

Butternut Pudding Cups

4 cups cubed butternut squash

1 1/2 cup low-fat milk

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 large eggs, separated into yolk and whites

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

½ tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a microwave or stovetop steam basket, steam the squash until very soft. Remove from heat and mash until smooth; set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a slight simme. Whisk in cornmeal and cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, about 1 minute. In a large bowl, mix together squash puree, cornmeal mixture, egg yolks, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. In a separate bowl, use an electric hand mixer or a whisk to whip the eggs until firm peaks form. Stir half the stiff whites into the squash mixture, then gently fold in the remaining half. Spoon mixture evenly among 12 medium greased or paper lined muffin cups.

Cook until puffed and set, about 25-30 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Olive Oil Rosemary Bread

Featured Ingredient: Olive Oil

Olive oil is gleaned from the olive tree’s fruit. The vast majority of the some 750 million olive trees cultivated for olive oil production are found in the Mediterranean, mainly Spain, Greece and Italy. But production in California is on the upswing. I have tried a few brands of olive oil from California and the quality is very high.

The flavor of olive oil is influenced by the growing region and type of olive tree it is extracted from. The best olive oil will be kissed with a peppery edge or fruity tones.

An abundance of polyphenols, monounsaturated fat and vitamin E makes olive oil a champion for heart health. An impressive 75 percent of its calories come from monounsaturated fat which confers heart protection by lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while simultaneously raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. Portuguese researchers found that one major antioxidant in olive oil called DHPEA-EDA is particularly effective in protecting our red blood cells from oxidative damage by menacing free radicals.

But consider splurging on more flavorful extra-virgin varieties as a recent Annals of Internal Medicine study determined these types contain more antioxidants as a result of minimal processing. Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives.

These individual olive oil breads are very light and have just the perfect touch of rosemary. They make a perfect side-kick to a hearty fall soup and probably would be a great addition to the Thanksgiving table. Instead or rosemary, I think you could also go with nutmeg as a flavoring agent with delicious results.

Because eggs are a big part of this recipe, next time I would even grease the silicon muffin cups to help cut down on sticking. These are a good candidate for a fanciful paper liner.

The breads are wonderful when served warm with a whisper of butter. Does any one have any other ideas for some tasty toppings?

Olive Oil Rosemary Bread

4 eggs

½ cup sugar

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary

1 ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs at high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat until mixture is very foamy and pale in color. With the mixer running, drizzle in olive oil. Fold in rosemary. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and combine gently.

Divide batter among 12 medium muffin tins. Bake for 25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Balsamic Jelly

Featured Ingredient: Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is made from grape pressings that have never been permitted to ferment into wine. These grape pressings are boiled down into a dark syrup and then aged for various amounts of time under various conditions. Gourmet balsamic vinegar is often slowly aged in wooden barrels. It’s usually a good idea to pay a little extra for a quality bottle of balsamic vinegar. Some balsamic vinegars are aged for over 100 years and cost a small fortune. I would say that you can get really great stuff for between $15 and $20.

One of the food magazines I read monthly for kitchen inspiration is Bon Appetit. A recent issue included a recipe for balsamic jelly formed in ramekins. So being a huge fan of balsamic vinegar, I thought I would give these a try in muffin cups. The flavor of the balsamic vinegar is definitely in the forefront with the sweet honey playing a supporting role. The magazine recommends serving on toast with whipping butter. I did not have any whipping butter, but it’s good on its own spread on hearty, whole grain toast.

These sweet and sour jelly molds would also be a cool addition to a cheese platter.

I only made half the original recipe because a little of this jelly goes a long way because of the pronounced punch of the balsamic vinegar. If you want to make more, simply double all the ingredients. If I make these again, I think I’ll try adding in some orange zest.

Does anyone out there have any other suggestions for what to do with this stuff?

Balsamic Jelly

½ cup balsamic vinegar

¾ teaspoon unflavored gelatin

3 tablespoon honey

Add vinegar to a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over top. Let stand for 10 minutes. Heat vinegar over medium, stirring often, until gelatin has dissolved and vinegar is warm (do not boil). Remove from heat and stir in honey. Divide mixture among 3 medium sized muffin tins. Chill for 8 hours to let set.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Roots I Dig

Here's an article I wrote in the recent issue of Women's Adventure magazine about some great winter vegetables to gorge on.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Featured Ingredient: Homemade Vanilla Extract

With a blog paying homage to the muffin tin, obviously vanilla extract is going to show up in recipes with regular occurrence. Vanilla adds a warm, luxurious scent to baked goods. But top quality vanilla extract that does not contain any added sweeteners and artificial junk can be pricey. Thankfully, as I have recently learned, it’s surprisingly very easy to make your own with just two ingredients: vanilla beans and booze. Plus, a little bit of patience.

You’ll want to start with good quality vanilla beans. There are some good websites (or try ebay) selling them in bulk for reasonable prices. You can either use vodka or rum, with the latter often being the preferred choice of many in the food blog world. I used Havana Club that I picked up on a recent bike trip to Cuba.

Once you have used some of the extract, say 20 to 30 percent, you can top it up with more alcohol and, if desired, more vanilla beans to keep the supply going almost indefinitely. Any spent vanilla beans used in a recipe such as poached fruit can be added to the brew provided they have been washed.

DIY Vanilla Extract


3 vanilla beans

1 cup rum or vodka


Thoroughly was a glass jar or bottle. Split vanilla beans along its length and then slice each in half. Place vanilla beans in the glass jar and pour in the alcohol. Seal the jar with an airtight fitting lid, shake it a bit and leave for 2 months in a cool, dark place. You probably should shake the jar occasionally, but I tended to forget this step. The longer it stands the more aromatic and flavorful the extract will become.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fiberrific Chocolate Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Fiber

Where would we be without fiber? Best not even ponder the answer, which would surely include the words “plumper” and “backed up.” Yup, we all owe dietary fiber a big, sloppy thank you. Why? Because reams of studies show that a high-fiber diet helps lower the risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and digestive disorders. Plus it can help keep us on good terms with the scale. And a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving more than 89,000 subjects determined fiber is protective against unwelcome weight gain. Sadly, as the intake of processed foods has outpaced whole foods, surveys suggest North Americans consume only about half the fiber recommended each day which is 25 grams for women and 38 for men.

With fiber intake waning, I decided to try and create a fiber powerhouse muffin that doesn’t taste like cardboard. Here’s some of the ingredients that can turn your next muffin into a fiber machine.

Red Lentils

1 cup = 21 grams of fiber

Lentils are one of nature’s best sources of fiber. Red lentils are a great addition to muffins because they breakdown really fast when cooked and can be mashed into a puree that doesn’t really alter the flavor of the baked good.

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1 cup = 10 grams of fiber

Almost always a better choice for baking than all-purpose flour which has had much of its fiber stripped away.

Chia Seed Powder

½ cup = 25 grams of fiber

Omega-3 rich chia seeds are absolutely brimming in dietary fiber. When the seeds are ground into a powder, it makes for a wonderfully healthy addition to baked goods. You can find chia seed powder in some health food stores or online at

Cocoa Powder

1/3 cup = 10 grams of fiber

Here’s more reason to love chocolate, it’s a surprisingly good source of fiber.


2 parsnips = 12 grams of fiber

Here’s the wild card ingredient. I’ve got some parsnip in the community garden so I decided to shred it up and toss it into the batter like you would carrots. But earthy parsnips actually contain significantly more fiber than Bugs Bunny’s grub of choice.

Dried Currants

½ cup = 5 grams

Among dried fruit, currants are one of the highest in fiber.


½ cup = 7 grams of fiber

These actually contain more fiber than other nuts that are more often used in baking such as almonds and walnuts. They help give these muffins a rich, nutty flavour.

So after punching in the numbers, each of the muffins below has whopping 8 grams of fiber and could put a serious dent in your daily fiber quota. As for taste, there is no doubt these taste earthy, but they really do grow on you. A high fiber food with lashings of decadence indeed.

Fiberrific Chocolate Muffins

1 cup red lentils

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup chia seed powder

1/3 cup cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves (optional)

½ tsp ground ginger (optional)

¼ tsp salt

2 average sized parsnips, shredded

1 egg

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup dried currants

½ cup hazelnuts, chopped

In a saucepan, combine lentils and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils break down, about 10 minutes. Mash lentils until smooth and set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine whole wheat pastry flour, chia powder, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together lentils, parsnip, egg, sugar, oil and vanilla. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until all the flour is incorporated. Stir in currants and hazelnuts. Add more oil if the batter looks too dry. Divide mixture among 12 greased muffin cups and bake for 18 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. These will overcook quickly, so be careful.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spiced Apple Cakes with Apple Compote (Plus applesauce)

Featured Ingredient: Apples

Tabi and I recently spent a nice afternoon picking apples from a neighborhood tree that is really plush with fruit this year. With a latter and stick we were able to collect enough to fill a good sized bag.

When you bite into an apple straight off the tree, you realize that most store-bought versions just pail in comparison.

Apples are one of nature’s best sources of quercetin, an antioxidant that appears to help kill off cancerous cells but improve the functioning of immune cells. One company, with Lance Armstrong being a regular sipper, is selling quercetin laced drinks based on a couple studies showing high amounts can improve exercise performance.

This recipe is my paean to the prolific apple tree down the street. The cakes are very heavily spiced so pack a lot of warming flavour. For the cakes, I did not bother peeling the apples like most recipes suggest because I was too lazy and almost all the quercetin in an apple is located in the skin. But it’s best to peel the apples for the compote.

For a bonus recipe, I’ve include my instructions for a baked applesauce that I made with the apples as well. As the shorter, crisper days of fall beckon, this is sure to become a regular treat – we have a lot more apples left!

Spiced Apple Cakes with Apple Compote

Adapted from Food & Drink

1 ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange zest
1.5 cups apple, finely diced
½ cup chopped walnuts

Apple Compote:
4 red skinned apples, peeled and chopped
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of cardamom
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking power, baking soda and spices. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and stir in sugars, oil, vanilla and orange zest. Stir in half the flour mixture into the egg mixture. When combined, stir in the remaining flour until blended. Stir in apples and walnuts. Divide mixture among 10 greased muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.

As the cakes cook, combine apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and lemon in a small saucepan. Bring to a slight boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 5 minutes, or until apples are tender but still maintain their shape. Stir in vanilla. Serve over apple cakes.

Printable Version

Spiced Baked Applesauce

12-15 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp maple syrup
3-4 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
1.5 tsp vanilla

Place apple slices in a large baking dish. Mix with maple syrup. Combine the rest of the ingredients and sprinkle evenly on top of the apples.

Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until apples have softened considerably, stirring half way through the cooking. Using a potato masher or fork, mash apples to desired consistency.

Printable Version

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Joy of (Not) Cooking

Want to give the oven a break? Try these no-cook recipes from an article I wrote in the August 2010 issue of Alive magazine.

Catfish Ceviche

Teriyaki Tofu Wraps

Mini Cheesecake

Crab Stuffed Tomato

Spinach salad with cherries, prosciutto and pecans

Three Bean Salad

Friday, September 10, 2010

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Rolls

Featured Ingredient: Garlic

Some kind sole planted a bunch of garlic in my community garden plot last season and I was able to recently dig up several wonderfully fragrant heads. It’s crazy how much more flavorful these are than the one’s from overseas I’m used to buying from the grocery store. All I had to do was give them a good wash and dry them for a day on the patio in the hot sun (which seems to have vanished lately here) and we’ve got an organic garlic supply for a few months.

On top of helping ward off vampires, garlic’s signature antioxidant allicin is thought to have anti-viral properties and help prop up the immune system. Allicin is what gives garlic its pungent flavour that seemingly embraces every imaginable type of dish. So don’t be a alliumphobe – someone with a heightened fear for garlic.

Tabi and I spent the afternoon picking apples from a neighbour’s very productive tree, so I thought I would award her for the help with these rolls. They came out beautifully! I made them cloverleaf style meaning you place three balls in each muffin cup which makes for an attractive presentation. The whole wheat pastry flour (not to be confused with regular whole wheat flour) makes the rolls pleasantly hearty, but next time I think I would use a bigger garlic head (mine had about 7 cloves) for a stronger garlic flavour. I believe you could also up the oven temperature when roasting the garlic which would cut down on cooking time. Say around 425 degrees for 30 minutes?

Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Whole Wheat Rolls

1 whole garlic head
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 package)
1 cup warm milk, not boiling
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour, plus more for kneading
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the excess white papery skin from the garlic head but do not peel or separate the cloves. Wrap the head in foil and bake for 1 hour. Dissolve yeast in milk in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Add the soft pulp from the roasted garlic cloves, 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sugar, salt, egg and rosemary. Mix until combined. Add 2 cups flour and mix until all the flour is moist. Turn batter out onto a floured work surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour to the work surface and hands as needed.

Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch dough down dough which means pushing down the centre of the dough with your fist and then pushing the edges of the dough into the centre using your fingertips. Form dough into 36 equal sized balls and place 3 balls in each of 12 greased muffin cups.

Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush tops of dough with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake for about 12 minutes or until browned.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Got Kimchi?

I had a great time writing this article on Korean cuisine for the September issue of Women's Health magazine.

Anybody have ideas for using kimchi in a muffin tin?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gluten-Free Hazelnut Honey Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Hazelnut Meal

For upping the health ante and adding a delicious twist to any baked good try using hazelnut meal. Made by grinding whole hazelnuts (go figure!), gluten-free hazelnut meal lends baked goods their distinctive flavor and plenty of nutritional benefits.

A 2010 study determined that subjects who followed a hazelnut enriched diet (lucky guys!) for a month had reduced oxidation of cholesterol molecules and an increase in the ratio of large to small LDL cholesterol, both of which are purported to reduce heart disease risk. Hazelnuts are a wonderful source of monounsaturated fat which helps improve cholesterol numbers and vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help protect cholesterol molecules from oxidation.

To maximize freshness, it’s best to keep hazelnut meal in the fridge or freezer. But bring it back up to room temperature before baking with it.

You can buy hazelnut meal at some health food stores (for this recipe, I used Bob’s Red Mill) or make your own in a food processor or spice grinder or Vita-mix. I wouldn’t try it with a cheap blender. This recipe calls for 1 ¾ cup hazelnut meal which would be about 1 ½ cup whole hazelnuts if you are doing the grinding.

These gluten-free cakes are incredibly light (it’s almost like picking up air) and were a perfect treat during the foul weather we had this Labour Day weekend. A tasty surprise was that the bottom and sides of the cakes caramelized – Yum! The honey I used was the excellent Fair Trade honey from Wholesome Sweeteners. In lieu of hazelnut meal, you could use almond meal.

Flourless Hazelnut Honey Cakes

Recipe adapted from Eating Well magazine


1 ¾ cup hazelnut flour/meal

4 large eggs, room temperature, separated

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt


Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat 4 egg yolks, honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt with a hand held electric mixer (or use a paddle attachment on a stand mixer) on medium speed until well combined. Add the hazelnut meal and beat on low until combined. Beat 4 egg whites in a separate large bowl with the electric mixer (make sure the beaters are clean or use the whisk attachment on a stand mixer) on medium speed until very foamy and doubled in volume, but not stiff enough to hold peaks, about 1 minute. Gently fold the egg whites into the hazelnut mixture until just combined. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups and bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool before unmolding, which will likely require running a butter knife along the edge.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kale Ricotta Cups

Featured Ingredient: Kale

There is no vegetable that is dearer to my heart than jaunty kale and I aim to bite into it almost everyday. I am a huge fan of its robust, slightly bitter flavour that is lacking in more popular greens such as spinach and romaine. As a dietitian, I can appreciate that kale, be it Tuscan or common green, is an absolute nutritional heavy weight. Few foods can compete with it. A mere cup provides more than a days requirement of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K. Plus you get a huge dose of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are deposited in the retina to protect eye health.

I could not be more pleased with how well our kale has grown in the community garden this season.

And because kale is even better when temperatures begin to drop, we expect the harvest to continue into November.

When cooked, kale becomes more mellow in flavour. I’ve been meaning to incorporate it into a Muffin Tin Mania recipe for sometime now and this one really turned out well. All the flavours and textures came together beautifully. Make sure to chop the kale small. At the last minute, I decided to toss in some cherry tomatoes as I’m still plucking those from our patio garden.

If you’re a fan of cheese and kale, this recipe is for you. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Kale Ricotta Cakes

1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups kale, stems removed and chopped (about 2.5 ounces)
3 large eggs
1 container (454 grams) light ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and kale and continue cooking 2-3 minutes, or until kale begins to wilt. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, ricotta, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in kale mixture and cherry tomatoes. Divide mixture among 11-12 greased muffin tins and cook for 30 minutes, or until set and beginning to brown. Let cool before unmolding.

Printable Version

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Peach Puree Cornmeal Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Fruit Mash

Looking to slash fat calories from your muffins? Try using homemade fruit purees instead. For this recipe, I decided to mash up in-season peaches to replace the vegetable oil I was initially considering using.

Three peaches ring in at just 177 calories while three-quarters cup oil (about how much would be needed) has 1485 calories. As you can see, the calorie saving is significant helping keep the muffins a little more waistline friendly. Plus, when you replace all or some of the oil, cream or butter a baked good recipe calls for with fruit puree you end up with an item with more fibre and antioxidants.

Some recipes work well by replacing all the fat with fruit while others are best served by leaving in some of the fat source. It really comes down to experimentation. I was a little worried about making these fat-free, but the outcome was very satisfactory.

With the addition of the cornmeal, these muffins are absolutely wonderful with some made-with-love fruit jam. We’re noshing on them with a generous dollop of red currant jam. They seemed to become more moist after a day or two. If you want to leave out the cornmeal just use 2 cups of flour instead. Or try other fruits and let me know how it goes.

If anybody gives these a shot, I'd love to hear what you think about sacking the fat.

Peach Puree Cornmeal Muffins


3 peaches, diced

1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup cornmeal

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. cinnamon

2 eggs

½ cup sugar


In a saucepan, cook peaches over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until very soft. Using a fork or potato masher, mash peaches and set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in peach puree and sugar. Combine wet and dry ingredients until all the flour is moist. Divide batter among 12 greased or paper lined muffin cups and cook for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.