Thursday, December 25, 2008

A "better for you" snack cake

In my efforts to "eat clean" I have been working with alternative sweeteners and flours as well as probiotics.
I made a "yogurt chocolate chip cake" recently and adapted a recipe from the Stoneyfield Yogurt cookbook. I made the following substitutions:

I traded white whole wheat flour for AP Flour. White whole wheat has all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole wheat, with milder flavor and lighter color. It is a great way to sneak fiber into your diet.

Instead of white sugar, I used Agave Syrup. Agave syrup is made from the agave plant, and is considered a natural sweetener. It is sweeter than white sugar, and so you can use less of it when substituting it for white sugar. It is lower on the glycemic index than white sugar is, making it a good alternative sweetener for diabetics, since it does not raise the blood sugar as high as white sugar does. I especially like it because it goes into both hot and cold liquids without any problem.

Instead of butter, I used Earth Balance Vegan "Butter" sitcks (79% vegetable oil).
I used 2 egg whites in place of the 2 whole eggs.
First I creamed the Earth Balance with the Agave Syrup, then added the egg whites:


Instead of yogurt, I used Kefir, a cultured milk that is considered a "probiotic" since it contains live cultures.


After creaming, I added the Kefir and vanilla, blended those ingredients in, and added the dry ingredients (white whole wheat, salt, baking soda/powder and the choc chips).

One of my favorite places on line to order baking supplies is King Arthur Flour. They are one stop shopping for all things "baking". I used their mini chips for the cake:
The cake also had a topping. For the topping, I used earth balance, white whole wheat, cocoa powder, more mini chips and Sucanat instead of sugar. Sucanat is another alternative sugar and ranks the highest in nutritional value of the sweeteners, containing a smaller proportion of sucrose than white sugar does. It is a light brown sugar, though grainy and not crystalline as true brown sugar is.
For the topping, I mixed all of the ingredients w/the mixer and then put little mounds of it onto the batter.


I had never made this cake before, and the topping actually baked into the cake - I'm not sure if that was supposed to happen, but it actually was a nice effect.

Due to the high moisture content of the agave syrup and the Kefir, the cake was extremely moist, and lasted a long time without going stale.

Take a Bite!
Yum - good stuff!
Check out the alternatives when baking, they can really make a difference. Please email me if you have any questions regarding any of the ingredients I used for this cake (sharon@thyme-to-cook.com).......

Here is the recipe (with my changes):
Ingredients
1/4 cup Earth Balance Vegan Stick (EB)
2/3 cup Agave Syrup (AS)
2 egg whites
1 cup plain Kefir (I used 1%, but fat free is good as well)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup White Whole Wheat Flour (King Arthur Flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini chips)
Topping
1/4 cup Earth Balance Vegan Stick
1/3 cup Sucanat
1/2 cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup semi-swee chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream the EB and AS. Add the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in the Kefir and Vanilla.
In a separate bowl blend together the dry ingredients (not the chips).
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir to mix.
Stir in choc chips.
Pour into a greased 9x13 baking pan.
For the topping, cream the EB, Sucanat, flour and cocoa until well blended.
Stir in choc chips.
Sprinkle the topping over the cake batter.
Bake 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chili

I made some chili yesterday using some gorgeous ground pork from Stillman's (my meat CSA), as well as some of the remaining veggies that I had from my CSA: carrots, parsnips, celery and a type of chile that I believe is called a colorado chile??? It looks like a tomato and is sweet hot, not hot hot. It is a good chile to pickle.
Here's how it all went down:
First, I got all my aromatics cut up. I only used 1 tomato chile because I really didn't want too much heat. Louise happens to love chili, so it had to be Lou friendly.

Here is the chile that I have been referring to:


First, I got my pork going:


Then the onions and garlic, the rest of the veggies, and off it cooked for a while....

In went the liquids. My secret ingredient is, yup, coffee:


In went diced tomatoes w/their juice and some beef broth, and lastly, the kidney beans:

For spices I used garlic powder, ancho chile powder, cumin, epazote and Mexican oregano, and of course S+P. Epazote is an herb that smells like rubber tires, but is a classic Mexican herb and adds undertones of Mexican food that you can't really get anywhere else....
I also cut the stems off some cilantro and put them into a disposable tea bag (for loose tea). That way, you can incorporate the flavor of the cilantro, but you are able to pull the stems when the cooking process is done:



After about an hour of simmering, this is what it looked like:
It was ready to get thickened up a bit. I did that with Masa Harina. Masa is ground corn, used to make corn tortillas (as well as empanada dough and arepas and other things). Have you ever had an arepa? Oh my, so good. I haven't had a "true" arepa since I was in college/grad school, should I date myself??, nah, I don't need to reveal that.
Anyways, I was dating a guy who was of Colombian descent. We would go down to Jackson Heights, Queens to a restaurant there called La Pequina Colombia (here's a link: review, nice to see it's still in business). We would always get arepas there, though they are street food and are sold at carts on the streets. They were made of 2 layers of masa dough, cooked on a griddle and stuffed with an oozing white cheese. I'm not sure what the cheese was, but it was sweet and delicious. Man, I could go for one of those right now..... Anyways heres how the Masa comes packaged:

I added about 6 TBS (a little more than 1/3 cup), and it thickened the chili right up. The last thing to do was pull the cilantro stems and re-season w/S+P, and stir in a ton of chopped cilantro. I served it with cheese, chopped scallions, lime wedges and for myself, plain Greek fat free yogurt.

It was good and thick and delicious. Hungry yet?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

CSA

My CSA is over :( I still have a bunch of carrots, potatoes and winter squash kicking around, and the farm stand is still open for a couple more weeks, so I'll stock up on what I can.
I made a meatball vegetable stew with Stillman's awesome lean ground beef from the Belties on their farm. The meat is ~93-95% lean, and is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. First I made the meatballs and browned them on my flat griddle.

I cut up yellow and orange carrot from the farm, some red potatoes (also from the farm) as well as some celery, onion and garlic, and sauteed them all in a Dutch oven.
Once the aromatics and potatoes cooked for a bit, I added diced tomatoes, chicken broth and Stillman's cabbage and let that simmer for a short time before adding in whole wheat flax pasta.
I also added back the meatballs to cook them through.
It was delicious - nice for the cooler weather that has crept up on us.

Sesame crusted Tuna

One of the PAs at my husband's office has a boat and so every couple months we seem to get a dose of fresh tuna. The last time we got some, I crusted it in sesame seeds, both white and black, and pan sauteed it. I am in the school of cooking it through unless I'm eating sushi. Here's my dinner :)

The pieces of tuna:


Dish of sesame seeds - I pressed the tuna right into it:Into the saute pan:
Flip it:
Yum:
It was very yummy. We got some more last Wednesday, but I was off to teach Spinning, and did not eat any. Most of it went into the freezer, so I'm sure I'll revisit it at some point soon.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Charolette's Web

For a while, we had our very own Charolette's web in the corner of our roof just outside our deck door; the spider was with us for a good month, if not longer. We had a number of days with rain, where she would go and hide, but always returned to spin her web after the rain cleared. Charolette was so cool, and spun her web fast and with precision.
video

Here are some stills:
One day, she never returned. That was a bummer, because watching her spin her web was just so real and so amazing, a true part of nature that was very fullfilling.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Eggplants

My CSA is at about week 12, I think. The eggplants have been abundant!

In honor of this big bulb of a veggie, I've been making Baba Ganoush. This is very easy to make. It basically is hummus, but made with eggplant instead of garbanzos.

The first step is to poke holes in the eggplant, all around it.

Second, roast the eggplant either in the oven or grill. Use a medium heat (375ish). I used the grill and roasted the eggplant indirectly.

The eggplant will start to shrivel up and when it's good and shriveled, pull it out.

Wait for the eggplant to cool a bit, then cut it open and pull out the pulp (I put it right into a food processor).

Next, add some garlic; how much depends on how much you want to stink (in a good way).
Add some sesame tahini. Sesame tahini is sesame seed paste. Delicious, confirmed.

A squeeze of lemon juice, and the zest of the lemon, some S+P, and process away.

I do not add olive oil until the end, when I drizzle it on top.
Eat it as a dip or spread or just off a spoon.......

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wheatberries

Have you ever eaten a wheat berry?
If not, you must, and soon.
I love whole grains and the wheat berry, by far, is the best. Well, when I say wheat berry, I'm lumping in spelt berries and kamut berries as well. Spelt and kamut are also whole grains and in the "berry" form contain both the bran and the germ, making them nutritional power houses.
Here are the berries uncooked:


Wheat berries take a bit of time to cook, but with a pressure cooker, cook up in no time. They also freeze well, so it makes sense to make a mega batch and freeze some for later use.
Here they are cooked:

The wheat berries are chewy and a bit crunchy. They can be eaten mixed in a salad or in soups and stews. They can be mixed into a dough to make a delicious whole grain bread. You can process them with beans and veggies and make veggie burgers. You can even mix them into oatmeal to make a hearty porridge. So, you see, they are very versatile.
I made some recently and mixed them with yellow tomatoes, basil, lemon juice and zest and some extra virgin olive oil, S+P. Yum.
Here's the dish:
I ate the salad throughout this week, topping it with different proteins: tuna, salmon, chicken as well as some avocado. Excellent.