Monday, February 28, 2011

"Pump Up Your Milk" Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Mini muffins topped with a chocolate chip make an appealing snack for moms or for kids!
I recently came across a can of organic pumpkin puree in my cabinet. I bought it a few months ago with plans to make...something. The problem is that I don't love pumpkin. I bought it because I know it's good for me (it is an excellent source of Vitamin A and is a good source of iron and Vitamin C), not because I particularly wanted to consume it. 

But I was set to visit a friend and her newborn; it would be the perfect opportunity to give her some food that will support her health and her breastfeeding. Plus, I can get rid of the pumpkin!


After playing around with my recipe, I've come to realize that I don't dislike pumpkin...I dislike pumpkin spice. So, I left out the cinnamon and nutmeg and other spices you'd usually find in such muffins. And I added less traditional items (like almond flour and chia seeds) that add protein, fiber, calcium and good fats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2c honey
  • 1c pureed pumpkin
  • 1/2c (melted) coconut, grapeseed or canola oil 
  • 1/2c unsweetened applesauce 
  • 1t vanilla
  • 1c whole wheat flour
  • 2/3c almond flour
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1/2t baking powder
  • 1/2c chopped walnuts
  • 1/3c chocolate chips + extra to top muffins (or dried fruit like raisins or cranberries)
  • 2T chia seeds*
  • 3T flaxseed meal*
  • 2T brewer's yeast*
*These additions are optional, but are recommended as they add omega-3s, protein, fiber, calcium and B vitamins to the muffins. Both flax and brewer's yeast may support a healthy milk supply, so these ingredients can be especially great for breastfeeding moms.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the wet ingredients. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.


Line muffin tins with paper. Fill each to the top with batter and top each with a chocolate chip (optional). Bake 25-30 minutes for regular muffins, 22 minutes for mini muffins, and 55 minutes for a loaf. They are ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. My yield was 12 mini muffins and 12 regular (not super-sized like you get in coffee houses) muffins; another batch's yield was 12 mini muffins and one loaf.


Cool for a few minutes in the pan on a rack.

Then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack.
I packed up the larger muffins to take to my friend; she and her three-year-old loved the muffins! The mini muffins were tested by my son. His review:

Do you include pumpkin in your diet? Any other recipes you can suggest that might spark some pumpkin love?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Foolproof Caramelized Onions

Onions rock my world. They are inexpensive, delicious, make other foods delicious, and are good for you. They are chock full of allicin, which may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure (high blood pressure can be dangerous to both moms and fetuses); they are also a great source of vitamin C, fiber and folate. But, most of all, onions just taste amazing, raw or cooked, sliced or chopped. I put them in everything. And you should, too.
I channeled the Dutch masters for this photo, right?
Even if you're not President of the Onion Admiration Society, you will like caramelized onions. They somehow make every dish both earthy and gourmet. They are sweet and rich and you can put them in (or on) practically everything: steaks and burgers, soups, casseroles, sandwiches, salads, mujadarrah. Kids who are picky about raw onions will surely chow on sweet caramelized onions when they're in a meatloaf or scrambled eggs or on pizza.

The only problem with caramelized onions is that they can be a bit of a pain to make. They're not difficult, exactly. You basically fry them low and slow, with a lot of tending. But if you cook them a bit too long or don't tend them quite enough, they can easily burn. 

But if you cook them in a slow cooker? No burning. Just loads and loads (more than you could make in a standard frying pan) of gorgeous caramelized onions. Most recipes call for a stick of butter. I found that a bit of extra virgin olive oil worked wonderfully.

First I greased my crockpot with a bit of EVOO. I then quartered and sliced four pounds of onions (that's the amount of slices that fit in my crockpot):
Then I drizzled 1/4c of EVOO on top and tossed around to coat a bit.
Set on low and cook for 12-14 hours (or until they are at the level of caramelization you prefer), stirring every couple of hours or so.
About seven hours in...
About 10 hours...
I like my onions very caramelized, so I cooked mine for 14 hours. They were dark and rich, with a gorgeous onion syrup. I turned off the slow cooker and, while the onions were still hot, drizzled some balsamic vinegar on top, which was drunk immediately by the onions. (The balsamic is totally optional, by the way.) I also added some sea salt, to taste.
Balsamic caramelized onions
My four pounds of raw onions yielded about four cups of caramelized onions. I put two cups in a container in the freezer (to be used in soup soon) and two cups in a glass jar in the fridge to be used as a condiment on, well, everything I can think of. First thing I thought of: peasant bread + fresh mozzarella + caramelized onions = divine grilled cheese sandwich!

Looking for more ways to use your slow cooker? Try our Crockpot Applesauce!

UPDATE: Lisa's Dinnertime Dish featuring our slow cooker caramelized onions in her recipe for French Onion Soup. Thank you, Lisa!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mama Mujadarrah

We've got another great guest post from Nancy Cavillones. This one features lentils, which are tasty, easy on the wallet and jam-packed with folate. Folate is crucial to reducing the risk that your baby will be born with a serious neural tube defect; it is imperative that both pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant get enough of this B vitamin.
Buy lentils in bulk and store in glass jars...saves money and looks great on your countertop!
Last time, I meant to write a post on feeding your family nutritious meals on a budget but I got sidetracked, if you remember, by my annoyance at the "hide-the-veggies" trend. So, let me get back to my original intent.

Is it just me, or are groceries getting more expensive? I generally set my weekly grocery budget at no more than 100 dollars, for my family of four. Though I am still breastfeeding my 10 month old, she is eating table food and her appetite is quickly ramping up. And my 2.5 year old? She is eating me out of house and home, and I've got plenty of moms of toddlers commiserating with me on Facebook on this one! My own appetite, thankfully, has returned to normal after six months of exclusive breastfeeding. My husband, if you don't know him, is a big dude and kiddo portions don't exactly cut it. So, how do I meet all these different needs without completely busting my grocery budget? 
Organic green lentils, photo from NutsOnline.com
One word: legumes. So simple, isn't it? I'm going to nerd out a bit on you here and profess my undying love for legumes. Legumes are kind of a superfood-- they are rich in iron, vitamins and protein. Combining legumes with grains and some leafy greens will give you the holy nutrition trifecta, and for not a lot of money, either! Legumes, prepared correctly and served thoughtfully, can be filling and satisfying, even without meat or fish--the two most expensive items on my shopping list, and therefore the first two items to get cut if I'm getting too spendy at the store. 
Organic split peas, photo from NutsOnline.com
The recipe I have for you today is actually kind of an accident! Mujadarrah is an Indian dish, made with rice and lentils, that I make often enough, albeit a simplified version. I buy lentils in bulk and store them in a canning jar. I also buy other legumes, in their dried form, including split peas. One day, I was organizing my kitchen and absent-mindedly dumped my bag of split peas into the jar of lentils, thinking the peas were green lentils. Oops. Well, there is no separating that mixture of teeny tiny legumes, so I left it and hoped for the best. My last meal of mujadarrah had bonus split peas in it, and it was delicious. So, here you go: 

Mama Mujadarrah With Split Peas 
(Feeds two hungry adults, one picky toddler and an experimenting 10-month-old, with enough leftover for tomorrow's lunch.)

**Note: I am estimating the amounts of lentils and split peas here since my legumes were combined. Feel free to skip the split peas and use 1 full cup of lentils. 

Ingredients: 
  • 1/2 c. lentils, rinsed and checked for debris
  • 1/2 c. split peas
  • large onion, halved and sliced thin (a mandoline helps, if you have one)
  • 1 c. rice
  • Olive Oil
  • Half a lemon
  • Sour cream or greek yogurt (optional)
  1. In a saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat, then turn heat down to low and leave it alone for the most part, stirring only occasionally. The onions will caramelize--let them go way past turning brown, and they'll taste just like French's Fried Onions, yum! This could take upwards of 30 minutes. (You can do the onions ahead of time, and keep them in the fridge until the day you make this dish. The heat from the rice and legumes will warm them back up.) 
  2. In a heavy bottomed pot, heat a tablespoon of the olive oil and add the rice. Stir to coat the rice with oil, season with a generous pinch of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add two cups of water, cover, bring to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Let the rice sit covered for at least five minutes, after turning off the heat. 
  3. In another pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add the lentils and peas. Stir to coat, add a generous pinch of salt, and add enough water to just cover the legumes. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it cook for twenty minutes. If there is water left at the end, drain the remaining water. 
  4. In a dish, mix it all together, season with salt and pepper, to taste and squeeze some lemon juice over it. Serve with sour cream or greek yogurt, and a green salad, if you like. 
Photo from Whole Foods

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Swollen Feet? Try Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Salad






My recent trip to Florida reminded me that grapefruits are in season - and are perfectly amazing - right now. Tart and juicy, water-rich grapefruits are great for pregnant and breastfeeding women, who have to increase their fluid intake. Plus, the bioflavonoids and Vitamin C in grapefruits help to reduce water retention and swelling that can make pregnancy so uncomfortable. Of course, I've already blogged about the many benefits of avocado.

Not only is this pairing good for you and tasty, it is gorgeous; I couldn't stop taking pictures!

Salad:
  • 1 pink grapefuit, sectioned
  • 3 cups romaine lettuce, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • a couple of paper-thin slices of red onion
Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit, after you've removed the sections, and reserve for the salad dressing:

Lightly toss the avocado slices in the fresh juice, to prevent browning. Put the lettuce on a large plate and arrange the grapefruit and avocado slices on top; sprinkle the red onion around the plate.

I make a very light dressing for this salad; the avocado already provides plenty of fat and richness. Feel free to adjust the ratio of ingredients to your taste.

Dressing:
  • 2 Tbs reserved grapefruit juice
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together and drizzle over plated salad.
I ate this as lunch, but it could also be divided into two side salads. 

If you prefer a sweeter citrus salad, you can substitute a Cara Cara orange for the pink grapefruit. And if you're not in the mood for lettuce, or simply don't have any in the fridge, just leave it out. The avocado-grapefruit-onion combo is lovely on its own.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Need a last-minute gift for someone you love or, um, yourself? Stop by the craft store for a lollipop mold and make Chocolate Almond Butter pops! Just use our super easy Almond Butter Cups recipe and you're good to go.
Here's to a sweet and joyous day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sweets for Your Sweet: Raspberry Oat Bars

Looking for a Valentine's Day dessert that is delectable, but also has nutritional value? Then this bar is for you. It can be dressed up for an elegant brunch or just packed up for a brown bag lunch.

My recipe is adapted from one in The Earth-Bound Cookbook. My changes make the bars a healthier treat: I cut the sugar significantly, replaced nearly half of the flour with almond meal (cutting carbs and boosting protein), and added some fruit and nuts. 

I also used a combination of butter and coconut oil, but this recipe is easily adapted. If you're a vegan, just use 12T of the coconut oil; if you don't have access to a health food store (where you can buy the oil) just use 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter. I also use organic ingredients, which is preferable but not a dealbreaker.
  • 1 stick butter + 4T extra virgin coconut oil, cut into small pieces
  • 2c old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2c almond meal (aka almond flour)
  • 1/3c packed light brown sugar
  • 1c 100% raspberry fruit spread
  • 1/2c frozen raspberries
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1/2c chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 3T flaxseed meal*
  • 2T brewer's yeast*
*These are optional, but are recommended as they add some omega-3 fats, protein, fiber and B vitamins. Flax, brewer's yeast and oats support a healthy milk supply, so these bars are an especially great treat for breastfeeding moms.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8"-square baking pan (or use a silicone pan, as I did, and skip this step).

Put the jam, vanilla and fruit into a small saucepan. Simmer on low for about 7-10 minutes, stirring a couple of times until the fruit has broken down and is well combined with the jam. Remove from the heat and let cool until the mixture thickens.

Place the dry ingredients (except the walnuts) in a large bowl and stir to mix. Add the butter and coconut oil; use your fingers to blend until the mixture is crumbly and fully combined. Place half of the mixture into the baking pan and press it down in an even layer. Pour the fruit on top.

Spread over crust, leaving about 1/2" bare all the way around.
Add the walnuts to the rest of the oat mixture and spread around the pan, pressing to form an even layer. Bake until the edges are lightly browned, about 40 minutes.

Cool on a rack for at least 4 hours before attempting to cut into bars and remove from pan; they will fall apart otherwise. Even better, let them chill overnight in the fridge. Slice into 18 bars and enjoy!
These bars are delectable and rich, so savor them...and watch your portions!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nutritious Indulgence: Almond Butter Cups

We all have chocolate cravings sometimes. You know what? It's okay to indulge, especially when you eat high-quality dark chocolate. It's a wonderful source of polyphenols, which are the same antioxidants found in red wine, and it also provides fiber and iron. Marry chocolate with almond butter - packed with fiber, protein, healthy fats, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin E - and you've got a nutritious update on a classic pairing. (I used almond butter because it is delicious and it is also very nutrient-dense; it has eight times the calcium of peanut butter, for instance.)


These are a great, not-too-sweet treat for kids, too; my son loves them and even helped me drizzle the chocolate. But remember that raw honey is not recommended for infants under one year of age because of the rare risk of botulism.


This treat is also a nice balance of carbs and protein to fuel your body; they are caloric, though, so eating the whole batch probably isn't a good idea. Luckily, these cups are so rich and luscious that one or two should satisfy you.


Ingredients
(yield: 10-12)
3.5oz bar of dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa (preferably organic)
2T natural almond butter 
3/4-1T raw honey (to taste)


Break chocolate bar into uniform pieces and melt in microwave or double boiler until smooth and glossy.

Fill a mini muffin pan with papers and pour about a 1/2 teaspoon of the melted chocolate in the bottom of each. Chill in the refrigerator for a few minutes until the chocolate has hardened.

Mix almond butter and honey in a small bowl. Spoon about 1/2 tsp of this mixture into each cup. Press down a bit to flatten.

Drizzle the rest of the melted chocolate (you may need to reheat for a few seconds if it has hardened) over each cup, covering the almond butter. Chill for a few more minutes in the fridge and enjoy!
A little lop-sided, but they taste amazing!
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