Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hemp Hearts

Featured Ingredient: Hemp Hearts

Let there be no doubt: I  heart hemp!

One of my favorite companies out there Manitoba Harvest recently rebranded their hemp seeds. They are now called hemp hearts. Why? Well, these little parcels of nutrition are the inner kernel (a.k.a. the heart) of the hemp seed.

Hemp seeds or hemp hearts. Regardless of names, they remain a staple in my daily bowl of yogurt and I’m making good use of them in recipes for my upcoming book. Here’s why you should too.

Protein power: With 10 grams in 3 tablespoons, hemp hearts contain more protein than most other seeds and nuts. What’s more, they contain a full arsenal of amino acids making them a complete protein source. If you’re a vegetartian shunning animal foods, hemp needs to be a part of your diet. Heck, I eat meat and I’m happy to load up on hemp protein.

Phat fats: Most health experts agree that our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be around 3:1, which is about what you will find in hemp hearts. Because of the glut of processed vegetable oils in our diets, most North Americans consume a diet with an excessive omega-6:omega-3 ratio that is thought to promote inflammation and chronic disease.

Marvelous magnesium: Hemp hearts are also loaded with magnesium - an often under consumed mineral shown to help slash the risk of diabetes by improving blood sugar control.

Truly tasty: Even if hemp hearts were not so nutritious, I’d still gobble them up for their toothsome nutty flavor.

Green with envy: Hearty hemp is one of the most sustainable crops out there as it grows easily without chemicals. Hemp foods are also never ever genetically modified.

Versatile: Sprinkle them on cereal, oatmeal, salads, stir-fry’s, soups and yogurt. Or work them into batters such as pancake, cookie and muffins. You can also try them in these hemp tarts.

Forget the grind: Unlike flax, hemp hearts do not need to be ground for proper absorption.

So there you have it. My rant on why hemp should be in your pantry. Is anyone else out there a hemp superfan?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Molten Lava Cake

Featured Ingredient: Failed Molten Lava Cake

Fellow food bloggers of the world, I need your help. I’m working on my first cookbook based on this blog and was really hoping to include a muffin tin molten lava cake. I figure if you can pull it off in a ramekin why not a muffin tin? Well, despite two efforts, I just can’t get my mini cakes to ooze.

The recipe I have so far is below. I’d love to get some feedback on what could be mucking up my results. These taste crazy good, but they are not having the effect I am looking for. It takes about 10 minutes for the tops to set and it seems like the innards are still liquid, but after cooling and biting into one there is no flow. I’d be happy to toss in a complimentary book when it comes out in the spring for any one who can solve my cake dilemma.

Not So Lava Chocolate Cakes

8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), diced

4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1/2 cup palm sugar or other granulated sugar of choice

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder (optional)

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 12 medium sized muffin cups. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water, stirring often. Or microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 20 to 30 second increments, stirring after each interval until everything is melted.

Using an electric mixer or metal whisk, whisk together eggs and sugar until thickened and paler, about 3 to 4 minutes. Fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Stir in flour, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and cayenne or chili if using; mix well. If using espresso powder, place it in a small bowl and whisk with 2 tablespoons boiling water to dissolve and stir into mixture. Divide mixture among muffin cups and bake for 10 minutes, or until the tops are just set but the inner part is sill liquid (not working for me!). Let cool several minutes before unmolding and inverting on serving plates. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with fresh mint if desired.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Frozen Herbs

Featured Ingredient: Frozen Herbs

Yesterday at the farmers’ market, I bought enough sage to last me dozens of dishes and it only cost me 2 bucks. For the same price at the grocery story, I can get just enough for a couple uses and it often looks less than inspiring. At this time of year you can really load up on fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, mint and sage for crazy low prices. But the problem is that they don’t last very long, even if the roots are placed in a jar with water. To the rescue is the mini muffin pan.

To preserve delicate herbs such as the aforementioned, I first wash them free of any grit, chop them up finely, stuff them into mini muffin cups and top with water.

All you do then is slide the tray into the freezer, wait until frozen, pop out the herb cups and freeze in a zip-top bag. Granted, these herbs won’t be good for garnishing. But you can toss them straight from the freezer into pasta sauces, soups, chili and other dishes that require simmering.

This is one of those cases where I love the silicon muffin cups. Their flexibility makes it really easy to unmold frozen items. If your herb cups get stuck, try placing the bottom of the tray in warm water momentarily. Be careful that you don’t go too long and melt the contents.

Anyone else out there have good experiences with freezing and using fresh herbs

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Homemade Extracts

Featured Ingredient: Extracts

Several weeks back, I mentioned that I was experimenting with making my own extracts. With the project completed and a success, here are the recipes. It’s really easy to do and takes little more than a lot of patience as you wait several weeks for the flavors to develop. I can already envision the yogurt lemon cake that the lemon extract will come in handy for and the chocolate stout cake that the chocolate extract will make even more chocolaty.

Chocolate Extract

3 tablespoons cocoa nibs

1/2 cup vodka or white rum

1/4 cup water

Combine ingredients in a jar with a tightly sealed lid. Let sit 6 to 8 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking every few days or so. Drain extract through a fine sieve to remove solids.

Lemon Extract

2 lemons

1/2 cup vodka or white rum

1/4 cup water

With a vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemons being careful to avoid getting too much of the white pith. Add to a jar with vodka or rum and water, and seal tightly. Let sit 6 to 8 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking every few days or so. Drain extract to remove solids.

Coffee Extract

2 tablespoons crushed coffee beans

1/2 cup vodka or white rum

1/4 cup water

Combine ingredients in a jar with a tightly sealed lid. Let sit 6 to 8 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking every few days or so. Drain extract through a fine sieve to remove solids.

Vanilla Extract

3 vanilla pods

3/4 cup vodka or white rum

1/4 cup water

Split vanilla beans along their length and then slice each in half. Place vanilla beans in a glass jar and pour in alcohol and water. Seal the jar with an airtight fitting lid and let sit for 6 to 8 weeks in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar every few days or so.

Almond extract

3 tablespoons ground skinless, blanched almonds

1/2 cup vodka or white rum

1/4 cup water

Combine ingredients in a jar with a tightly sealed lid. Let sit 6 to 8 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking every few days or so. Drain extract through a coffee filter to remove solids.