Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chocolate energy boost

I have always been one to eat several small meals throughout the day.  I could never make it from breakfast at 6am to lunch at noon without a few snacks in between!

Now that I'm feeding a growing baby, my snacks are even more important.  I'm always looking for more protein, fiber and energy to get through the day.

When I found these delectable, chocolatey brownies, I knew I had to add them to the snack rotation!  I came upon the recipe in a wonderful cookbook called Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen. It is packed with healthy recipes to keep your body strong and your taste buds satisfied.  The first time I made these treats, I sent them off to a friend in the midst of chemotherapy.  When I looked at the ingredients (and realized how delicious they are), I knew they'd be great for pregnant moms, athletes, nursing moms, and busy folks who eat on the go, too. They're packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and antioxidants.

They're easy to make (you just need a food processor) and they are very versatile. You can put in any combination of nuts and dried fruit that suits your fancy.  Just remember to get good quality bittersweet or dark chocolate! The darker it is, the more antioxidants you'll get!

If you like them fudgy, like I do, then keep them in the refrigerator. If you like them warm and gooey, then warm one up for a few seconds in the microwave. Then pour yourself a glass of you favorite milk and enjoy!

Happy eating!

Chocolate Energy Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9 inch pan with coconut oil.

1 12oz package of bittersweet or dark chocolate chips (Ghiradelli is good)
3 T unrefined coconut oil
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed (I use Eden's organics - BPA free cans)
3 *flax eggs 
3/8 cup local maple syrup
generous 1/2 cup rolled oats (you can get local!)
2 t baking powder
3/4 cup pecans and walnuts, mixed
1/2 c dried cranberries
dash of salt

Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil in the microwave or on the stove. Transfer to a food processor. Add all remaining ingredients except nuts and fruit. Blend until smooth. Stir in nuts and fruit. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool. Serve warm or refrigerate for several hours before serving if you want a firm, fudgy brownie.

*whisk 3 T ground flax seeds with 9 T warm water and let sit for five minutes to thicken.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Who needs a bowl when you have acorn squash?

Friday night we gobbled up Thai food.

Saturday night we dug into Vietnamese food.

Tonight we savored a blend of Indian & Thai.

And fortunately, there are leftovers!

I found a recipe for winter vegetable dal in the latest issue of my Eating Well magazine and decided to give it my own twist. Rather than making the coconut curry lentil soup with squash in it, I decided to serve it in half of a roasted acorn squash.  Delicious!

It's rich with coconut milk and warm spices with chunks of veggies just made for curry dishes: cauliflower, sweet red pepper, and baby kale. The lentils add a nice, hearty texture to the soup, soaking up the flavorful broth. Packed with fiber, protein and a variety of vitamins, lentils round out the dish, making a single bowl satisfying as a meal.

And with plenty of leftovers, I have plans to doll up this warm, fragrant dish in a variety of ways later this week.  I'll serve it in bowls with warm slices of spiced halloumi on top, I'll ladle it over roasted sweet potatoes and if there is any left after that, I think it would be delicious over ginger mashed carrots & rutabaga.  Try your own variations!

Happy eating!

Winter Vegetable Dal

2 small acorn squash OR 2 1/2 c cubed, peeled winter squash/sweet potato

2 T coconut oil (or safflower oil)
1 t brown mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 T curry powder
12 fresh curry leaves or 1 large bay leaf (I had neither & it was still flavorful)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 serrano chile, finely diced (use fresh, canned or dry chiles soaked in hot water - any medium heat chile would be work here)
3 T finely chopped fresh ginger 
4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 1/2 c water
1 1/2 c red lentils (I used brown, but red would cook faster and lend a nice complimentary color to the warm spices)
1 14 ounce can "lite" coconut milk
1 1/2 t salt 
1 t ground turmeric
2 c cauliflower florets
1 medium or large chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (I used crimini)

2 c baby kale leaves (or winter greens of your choice)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Split each acorn squash in half either way, scoop out seeds and nestle into a baking dish. Rub insides with coconut oil and sprinkle with curry powder, salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until tender and brown around the edges (about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the squash).


1. Get all veggies and other ingredients chopped and ready to go.  One time saver is to put the onion, ginger, chile, and garlic in your food processor and pulse to mince. 

2. Heat oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over low medium heat. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry powder (plus curry leaves, if using). Stir and cook until seeds start to pop (this happens fast - in about 20 - 30 seconds). Add onion, ginger, chile and garlic to pot, stir occasionally until onion softens and browns (about 4-5 minutes).

3. Add water, lentils, coconut milk, salt, turmeric (and bay leaf, if using). Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent the lentils from sticking. Add cauliflower, red pepper, mushrooms (and squash/sweet potato, if using instead of acorn squash bowls) and return to a boil.

4. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered until veggies are almost tender - about 15 minutes. Add kale and stir to submerse the leaves. Cook for an additional 5 - 10 minutes until all veggies are cooked through.

Serve dal in acorn squash bowls.  I topped mine with toasted cashews and coconut flakes.  You can also squeeze lime juice on top and sprinkle on fresh cilantro.

Post here to let me know what variations you try at home!

Friday, January 10, 2014

High-fiving myself in the kitchen

These are the best pumpkin muffins I've ever made.

I mean it.

And that's not bragging, it's just honesty.

They are moist, tender, fluffy and not afraid to flaunt their pumpkin goodness. I wanted to eat at least half a dozen with a cool glass of milk and then the other half with hot ginger lemon tea.

Alas, my stomach would not allow such indulgences, so instead, I settled for one each morning, sometimes slathered with almond butter, but most often naked and slightly warmed in the microwave.

Family and friends lucky enough to share these muffins will never know that they're packed with whole grain flour, flax meal and olive oil - they'll just gobble them up. And I really can't blame them.

I have dreams of pouring the whole bowl of batter into a bundt pan.  Hello, my new brunch favorite!

Doughnut Pumpkin Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a bit of olive oil on a cloth to grease 10 muffin cups or line them.

In a medium bowl, whisk together:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup ground flaxseed (grind your own from seeds or buy flax meal)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (Gryffon Ridge makes a lovely blend)

In a large bowl, whisk:

1 1/3 cups pumpkin puree (roast your own pumpkin - you won't be sorry!)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup agave
2 egg yolks

Whip the 2 egg whites until fluffy and full of peaks that hold their shape.
Roughly chop 1/2 cup dried tart cherries.

Mix dry ingredients into wet just until combined. Gently fold in egg whites and cherries. Divide batter between the 10 muffin cups (they'll be very full).

Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven).

Cool until no longer hot and steamy.  Then dip tops into melted coconut oil, followed by a mixture of cane sugar, cinnamon and ground ginger. Eat warm!

And is if that wasn't enough, I had my sights set on making a batch of soft, gingery molasses cookies - big and bold with a nice crunch of turbinado and a spicy bite of real ginger. 

The mix of intoxicating spices filled the entire house as the oven transformed the generous balls of dough into the best friend a glass of cold milk could ask for.

In fact, the cookies were so big, I had a tough time fitting them into my cookie jar.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Spiced Molasses Cookies

Place one oven rack in the middle of the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 2 cookie sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together:

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (also called Vietnamese cinnamon) OR 1 t standard cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

In a standing mixer, whip:

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature until light and fluffy

Then add:
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons fresh, grated ginger

Mix well on medium speed to combine.

On low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture, mixing to combine.

Spread about 1/4 of turbinado sugar on a plate. Roll almost 1/4 cup of dough into a large ball and then roll in the plate to coat with sugar. Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls onto cookies sheets with 2 inches of space in between (you'll need to bake a few rounds of these).

Bake cookies one sheet at a time for about 14 minutes until tops are fairly firm, but still soft in the center, and there are gorgeous cracks on the surface.

Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, transfer to a rack to cool completely.

I got 17 cookies out of this recipe, though the original states only 14. Perhaps I used a scant 1/4 cup of dough - they were still mammoth.

These are amazing warm and delicious right out of the cookie jar. They keep very well in an airtight container or covered jar for up to 2 weeks.