Archive | May, 2013

Celebrating Spring with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

26 May

Spring has sprung!  I think.  The past month has been cold then warm, followed by a snow storm, and then freezing rain on Mother’s Day.  We’ve been blessed with sunshine the past two weekends, which makes me hopeful that spring has arrived for good.

My favourite part about spring is the long days.  Sunshine at 8pm can’t be beat.  Besides this, I eagerly look forward to the arrival of locally grown produce.  We’re talking more than just greenhouse-grown peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Or carrots from last winter.  Humble Ontario grows everything from bok choy and snow peas to cherries and watermelon.  (For a list of the fruits and vegetables grown in Ontario and when they are available, click here)

Rhubarb and asparagus mark the start of a glorious 5 months of unbeatably fresh, delicious, and often inexpensive produce.  My food box returned this week and I was hardly surprised to see a couple stalks of rhubarb poking out.  What does one do with rhubarb when you don’t feel like baking?  Compote!

RhubarbStrawberries

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My box also came with a gorgeous basil bunch, so I decided to be just a tad adventurous and try a basil-scented strawberry rhubarb compote.  Feel free to omit the basil if you don’t have any kicking around.  It added a subtle earthiness, but maybe I’m just telling myself that because I know it was thrown in.  The addition of chopped, uncooked strawberries at the end gives this compote a great texture.  I like things on the tart side, but add a bit more sugar if you prefer a sweeter compote.  Unlike white or brown sugar, honey and maple syrup don’t need to dissolve so you can add more at the end as needed.

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If you’ve never purchased or cooked rhubarb before, this website has a bunch of great tips.  It also links to a very interesting-sounding recipe for roasted rhubarb salad.  Rhubarb in a salad?  Who knew!  Excuse me while I pop over to the grocery store to pick up another bunch.

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Basil-Scented Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
(from MyBakingAddiction.com)

If you’re feeling extra adventurous and have a bit of time on your hands, try pairing this with the meringue nests that accompany the original recipe, above.  They look divine!

½ lb (225 grams) strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
½ cup of strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped
½ lb of rhubarb (approximately 2-3 stalks), sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons of maple syrup or honey (or more to taste)
1 Tablespoon of water
3-4 whole basil leaves

  1. Set chopped strawberries aside.  Place rhubarb, quartered strawberries, water, basil, and maple syrup/honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Allow mixture to cook, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft and syrupy, about 15 minutes.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat and discard basil leaves. Stir in the reserved ½ cup of chopped strawberries and allow mixture to cool.  Can be served over yogurt, topped with a dollop of whipped cream, or eaten as is.

Makes approximately 2 cups.  Per ⅓ cup: 52 kcal, 12 g CHO, 2.4 g fibre, 0 g fat, 1 g protein.

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Truly Healthy Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

3 May

“Healthy” and “Cookie” are two words that rarely belong together.  No matter how hard we try, nutritious cookies most often resemble muffins in texture: cakey and soft, not crisp or chewy.

Most of the better-for-you cookie recipes that I’ve stumbled cross use non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter and contain oats for added fibre.  These are admirable steps in the right direction, but unfortunately do not address the sugar issue.  Cookies are so delectable because they are SWEET.  Reducing the amount of sugar to the point where the cookie still tastes good is no easy feat.

That being said, I did a double-take when I stumbled across this recipe for oatmeal cookies in my Moosewood ‘Cooking for Health’ cookbook.  For two dozen cookies, it called for 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of oil, and 1/3 cup brown sugar.  My favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, as a comparison, uses ½ cup butter and ¾ cup sugar for the same number of cookies.  As an added bonus, the Moosewood cookie was void of white flour.  It was replaced by a bit of whole wheat flour and a whole lot of rolled oats.  Something must be fishy here, I thought.

My skepticism was replaced with awe when the cookies emerged from the oven.  For the first time, a legitimately healthy cookie that was crisp, not cakey.  And they were sweet!  Thanks in part to the addition of chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

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The only downside to these cookies is the very loose “dough” that results from very little butter and a lot of oats.  You might wonder to yourself “how will these things ever stay together?” as your stare at the gloppy mess in your hands.  Miraculously, the cookies manage to firm up when baked.  To help them take shape, press the dough together as best as you can once it’s on the cookie sheet.  Dipping your fingers in a bit of water works well.

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Tonight I wanted to see whether this recipe could be used as a versatile oatmeal cookie base for a variety of mix’ins.  The cranberries were replaced with banana chips and I omitted the nuts.  The cookies turned out wonderfully, and actually held together a bit better than on previous attempts.  I now know that the possibilities are endless!  Any ingredient suggestions for my next cookie endeavour?

Oatmeal Cookie 1


Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips, Cranberries, and Walnuts
(from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable, olive, canola, walnut, or hazelnut oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (regular whole wheat flour works just as well)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1-½ cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts (or any other nut, e.g. pecan, cashew, almond, hazelnut)

  1. In a bowl with an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the butter and oil until well blended and smooth.  Beat in the sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Add the egg and beat until creamy and smooth.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into the bowl and stir until well blended.  Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, cranberries, and nuts.  The batter will be chunky.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Drop a dozen rounded tablespoons of the dough, evenly spaced, on each sheet.  You may need to use your fingers to clump the dough together.  Press each spoonful of dough down with a fork dipped in water.  The cookies will not spread so flatten well!
  3. Bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are light brown around the edges.  Remove the cookies and place them on a wire rack to cool.  Store in a covered container.

Makes 24 cookies.  Per cookie: 98 kcal, 12 g CHO, 1 g fibre, 5 g fat (2 g saturated), 2 g protein, 69 mg sodium.