Chocolate chip banana nut muffins

We’ve had a lot of snow over the past week here in Boston so like many others I’ve been doing a lot of cooking (and eating! too much eating!).

One of the best things I’ve made during the past week is these muffins (or cupcakes). I modified a cake recipe from The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam to create these muffin/cupcakes.

I say they’re muffin/cupcakes because they feel more like a treat than muffins, but I choose not to make any frosting, so that makes their status as “cupcakes” questionable. For me, the chocolate chips make frosting unnecessary.

Like most things I bake these straddle the line between “treat” and “sustenance.” They’re made of high-protein almond flour, so they’re filling in a way your standard muffin isn’t.

I have been experimenting with using coconut oil in place of other oils and have discovered something interesting. Unrefined coconut oil is not supposed to be heated above 280 degrees (or something like that), so it shouldn’t be good for baking muffins cooked at 350 degrees. Except that it is! I’ve made this recipe with both unrefined and refined coconut oil (expeller pressed only please) and I find the unrefined coconut oil makes a richer more luscious muffin. The refined coconut oil is really good too, but it has a slightly less luscious result.

I recommend using the best quality dark chocolate chips you can find. Using good chocolate here really elevates this simple treat into something special. I try to get chips that are at least 70% dark chocolate when I can. You can also chop up a couple of nice chocolate bars to mix in with whatever chips you use–even a small amount of high-quality chocolate makes a difference here.

Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Muffins

3 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cp coconut oil, melted (or any other light oil or melted butter)
1/4 cp maple syrup (or any liquid sweetener)
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cp mashed ripe bananas (2-3)
1 cup dark chocolate chips (or chopped up chocolate bars)
1/2 cp chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin pan with paper baking cups.

In large bowl combine almond flour, salt and baking soda.

In a separate bowl combine the oil, liquid sweetener, eggs and vanilla. Stir into the almond flour mixture. Add mashed bananas, chocolate chips and pecans and stir to thoroughly combine.

Scoop into prepared muffin pan, bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out dry.

Nantucket bay scallops with almonds and lemon

I have been exploring the seafood of New England, which is so different from that of my native Louisiana, and have recently discovered Nantucket Bay scallops.

scallop

I’m certainly not an expert on these scallops, but what I do know is that they are small, sweet, rare and more expensive than regular scallops. They have a small window of availability, and I lucked out in getting some today at the last Central Square farmer’s market of the year.

I found this great recipe for Nantucket Bay scallops with almonds and orange at Yankee Magazine, but I lacked orange juice and chicken stock. What to do?

I modified the recipe to use about 1/2 cup of sherry, a few tablespoons of lemon juice and honey (plus a little water) to create a different version of the recipe from Yankee Magazine. It came out delicious, and was as easy as any scallop recipe I’ve made.

Nantucket Bay scallops with almonds and sherry

1 lb. of scallops
1/2 cp. almond meal
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small chopped onion or large shallot
1/2 cp parsley
1/2 cp sliced almonds
1/2 cp sherry or white wine
1/3 cp water
3 tbsp lemon juice
1.5-2 tsp honey

1. Wash, dry and salt scallops. Dredge in almond meal.

2. Heat large frying pan and add butter and olive oil. Add scallops to hot oil and spread out in a single layer. Cook for roughly 2-2.5 minutes, trying to turn them once if possible to create a nice seared crust.

3. Remove scallops to a bowl or plate and set aside. If necessary, add a bit more olive oil to the frying pan along with onions,d

4. Add sherry/white wine, water, lemon juice and honey. This will allow you to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape up anything that is stuck to the pan–that’s where the flavor is! Cook until liquid is reduced by at least 1/2.

5. Turn off the fire and return scallops to the pan. Toss to coat with the sauce.

Bon Appetit!

Photo from: “Argopecten irradian” from Bermuda at the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano

Purslane

Local farmers’ markets are in full swing here in Boston and I couldn’t be happier. Every year the farmers bring new and interesting produce to the market giving adventurous eaters plenty of great things to try.

Purslane

Purslane

Purslane has turned up in my local markets (Central Square and Davis Square), and I love it. In America we’ve treated purslane (also known as Portulaca) as a weed. Other cultures have recognized it as a remarkably healthy vegetable that just happens to grow like a weed!

Purslane is loaded with all of the nutrients you expect to find in a leafy green vegetable: vitamin A is present in large quantities, as well as vitamin C and multiple B vitamins. It contains a decent amount of minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

The truly exciting nutrient in purslane is Omega 3 fatty acids. Purslane has a large serving of ALA, which is usually found only in fish, flax, hemp seeds and chia seeds.

So, how do you prepare it? What does it taste like?

Like most foods that contain omega 3s, heat is the enemy. Purslane is delicious raw, either as a stand-alone salad or mixed in with other salad greens. It has a nutty/lemony flavor with a great crunch when you have it raw.

It’s also nice quickly stir-fried. It’s great stirred in to scrambled eggs. Saute an onion first, then briefly saute the purslane before adding your scrambled eggs to the pan. Serve with salsa and maybe corn tortillas.

It must be summer because it’s Farmer’s Market time (plus sauteed Kale)

It’s farmer’s market season in Boston and I couldn’t be happier. I am fortunate enough to shop at the markets in Central Square and Davis Square (which is located directly behind my office!).

I have found that produce from the markets is fresher and tastier than anything in the stores. The prices work out to be more or less the same (or slightly cheaper, depending), but you get bigger bunches of things for the money. The markets have also turned me into a tomato snob–I never buy them from the grocery store because they are mealy and flavorless. I actually have a tomato problem in the summer–once they start appearing in the market I find myself buying so many that we have a hard time eating them all (a happy difficulty to have!).There are markets all over town, all week long. Check out the Federation of Massachusetts Farmer’s Markets to find one near you.

I always visit the Enterprise Farm stand in Davis Square to buy my greens. They’re an organic farm, and I like to try to buy as much organic produce as possible. They grow multiple varieties of my favorite vegetable, Kale, along with delicious salad greens, tomatoes and many other organic green things.

The Kimball Farm is at both of my markets and they have the biggest selection at both markets. They are not organic, but “low spray,” which means they only spray when they have to. They have expanded their “no spray” produce, making them a good alternative if you can’t find what you want at the organic stands.

I’m addicted to the berries from the Bug Hill Farm stand. They overfill their containers, and their berries are consistently sweet and delectable.

In the fall some stands have fresh foraged Maitake, or Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. I try to buy as many of these as possible. Maitake have fantastic health benefits, are extremely tasty and versatile to cook with, and include woody stems that I save in the freezer to add to vegetable stocks. Check out this post from Drweil.com about the health benefits of Maitake and other mushrooms like Shiitake.

Both of my markets have a variety of naturally-raised meat available, and now both have fresh fish vendors! In Davis Square, the Globe Fish Company offers super-fresh, never frozen fish from their family-run business. We have a new fish vendor in Central, C&C Lobsters and fish, which seems to also be a small, family-run business. They have a nice variety of local fish and also lobsters–either live for you to take home to cook, or, if you order ahead, steamed and ready to eat.

Aside from all the beautiful produce, farmer’s markets are a community gathering opportunity. I often run into people that I know and maybe don’t see too often at the markets, and it’s like we’re all giddy with joy–it’s just so delightful to be surrounded by beautiful produce and happy people!

One thing I buy every week is kale. I love Enterprise Farm’s organic tuscan kale (also known as black, lacinato or dinosaur kale), as well as their green and purple kale. Kale is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. I think I tell at least one patient every day that they should include kale in their diet.

The problem is that no one knows how to cook it! We almost always prepare it as a simple saute with some garlic and salt. Easy, fast, delicious–what else do you need in a vegetable dish?

I hesitate to post this as a “recipe” because there’s really nothing to it:

-Chop the Kale (cut the leaves off of the thick, woody stems first)
-chop a clove of garlic
-saute the garlic briefly in a large frying pan with some olive oil (less than a tablespoon should do)
-add the kale and saute. It’s good if there’s a bit of water left on your kale from washing –that water helps steam the kale as it’s cooking.

Add salt (be judicious–kale doesn’t seem to need much salt) and enjoy!

Apple frangipane tart with almond and hazelnut crust (with bonus shortbread cookies)

I’ve always loved treats with an almond flavor or filling. Now that I’m doing almost all of my baking with almond flour, it’s easier to make healthy treats that satisfy my almond-loving palate.

I’ve been experimenting with my gluten-free pie crust recipe, and recently tried it out in an Apple Frangipane tart. Frangipane is a filling made of ground almonds, butter, sugar and eggs. Not all Frangipane recipes call for almond extract, but I like to include it to enhance the natural almond flavor. You can bake Frangipane in a variety of pie and tart pastries, often with fruit on top, or perhaps a layer of jam below.

Apple Frangipane tart is a classic French pastry. A sweet tart crust is filled with frangipane, topped with apples and baked. This recipe uses a gluten-free crust, but you could use whatever sweet crust you prefer. This recipe is a work-in-progress, and I think that pre-baking the crust for about 5 minutes would be a good thing, but I have not tested this theory yet (we can only eat so many sweets!), so I have listed the recipe just as I made it.

Bonus Shortbread Cookies: This crust recipe makes more than you’ll need for a standard tart pan (7-9″ diameter), so roll the leftovers into a log and refrigerate until firm, slice into cookies, and bake at 350 for 7-12 minutes for a delicious gluten-free shortbread cookie.

I used granular palm sugar/coconut sugar in my frangipane. Palm/coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (35), tastes delicious and behaves almost exactly like sugar. As a bonus, it contains some B vitamins and a generous amount of minerals like potassium and iron. It does not taste as sweet as refined sugar, but it brings a richer flavor to the finished product. You can find palm/coconut sugar in asian markets, packaged as a solid, hard-to-use lump (which is often combined with refined white sugar). I’ve also seen round shaker-type container of coconut sugar at my local Whole Foods Market, but it was outrageously expensive. I’ve been buying a nice, reasonably-priced granular palm sugar from Nutsonline.com, which is also where I buy my almond flour and many other wonderful things. Their palm sugar isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper than what you might find at your market. Since it feels so much better in my body than refined sugar, I see it as a worthwhile investment in my health.

Apple frangipane tart with almond and hazelnut crust

Almond and hazelnut crust

1.5 cps almond meal/flour
1 cp hazelnut meal
1 tbsp ground chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cp melted coconut oil or fat of your choosing
5 tbsp liquid sweetener (honey, maple, agave, brown rice syrup, etc.)
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg

Combine almond flour, hazelnut meal, chia seeds, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a big wire whisk (or any spoon, really) until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, liquid sweetener, almond extract and egg. Beat with a fork or whisk until thoroughly combined.

Stir wet ingredients into dry, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is blended.

Put crust mixture into refrigerator to firm up a bit while you prepare the rest.

Fragipane

1/2 cp almond meal
1 tbsp flour (buckwheat is good, but any will do)
1/4 cp palm sugar (or regular sugar)
3 tbsp butter
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt

Combine almond meal, flour and palm sugar in a food processer, pulsing a couple of times to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until a smooth paste is formed, pausing to scrape down the sides to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.

Putting it all together

2-3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375. Thoroughly grease your tart pan, making sure to get to each nook and cranny.

Press about 2/3-3/4 of the pie crust mixture into the tart pan, making sure it is even on the bottom and sides. This is easier if it is a bit stiff and cold. Take extra care with the bottom edge, making sure that it is not too thick.

Pour frangipane into the crust and spread it evenly. Arrange apple slices on top, arranging them in a pretty pattern.

Bake at 375 for 40-60 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Store in refrigerator.

2 great Korean food blogs

One of our favorite meals is “rice and soup.” It doesn’t sound especially appetizing, I suppose, but it’s our short-hand for a Korean/Japanese-style meal of short-grain white rice, miso soup, and a wildly varying (and often enormous) collection of vegetable and protein side dishes. The variety possible is endless, and many of the side dishes are easy to pull together. As a meal, it’s a bit like tapas.

Korean.food-Hanjungsik-01We learned to love these types of meals when we lived in Taegu, S. Korea. In the local parlance, such a meal was called “chung shik” (I think other parts of the country call it “bap shik”). “Chung shik” is a “regular meal.” Most restaurants serve some version of this–a soup, often deon jang jjigae, the Korean version of miso soup, rice, at least one type of kim chi, and a variety of small dishes of vegetables and a bit of protein. Restaurants near temples often specialized in vegetarian fare in recognition of the nearby buddhist monk’s vegetarianism, usually including delicious house-made tofu.

Every time I ate something delicious I would ask anyone who could speak a bit of English how to make it. We bought some English-language Korean cookbooks while we were there, but they’re only so-so.

So, I’m super excited about two new Korean food blogs I’ve found, Bap Story and Mangchi. They have great recipes and pictorial or video instructions on how to make them.

Our “rice and soup” dinners are better than ever now!

Photo is CC licensed by http2007.

Montreal and a quick egg recipe

Every few years my husband and I trek to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. The festival has changed a lot since our first trip their. On this trip we realized that instead of going to mostly listen to music, we were going to mostly enjoy some favorite things about Montreal, and then listen to a little al fresco music in the evening. It was one of our best trips yet.

Community garden in Montreal

We rented a small apartment near the Atwater market and the Lachine Canal, two of the highlights of our trip. The lovely community garden pictured above was next to the apartment, and it was pure joy to walk past it several times a day and see gardeners tending their tidy plots.

Farm stand at Atwater Market

The Atwater Market was a delight for me–a permanent farmer’s market with a wide variety of small local vendors. Quebec is a bit behind Boston in their season, so they still had strawberries and asparagus. Both were delicious and so simple to enjoy in our our little kitchen. We also bought some delicious local goat and sheep’s milk cheese, some maple syrup and La Messagere, a wonderful Quebec-made gluten-free beer.

The Lachine Canal (with access conveniently located right behind the market) is an amazing urban park, perfect for biking. It was originally built as an industrial canal, and spurred development in that parts of Montreal that it traversed. Biking along it is fascinating–a range of historic stone buildings, modern buildings and infrastructure, crumbling factories, and luxury condos line the path. There’s even one section that travels parallel (and within a visible, but safely distant) section of a major highway. Despite all of this human-made scenery, sections of it are lush with greenery and overall it was a peaceful ride.

Our bike journeys were made possible by the BIXI bike share program that’s like the one we’re getting here in Boston. It was a great service and I’m so excited to have something similar in Boston.

Kusmi Tea store

We also found a shop dedicated to selling our favorite tea, Kusmi Tea. It’s Russian-via-Paris, expensive, decadent and totally worth every penny.

Most of our meals were simply prepared dishes with loot from the farmer’s market (like the egg, potato and asparagus recipe that follows), but I have to mention the fantastic vegetarian restaurant we visited in the Plateau neighborhood, Aux Vivres. They serve a nice variety of interesting and healthy vegetarian fare, including several gluten-free items.

I’ve found that one of the easiest and healthiest foods a vegetarian can prepare when you’re traveling is eggs.

They’re versatile–on recent trips I’ve made omlettes and fritattas, hard-boiled, scrambled and poached in spicy tomato sauce–all with minimal equipment and seasonings.
They’re healthy–the white is almost pure protein, providing slow-burning fuel. Eggs are also an important source of B vitamins for vegetarians, something in short supply in the vegetable kingdom.
They’re filling–perfect to fuel a morning or afternoon of walking around or biking (or after, to refuel for the next adventure).
They cook up fast! Perfect for a quick lunch after a morning of exploring

They’re also available everywhere, maybe one of their best features.

Taking advantage of the delicious local asparagus and some nice new potatoes, I made this “hash” for lunch after one of our bike rides. It’s so simple it’s hard to call this a “recipe.” If you can use real butter, I encourage you to do it tastes great! If butter is not you’re friend, use your favorite butter substitute.

Eggs with potato and asparagus hash

For 2

4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are, beaten
8 small, 2-3 medium or 1 large potato
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces.
1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
butter
Salt, pepper
Optional additions: crumbled goat cheese (or any cheese), tabasco, avocado, chopped fresh herbs

Cut potatoes into a 1/2 inch dice. Boil until just cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).
To prepare asparagus, either add to potatoes in the last minute of cooking, or parboil or steam them separately until bright green and just tender.

Heat butter in a large frying pan. Saute onion or shallots until soft. Add potatoes and allow them to gently brown in the butter (but don’t burn the butter!). Add asparagus, stir to coat with butter.

Push veggies to the side of pan, add a bit more butter and pour eggs into the empty 1/2 of the pan. Scramble until mostly cooked, then stir veggies and finish cooking the whole process should take about 5 minutes, depending on how well you like your scrambled eggs to be done). Salt and pepper to taste

Served topped with any of the optional additions you’d like.

Nice way to use Mangos

Ataulfo mangos have reappeared in the markets for the spring and I can’t get enough of them. They’re so rich and custardy and “stringless” which is a really nice thing. I always feel great joy when I eat orange things like sweet potatoes, but these mangos are an extra special joy.

I had an eyes-bigger-than-my-stomach moment at the store the other day and bought 4, all unripe, and all destined to ripen at the exact same time. I could happily eat them, just as is, but then I remembered this recipe I found over at Chef in You.

Chef in You is a healthy Indian food blog that I’ve recently discovered. I love this recipe for Amrakhand, a thick yogurt and mango lassi. I’m planning a dinner of spicy Indian food this weekend just so we can cool off with this for dessert.

You can read the original post here. I’ve simply copied and pasted the recipe below.

Amrakhand

2 cups plain yogurt (use Greek style yogurt if available)
2-3 fresh mangoes, to make about 1 cup mango pulp (you can use canned mango pulp too)
sugar to taste
1-2 tbsp chiroli nuts for garnish (optional)
few fresh slices of mangoes for garnish

Note: You can also use saffron, cardamom powder and nuts to flavor this further like Shrikhand.

Method

If using fresh mango pulp, slice the flesh of the ripe mangoes. I used sweet mangoes for this recipe.
Process mangos in a blender or food processor until smooth. You can strain the pulp to remove the string,s if any.
Make sure the yogurt you are using is thick. if not, you can tie the yogurt in a clean cotton cloth (or cheesecloth) and hang it up for an hour or so to drain off all the whey. Or if you can get your hands on Greek style Yogurt, go for it. I think its perfect for this dessert.
Whisk the yogurt in a bowl and beat it well.
Add sugar little by little and continue to whisk.
When the yogurt gets light in texture, stir in the mango pulp.
Stir it until blended and then chill it.
Serve cold garnished it with chiroli nuts and some sliced mangoes.

Spicy black-eyed peas, lentils and split chickpeas with mustard greens

One of my favorite restaurants in my hometown of New Orleans is Bennachin. It’s not one of those classic New Orleans Creole or Cajun restaurants–it’s a simple, homey place that serves super-tasty African food. I think it’s really the owner/chef’s home cooking–that’s what it tastes like, anyway, delicious home-cooking. They have a big selection of vegetarian dishes (as well as meat and fish), and it seems that most things come with coconut rice and fried plantains. I’ve found that any meal accompanied by fried plantains is pretty awesome.

They serve this wonderful black-eyed pea dish that I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to reproduce at home. It’s a simple stew with onions, tomatoes and black-eyed peas, but it tastes like much more than that.

The surprising (and revelatory) thing about it, to me, is how tasty black-eyed peas are in a tomato-based stew. As a southerner I’ve eaten my share of black-eyed peas (especially on New Year’s day, when it brings you luck), and we might throw a chopped tomato in when we serve it, but it’s definitely not in a tomato sauce.

My most recent experiment included some garden-variety brown lentils and some split chickpeas. I ventured far from my Proustian memories of Bennachin’s black-eyed peas and into new territory with some Indian spices (and the addition of two other legumes). The split chickpeas are also known as Chana dal, and can be found in any Indian market. If you can’t get them, just use more black-eyed peas.

I usually throw a small piece (1 square inch, roughly) of Kombu/kelp in the pot when I make beans–it helps soften them and mineralizes the dish.

I like things spicy, so if you don’t, cut down on the chili. I encourage you to use the full amount of ginger though–it helps the digestion and really makes the dish tasty! I find that the heat of green chilis here in Boston is unreliable–they often taste like small bell peppers. Serrano chilis are usually pretty hot, and like with all chilis, the seeds are the hottest part. You can test for heat of your chili with a small nibble of the green part, and then decide how many seeds to include. I strongly recommend you do this! When I don’t, my dishes turn out either way to hot or disappointingly mild.

I always want to have something green with every meal, and this time I made mustard greens with onions, mustard seed and hing/asofetida.

Spicy Black-eyed peas, lentils and split chickpeas

1/3 cp split chickpeas (aka Channa Dal, available at Indian markets) or just black-eyed peas
1/2 cp brown lentils
1/2 cp black-eyed peas
1 bay leaf
small piece kombu/kelp
1 onion, chopped
1-2 green chilis, chopped
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil, for sauteing
1 tsp cumin (or more, to taste
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2-1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I use no salt added tomatoes, reduce salt if yours have added salt)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2-3 tbsp lemon juice, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

If you are using the split chickpeas, bring them to a boil in about 4 cups of water, along with the bay leaf, kombu and about 1.5 tsp salt. Reduce fire and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add black-eyed peas and lentils and about 1 more cup of water (if you are not using chickpeas, just bring lentils and black-eyes to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes).

In the meantime, prepare the seasoning: Saute onion, garlic, chilis and ginger until onions soften. Add cumin, cardamom and coriander and briefly saute, making sure not to burn the spices. Add entire can of diced tomatoes (including juice). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add tomato mixture to pot of beans. Simmer on a low fire for at least 20 more minutes or until beans are soft and stew is thick. You might need to add 1-2 more cups of water to keep it from sticking, but finished result should be thick.

Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro and lemon juice, both to taste. Adjust salt and seasonings. Serve on rice.

Seasoned mustard greens

1 small onion or 2 shallots
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
pinch hing/asofetida
1 bunch mustard greens (or any hearty green–kale, collard greens)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion or shallots until they soften and give off some water. Add mustard seeds and continue sauteing until they start to pop. Add the pinch of hing, the greens and some salt. Saute until greens are bright-green and softened (maybe 5 minutes of sauteing). Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Mark Bittman on cautious optimism about food

My favorite New York Times food columnist and cookbook author, Mark Bittman wrote this nice blog post about some good news regarding healthy foods. He points out that it’s getting easier (and hipper?) to eat healthy foods–there are more farmer’s markets, more emphasis on sustainable growing practices, and most importantly, a greater emphasis on healthy meals in our school systems.

Hopefully all of these changes really do turn us into a nation of healthy whole foods eaters instead of chubby processed foods eaters. I suppose we won’t see real change until we stop subsidizing corn (which is processed into all sorts of chemicals and sugars) and start subsidizing things like kale, fruit and whole-grains. I could get excited about my tax dollars being spent on that!
Read the original post here.