Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stick-to-your-ribs muffins

I love muffins, but they usually contain a lot of white flour, sugar, and fat. Is it possible to bake a healthy muffin that's also tasty? I think so. I tried a recipe for muffins that contain barley, cashews, and sesame seeds. Barley is a whole grain and a fiber champ! 1/4 cup of dry barley has 8 grams of fiber. In these muffins, barley lends a good chewy texture. The muffins are indeed tasty, and make a filling breakfast or snack.

Next time I make these muffins, I'll add fruit--maybe cranberries, blueberries, or dried fruit. I've included the fruit in the recipe below. Keep in mind that you have to cook the barley before you can begin making the muffins.

Hearty Barley Muffins
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1-1/2 cups cooked barley
1/4 cup sesame seeds (I used a mix of white and black)
1/4 cup chopped cashews or other nuts
3/4 cup soymilk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg replacer
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup fresh fruit, such as blueberries, or 1/4 cup dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and brown sugar together. Stir until mixed. Add the barley and use a fork to separate the grains and stir it in. Add the sesame seeds and cashews.

In a small bowl, combine the soymilk, maple syrup, egg replacer, oil, and vanilla. Stir together and add to the dry ingredients, along with the fruit. Mix until just moistened.

Pour into muffin cups. This makes about 10 muffins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Oh, and...Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Michael Pollan, American Hero

I hope that Michael Pollan is the one who will bring sense back to Americans' eating habits. He's doing a good job so far.

Five great Pollan moments:

1. His article in the NY Times magazine laid out a plan for successful eating in 7 words:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. "Food" is defined as only those foodstuffs that your great-grandmother would recognize.

In the same article, he notes "Of course it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness."

2. The guy actually grew his own yeast in order to make a self-produced meal in The Omnivore's Dilemma. (You might want to skip the part where he kills the wild boar, though.)

3. He smacks down Whole Foods for talking the talk but not walking the walk; specifically, for publicizing the importance of choosing local food while not offering their customers many local foods at all.

4. In an interview about his new book, he hits the nail on the head regarding our fast food nation:

"I think that there's some brainwashing going on with this idea that we don't have time to cook anymore. We have made cooking seem much more complicated than it is, and part of that comes from watching cooking shows on television -- we've turned cooking into a spectator sport."

5. He explains why the Congressional farm bill is so important, despite its low profile. Long story short, it encourages overproduction of crops such as corn and soy that become added sugars and fat in our lowest-priced foods and in the school cafeteria:

"The farm bill essentially treats our children as a human Disposall for all the unhealthful calories that the farm bill has encouraged American farmers to overproduce."

HS already has Pollan's new book on pre-order: we'll have to arm-wrestle to decide who gets to read it first.

Friday, October 19, 2007

End vegetable discrimination now!

I've been reading about a book by Jerry Seinfeld's wife that's on the bestseller list. It's called Deceptively Delicious and it's about how to disguise vegetables so that your kids will eat them without fussing. Most of the method involves pureeing vegetables and adding them to things like mac & cheese and cakes. So, the kids don't see the vegetables, they eat their favorite foods, they're healthy and the parents are happy.


HS reminded me that this seems a lot like the apples disguised as french fries story. Again I cry: why must we disguise fruits and vegetables so that people will eat them? And why is the book called Deceptively Delicious? Because if vegetables are starring as themselves, people could never think a dish was delicious?

I know kids are fussier than adults, but parents are probably the biggest influence on people's eating habits, even in adulthood. Jessica Seinfeld's kids will grow up in a rarefied social strata with personal chefs and trainers likely at their disposal. However, I imagine other kids whose parents were fans of this cookbook going to college and continuing to eat mac & cheese and cupcakes, only this time there is no cauliflower puree in the cheese sauce or beet puree in the cupcakes. They might never develop the habit of eating fruits and vegetables.

So, how do we help people, especially kids, increase their fruit/veggie intake and increase the allure of the naked vegetable? Here are a few ideas:
--Buy the best quality produce that you can. The difference in taste is amazing.
--Bring kids to "pick your own" farms every year.
--Provide fruit and carrot & celery sticks as after-school snacks.
--Try to introduce soups and stir-fries as comfort foods rather than white-carb-heavy foods.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Entering the season of sugar

With Halloween coming up, I know I'm going to encounter more sweets than usual over the next few months. However, I will prevail, armed with a high-fiber veggiecentric diet.

To make matters a bit worse, I've been put in charge of the Halloween charity bake sale at work. People go crazy for the bake sale, scarfing down chocolate cake at 9 am. My plan is to bring healthy, breakfast-suitable alternatives, such as these pumpkin muffins (and Monika, it's the recipe you've been waiting for!).

Pumpkin Oat Muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned style)
1 egg (or replace with 2 tablespoons flaxseed plus 1 tablespoon water)
1 egg white
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup soymilk
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans are best)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Whirl the oats in a blender or food processor until they reach the consistency of cornmeal and then add them to the flour mixture. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg and egg white together (or mix the flaxseed and water). Stir in the pumpkin puree, soymilk, pineapple juice, oil, and brown sugar. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon the batter into muffin cups and dot the center of each muffin with a small spot of apricot preserves. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yoga food

I found a great new source of recipes: the recipe section of Kripalu's website.

Kripalu is a yoga center in the Berkshire mountains in Massachusetts. I've been there twice. I actually prefer Yogaville, which is a lot closer to me, because Kripalu can (but certainly does not always) attract a lot of people who seem to have what I call the Yoga Journal lifestyle. That's where people become caught up in acquiring things like diamond OM necklaces and $500 meditation chairs, which is more than a bit ironic. I don't mean to malign Yoga Journal subscribers nor Kripalu fans. I enjoyed my time at Kripalu very much, I just think Yogaville is a little simpler and I prefer that style of yoga retreat.

One of the best things about going to either yoga retreat is that vegetarian/vegan food is varied, abundant, and I don't have to expend any effort to make it or clean up afterwards! Both places have good food, but Kripalu has the edge in food, I think. So I was very happy to see Kripalu recipes online.

I'm intrigued by the Brazil Nut Bars, and I think I could make a fine meal out of
maple ginger tofu,
pecan wild rice pilaf, some kind of vegetable (HS, want to chop some more broccoli?), and
cinnamon soymilk pudding. The temperature has recently dropped here and that sounds like a great fall meal, no?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Barbecue at the beach

We stayed in cozy little cottages on Cape Cod that were equipped with kitchens. I appreciated this as otherwise I would probably have ended up eating less healthy foods, and more cheese.

Our finest meal was undoubtedly barbecue tempeh with brown rice and broccoli. There is no actual BBQ grill involved, but there is one heckuva BBQ sauce. The recipe below is adapted from the "Barbecued Tempeh and Peppers" sandwich recipe in Moosewood Cooks at Home. I think it is better over brown rice than as a sandwich. My sister said, "There are a lot of bad tempeh recipes. This is a good tempeh recipe."

Barbecued Tempeh and Peppers
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups of chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, in bite-size slices
2 packages of tempeh (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground fennel
A few shakes of hot sauce or a diced jalapeno

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar or molasses
1 1/3 cups water

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and red peppers (and jalapeno if using that instead of hot sauce). Continue to cook for about 5 minutes longer. Cube the tempeh, add it to the pan, and saute for about 5 minutes. If necessary, add a bit more oil to prevent sticking. While the tempeh browns, mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Add the coriander and fennel to the saucepan and cook for a minute. Add the sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add hot sauce if using, and more salt to taste. Serve over brown rice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Loaves of glory

I'm excited to have successfully made bread today. The active part of the bread-making was about 15 minutes--perfect for my work-at-home day.

My sister gave me this recipe when I last saw her. I like it because it is packed with whole grains, but has an un-doorstop-like consistency. She makes it regularly and I would like to as well. There is NOTHING like the smell and taste of warm, fresh bread, don't you agree?

Here is the loaf sliced:

and here it is as my lunch, with black olive spread, avocado, and sprouts:

Finally, here is the recipe. It contains 2 eggs and I am not sure how to substitute for them (flaxseed?). The first time, I wanted to make the recipe as written.

7-grain whole wheat bread
1 cup 7 grain hot cereal (I used Bob's red mill)
1- 1/2 cups boiling water
2 packages or 4 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (when you pour it on your wrist, it should feel neither hot nor cold)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup honey, plus an extra spoonful
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour

Pour boiling water over 7 grain cereal in a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Wait 30 minutes while the cereal cools to lukewarm. In the meantime, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and add the extra spoonful of honey. Stir and then wait for the yeast to foam a little. When the cereal is lukewarm, add yeast and all remaining ingredients except for the white flour. Beat vigorously by hand or with a mixer for 2 minutes. Work in the remaining flour. Separate the dough into 2 equal parts. Knead each part thoroughly and place in a greased loaf pan (i.e. you will have 2 loaves).

Cover the loaves with a clean towel, place in a warm place, and let rise until about double in size (this takes about an hour). Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Something old, something new

As promised, I am back. I spent a few days in a beach cottage with my better half--a welcome break after the workathon to get my condo ready to sell. There was no internet access and that was probably a good thing!

I'll post a writeup of one of our beachy meals once I find the camera USB cord. (A side effect of clearing all the clutter from my condo is that now I can't find anything.)

In the meantime, I thought I'd do something different and pass along some music recommendations. I've been listening to some older music lately and found that these have stood the test of time:

--Remember this dance? Actually, HS and I saw MC Hammer perform a few short weeks ago. For free! He brought it, that's for sure.
--A new wave classic
--There will always be a special place in my heart for britpop.

I also wanted to share the video pictured because I am massively impressed with the Pipettes' debut. It's just too bad that the CD didn't come out during the summer, since it could have been the record of summer '07 for me.