Monday, August 29, 2011

Sour Cream Peach Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Peaches

Peaches are considered a stone fruit because of their stone-like pits. Their orange hue hints at significant levels of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A and uses for healthy eyes, bones and immune system. Peaches are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C and blood-pressure lowering potassium. As one of my favorite summertime treats, I’ll be sad to seem them vacate our farmers’ market in the next couple weeks.

For me, just as delightful as biting into a ridiculously juicy peach is sinking your teeth in to a peach studded muffin. I had some sour cream in the fridge that needed to be put to use before a looming expiry date, so I finally got around to making some peach sour cream muffins I have been craving for some time. Often a concern with muffins is that they could turn out too dry. Well, these had no issues with that as the fruit and cream teamed up to produce a very moist muffin. I included coconut flour which I have discussed before to add interesting texture and unique coconut sweetness, but if you don’t have it on hand simply use straight up whole wheat flour or blend in another flour of choice. Wheat germ also ups the health ante.

I’m usually not a big fan of peeling fruits and vegetables because in many cases a lot of the nutrients, fiber and antioxidants are found in those outer layers. But in this instance, you should really peel your peaches. To do so, simply prepare a small pot of simmering water. Score an X in the bottom of the peaches, drop them in the water and let simmer for about 20 seconds. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon and the skin will lift right off from the bottom.

These may look frumpy, but your taste buds won’t care about appearances. I have to give a shout out to my girlfriend Tabi as she took my recipe and made these a reality despite my unwelcome presence in the kitchen.

Possible recipe variations:

Replace sour cream with yogurt

Top batter with sliced almonds before baking

Swap out wheat germ for quick-cook oats

Replace peaches with mango or nectarine

Sour Cream Peach Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/3 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1/4 cup melted coconut oil or other oil of choice

1 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup palm or other sugar of choice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3 large peaches, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flours, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves and salt. In a separate large bowl, lightly beat egg. Stir in oil, sour cream, honey, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour the wet mixture in and mix gently. Fold in peaches and raisins. Divide batter among 12 medium sized muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool before unmolding.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Surprising Antioxidant Foods

Most often when the conversation turns to antioxidant powerhouses, the usual mentions are fruits and vegetables.  However, when researching this article on surprising antioxidant foods for the September issue of Runner's World, I found out that there are no shortage of items with a longer shelf life that are loaded with these disease-thwarting compounds including black rice, egg yolks and (yeah!) peanut butter.

Have a read and then hit the bulk bins for some Brazil nuts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chocolate Beet Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Beets

Among vegetables, beets are notable for their sweetness - they have the highest sugar content of any veggie – and of course leaving a mark in the kitchen. Their cutting board, finger and shirt staining power comes from their betacyanin content, which turns out to be a powerful antioxidant to help mop up pesky disease-provoking free radicals. Plus one average sized beet has only 35 calories to keep you on good terms with the scale and is brimming with folate, a B vitamin essential for heart health and cancer prevention . The perfect two-for-one vegetable, edible beet greens are brimming with vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Beets are one of the few things that managed to grow well in my community garden plot this year (I won’t bother ranting about that), leaving me to scheme of ways to put them to good use. It may seem like an odd couple, yet beets and chocolate go together very well. Like other vegetable purees, they add sweetness and moisture in lieu of extra sugar and fats such as oil and butter.

You can definitely taste the beets here, and for a beet lover like me that is a good thing. But if you have an aversion to this root vegetable, these probably aren’t for you. I used a mixture of kamut and quinoa flour which provides a powerful nutritional combo, but you could use straight up whole wheat pastry flour if you prefer. The flavor of acai powder pairs well with chocolate, so I tossed that in for an antioxidant boost. You can leave it out if it’s not in your pantry. But definitely include the hot stuff, as it provides a nice little kick.

Chocolate Beet Muffins

1/2 pound beets (about 3 medium), chopped

1 cup kamut flour

1/2 cup quinoa flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup acai powder (optional)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup palm sugar or other granulated sugar of choice

1/4 cup coconut oil or other vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup low fat sour cream

Steam beets until very tender. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together flours, cocoa powder, acai powder, baking powder, baking soda, cayenne, cloves and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in sugar, oil and vanilla.

Place beets in a blender or food processor container along with sour cream. You can also add 1/4 cup of the beet steaming liquid. Puree until smooth. Stir beet mixture into egg mixture. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix gently. Divide mixture among 12 medium sized muffin cups and bake for 18 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

PaperChef Parchment Cups

Featured Ingredient: PaperChef Parchment Cups

As you know, I’m a big fan of silicon muffin cups. Virtually non-stick and bendable, I really on them heavily for muffin tin recipes. But when I need or want to use paper lines such as creating groves in desserts for a nice presentation, I have found the perfect solution: PaperChef Parchment Cups.

Because most paper liners are not non-stick, you often have to grease them or risk a good chunk of your mini frittata’s being left behind. These parchment cups are stick-free so you eliminate the need for extra greasy calories. Plus, they can often be used for more than one batch of muffins helping cut down on waste. But when you do pitch them, you can feel a little less guilty as they are completely bio-degradable.  

If you are muffin tin devotee like me, I highly recommend picking up a box and trying them out. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Easy No-Cook Meals

This summer is a scorcher, which is all the more reason to embrace no-cook cooking. From Avocado Soup to Chicken Wraps with Walnut Pesto, here is an article I wrote for the July/August issue of Women's Running that provides two complete meals without turning your kitchen into a sauna.

Chicken Pesto Wraps

No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

Salmon Chickpea Salad

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Raspberry Yogurt Pops

Featured Ingredient: Raspberries

I think if I had to pick my cast-away island food it would be raspberries. Sure, I would be facing a serious case of protein deficiency, but my taste buds would be completely satisfied. Tabi and I picked a bunch recently from a local Mennonite farm so we have a good supply in the freezer for the weeks ahead.

As for their varied health perks:

A cup contains half the daily requirement for vitamin C and a whopping 8 grams of fiber thanks largely to all those tiny seeds. A recent study found that those who nosh on the most fiber daily have a significantly lower risk of death from chronic disease. Sadly, the vast majority of us don’t eat nearly enough daily. We all should aim for 25 to 30 grams daily. Like other berries, these red gems provide a smorgasbord of antioxidants including the powerful ellagic acid to help fend off those pesky disease-provoking free radicals.

In keeping with my theme of frozen muffin tin creations lately, here are some really refreshing raspberry pops I whipped up. Who needs popsicle molds when you have a trusty muffin tin? The yogurt adds a dose of fiber with almond extract offering a unique flavor twist. I like to suck out all the juice and then chomp down on the ice.

Raspberry Yogurt Pops

1 1/2 cups raspberries

1 cup orange juice

1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons honey

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Divide mixture among12 medium sized or 24 mini sized muffin cups and cover with aluminum foil. Using a sharp knife, make small slits in the foil in the middle of each filled muffin cup and slide in popsicle sticks. (This holds the sticks in place as the mixture freezes). Place in freezer and freeze until solid.

Unmold popsicles and place in a zip-top bag for storage in the freezer. If you have trouble unmolding the frozen cups, try placing the bottom of the muffin tray in warm water, being careful not to thaw the contents.