Friday, February 24, 2017

Favorite Muffins Made Healthier

I regularly make a batch of applesauce muffins for my husband which he loves in his lunch that are awesome, the recipe for which I posted on my dog blog, but they are also pretty high in sugar and fat. Wanting a muffin I could pack in MY lunch with less than half the fat and significantly less sugar as well as a flour I can digest, I came up with these. Made with  Einkorn flour from Italy, an ancient grain which is completely different DNA wise than American flour; it's one  I can digest a portion of each day, even with an allergy to hybridized wheat protein. Plus it's also much lower in gluten than American all-purpose flour, not suitable for Celiac sufferers but found to be good for many with just gluten sensitivity. It's a bit pricey but well worth trying if you have difficulty digesting white all- purpose or whole wheat flours.

They turned out pretty darn good - ,moist, sweet but not TOO sweet, and soft.

Healthy Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup gluten free oats (oats themselves are gluten-free but many of the cheap brands are processed where there is cross contamination - I use Bob's Red Mill).
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk or almond milk
1 large egg or equivalent egg replacer
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup Einkorn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins, optional

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners or grease the muffin cups. Set aside.

In a medium bowl with a small hand mixer on high-speed, cream the softened butter (or coconut oil) and sugar until fluffy.  On low-speed,  mix in applesauce and egg.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt (and cranberries or raisins if using). Make a well in the center and pour in the applesauce mixture. Stir with a spoon until just combined (don't overmix or the muffins will be door stops).

Distribute the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 15-19 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This is a more of a moist batter than many muffins, when the muffins are done, a toothpick inserted inside will come out clean, but the top will still look a bit moist, this is normal for this recipe.  When the toothpick is clean and the edges are light brown they are done.

Remove the muffin pan to a  wire rack.  When muffins are mostly cool, remove to a plate - cooling the muffins completely in the tin can make them dry.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Time for Thai


I love Thai food but it can be on the heavy side on both oil and palm sugar so I'm learning to make my own so I have some control over that.

Cashew Beef is one of my favorites.  I often make it with the Gardein beef strips for meatless days, but sometimes we splurge on some pasture raised beef and have it with steak strips.

I was able to find all of the ingredients in the oriental section of a large grocery chain or through Amazon. The dark sweet soy sauce is NOT the same as regular soy sauce and is very similar to the sweet soy sauce in the Indonesian kecap family — the essential ingredient in the much-loved Pad See Ew , fried flat rice noodles with sweet dark soy sauce. It is also heavily used in Chinese-influenced red-cooked or braised dishes that are found in Thai cuisine. Nothing else can quit mimic its salty but sweet, caramel-like but almost smoky flavor. I order the Healthy Boy brand from Amazon.

This may look like a lot of ingredients, but it takes just a few minutes to mix up and chop and just a  minutes to cook.

I like extra sauce to save as a dipping sauce for wontons or egg rolls later (it freezes well), you can cut ingredient amounts in half and it will be enough to cook the meat).

Sauce

1 Tablespoon regular soy sauce (or Maggi seasoning sauce/Golden Mountain sauce)
3 Tablespoons dark sweet soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fish sauce (I like Red Boat brand from Amazon)
3/4 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon water
2  and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Mix sauces and honey in medium-sized bowl and set aside.
In small bowl mix water with cornstarch and set aside.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (or small handful bok choy)
1/3 onion, cut into small slices  (or substitute some or all of it water chestnuts, up to a small handful, sliced - I had both some green and sweet onion and water chestnuts and used a combination)
6-8 finger-length dried  Thai red chilies, seeded and cut into halves (from amazon, less than $4)
1/2 cup roasted cashew nuts, rinsed and drained
8 oz beef cut into thin  bite-sized strips
one small can pineapple chunks, drained
1 carrot thinly sliced
handful of baby corn

Method:

Heat up a wok and add the oil over medium-high.  (if you use too low of a temp the meat will poach and be limp) When the oil is heated, add the garlic, onion (or sliced water chestnuts)  dried red chilies, corn, carrots and pineapple and stir-fry until fragrant or when you smell the spicy aroma of the chilies. Add the cashew nuts and follow with the beef. Stir-fry the beef until the outside is browning nicely, but meat isn't completely cooked through. Add in the medium bowl of sauce ingredients into the wok and continue to stir-fry until the beef is cooked, stirring in the small bowl of water with cornstarch the last few minutes to thicken the sauce. Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Note: If serving to people that don't know NOT to chew up the big pieces of chili, I remove before serving.   They're quite edible and add just the right heat to the sauce but they are also pretty hot if you bite into them.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Review of Beyond Meat's "Better Burger" veggie burgers

I try and cook a variety of foods, not limiting myself to eating only certain things (though my IBS is doing MUCH better since I ditched wheat (though I can eat bread I make out of Einkorn flour in small quantities, as it's completely different DNA than "frankenwheat".)

But even though I eat animal products maybe once or twice a week, I get only non-factory farmed meat where the animals are responsibly and ethically raised. The conditions factory farmed animals live in make the box Alec Guinness resided in the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai look like the honeymoon suite at the Park Hyatt. Also, If you've ever seen the inside of a factory farming slaughterhouse you'll likely never eat meat again. But meat like that is expensive, so I do a lot of ancient grain and bean heavy days as well to offset the costs.

Some say just give up red meat and have more chicken!  It's healthier, and it can't be as hard on the planet to raise chickens as huge cattle?  Wrong.
Americans eat almost 100 pounds of chicken per adult per year. Chickens require more water and power to process than any other meat (about 4,000 gallons per ton) and that leftover water is pretty much toxic sludge.  That's even more environmentally irresponsible than cattle.  Also being a scientist, I am too well aware that in the middle of that potentially tasty chunk of meat is a set of internal organs full of pathogenic bacteria. The giant frozen "Bag O Cluck" at the discount grocers is NOT something I wish to thaw and get my hands in.

No - I'll stick with organically fed, free range, carefully prepared chicken, and just a few times a month, paired with whole grains and lots of veggies.

But one food I found it hard to cut back on was a burger.  I LOVE hamburgers and finding a veggie substitute has been nothing but disappointment.  Sure some of them make a tasty sandwich, they just don't taste like burger.  Sure the patty may look like a burger but they don't taste, smell, or have the mouth feel of one. Not even close.

So when I read about Beyond Meat, which has a burger that "bleeds" (well real meat doesn't exactly "bleed" the red juice is myoglobin, red muscle pigment, which is different than hemoglobin, the blood pigment) with the magic of beet juice, with a claim to have a texture just like beef I had to try it. 

I have an alternate way home from work if there is an accident on my primary route and it takes me past a Whole Foods, where Beyond Meat is currently sold (check with your WF to see if they have it, not all may yet).

"Just say No to Faux".  I have so many people that know I eat meatless a good deal of the time and have two vegan friends ask "if you have ethical issues with eating meat all of the time, why eat fake meat, why not just eat only veggies and grains?"

People eat meat free for many reasons.  For some, it's health (my blood work when I hit 50 showed very high uric acid levels in my blood even though I d not have the typical triggers for it, it being likely genetic, and likely triggered by menopause).  Reducing meat has brought the levels down where I don't have to take medication for it (the medication has some nasty side effects).

For some. it's the planet.  The raising of livestock for food uses 70% of the water used on the planet each year and damages 10's of thousands of acres of land.

For others it's ethical, not wishing to harm a living creature in order to eat.  Some people also find the whole feel and texture of raw animal flesh gross and don't want to cook it.

But for many that fall into one of these groups, they still crave the texture and flavor of cooked meat, and "go faux".   Doing so allows one to maintain their beliefs or health yet still enjoy a variety of foods tastes and textures.

So I picked up a couple of packets (they are actually in the regular refrigerated meat section).  At $5.99 for two patties, that's twice the price of ground beef but there are few man-made vegetarian products that are cheap. The packaging is a bit overdone - I think they could probably make it smaller, and use less paper and plastic, but as people discover this product perhaps they will.

The patty was fairly small, here it is on a salad plate next to a spoon but it was surprisingly thick.

Ingredients are pretty straightforward and I was happy to see no wheat, soy, gluten, or GMO products.  There is a little yeast for flavor, and though not low fat it's all veggie fat including healthy coconut oil.
Cooking is easy - make sure the patty is completely thawed (mine were still slightly frozen from shipping when brought home the other day). Preheat a grill or pan to medium high (learning towards high).

Since I read some hints on-line on how to cook, I cooked one burger per the directions (to 165 F internal temperature) and one as suggested to closer to a  medium rare (150/155 F).

Some red will remain around the edges even when fully cooked.  Cooking it beyond this stage will leave you a dry burger that will taste just like the cardboard flavored ones you've been avoiding.

I have to agree with the online suggested method of cooking to "medium rare" - it retained more juice and had more of a beef and less of a "veggie" taste, as I think the extra juice masks the flavor of the pea protein pretty well. (pea protein is not "bad", I drink smoothies made with pea protein laden Vega powder all the time, it 's  just not particularly "beefy" tasting".)

The perfectly cooked patty. Still a bit red around the edges, but a solid 155 degrees internally, hot enough to be safe, but not so hot there is no juice left (a tad under 3 minutes per side in a hot, lightly oiled cast iron skillet).

The texture?  The pea protein does give it a meaty, chewy texture which is very much beef like, though there's a bit more elasticity to it than ground beef. It also held together really well, with a slightly crispy crust (I used a teaspoon of olive oil in my pan) avoiding that mushy texture that most veggie burgers end up with. It also has that "greasy/juicy" thing going that I love about the craft burgers I'd get at restaurants  (for the Better Burger, that comes from the healthy coconut oil). Plus, the burger doesn't flatten out, but stays nice and plump.

I removed some of the topping so you can get a better picture of the interior.

Taste - in a side by side taste test you are most assuredly going to pick out the real beef patty. However, this is as close to beef in taste as any veggie burger I have tried and it pretty well nails the texture/juiciness of beef if cooked carefully. With a little mayo, a gluten free bun from the local gluten-free bakery and some greens it totally killed my burger craving and was very filling as well (a little over 500 calories as assembled). It had a surprisingly beefy taste, and I think adding a little salt- free steak seasoning to the patty next time would make it more so.

I will definitely be purchasing this again as it was seriously more "beefy" than the other faux burger options. It is higher in sodium and fat than what I usually eat so I'm not going to eat them all the time, but at 20 grams of protein and slightly fewer calories than ground beef, it totally took care of my occasional burger craving. My husband still prefers beef hamburgers (though he mixes in leftover brown rice and black beans in with his burger to use less meat without sacrificing taste).

So go try a package.

A cow will thank you.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Meatless Monday - Getting the Most out of those Kitchen Appliances

Juicing is a great way to get additional phytonutrients in your diet as well as use up any uneaten produce. It's also a nice little addition to Meatless Mondays around here. This is a Brevel juice which I got for less than $100 at Amazon and it's great.  I compared it to my friend Jan's Jack LaLanne juicer and even though hers was cheaper, she said mine was much faster, though use and ease of cleaning is the same.

I needed it this morning.  We seriously ate too much yesterday (homemade from scratch biscuits and gravy) and followed it up with some pizza and wine so let's just say I was LESS than chipper this morning.

Your morning person as defined by your astrological sign.

Stretches to the sound of birds chirping, broad smile n their face:
Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Virgo, Aquarius

Will probably kill you.  Violently.  With alarm clock, eyes still closed:
Aries, Leo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces, Libra, Sagittarius

I'm a LEO, I also have red hair.

So, my husband carefully escaping with his life (and a couple extra of the homemade biscuits ) I set out to plan some healthier meals for "meatless Monday.

I make my juicer juice drinks with various fruits and veggies, though when using beats use the golden beats which have a much milder taste than their red cousin.  Also go easy on beat greens as they can have a strong flavor.

So today on meatless Monday I'm going eating much lighter, breakfast being an Amy's gluten free burrito for breakfast so I could get something quick, leaving me time to get dinner in the crock pot and log on to telework today.

This was my lunch today. I make my blended juice drinks with various fruits and veggies, though when using beats use the golden beats which have a much milder taste than their red cousin.  Also go easy on beat greens as they can have a strong flavor. Today I used the rest of the produce from last week (I usually grocery shop on Monday or Tuesday when the stores are less crowded).

This was a great combo though.
3 oranges
1 large cucumber
a big handful of spinach
a piece of celery and a good handful of carrots

Made 1 large glass.

Usually, I make the pulp into muffins, but as cold as it's been I put it out by one of the trees in our unfenced side yard for the rabbit that lives under our big hedge before going back to work.

Dinner is in the crockpot and whether you make it with Veggie "ham" or the real thing - it's really a tasty and super easy pot of beans.

Creamy White Beans (Crock Pot)

Sort and soak 1 pound white beans in water overnight and drain.
place in crock pot  in the morning and cover with FRESH water (about 2 inches above beans)
add 1/2 onion chopped or a Tablespoon of dried onion (or celery if you don't eat onion)
1/4 teaspoon cloves (yes, cloves)
a small package of YVES veggie "ham" cut into pieces (added at the end of cooking time)

Cook bean on high 2 hours and low for 4-6, adding in the veggie protein the last hour of cooking. When beans are soft when poked with a fork, remove some of the beans, about 3/4 cup (remove any "meat" bits) and throw in blender with a few tablespoons of the broth  Add back into beans.This is a favorite meat-free meal around here and super cheap to make (sometimes instead of the protein we just add extra veggies such as carrots and celery and season with thyme and a bay leaf instead of the cloves - also very good).

Paired with some stone ground glute free cornbread and a salad this  will make a nice dinner.
So take advantage of your kitchen appliances and come up with a healthy meal of your own.