Claire’s Spiced Carrot Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

I’ve been on the market for a new breakfast food.  Around this time I’m kind of done with oatmeal and its variants.  Granola and cereal just don’t seem appealing these days.  I can only eat so many eggs per week and the fun breakfast foods, i.e. pancakes, waffles and the more decadent players, are pretty much reserved for weekends.  Then I thought about a breakfast muffin.  I wanted something substantial, in that it was filling, nutritious, delicious and minus all the sweetness.  As I was thinking about this fantasy muffin, my daughter Claire was chewing on a raw carrot, an impromptu teething ring.  From there my imagination grew to include nuts and spices and oats.  No, these are not seasonal flavors, but they certainly satisfied my need for another breakfast option!

Let’s talk about carrots.  Most of us associate this incredible vegetable with good vision.  While they may be beneficial for our eyes (surprisingly not so much research has been done in this particular area), it seems carrots have much more to offer.  They are super-high in Vitamin A which is good for lung health and are potent anti-carcinogens, too.  All carrots, purple, red, orange, yellow, have incredible anti-oxidant properties.  This is important because anti-oxidants protect our cells from oxygen-based damage, especially critical in our cardiovascular systems.

“Antioxidant nutrients in carrots are believed to explain many of the cardioprotective benefits provided by these root vegetables. The many different kinds of carrot antioxidants are most likely to work together and provide us with cardiovascular benefits that we could not obtain from any of these antioxidants alone if they were split apart and consumed individually, in isolation from each other. The synergistic effect of carrot antioxidants is a great example of a whole food and its uniqueness as a source of nourishment.“*

That last bit is really important to keep in mind.  Read it again!  I couldn’t have said it better!

You’ll need:

3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 C spelt flour

1/4 C oat flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 t ground cardamom

1/4 t ground ginger

Pinch of sea salt

2 organic eggs

1/2 C maple syrup

1/3 C olive oil

1 t vanilla extract

2 cups grated carrot, (about 4-5 carrots)

1/2 C pecans, chopped and toasted

1/2 C golden raisins

a handful of rolled oats to top muffins

To make:

Preheat oven to 350.

1. Toast the pecans in a small sauté pan over low heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

2. Combine dry ingredients (first 10) in a large bowl.

3. In the meantime, whisk eggs, maple syrup, olive oil, in a small bowl.  Add carrots and stir well.

4. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir gently until just incorporated.  Fold pecans and raisins into batter.  (The trick to moist, yummy muffins is to NOT over mix!)

5. Divide the batter into 12 muffin cups and top with some oats.  Bake for about 25 minutes.

6. Enjoy!

*www.whfoods.org (emphasis, mine)


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Grilled Chicken and Mango Salad

Serves 4

Sometimes I just want a bowl of raw, fresh greens.  It happens either when it’s warm out or just as a simple craving (remnants from my vegetarian past maybe), but this time it was a real need.  Too much wheat in the week naturally leads me to a bowl of the opposite.  There goes the wisdom of the body seeking balance on its own!

The grilled chicken breast has its own story.

This chicken lived a good life.  It roamed around freely and ate worms, insects and grass and all the other things chickens eat.  It hung out in the sun and got its feathers ruffled by the wind.  It chased other chickens and got chased a bit, too.  It was a happy chicken.  The farmers who send us our CSA shipments seem like very happy farmers who love their jobs and their animals.  So, when we get our whole chicken delivered, breaking it down is the next step and we feel like we’re participating in this whole, loving process of getting our food from the farm to our table.

(In lieu of a video of me breaking down a chicken, (I’m quite good at it, but sorry, no time to get to this step!), check out this link which I think does a great job of simplifying what may seem like a daunting task.)

Anyway, our happy chicken comes with great health benefits and is SO MUCH tastier than any conventional chicken.  Pastured* organic chickens are leaner which means lower in fat.  Because they grazed on greens, they and their eggs are loaded with Omega 3s, Vitamins A and E as compared to their caged, warehoused counterparts.  They are also free of antibiotics, which is no small thing!  No antibiotics means they weren’t sick to begin with!  Not to mention they are free of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.  It’s nice to eat poison-free food!  It also wasn’t artificially fattened.  As a result, this chicken looks and tastes different.  Even the breasts are juicy and tender, which is a bonus for me since I’m not a fan of white meat.  (I know it’s bizarre that I prefer dark meat and red meat…I have no logical explanation.)

You’ll need:

For the Chicken:

2 split chicken breasts

1 T olive oil

1 t Herbs de Provence

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt

Dressing:

1/4 C golden balsamic vinegar

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1 T dijon mustard

1 t maple syrup

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad:

Baby greens or romaine lettuce

1 mango, diced

1/2 C candied pecans, chopped

1/4 C sunflower seeds, toasted

To make:

Chicken:

1. Wash and dry chicken breasts, then generously season with salt.  Add lemon juice and olive oil and lastly the Herbs de Provence.  Let sit for at least an hour in the fridge.

2. Heat a stove-top grill (or a real one, by all means!) over med-high heat.  Take chicken out and let sit at room temp for about 10 minutes before grilling.  You’ll have to be the judge on time since there are so many X factors, but I grilled for about 12 minutes on one side, then about 10 on the other.  (These chicken breasts also needed a bit of grill time on their sides which they got for a few minutes each.)  Internal temps should be 165 degrees.

3. When done, cut chicken into strips and set aside.

Dressing:

1. Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.  Taste test with a bit of lettuce/greens and adjust accordingly.  A bit of lemon juice may round things out a bit if you’re not sure what it needs.

2. Just before assembling salad, dress the greens in dressing reserving some for chicken at the end.

Get your salad on:

1. With dressed greens in bowls, top with mango, pecans and sunflower seeds.  Lastly, top with chicken and IF you think it needs it, add more dressing.

2. Enjoy!

*A quick word on free-range vs. pastured chickens.  Unfortunately the regulations are loose and therefore the definitions are, too.  A free-range chicken can mean that the chicken saw a few minutes of daylight on a concrete slab before heading back into a crowded warehouse.  Pastured means the chickens at least got access to grass and natural, wild food.  It’s tough to tell what’s best by the labels.  My two cents is, if possible, get your animal protein directly from a reputable farm.  For more info, http://www.motherearthnews.com/Relish/Free-Range-Versus-Pastured-Chicken-And-Eggs.aspx

Guaya Popcorn (think trail mix-ish)

Makes 8-10 cups

Snacks became an important part of my diet when I first got pregnant.  It was the only way to quell the incessant nausea.  It was relentless for about 17 weeks, after which I couldn’t complain because I was lucky to find 2nd trimester bliss where I know many women who felt ill throughout.  The good news is that the worse you feel, the better it is for the baby growing inside!  Knowing that bit of info was one thing that got me through it.  This popcorn/trail mix was another!

Corn has gotten a bad rap lately and it’s for good reason.  Because we produce so much of it here, and it’s heavily subsidized, it sneaks it’s way into EVERYTHING we eat!  It becomes our sugar, oil, starch, and animal feed, so that the burger (not the grass-fed one) you’re eating is also CORN!  But, corn, in its whole form is full of wonderful health benefits.  It is high in Vitamin C and manganese and is a great source of fiber.  Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system and plays a key role in leveling blood sugar too, particularly when combined with protein which corn is naturally high in.  The different colors offer a wide range of antioxidant phytonutrients.  That’s good news for our cardiovascular health.

Ready for more good news!  Drying corn, whether separated as kernels or still on the cob, doesn’t significantly lower the corn’s antioxidant potency.  Traditional cultures such as the Native American tribes (in all Americas) relied heavily on dried corn throughout the cold winter.  One need not look further than how traditional cultures prepared and ate their food.  They were connected to the land that bore their food and understood it in a way that is lost upon us, as a whole, now.  But rest assured, it is the most healthful and most delicious way to eat.

If you have the chance to pick up some heirloom kernels, do so! They’re smaller and come in all those beautiful colors that will indeed up the gourmet-ante on this delicious snack.

You’ll need:

1 C organic corn kernels

2 T refined coconut oil

Sea salt, to taste

1/2 C raw almonds, chopped

1/2 C raw cashews, chopped

1/2 C pumpkin seeds

1/2 C raisins

2 T organic butter, (pastured if possible:)

1/3 C honey

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t cardamom

To make:

1. In a large (deep) stock or soup pot, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat.  After a couple of minutes, drop 2-3 kernels in to test.  When they pop, take pot off the heat and add the full cup of kernels to cover bottom of pot in one layer.  Add some sea salt and then bring back to medium heat.  Keep partially covered.  When you hear the popping, give the kernels a hand by shaking the pot back and forth a bit, to prevent any from burning.  Keep this up till you have a nice full pot of fresh popped corn.

2.  Spread the popcorn out on 1 or 2 sheet pans.  Add nuts, pumpkin seeds and raisins.

3.  In the pot, melt the butter and honey and add spices.  Add this mixture to the popcorn mix and blend well.

4.  Optional step:  I sometimes (time permitting) throw these sheet pans into the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes just so that everything gets extra crispy.  It’s not the end of the world if I don’t get to this step, but it does last longer and stays crispier.

5.  Enjoy!

P.S. For a vegan version, substitute the butter for the same amount of extra virgin coconut oil and sweeten with agave instead of honey:)

Update; April 14, 2012:

Just found this article – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120325173008.htm  It talks about the antioxidant level in popcorn!  Check it out!

Dreamy Creamy Oatmeal

Serves 4


Sometimes there’s nothing better than a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning.  There are a million different way to dress up oatmeal, but this is an easy and delicious way.  It’s also one of my favorite.

Steel cut oats are superior in that they are more “whole” or less processed than quicker cooking rolled oats.  Oats are incredible blood sugar stabilizers.  They are a good source of complex carbs and soluble fiber and do well to lower cholesterol, regulate the thyroid and soothe the digestive system.  My sister, who is studying to become an herbalist, would be proud of this next tidbit of oat info :  oats are the one adaptogen grain, which means they improve resistance to stress and support a healthy state of balance.  (See Rebecca Wood’s, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia for more info.)

Oh, and regular organic milk works beautifully in this recipe, too.

You’ll need:

1 C steel cut oats, soaked overnight in 2 cups water and 1 T lemon juice

1 C coconut milk

¼ C dried fruit, raisins or cranberries or cherries or blueberries, etc

1 T ground flaxseeds or chia seeds

1-2 T maple syrup

¼ t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground cardamom

1/8 t fresh nutmeg

1 t vanilla extract (optional)

¼ C chopped nuts, walnuts or pecans or almonds or pistachios

a handful of pepitas

To make:

1.  Place oats with soaking water, coconut milk, dried fruit and spices in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered until oats are tender and oatmeal looks creamy, about 20-30min.

2.  When oatmeal is creamy, stir in flaxseeds or chia seeds and vanilla if using.

3. Dress each serving individually, placing ½ cup of oatmeal in a bowl and top with nuts, a dash of cinnamon and 1t maple syrup.

4. Enjoy!

Note:  For variations, use fresh fruit such as bananas or berries instead of dried fruit.  Add 1T almond or cashew butter.  There are no limits to how you can play with oatmeal!

GF Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields 24 cookies

 

As much as I love to cook, I love to bake.  I particularly enjoy experimenting with healthy versions of all the goodies out there.  I favor organic flours and natural sweeteners just because they are healthier.  Of course, binging on these isn’t a good idea either…trust me!  But when you’re in the mood for something sweet, there’s no need to head to the refined alleys of dessert-ville.  There are a myriad of choices out there (some better than others) especially if your diet is somehow restricted.  I have had better luck with my GF baking experiments than I’ve had with vegan ones, though I just made a delicious vegan and GF tart that just may have to make its way to these pages!

This version of the cookie uses very little sweetener because I relied on the sweetness of the dried cherries.  Dried fruit goes a long way.  Cherries are very low in sodium and high in vitamin A and dietary fiber. They support joint health and are helpful for those with arthritis, rheumatism and gout.  The one catch is that this dried fruit is a bit higher on the sugar content than other fruits.  If you don’t love this idea, any dried fruit would work wonderfully!  If you do experiment, please leave me a comment and let me know how they came out!

You’ll need:

1/2C organic butter (1 stick), softened

1/4C coconut or date sugar

2 large organic eggs

1 t vanilla extract

1C almond meal or hazelnut meal

1C Brown Rice Flour

1/3C oat flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t sea salt

1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (or more if you want them chocolatey)

1/2 dried cherries, roughly chopped

a handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

To make:

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

1. In a food processor, add butter and coconut sugar and process until creamy (about 30 seconds should do it).  Add the eggs and vanilla and process to blend.

2. Add the almond meal, rice flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and process until dough forms.

3. 2 options: 1. You can add the rest of the ingredients and pulse to blend.  This will break up the chocolate chips and make chocolatey ‘streaks’ in your cookies.  Or 2. Place dough into a bowl and using a rubber spatula, incorporate the chocolate chips, cherries and pepitas.  (I go with the first option because it’s easier and there’s less to clean…every little bit helps when you’ve got a 5 month old to look after!)

4. Make walnut size balls (I use a heaping tablespoon as my measure) and press down lightly on each one.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool completely before digging in!

5. Enjoy!

Energy Bars (from March 6, 2012)


I’ve received so many requests for these energy bars that I figured it was high time I post the recipe!  This recipe is adapted from Rebecca Katz’s in “The Cancer Fighting Kitchen”.  I started making them for a client because they really are the perfect snack for waiting around and during chemo treatments.  But, it turns out that they’re a perfect snack for everyone!  My husband, a marathoner, swears by them and has me make a batch before every race.  I snacked on these throughout my pregnancy (awesome to stave off that 1st trimester nausea) and they even made it into the delivery room with me.  These are also great for kids…they love them!
These pack a nutritional punch.  Dates are natural energy boosters with loads of potassium and dietary fiber.  Dried apricots are rich in beta-carotene, an anti-oxidant vital for the healthy growth of bones, skin, hair, teeth and eyes.  They are also high in calcium and magnesium. Almonds and walnuts (nuts in general, really) are a great source of protein and are high in essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
Now, let’s get to that recipe!
You’ll need:

1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup whole almonds
2T Oat flour
2T Quinoa flour
2T finely ground flax seeds
¼ t sea salt
1/8t baking powder
1/8t baking soda
½ C rolled oats*
½ C pitted Medjool dates, quartered
½ C dried cherries
1C unsulfured dried apricots, quartered
¼ C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 large organic egg
¼ C maple syrup
1t vanilla extract
To make:

(Prep bakeware:  In an 8” or 9” square pan, place two sheets of parchment paper perpendicular to each other and long enough to make “handles”.)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and spread nuts on a baking sheet with lined with parchment paper.  Toast in oven for 7-10 minutes until they smell nutty and are slightly browned.  Take good care in this step since nuts are notorious for burning easily!
2. Combine the flours, flax seeds, salt, baking powder, baking soda and oats and process in a food processor for 5 seconds. Add the nuts and process for another 5-10 seconds until they are coarsely chopped.  Add the oats and dried fruit and process until all is well mixed together.  Transfer mixture to a bowl.
3.In another bowl, beat egg and whisk in maple syrup and vanilla extract.  Add to nut mixture and combine well, breaking up any really solid parts.  Using your hands is the best way to do this!  Then add chocolate chips.
4. Spread and press mixture evenly in baking pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Try not to over bake or the bars will come out dry.  Let cool completely and cut into desired shape.  (I usually cut them into chunky, chewy squaresJ)
5. Enjoy!
*If you use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats, this recipe is completely Gluten-Free.  If gluten is not an issue then any rolled oats are OK and you can even substitute the flours for ¼ C spelt flour.