Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chocolate Tarts

Featured Ingredient: Cocoa Nibs and Cocoa Powder

If you want to eat something that seemingly makes all the woes of the day dissipate, these triple threat chocolate tarts are it. Even though the pudding contains tofu (to keep fat calories down), its deliciously rich tasting. Whereas the crust is an adaptation of the pecan tart recipe in my cookbook. And I can’t think of a better way to bejewel all of this chocolate goodness than with crunchy and pleasantly bitter cocoa nibs.

Seriously, the only chance you have of eating just one of these is if you take a single tart and run out the house so you’re temptation is at a fair distance. I'm thinking a gluten free flour like quinoa or brown rice would work if you need to make these sans gluten.

But here is the really great news. It’s time for another Muffin Tin Mania giveaway. This time the fine folks over at Navitas Naturals are happy to provide one lucky reader with a bag of their cocoa nibs and cocoa powder to give this recipe a shot. 

Of course there is going to be a catch when it comes to such an awesome prize. Whomever leaves a comment at the bottom of this blog post that best describes how cocoa nibs and cocoa powder are made and at least one thing that makes them so darn healthy will win a bag of each. The contest is open to both U.S. and Canadian residents. I'll announce the winner next Tuesday on this post so check back then if you enter.

Well, for such a detailed answer I would like to reward emilywhou with a bag of Navitas Naturals cocao nibs and cocoa powder. Great job everyone! Emily, just use the Contact tab above to send me your address details. 

Triple Chocolate Tarts

1 package silken (soft) tofu, about 10 ounces, drained
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup milk of choice
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup palm sugar or other sugar of choice
Couple dashes cayenne (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecans
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or other flour of choice
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup palm sugar or other granulated sugar of choice
1 large egg
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, diced

Garnish: Cocoa Nibs

To make the chocolate pudding filling, place tofu, chocolate, milk, butter, sugar and cayenne in a blender or food processor container and blend until very smooth. It’s best to let the mixture blend for 2 to 3 minutes. Add vanilla and blend to combine. Pour mixture into a container, cover and place in the refrigerator to set, about 3 hours.

To make the crust, place pecans in a bowl of a food processor and grind into small bits. Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla. Process until the mixture clumps together. Place mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Divide the pecan dough into 12 equal sized balls and place each in a greased or paper lined medium sized muffin cup. Press the crust down and up the sides of the muffin cups nearly all the way to the top. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the tarts are just slightly moist. Let cook several minutes before unmolding.

Fill chocolate cups with the pudding and top with cocoa nibs. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Green Smoothie Cups

Featured Ingredient: Avocado

The most popular post I have had on this blog is for these Green Smoothie Cups. Apparently the health-conscious, smoothie-loving masses out there love the idea of having green smoothies ready to whirl with no assembly required. So I thought I would pass along another great green monster smoothie cup recipe to enjoy this summer.

This one includes avocado, which brings an amazing creamy richness to smoothies. Not to mention many nutritional perks like cancer-fighting folate and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. These frozen cups produce a smoothie that is exceptionally fresh and alive tasting. I think it’s the parsley that is given a ride in the blender that really turns things up a notch.  

This is a perfect example where silicon muffin cups come in handy. They are bendable which makes extracting frozen stuff a breeze. But you can also use metal as well.

Green Smoothie Cups Part 2

1 cup water
1 avocado
5 to 6 large kale leaves
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1 large banana
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Place all the items in a blender container and blend until smooth. If your blender is having a hard time churning, you can add some more water. But your goal is too create a pretty thick mixture. Vita-mix users may find the plunger helpful.

Divide mixture among 10 medium sized muffin cups, place tray in freezer and freeze until solid, about 4 hours.  

Unmold smoothie cups, place in an airtight container, and return to freezer until ready to use. If you are having trouble unmolding the frozen cups, try placing the bottom of the muffin tin in warm water for several seconds, being careful not to thaw the contents.

When ready to make a smoothie, place 1 cup water or coconut water and 2 green smoothie cups into a blender container and blend until smooth. For most blenders, its best to carefully slice the smoothie cups into quarters first before placing in the blender container to help make blending easier. 

You'll get 5 smoothies total out of 10 frozen smoothie cups. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pizza Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Olives

There used to be a time when I hated olives. Not sure why. But then again, I was once a hater of balsamic vinegar and that’s just wrong. Now for every olive that goes into a recipe I’m making, one is popped into my mouth as I find their briny flavor somewhat addicting. You’ll most often find better flavors if you scoop up olives from the olive bar at supermarkets instead of turning to those packed in a can or jar.

Obviously olives are a perfect fit for pizza, which brings me to these tasty pizza cakes. It’s basically many of the classic pizza flavors jammed into a muffin tin to create a wonderful riff on pizza night. These are also really great served straight out of the fridge as a snack or quick lunch bite. You can use store-bought pizza sauce, but I have to say that this no-fuss marinara sauce brought this cook much approbation.

I’d love to hear some more great pizza flavors that you think would work in a recipe like this.

Pizza Cakes with Marinara Sauce

1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup low-fat milk
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup finely chopped pepperettes or pepperoni, hot or mild
1/2 cup pitted olives, chopped (black or Kalamata)
Marinara Sauce:
1 pound plum tomatoes, quartered
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a skillet cook mushrooms with a small amount of oil over medium heat until softened, about 4 minutes. In a large bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, oregano, baking powder, chipotle powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg and stir in milk. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix. Fold in mozzarella cheese, chopped pepperettes or pepperoni, olives and mushrooms. Divide mixture among 12 standard sized muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

To make the marinara sauce, add tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper to a blender or food processor container and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a saucepan and stir in olive oil. Bring to a boil, reduced heat and maintain a strong simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Serve with pizza cakes.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Granola Cups and a Hemp Giveaway

Featured Ingredient: Hemp Hearts

As someone who enjoys mung beans and growing his own sprouts, I could forgive people if they thought I was a little granola. In fact, I love granola. Both as a cereal or as a bar. So imagine how happy I was when I figured out how to use the trusty muffin tray to whip up a batch of granola rounds such as these that were featured in a recent issue of Alive magazine.

I like to think of these granola cups as a progression of the concept. After all, how can you go wrong with placing yogurt in a bed of granola? Stirring in your own vanilla is much healthier than turning to the sugar laden vanilla yogurts in the grocery store. The great thing about muffin tin granola cups and granola rounds is that you can pump them full of all sorts of healthy stuff like almonds, spices, dried fruit and hemp hearts. Indeed, nutritionally charged hemp hearts (a.k.a. hemp seeds) are a smart  addition to any granola recipe.

So guess what? It’s time for another giveaway. The kind folks over at Manitoba Harvest, producers of all things hemp food and overall a really awesome, forward-thinking company, would like to award a Muffin Tin Mania reader with a bag of their sustainably grown hemp hearts. If you haven’t tried them before, they have a really addicting nutty taste and can gussy up yogurt, oatmeal, salads and smoothies.  

But of course, free hemp hearts should be earned. So the person who leaves a comment on this blog post that best outlines three things that make hemp hearts a nutritious addition to ones diet will be awarded with a bag of this goodness delivered to their front door. 

This contest is open to both Canadian and U.S. residents. I’ll announce the winner on Friday.

Granola Cups with Vanilla Scented Yogurt

1 1/4 cups quick-cook rolled oats (not instant)
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup hemp hearts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup honey or brown rice syrup
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or other oil of choice
1 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together oats, wheat germ, almonds, hemp seeds, cranberries, apricots, lemon zest, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg and stir in honey and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until everything is moist.

Divide mixture among 12 medium sized greased muffin cups. Using your fingers press into the center of each muffin cup and then work your way around the edges to form a granola bowl. It really helps to keep your fingers wet during this process.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

In a bowl, stir together yogurt and vanilla extract. When ready to serve, add some yogurt to granola bowls and, if desired, top with fruit like raspberries. Make sure not to add the yogurt too long before serving or the granola cups will become somewhat soggy.

Thanks for all the wonderful feedback regarding the hemp seeds and this recipe. I'm going to declare Susan S the winner as she was the first to bring up GLA which is a little known healthy fat that is in very few foods. Plus, she mentioned that hemp is a vegetarian source of complete protein. Way to go Susan! You can use the Contact tab up above to send me your shipping address for a free bag of hemp goodness.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Avocado Chocolate Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Avocado

Thanks to everyone you participated in the CLIF bar giveaway. The two secret ingredients to make these vegan were avocado and hemp milk. I’m loving avocado in chocolate baked goods. They have a bunch of fat (all healthy!), so give muffins like these great mouthfeel and provide a fudgy consistency.

I made these in mini muffin cups to make them more bite-sized, but they work well in standard sized ones as well. Just increase the baking time to about 20 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake them so they remain moist. 

Mini Avocado Chocolate Muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unflavored hemp other milk of choice
1 ripe avocado
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar or other sugar of choice
1/3 cup melted coconut oil or other oil such as canola, grapeseed or light olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cayenne and salt. In a blender, blend together hemp milk, avocado, sugar, oil and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until all the flour is incorporated. Add additional milk if the mixture is too thick or dry. Divide among 24 mini sized muffin cups and bake for 16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out almost clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Potato and Egg Cupcakes

Who knew that you could turn the Parmesan Hash Browns in my Muffin Tin Chef cookbook into cupcakes? Over at Cupcake Project,  Stefani adapted my recipe to make some delicious looking potato and egg cupcakes. Thanks for the plug Stef and way to turn things up a notch.

Click here for the awesome recipe.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

CLIF Bar Giveaway

Featured Ingredient: Chocolate

As a nutrition writer and mountain biker, I’ve chewed my way through no shortage of the energy bars on the market. Yeah, I know, it’s a tough gig. Some are hard to choke down, but the offerings from CLIF never fail to rouse my taste buds. Blissfully chewy and pumped full of great flavors, they are motivation enough to get out there for an epic ride. Well, I’ve been known to also nosh on them while typing away on the computer. Certainly, you could do worse for a snack option.  

So, I’ve got another great giveaway for the Muffin Tin Mania readers out there. My contact at CLIF would like to supply a lucky reader with a collection of their yummy chocolate flavors such as Chocolate Almond Fudge and Chocolate Brownie.

And this gives me the perfect opportunity to showcase these deliciously moist vegan mini chocolate muffins. So the first person who leaves a comment correctly guessing what I used for a binder in lieu of eggs (hint: it also makes these a little more fudgy) and the non-dairy beverage added for moistness (hint: it’s pretty groovy), will have some CLIF chocolate goodness delivered to their abode. Sorry Gretzky fans, U.S. residents only.

Check back on Friday where I will announce the winner and provide the details for the recipe.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Spring Bulbs

Featured Ingredient: Alliums

I had an article published in the April issue of Women's  Health magazine devoted to garlic, leeks, onions and other alliums.  Indeed, spring has sprung when green garlic and ramps have started to show up at our local farmers' market. I was so thrilled with the recipes that accompanied this article that I thought I should pass them along.

You can read the article by clicking this link.

This Mandarin, Chickpea and Red Onion salad is the ticket to healthy lunches during the week.

Indeed, I have fond memories of this crustless leek quiche. I'll have to try it in a muffin tin someday.

I think this onion and garlic jam on crostini would do well as a party appetizer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Matcha Latte

Featured Ingredient: Matcha

Oh how I love matcha. That is, really good matcha. The quality of this ground green tea can vary greatly with some brands offering a slightly astringent drink with lingering sweetness and others a harsh bitter mess that could very well be a knock-off from China. This is why if you are going to splurge on the verdant powder from Japan, it’s a good idea to find the best stuff.

As a matcha devotee, I can definitely vouch for the offerings from Matchasource. I recently made a purchase of their Gotcha Matcha and could not be more thrilled with my daily cup of afternoon goodness. 

With each sip, I know that I am showing my body some love. Because you are consuming the whole ground tea leaf, you are also consuming a massive amount of antioxidant awesomeness. In fact, a University of Colorado study discovered that matcha tea contains up to 137 times more antioxidant power than regular green tea that is steeped in water. Consider it the MVP of the tea shop. 

Many coffee shops are now offering matcha lattes, but the quality can vary greatly and generally the price is steep. A better solution is the DIY version. Using your mini muffin cups, you can have frozen cups of matcha at the ready to whip up a latte (or even a smoothie). You’ll find that silicon muffin cups make it easier to extract frozen items. You can also use regular milk, but I like the earthy taste of the hemp milk from ManitobaHarvest.

Some other Muffin Tin Mania matcha inspiration:

Interested in giving matcha a sip? Matchasource is offering up free shipping if you click here. You can check out their website for other great ideas for using matcha in the kitchen and tips on brewing a perfect cup.  

Iced Matcha Hemp Latte

1 1/3 cups water
2 teaspoons matcha powder
Unflavored or vanilla hemp milk

Bring water to just under a boil. Place matcha in bowl and top with about 1/3 cup of the hot water. Whisk until the matcha has dissolved in the water and pour the remaining water into the bowl. Divide among 12 mini muffin cups and freeze until solid.

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

When ready to serve, Add 4 frozen matcha cups to a blender container along with 1 cup hemp milk and 1 teaspoon honey; blend until smooth. Sprinkle additional matcha on top if desired.

Switch hits
  • Replace hemp milk with cow, almond, rice or coconut milk
  • Use steamed milk instead of cold milk
  • Sweeten with agave instead of honey