Friday, April 27, 2012

Lasagna Rounds

Featured Ingredient: Lasagna Noodles

Who says lasagna has to be flat? On page 64 of my new cookbook there is recipe for tomato sauce soaked spinach lasagna rounds. I’m very happy how that recipe came together and have been meaning to experiment with other flavor combinations for some time.

This week, I finally got around to rustling up another batch of muffin tin lasagna, and I think it’s a close contest to which one I like most: The cookbook more traditional tomato sauce version or the one below that is infused with a roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomato sauce. I still have a bunch of frozen kale in the freezer so I swapped out the spinach for this green giant. From my previous olive oil muffin post, I had some left over chipotle peppers so I thought they would make a nice fiery addition, but you could omit or add another hot component such as cayenne or red chili flakes.

You’ll want to break out the jumbo sized muffin tin for this recipe as it allows for a more substantial main course. Six lasagna rounds should serve 4 to 6. Serve with a big salad for a more complete meal.

Lasagna Rolls

3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, not oil packed, about 1 cup
1 cup sliced roasted red pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups chopped kale
9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 1/2 cups reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan for garnish (optional)

Place sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with warm water until softened. Add sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid, roasted red pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar, chipotle, thyme, salt and pepper to a blender or food processor container and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Steam kale until tender, but not mushy.

Divide half of the red pepper sauce between 6 greased jumbo sized muffin cups. In a large pot of boiling water prepare noodles according to package directions, making sure to leave them al dente. Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to do this in batches. Place cooked noodles on a flat work surface and spread an equal amount of ricotta cheese over the surface of each. Top ricotta with kale and tightly roll the noodles. Slice each roll in half along its width and stuff three halves into each of 6 jumbo sized muffin cups with the cut sides up. Top with mozzarella and the remaining sauce.

Bake for 20 minutes and then let cool several minutes before unmolding. As they cool, the lasagna rolls will meld together. To unmold, run a butter knife around the edges, place a flat object such as a cutting board on top of the tin and turn upside down. Spoon any sauce left in the muffin cups over top. Serve with grated parmesan on top.

Switch hits

  • Make these gluten-free by using brown rice lasagna noodles
  • Replace kale with Swiss chard or spinach

Monday, April 23, 2012

Olive Oil Chipotle Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Among my favorite recipes I developed for my cookbook are the collection of savory muffins in the breakfast and brunch chapter. I particularly have fond memories of noshing on the smoked salmon and cheese muffins. Over the weekend, I’d realized it had been much too long since a batch of savory muffins had come out of our oven. And, hence, the olive oil chipotle muffins you see below.  

The combination of peppery olive oil, fiery chipotle and pungent garlic creates a winning taste combination. Through my research for magazine articles on culinary oils, I’ve really come to appreciate the quality of olive oils being produced in California. With strict regulations including no chemical extraction and very low allowable free fatty acid content – an indicator of freshness – many California produced extra virgin olive oils have a leg up on their European counterparts despite what is often a less painful sticker price. One book I am itching to read is ExtraVirginity by Tom Mueller, which apparently exposes some of the frauds that are common with imported olive oils.

So here is the awesome news. The friendly folks over at California Olive Ranch are happy to let go of one bottle of their amazing olive oil to a lucky Muffin Tin Mania reader. 

But you’ll have to earn it. The first reader who leaves a comment that mentions the following will have a free bottle delivered right to their front door.

1) The type of fat in extra virgin olive oil that makes it so darn heart-healthy
2) A general idea of what the difference is between extra virgin olive oil and pure/light versions
3) The name of the compound in chipotle and other chili peppers that gives them their fiery kick 

I think that prize is worth a little googling. You can probably even find the answers on this blog somewhere. The only stipulation is that the winner must reside in the U.S. and no P.O. boxes.

You can find smoky canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in Latin section of grocery stores. 

A little goes a long way, so what I do is mince up extras and freeze individual portions in mini muffin cups for later use.  

Olive Oil Chipotle Muffins

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or more if you want to turn up the heat)  

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, thyme, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and stir in olive oil, milk, sugar, garlic and chipotle pepper. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until everything is moist.

Divide mixture among 8 to 10 medium sized muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

All great answers below, but I am going to have to declare AhleesOhn the winner for naming the actually type of monounsaturated fat most prevalent in olive oil - oleic acid. Awesome job. Stay tuned for more contests such as this. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sardine Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Sardines

Say no to contaminant riddled or overfished fish species such as Chilean sea bass, swordfish or bluefin tuna and a resounding yes to sustainable sardines.

Though you don’t often see “sardines” and “superfood” in the same sentence, make so mistake, these wrongly maligned swimmers contain a surfeit of vital nutrients. Among the many nutritional highlights, sardines have soaring levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, protein, vitamin B12, bone-building calcium, selenium and vitamin D. You may have heard that vitamin D is becoming the must-have nutrient as it's increasingly linked to helping prevent a range of maladies including heart disease, osteoporosis and depression.
Best of all, they won’t stretch you’re food budget very far unlike fresh tuna or wild salmon.

And if you’re thinking: “Eww, sardines.” Give them a try again. Some companies like Wild Planet are producing really great tasting canned sardines.

Of course, they work great in sandwiches as was the case for this sardine sandwichwith walnut spread recipe I developed for Alive magazine. But one of my favorite ways to use up a couple of tins in the pantry is to create really easy sardine egg cakes such as the recipe below. Trust me, these don’t taste fishy at all. You’ll find that the sun-dried tomato sauce topping adds a wonderful flavor nuance, but make sure to serve it at room temperature or slightly heated. Cold sauce straight out of the fridge was not ideal. In my opinion the smoked paprika really elevates this dish and it’s a spice I truly believe should be in more pantries.

So have I convinced anyone to reel-in sardines again?

Sardine Cakes with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

6 large eggs
2 tins sardines, packed in water
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced thinly
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 sun-dried tomatoes, not oil packed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in sardines, green onions, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Divide among 10 medium sized muffin cups and bake 18 minutes or until eggs are set.

To make the sauce, place soaked tomatoes, 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid, olive oil, vinegar and thyme in a blender or food processor container and blend until smooth. Add additional liquid if needed to help with blending. Serve sardines cakes topped with tomato sauce.

Monday, April 16, 2012


No garden, No problem! If you've got a windowsill, you've got the space and light necessary to grow a variety of nutrient-rich micro greens. For those who haven't heard the term, micro greens are plants and lettuces that are harvested to eat when they reach about one to two inches high—well before they've grown to full size. To read more about why I always have a batch of micro greens growing and to learn how incredibly easy it is to grow your own, read my article on micro greens in the April issue of Alive magazine. 

I'm particularly fond of kale sprouts

Pea shoots are great too!

The article includes some micro green inspired recipes including:

Poached eggs on rye with micro green garnish

Rainbow Trout with Micro Green Sauce

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spinach Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Spinach

Thanks to everyone who put forward a guess of the main ingredients for these green powered muffins. Surprisingly, the first person (Jessica) was the one who guessed correctly: Spinach, Banana and Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the round recipes in my new cookbook Muffin Tin Chef.

If you’re not thrilled with lunch salads, these are a fun way to get some greens into your daily diet and are sure to be the talk of the office. Trust me, even though these are more “earthy” than sweet, you only get a slight hint of Popeye’s favorite green. The combination of spinach, chickpeas and whole grain flours provides a healthy dose of fiber to help keep you feeling full throughout the afternoon. Actually, the pureed chickpeas are a great binder in lieu of eggs. The addition of up-and-coming quinoa flour makes these green giants even more nutritious, but you can use straight up whole wheat pastry flour if you don’t have it on hand.

Green Monster Muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup tightly packed spinach
1 cup canned or cooked dried chickpeas (garbanzos)
1/2 cup plain yogurt, preferably not fat-free
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar or other sugar of choice
1/3 cup melted coconut oil or other oil of choice
1 ripe banana
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat pastry flour, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Using a food processor or blender, whirl together spinach, chickpeas, yogurt, sugar, oil, banana and lemon zest until smooth. Ad wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix gently until everything is moistened. Divide mixture among 10 medium sized muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

Serves 10

Switch hits
  • Replace quinoa flour with coconut, oat or other flour of choice
  • Try applesauce instead of yogurt to make these vegan
  • Swap out walnuts for chopped pecans

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Muffin Tin Chef

Featured Ingredient: Muffin Tin Chef

My first cookbook Muffin Tin Chef has finally hit store shelves. It’s got a bunch of ideas for mains, desserts and breakfast delights not found on this blog. I’m looking to give away a free copy, but you’ll have to earn it. The first hungry person who leaves a comment guessing three of the main ingredients in these Green Monster muffins, gets a copy of the book gratis. One a winner has been crowned, I’ll post the recipe.

The winner has been crowned: Click here for the muffin recipe. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kale Cups

Featured Ingredient Kale

According to Mitch from Modern Family, “kale should remain more of a garnish.” Uh, no way!

If there was ever a food worthy of its superfood moniker, it would be jaunty kale. In fact, it’s so packed with a wealth of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it just might be the nutritional heavyweight of the produce department. Sorry, Mr. Broccoli!

Among its nutritional highlights includes a payload of vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin K, that latter of which his necessary for strong bones. Noshing on plenty of kale can also help keep your peepers in top shape as its abundant in lutein, an antioxidant deposited in the retina where it protects against UV damage.

These pretty green kale cups make for a wonderful side dish. Perfectly earthy and rich tasting.  Miso, a fermented soybean product available at most natural food stores, adds salty flavor to the verdant cups. I believe it’s one of the most underutilized flavor boosters in the West in that it can vivify salad dressings, sauces, soups and stir-fry’s. If not using miso, simply add salt to taste when mixing together the ingredients. You can garnish with additional Parmesan if you don’t have sesame seeds handy.

Kale Cups

1 bunch kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped (8 to 10 cups)

1/2 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon miso, preferably white or yellow (optional)

1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon lemon zest 

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (optional)

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse kale until finely chopped. You’ll probably need to do this in two batches. Add kale to a large bowl along with ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, shallot, garlic, miso, thyme, lemon zest, nutmeg and chili flakes. Mix well until all the ricotta has blended in with the kale. Divide among 10 medium-sized muffin cups and bake 20 minutes. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and toast sesame seeds until golden, about 3 minutes. Serve kale cups with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds on top.

Switch hits

  • Replace ricotta cheese with cottage cheese
  • Use spinach or Swiss chard instead of kale
  • Try using hemp seeds as a garnish