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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

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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

It’s Getting “Hot in Herre”: Tropical Banana Popsicles

19 Jul

What to do with a bunch of browning bananas?

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The answer would be “banana bread” any other month.  But the thought of using the oven in this sweltering heat makes me want to pass out.  Instead, I turned to a frozen banana-based treat to cool things down.  Three simple ingredients and a blender/food processor are all you need.  Er, and a popsicle mold (minor detail), which you can purchase at your local grocery store for a dollar or two.  A worthy investment to help you survive a hot and sticky summer.

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Banana, mango, and coconut combine to give you a taste of the tropics without leaving your home.  The texture of the popsicle is smooth and creamy, making it easy to gobble up in seconds.  In hindsight, the flavours would meld really nicely with a hit of tartness from either lime zest or lime juice.  If you try this at home, I’d love to hear how they turn out.

If something more simple is your thing, or if you don’t want to spend the $2 on a popsicle mold, here is a “recipe” for homemade banana ice cream which requires only ONE ingredient (can you guess?) and ONE tool (blender/food processor).  The texture is so amazingly creamy, it’s hard to believe that no milk has been added.  It reminds me of authentic banana gelato from Italy, one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

Keep cool, my friends!

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Tropical Banana Mango Coconut Popsicles
(Modified slightly from Oh She Glows)

2 small, ripe bananas (or 1 large banana)
2 cups frozen mango chunks, slightly thawed
1/2 cup light coconut milk

In a blender or food processor, add all ingredients and blend until smooth.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until set.

Makes 8 popsicles.  Per popsicle: 66 kcal, 14 g CHO, 1.6 g fibre, 1 g fat

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.

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.

Everything in Moderation: “Pumpkin” Pie and More!

19 Oct

As a follow-up to my Thanksgiving entry, today I bring you a guest post from my friend Jacalyn who has graciously agreed to share her mom’s squash pie recipe.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

I was asked by a reader of this blog to post my Mom’s deliciously rich “pumpkin” pie recipe.  As you read from the last blog post, the pie was actually made with squash, not pumpkin.  Let’s face it, Squash Pie doesn’t sound as appealing.  Why squash?  Well, squash is much richer in flavour than pumpkin.

This photo hardly does the squash pie justice!

Not a crumb of pie left on anyone’s plate… enough said.

After telling my Mom that her pie recipe went down a treat at Lisa’s Thanksgiving dinner party and that someone on Lisa’s blog wanted the recipe, she was thrilled and more than happy to share it with you all.  In fact, she was so excited that she headed with great gusto to her recipe cupboard and pulled out my Great Grandma Goodwin’s (circa 1890) “pumpkin” cookie recipe and said “give them this recipe too!”  So, below are two very simple but much loved recipes from the Goodwin household. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: These recipes have not been modified to be healthier…but remember everything in moderation.  In other words, don’t eat the whole pie in one sitting!

“Pumpkin” (aka Squash) Cookies

 

“Pumpkin” Pie 

1 cup cooked squash
(a drier squash is preferred such as a Hubbard or Buttercup)
¾ cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
3 small or 2 large eggs
¾ cup milk (2%)
¾ cup evaporated milk (or 18% cream)
2 heaped tsp of pumpkin spice
(mixture of ground nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger)
¼ tsp salt

1 unbaked pastry shell
Whipped cream

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Combine all pie filling ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into uncooked pastry shell.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes (this cooks the pastry); then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until centre is set.
  4. Garnish with whipped cream.

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Deliciously Soft “Pumpkin” Cookies

Wet ingredients
1 ¼ cups of brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
½ cup cooked squash
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
2 ½ cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ tsp of pumpkin spice
(or use a mixture of ground ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon)
1 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 335 degrees Fahrenheit (convection oven) or 345 degrees Fahrenheit (conventional oven).  In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar, butter and eggs.
  2. Add squash, lemon juice, and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to squash mixture and mix until all ingredients are well combined; mix in raisins.
  4. Drop “pumpkin” batter from a teaspoon onto greased baking sheet.  Bake for 11 minutes or until just turning brown on bottom (will continue to cook when you remove from oven).

Makes approximately 2 ½ dozen cookies.

   

Homemade Tart Frozen Yogurt

14 Aug

Summer has been here for awhile but it feels like the blissful, laissez-faire days have only just begun.   If my less-than-impressive blogging track record wasn’t enough of a hint, the past few months were busily spent working towards finishing my internship.  Now that I’m officially done my training I have some free time to give my neglected appliances and cookbooks a bit of TLC before I enter the real world of work.

Frozen treats scream SUMMER! so what better way to celebrate the season than with the purchase of an ice cream maker?  Every magazine and blog that I’ve read over the past few weeks has featured delectable frozen recipes that I haven’t been able to make without this very specialized appliance.  A new machine wasn’t in the cards given my lack of income.  Coincidentally, a friend recently held a yard sale to prepare for her move to England so I was able to scoop up (no pun intended) her quality, barely-used ice cream maker for a bargain.

The plot (er, frozen yogurt) thickens…

The plan was to make peach frozen yogurt.  After realizing that my local Ontario peaches aren’t quite ripe enough, I opted for a basic tart yogurt similar to those found at self-serve FroYo joints.  I reduced the amount of sugar by a touch but the recipe could have easily used less.  The final product was soft and creamy, sweet yet tart.  Plus, it contained a whopping 12 grams of protein per serving thanks to the Greek yogurt.  A solid first attempt.  My next endeavor will be a little bit more more exotic… perhaps banana coconut or dark chocolate cherry. I’m open to suggestions!  E suggested a savory treat… salmon ice cream, anyone?

The final product! Homemade FroYo

Peach frozen yogurt came to fruition after all

 

Homemade Tart Frozen Yogurt
(adapted from FoodNetwork.com)

2 cups plain, whole-milk (3%) yogurt
2 cups plain, non-fat or low-fat (2%) Greek yogurt
1/3 cup superfine sugar
3 tbsp light or white corn syrup

Whisk all ingredients in a large bowl to combine.  Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

For a soft consistency, serve right out of the ice cream maker.  For a firmer texture, transfer the frozen yogurt to a covered container and freeze before serving.

Makes 4 and a half cups.  Per 3/4 cup (2 scoop) serving made with 2% Greek yogurt: 190 kcal, 4 g fat, 12 g protein.

N.B. If you don’t own an ice cream maker, a fabulous frozen treat can be made by pureeing frozen, chopped bananas with a small amount of milk to form a smooth, soft-serve consistency.  If you’re feeling really exotic, use coconut milk or chocolate milk, or add cocoa powder to taste. 

FlourLESS (but FlavourFUL) Black Bean Brownies

7 Mar

Although it never truly disappeared, my sweet tooth is back with a vengeance.  For the past month or so, I’ve been keeping my chocolate cravings under control by turning to frozen berries.  They’ve consistently been on sale as of late, making this otherwise expensive habit a little bit more affordable.

Tonight I had the pleasure of going out for a lovely dinner with my fellow interns and our mentors.  Naturally, the discussion revolved around food and eating– two of our favourite pastimes.  As we discussed our preferred desserts, I was overcome with the desire to bake something chocolately and delicious.  I was in the kitchen within minutes of arriving home, measuring cups in hand and cocoa powder on the counter.

Flipping through my clipped recipes, I came across a recipe for Black Bean Brownies that I had not yet attempted.  Chocolately?  Check.  Easy?  Very.  Minimal dishes to wash?  Perfect!

Last year I went through a major black bean brownie baking phase.  I had one recipe that I continually tweaked in an attempt to make it as healthy as possible.  Unfortunately, the taste suffered and the brownies were never palatable enough to share with others.  Thankfully, E claimed to enjoy said brownies and he had no problem finishing off my less-than-successful batches.  I’m pretty sure he was just saying this to make me feel better… what a good boyfriend!

Tonight’s recipe was much more successful.  The texture is hard to describe but certainly different from your typical brownie.  Moist yet crumbly (is that an oxymoron?), full of chocolately flavour, and perhaps even a TOUCH too sweet.  This brownie is definitely more nutritious than the average, although the amount of sugar in this recipe moves them to the “borderline healthy” category.  Either way, these chocolately treats are worth sharing!  (Unlike my previous attempts).

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownie

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies (from somewhere on the Internet…)

Make sure you wait until the brownies have fully cooled before removing them from the pan.  They tend to stick, so be sure to use a sturdy spatula!

1 can (19 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed well
3 eggs
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee (optional) – I didn’t have any on hand but wished I did!
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)  – I omitted these– might have made the brownies overly sweet?

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine the black beans, eggs, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, vanilla, and instant coffee (if using) until smooth.
  3. Add baking powder and process briefly to combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  If using, evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.
  5. Bake until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 16 brownies.  Per brownie:  104 kcal, 4 g fat, 1.5 g fibre.

Tofu: the Culinary Chameleon

5 Feb

Tofu seems to be gaining a little bit more respect from the masses than it used to garner.  Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that it’s still considered to be bland and unappealing by most.

One of the beautiful things about tofu is that it easily takes on the flavour of other ingredients.  It’s truly a bona-fide culinary chameleon.  After a conversation about protein with a couple of friends several weeks back (you know– a usual Saturday night topic of discussion!), I went looking for a hummus recipe that incorporates silken tofu.  I thought this might lend a nice creamy texture to hummus while adding protein of a higher biological value.

The recipe I found was titled “The Most Awesome Hummus Ever.”  While tasty, I still think “my” spicy roasted red pepper hummus is the most awesome. Ever. No question about it.

Tofu and Chickpea Hummus

The tofu-hummus was a milder, creamier version of traditional hummus.  Initially, I wasn’t sure if I was a fan– the chickpea flavour wasn’t nearly as potent as I’m used to– but over time I really came to enjoy its subtleness.  This hummus is also a lot creamier than usual (thanks to the tofu), making it ideal for dipping.  Like a fine wine, this hummus gets better with age.  Wait at least one hour to taste this hummus, particularly if you’re weary of tofu in the first place.  The tofu flavour is just barely noticeable at first but vanishes with time.

With the extra tofu, I decided to make silken chocolate pudding.  A true testament to the chameleon nature of tofu: the same ingredient was used in both a garlicky hummus and a rich chocolately dessert!  Believe it or not, the tofu was virtually undetectable in the pudding (again, providing you allow the pudding to sit for at least one hour).  If you can’t resist the temptation to lick the bowl/spatula/any other surface that comes in contact with the chocolate pudding… be warned: you will taste the tofu, and you’ll probably be turned off of the entire dessert.  However, if you’re patient the result is an incredibly rich, chocolately mousse-like pudding… that also happens to be high in protein for a dessert.  It’s particularly amazing topped with sliced bananas. Yum!

Silken Chocolate Pudding

 

Chickpea and Tofu Hummus  (from Circle B Kitchen)

1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup silken/soft tofu  (approx a third of a package)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Blend ingredients in food processor until very smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover. Let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.  Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Makes approximately 2.5 cups.  Per 1/3 cup serving: 110 kcal, 5 g fat, 5 g protein, 2.5 g fibre, 175 mg sodium.

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Silken Chocolate Pudding
(from Moosewood Restaurant’s Cooking for Health cookbook)

This is the scaled down version of the recipe, which will allow you to use up all of the tofu leftover from the hummus.

2/3rds of a 16oz package of silken tofu
2 tablespoons icing sugar
5 ounces semisweet chocolate (I’ve used as little as 3 ounces and it still tastes sufficiently chocolately)
4 tablespoons water (or milk)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. In a food processor, whirl the tofu and icing sugar until well blended.  In the microwave, warm the chocolate, water/milk, cocoa, and vanilla until the chocolate melts.  Stir until thoroughly mixed. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.
  2. Pour the chocolate sauce into the food processor with the tofu mixture.  Whirl again until smooth and silky.
  3. Spoon into 4 serving cups and chill for at least one hour.  Tastes best if left to sit overnight.

Per 1/3 cup serving (of 4): 245 calories, 14 g fat, 6 g protein, 3 g fibre, 9 mg sodium.

Festive Fare: Pumpkin Pie (with a healthier pie crust)

28 Dec

Pumpkin pie.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  Personally, I’m a lover.  It screams “holidays” to me despite the fact that I would be just as happy eating a slice of pumpkin pie in the sweltering July heat with no apparent occasion as I would be digging into a slice topped with whipped cream at Thanksgiving dinner. With no planned dessert aside from Christmas cookies this year, I jumped at the opportunity to make pumpkin pie as an end to our family’s Christmas dinner.

It may seem complicated, but pumpkin pie is actually one of the easiest pies to make from scratch (minus the pastry).  As an added bonus, it’s often one of the healthiest pies you can choose.  With only a single crust, you’re cutting down on most of the calories and fat found in pie.  And the filling tends to be lower in sugar than traditional fruit pies, although this isn’t always the case.  Last year I found a recipe for a low-calorie pumpkin pie on a quick-and-easy gingersnap crust.  I planned on making it again this year until my sister complained that she wanted a “real” pie crust.  So instead, I decided to try out something new.

This recipe came from an amazing cookbook called The New American Plate Cookbook that I recently received as a gift from a somewhat new but dear friend.  The pie crust replaces most of the butter with oil, and uses a bit of whole wheat flour for added nutrition.  It was simple to make using a food processor although the challenge lay in rolling out the delicate dough without breaking it.  Once baked, the crust was thinner than usual… but I considered this to be a worthwhile sacrifice given the calories that were saved.

Healthier Pie Crust with an interesting and unexplained technique of flour + spices dusted on the unbaked, unfilled dough. My guess is that this is to prevent the thin dough from becoming too soggy.

For the filling, a unique approach is used that helps create a rich-tasting filling with less than the usual amount of sugar.  Usually the pumpkin is mixed with spices, eggs, some form of milk (usually condensed), and sugar, then thrown into the crust to bake.  Easy peasy.  In this recipe, the pumpkin is first cooked down slightly on the stove, which intensifies the pumpkin flavour and brings out its natural sweetness.  According to the cookbook authors, the few minutes needed for this extra step are well worth taking.  The pie tasted delicious, so I will have to agree!

The final, slightly cracked, product

Decadent pumpkin pie with rich and not-so-healthy Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream

 

Pumpkin Pie on the new american plate pie crust
(from The New American Plate Cookbook)

2 cups canned pure pumpkin
dough for 1 New American Plate Pie Crust (see below for recipe)
1-1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, divided
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1 can (12 oz) evaporated fat-free (or 2%) milk
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Lightly coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray.  Cook the pumpkin over medium-high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon so that all the pumpkin comes in contact with the pan, until the pumpkin is reduced to 1-3/4 cups, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer the pumpkin to a blender or food processor and let it cool slightly.
  2. Set a baking rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Meanwhile, roll out the dough.  On a sheet of waxed paper, press the dough into a flattened disk.  Cover the dough with another sheet of waxed paper and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle.  Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and lift the bottom sheet to invert the dough over a 9-inch pie plate.  Remove the waxed paper and gently press the dough down against the sides and bottom of the plate, pressing out any air bubbles.  Crimp the edges by pinching between your thumb and forefinger (I prefer to use the handle of a wooden spoon or the wide-end of a single chopstick).
  4. In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1/4 tsp of the nutmeg and 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon.  Sprinkle the flour and spice mixture evenly over the bottom of the pie crust and set aside.  Chill prepared crust while preparing the filling.
  5. Gradually turn the blender or food processor to the highest speed and puree the pumpkin.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  At medium speed, gradually first add the milk, then the sugar, then the eggs, blending only until each addition is incorporated into the mixture.  Add the salt, the remaining 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, the remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon, the allspice, and the vanilla extract, and blend until just combined.  Do not overmix.  Pour the filling into the pie crust.
  6. Bake the pie for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 45 minutes more, until the filling looks set and a thin knife inserted into the centre of the pie comes out almost clean.  If the rim of the pie crust browns before the filling is set, cover it loosely with strips of foil.
  7. Cool the pan on a wire rack before serving.

Makes 10 servings.  Per serving: 194 kcal, 7 g fat, 2 g fibre, 158 mg sodium.

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The New American Plate Pie Crust

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, chilled
3 tbsp canola oil
1-2 tbsp ice water

  1. In a food processor, combine the flours, sugar, and salt.  Pulse for a few seconds to combine.  Add the butter and canola oil.  Pulse again until the ingredients are well combined and the mixture resembles crumbs.  With the food processor running, add the ice water, beginning with 1 tbsp and adding more, 1 tsp at a time, until the dough starts to come together.  Gather the dough into a ball and let it rest for a few minutes.  This dough is softer and more delicate than traditional doughs, so care should be taken to handle it lightly and not overwork it.
  2. On a sheet of waxed paper, press the dough into a flattened disk.  Cover the dough with another sheet of waxed paper and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle.  Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and lift the bottom sheet to invert the dough over a 9-inch pie plate.  Remove the waxed paper and gently press the dough down against the sides and bottom of the plate, pressing out any air bubbles.
  3. Crimp the edges by pinching between your thumb and forefinger (I prefer to use the handle of a wooden spoon or the wide-end of a single chopstick).
  4. Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the filling.  The dough can be covered and refrigerated overnight or can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month

Makes 1 crust for a 9-inch pie, 10 servings.
Per serving: 93 kcal, 5 g fat, <1 g fibre, 41 mg sodium.