Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins

After a few months without much variance in my breakfast routine, I'm happily into scones and muffins again. If my last effort wasn't exactly your cup of tea, maybe you'll like these blueberry muffins.

They are everything you can hope for in a healthy muffin. The texture is tender and moist, the lightly sweet oat bran flavor is mellow and nutty and the tops have a crackly coating of coarse sugar. I shouldn't be surprised at how good they are considering the original source.

I also have to mention that I tried a new brand of frozen blueberries--Stahlbush Island Farms, found at Whole Foods Market. They're so noticeably sweet and flavorful compared to others I've tried. I made pancakes using some of these berries mixed with my grocery store's brand of organic wild blueberries, and the difference in taste was huge--by that I mean, the Stahlbush fruit actually tasted like blueberries. They sell a whole array of frozen fruit, and I think these muffins would be awesome with the berry blend.

If you don't come across this brand where you live, don't dismay. Just try as many different ones as you can since quality seems to vary. These are also one of the more expensive options in the freezer case, and I think you tend to get what you pay for with frozen berries.

Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

This is simply a good muffin that also happens to be low-calorie and lowfat. I'd like to try it with other frozen berries, or a mixture. I didn't toss my berries with flour, but think doing so will prevent them from clumping together and sinking so much, as they did in the muffin above--this change is reflected below. If you use fresh berries, you may skip this step. Whole wheat pastry flour keeps the crumb light and tender while adding nutrients, but you can substitute all-purpose flour if you like.

Makes 12

120 grams oat bran (1 cup plus 3 Tbs)
120 grams whole wheat pastry flour (1 cup), plus extra for dusting berries
100 grams sugar (scant 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs buttermilk
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping cup frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
Coarse sugar (such as turbinado or demerara) for sprinkling (substitute granulated if necessary)

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oat bran, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla; whisk to combine. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spread frozen blueberries on a large cutting board or other work surface and lightly sprinkle with flour. Toss gently to coat berries with flour. Pick up the berries, shaking off as much excess flour as possible and add to the batter; fold gently to combine.

Pour batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature. Muffins may be frozen and thawed at room temperature, or in the microwave on low power.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gingery Sweet Potato, Veg and Sausage Soup

I've been making soup once a week since before the holidays. Usually on Wednesday nights when I'm not running to the gym and have plenty of time to cook. I make enough to eat the leftovers on Thursday plus a lunch or two. This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the short, dark, wintery days.

I made plenty of soup when we lived in Fort Lauderdale, but now I'm enjoying it even more. I don't really think about cooking anything else on Wednesday nights--I just consider what kind of soup I want. I have a nice cache of new recipes bookmarked, and I have no problem repeating old favorites (like this one I'm making tomorrow!).

Last week's soup was inspired by this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. It's easy because you just put nearly everything in a pot and go. The original recipe, from the book Love Soup by Anna Thomas, is vegetarian, but I made some additions to turn it into a heartier main course. While I have plenty of veggie soups in my repertoire, I often like a little meat to help me feel satisfied. A can of cannellini beans and crumbled turkey sausage worked well with the sweet potatoes, greens and fresh ginger.

Since you don't start out by sauteeing carrots, celery, onions and spices to build flavor as in some soup recipes, I recommend using a good-tasting vegetable or chicken broth. The generous amount of ginger will give it a nice lift without coming off too strong. Have you been making more soup lately? If you have a current favorite recipe, feel free to leave links in the comments!

Gingery Sweet Potato, Veg and Sausage Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

I used Jennie O fresh turkey sausage, but I think simple ground turkey breast would work just as well--it's also lower in sodium. You can mix up the types of greens you use (kale, Swiss chard, mustard, escarole, broccoli rabe) but I'd recommend at least 2 different ones for textural contrast. Heartier greens will need to simmer longer than delicate varieties.

Serves 5 to 6

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced into half moons
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 fresh turkey sausage links, or 3/4 lb ground turkey breast
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
1 large sweet potato (about 14 oz), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger
8 oz chopped collard greens
8 oz spinach leaves
1 (14 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until very tender and golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. You want it to caramelize, so stir just occasionally and reduce the heat to low after about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Wipe out the skillet and turn heat to medium high. Coat with cooking spray and squeeze the sausage out of its casings into the pan (if using ground turkey, just add it to the pan and season with salt, pepper and spices of your choice--chile powder, cumin, paprika, etc.). Break up the meat with your spatula as it cooks. When turkey is cooked through, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess fat and blot with additional paper towel on top if using sausage. Set aside.

While the onions and sausage cook, get the soup going: Add the broth, water and ginger to a large saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sweet potato, return to a simmer, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add the collard greens, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, or until just tender. Add the spinach, cover and simmer 1 minute or until tender.

If necessary, you can partially cover the soup and let it rest off the heat until the other components are finished. When ready to serve, put the pot over medium-low heat to warm and stir in the beans, onion and sausage. If soup seems too thick, add an additional cup of water and bring to a simmer just to warm through. Taste for seasoning (you'll probably need some salt) and serve immediately.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Best Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts

When I cook things like this--veggie sides, basic grains, straight-forward salads--I don't usually blog about them. However, I noticed a theme in the what's been coming out of the kitchen lately. It's fabulous caramelized roasty deliciousness, and I wanted to keep track of it all right here. And I figured if I was so happy about finding a great new method for hearty winter vegetables, then some of you out there might want to hear about it too.

As I was typing up the last recipe for this post, another common thread jumped out at me: 425. That's the oven temp you need for a high-heat blast to give otherwise mild-mannered veggies amazing color and flavor. It's no secret that I like a bit of a crispy char on certain foods, but you don't need to blacken (or burn) anything to get the flavor you're after. For all of these recipes (the broccoli especially), just make sure the veggies are dry when you begin--water creates steam and gets in the way of browning.

I could eat a massive plate of these everyday. While nearly as virtuous as my stand-by of steamed vegetables with salt, pepper and a glug of vinegar, these recipes are so much more crave-able and, frankly, addictive (yes, I'm such an annoyingly healthy eater that I label vegetables addictive). That brings me to a note on serving size: For me and Mike, these recipes serve 2. Other recipes calling for similar quantities of vegetables may claim to serve 4. Don't be fooled--this is one of those time when you shouldn't practice portion control too strenuously.

Roasted Curry Cauliflower

I love to save a small amount of the roasted florets and dice them up for an omelet the following day. With more fresh cilantro and bits of Feta cheese, it's different and delicious.

Serves 2 generously

Cooking spray
1 head cauliflower, stemmed and cut into bite-sized florets
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges for serving (optional)

Preheat oven 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat foil with cooking spray.

Put florets on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil (or mist with cooking spray for a very low-calorie version). Sprinkle the curry, chile powder, cumin, salt and pepper over the cauliflower, then toss it all up with your hands. It should be well-coated with the colorful spices; if it looks sparse, add extra curry powder. Spread florets into a single layer.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes, tossing once to move them around and check the progress. Cauliflower are done when deep golden brown and fork-tender. Sprinkle with cilantro and lime juice if using and serve immediately.

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon
To ensure the broccoli caramelizes and develops a fabulous roasty flavor, it must be completely dry. A bag of pre-chopped florets is handy for this; or just be one of those crazy people who pre-washes all their produce upon arriving home from the market. I'm most likely to wash mine a couple hours ahead and let it air dry on the counter, but if you don't have that kind of time, grab some paper towels and blot away. Just like roasted cauliflower, a few pieces of this stuff is amazing as an omelet filler along with bit of sauteed spinach and Feta.

Serves 2

Cooking spray
1 large head broccoli, stemmed and cut into bite-sized florets
1 Tbs olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes to taste
Lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

Put the broccoli on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper (I like this well-salted). Toss to coat the broccoli and roast 10 to 12 minutes (tender broccoli with thin stems will need just 10 minutes; if yours looks tough and thick, go longer). Florets should be golden brown.

Add the garlic and red pepper to taste and toss with the broccoli. Reduce oven temperature to 350, immediately return baking sheet to oven and roast 5 to 8 minutes more, or until edges of garlic are golden and broccoli is fork tender and deeply browned. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve immediately.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Browsing several recipes in order to settle on a cooking method, I noticed this bit of wisdom in Ina Garten's version, which was also echoed on Simply Recipes (click on the link for a lovely photo of a similar recipe): one of the keys to success is salting generously. I'm not sure why this is, but it does help turn these little sprouts into addictive, French fry-like treats.

Serves 2, may be doubled

Cooking spray
1 lb Brussels sprouts, tough outer leaves discarded, stem ends trimmed, and halved lengthwise
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 scant Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp coarse salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F. Coat a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray.

Put Brussels sprouts on baking sheet and drizzle with oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Toss well and spread out in a single layer. Roast 20 to 30 minutes (depending on how large your sprouts are), tossing once. Sprouts are done when they are deeply browned (outer leaves may be crisp) and very tender in the center. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cranberry-Orange Cornmeal Scones

It's been ages since I've made one of my favorite things--scones. I finally resolved to do it yesterday and use up a little bit of buttermilk biding its time in the refrigerator. So within an hour of getting up this morning, I had a warm batch of cranberry-orange scones with a golden color and crunchy texture thanks to a little bit of cornmeal in the dough.

I can't believe it's well into the second week of the new year, and I haven't had anything blog-worthy to post until now. I've made Hoppin' John(no ham hock this time, but plenty of leftover baked ham added at the end), for New Year's of course, and this soup.

My favorite things I've cooked lately have been simple, but absolutely wonderful vegetable dishes, like braised red cabbage, which I'm adding to my permanent repertoire (I used this recipe, minus the bacon, plus dried thyme and chile flakes). Although I've cooked Brussels sprouts multiple ways, I hadn't done a high-heat roasted version with plenty of coarse salt before--the result was so good, it doesn't feel like you could possibly be eating a vegetable. Here are a few recipes to consider if you want to try it.

So now that I've posted these blog-worthy scones, I hope you enjoy them. They're big and satisfying, but not-too-decadent treats made with whole grains, so you can keep any New Year's resolutions you may be working on. Happy New Year and thank you for reading my blog in 2009!

Cranberry-Orange Cornmeal Scones
You can substitute all-purpose or white whole wheat flour for the whole wheat pastry flour. A topping is optional for these scones, but I like a sprinkling of coarse sugar for texture and a little extra sweetness.

Makes 8

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (234 g)
3/4 cup medium stone ground cornmeal (123 g)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
Zest of 1 medium orange (preferably organic), finely grated
6 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1/3 cup dried cranberries (40 g)
1 egg, for egg wash (optional)
Turbinado or other coarse sugar (such as sanding sugar), for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and orange zest.

Add the chilled butter cubes to the dry ingredients, toss with your hands briefly to coat the butter and mix with a pastry blender (you can also use your hands or a fork) until the large chunks of butter are broken up and you have a sandy mixture with pea-sized chunks of butter remaining. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cranberries.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quickly knead into a ball. Flatten slightly with your palm to form a thick disk. Sprinkle dough with flour and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into an 8-inch circle, about 1-inch thick. Dust a large knife with flour and cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer wedges to the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. If using, beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water. With a pastry brush, lightly coat tops of scones with egg. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 20 to 24 minutes or until bottoms are light golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.