Before moving on to vegetarian entrees, I’m sharing a 4th of July muffin, one that’s red, white and blue in all the right places.
Warning: they are addictive. Kevin and I have already eaten our way through four of them in one day. Because they are nutritious, too, we're telling ourselves we did for medicinal purposes. (I promptly zipped up the remainder and plunked into the deep-freezer).
I've based the recipe around one of my template muffin recipes, one that I vary throughout the year (cranberry-orange in winter, pear & brown sugar in fall, etc.). I use the King Arthur white whole wheat flour—it’s more expensive, but you get so much more nutrition with everything you make.
You can always use my favorite justification for buying more nutritious, but slightly more expensive ingredients. It's borrowed from a good friend in grad school (she used it to justify clothes-shopping sprees at sales): "You see, I have to spend money to save money." In the case of the white whole wheat flour, it goes something like this: “You see, I could only buy two or three muffins from Starbucks for the amount of this flour, so by baking at home, I’m saving a fortune (as well as eating so much better).”
White whole wheat flour can be used in just about any recipe that calls for all-purpose flour. It’s made from a different, softer strain of wheat than traditional whole wheat flour, so the baked result is tender and light—but with most all of the nutrition of regular whole wheat.
Raspberries were on sale for a dollar a package at our local Kroger, so I bought a ridiculous (according to Kevin) amount. I’ve been gobbling the plain, in yogurt, for breakfast, lunch and snacks, and with a bit of cream and sugar, for dessert. But I switched into baking mode to use up a few more, in part because I have guests arriving on the 4th; I thought I’d get some advance prep done while I'm in the mood (we have a Texas-size deep-freezer, and I know from experience that these muffins freeze very well in heavy freezer bags).
Delicate and lush, the raspberries almost melt into these muffins when they are baked; somehow they taste even raspberry-er. (Oh good grief; inventing new words is my cue to wrap it up and call it a night.) Happy baking!
Whole Wheat Raspberry-Blueberry Muffins
2 cups white whole wheat flour (e.g., King Arthur’s brand)
1 cup sugar, divided use
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 400°F. Paper-line 12 regular-size muffin cups (or spray with nonstick cooking spray).
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Set aside 1 tablespoon sugar. Combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Make a well in center of mixture.
Whisk the vanilla, milk, oil, and egg in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist (do not overmix or muffins will be flat and tough). Fold in raspberries, blueberries and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with reserved sugar.
Bake 15-18 minutes or until the muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Run a knife or spatula around outer edge of each muffin cup. Carefully remove each muffin; place on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.
Nutrition per serving (1 muffin):Calories 192; Fat 6.1g (poly 2.5g, mono 2.6g, sat 0.9g); Protein 6.5g; Cholesterol 2.8mg; Carbohydrate 27.9g; Sodium 297mg)
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)
Raspberry Nutrition Notes:
Refined, gorgeous, and unmatchably delicious, raspberries are also packed with great nutrition. One cup has a mere sixty-four calories, but plenty of fiber (8 grams, 32% of a day’s supply), lutein (good for vision), vitamin C (54% of a day’s supply), and considerable levels of antioxidants, including ellagic acid, which is believed to help fight against cancer.
And because I like to get out and go, energy bars are always a convenient and oh-so-portable option for heading off to the park or making longer treks by plane or car. When I'm hungry and busy, and there is no other food in sight, an energy bar eaten on a park bench in the sunshine exceeds haute cuisine.
I've written recipes for energy bars in past posts, including my rendition of homemade LARA bars, but the other day I decided to tackle another of my favorite ready-made bars, Clif bars. I like them a lot, and so does my husband, but the $1.69-per-bar cost is a bit much considering how much we like to have them around.
Clif bars are chewy and soft, similar to an under-baked oatmeal cookie. Looking at the ingredients list on the wrapping, brown rice syrup and oats are two of the main ingredients in all the bars. Also on the list are some scary scientific additives that I'd rather do without, along with a weird soy aftertaste. So rather than add any soy protein powders or the like, I decided to keep the ingredients simple and readily available (as well as pronounceable).
I tried a baked option first, combining several recipes into one and swapping out a number of the ingredients for high protein nuts and some whole grain. I was thinking I could under-bake the bars slightly to get the chewiness (it didn't include any eggs). The results were tolerable, but extremely dense--arguably an edible enima. Thankfully, Nick thinks they are delicious, so all is not lost.
Two things prompted the success of my second batch. First, I had eaten some of the raw cookie dough. It was delicious, far more so than the finished prodict, and much closer to the flavor of Clif bars. Second, my mother phoned to ask for a recommendation from my No-Bake Cookie Cookbook (all of the recipes are cooked in minutes on the stove as opposed to baked in the oven). This got me thinking about no-bake cookies in general. It was shortly thereafter that I had my lightbulb moment: Clif bars may be cooked, but I was pretty sure they were not baked.
So I went back to the drawing board and, using some of my no-bake cookie recipes as reference, concocted a no-bake Clif bar. Yum! While not exactly the same, it is pretty darn close. Plus it's far less expensive--and no yucky aftertaste. Enjoy.
Homemade Cliff Bars (no bake!)
There is plenty of room for variation here, so let your mind and tastebuds run wild. I have a few variation ideas to get you started. And yes, you can definitely double this recipe and press into a 13x9-inch pan insteads of an 8-inch pan.
1 and 1/4 cups crisp rice cereal (e.g., I like Erwhon Crisp Brown, but Rice Krispies are fine)
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal)1/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit (e.g., raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.)
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts or seeds (pepitas are great)
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup nut or seed butter of your choice (e.g., peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine the rice cereal, oats, flaxseed meal, dried fruit, and nuts in a large bowl.
Combine the syrup and nut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until melted and well-blended (alternatively microwave in small microwave-safe bowl 30-60 seconds until melted). Stir in vanilla until blended.
Pour nut butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until coated (use a wooden spoon at first, then get your hands in it. It will be sticky, but this way you can really coat everything. Just scrape off your hands when you're done). Press mixture firmly into an 8-inch square pan (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) using a large square of wax paper (really tamp it down). Cool in pan on a wire rack and chill at least 30 minutes to help it set. Cut into 12 bars. (Wrap bars tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator).
Chocolate Chip Cookie
Replace the dried fruit with an equal amount of semisweet miniature chocolate chips (or carob chips). Combine the cereal mixture with the syrup mixture, then let the combined mixture stand 10 minutes before adding the chips.
Use chopped cranberries for the dried fruit and raw pepitas for the nuts/seeds. Use either honey or brown rice syrup.
Peanut Butter Cookie
Use chopped dates for the dried fruit and dry roasted peanuts for the nuts. Use honey, or half honey-half molasses for the syrup and peanut butter for the nut butter.
Will You Cherry Me?
Use chopped dried tart cherries for the fruit and lightly salted roasted almonds for the nuts. Use any nut butter (almond butter is great, but I know, a bit pricey--but worth it!), and add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.
Use chopped dried apples for the fruit and rice syrup or honey for the syrup. Be sure to add the cinnamon option, and use toasted walnuts or pecans for the nuts.
Off we went on the superbus to our first stop, Chelsea Market. If you watch the Next Food Network Star on the Food Network, you've seen this market before. In fact, the entrance to the Food Network Studios is at the end of the hall. We were tired and bleary, but excited. A film crew was waiting for us, to tape our sleepy selves as we emerged from the bus to meet Curtis. Curtis was as friendly and charming as can be. Very relaxed, no pretense at all. Oh, and absolutely gorgeous, too. The cameras just don't capture it all. It was going to be a fun day.
The market was a ghost town save for a few vendors. We made our way down the hall to wake up with some coffee and conversation at Ninth Street Espresso.
Curtis was very appealing, but given the early hour, I was feeling a lot of love for the baristas...-
The affection was further solidified when they handed me my cappuccino...
We next ventured into the Manhattan Fruit Exchange. Sorry, no photos. We were being filmed as we walked through, plus it was so cold, I don't think I could have operated the buttons on my camera.
On to Amy's Bakery for bread. I nearly wept at the sight of it all. This is what I miss living in a smaller town:
From there it was a brief walk to Buon Italia for olive oil, balsamic vinegar and prosciutto. Curtis seems pleased with the prosciutto offerings:
He also gave us a great tutorial on choosing olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Speaking of the latter, he got a little cheeky and decided that, since, Green & Black's was footing the bill, we should buy the most expensive bottle in the store: a 3-ounce bottle for $139.00.
Me, Sunali, and Erika. The espresso had really kicked in by this point:
Curtis instructing us on fish selection:
We had all the ingredients for a 3-course lunch, so we shipped off to the James Beard House. This was James Beard's actual home home for many years up until his passing away:
Seared Scallop & Arugula Salad with Balsamic-Bittersweet Chocolate Vinaigrette, Oven Roasted Organic Tomatoes, & Crispy Prosciutto
Herb Encrusted Rack of Lamb
Chocolate Pots de Creme au Chocolat with Vanilla Bean-Berry Compote
Assorted Breads from Amy's Bakery
Champagne, Wine, Coffee
Working on the rack of lamb:
The kitchen time passed all too quickly. The it was upstairs to the dinning room to eat. There were two wonderful paintings of James Beard. This is my favorite. According to the house curator, it was painted by an artist in exchange for meals at the Four Seasons (Beard helped conceptualize the concept of the Four Seasons and the revolutionary idea in American dining that is now taken for granted: that food and meals should follow the seasons).
A few bits of flotsam and jetsom:
Me & Lindsey:
The salad course. It was amazing, definitely my favorite course:
Curtis serving us some of the big pot de creme. It took a while longer than expected to set up, so they also brought us some of our winning desserts, made for the earlier filming, for us to enjoy.
I couldn't resist taking a photo of Lindsey's dessert place. If she didn't have such impeccable manners, I think she would have licked the plate :).
And that's it! A whirlwind of fun! We flew back that same evening, patting our bellies all the way.
It's been a little crazy since I got back, but I'm raring to go with new recipes and lots of cooking. I'm planning on making July the month of quick and easy vegetarian meals. An added benefit is that they also happen to be very budget-friendly.
Thanks for your patience, dear readers!
Well here I am, breaking my promise to post part 2 of the Green & Black's getaway by today.
I'm in a hotel away from home and thought uploading my photos would be as easy as it is from my office setup. Haha. You'll just have to blame me for being a cock-eyed optimist. The connection speed here is about 100 times slower than home, so part 2 will have to wait until late tomorrow night (or early Thursday). Mea culpa!
See you soon. Please forgive... :)
I've been meaning to share some photos from my trip to NYC the other week and am finally getting around to it.
Fear not; this is very much food-related (no pictures of my cousin's cat or an Uncle Harold).
Here's the scoop: I was one of five winners in the Green & Black's Chocolate Challenge. Green & Black's is a premium organic chocolate. To enter, we had to come up with a recipe using 5 or fewer ingredients including at least 2 ounces of any Green & Black's Chocolate. We also had to write a brief essay explaining why we like to cook with organic ingredients.
The prize was a little bit of foodie fantasy: a short trip to NYC to (a) attend the James Beard Foundation Awards at Lincoln Center (a black tie gala--they call it the "academy awards of the food industry"); and (2) spend the following day food shopping with Curtis Stone, the host of the "Take Home Chef" show on TLC and spokesperson for Green & Blacks, then cooking with him at the James Beard House.
Things had been a bit stressful before heading out, so it really was a wonderful little trip in so many ways. My husband was heading off to an academic conference that week, so I took my friend Lindsey along.
I'm starting with the James Beard Awards; tomorrow I'll post the photos and more about our day with Curtis Stone (quick note: I rarely get goopy about men, but good grief, the man is GORGEOUS, and as sweet as can be).
So, to start: we stayed at the W hotel in Times Square. Great location, always fun to be right in the middle of the action:
Our room was what the W dubs a "cool corner room". Pretty, great views, but... definitely snug. Also, the bathroom is wedged into one corner of the room with no real walls, just some rather flimsy plastic siding akin to shoji screens or Barbie's Malibu Beach shower. I'm glad Lindsey is a good friend, there was no place to hide!
The gift box of chocolate from Green & Black's made the room seem much bigger (ahh, chocolate)...
Lindsey and I traipsed all around the city on Sunday morning and afternoon before coming back to get ready for the awards (cars were picking us up at 5). It was hot, but clear and beautiful. We had to wrestle our way through the crowds in Times Square--the Puerto Rico Parade was gearing up. I couldn't resist the beauty queens:
...or the legions of NYPD blue outside Central Park. One of the funniest comments of the trip, as we passed a police sergeant talking to younger cops: "You gotta stick togetha, keep in communication, 'cuz it's gonna be a long, hot, shi**y day."
The park was crowded, but still a sea of calm compared to the crowds on the streets:
We ate a late lunch at Whole Foods, then it was back to the W to prepare. Following much lacquering, shellacking, and corseting, I was ready-ish (Lindsey, by contrast, seemed to require minimal effort to appear utterly gorgeous & tiny). Here we are (Lindsey, me, the other winners and their friends). Lindsey is fourth in from the left, I am the tall pale person behind her, third in from the left.
Off to the awards in a mini fleet of black SUVs:
We were only a few minutes away from the awards location, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center:
Fun on the red carpet...
Me & Lindsey
Bobby Flay's actress wife:
A gala party and tasting followed the awards. Lindsey and I were too busy swilling champagne and eating delicious everything later that evening to take photos :). But here is a very small part of the set-up before the awards:
I am not sure what this reveals about me, but the only photos I took of food were of this watermelon display with barnyard scenes, a rooster, and corn (has it really been just three years since I moved to a small town in Texas???):
Green & Blacks was one of the primary sponsors of the awards so we got AMAZING seats!!!
Then it was time to begin. The theme of this year's awards was Artisanal America:
The awards were hosted by Bobby Flay and Kim Cattrall:
It was exciting to see Kim and Bobby up close (really up close; I'll explain more in a moment), but my favorites were Jacques Pepin and Masaharu Morimoto. The former was all casual elegance; the latter, pure goofiness (including running around the stage and fanning people):
So medals were awarded and speeches delivered. Awards ceremonies have a certain sameness, no? Fun and exciting? Yes. Akin to a high school senior awards banquet? Yes. I loved it, though, especially getting to see faces attached to names I have been reading about lately, or for many years.
Only one negative to the night, and it was huge; literally. I'm speaking of the enormous, high definition screen on the main stage. I know it sounds great (I can imagine the committee meeting: "Everyone will feel like they are in the front row, no matter where they are seated!")
Uh-uh. What we all got was way too much detail of each and every presenter. I'm talking every wrinkle, pore, sag, loose thread, whisker, blemish, unplucked brow...even blobs of deodorant got their 15 minutes of fame in excruciating, and gigantic, detail as otherwise elegant women lifted their limbs.Eek. It was bad. And cruel. I was tempted to run and smear vaseline over the camera lenses.
Finally, the show was over...but the next phase of the evening was just beginning.
With all the talk of great food, I (and, judging from the stampede out of the theater, everyone else as well) was STARVING. But the food that awaited was divine (40 hand-picked chefs and their chosen specialty, each featuring at least one artisanal product). Lindsey and I had a clear favorite: a tamale with a fava bean salad, and bacon on top. We got seconds. A close second was a soft-shelled crab and rhubarb ice cream with strawberry sauce.
It was over far too soon. Lindsey and I grabbed some mini boxes of salted caramels for the car ride back to the hotel, then collapsed for a few hours of rest before the start of day two...
(Stay tuned :))