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Easy Whole Grain Banana Muffins

5 Mar

Baking seems like the natural thing to do on a Sunday morning when you’re up by 7:00 am (thank you, Cora) with little to no plans for the day. There was also some pressure from the black banana sitting on my counter, staring at me longingly for the past week. I was determined to use it before it needed to be thrown in the freezer, where it would sit with the rest of the sad overripe bananas that have been there for over a year.

I thought about making my go-to banana bread recipe, but muffins take much less time to bake and I’m always looking for new recipes to try. A quick search using my very advanced approach of adding the term “healthy” to the food item led me to a recipe from the blog Cookie and Kate, where I’ve found delicious recipes in the past. It had a 5 star rating from 175 reviewers so I knew it was a safe bet.

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It’s a one bowl recipe that requires little to no effort, other than mashing the bananas. The resulting muffin was moist, with nice texture from the added oats. I find that bananas add so much natural sweetness to baked goods that you can easily reduce the sugar, even in recipes that already call for very little.

My goal is to blog a little bit more often in the coming weeks since March is Nutrition Month (but hey, no promises). I’m always looking for inspiration so please let me know if you have any favourite recipes that you are willing to share!

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Whole Grain Banana Muffins
(adapted very slightly from CookieandKate.com)

1/3 cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey)
2 eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 cup packed mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup large flake oats, plus more (~1 tbsp) for sprinkling on top
1 teaspoon brown sugar, for sprinkling on top

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, grease 11 cups of your muffin tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray, or use paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the coconut oil and maple syrup together with a whisk. Add eggs and beat well. Mix in the mashed bananas and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined. If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins (like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit) fold them in now.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the 11 muffin cups, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a small amount of oats (about 1 tablespoon in total), followed by a light sprinkling of sugar (about 1 teaspoon in total). Bake muffins for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan. Enjoy muffins as is or with a spread of nut butter or regular butter.

Makes 11 muffins. Per muffin: 218 kcal, 8.2 g fat (6 g saturated – if using coconut oil), 32 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre, 5 g protein, 230 mg sodium

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The Ultimate Healthy Apple Crumble

17 Jan

What do you do with a bag of banged up apples? Make apple crumble!

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I returned home after a quick post-work grocery shop last week to realize that I picked up THE most bruised bag of apples. Only two of more than a dozen beautiful Ontario empire apples were unblemished. The remainder were seriously bruised and I’m not just talking about surface bumps. The skin was broken and they were slowly starting to ferment from being exposed to the open air. YUM.

Apple crumble is the perfect dessert for this time of year because it’s warm, comforting, and doesn’t have to be calorie dense for those looking to shed a few post-holiday pounds. Most recipes call for sugar in both the apple mixture and the crumble, which can sometimes mask the natural sweetness and flavour of the apple itself. Since I was making apple crumble for a snack and not a special occasion, I scoured the web for a healthy version that I could enjoy any day, guilt-free.

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The recipe I settled on, from the blog Amy’s Healthy Baking, doesn’t use any added sugar in the apple mixture and only a scant amount in the crumble. The crumble combines oats and whole wheat flour with a tiny bit of butter (1.5 tablespoons, to be precise) and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. The result was a crumble that was not overly sweet, and an apple mixture that tasted liked… apples! It was naturally sweet and flavourful. If I were to make this again, I might experiment with the crumble as it was a bit moist in consistency without the usual crunch that I’ve come to expect. Regardless, it tasted delicious and really satisfied my sweet tooth. Plus the house smelled AMAZING afterward.

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The Ultimate Healthy Apple Crumble
(from AmysHealthyBaking.com)

Did You Know? The difference between a crisp and a crumble is that a crisp always uses oats while a crumble may or may not. I grew up using the term “crisp” when referring to this type of dessert, but opted to use “crumble” throughout this post as the crust wasn’t very crispy.

For the Crumble
¾ cup large flake oats
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 ½ tbsp butter, melted

For the Filling
6 cups diced apple (dice into pieces about the size of blueberries) – a tarter variety like Granny Smith may not work as well since they are
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat an 8” square pan with butter, oil, or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. To prepare the crumble topping, combine the oats, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the maple syrup and melted butter. Stir until fully incorporated.
  3. To prepare the filling, toss the apples with the cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl until completely coated.
  4. Transfer the filling to the prepared pan, and gently press down with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the topping (the topping tends to clump, so try to break it up into fairly small pieces).
  5. Bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes or until the apples are fork tender. Cool completely to room temperature; then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving to allow the juices to fully thicken. If you prefer to enjoy your crumble warm, then reheat individual portions (or the entire pan) once it has chilled in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 175 kcal, 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 35 g carbohydrate, 5 g fibre, 2 g protein, 22 mg sodium

Super-Charge Me! Cookies

24 Dec

If your past few weeks have been anything like mine, your pants may be feeling a bit too tight due to copious amounts of treats and sweets at work and various holiday gatherings with family and friends. It’s hard to say no to gingerbread, chocolates, and shortbread everywhere you turn, but sometimes it’s possible to find healthier alternatives.

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While still a treat, these Super-Charge Me! oatmeal chocolate chip cookies use 100% whole grains, they’re free of butter and eggs for the vegans in your life, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids thanks to the inclusion of ground flax seed. Despite the absence of white flour, white sugar, and butter (the trifecta of most delicious cookie recipes), they still taste like cookies. Really good cookies. Believe me.

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Not only will your family and friends be surprised to learn that they’re a healthier cookie, Santa will thank you for helping him stay trim so he can continue to deliver presents year after year.

Merry Christmas to all!

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Super-Charge Me! Cookies
(from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan)

1 cup rolled oats or quick oats
2/3 cup spelt flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 to 1/3 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit
3 to 4 tbsp carob or chocolate chips (optional; or use more dried fruit, nuts, or seeds)
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup flax meal (aka ground flax seed, not whole flax seed)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbsp almond butter (may use cashew, peanut, or hemp seed butter)
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp organic neutral-flavored oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut, raisins (or other dried fruit), and carob or chocolate chips. Sift in baking powder, and stir until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flax meal, syrup, almond butter, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Stir in oil.
  4. Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until just well combined (do not overmix).  Spoon batter onto prepared baking sheet evenly spaced apart, and lightly flatten. Bake for 13 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out). Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 12 cookies. Per cookie: 185 kcal, 7.9 g fat (2.1 g saturated), 27 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fibre, 3.6 g protein, 55 mg sodium

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Cups

28 Jun

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

We’ve all heard that line time and time again. From our parents, doctors, the media, and even nagging spouses (myself included). But is there any truth to it?

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During the overnight period, our body uses energy stores to support essential processes like breathing and to repair itself from damage. Eating breakfast helps replenish the energy stores that have been used up while we sleep and gives us much needed calories to help us function at our best in our morning activities.

If you feel like you’re already operating at full tilt without breakfast, perhaps its impact on weight will change your mind. Observational studies have found that adults who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight or obese. In men in particular, there is evidence to suggest that eating breakfast may protect against weight gain.

If you’re still not convinced, regular breakfast consumption leads to diets of higher nutritional quality and those who eat breakfast tend to rate their health status better than those who do not.

So is breakfast, in fact, the most important meal of the day? Clearly it’s important, but whether breakfast is more important than lunch or dinner is debatable. Skipping any meal can affect glycemic control, lead to hunger pangs and subsequent overeating, and overall lower nutritional adequacy.

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Which brings us to today’s dish: individual baked oatmeal cups. I’ve had this recipe flagged for almost 4 years now (!!!) and finally got around to making it this weekend. While these little guys look just like muffins, they taste just like a bowl of oatmeal— in a convenient grab-and-go format. The ingredients are basic and the prep is equally simple. In a single bowl, mashed banana, applesauce, vanilla extract and egg gets mixed with oats, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. A generous portion of milk is then added which the oats will absorb during baking. Finally, your favourite oatmeal topping (raisins for me) gets mixed in. Bake in a muffin tin for 30 mins, let cool, then store individually wrapped in the fridge (or freezer) for an easy, portable breakfast. And if you’re not on the go, you can eat it warm with a bit of milk (or even yogurt), just like a bowl of oatmeal.

It’s the perfect breakfast for non-breakfast eaters everywhere (like E).

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Baked Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Cups
(from www.sugarfreemom.com)

The original recipe uses stevia, a natural sugar-free sweetener with a bitter undertone, so I used a bit of maple syrup instead. 

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 ripe banana, mashed (approximately ½ cup)
¼ cup maple syrup
5 cups large flake rolled oats
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cups milk
2/3 cup raisins (can substitute for fresh or frozen berries, nuts, chocolate chips, etc!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 12 capacity muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, applesauce, banana and maple syrup.
  3. Add in oats, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Mix well to combine.
  4. Stir in the milk, then add the raisins. Mix well.
  5. Using 1/3 cup measure, pour mixture evenly into muffin cups. The mixture won’t rise much, so you can fill each muffin cup to the brim. You should end up with 20 muffin cups.
  6. Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick in centre comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the oatmeal cups from the muffin tins and allow to fully cool.

Makes 20 oatmeal cups. Per oatmeal cup: 155 kcal, 2.7 g fat, 27 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 5 g protein, 140 mg sodium

What’s the story morning glory (muffins)?

15 Mar

“Well… need a little time to wake-up, wake-up” – Oasis

Morning glory muffins used to be a constant in my diet growing up. After curling practice, my usual snack was a glass of milk and a muffin.  While the curling club always had a few different muffin varieties at any given time, morning glory was my favourite.

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After stumbling across a morning glory muffin recipe in my Looneyspoons cookbook recently, I began to wonder: what’s in a name?

The original morning glory muffin recipe was created by chef Pam McKinstry in 1978. Some say the muffin was named after her restaurant on Nantucket Island, the Morning Glory Cafe, while others say her restaurant at the time was named the Sconset Cafe. Either way, her beloved recipe became famous when it was published in Gourmet magazine in 1981. Ten years later, it was named one of the magazine’s 25 favourite recipes.

Chef McKinstry’s original morning glory muffin recipe uses white flour, one cup of oil (for a mere 12 muffins!), and a whopping 1-1/4 cups of sugar. Sounds more like a cupcake than a muffin to me! The Looneyspoons version is a definite improvement, with some whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup of oil, and 1/2 cup of sugar, but still not my idea of a healthy muffin. Since the recipe seemed like it would be sweet enough from the pineapple, applesauce, and raisins, I decided to cut back on the sugar even further to 1/4 cup and used 100% whole wheat flour. I also opted for unsweetened coconut instead of the sweetened stuff used in both the original and Looneyspoons recipe.

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Cora, my quality control technician, sleeping on the job

The final product ended up more than adequately sweet (I actually suggested to E that I use even less sugar next time, but he thought they were perfect as is), super moist, and very hearty! Half a muffin is very satisfying, so I ended up cutting each muffin in half for a quick, portable snack.

If you like carrot cake, you will love these muffins!

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Morning Glory Muffins
(adapted from The Looneyspoons Collection)

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp each nutmeg and salt
1 cup well-drained crushed pineapple
1 cup finely grated carrots
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened medium coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together pineapple, carrots, applesauce, brown sugar, oil, egg and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in coconut, raisins, and nuts.
  4. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in centre of muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 large muffins. Per muffin: 196 kcal, 11 g fat (3.7 g saturated), 23 g carbohydrate, 4.1 g fibre, 5.1 g protein, 310 mg sodium

Loaf Potion #9: Cranberry Orange Nut Loaf with Zucchini and Carrot

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day! February is heart month, where national organizations in both Canada and the US strive to increase awareness of heart disease. In addition to achieving a healthy body weight (check here to see where you’re at) and being physically active, diet plays an important role in reducing your risk for heart disease. Limiting sodium, saturated fat, and trans fats can help prevent heart disease along with increasing your intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, and soy.

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Instead of making E’s favourite brownies for Valentine’s Day, I decided I would switch things up (much to his dismay) and make a healthy loaf full of whole grains, vegetables, and nuts— all for a happy heart. This loaf recipe has been one of my favourites since I discovered it many years ago. Grated carrots and zucchini add a hint of colour and texture, dried cranberries add a pop of sweetness, and the addition of orange zest and juice seem to bring all of  the flavours together really nicely. It tastes good the day it’s made, but even better the next, so make this loaf a day in advance for maximum flavour.

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In my opinion, there’s no better way to say “I love you” than with a heart-healthy loaf this Valentine’s Day. Or at least that’s what I keep telling E…

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Loaf Potion #9: Cranberry Orange Nut Loaf with Zucchini and Carrot
(from The Looneyspoons Collection)

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (the original recipe calls for all-purpose flour)
2/3 cup oat bran
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated, unpeeled zucchini

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or coat lightly with oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, oat bran, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Make sure you get all of the lumps out of the brown sugar. Stir in cranberries and nuts.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, eggs, orange juice concentrate, and orange zest. Stir in carrots, and zucchini. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake on middle oven rack for 45 to 50 minute, or until loaf is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in centre of loaf comes out clean.
  5. Cool loaf in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely on rack. Cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature or in fridge. To serve, cut loaf into 8 thick slices, then cut each slice in half (this is easier than trying to cut into 16 thin slices!)

Makes 1 large loaf (16 slices). Per slice: 150 kcal, 5.3 g fat (0.8 g saturated), 24 g carbohydrate, 2.6 g fibre, 268 mg sodium, 4 g protein

Pumped Up Cinnamon Buns

22 Nov

No matter how many lucky stars I may wish on, cinnamon buns will never be a “healthy” treat. But special occasions call for special treats, and everyone wins if you can make a make them a little bit healthier without compromising taste.

It was my dear friend Lucia’s birthday this weekend and we celebrated with a potluck brunch in her honour. My first instinct was to bring a fruit tray (classic dietitian move), but that seemed too boring for such a special friend. With cinnamon buns on my mind all week (and the luxury of a bit of extra time over the weekend), it became clear that my potluck contribution would be a freshly baked batch of sweet, yeasty buns.

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13 years of friendship… time flies!

The Looneyspoons Collection cookbook has a wonderful recipe for cinnamon buns that have more fibre + less fat and sugar than traditional buns.  Despite these healthy modifications, they taste just as good. Some of the white flour is replaced by whole wheat flour, and ground flaxseed adds a punch of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. While most cinnamon bun recipes call for upwards of 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of butter per batch, this one calls for a modest 1-1/2 cups of sugar (a small improvement) and 1/3 cup of butter.

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Before going into the oven

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Fresh out of the oven

Cinnamon buns, while intimidating in appearance, are actually relatively simple to make. The key ingredient is TIME as the dough needs to rise not once, but twice before baking. All in all, from start to finish it was a 2+ hour process. The end result was well worth the effort, especially for such a special occasion. Happy Birthday Lucia!

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“Rolls Royce” Cinnamon Rolls
(from The Looneyspoons Collection)

Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1 pkg (8 g) or 2-1/4 tsp quick-rising yeast
1 tsp salt
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten

Filling
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature

Glaze
2 tbsp light cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

  1. To make dough, combine both flours, flaxseed, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Add milk, sugar, butter and vanilla to a small pot. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, just until milk is warmed, butter is melted, and sugar is dissolved. Do not simmer or boil. (Lisa’s tip: use a thermometer to be safe, following the temperature recommendation on the yeast package). Remove from heat and carefully pour into a large mixing bowl. Add half the flour mixture and egg. Stir using a wooden spoon until well blended. Add remaining flour mixture and stir until a soft ball forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Add a bit more flour if dough is too sticky. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 1 minute. Place dough in a clean bowl that has been lightly oiled. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until double in size. (Lisa’s tip: pour boiling water in a shallow glass dish, place in the oven, and use this as your “warm place” to allow the dough to rise)
  3. Meanwhile, make filling. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  5. When dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly flour surface. Roll out dough to a 12 x 14-inch rectangle. Using a butter knife, spread 2 tbsp butter evenly over dough. Sprinkle with brown sugar-cinnamon mixture and spread evenly to edges. Roll up dough jelly-roll style. You should end up with a 12-inch long roll. Using a very sharp knife, slice roll into 12 equal pieces. Arrange rolls in a single layer in prepared pan. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake rolls for 25 minutes. They should be puffed up and light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly while you prepare glaze. Using an electric mixer, beat together all glaze ingredients in a small bowel until smooth. Spread evenly over warm rolls. (Note: if you prefer to drizzle the glaze, add 1 tbsp milk to the glaze)

Makes 12 rolls. Per roll: 270 kcal, 7 g fat (3.7 g saturated fat), 47 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 6 g protein, 227 mg sodium.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf

21 Oct

After a two year hiatus, More Spinach Please is back on the grid! Since my last post, life’s kept me busy with wedding planning, house hunting, moving, and work. It’s been a whirlwind of excitement but I’m ready to lay low for awhile.

This past weekend, I was blessed with minimal plans and the urge to bake. A dangerous combination. And since autumn has me dreaming of pumpkin-everything, my main ingredient was a no-brainer.

Pumpkin is a humble nutritional powerhouse, often neglected outside of the month of October. Low in calories, it’s an excellent source of vitamin A (a half cup serving of purée provides you with over 300% of your recommended daily intake) and a source of fibre, with 4 grams per serving. It adds moisture to baked goods without added fat and lends beautiful colour.

On Friday night, I found myself scouring the web for a quick and easy pumpkin loaf recipe. I was visiting a colleague and her baby the following morning and didn’t want to show up at her new house empty-handed. A simple cranberry pumpkin loaf caught my eye, and with a few small tweaks I was confident I could make a fairly healthy version without compromising taste. I swapped in whole wheat flour for the white stuff, reduced the sugar, and added a bit of extra pumpkin to ensure the loaf was moist enough. The loaf turned out just as I’d hoped: lightly spiced, beautifully coloured, moist, and not-too-sweet. So tasty (and easy!) that I baked another one two days later.

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Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf with Pecans
(adapted from Cooking Light)

2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 tsp ginger + 1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/8 tsp cloves)
1-1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with oil or cooking spray, set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl; make a well in centre of mixture. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, water, oil, vanilla, and eggs; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in cranberries.
  3. Pour batter into the loaf pan; sprinkle pecans over batter. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.

Makes 16 slices.  Per slice: 160 calories, 6 g fat, 26 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 3 g protein, 58 mg sodium

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.

Got Almost-Expired Buttermilk? Make Cranberry-Orange Scones

27 Mar

The leftover buttermilk from my spiced sweet potato muffins has been calling out to me each time I open the fridge.  Visions of scones and buttermilk pancakes have been dancing in my head.

Traditional buttermilk is the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cream.  Commercial buttermilk, on the other hand, is just milk with added bacteria—similar to yogurt but made with slightly different bacterial strains.  When I explained this to E, he asked “Why do they call it buttermilk? They should call it yogurtmilk.”  (Side note: at the time, he was slightly bitter after unknowingly adding buttermilk to his freshly brewed cup of coffee. The grimace on his face hung around for days).

If you don’t have buttermilk when your recipe calls for it, thinning plain yogurt with a bit of water or milk makes a great substitute.  Alternatively, you can add 1 tsp of vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let sit for 10 minutes.  Words of wisdom: the latter is better suited for muffins and loaves, NOT scones.  It doesn’t give you the same thick consistency needed to hold a dough together. I learned this the hard way a couple of years ago.

Last night I finally stole some time to bake up the scones that I’ve been dreaming of for the past two weeks.  I was skeptical about substituting whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose but I just HAD to do it.  The result was a heartier scone than you might be used to, but still crumbly and tender.  I also got away with reducing the sugar a touch.  It was not missed.  These scones are a nice alternative to muffins and the perfect accompaniment to tea.  Or a mid-week glass of wine.

SconeFromOven

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Cranberry-Orange Scones
(from The Looneyspoons Collection)

1 ½ cups all purpose whole wheat flour
½ cup oat bran
½ cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped
1/3 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp grated orange zest
½ tsp vanilla
1 egg

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray (or line with parchment paper) and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, oat bran, cranberries, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, orange zest, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Stir until a soft dough is formed. Add a bit more flour if dough is too sticky.  Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball. Place balls on baking sheet and pat dough to ¾-inch-thick circles, about 6 inches in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut each circle into 6 wedges, but do not separate them.
  4. To make glaze, lightly beat egg with 1 tbsp of water in a small bowl. Brush glaze lightly over top of dough (you will use less than half of the glaze).
  5. Bake for 15 – 17 minutes, until scones are puffed up and golden.  Cool slightly. Pull scones apart and serve warm.

Makes 12 scones.  Per scone (Lisa’s tweaked recipe):  120 kcal, 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 3 g protein, 20 g CHO, 2.2 g fibre, 311 mg sodium.