Sunday, November 27, 2011

Date Cashew Bites

Featured Product: Thrive Foods

I recently got my hands on the latest book from former professional triathlete and vegan Brendan Brazier called Thrive Foods, or here in Canada, Whole Foods to Thrive. It’s turning out to be a rewarding read.

Brendan is the creator of the lauded line of Vega whole food nutrition products you’ve likely seen in natural food stores. He obviously has a passion for plant-based whole foods and in his book makes a strong case for why more of us should as well. Brendan’s main selling points are that plant whole foods like legumes and jaunty kale provide more nutrient density (i.e. more micornutrients per calorie) and have significantly less impact on the environment than a triple cheeseburger or factory farm raised chicken. 

The latter is point is irrefutable. All the hoopla in recent years surrounding eating locally sourced food has led many people to believe that the 100-mile diet is the best way to reduce ones diet-related carbon footprint. Yet, a recent study found that a dietary shift towards less meat consumption has a much greater impact. Scientists in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology reported that shifting consumption of red meat and/or dairy to other protein sources such as eggs or a vegetable-based diet a single day per week could have the same climate impact as buying all household food from local providers. Further, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report addresses why embracing tofu more often can have such a big impact. Their experts determined that raising cattle for burgers is generating more climate warming greenhouse gases, including massive methane production, than often vilified transportation. What’s more, livestock now uses 30 per cent of the earth’s entire land surface which drives up deforestation for pasture leading to further impacts on climate change and wildlife extinction.

A huge chunk of the book is devoted to approachable recipes created by Brendan and an arsenal of natural foods chefs. Ones that have caught my eye so far are Black Bean Chili Pizza (page 250), Nori crisps (page 267) and Coconut, Mango, Curry Smoothie (page 132) – curry in a smoothie, who knew? But the recipe I wanted to give a go right away was the Green Energy Bars. I thought these would be perfect molded into mini muffin cups for an easy to grab snack. Were they ever! Tabi and I whipped them out in just a couple days. Perhaps it was the buttery goodness of the cashews that kept us coming back for more.

Brendan’s recipe calls for nutrient dense wheat grass powder, but I used the stellar chocolate greens mix from AmazingGrass as I think these really benefit from a little infusion of chocolately goodness. If you don’t have a greens powder (which you really should!), you could simply mix in raw cocoa powder. I also included some orange juice as this helps bind the ingredients in the food processor. I’ve professed my love for hemp seeds in previous posts, so any recipe that gives me a chance to work more into my diet is definitely welcomed. 

Silicon muffin cups work really well for recipes such as this as their flexibility makes it much more easy to pop the contents out. If using metal, you may want to give them a light greasing or use paper liners. 

So, if you’re interested in gravitating towards a more nutritionally balanced, less environmentally damaging diet, I’d recommend giving Brendan’s book a read for plenty of inspiration and recipes to whet your appetite.  

Date Energy Bites

Adapted from Thrive Foods

1 cup pitted dried dates, chopped
1 cup raw unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons greens powder or cocoa powder
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup hemp hearts (seeds)

Place dates, cashews, and greens powder in a food processor container and blend until the cashews have been broken down. Add orange juice and hemp hearts and process until the mixture clumps together. Divide mixture among 10 to 12 mini sized muffin cups and place in the freezer for 1 hour to mold. Unmold and store in the refrigerator. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hazelnut Pomegranate Financiers

Featured Ingredient: Hazelnut Flour

For my last recipe post, I tossed out the idea of using mesquite powder in your baking. Now, how about hazelnut flour? Almond flour is becoming increasingly popular meaning that hazelnut flour unfortunately often gets overlooked.

Ground from filberts (hazelnuts), this guise of nut flour is blessed with a rich, nutty flavor that can vivify pie crusts, quick breads, scones and muffins. Compared to flours milled from grains, hazelnut flour has significantly more heart-chummy monounsaturated fat and vitamin E. A recent study from Swedish researchers determined that a high level of the antioxidant vitamin E in the blood was associated with a decreased risk of cognitive decline. Those who are watching their carb intake will appreciate that there is nearly as much protein as carbohydrates in hazelnut flour. Because it does not contain any gluten, you don’t want to use hazelnut flour on it own for most baked goods.

This is my adaptation of financiers, a light French tea cake often made in rectangular molds. For a change of pace, I’ve swapped out the customary almond flour for its lovely hazelnut counterpart and taken a pass on the nutritionally void powdered (confectioners’) sugar for the more wholesome coconut palm sweetener. The browned butter adds an irresistible nuttiness. Pomegranate season is upon us, so I decided to add them in to provide a tart crunch. You could use berries instead or simply omit the fruit.

For this recipe, I used the excellent hazelnut flour from Bob’s Red Mill. You can also try making your own by finely grinding hazelnuts into a powder with a good quality food processor or Vita-mix.

Hazelnut Pomegranate Financiers

1 1/4 cups hazelnut flour/meal
3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar or other sugar of choice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (arils)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together hazelnut flour, whole wheat pastry flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Place butter in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, swirling the pan regularly.  Allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a deep brown, being very careful you don’t allow it to go from brown to black. Stir butter, applesauce and vanilla into flour mixture. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with a whisk or electric mixer until a soft peaks form. Stir in a quarter of the egg whites into the flour mixture and then fold in the remaining whites with a spatula just until everything is incorporated. Divide mixture among 10 medium sized muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Turkey Sandwiches

Want some new ideas to reinvent leftover turkey sandwiches? Here's an article with an arsenal of turkey sandwiches I put together for the November issue of Women's Health magazine.

Turkey on Rye with Sweet Potato Hummus

Turkey, Brie and Cranberry Panini  - This is crazy good!

French Dip Turkey with Mushroom Au Jus

Pulled Turkey Sandwich with Apple-Cabbage Slaw

Here are a couple that cut for space reasons, not because they weren't yummy.

Turkey Salad Pitas

Chockablock with muscle-building protein, Greek yogurt is an upgrade from mayo in this turkey salad. Crunchy pecans are brimming with heart-healthy unsaturated fats while red grapes provide pleasant sweetness and a dose of antioxidant vitamin C.

½ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
½ lime, juiced
½ tsp cumin
Dash of cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup red grapes, sliced in half
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1½ cups cooked turkey (white meat, without skin), cubed
2 whole-wheat pitas

1. In a large bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, lime juice, cumin, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in grape halves, pecans, celery, and turkey.
2. Slice pitas in half and stuff the four halves with turkey mixture. 

Mexican Turkey Cemitas

Originally from the Mexican state of Puebla, the festival of flavors and textures that is a cemita has become du rigueur with street food vendors in New York, L.A. and other cities. Here, turkey is a healthier option than traditional deep fried beef, cilantro replaces hard to find papalo leaves and smoky chipotle laced ricotta makes this sandwich sing.

¼ tsp smoked paprika or chili powder
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp lime zest
Salt and pepper, to taste
1½ cups cooked turkey (white meat, without skin), sliced
1/3 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
2 tsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 cemita or other sesame seed rolls, sliced in half
½ ripe avocado, sliced
1 plum tomato, sliced
½ cup cilantro

1. In a medium sized bowl, combine paprika or chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, lime zest, and salt and pepper. Add turkey and stir to coat.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together ricotta, chipotle chiles with sauce, and lime juice.
3. Place turkey on bottom half of rolls and top with cheese mixture, avocado and tomato slices, and cilantro. Press down lightly with top halves of rolls.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mesquite Pancakes

Featured Ingredient: Mesquite Powder

One of the great things about having a blog dedicated to the muffin tin is all the great up-can-coming flours and powders I get to experiment with. Enter mesquite powder.

Ground from the edible bean-like pods of the mesquite tree, mesquite powder has a very distinct smoky and sweet flavor unlike any other flour on the market. Thriving in unforgiving environments, Native Americans in parched regions have long relied on mesquite to meet nutritional needs when a Wal-Mart wasn’t around the corner.

It’s most impressive nutritional attribute is crazy amounts of dietary fiber. A mere tablespoon dishes out 3 grams of this fat-fighter. A recent study in the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine reported that the highest intakes of fiber – equivalent to about 30 grams per day for men and 25 grams for women – were associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases of up to 60 percent. Suddenly, bran never tasted so good!

Mesquite flour isn’t exactly cheap, but fortunately the old saw applies here: “A little goes a long way.” The one I used for this recipe is from the always reliable Navitus Naturals. I’m hoping mesquite flour starts popping up at more natural food stores.

In baked good applications, you’ll want to use gluten-free mesquite to replace about 25 percent of another flour a recipe calls for. All on it’s own the flavor would likely be too overpowering. It would also probably be a killer addition to smoothies and something I plan on trying.

The best thing about taking your pancake batter and plopping it into mini muffin molds is that it eliminates any need for flipping the flapjacks and all eaters get to chow down at the same time as opposed to the need to make pancakes in batches. Of course, if you can’t find mesquite these work well with straight up whole wheat flour.

Mesquite Pancake Puffs

2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup mesquite powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup low-fat milk of choice
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, mesquite powder, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg and stir in milk and butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix gently. Fold in walnuts and divide batter among 20 greased mini muffin cups. Bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a pancakes comes out clean. Serve with maple syrup. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cast Iron Cooking

When I was growing up, I was really into heavy metal. Stuff like Ozzy and Metallica. Now it's all about heavy metal in the kitchen. This article I wrote for the November issue of Alive magazine about new ways to use your trusty cast iron skillet in the kitchen may inspire a trip to Grandma's attic in search of one.

Recipes inlcude olive cornbread, blackened catfish, berry clafoutis and this butternut riff on pizza.