Archive | Snacks RSS feed for this section

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.

dsc_0760-3

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!

dsc_0766-2

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

Advertisements

The Ultimate Healthy Apple Crumble

17 Jan

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

dsc_0684-2

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.

dsc_0706-2

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.

dsc_0704-2

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

Easy Baked Tofu

30 Jul

Over the past few weeks, several people have come to me with concerns about eating soy. In light of this, I thought I would attempt to clear the air with a post on the great soy debate.

Soy products, including tofu, soy beans, tempeh, and edamame, naturally contain compounds called isoflavones that are similar to the female hormone estrogen. Those who worry about eating soy are usually concerned that consumption of these foods will lead to hormonal disruptions in the body.

DSC_0148 (2)

There is limited research on fertility. One study showed that men who ate soy had lower sperm concentrations than those who didn’t – however, in most cases the sperm levels were still normal. It was a small study of only 99 men.

Women with breast cancer and survivors of breast cancer tend to shy away from soy. This is because the estrogen-like compounds in soy are thought to promote the growth of hormone-sensitive tumours. Research in this area is inconclusive, so prudent recommendations exist: moderate amounts of soy (several servings a day) are probably okay if you’ve previously had breast cancer, but don’t consume large amounts if you have early-stage breast cancer.

DSC_0155 (2)

If these theoretical concerns exist, why even bother eating soy? The amount of meat our society consumes is putting serious stress on the environment. Plant-based proteins like soy can displace meat from the diet, leading to a happier, healthier earth.

Nutritionally, soy is a good source of high-quality protein. Like meat, it contains all of the essential amino acids that our body needs to function, build muscle, and repair itself. Soy is low in saturated fat, and has been shown to protect against heart disease by reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol when 3 servings or more are consumed daily. If consumed regularly in childhood and adolescence, soy products may play a role in preventing some hormone-related cancers. Unlike meat, soy is a good source of calcium, which many people do not get enough of.

Have I convinced you to try adding a little soy into your diet? If so, an easy place to start is edamame (those little green beans served at Japanese restaurants). Almost as simple is this recipe for easy baked tofu. A basic marinade of soy sauce, ketchup, and sesame oil gives the tofu a salty-sweet taste, and roasting it until it’s firm and caramelized builds extra flavour. I’ve been making this dish for years and it’s become a regular protein in my weekday salads. Asian-inspired ingredients like mandarin orange segments, rice, and sesame dressing pair nicely with the tofu, but the marinade is neutral enough that it would work with almost any salad ingredients.

DSC_0158 (2)

Easy Baked Tofu
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health)

If you’ve never tried tofu before, you may need to give it a chance on several separate occasions – it’s an acquired taste! 

1 cake of extra-firm or firm tofu (16 ounces)
1 tablespoon sesame oil (the original recipe calls for 2 tbsp, but I find this a bit oily)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup

Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes and place in a baking dish large enough to hold a single layer. For easier clean up, line with foil. Stir together the sesame oil, soy sauce, and ketchup and drizzle over the tofu. With a rubber spatula, gently turn to coat thoroughly. In a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven, bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once or twice. until tofu is browned, firm and chewy. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 104 kcal, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g fibre, 9 g protein,  360 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?

DSC_0106 (2)

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.

DSC_0109 (2)

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).

DSC_0134 (2)

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

Healthy Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

30 Apr

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that we eat 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. For many people, getting in enough fruit is no problem. Sweet and portable, it makes an easy snack. Vegetables, on the other hand, tend to be harder to squeeze in. That’s where an easy, yet tasty and healthy dip comes in handy.

DSC_1141

When I don’t have the energy to plan out my lunches for the week, I tend to throw together a picnic of sorts. This usually consists of an easy protein like hard boiled eggs or canned tuna, whole grain bread or crackers, and two to three cups of chopped veggies with dip to meet my daily quota. But it’s hard to find a truly healthy vegetable dip. Most are mayo or sour cream-based, and loaded with fat and calories. So I turned to the Internet in search of a tasty yet healthy make-at-home option.

I was initially drawn to this ranch seasoning recipe because of the blogger’s stunning photos (which I poorly tried to recreate at home). But once I tried it out, it became clear that this recipe is a winner. Buttermilk powder forms the base (found at bulk food stores) and is pumped up with onion and garlic powder, and dried herbs like parsley, dill, and chives. As a bonus, the seasoning mix can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge to be used whenever you need a quick and easy dip.

DSC_1123

DSC_1133

Low-fat Greek yogurt is the perfect foundation for any vegetable dip. It’s thick and creamy, yet low calories and high in protein. For the best flavour, I’ve found that adding a dollop of light mayo adds just the right amount of tang for a next-level vegetable dip. Low-fat sour cream can also act as a healthier dip base, but lacks the nutritional boost that Greek yogurt offers.

If you’re not meeting your recommended daily vegetable quota, try throwing together a batch of this skinny ranch dip. It will make raw veggies sing!

DSC_1145

Healthy Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

2 tbsp homemade ranch seasoning mix (see below)
1 cup 2% plain greek yogurt
2 tbsp light mayonnaise

  1. Mix ingredients in a small bowl until combined. Can be served immediately or left overnight for flavours to meld.

Makes 1-1/4 cups. Per 1/4 cup serving: 91 kcal, 3.3 g fat (1.4 g saturated), 7 g carbohydrate, 0.5 g fibre, 8 g protein, 106 mg sodium

 

Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix (from www.gimmesomeoven.com)
1/3 cup dried buttermilk powder
2 tbsp dried parsley
1-1/2 tsp dried dill weed
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried onion flakes
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried chives
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.

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.

DSC_0973 (2)

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.

DSC_1008 (2)

DSC_1010 (2)

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!

DSC_0990 (2)

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

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.

Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf

Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf 2

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

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

19 Jul

What to do with a bunch of browning bananas?

DSC_1000

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.

DSC_1023

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!

DSC_1042

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

DSC_0697

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.

DSC_0698

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.

DSC_0703

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.

Oatmeal Cookie 2

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.

Oatmeal Cookie 3

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.