Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lowfat Oatmeal Cookies with Dates and Carob Chips

Baking is an escape for me. I've mentioned before that when there are problems I don't want to deal with, I bake. I guess there are worse things I could be doing. At least with this 'escape' I end up with a nice of batch of something yummy to eat, right?

Note: I just noticed after posting this how long the ingredient list looks. Keep in mind that it comes together quickly and the carob and dates can be left out, or subbed for whatever you have on hand (raisins, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, walnuts, etc.)

I have a Nutrition exam tomorrow and guess what I'm doing? Baking! Well, in my defense, I had a super brutal Human Physiology exam on Tuesday morning, which I spent the last week studying for everyday. Seriously I felt like I was at boot-camp or something because every waking hour was spent studying. I took breaks for eating and working out (and the occasional episode of 30 Rock), but not much else. And now that that exam is over with and went well, I don't feel like cracking another textbook for the next month. Unfortunately, that's not realistic, but I digress- back to the baking!

Right now I have these vegan cookie dough balls firming up in the freezer (yes, I realize how ridiculous that sentence sounds) and a pan of sweet potatoes and onions roasting in the oven. I'll have those recipes for you later. For now, cookies. 

One last thing, if you haven't heard of Ellie Krieger and you're a fan of low fat baking that doesn't use weird ingredients, you should check her out. I bought her latest cook, 'Comfort Food Fix' and she cleverly lightens a bunch of favorite comfort food recipes and provides the nutrition info before and after. I'm a fan. 

Lowfat Whole Wheat Oatmeal, Date, Carob Cookies
Makes 30 cookies
Adapted from Ellie Krieger's recipe in 'Comfort Food Fix'
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup agave
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup smooth sunflower butter
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup carob chips*, optional

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

1. Combine the butter, oil, agave, sugar, egg, sunflower butter and vanilla in a large bowl, and mix until combined. 

2. In another smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon). 

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until just combined. Stir in the oats, dates and sunflower butter. Be careful with the dates as they are sticky and will clump, so try to make sure they distribute evenly. 

4. Scoop 1-tbsp size chunks of the dough onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced. Mine ended up round so if you prefer flatter cookies, use the back of a fork to gently flatten each cookie. 

Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and the center is still soft to the touch. Allow to cool, preferably on a cooling rack before eating. 

Nutrition Info
Per cookie
Calories: 102
Fat: 4.7g
Carbs: 18g
Fiber: 2.0g
Sugar: 6.7g
Protein: 2.1g

I took these to school and my friends seemed to like them. They're a lil' healthy tasting but that's to be expected with the whole wheat pastry flour. Substituting agave for most of the sugar means they won't make your blood sugar spike too much either. 

*I had heard a lot about carob chips but had never used them before. They are half the calories of normal chocolate chips and don't have refined sugar in them! You can find out more about them here if so inclined. Feel free to sub regular chocolate chips. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Crab Dip with Blue Chips

Among the classes I am taking this semester, my Food Studies Lab is without a doubt my favorite. It is essentially a cooking class and my teacher is amazing. Her name is Lourdes Castro and in addition to teaching at NYU, she teaches cooking classes at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, flying down once a month. She also started her own cooking school that she sold a few years back. Oh, and she's also a published author, having written 3 cookbooks on Latin cooking with a 4th on the horizon. 

I added a bunch of diced avocado on top.

I purchased one of her books a week ago on Amazon. Titled 'Simply Mexican', the cookbook includes simple, Mexican recipes from tortilla soup to fish tacos. 

All the recipes look fantastic and I was eager to try one out. Lucky for me, I was invited to a friend's this weekend and we were each expected to bring a small appetizer. I decided to make the Crab Tostada from Lourdes' book. It was a big hit and three of my friends told me they had actually never had crab before (or had, but didn't like it) but that mine changed their minds! That is the ultimate compliment

In progress...

I don't think I am able to reprint the recipe here, but I would strongly advise picking up a copy of Lourdes' book, which you can find here. All the recipes are clear and easy to follow, and I really like that unlike most cookbooks, she has broken up each step into a separate heading. Ie: (To assemble the chicken XX, to make the sauce XX). If you're anything like me, you'll sometimes look at a recipe and feel overwhelmed by how wordy the directions are. Not the case here. 

What was great about this recipe was that it took all of ten minutes to prepare and looked and tasted like it took a lot longer. Of course, the freshest of ingredients do make a big difference. One tip I use in the winter: for salads or dips that call for fresh tomatoes, I sometimes sub in canned salsa if the flavors seem like they'd work. Canned tomatoes and salsa are made during peak tomato season and tend to taste better than the mealy, tasteless tomatoes found in winter. 

I served the dip with blue corn tortilla chips and besides the fact that the flavor worked well with the crab, their bright hue added a nice punch of color to the dish. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

I've never had much of a sweet tooth. Place a bowl of Doritos in front of me and a bowl of M&M's and I'll choose the chips any day. However, I love to bake. I've mentioned this before but there's just something about whipping up a decadent cake, placing it in the oven, and removing it, 30 minutes later, all gorgeous and fragrant, the smell wafting through the house

With baking, you don't have to think much. Unless you are adapting the recipe (making it healthier, sugar-free, whatever), you can follow the recipe to a T, and know it'll turn out. I like to bake when I've got a lot on my mind and I wanna just zone out for an hour or so. And I usually end up relaxed and calm by the end of the process. Whatever works, right? 

I also rarely bake full-fat recipes. I enjoy the process of making decadent treats healthier, either by subbing in some whole wheat pastry flour for the white flour, or swapping some of the oil for yogurt or apple sauce. These are easy tricks that work and that ultimately make your indulgence a little less so. 

I always bake in eveningwear, don't you?
But there is something to be said for going whole-hog once in a while, too. Everything in moderation, even moderation, I say. So, a few weeks ago, I pulled out one of my favorite, decadent cookbooks, Nigella Lawson's 'How To Be a Domestic Goddess'. I mean, you gotta love this book if only for the title. Who wouldn't want to be a domestic goddess? I love Nigella but she's not one of my go-to girls. Her recipes are far from healthy and usually more complicated than I'd like. But damn is she sexy. I digress, though...

So I ended up making her chocolate cherry cupcakes. They were divine. Totally yummy. Yes, they had way too much butter and sugar for my liking but they were just what the doctor ordered. I ended up taking a bunch to a friend's party and they were devoured within seconds. I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to reprint the recipe here, but I'll do it anyway. I can imagine these would be great for breakfast as well, with a nice, strong cuppa joe! 

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
Reprinted from Nigella Lawson's 'How To Be a Domestic Goddess'
Makes 12
The bits of cherry were yum. 

for the cupcakes:
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 1/3 cups morello cherry jam (or any cherry jam)
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup self-rising cake flour

for the frosting*:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter in a pan, and then stir in chocolate until combined. Add the jam, sugar, salt and eggs. When all is nice and mixed, add the flour. Divide among a greased muffin tin, and bake for 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes and then place muffins on a cooling rack (or a plate if you don't have). 

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by combining all ingredients in a bowl, preferably with a mixer (by hand can be a lot of work). Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost and place a cherry upon each. 

*For some reason, Nigella's frosting didn't work for me. It didn't combine as I wanted and I threw it out. I used the recipe above, by Giada instead. But really, you can use any chocolate frosting recipe you'd like. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pad Thai with Shirataki Noodles

Recently I was sent a cookbook to review. The book titled 'The Healthy Voyager's Global Kitchen' by Carolyn Scott-Hamilton is a collection of vegan recipes from around the world. The book is broken into chapters based on country (Italy, Africa, Japan, Russia, etc.). 

The photos are gorgeous and explanations are easy, but I wasn't crazy about titling chapters by country. This means that when I'm looking for an easy appetizer to make, I have to flip through the book, rather than going to a particular section. 

Last weekend I made the pad thai and minestrone soup and have been enjoying them all week. The pad thai was so, so good. I subbed in Shirataki noodles for the rice noodles. For those of you that aren't familiar, Shirataki noodles are made of a mixture of tofu and the root of the Konnyaku (something resembling a yam). Why eat these unusual noodles? Because they are 20 calories a serving! The entire package comes out to only 40 calories, and I quite like them, and plan to sub them regularly for noodles and pasta even. I also left out the bean sprouts as I wasn't able to find them. 

You can find the book here

The dish was delicious but I had to double the amount of noodles. The recipe calls for 8 oz rice noodles, but that seemed way too little to me, especially for 6 people. I doubled the amount of noodles and it worked out perfectly for 6. Also, I have a feeling I could make this recipe healthier and I think I might try to. I don't think 1/2 cup peanut butter is necessary; I think the dish could get away with 1/4 maybe? And I might have reduced the amount of oil as well, but we'll see if I can make a healthier version soon. 

All in all, the dish is delicious, easy to make and my two friends who were over loved it too. One of them hates anything fishy and said she couldn't even taste the fish sauce, which is a plus. This is exactly the kind of dish I'd love to serve to guests one night- feels fancy, but is actually really easy. 

Based on this recipe alone, I would definitely recommend this book. Stay tuned for my minestrone review, from 'The Healthy Voyager'. 

Nutrition Info
Serves 6
Calories: 357
Fat: 26g
Carbs: 26g
Protein: 11g
(This nutrition info is based on the original recipe, not my substitution with the Shirataki noodles)

Thank you Carolyn for sending the book! It's been a lot of fun trying your inventive recipes. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Easy, Healthy Mexican Bowl

During the week, I like to come home for lunch. I'm lucky enough to live within walking distance of campus, and I'll go out to dinner a few nights a week, so lunch is when I really try to eat at home. 

This isn't so much a recipe, as an assembly of ingredients that happens to be one of my all-time favorite and quickest things to eat. It is low in calories, has lots of protein and even a good amount of fiber. One of the best ways to consistently eat lunch at home is to always have certain favorite items in stock

For me these items include:
- a cooked grain/carb (brown or black rice, quinoa, even baked or roasted sweet potatoes)
- some form of protein (either eggs, tofu or veggie sausage)
- veg (greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, whatever really)
- canned beans (I like garbanzo, refried, kidney and black beans)
- salsa (I'm obsessed. It's delicious and fat-free!)
- whole wheat tortillas (I used them for everything) 

Having these items on hand usually means I can scrounge together something to eat. 

Looks like a big ol' mess; tastes amazing.

Easy, Healthy Mexican Bowl
1/3 cup wild rice, cooked
1/3 cup refried beans
1/2 cup non-fat yogurt (I like Fage)
salsa (I use about 1/2 cup but for most 1/4 cup would suffice)
diced mango (yum! I'm obsessed)
onions, sauteed (optional)
1/3 veggie sausage (I use Tofurky)*
1/2 tomato, diced (optional)

Place the rice, beans, yogurt, tomatoes, salsa and mango in a bowl. Saute the onions in a little oil or broth, add the Tofurky and pan sauté until browned. Add the onion/sausage mixture to the rice bowl. Mix and enjoy! 

This took me about 7 minutes to put together, maybe less. It is delicious and nutritious. Honestly, I was craving Chipotle today and almost went there instead of coming home, but then I realized I had all these amazing ingredients on hand to make my own, healthier bowl. This dish has good carbs (wild rice), protein (beans, sausage), veg (salsa, tomatoes, onions), fruit (mango) and calcium and probiotics (yogurt). Had I had avocado on hand, I obviously would have added that too for some good fat

Nutrition Info
Calories: 290
Fat: 6g
Carbs: 38g
Fiber: 8g
Protein: 23g

*I try to stay away from super processed products such as Tofurky veggie sausage. I really don't recommend it, being that it has so many hard-to-recognize ingredients. However, I'll let myself have some once or twice a month. If I have it, I eat it, so I don't buy it too often. But if I have to choose between pig sausage and the veggie kind, obviously I'd rather the non-'Babe' kind. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mini Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I haven't been around much lately because I was recently admitted to the Masters Program of Clinical Nutrition at New York University- my first choice! I am incredibly excited and feel so blessed to be able to pursue my passion. Classes have started and I already have a lot of coursework and reading so I haven't been around to dedicate much time to the blog. 
Nerdy 'proud NYU' photo. 

I'm taking an Intro to Nutrition course and an Intro to Food Sciences course (which is basically all cooking techniques), so rest assured that now I will be more reliable than before when it comes to my nutrition facts! 

Last night I was exhausted from class and baking has always been one of my favorite ways to unwind. There's something about measuring ingredients and mixing batter that really relaxes me. I headed to the kitchen and whipped up a batch of mini whole wheat blueberry muffins. I'm warning you, do not attempt these unless you like 'healthy' tasting things. I have come to realize that I often prefer the taste of whole wheat, low sugar treats, but most people aren't used to it. 

I have a girlfriend staying with my right now and she said they tasted 'healthy' so I wanted to mention that before getting to the recipe. I think they are super yummy! They are very low in calories, fat and sugar (devoid of white sugar, in fact). They are totally whole wheat, have only have 2 tablespoons oil and are chock-full of blueberries. 

Because they are mini and only clock in at 58 calories a pop (without the streusel topping), you can have two or three and still be guilt-free. I used this recipe but made some substitutions as I always do. 

I used a streusel topping for only half the muffins because I wanted some without. It definitely adds a little something to them, but they are just as good without, if you ask me. 

Mini Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from 'Oh She Glows'
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 egg whole + 1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
Streusel topping: 1 tbsp, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp butter, 1 tsp flour

I call 'em my troops. 
Set oven to 375 degrees F. 

Directions: Combine the milk and vinegar in a cup and set aside. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon) in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients (milk and vinegar combo, eggs, oil, yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla extract) in another smaller bowl. Combine the wet with the dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in the blueberries. 

For the streusel topping: combine the ingredients and distribute among half the muffins. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are golden and a knife inserted comes out clean. 

Nutrition Info
Per mini muffin
Calories: 58 
Carbs: 10g
Fiber: 1.3g
Sugar: 3g
Protein: 1.8g

I can imagine these would be fabulous slathered with a bit of peanut butter too. Or crumbled on top of yogurt and fruit. 

My awesome followers!