THE HEALTHY HAG

I COOK … I EAT … I SHARE.

Summery Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins February 26, 2010

It’s mid winter here and we’re being reminded that sunny days are still so far away.  All the snow and doom and gloom led me to fondly reminice about summer, about tasty strawberries and mouth watering rhubarb.  That’s when it hit me – I have both neatly frozen away in the freezer!  Locked in time at their peak by my loving mom-in-law who’s thumb must be greener than Martha’s.  Anyhoodle… after a visit to the monthly indoor farmers market (where I picked up some lovely locally made organic spelt flour) it all came together like cookies and cream.  Healthy?  YES!  Delicious?  YES!  Easy-peasy?  MAIS OUI!  100% Organic?  HELLS YES!  Get ‘er done folks!

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INGREDIENTS :

4 cups flour (I used 2 spelt and 2 whole wheat)

1 cup sugar

2 TBSP baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sunflower oil

2 cups milk (I used 1 cup 1%, and 1 cup almond milk)

2 eggs

2-3 cups frozen fruit, defrosted and diced (I used 2 cups rhubarb, and 3/4 cup strawberries)

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DIRECTIONS:

1) Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

2) In a separate bowl, mix together all wet ingredients (but not the fruit).

3) Fold wet ingredients into dry, just combining.

4) Stir in fruit gently – do not overmix!

5) Pour batter into lined muffin trays and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until golden.

6) Allow to cool and ENJOY!!!

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NOTES:

– These freeze really well, if they last.  

– You can swap in any fruit you like really.  Try blueberries, raspberries, apples or even peaches.

– Best to use whole grain flour, but works well with bleached flour if you’re in a pinch, however you’ll loose out on the nutrition though.

– I made half the batter into mini loaves, so go nuts if you don’t have a nice muffin pan.

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Homage to Aunt Marg!! Mac’n’cheese and Buttery Raisin Scones January 28, 2010

So growing up I was lucky enough to have all 4 grandparents PLUS an extra couple of great aunts that basically were like yet another pair grandparents (all lived within a 20 min radius).  Lucky – you think?? I was super close with my Aunt Marg, and spent many a weekend and vacation with her … and she’s mostly the reason I got into cooking and baking as a young kid.  She was an old fashioned chef with the tastiest classics under her belt.  I could always expect my favaourite meal of the year on my birthday – mac ‘n’ cheese and warm buttery scones.  Don’t ask.  So, when it came time for my brothers birthday a few weeks ago, I offered to make him a tasty meal in honour of our good old Aunt Marg (she passed quite suddenly 6 years ago), and he was like a little kid he beamed with glee.  What was the result?  One banging dinner the entire fam enjoyed… beyond delish and so reminiscent of dinners with Aunt Marg we were all taken back to over-heated apartments and the soft laugh she bellowed so often.  What’s your favourite childhood meal?

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MAC’N’CHEESE

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

¼ cup TBSP butter

2 ½ TBSP flour

2 cups shredded OLD cheddar cheese

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups milk (I used 1%)

½ cup bread crumbs (I used multigrain)

1 pinch cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

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DIRECTIONS:

1. Cook macaroni according to the package directions, then rinse with cold water, drain and set aside.

2. In a large stove-top & oven-friendly casserole pot (I use my big Le Crueset for this), melt butter over medium heat, and then sauté onion and garlic for 3-4 min until soft (not browned!), then stir in flour and combine.

3. In a separate small pot, bring milk to a steam (not boil!) then add milk slowly to onion/garlic/flour mixture, stirring constantly, and lightly simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Stir in cheeses and cayenne pepper to casserole pot, and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is a little thick, adding salt and pepper to taste.

5. Remove from heat and add macaroni to casserole dish, and stir well, then sprinkle with bread crumbs to cover completely.

6. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, then place under broiler for a few minutes until top is slightly browned.

7.  Allow to cool for 5-10 min before serving, and serve HOT!

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BUTTERY RAISIN SCONES

I always wanted scones with my mac’n’cheese – I still love the combo for some reason.  So buttery and so comforting, these scones are juicy with raisins, and are a semi-sweet treat you can enjoy all on their own too.  I loved to wipe up all the leftover cheese in the bottom of my bowl with these.  Oh good grief – huge cravings now!

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour (use regular white if you can)

2 TBSP baking powder

2 TBSP sugar

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp nutmeg

½ cup COLD butter (I then use a grater and grate the butter in for easier mixing)

¾ cup raisins

¾ cup buttermilk

1 egg white, lightly beaten OR 1 TBSP butter melted

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DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 425F, and mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl.

2) Grate in butter until mixture is like large crumbs, then stir in raisins and buttermilk.

3) Drop dough (using a ¼ cup measuring cup – or very large spoons) onto a greased baking sheet, brush tops with egg whites OR butter and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

4) Remove from oven and serve immediately!

 

Saucy Polenta Fingers December 10, 2009

After feeling like I hit a culinary wall of non-creativity (why is it that we always go back to the same old same old after a while??), I went a huntin’ in the great abbyss that is my pantry.  My prey?  Turned out to be a big fat zippy filled with cornmeal.  Enter… inspiration!  I’ve made both the store bought and homemade kinds before, but I wanted to jazz this lil diddy up, so I made this into fingers.  Cooled ’em, cute ’em, grilled ’em, then smothered ’em in sauce.  Outcome?  A brilliantly cheap, quick, hearty and luscious winter-time meal.  Bonus was the totally gluten-free day I had!  Woot!

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INGREDIENTS:

For the polenta –

4 cups water

3 1/2 cups of milk

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp butter (I used unsalted)

For the sauce –

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces

2 cups diced canned tomatoes

1 tsp EACH dried parsley and dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

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DIRECTIONS:

1. Bring water and milk to a boil in a medium pot, then turn down to a simmer – watching closely so you don’t burn the milk.

2. Add cornmeal  into pot in a slow stream, stirring, then add dried basil and salt, and continuing to whisk for about 2-3 minutes.

3. Continue to simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes more – polenta will be gloppy and stiff, but try to keep stirring so the bottom does not burn, then remove from heat.

4. Mix in Parmesan cheese and butter, then plop into a greased 9×11 baking dish and cool for at least 30 minutes until completely solid.

5. While polenta is solidifying, in a large skillet heat oil over medium heat, and saute onions until translucent, then add in garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant and slighly browned (about 1-2 minute).

6. Add canned tomatoes and dried spices (and salt and pepper to taste), simmer for 5-7 minutes, then add in diced green beans and cook until tender – about another 5 min (simmer sauce on low until ready to use).

7.  Slice soild polenta into fingers, remove fro baking dish, and grill in a grill pan until heated and slightly browned (you could also broil in the oven, turning so all sides are browned).

8. Place grilled polenta fingers on a plate, and cover with sauce – sprinkle with parmessean and serve HOT!

 

The Empire (Strikes) Biscuits October 23, 2009

Okay, so my peeps aren’t known for their dessert making skills, but if there is one thing sweet that the Brits do get right, it’s the Empire Biscuit.  It’s a far cry from all the entrails that end up in haggis – don’t even get me started on that – with buttery shortbreads sandwiched together with sweet jam and topped with a dab of white icing.  These remind me so much of Christmas and family, and are a perfect to treat to serve after dinner or with afternoon tea, or to wrap up as gifts for your favourite friends.  I can’t WAIT for December.

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INGREDIENTS:

Shortbread

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (must be all-purpose – I’ve tried whole wheat and it’s not nice)

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 tsp salt

2 cups unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

Icing

1 cup icing sugar (approx)

1 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp

4 1/2 tsp milk

1/4 cup maraschino cherries, dried and cut into quarters (you could use candied ones too if you want)

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DIRECTIONS:

1)  Preheat oven to 350°F, and in a bowl combine flour, cornstarch and salt.

2)  Combine butter and sugar in a separate large bowl, cream together until smooth, then increasingly beat in flour mixture.

3)  Roll 1 tbsp dough at a time into a small ball, then flatten with your fingers until about 1/4″ thick, and place 1/2″ apart onto buttered or lined baking sheets.

4)  Bake cookies for 12 min, or until firm to the touch (watch out not to overcook or burn!).

5)  Remove from oven once done and cool on wire racks.

6)  Once completely cooled, spread 1/2 tsp jam on half the cookies, then top with remaining cookies.

7) For the glaze, beat together icing sugar, butter and milk in a small bowl, adding a little more icing sugar if necessary to make a spreadable paste.

8] Spread icing over cookies, then top each with a small piece of cherry.

9) IMPORTANT: Let sit for 30 minutes before serving, so the biscuits can set.

eb

 

Healthy Peach Muffins August 27, 2009

It’s that time of year again where the fruit basket on the counter and the top shelf in my fridge is overrun with peaches.  Glorious, mouth-watering, chin dripping fresh Ontario Peaches.  Unfortunately, there are only so many I can eat in a day, and so I have had to find creative ways of using them all up.  Enter baking!  These are a healthy alternative to the usually fat-laden muffin realm, and if you’re feeling like you’re not in the peach zone, you could easily swap any berry of your choice here.  The fat here is replaced mostly with yogurt, so it’s a bit friendlier to your hips and tummy.  This batch was even 100% kid approved by my discerning neighbours, 8 and 5 respectively, and by my Grandpa, 89.  Now if that’s not an endorsement, I really don’t know what is.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour (I used 1 cup rye flour, and 1 cup all purpose – but you could use rice or chickpea flour to make this Gluten-free)

1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 cup low-fat plain yogurt (you could use full fat or even peach flavoured if you want)

1/4 cup 1% or skim milk

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (or even almonds)

2 cups fresh peaches, cut into very small pieces (skin on)

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DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 350°F, and place paper baking cups in muffin pans (or lightly grease pans).

2) Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon; set aside.

3) In a separate bowl, combine milk and yogurt; set aside.

4) Beat eggs and sugar at high speed for about 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy, then add melted butter and vanilla and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.

5) Add flour mixture alternately with milk mixture (start and finish with flour mixture), mixing only to completely combine, then stir in chopped nuts and peaches. DO NOT OVERMIX!

6) Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans, and bake on centre rack for 25-30 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean).

7) Remove finished muffins from pans immediately, and cool on wire rack.

peach-muffin

 

Oh-so-oat-cookies! August 6, 2009

Why OH-SO?  Well, these little gems are OH-SO guilt-free, soy-free, easy to make, can be dairy-free, and if you use non-Quaker brand oats, they’re gluten-free too!  And they’re OH-SO tasty, believe it or not. Plus, they’ve got the added bonus of the bananas, so they’re super healthy and a great way to use up any over-ripened bananas you may have lying around.


Ingredients:
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup butter, melted (you could also use CANOLA oil to make these dairy-free)
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats (NOT Quaker or other conventional brands, if you want gluten-free)
1/4 cup skim milk (use RICE or ALMOND milk to make these dairy-free)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tsp vanilla


Directions:

1) Heat oven to 350°F, then puree bananas completely, until they are runny and smooth.

2) Thoroughly mix ALL ingredients together in a bowl, ensuring oats are evenly moistened.

3) Let batter stand for about 5 minutes, then drop heaping teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet.

4) Bake cookies for approximately 15-20 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned (every oven is different so keep a watchful eye near the end).

5) Move cookies to a wire rack to cool.


NOTE – if you make these super-sized, they make terrific ice-cream sammys.  Just scoop vanilla icre-cream and squish between 2 cookies, and freeze for an hour before serving.  Smother with chocolate or caramel sauce for a real gooey mess if you want.  Tastes like summer!!!

oat

 

Peanut Butter Choco-Chip Squares

I live and breathe peanut butter!!  I swear, if I ever get a nut allergy I am doomed.  Every day for as long as I can remember, I’ve had nuts in some shape or another.  Nothing makes me instantly cheerful like a big spoonful of my fave PB (okay, maybe a glass of wine, but that’s another story).  These bars are not only delectable, they are packed with good-for-you ingredients that you most likely already have on hand.  If you are looking to cut back on some calories, you can use Splenda, but I prefer the real thing.  To make these dairy-free, sub in ALMOND or RICE milk and use dairy-free ‘chips’ as I’ve done.


Ingredients:

¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour

¾ tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

1 cup natural peanut butter (smooth or crunchy – your call)

1/3 cup regular brown sugar (or Splenda Brown Sugar Blend if you are calorie counting)

1 egg, beaten

½ cup skim milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life chips – which are dairy and soy free! Yay!)


Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat an 8″ x 8″ baking dish and lightly brush with oil (coat with cooking spray).

2) In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt, and gently stir with a fork.

3) In a separate mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, and egg and stir vigorously until creamy, then add milk and vanilla and stir until smooth.

4) Add the flour mixture to wet mixture, stirring until well combined, then mix in the chips.

5) Place dough into prepared baking dish and pat top lightly until smooth, then bake for about 15 min, or until slightly puffy and very lightly browned at the edges.

6) Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 min before cutting.

NOTE – you can add in oatmeal, raisins, coconut flakes, etc if you wish … totally up to you!pb