Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sweet and Sour Chicken Bundles

Featured Ingredient: Egg Roll Wraps

This recipe is so good I wanted to make sure not to keep it under wraps. Ok, bad pun.

Consider these bundles of joy a fresher tasting take on the classic Chinese take-out dish. Best of all, the contents are all bound up in a crispy parcel that both adults and kids will love tearing open. Try to reserve some of the cooked sauce for topping the parcels when served.

Most supermarkets carry egg roll wraps, but make sure you don’t mistake them for the smaller wonton wrappers that won't work here. Extra wraps can be frozen for up to 3 months. The sweet and sour chicken mixture can prepared up to a day in advance.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Parcels


1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon canola or grapeseed oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced into ½-inch cubes
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 green onions (scallions), white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 cup cubed pineapple
12 egg roll wraps


In a small bowl, whisk together broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ketchup, sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink inside, about 5 minutes. Add peppers, green onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook for 1 minute, or until peppers are slightly tender, stirring often. Pour in sauce, bring to a boil and heat until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Stir in pineapple and remove pan from heat.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Press egg roll wraps into 12 standard sized muffin cups. Fill each egg roll cup with the chicken mixture, fold over the tops to seal and brush with remaining oil. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Hazelnut Flour

I may have created what can be considered close to the perfect muffin. Hazelnuts, robust maple syrup, warming spices, subtly sweet bananas and luscious dark chocolate chips meld together to create a muffin that undeniably delivers tempered indulgence.

Hazelnut flour is basically just ground up hazelnuts making it a nutritious addition to items like muffins, cakes and pancakes. Namely, hazelnuts provide beneficial monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, an antioxidant that is one of the most underconsumed nutrients in the typical North American diet. You can find brands like Bob’s Red Mill in natural food stores. Almond flour would be a good substitute in this recipe.

My recommendation is to heat up the muffins for about 25 seconds in the microwave so you end up with melted chocolate goodness in each bite.

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Banana Muffins

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup hazelnut flour/meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup low fat sour cream or plain yogurt
1/3 cup dark pure maple syrup
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or other oil of choice
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and stir in sour cream, maple syrup, oil, banana and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until everything is moist. Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide mixture among 12 standard sized greased or paper lined muffin cups and bake for 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mac-and-Cheese Cups

Featured Ingredient: Broccoli

I thought I would share another recipe from my “Cupcakes for Dinner” article that recently appeared in Family Fun magazine based on the premise of my cookbook Muffin Tin Chef. This one is a healthy take on mac-and-cheese.

Filling out these mac-and-cheese cups with antioxidant rich broccoli and creamy low fat ricotta cheese helps avoid the avalanche of calories that is downfall of many of the casserole dish baked versions. You could also make use of fresh broccoli if desired. Making them in the larger sized (a.k.a. Texas size) muffin cups allows for a more substantial presentation, but you certainly can also use the standard sized ones. Just be sure to reduce the cooking time by about 5 minutes. Japanese style panko bread crumbs provide a lovely crusty topping. To add a shot of protein, you can stir cooked and chopped Canadian bacon into the pasta mixture before baking.

The tasty tomato jam recipe below was cut from the article due to space constraints, but I really love this upscale version of ketchup so I wanted to include here as an optional add-on.

Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese Cups


8 ounces (2 cups) whole grain macaroni (elbow) pasta
1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup reduced fat (light) ricotta cheese
3 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed and chopped
2 green onions (scallions), white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Prepare macaroni according to package instructions, leaving the pasta slightly undercooked (al dente).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drain pasta and add to a large bowl along with cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan. Stir until cheese is melted. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and stir in milk and ricotta cheese. Add egg mixture to pasta mixture and stir in broccoli, green onion, nutmeg, mustard, salt and pepper. Divide mixture among 8 large sized greased or paper lined muffin cups.

In a small bowl, stir together bread crumbs and remaining parmesan cheese. Divide bread crumb mixture among macaroni cups and gently press down on the contents. Cook for 20 minutes. Let cool for at least five minutes before unmolding.

Tomato Jam


1 pound plum (Roma) tomatoes, about 4 tomatoes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Using a sharp knife, slice a shallow X into the bottom of each tomato. Fill a medium sized saucepan about halfway with water and bring to a boil. Drop tomatoes into the boiling water for about 15 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, peel back the skin from the tomatoes starting at the points created by the X, slice in half, scoop out the seeds and chop.

Mix together tomatoes and sugar in a medium sized saucepan. Let stand for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Stir in cider vinegar, paprika, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce if using. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Coconut Cakes

Featured Ingredient: Avocado

When it comes to celebration, a chocolatey treat is always welcomed. And I recently received news that definitely called for a batch of muffin tin chocolate goodness. For several years now, I’ve been working away as a nutrition and food writer for a number of publications. And last weekend I was lucky enough to receive a James Beard Award in New York City for Food Journalism. They have been lovingly called the Oscars of the food world. It’s an amazing honor and definitely made these chocolate cakes taste that much sweeter. 

Infused with avocado and adorned with a quick raspberry sauce, the taste can only be described as guilt-free decadence. You’ll also notice that with the absence of eggs or dairy, the cakes are vegan. But they manage to be wonderfully fudgy and only get better after a day or two. My suggestion is to serve the cakes warm.

Avocado owes its mega benefits to the fact that the creamy flesh is rich in ticker-friendly monounsaturated fat and a range of nutrients including folate. While raspberries are among the highest-fiber berries you’ll find.   

Chocolate Avocado Coconut Cakes

Chocolate Cakes:
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder (optional)
1 large ripe avocado
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup melted coconut oil or other oil of choice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Raspberry sauce:
3 cups frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar of choice
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Place cocoa powder and espresso powder if using in a heat proof bowl. Pour in 1 cup boiled water, stir to dissolve and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cayenne or chili powder if using, and salt. Place avocado flesh, coconut milk, maple syrup, oil, vanilla, vinegar, and steeped cocoa in a blender container and blend until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix gently.

Divide mixture among 12 standard sized greased or paper lined muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out nearly clean. Let cool several minutes before unmolding.

To make the raspberry sauce, place frozen raspberries, sugar and cornstarch in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 2 minutes. Stir and heat for another 2 minutes.

Serve cakes topped with raspberry sauce.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pizza Muffins

Featured Ingredient: Pizza

I was recently asked to put together several savory muffin tin recipes for Family Fun magazine based on the premise of my cookbook Muffin Tin Chef. The article was whimsically called “Cupcakes for Dinner.” I think what came out of this article was a handful of really tasty and fun meals that I want to start sharing on this blog. As good of a place as any to start is with these pizza muffins.

Homemade pizza can seem like a daunting undertaking, especially on a harried weeknight. With no kneading required, these gems offer a wonderful riff on pizza night. These are also excellent served straight out of the fridge as a snack or reheated mid-day to break out of the lunchtime sandwich doldrums. To appease any picky eaters, you can split the mixture in half before it goes in the muffin tin and mix certain ingredients like olives into only one-half.

Pizza Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup barbecue sauce of choice
1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup chopped cremini or white mushrooms
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup chopped pepperettes or pepperoni, medium heat or hot
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups store-bought marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, oregano, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and stir in milk and barbecue sauce.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until all the flour is moist. Stir in mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, onion, pepperettes or pepperoni, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Divide mixture among 12 standard sized greased or paper lined muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Let cool at least 5 minutes before unmolding.

Warm marinara sauce in the microwave or on the stovetop in a saucepan and serve with pizza cakes.