Thursday, December 15, 2011

Coffee Chocolate Smoothies

Featured Ingredient: Coffee

The most popular post on this blog is for these frozen green smoothie cups. It seems that others are just as interested as I am in the possibility of whirling up quick smoothies without the fuss of pulling out numerous ingredients from the fridge and pantry.

So I thought I would share another frozen smoothie cup recipe. This one will perk up your day with an infusion of coffee. Banana, almonds and dried dates up the health ante. The protein powder I use is the chocolate hemp from Manitoba Harvest

Hemp protein is actually considered a complete protein much like whey is, making it a powerful addition to smoothies. If you are using a vanilla or unflavored protein powder, you can include a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder to add chocolatey goodness.

If interested in trying out a new coffee, may I suggest Doi Chaang from Thailand. It’s superior stuff with a wonderful story behind it. Here is an article I recently wrote about our bike trip up to the coffee growing community in northern Thailand.

I really recommend using silicon muffin trays when making frozen smoothie cups. Because they are non-stick and you can bend and twist them, extracting the frozen contents is a breeze. If using metal, you may need to place the bottom of the tray in warm water for a few seconds.

Java Chocolate Smoothie Cups

3 cups strongly brewed coffee, cooled
2 bananas
1/2 cup chocolate hemp protein or other protein powder of choice
1/2 cup almonds
1/3 cup pitted dried dates, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place coffee, bananas, protein powder, almonds, dates, extract and cinnamon and in a blender container. Turn blender onto its low setting and process for 20 seconds. Switch to the high setting and blend until dates and almonds are pulverized, about 1 minute.

Divide mixture among 12 medium sized muffin cups. Place trays in the freezer and freeze until solid. Unmold coffee cups and store in the freezer in a zip-top bag.

When it comes time to make a smoothie, simply place a couple of frozen coffee cups in a blender along with about 1 1/2 cups liquid (I use 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup water) and blend until smooth. If your blender does not have a lot of power, you may want to carefully slice the frozen cups into halves or quarters before blending.   


Friday, December 9, 2011

Frozen Pumpkin Cups

Featured Ingredient: Pumpkin

The weather up here in Ontario has now turned foul for the season, but winter squash are still holding strong at our farmers’ market. So what does one do when presented with pounds of dirt cheap squash? Steam, puree and freeze, of course.

Instead of tossing pureed pumpkin, butternut and other winter squash into a container or zip-top bag where it will become a giant brick, a better idea is to break out the trusty silicon muffin cups. This is so great! Just divvy up the squash into the muffin cups and place in the freezer until solid. Once you’ve got your frozen cups, simply unmold and place them in a zip-top bag for future use. The flexibility of the silicon is incredible when dealing with frozen items such as this.

Now, I’ve got a bunch of 1/2-cup frozen pumpkin cups that I can use for soups, pumpkin pie, pumpkin butter and even smoothies. I plan on making pumpkin oatmeal with one tomorrow. As a bonus, I can just defrost small amounts based on my needs and these will defrost much quicker than a huge hunk of frozen squash. Plus, I won’t have to turn to canned pumpkin which comes up short in the taste department compared to a puree made from fresh sugar pumpkins.

I plan on doing the same thing with a bunch of butternut squash, which gives me plenty of opportunity to make soups down the road. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Matcha Pancakes

Featured Ingredient: Matcha

Green tea, meet your matcha.

Traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies, matcha is derived from lightly steamed tea leaves that are then ground into a fine powder which you dissolve in hot water. Since you're ingesting the whole tea leaf, it stands to reason that matcha provides soaring levels of antioxidants for which green tea is lauded for. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of research pertaining to the health benefits of matcha in comparison to other teas. However, a University of Colorado study discovered that the matcha they tested contained 137 times more of the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate, or less of a mouthful EGCG, than a green tea rival produced by steeping the leaves.

The flavor? I would say slightly grassy with some lingering sweetness. I’m a little concerned that my girlfriend Tabi might be addicted to the stuff. I’ve noticed a slight verdant tinge to her skin. Well, not really, and there is definitely nothing wrong with imbibing daily as a warm mug of matcha in the afternoon is hard to beat.

A caveat: The quality of matcha can vary greatly. I’ve had really good stuff and very lackluster stuff. I’ve always been pleased with the vibrant flavor of the matcha from MatchaSource. Founder Alissa White is really passionate about the emerald green powder. It’s undeniably a splurge, but a worthwhile one indeed.

The use of matcha in desserts has been gaining steam over the last year, with it increasingly breaching the savory world of cooking as well. Here is a recipe from Bon Appetit for pistachio-matcha crusted halibut that I’ve gotta try.

In a previous post, I made up a batch of mini baked mesquite pancakes. In this version, I’ve teamed up two awesome ingredients: matcha and coconut flour. 

Coconut flour has a natural sweetness and is crazy high in dietary fiber. I use the one from Bob’s Red Mill. Keep in mind that this guise of flour absorbs a ton of liquid, so if you want to make these with straight up whole wheat pastry flour, you probably want to cut back on the amount of milk by about 1/4 cup. Most matcha baked good recipes just blend the powder into the dry ingredients, but if you dissolve it first in warm water you’ll end up with more of its lively flavor in the end product.

If anyone has ideas for savory dishes that matcha can shine in, I’d love to hear them.

Coconut Matcha Baked Pancakes

1 teaspoon matcha powder
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg
1 cup milk or non-dairy milk of choice
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil or melted unsalted butter
Maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together matcha powder with 2 tablespoons hot water. In a large bowl, combine flour, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg and stir in matcha, milk and oil or butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix gently. Divide batter among 18 to 20 greased or paper lined mini muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a pancake comes out clean. Serve with maple syrup. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

Featured Ingredient: Almonds

Woo hoo, I finally turned in the manuscript for my cookbook on Friday. After 4 1/2 months of slaving away in the kitchen, I think I’ve got a pretty good batch of muffin tin inspired recipes. I developed the recipe for these cheesecake bites molded in mini muffin cups with the book in mind, but they didn’t quite fit into any of the chapters. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t truly wonderful.

I would think you could serve these at a holiday party and receive much approbation. The almond base adds a really nice textural contrast to the cream cheese topping. It doesn’t hurt that almonds rock in the nutritional department, thanks to impressive amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and the antioxidant vitamin E. Hemp seeds offer an extra dose of supercharged fats.

You could flavor the chocolate with some chili powder, peppermint extract, coffee extract, or warming spices like cinnamon. The chocolate could even be omitted and just serve as mini cheesecakes. I would not use a darker sugar like palm for the cheesecake topping as you want it to be nice and white for presentation purposes. If not using flexible silicon muffin cups, it’s probably best to use paper liners for these.

Chocolate Covered Cheesecake Bites

1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 1/3 cup quick cook oats (not instant)
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar or brown sugar
1/3 cup hemp hearts (seeds), such as Manitoba Harvest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup lightly colored natural cane sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
Fleur de Sel (optional)

In a dry skillet, toast almonds over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning. Let almonds cool and then add to a bowl of a food processor along with oats, sugar, hemp hearts, salt, and butter. Process until mixture adheres together. Divide mixture among 24 greased or paper lined mini muffin cups, pressing down to help stick together. The crust should come about half-way up the muffin cups.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixture until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg, sour cream and vanilla until just mixed in. Divide cream cheese mixture among muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes, or until topping is set. Let cool before unmolding and then cool completely on a wire rack. Place cheesecakes in the freezer and freeze until solid.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water, stirring often. Or microwave chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 20 to 30 second increments, stirring after each interval until chocolate is melted. One at a time, dip cheesecakes into the melted chocolate and use two forks to turn until fully coated. Let the excess drip off and place on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. If desired, sprinkle each with a few grains of Fleur de sel and then place baking sheet in the refrigerator to set chocolate, about 1 hour.