Saturday, January 17, 2015

Blueberry Power Muffins

During the winter I love to bake, but don't really like all of the over-sugary desserts. Lately I've been trying to sub in healthier ingredients to give my baked goods an extra touch of goodness. With these Blueberry Power Muffins, I started with a fabulous recipe from Damn Delicious (a really great food blog if you haven't checked her out yet), then added a few of my favorite things. The extra goodies include flaxseed, walnuts, and I used white whole wheat instead of regular all purpose flour.

Some of these ingredients have benefits to be aware of. My favorite is flaxseed. The benefits are huge ranging from being a phytoestrogen which means it has high levels of antioxidants (to help fight against disease and cancer); it has a good dose of Omega-3 fatty acids (research suggesting leading to a healthy heart as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory), fiber (good for digestion and ridding the body of toxins), and other vitamins and minerals that are necessary for good health but aren't readily available in our typical Western diet.*

These muffins are a great little treat, as well as an easy breakfast for on the go. Next time I make these I will sub in coconut sugar I think. I've been using it as a sugar substitute lately and apparently it has benefits such as amino acids and minerals. Just food for thought. Happy New Year.


Blueberry Power Muffins

1 cup white whole wheat flour, I use King Arthur Flour
1 cup rolled oats, plus more for topping
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (or coconut sugar)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup plain yogurt, plain kefir works great too
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries, I use frozen
1 cup walnuts, halved or chopped 
2 tbsp flaxseeds
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp coarse sugar, for topping

How To:
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Prepare two, standard sized, muffin pans with liners. 

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In another medium bowl combine melted butter, yogurt, egg, and vanilla. Pour over the dry mixture and gently mix until blended, taking care not to overmix. Add blueberries, walnuts, flaxseeds, and lemon zest. Gently fold in. 

Scoop batter evenly into muffin pans, I like to use an icecream scooper. Sprinkle the muffins with oats and a little sugar each. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes (depending on oven disparities, check for doneness and cook for another 5 minutes if need be). Remove from oven and let cool in pan for five minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pumpkin Custard Pie with Ginger Snap Crust

With Thanksgiving around the corner and pumpkin season coming to a close I was itching to make something seasonally appropriate. I am a traditionalist in terms of respecting time-appropriate ideas and expectations, but my taste buds and creative nature draw me in the other direction of being a non-conformist. I will still make that pumpkin pie, and I still will have a Thanksgiving meal with Turkey.. but I can't just pull out the old Betty Crocker cookbook and follow a traditional recipe verbatim, every year... how boring for a creative like me. Ah.

So anyways, I think this pumpkin pie satisfies the need for a dessert that is pumpkin filled, but it is also different enough to satisfy my need to try new things. This particular baking experience was kind of scary. I definitely gambled on cooking times, not knowing if a deep dish pie would actually set, and also not knowing if the crust would burn being in the oven for so long. Alas, it turned out delightful: super moist, custardy goodness, with a spicy not too sweet crust.

What else am I bringing to the table on Thanksgiving? My self-assigned items: this lovely Pumpkin Custard Pie, delicate baking soda biscuits, roasted parmesan and herb red potatoes, mashed potatoes for the traditionalists, homemade gravy, and (I'm cheating here) store-bought stuffing. What about you? Any delicious recipes you'd like to share with me? Comment below! To the rest of you, au revoir! May you have a blessed, thankful Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Custard Pie with Ginger Snap Crust
(Printable Recipe)
GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: Sub out the ginger snaps for gluten-free ginger snaps, double check your pumpkin puree and evaporated milk ingredients.
COOK'S NOTE: While you're baking your pie, check on it after the 45 minute mark, and continue to do so every 15 minutes until the middle is just a wee-bit wiggly. Remember oven temperatures vary oven to oven.

10 ounces ginger snaps (or sub in gluten-free version)
1 3/4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs
1, 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1, 12 oz can evaporated milk

How To:
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Prep two 6-inch wide, 4-inch high, spring form pans (or one larger spring-form pan) by rubbing with butter and lining with a circular cut-out of parchment paper. Set aside. (Note: if your pans are known for leaking, wrap the bottom of them with a good amount of foil, making sure they are still level.)

Make the crust: In a food processor, add the ginger snaps, brown sugar, and ground ginger. Pulse until mixture is crumbly and cookies are broken down. Add melted butter and pulse to incorporate. Mixture should be like wet sand. 

Evenly divide mixture between the two pans and gently press to an even thickness using fingers. I also worked the crust up the sides of the pan about halfway. You can do the side crust more or less, keeping in mind the thickness of the bottom crust. Place in oven for five minutes. Remove to cool. 

Make the custard: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Add eggs and whisk until blended. Add the pumpkin puree and stir to incorporate. Once mixed well, slowly add the evaporated milk until blended well. Pour the mixture into the two prepped pans. Set pans on top of a baking sheet in case of spills or leakage. 

Place the baking sheet with the pies in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 400ºF. After 20 minutes, turn oven down to 350ºF and continue to bake for another 30-40 minutes. Check to see if middle is still very wet and wiggly, if so bake for another 15 minutes. The desired look of the custard will be dark, refer to photos above. OR if the middle is not overly wiggly (but it will be a little bit), turn off oven and let pies rest inside cooling oven for one hour. After an hour the custard will have set. Remove from oven and let sit at room temperature for another hour. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve, covering well. Keeps well for 2 - 3 days. The pies also freeze well, first cover in plastic wrap then cover in foil over that. To serve, remove wrap and set out at room temperature for 2 hours prior to serving.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Coconut Ginger Stirfry with Tofu

I had a goal last year to learn how to cook Asian food and to cook it well. I have been cooking Asian food for awhile but never felt my food was as good as the local Thai, Japanese, or Chinese fare. So I was bummed. Once I set the goal of learning this amazing and delightful cuisine, I found a couple unique resources that changed my style of Asian cooking completely. It was just perfect timing. The first resource is Rasa Malaysia written by the lovely Bee: a blog full of mouth-watering recipes that have methods I hadn't seen before in other Asian cookbooks or recipes. Because of her, I was able to confidently serve Kung Pao, with no hint of shame, but instead beaming with satisfaction. Because dang it, I finally nailed it (thanks to Bee of course!). 

My next surprising find came when I was looking through the cookbook section at Peregrine, a local bookstore, for Japanese street food. The cookbook Wagamama was a beautiful book with full color images and hey, it was on sale, so I gave it a shot. I completely immersed myself in this cookbook and read it front to back as if it were a novel. The authors include these fabulous sauces as well as ramen bowls and stirfrys made at home. I had never even thought to try ramen, and since timidly consuming my first real ramen meal, I can't get through two weeks without it. 

My Coconut Ginger Stirfry with Tofu is an adaptation from Wagamama's cookbook, but of course I added some other things I've learned from Rasa Malaysia too. I hope you enjoy, oh and I definitely recommend the resources I've mentioned if you also want to perfect Asian cooking at home. Good luck and good eats!

Coconut Ginger Stirfry with Tofu
(Printable Recipe)
TIME: 1 HR 15 MIN SERVES: 2-3 

6 oz udon or ramen noodles, prepared as package describes, drained (not rinsed) and set aside
1 package extra firm tofu, preferably GMO free, organic
2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, or another high-heat oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 dried red chiles, deseeded and split in half
1 tbsp Chili Garlic Sauce (We use Huy Fong Food's, the makers of Sriracha)
1 onion, julienned
2 carrots, sliced on the bias or matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, sliced or matchsticks
1/2 bunch kale, rinsed well, de-ribbed and chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce, preferably organic (wheat free if need be)
Coconut Ginger Sauce, use full amount of recipe below
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Coconut Ginger Sauce:
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp honey
2 tsp lime juice

How To:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Drain package of tofu, but keep block inside packaging. Using a knife, slice through block of tofu to create smaller sections, gently flip tofu out on side and slice through again laterally making the sections smaller again. Place small pieces on a plate lined with a paper towel and cover the top of tofu with another paper towel. Place another plate on top to increase pressure to allow excess moisture to be drawn out. Let rest for at least 10 minutes up to 30 minutes.

2. Arrange prepped tofu pieces in a glass pyrex and drizzle with sesame oil. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes, flipping once through cooking. (Note: during this time prep your Coconut Ginger Sauce) Remove from oven and set aside.

3. Over medium high heat, heat a wok (or a large cast iron skillet works too). Once hot, add oil. Let oil heat until smoking (white smoke=good and black smoke=bad). Add tofu to pan well spaced apart. (This step is optional, we just like our tofu a little crispier, but of course you can add it in at the end with the sauce.) Let tofu fry on one side, flip and fry on the other side for another minute or so. Remove gently from wok and set aside.

4. Add garlic, stir quickly. Add red chiles, stir quickly. Add the Chili Garlic Sauce, stir again. Add in onion and carrots. Stir fry for 3 - 5 minutes or until the veg starts to change color. Add bell pepper, and kale. Stir fry for another 4 minutes or until the veg begins to soften. Add tofu back into the pan. 

5. Add soy sauce, coconut ginger sauce, and sprinkle the mixture lightly with cornstarch. Wait about 30 seconds before stirring so that the cornstarch begins to dissolve. Now stir and flip the mixture so everything is coated with the sauce. Turn off heat.

I served this mixture over the cooked noodles, but you could also add the noodles to the wok to coat them in the sauce. Enjoy!

Coconut Ginger Sauce:
Heat oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, stir fry for one minute or until fragrant. Add boiling water, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, careful not to let it boil over, then drop heat to low, allowing to simmer for 15 minutes or until reduced. Add salt, honey, and lime juice. Simmer for another couple minutes, taste for adjustments. Turn off heat and set aside. 

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