Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Company-Worthy Vegetarian Feast!

Raspberry Mojitos
Savory Corn Cakes with Chipotle Cream
Black Beans in Mango Sauce
Wilted Spinach Salad

Busy, busy, busy and not much time to write! So I apologize for not posting as often as I should.

Our friends Karla and Frankie came to dinner last night. Karla is a vegetarian and has mentioned how many pasta dishes she makes, so I wanted to prepare something different. I have never made a non-pasta vegetarian meal for guests, and this proved to be difficult until I remembered a Mollie Katzen cookbook on my shelf. I actually have two of her cookbooks, Vegetable Heaven and Sunlight Café , both containing great recipes. Sunlight Café concentrates on breakfast and brunch, though, so I went with the other book for menu ideas. And I am happy that I did.

For starters (non-Mollie recipes), we had Raspberry Mojitos and Guacamole with baked tortilla chips. The mojitos were excellent (and, look! good-for-you fruit!!!) and the guacamole is my favorite in the whole world.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Raspberry Mojitos

I have used both fresh and frozen (unsweetened) raspberries in this recipe and like both versions

Makes 6 servings (about 12 drinks)

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

7 medium limes

4 tablespoons sugar

30 large mint leaves

6 ounces raspberries

3 ounces grenadine

24 ounces white rum

49 ounces seltzer water -- or club soda, about 1-1/2 one-liter bottles

Cut each lime into 8 wedges. In a large pitcher, muddle the lime wedges, sugar, and mint leaves

until the limes and mint leaves are mashed up and have released their juices. Add the raspberries and grenadine and muddle a bit more. Pour in the rum and mix.

Pour about 1/3 cup of the rum mixture into an 8-ounce highball glass, spoon in a little of the mashed fruit mixture, add ice, stir, top off with club soda. Serve with short straws.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 370 Calories (kcal); trace Total Fat; (2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 15mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 0 Fat; 1 Other


* Exported from MasterCook *


Makes 6 servings

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 medium avocados -- peeled and diced

2 large cloves garlic -- minced

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1 small jalapeno -- seeded, minced

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 medium tomatoes -- chopped

Coarsely mash avocado in a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 125 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat (2g saturated); (68% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 11mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other


NOTES : Can be made 1 day ahead of time. Spoon into a small container and press plastic wrap directly on the surface (and part of the surface exposed to air will brown, but this can be removed with a spoon prior to serving); cover, and refrigerate.

Now for the main course. I would normally opt for an Indian-theme meal because that cuisine is so well adapted to meatless cooking, but our guests have been eating a lot of Indian food recently so I went with a southwestern theme. Savory corn cakes (corn kernels bound together with egg, buttermilk, flour, and cornmeal, flavored with red bell pepper and scallion, topped with a sour cream-based chipotle cream) were delicious and it actually surprised me how filling they were. And don’t skip the Chipotle Cream (I used a combo of Daisy light sour cream and 2% Greek style yogurt for this).

Accompanying these corn cakes were a very flavorful mixture of black beans and mango (spiced with onion, jalapeno, and cumin seed) which was served over rice and also a wilted spinach salad containing onion, avocado, and (surprisingly, to me) apple which was dressed with lemon.


Adapted from "Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven"
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yield: About a dozen 4-inch corn cakes

You can whip up these little gems in just 20 minutes, any time of day or night. They can be a light supper in and of themselves, or a first course or side dish for a more complex meal.
* Frozen, defrosted corn works perfectly well in these pancakes.

2 teaspoons butter
1/4 cup finely minced red bell pepper
2 cups corn
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached white flour (I needed to add an additional ¼ cup of flour and pinch of baking powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Oil or butter for the pan

Cilantro leaves
Chipotle Cream (recipe follows)

  1. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the bell pepper and corn, and sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the scallions, and set aside.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the center.
  3. Beat together the eggs and buttermilk until frothy. Pour this and the corn mixture from Step 1 into the well in the center of the dry ingredients, and stir briefly until everything is combined. (Don't overmix.)
  4. Lightly grease a hot skillet or griddle with butter or oil, and fry the corn cakes for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden. Serve hot, topped with a few cilantro leaves and a drizzle of room-temperature Chipotle Cream, if desired.


Adapted from "Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven"
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 cup

Chipotle chiles are smoked, dried jalapeños. They most commonly come in cans, packed in a vinegar preparation called adobo sauce. A little bit of canned chipotles-in-adobo goes a very long way, both in terms of its heat and its powerful smoky essence. In this sauce, sour cream and/or yogurt create a soothing, luxurious vehicle for the chipotle flavor.

* Serve this wherever it seems appropriate--on any egg dish, with beans, rice, cornmeal preparations, or drizzled onto soups.

1 cup sour cream or yogurt (or a combination)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon canned chipotle chiles, finely minced

  1. Place the sour cream and/or yogurt in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.
  2. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon minced chipotles, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, so the flavor can develop. Taste to see if it needs more chipotle flavor, and add more, if desired.
  3. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.


I only used one mango (a raccoon helped himself to the second one as I was ripening them on my patio table!) but that seemed like plenty. This was great served over steamed rice.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café"
Preparation time: About 45 minutes (30 minutes of light work)
Yield: About 6 servings, depending on what else is served.

All you need are a couple of perfectly ripe mangoes, and you're up and running with this quick, exotic dish. To make it into a complete meal, just add some plain steamed broccoli and rice.

Wonderful though they are to eat, mangoes can be difficult to cut up without their turning to mush. The good news here is that in this dish, it doesn't matter, because the mangoes get mashed anyway. So just cut them open and scrape out the flesh, and mince as best you can.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 3-inch jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups cooked black beans (3 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained)
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 large ripe mangoes, minced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Minced fresh cilantro (optional)
Squeezable wedges of lime

  1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add about 1 3/4 cups of the onion, and the garlic, chile, ginger, cumin seeds, and salt. Sauté over medium -high heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the black beans and about half the lime juice. Sauté for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until everything has mingled nicely, and the beans are heated through. Mash the beans slightly with the back of the spoon, and transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir the remaining lime juice and about 2/3 of the chopped mangoes directly into the hot beans, mashing the mangoes a little as you stir. Grind in some black pepper, then cover and let stand for about 15 minutes to let the sauce develop.
  4. Serve warm, at room temperature--or even cold--topped with the remaining red onion and mango, and some minced cilantro, if desired. For a finishing touch, tuck a juicy wedge of lime on the side of each serving.


Adapted from "Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven"
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Fresh spinach becomes meltingly tender when wilted by brief contact with hot ingredients. The best spinach leaves to use for this salad are the smallest, freshest you can find.

This tastes best immediately after it has been assembled, when the onion is still warm, the spinach and avocado are at room temperature, and the apple slices are very cold.

1 medium-sized tart green apple
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small avocado, perfectly ripe
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced onion (in rings 1/2 inch wide)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 pound cleaned, stemmed spinach—in a large bowl
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Cut the apple into thin slices onto a plate, and drizzle with about 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice. Cover the plate tightly, and refrigerate.
  2. Pour the remaining lemon juice onto a second plate. Peel and slice the avocado, then place the slices in the lemon juice, then turn them over until they are well coated. Set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. When it is very hot, add the onion rings, and cook over high heat for about 2 minutes on each side. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
  4. Add the grilled onion rings and cumin to the spinach, and toss until thoroughly mixed. The spinach will wilt upon contact with the hot oil and onion slices. To speed this process along—and to be sure you include every last drop of the flavorful oil—you can add some of the spinach directly to the pan and swish it around a little, then return it to the bowl. Sprinkle in the salt as you toss.

Gently mix in the avocado, including all the lemon juice, and the apple. Grind in a generous amount of black pepper, and serve right away.

All in all, this was a very good meal only made better by the wonderful company and the great weather for dining outside.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quinoa and Asparagus Salad

Recipe: Quinoa and Asparagus Salad

Quinoa is one food item which I have never had much success with, mainly because I haven't done my research into how to prepare it. The few times which I made quinoa, and a pilaf is one which I remember, it had a slightly “off” and “bitter” taste. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that this grain needs to be soaked or toasted prior to cooking to avoid the bitterness (which, it seems, that some people are more sensitive to than others. Like cilantro, I guess.). I purchased a bulk quantity at the food co-op a couple of weeks ago, and this attempt at quinoa was much more successful.

Native to South America and quite high in fiber, protein, and iron, quinoa is sometimes called a “superfood”. It is also a complete protein because it contains a balanced set of amino acids.

Because our garden continues to spew forth asparagus at an rate with which we can barely keep up, I decided to make a warm quinoa salad containing asparagus. Jack loves all flavors Asian, so I added a soy-based dressing and was very pleased with the results.

Toasting the quinoa eliminated all traces of bitterness and gave it a wonderful flavor, the asparagus was crisp, the dressing added a salty piquant finish, and almonds gave a nice, crunchy texture. I thought that perhaps it could be served cool, but Jack said that he would prefer it warm. Either way, it was a perfect lunch dish, or could also be a dinner side.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Quinoa and Asparagus Salad

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ---------- ----------------------------------------

5 ounces asparagus -- 1" diagonal pieces (about 1 1/2 cups); split the thicker stalks

6 ounces diced red bell pepper -- (about 3/4 cup)-- I used orange...

3 large green onions -- slice white and light green parts into 1/2" diagonal slices; also slice some
of the green tops thinly as a garnish

1 1/2 cups quinoa

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup low sodium vegetable broth

2 tablespoons water

2 large garlic cloves -- crushed

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

3/4 teaspoon sesame oil

3/4 teaspoon minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon Sriacha sauce -- (or chile-garlic paste)

2 tablespoons sliced almonds -- toasted

In a nonstick skillet, sauté the asparagus for 2 minutes, add the onion and red bell pepper, and continue to sauté until vegetables are slightly softened yet still crisp (approximately 3 additional minutes). Remove to a plate to cool slightly.

In a large dry skillet, toast quinoa over a medium flame, shaking and stirring often, until golden (about 5 minutes). A few of the quinoa grains will pop out of the pan during this time. While quinoa is toasting, heat the vegetable broth and water to boiling.

Turn off the flame under the skillet and add the hot water/broth. Turn on the heat again, bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 12 minutes. Do not remove lid-- turn off heat and allow quinoa to steam for 6 minutes. All liquid should have been absorbed.

Add the vegetables to the quinoa and mix.

In a small bowl combine the 2 tablespoons water through hot sauce. Pour over quinoa mixture and toss well. Divide between 2 plates, sprinkle with almonds and reserved green onion tops; serve.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 614 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat, 1g Saturated Fat (19% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 100g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 599mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 6 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Makes 2 main dish servings

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Skillet Lemon Chicken with Asparagus

Recipe: Skillet Lemon Chicken with Asparagus

Asparagus. We have asparagus. Lots and lots of asparagus! Apparently, the fertilizer with which I doused those little emerging tips several weeks ago was a very good choice and they have been quite… prolific. With a household of two, it has been a challenge to keep up but I have made a valiant effort.

This most recent recipe utilizing asparagus is from Canadian Living. It is an excellent entrée, and there is a good amount of delicious sauce which needs to be “soaked up” by a grain such as rice or couscous. Or even served over pasta. I made Israeli couscous with red peppers which was a great accompaniment as well.

Skillet Lemon Chicken with Asparagus

Four servings

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb/500 g)
1 lb (500 g) boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp (1 mL) dried thyme
1 cup (250 mL) sodium-reduced chicken stock
2 tbsp (25 mL) lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
1 tsp (5 mL) grated lemon rind


Cut asparagus on diagonal into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths; set aside.

Cut chicken into 1-1/2 inch (4 cm) cubes; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In large skillet, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat; brown chicken, about 6 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Add remaining oil to pan; fry onion, garlic and thyme, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 3 minutes.

Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan. Add asparagus and chicken stock; cover and simmer until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together lemon juice, cornstarch and lemon rind; add to pan and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute.

Additional Information

· Tip: To make this dish for two, divide all ingredients in half but follow cooking directions as specified.


Canadian Living Magazine: April 2006

Nutritional Info

Per serving: about - cal 202 pro 29 g total fat 6 g sat. fat 1 g carb 9 g fibre 2 g chol 66 mg sodium 367 mg % RDI: - calcium 3% iron 9% vit A 5% vit C 27% folate 56%

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Braised Tempeh with Vegetables

Recipe: Braised Tempeh with Vegetables

I once learned, the hard way, not to attempt and “trick” Jack into trying new foods. Explain what it is, why we are going to eat it, and give him fair warning. My husband is reasonable and will try (almost) anything once. Unfortunately, years ago, I did not know this.

I wanted to attempt a recipe containing tofu. I had read in an article that tofu picks up the flavor of the foods which it is cooked with and gullible me surmised “if it is cooked with chicken, it will taste like chicken”.

Here I should mention that I failed my first bout with Fundamentals of Logic in college, and had to repeat that course. Apparently the lessons learned failed to stick with me.

Jack was horrified as he chewed the “chicken and tofu” stir fry. I had not told him about the tofu and he thought that it was something awful, like a glob of fat, so he ran and spit it into the disposal in the kitchen sink. I attempted to explain about this new burst of culinary creativity, but he would have nothing of it. I speared all of the tofu cubes from his plate, and exchanged them with the chicken cubes on my plate. I deceived him (yes, his actual words) and he resisted tofu for years to come. Eventually I was able to try a few tofu-containing recipes which he enjoyed (as much as he could) but I had learned my lesson.

At the food co-op a few weeks ago, I picked up a couple of packages of tempeh. Tempeh is cooked, slightly fermented soybeans which are formed into a cake and sometimes mixed with grains. It is very high in protein and fiber, is firm in texture with a nutty flavor, and is an all-around excellent meat substitute. I chose both a garden vegetable and a wild rice version, then several days later I set about trying to find recipes. After a while, although I hadn’t located a recipe that I wanted to try, I had a preparation in mind. Jack loves all Asian food, and I decided that this would be how I would make tempeh for this first time. But, of course, I would first explain in detail what tempeh is and that it was in our dinner.

I don’t know what I expected, but not this. I unwrapped a very firm block of … something. Yes, soybeans and all of that stuff, but I suppose that I thought it would be the consistency of tofu.


This stuff is decidedly better-tasting that it looks.


The tempeh was cut into cubes, then browned and braised in a very flavorful sauce. As the tempeh cooks, veggies are stir-fried then added to the tempeh and sauce; this mixture is then served over rice. We were both pleasantly surprised at how good this was. In fact, Jack said that I should make this again, and experiment with more tempeh recipes! This never happened with tofu… ;)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Braised Tempeh with Vegetables

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Prep Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2/3 cup basmati rice -- uncooked

8 ounces Wild Rice Tempeh

1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

3/4 teaspoon Sriracha sauce -- any hot sauce may be used; adjust to taste

1 teaspoon minced ginger

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

5 ounces red bell pepper -- 1/2" dice (about 1 cup

4 ounces broccoli floret -- (about 2 cups)

4 1/2 ounces carrot -- diagonally sliced, 1/4" wide (about 1 cup)

3 whole green onions -- thinly sliced, diagonally

Prepare the rice according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. Keep warm.

Cut the tempeh into 1/2" cubes and set aside.

Mix broth through garlic in a small bowl and set aside.

Drizzle olive oil into a medium skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the tempeh cubes in a single layer, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip over and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the sauce, bring to a boil, turn heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

In a wok, drizzle 1 teaspoon canola oil and stir fry the broccoli for one minute, add the carrots and red pepper and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the vegetables to the skillet with the tempeh and stir to coat all with the now-thickened sauce. Add the green onions, cover, and simmer for another minute.

Serve over rice.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 590 Calories (kcal); 13g Total Fat, 1g saturated; (22% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 19g Fiber; 69g Carbohydrate; 1mg Cholesterol; 603mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 3 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 3 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

Monday, May 12, 2008

Curried Chickpea Burgers

Recipe: Curried Chickpea Burgers

I love chickpeas, and when I’ve cooked up a bag of dried ones, I can hardly keep from snacking on them, still warm, because they are just so good! So when I saw this recipe on Holler’s blog, I was intrigued. I’ve made falafel many times, and this seemed like a similar recipe, but with a decidedly Indian twist. I did make some changes to her recipe, but they are small ones and I give Holler full credit for this-- it's great!

Both Jack and I loved these chickpea burgers, stuffed inside pita with lettuce and tomato. It did take a bit of time to put together, including at least 15 minutes of chilling in the refrigerator to firm up the patties before cooking, but they were well worth it. I put together a sauce to serve them with because I cannot seem to find a brand of pita which doesn’t taste dry, and will play with the ingredients in this next time (perhaps adding a little lemon juice), but all in all, these chickpea burgers were good enough to go on our regular summer lunch rotation.

Because I used small pitas, halved, I formed the patties in smaller ovals instead of larger burgers which would be used in the big pitas or on a sandwich bun.

Oops, took the photo before adding the tomatoes...

* Exported from MasterCook *

Curried Chickpea Burgers

Recipe By: Holler

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ---------- ------------------------------------------

1 slice whole wheat bread

1 1/2 ounces cashews

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, whole

3 ounces onion

1 small carrot

1 small celery rib

1 large garlic clove

4 ounces chickpeas, canned -- half of a 14-1/2 ounce can, drained

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon biryani curry paste -- Patak's brand, Biryani Curry paste with Cilantro and Cumin (medium heat)

1 large egg white

3 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 small garlic clove -- crushed

1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder

2 small whole wheat pita, small

In a small food processor or blender, whirl the slice of bread until fine crumbs form. Remove to a medium bowl. Add the cashews to the processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add to the bread crumbs. Add the cilantro and pulse until chopped.

Add to the cashews and bread crumbs, set bowl aside.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and pulse until vegetables are finely chopped.

In a small nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the vegetables until soft (about 4 minutes). Remove to a plate and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Add the chickpeas to the food processor and pulse a few times to chop a bit. Add the lemon juice, egg white, and curry paste and process until mixture is smooth. Transfer mixture to the bowl with the bread crumbs and cashews and stir until blended. Form into 4 patties and place on a plate; refrigerate for 15 minutes to 1 hour.

In a medium skillet, spread 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over the bottom. Heat over medium heat until hot, add the patties and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until browned on the bottom. Flip and cook until browned on the other side.

While the burgers cook, mix the yogurt, garlic, and curry powder in a small cup. Add cayenne or other hot pepper to taste, if desired.

Serve burgers in pita with sauce. Add garnishes such as chopped tomatoes, lettuce, etc. as desired.

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Per serving: 501 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat (3g saturated); (24% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 80g Carbohydrate; 1mg Cholesterol; 781mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Recipe: Blueberry Allspice Muffins

Recipe: Blueberry Allspice Muffins

Okay, I whined enough in yesterday's post-- now it's back to the food!

These ain’t your bakery muffins. Nor are they too sweet and contain a lot of fat. These are the kind of muffins we have for breakfast (Muffin Monday, anyone???), not the type which you buy in a bakery or make for a special brunch. First, they are kind of plain. And they are not topped or filled. But what they are makes them entirely appropriate for eating every day-- spicy, lowfat, a healthy breakfast which can be made ahead of time and frozen, then thawed in the microwave or toaster oven on those busy days.

The idea for these muffins came from Laura’s blog and the recipe which she reviewed for Allspice Crumb Muffins . The allspice intrigued me (I ordinarily use cinnamon or a baking spice mix from Penzey's in muffins), but when I looked closely at the ingredients I knew that I would have to make some changes. Five tablespoons of butter in the streusel, and another 8 tablespoons in the batter, plus whole milk and whole eggs made them a bit on the “heavy” side both fat- and calorie-wise. I have no doubt that these are delectable muffins, but I needed to make them more acceptable to our diet so that we could enjoy them more often.

Anyone who has been reading my writing for the past year+ knows that I’m a big advocate of using pear puree to sub for oil in everything from quick breads to brownies. Sometimes, in certain recipes, I even substitute the puree for butter. Although the butter in this muffin recipe will add flavor and a very tender crumb, I decided to use pear puree and oil instead and see what happened. Also, I have found that yogurt adds a nice texture and moistness to baked goods (I have used it in everything from cinnamon rolls to waffles to scones with success), so I added some lowfat yogurt as well. And I used some egg whites instead of all whole eggs. In addition to flavor, blueberries lent moisture and a dose of antioxidants as well. I eliminated the streusel to get rid of fat and calories (I have made streusel muffins in the past but have never been impressed with streusel prepared with oil instead of butter).

The resulting muffins were very good. Not the tender pull-apart variety, but an excellent healthy option. I have previously made blueberry muffins with a cinnamon-spiced batter, and I liked the allspice option very much. Use the recipe on Laura’s website when you want to impress someone with your baking talents for a special occasion (she gave them a very good review), but to keep you and your family healthy, make wholesome substitutions for your everyday muffins.

Remember—not pretty, healthy!!!

* Exported from MasterCook *

Blueberry Allspice Muffins

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings : 12 (2 muffins per serving)

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ---------- ---------------------------------------

2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup pureed pears

1/3 cup canola oil

3/4 cup skim milk

1/2 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups blueberries -- fresh or frozen (not thawed)

Preheat oven to 375F. Coat 24 muffin cups with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour through salt, then form a “well” in the center of the ingredients; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients and combine.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and stir until almost combined. Add blueberries and stir lightly until just mixed. Divide batter between muffin cups and bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pan 180-degrees about halfway through baking. Remove from oven, allow to sit for 1 minute, then remove the muffins to a cooling rack.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 368 Calories (kcal); 8g Total Fat (1g saturated)t; (20% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 65g Carbohydrate; 32mg Cholesterol; 457mg Sodium; 5g fiber

Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 19 1/2 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Patio Table Woes

I'm going to stray off of my usual food post today.

A couple of years ago we re-built our patio and built a new one at the other back entrance of our house. For the first time since we moved in here in 1983, we actually had the need for patio furniture.

I looked at several stores before I found what I wanted, and I wanted this set badly. All-weather wicker, a nice 4' diameter, glass-topped table and 4 very comfortable chairs. Being a thrifty sort, I decided to wait for it to go on sale even though that decision would mean that we would not be able to eat on our new patio until the following summer. No matter. I wanted that table and chairs, it was too expensive, and I had the time to wait.

By mid-September I had been visiting this store weekly for almost 2 months, watching the price go down, but it never went low enough for me. Two weeks later, Christmas decorations filled the space that the patio furniture had taken. I asked the salesperson and was told that all of the stock had been returned and there was nothing left. I was absolutely crushed.

The following spring, I started to look again for a table and chairs for the patio. I found nothing similar to the set I had fallen in love with the previous summer, in fact, I found nothing that I liked period!

Out on errands one day, I wandered in to the store where my dream patio set had been. Nothing jumped out at me, and I started out of the store. As I walked down the aisle, I looked up past the lawn mowers and... there it was! Table, four chairs, all by itself near the doors that led to a back storage room. Leftover from last year, shuffled around in storage, it was still in good shape and 70% off the listed price!

I couldn't buy it fast enough. I also bought a big ol' cover to keep the sun from deteriorating the "wicker" and an umbrella. Jack and I have used this table and chairs over and over. We also bought a black metal set for the larger patio, but I didn't like it as much.

This year, we brought out the "wicker" set last week. I brushed the cobwebs off and got the chair cushions from their winter storage place in the basement. Yesterday I set up the umbrella, and we ate outside for the first time.

This morning, it was beautiful and I opened the umbrella so that it wouldn't fade in a "fold" pattern. The wind whipped up a bit, but I didn't think anything of it. Until I heard a crash. And my heart sank.

The wind, blowing from direction which it rarely does, lifted the umbrella which, in turn, lifted the table, and they all turned over. The umbrella was fine, the glass top on the table shattered.

I cannot describe how bummed I am!

It took over an hour to clean up the mess, and there are still tiny bits of glass in the cracks between the stones that I cannot get without tweezers (and I don't have that much time on my hands!). Worse, I called three different glass shops and the least expensive one quoted me $250 to cut a replacement. We paid $350 for the entire set.

Can we use the table without the glass top? Probably. Crumbs will regularly have to be vacuumed out, and it will have to be covered all of the time we aren't using it to keep pollen, dirt, etc. from settling in the "wicker". But it looked so nice with the glass top. *sigh*

Reminder to all of you who are assembling your outdoor spaces for the summer-- keep an eye on the wind and always close your table umbrella when you aren't using it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pan-Fried Striper with Charred Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salsa

Recipe: Pan-Fried Striper with Charred Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salsa

A few weeks ago I met my friend Jenni at Trader Joe’s for our semi-regular Foodie Shop-a-Thon. This would not be necessary if I lived near TJ’s or Whole Foods, but since the trip to that part of town takes about 50 minutes, I have to stock up when I get the opportunity. Because of my broken ankle this past winter, I have not been there since November and the trip to these stores was greatly missed.

I brought a cooler and plenty of ice so I was able to buy some frozen and refrigerated items. While looking through the selection of frozen fish, I was pleasantly surprised to find striper fillets. Jack and I have had striper when we go on vacation because it’s a local fish to the middle/ southern Atlantic coast but I have never seen it in the stores in western Pennsylvania. It is a great tasting fish—mild, sweet, delicate, similar to tilapia but the fillets are larger. Of course, I bought two packages. It was an incredibly fun day, we had a great lunch while sitting in the outdoor courtyard of Casbah, and I returned home with lots of food and meal ideas for the next few weeks.

I wanted fish for dinner last night and when I opened the big freezer and slid open the lower bin, guess what was lying on top. An internet search for striper recipes was uninspiring, so I looked in the refrigerator. I needed to use an avocado asap, and the cherry tomatoes on the counter were looking very ripe, so I came up with pan-frying the striper, then topping it with a salsa. This was served with rice, and it was excellent. The fish, under a crispy cornmeal crust, was tender; the avocado-tomato salsa was the perfect accompaniment with a little added jalapeño contributing some spice. Our favorite restaurant while on vacation in Lewes, DE is called Striper Bites, and we usually buy three or four bottles of their own (wonderfully spicy, chipotle-based) hot sauce every year, so we also added some additional heat with several drops of that.

This was an excellent way to make striper, which is also called rockfish and striped bass (or you can use any other mild fish like tilapia or bass).

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pan-Fried Striper with Charred Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salsa

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

--------- ---------- ---------------------------------------

1 cup frozen corn kernels -- thawed and drained

3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 whole green onions -- slice diagonally; keep the light colored bottom part and

dark green tops separate

2 medium garlic clove -- minced

1 teaspoon minced jalapeño

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2/3 cup chopped tomato

4 ounces avocado -- pit removed, peeled, diced (one small avocado, about 6

ounces before pitting and peeling)

1/3 cup cornmeal

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon canola oil

10 ounces striper fillets

1/2 cup rice -- uncooked

Spray a medium sized skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium flame. Add the corn kernels and shake to form a single layer in the pan. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, or until the kernels are lightly browned on one side. Mix in the bell pepper, the light-colored green onion bottom slices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño and stir for one additional minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool a bit.

Prepare the rice and keep warm.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, and ground cumin on a large rimmed plate and set aside.

Drizzle 1 teaspoon of canola oil into a large nonstick skillet and heat over a medium-high flame. Dip the fillets into the cornmeal mixture, firmly patting the mixture into the fish, turning a few times to coat thoroughly. Place in the hot skillet and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for three minutes on one side, flip, the cook for 2 minutes on the other side.

While the fish is cooking, mix the lime juice, olive oil, salt, cumin, and pepper in a small cup. Add the reserved green onion tops, cilantro, chopped tomato and avocado to the corn mixture and lightly toss with the lime juice dressing.

When the fish is done, serve with rice and salsa.

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Per serving: 691 Calories (kcal); 22g Total Fat (5g saturated); (27% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 94g Carbohydrate; 75mg Cholesterol; 574mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 5 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 9 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

To expand more on my "turkey post", I took this today of Spooky watching our new yard-friend...

Somehow, I don't think that they will become buddies!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Turkey Lurkey?

Well, I guess it was inevitable. Fifteen years ago, Jack and I stopped eating red meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.) and haven’t missed it much (after the first year or so, anyway). We are now considering giving up turkey. As he said “one step closer to total vegetarianism”. Why, you may ask, are we pondering this additional change to our diets?

Here he is:

It would be stretching it a bit to call him “cute”, but there is a certain appealing way he struts into the yard when I fill the birdfeeders, waiting until I step back onto the patio before running under the feeders where I have “accidentally” spilled some extra seed. I don’t know what he does with his days, but whenever I fill the feeders he is around somewhere. One of the feeders makes a scratching noise as I screw off the top, and Jack thinks that is what attracts the turkey.

Yesterday, as Jack mowed the lawn, the turkey wasn’t fazed at all. He was eating, that large noisy John Deere be damned!

Spooky doesn’t know what to make of this large bird. He will sit, tail twitching, and watch the turkey graze.

So as we watched the big ol’ bird this morning, Jack mentioned that he has started to feel badly about eating turkey now. I agreed, but I wonder what we will do at Thanksgiving. :)

Creamy Avocado Dressing

Recipe: Creamy Avocado Dressing

How could I not be inspired by this fabulous head of butter lettuce and bunch of Easter Egg radishes?

On my friend Jenni’s recommendation, I picked up a bag of mixed pepitas, pine nuts, and slivered almonds at Trader Joe’s. I then found these wonderful salad fixings in the organic section of a nearby food co-op, and just had to make a gorgeous spring salad. I had made a creamy avocado salad dressing the previous day, and it was the perfect touch.

I developed this salad dressing because I had one extremely ripe avocado which needed to be used immediately. Dinner was already planned, and precluded adding anything made of avocado to it. So I mixed up the dressing, using plain fat-free yogurt for creaminess, pressed plastic wrap on the surface and, lo and behold, it stayed nice in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Maybe I will subsequently experiment with different seasonings (cumin comes to mind, or powdered chipotle to make a more “zingy” dressing for topping fish) but for now I leave it as is because the taste of the avocado really shines through.

*Exported from MasterCook *

Creamy Avocado Dressing

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ---------- --------------------------------

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic -- increase to 2 teaspoons for a real garlicky punch!

6 ounces avocado -- chopped (approximately an 8-ounce avocado minus pit and peel)

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

2 tablespoons (or more) skim milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

In a blender or small food processor, process all of the ingredients until creamy. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Add more skim milk if a thinner texture is desired.

If not using immediately, this will keep, in a tightly-covered glass container, for 3 or 4 days. "Fruit Fresh" can be added (about 1/2 teaspoon) to prevent darkening.

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Per serving: 46 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat (1g saturated); (59% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 106mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates