Tag Archives: coconut

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

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

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

Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

4 Nov

Coconut oil is a controversial topic in the nutrition world. Supporters claim it can burn fat, boost your metabolism, and help you lose weight. Skeptics say it’s high in saturated fat and may promote heart disease. So who should we believe?

Without delving too deep into the scientific literature, the health effects of coconut oil can be grouped into three different categories: body weight, heart disease, and inflammation.

Body weight. The predominant fat in coconut oil is thought to be medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat that gets metabolized differently (and more efficiently) than more common dietary fats. In actuality, the chemical composition of coconut oil is markedly different from MCT oils; therefore, results from studies using MCT oils cannot be extrapolated to coconut oil. A couple of small studies suggests that coconut oil may modestly decrease waist circumference in overweight adults, but has no effect on fat mass.

Heart disease. Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat. Historically, foods high in saturated fat were discouraged due to their ability to raise blood cholesterol levels, which in turn was thought to increase heart disease risk. Newer research suggests that the link between dietary saturated fat (animal fats, tropical oils) and heart disease is not as strong as once thought. Some systematic reviews do not support a relationship between saturated fat and heart disease, while others have found that replacing saturated fat with mono- and polyunsaturated fats can reduce heart disease risk. Research looking at coconut oil specifically has found that blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol both increase following regular coconut oil consumption. Longer term studies looking at the relationship between coconut oil and heart disease are required.

Inflammation. The polyphenols found in virgin coconut oil (very different from refined coconut oil) may act as antioxidants in the body and help fight inflammation; however, studies are few and far between. Claims that coconut oil will help in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and other ailments require more research before recommendations can be made.

So what’s my take on the coconut oil debate? Too much of any kind of fat will lead to weight gain, since fat is the most energy-dense of all macronutrients at 9 calories per gram (compared to 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate). Use coconut oil in moderation to add flavour to dishes, but stick to monounsaturated fats (olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (preferably those with a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, such as canola or safflower oil) for day-to-day cooking. And aim to get your polyphenols from sources such as fruits and vegetables, green and black teas, coffee, and extra-virgin olive oil.

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As a huge fan of coconut-flavoured everything, I’ve always been intrigued by the prospect of using coconut oil in cooking. People say it lends a nutty, sweet aroma that is perfect for curries and roasted vegetables like yams and carrots. Yet I’ve never been able to bring myself to purchase a jar. Just looking at the white, solid-at-room-temperature, lard-resembling fat makes my arteries cringe—and yes, I realize there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these irrational thoughts. So when I received a jar as a gift from my aunt, I was eager to experiment.

Sifting through a pile of old recipes, I came across a simple pumpkin and coconut soup. The directions were a bit vague, and I realized some steps were left out, so I was naturally skeptical. But soup is pretty hard to mess up, and I had a sugar pumpkin sitting on my counter waiting to be used.

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The recipe calls for a whole sugar pumpkin (not to be mistaken with carving pumpkins which are NOT ideal for eating due to their bland, fibrous flesh) but if you’re in a bind, you could try buttercup squash. Roasting the pumpkin adds depth that you’re unlikely to get from canned or boiled pumpkin, so don’t skip this step. It’s worth the extra effort.

The coconut flavour was IN-YOUR-FACE (in a good way!). It was a nice contrast from dishes that call for coconut milk alone, where the coconut flavour can be mild and almost undetectable. The spice combination of cumin, chili powder and cinnamon together with the sweetness of the roasted pumpkin paired beautifully with coconut. A wonderful autumn soup to keep you warm during the cold months ahead.

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Pumpkin and Coconut Soup
(source unknown)

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sugar pumpkin
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/8 to 1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
3 to 4 cups water
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 cup light coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste (approx 1/4 tsp salt worked for me)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Quarter pumpkin, scoop out seeds (reserve for roasting if you wish!), and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil that has been lightly oiled. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until flesh is soft. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl when pumpkin is cool enough to handle. You should have approximately 3 cups.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili flakes (if using). Cook, stirring, for one minute or until fragrant.
  4. Add pumpkin and 3 cups of water, and stir to combine. Using an immersion blender, puree soup ensuring no pieces of onion remain. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If the consistency is too thick, add additional water.
  5. Remove from heat, add lime juice and coconut milk, and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings. Per 1-1/2 cup serving: 170kcal, 8 g fat (6 g saturated), 26 g carbohydrates (8 g fibre), 4 g protein, 165 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

Jamaican-themed dinner featuring Coconut Rice and ‘Peas’

15 Jan

Inspiration for Saturday night’s dinner came from an unexpected source: Gordon Ramsay.  The British chef best known for his profanity and fiery temper reveals a softer side on his new show, Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course.  Each episode features a dizzying number of tips, tricks, and recipes that revolve around a theme deemed by Ramsay to be essential know-how for the modern cook.  Saturday’s topic was ‘cooking with chilli’ and featured a classic jerk chicken—one of E’s favourite dishes.

When I think of jerk chicken, Jamaica immediately comes to mind… and when I think of Jamaica, I think of Rice and Peas.  An odd association since I’ve never actually eaten Rice and Peas before.  Rice and Peas is a mainstay of the Jamaican diet and consists of rice cooked in coconut milk with pigeon peas (or cowpeas, or kidney beans) and flavoured with ginger, thyme, garlic and onion.  An easy, flavourful side dish that pairs well with spicy jerk seasoning.

Rice and Beans

To complete the meal, we made a chunky salad with mango, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, and lots of cilantro.  The sweetness from the mango balanced the fragrant coconut rice and intense jerk spices just perfectly.  It was like sunshine on a plate—colourful, fruity, and fresh.  Regrettably, several things were missing from our Jamaican meal: the beach, palm trees, Red Stripe beer, and Bob Marley music playing in the background.

Mango Salad

Jamaican Rice and Peas
(adapted very slightly from SimplyRecipes.com)

Fear not: the rice has no heat despite containing a whole chili.  The chili acts like a bay leaf and gives the dish flavour. 

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup quick-cooking brown rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 cup light coconut milk
1/2 of a 19-oz can of no-salt-added kidney beans, rinsed and drained (~1 cup)
1 whole Scotch bonnet chile (can substitute a whole habanero)
Lime (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until they begin to soften.
  2. Add the garlic and rice, stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the salt, thyme, grated ginger, water, stock and coconut milk and stir well. Add the kidney beans and the whole Scotch bonnet chile (or habanero).  Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and cover.
  4. Cook for ~20 minutes, or according to rice package directions.  Once done, remove from heat and cover for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving and sprinkle with lime juice if desired.  Discard the habanero (or eat it, if you dare!)

Makes 5 servings. Per serving: 245 kcal, 40 g CHO, 3.9 g fibre, 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 7 g protein, 145 mg sodium.