Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tomato Juice Cups

Featured Ingredient: Tomatoes

Man, it is turning out to be a scorcher of a summer. Needless to say, I have not been doing a lot of muffin tin baking. Tabi and I live sans air conditioning and the kitchen has been hot enough without cranking up the oven. Thankfully, there are plenty of uses for muffin cups that don’t involve the oven.

The August issue of Men’s Journal magazine, which contains my piece on gluten-free eating, has a wonderful article outlining 39 cool ways to eat one of summers quintessential vegetables (slash) fruits – the tomato. No#21 is an idea for a gussied up V8 drink. Which got me thinking, what if I blended everything up and froze the juice in muffin cups for later use? I’m happy to report everything worked out. What you do is take 2 to 3 of the frozen cups and blend them along with 1 cup water and you’ve got a no-fuss antioxidant packed vegetable juice with a flavor that blows away anything in the supermarket. This is a similar idea to the green smoothie cups I posted earlier.

Happy no-cook blending!

Tomato Juice Cups

4 tomatoes, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few dashes of hot sauce

Place tomatoes, celery, onion and bell pepper in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Add contents of pan to a blender container along with remaining ingredients and blend for 1 minute. Divide among 12 muffin cups, let cool to room temperature and place in the freezer until solid. Unmold tomato juice cups and place in a zip-top bag for storage in the freezer. If you have trouble unmolding the contents, try placing the bottom of the muffin tin in warm water for about 30 seconds. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

No Cook, No Sweat

Needless to say, during this stinking hot summer we are having I have not been baking up too many muffins. In fact, it's the perfect summer for no-cook cooking. You'll find ideas for simple no-cook meal recipes such as Crab and Lentil Stuffed Tomatoes and Chicken Pitas with Sundried Tomato Spread in my article Don't Cook Now that appears in the August issue of Runner's World magazine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cream and Currant Cups

Featured Ingredient: Currants

I’m not sure what it is about fresh currants that gets me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Maybe its their explosive tart flavor (tart/sour is actually my favorite of the main flavors). Perhaps it’s their ultra-short season that brings with it urgency to buy as many as possible when the chance presents itself. It could be the very attractive lady that sells them at our farmers’ market – my girlfriend Tabi doesn’t seem to mind that I have a crush on the currant lady. Or it just might be the payload of antioxidants they deliver that can confer copious health benefits.

It’s probably all the reasons that add up to make me a currant superfan. Last week at the market we picked up an entire flat and froze them so the goodness can keep coming for many weeks. Fresh currants are really great on morning oatmeal, mixed into yogurt or on top of vanilla ice-cream. For a fanciful dessert, you can also try these cream and currant cups. The topping is indeed tart (I make no apologies for that one!), so if you find it overpowering mix in additional sugar to balance it out. If you are not using silicon muffin cups, you may want to use paper liners as it might be difficult to unmold the cream cups.

If there are any other currant die-hards out there, I’d love to hear from you.We need to band together.

Cream and Currant Cups

Adapted from Food & Drink

1 tablespoon gelatin
3 tablespoons cool water
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup fresh currants
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons sugar

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, combine cream, milk, vanilla and sugar. Heat over medium heat until just simmering, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour cream mixture into the bowl with the gelatin and stir to combine. Divide mixture among 10 muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 6 hours.

Combine 1/4 cup currants, water and sugar in a bowl. Mash currants with a fork and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in remaining currants. Unmold cream cups and top with currant mixture.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Against The Grain

I have a feature article on gluten-free living in the August issue of Men's Journal. It's a hot topic or what?
They asked that I provide some gluten-free recipes for an online bonus. Here is a link to them: Gluten-free Recipes.

I'm loving the black rice these days. This black rice salad is a wonderful summer dish.

Green Smoothie Cups


Featured Ingredient: Coconut Water

Bored stiff of H2O? Try coconut water, now available in plastic bottles and tetra packs at a growing number of food stores, as a more lively alternative. Gleaned from young green coconuts (don’t confuse it with coconut milk made from the pulp of mature nuts), coconut water has a tangy personality and one of the best natural sources of the blood pressure lowering electrolyte potassium. Because the electrolyte balance is very similar to that of human blood, coconut water has been used as IV fluid during war time.

Aqua de coco contains no added sweeteners so won’t give you Buddha-belly like other heavily high-fructose corn syrup sweetened drinks. When Tabi and I cycle in SouthEast Asia, we love rehydrating by dropping a straw into a fresh coconut. I am so happy it has become easier to enjoy this refreshing drink du jour back home.

Apart from chugging it straight up, coconut water is a great addition to smoothies. But you don’t always want to take the time to gather up all the necessary ingredients and toss them into a blender. These coconut green smoothie cups are your answer to a hurry up smoothie. Simply blend up all the ingredients, freeze them in muffin cups and place them in a Zip-top bag for later use. 

Spinach adds a vibrant hue and plenty of nutrients but trust me, this smoothie does not taste like a salad bowl. There are plenty of flavor combos you could go with, so feel free to experiment at will.

I am a big fan of the coconut water from Zico. They recently launched a chocolate version that is really awesome.

Like these? Click here for another green smoothie cup recipe.

Coconut Green Smoothie Cups

2 cups coconut water
1/3 cup almonds
2 cups spinach
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/2 orange
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
2 cups frozen mango cubes

Place the ingredients in the order listed in a blender container and whirl until smooth. Divide mixture among 12 muffin cups and freeze until solid. When ready for a refreshing drink, place 1 cup coconut water or regular water in a blender followed by two of the green cups and whirl. If you don’t have a powerful blender, you might need to cut the frozen smoothie cups into quarters first.

If you like these, perhaps you should try these chocolate coffee smoothie cups.  

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Dried Tart Cheeries

If George Washington was a nutritionist he would have never felled his dad’s cherry tree. If there ever was a fruit deserving of its “superfruit” epithet it would be tart cherries. Sometimes called sour, or pie cherries, tart cherries (Prunus cerasus) are well-endowed with anthocyanins, potent antioxidants responsible for cherries’ rosy hue and believed to ease inflammation, oxidative stress and slow mental decline. For athletes, a number of studies have suggested that these anthoycanins can expedite post-exercise muscle recovery. It turns out that tart cherries contain more antioxidants than their sweeter counterparts -Bing and Rainer cherries.

Up here in Ontario, fresh local tart cheeries are starting to pop up at markets. Year round, however, you can rely on the dried versions.  Keep a stash on-hand and toss them into pilafs, cooked quinoa, chili, salads, coleslaw, oatmeal, yogurt, DIY granola, trail mix, PB sandwiches, and baked good batters.

The ones I used for this recipe were from Sun-Maid, which have good flavor.

For these gluten-free muffins, I decided to blend the cheeries with cherry juice and use the mixture to add moisture and cut back on the need for added sugar. I’m still trying to learn the nuisances of gluten-free baking as these turned out a little dry. Next time, I would probably bump up the oil. Any gluten-free experts out there have some suggestions?

Gluten-free Cherry Mint Chocolate Muffins

1 cup cherry juice
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup mint
1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon guar gum or xanthum gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water

In a small saucepan, bring cherry juice to a simmer. Remove from heat and add dried cherries and mint. Let sit for 30 minutes. With a fork, fish out the mint and discard. Add cherry juice and soaked cherries to a blender or food processor and process until dried cherries have broken down.

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flours, flaxseed, cocoa, gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in cherry mixture, sugar, oil and water. Add dry to wet and mix gently. Divide mixture among 12 muffin cups and bake for 18 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool before unmolding. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cheese and Garlic Scape Muffins with Arugula Pesto

Featured Ingredient: Garlic Scapes

It’s been a rough year so far  in our community garden. April and May were crazy wet and I probably put in my tomatoes and peppers too early and they’re not looking very robust. But one thing that is present in spades are garlic scapes. 

While garlic bulbs are doing their thing below the fecund soil, the above ground stems grow and curl into garlic scapes that you can slice off without any harm to the maturing bulbs. Their texture is somewhat like that of a green bean but the flavor is unmistakable – think garlic but a little more mellow. You can often find them at farmers’ markets for really, really cheap. I tried freezing a bunch last year, but found that their flavor really suffers.

The most popular use for scapes is to make pesto, but they can really stand in for garlic cloves in a wide assortment of savory recipes such as these cheese infused muffins. Paired with this arugula scape pesto, these savory muffins are so delicious, especially when slightly warmed. Rosemary is growing well on our patio, so I made good use of it in the muffins.

Has anyone else found success in baking with garlic scapes?

Garlic and Cheese Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup neutral tasting oil or melted butter
3 garlic scapes, chopped finely
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, rosemary, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Whisk in milk and oil or butter. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix gently. Fold in garlic scapes and cheese. Divide mixture among 12 muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until golden on top and a tester comes out clean. Let cool before unmolding.

Arugula Pesto

3 garlic scapes, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 cups arugula
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt, to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place scapes, pine nuts and arugula in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times until coarsely minced. Add cheese, salt and lemon juice and process until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Through the feed tube add olive oil while processing until fully combined.