Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Banana Peanut Butter Breakfast Muffins

Somehow I ended up with 2 opened jars of peanut butter in the fridge. I've been trying to use them up because I have a third (!) jar in the cupboard. This recipe keeps crossing my path so I decided to make it. The author of this recipe Chinmayie Bhat of www.lovefoodeat suggests a cup of coffee with one of these tasty muffins. And she can't be more right! These are quite delicious with just a hint of peanut butter and banana. They have a subtle sweetness. Her interesting commentary also includes a link to make chocolate peanut butter to spread on them. I'm thinking of making these again and perhaps adding a 1/2 cup of vegan mini chocolate chips. Makes 12-15 muffins.

Here is her recipe. I've just changed the order of things to organize it the way I cook.

2 tbsp ground flax seed
4 tbsp water
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar

1 cup mashed banana
6 tbsp peanut butter
1 cup water
2 tbsp flax seeds (for topping, optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare your muffin pan.

Mix flax seeds and water, set aside. Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
In a separate bowl, stir oil and peanut butter. Now add the mashed banana, flax seed and water mixture, 1 cup water and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix till everything is combined. Do not over mix.

Spoon them into muffin tray and top each muffin with few whole flax seeds.
Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or till the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wow Beans (Refried Pinto Beans)

Refried beans are a pretty pedestrian thing to make. I make my own for bean burritos to keep in the freezer. I've been reading a lot about umami, known as the fifth taste. The other four are sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami imparts a more "delicious" and "savory" taste to food. There are certain ingredients you can add to a recipe to add to the "umami." I decided to apply those principals to my refried beans. Really, the beans I usually make are rather bland even with the spices and salsa I add. Wow! What a difference a bit of tamari and umeboshi vinegar made to my beans. I sat down and ate a small bowl, scooping the beans with some baked tortillas. No salsa, no nothing. It was really that good! I also like to add kombu to the beans while I cook them. It's said to reduce the "flatulence" factor and it does have some nutritional value. Something to keep in mind if beans make you toot!

1 cups dry pinto beans, picked over and soaked overnight
1 piece of kombu
1 TB olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, sliced and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 sp garlic powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
3/4 tsp Summit Spice Susitna Chili Blend or your favorite chili powder blend
1/2 tsp cilantro, dried
1/4 cup good beer, I used Sleigher Double Alt Ale, a rich dark beer
1 TB tamari* (Japanese soy sauce)
1 TB umeboshi plum vinegar*
1/2 tsp salt, to taste

Drain and rinse beans, place in pot and cover with water. Add kombu and cook for 1-2 hours until beans are well done. Drain cooking water and reserve a bit if you prefer not to use beer. In medium size saucepan, heat about 1 TB olive oil and saute onions for several minutes. Add garlic and saute a bit more until everything starts to get a bit brown around the edges. Add dry spices and saute for a minute. Deglaze pan with beer or reserved cooking water. Add the drained beans. Mash the beans and cook down a bit. Add tamari, vinegar, and salt. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

*The tamari and umeboshi vinegar contribute to umami flavors so try not to omit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Super Smoothie

I am so in love with these smoothies. It's a quick breakfast and the energy kick is unbelievable. I just discovered matcha powder and I will be using it in more recipes. I am not a big fan of green tea but this is just 1/4 teaspoon so you don't even taste it, you just get the benefits. You can't taste the spinach either. Be sure to add the blueberries. If you don't the color will be kind of brown. The raspberries add a nice little tart twist. I keep frozen chopped bananas in the freezer just for my smoothies. That way I don't have to wait for the bananas to ripen.

1-1/2 cup soy milk
1 ripe frozen banana
1 TB ground flax seed
1/4 tsp matcha tea powder
handful of organic spinach
6-7 frozen strawberries
1/4 cup frozen raspberries
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
Squirt of agave syrup, to taste

Place ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chilaquiles with Cashew Okara Ricotta Cheese

Here is the "cheeseless" version with a dollop of cashew okara ricotta cheese on top.

This is a totally delicious Mexican casserole. The original recipe is fairly healthy and quick to make. The leftovers taste great and freeze well. I've been making it "cheeseless" the past couple of years and it's still pretty darn good. But it just got better! I've been making home made tofu and a byproduct of soymilk is okara which is the soy pulp that is strained out. It's too good to throw out so I've been trying it out in different recipes. An interesting one that I found was for Okara Cashew Ricotta Cheese at VeganFeastKitchen. It's simple and quick to make and adds a rich dimension to the chilaquiles.

Chilaquiles with Cashew Okara Ricotta Cheese
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2  to 1 whole medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained and reserved
1-1/2 cups corn, frozen (thawed) or fresh
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 corn tortillas, quartered
1 19-ounce can mild red or green enchilada sauce
Okara Cashew Ricotta Cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, beans, tomatoes, corn, cumin and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are heated through, about 3-5 minutes. If it looks a little dry while you're cooking the mixutre, add some or all of the reserved tomato juice.

Scatter half the tortilla pieces in the baking pan. Top with half the vegetable mixture, half the enchilada sauce and the okara cashew ricotta cheese. (Use what ever amounts of the cheese you like. I like to have some left over to use in other recipes.) Repeat with one more layer of tortillas, vegetables, and sauce. Cover with foil.

Bake the casserole for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the casserole is bubbling around the edges, about 10 minutes more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sourdough Honey Wheat English Muffins

Making your own English muffins is definitely worth pursuing. The last batch I made was from a quick starter made with dried yeast. It was good but I wanted something more "authentic." Since then I've been experimenting with different sourdough starters. This current batch I purchased from Breadtopia in a dry form and reconstituted. I'm pretty happy with it. These English muffins are such an improvement from the store bought. They are fresher, haven't been frozen, and there are no preservatives and chemicals. And they're great fun to make. This recipe makes 8-10 English muffins.

The night before you plan to make the English muffins, you need to mix some sourdough starter, flour and water and let it sit for about 8 hours. It's quite exciting because it will ferment and you can actually observe the bubbling.

All bubbly after sitting for 8 hours.
Mix with more flour, roll out, cut into circles, dust and let rise.

Cook in your favorite skillet. Easy peasy!
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup water
2 TB honey* or other liquid sweetener
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
fine yellow cornmeal, for dusting

Combine starter with whole wheat flour, sweetener and 1/2 cup warm water. Cover loosely and let sit overnight.

The next day, stir together 1/2 cup of the all purpose flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl. Stir this mixture into the starter mix. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup flour and mix until dough is no longer sticky. I had to knead at this point.

Roll dough out 1/2 inch thick and cut out 8-10 muffins with 3 to 4 inch cutter. I like to place the cut muffins onto a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper and a dusting of cornmeal. Cover the muffins and let sit for about an hour until slightly puffy.

Heat up cast iron pan on high heat. Reduce heat to about medium and cook 2-3 muffins until lightly browned, about 3 minutes or so. Turn over and cook the other side until browned. You can insert a instant thermometer to see that it reads at least 198 degrees to be sure it's done cooking. Don't let them get too brown or you won't be able to toast them without burning them.


Note: I used honey. It's not vegan. Feel free to substitute with maple or brown rice syrup. Personally, I don't have a problem using honey. I worry more about honey bee colony collapse disorder than I do with the exploitation of bees. I promise to give it more thought after I've burned through all the honey I have on hand.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Look at this gorgeous loaf of sourdough bread.
It took pre-planning but very little actual hands-on time.

My mother hasn't made a meal for me in over 30 years but I've never forgotten her cooking. She was a single parent raising four kids while working a full time job. We rarely ate at restaurants or fast food joints. Much of her cooking was simple, cheap, and hearty. Favorites were macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, meat loaf and mashed potatoes. Birthdays we could pick what we wanted for dinner and I always chose tacos. And it was a production – making the filling, frying the tacos, chopping lettuce, and grating cheese. Thanksgiving was an even bigger production because she'd make pumpkin pies the night before and get up early the next morning to put the turkey in the oven. Then it was lots of prep work and cooking for the early evening meal. I also remember the time someone gave her a case of fresh peaches and she made peach butter preserves. She did the same thing with a box of green tomatoes, put them in some kind of brine and preserved them. When she made home made bread all of us were in heaven.

Wonderful tastes and flavors from my childhood. None of my food memories was of food eaten in a restaurant or from a frozen meal. It was cooked from scratch. You just can't get that from a Hamburger Helper meal. The food that my mother cooked and baked I took for granted. But I'll never forget it. And that is what cooking is all about. Creating those memories that your children and friends will remember. And hopefully passing that legacy on to them.

This blog is all about cooking. Every time you make a meal you are engaging your creative energy and taking back your power in regards to what goes into your body. You are in control. It does take a little advance thought and a bit of effort to put tasty food on the table. But not that much! Anyone can do it. All you need is a desire.

My goal for 2012 is to publish my blog on Wednesdays. That way, if you're inspired you can plan for the weekend. The more you cook, the easier it gets. I have recipes in my head. You can too. Resolve to live healthier this year and learn to cook from scratch.

 Yoko meditates on eating more mindfully in 2012.