Tag Archives: cranberry

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

Vegan Thanksgiving Eats: Pumpkin and Cranberry Baked Beans

10 Oct

For the first time in 4 years, I’m not away at a conference over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Huzzah! I should have spent the weekend preparing for said conference (which is in a few weeks) but instead decided I would roast a turkey for a motley crew of friends and family.

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My sister is vegetarian, so she offered to bring a dish that she likes to make on holidays where turkey is served: pumpkin baked beans. As a turkey lover who was vegetarian for a few short months, I can attest to the fact that they’re super satisfying and almost won’t make you miss meat. They’re sweet yet savoury, loaded with fibre and protein, and the flavours scream autumn. Prep is a cinch, and they can easily be made in advance. Everyone enjoyed them, so much so that J’s plan for a week’s worth of leftovers was thwarted.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pumpkin and Cranberry Baked Beans
(from OhSheGlows.com)

You may be able to get away with reducing the maple sugar in half and cutting down on the salt for a slightly less sweet/more healthy version. If you’re using canned beans with salt added, you will definitely want to cut down on the added salt.

3 (15-oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed (preferably no-salt-added)
1 sweet onion, chopped finely
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp blackstrap molasses (use fancy molasses if you don’t want to buy blackstrap)
4 tbsp pure maple syrup, to taste
1-1/2 tbsp yellow mustard
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

  1. In a pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Cook over low heat until thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or for J’s variation: place in a slow cooker on high heat for 2 to 3 hours. The cranberries will plump up really nicely and the flavours will develop a little bit more. You can also make this the night before and leave it in the fridge, then reheat before serving.

Makes 6 generous servings. Per serving: 305 kcal, 2.6 g fat (0.3 g saturated), 60 g carbohydrate, 12.6 g fibre, 11.5 g protein, 490 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

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

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.

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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.

Giving Thanks for Friends, Family, and Food

8 Oct

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve always told my mom that I have no interest in voluntarily sticking my arm up a turkey’s butt and that she would be in charge of turkey dinners for as long as she lives.  Yet for reasons unbeknownst to me, this year I was filled with the desire to stuff and cook a turkey for some of my dearest friends.

The centrepiece: a pseudo-cornucopia filled with gourds and apples

Wanting to avoid the last minute rush that often comes with a big dinner, I scoured the Internet for make-ahead recipes that would allow me to relax and enjoy my company.  I was pleased with how well they turned out and how calm I felt all day.  The most popular dish was the cheesy mashed potatoes, which were cooked the day before and re-heated in the crock pot while the turkey was in the oven.  Personally, my favourite component of the turkey dinner was the cranberry sauce (with the stuffing coming a very close second).  While I grew up eating the canned variety, I’ve learned that homemade cranberry sauce is marginally cheaper and tastes a whole lot better.  The best part: I’m able to control how much sugar is added.

I started with one bag of fresh cranberries, 1 cup of orange juice, 1/3 cup of sugar (opposed to the 1 cup that most recipes call for), and a pinch of cinnamon.  The resulting sauce was fairly tart so E insisted on a touch more sugar.  Since the cranberries had already cooked down, I added sweetness in the form of maple syrup to avoid leaving any sugar undissolved.  The final product had that hint of tartness characteristic of cranberry with the warm flavours of orange and cinnamon subtly shining through.

Easily eaten by the spoonful!

Even better than my cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mashed potatoes combined?  The homemade hubbard squash pie brought over by Jacalyn.  It was my first time having squash pie and it tasted identical to pumpkin pie.  The crust was perfectly flaky and the filling was much richer than you’d ever get with canned pumpkin (or squash).

Remnants of Jacalyn’s fabulous squash pie

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey is merely a vehicle for Cranberry sauce

 

Cranberry Sauce with Orange and a hint of Cinnamon

1 package (12 oz/340 g) fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
Dash of cinnamon (approx 1/4 tsp)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Combine orange juice and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, add cranberries, cinnamon, and maple syrup and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cool completely at room temperature.  Refrigerate before serving.

Makes 2-1/4 cups.  Per 2 tbsp serving: 37 kcal, 9 g CHO, 1 g fibre.