Pumpkin Muffins

Making Healthy Choices

Pumpkin Muffins Pumpkin Muffins

I love fall.  I love the changing leaves, the bright blue skies and cool crisp mornings.  I especially love fall produce and tend to bake more as the season changes.  I use winter squash and pumpkin a lot.  They are so versatile.  They are unique in that they are quite often used for both savoury and sweet dishes and are delicious either way.

Pumpkin Muffins Pumpkin Muffins

The pumpkin (or squash) and the buttermilk keeps these muffins deliciously moist.  The spices add lots of flavour and when they bake they will perfume the house with aromas of pumpkin spice.  Adding the whole wheat flour or another whole grain flour like barley adds fibre and more nutrients.  These muffins are also low in fat and low in sugar.  They are perfect for make ahead breakfasts, school lunches or snacks.  I may or may not have even topped them with a little…

View original post 165 more words

Sheet Pan Eggplant Souvlaki

Eggplant is in season and I have been having fun experimenting with new ways to use it and of course enjoying traditional recipes too. My favourite Eggplant dish is Baba Ganoush, often referred to as poor man’s caviar for its silky smooth texture. Lately,  I am finding eggplant is surprisingly versatile and I’m excited by some new recipes I have been developing. I hope to post my Baked Eggplant Unparmesan soon.  What is your favourite way to enjoy eggplant?

Eggplant is a very healthy choice.  Eggplant is very low in calories, is a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and contains important phytonutrients.  There is interesting research being done on potential health benefits to the brain and the heart from the antioxidants in eggplant.

Sheet Pan Eggplant Souvlaki
Sheet Pan Eggplant Souvlaki

Roasting eggplant on a sheet pan is a great way to enjoy it.  The unique, spongy texture becomes tender and creamy, and the slight bitter flavour mellows and sweetens. The marinade adds richness along with lively greek flavours.  I used Japanese eggplant in this recipe as the skin is thinner and can be left on, but other eggplant could be substituted. Putting the vegetables on a skewer is nice for serving but simply tossed on a baking sheet would work fine too.

The September theme for The Recipe Redux is Sheet Pan Meals.  “We love throwing ingredients together on a sheet pan and roasting for a simple sheet pan dinner.  They make busy weeknights a bit more manageable (and clean-up isn’t bad either!) Show us your healthy take on a sheet pan meal.” I’m looking forward to getting lots of healthy ideas to try.  Check out the other sheet pan meals at the bottom of this post.

Sheet Pan Eggplant Souvlaki

Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

Zest if 1 lemon

1 1/2  teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

2 Japanese eggplants

1/2 yellow pepper

1/2 red pepper

1/2 orange pepper

1/4 red onion cut in chunks

1 teaspoon oil (for pan)

Cherry tomatoes

Pita bread

Directions:

Make the marinade first.  Combine the garlic cloves, lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar, and spices. Gradually add the olive oil and mix well. Set aside.

Cut stem and end of eggplant off and then slice the eggplant in half lengthwise.  Cut each half into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add to marinade and toss to coat.  Chop up peppers into chunks and add to eggplant, tossing to coat.  Add red onion tossing again to coat all vegetables. Marinate for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Oil baking sheet with 1 teaspoon oil. While oven is heating, put eggplant and peppers on skewers and place on pan.  Roast in oven for 25 minutes or until eggplant is very tender. Remove pan from oven, add cherry tomatoes and pita bread and return to oven for 5 minutes. Remove and serve the skewers wrapping in pita. Tzatziki, feta cheese and olives are nice additions.

Eggplant Souvlaki
Eggplant Souvlaki

Check out all the sheet pan meals from The Recipe Redux here:
recipe-redux-linky-logo

Blueberry Lime Chia Jam

I first came across the combination of blueberries and lime from a very simple dessert in “Les Halles” cookbook by Anthony Bourdain.  I have made that recipe so many times … it is so simple, easy, and delicious with a surprising combination that is outstanding.  I was smitten. When local blueberries are in season, I always make it again, many times more.

There is a bumper crop of blueberries this year in the Fraser Valley, one of the prime agricultural areas just outside of Metro Vancouver.  There are many u pick places that offer the opportunity to pick them yourself, which is easy and fun.  It is a great family activity where kids (and adults) can try to fill their buckets and pails without eating them all.

Picking Blueberries
Picking Blueberries

Having lots of blueberries around is never a bad thing and I wanted to experiment with that flavour combination.  I’ve made blueberry chia jam and sauce many times, alone or with lemon, but decided to add the lime zest, lime juice and even a few mint leaves, using the flavours from that dessert. Wow, what a great combination.

Blueberry Lime Chia Jam
Blueberry Lime Chia Jam The outstanding combination of blueberries and lime with chia makes a delicious healthy jam.

To make a healthier jam, I thickened it with chia seeds.  Adding chia to your diet has many benefits.  It is high in fibre and protein, and has important fatty acids.  In addition to the nutritional benefits it has the unique ability to absorb water, making it a natural thickener.  In jam, chia takes the place of pectin and sugar.  It will not gel the way a traditional jam does but it has a spread-like consistency that works perfectly on toast or wherever you use jam.  Generally speaking you want to use 1 tablespoon of chia per 1 cup fruit.  Leave it on simmer for 10 minutes or so to thicken. Using chia to thicken also means you only need to add sugar or sweetener for taste.  When I make pure blueberry jam with chia, I usually find that the blueberries are sweet enough, but with the addition of the tart lime I added a little sugar to balance the flavor.

Blueberry Lime Chia Jam

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

2-3 fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons chia

Zest and juice of 1 lime

Directions:

Add blueberries, mint and lime zest to a small saucepan and heat on low until blueberries start to soften and release their juices.  Stir frequently.  After about 15 minutes they should be cooked and sauce like.  Add sugar and lime juice and cook a little longer.  Remove mint leaves.  Add chia seeds and continue cooking for 5 minutes more.  Remove from heat and let sit.  The chia will thicken the jam as it cooks and will thicken a little more as it cools down.  Store in the fridge.

Apple Cider Baked Beans

Sweet, smoky and comforting, these Apple Cider Baked Beans are the perfect dish to set up in your crock pot or slow cooker to simmer all day.  The slow cooking provides ample time for these beans to become rich and delicious with flavours of sweet apple cider and smoky paprika and rich depth from molasses and mustard.

My favourite recipe for Baked Beans was originally from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook, Boston Baked Beans, and that recipe was the inspiration for this recipe. Simple, cheap and easy with only a few ingredients, it became a family favourite for years served up with Molasses Brown Bread reflecting our partial familial Eastern Canada influence. I’ve changed it up at times just to add variety to the flavours and this is our favourite variation.  The apple cider adds such a beautiful flavour and really makes the dish special.


This dish could not be easier to throw together.  Once the beans are soaked, simply add everything else and set up the slow cooker to work its magic. Baked beans are terrific comfort food for cooler days but also for hot days when you don’t want to turn the oven on.  Baked Beans are the perfect family meal, potluck contribution or picnic addition.  It is an easy make ahead dish and freezes well.  We like to take them frozen for camping, where they are quick to heat up and taste so deliciously satisfying after a day spent exploring the great outdoors.

This month with The Recipe Redux, it is all about fast or slow cooking while keeping the kitchen cool. “Beat the Heat with the Slow Cooker/Instapot/Pressure Cooker”. I’m looking forward to checking out all the recipes! What appliances do you use to make your meals while keeping the kitchen cool?

Apple Cider Baked Beans

Serves 8

2 cups dried white beans or pinto beans

Water

3 – 4 cups apple cider*

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup fancy molasses

2 tablespoons oil

salt

Directions:

Soak beans in 8 cups water overnight.  Drain, rinse and put in slow cooker or crock pot. Add spices, apple cider, molasses and oil. Stir well to mix the molasses with apple cider.  Put on low for 6-8 hours.  Test if they are done by trying a bean, they should be tender and creamy inside.  Add salt starting with a 1/4 teaspoon and adjust as needed.

*Alternatively, use part apple cider and part water to reduce the sugar in the dish.

Serve with bread or baked potatoes and salad to make a complete meal.  This recipe is vegan.

Check out all the other recipes to “Beat the Heat” here:
recipe-redux-linky-logo

Rhubarb Orange Slushie

We got a coupon in the mail for a FREE sour cherry Slurpee® and as much as my kids want to go and use it, I keep strategically forgetting. I was shocked to learn that one 355 ml serving of this Slurpee has 46 grams of sugar, almost 12 teaspoons. I’m also not crazy about the ingredient list:  glucose/fructose and/or sugar, water, citric acid, natural and artificial flavour, colour, sodium benzoate, and acadian gum. So the question is – do we want a free Slurpee?  Maybe I can come up with a suitable substitute.  Something refreshing, tangy, cold,  with less sugar and lots of ice, that freezes your brain.  Ok, maybe not that last part, but you know what I mean, something that would substitute for that summer ritual, the Slurpee. That coupon inspired me to experiment!


As much as I would like to not ever use that coupon, I believe that my kids need to make the choice. They are getting older and more independent and will soon be making many more of their own choices. If I restrict things, it makes them want it more.  I want and hope to provide them with education and curiosity about the choices they make, to wonder how things are made and with what ingredients. Yes, I want them to be concerned about nutrition and make healthy choices most of the time, but also to find a balance that works for them, and if they really want to occasionally try something like a Slurpee, that is ok too.

Refreshing and cool, this tangy, tart Rhubarb Orange Slushie is a great hot weather beverage that both adults and kids will line up for.  Rhubarb and orange flavours are very complimentary and the honey adds just enough sweetness.  To preserve some of the pucker from the rhubard, which I enjoy, I used only a little honey but adjust it based on your taste. These are so easy to make and there is no end to experimenting with different fruit combinations. Homemade slushies are delicious and colourful concoctions to add to your parties and celebrations.

It’s all about sipping this month at The Recipe Redux and I can’t wait to check out all the healthy cocktails and mocktails from the other members.  See the link at the bottom of this post for ideas to try!

Rhubarb Orange Slushie

Serves 4

2 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons honey

2 small oranges (I used mandarin oranges)

12 ice cubes

Directions:  Add rhubarb and water to medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until rhubarb is soft and tender.  Add honey, taste for sweetness and adjust if necessary. Let cool.

Add oranges and cooled rhubarb to blender and process until smooth.  Add 12 ice cubes and process until ice is slushy. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts:

Each serving has approximately 65 calories, 12 grams of sugar. 

recipe-redux-linky-logo

Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

fullsizerender
Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

This recipe started out as a dip.  It was so popular and well liked it turned into a main mix for a few different Mexican style dishes.  It has evolved a little over the years, but always starts with the same foundation.  It is a very versatile mix that can go a lot of different ways depending on what you have on hand, what ingredients are in season or what your preferences are. We use it for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and as an ever popular dip for parties and potlucks. This recipe definitely has increased our use of black beans.

Black beans and all legumes are nutrition powerhouses.  They are a good source or protein, iron, and other nutrients and a very good source of fibre and folate. In addition black beans (along with other pulses) provide exceptional support for blood sugar balance and blood sugar regulation due to their protein plus fibre combination. Although all beans and lentils are very healthy,  there are unique properties to black beans. Current research is showing they may have particular benefits in preventing colon cancer as they support a very helpful bacteria in the lower colon.   Here are a couple more recipes using black beans.  Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies (with black beans) and  Roasted Corn, Black Bean and Ancient Grains Salad.

If you need taco inspiration, you have come to the right place. This month Recipe Redux challenge is to make a taco that is healthy and creative. Look for the link at the bottom of the post to take you to all the wonderful ideas from the members of The Recipe Redux team. You can probably make a different recipe for Taco Tuesday for at least a year! I’m looking forward to checking them out.

This recipe is very easy, quick, healthy, and creative.  It takes only about 15 minutes to prepare.  It doubles well to make extra to freeze for another day. Simply defrost in the fridge, reheat and serve. For another easy pulse based taco filling see my very popular recipe for Lentil Tacos.

Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

Makes 8

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp chipotle powder or 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1 1/2 tsp cumin

3/4 cup strained pureed tomatoes

1 3/4 cup cooked (or canned) black beans

1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Taco shells

Toppings such as chopped avocado, grated cheese (or vegan cheese), chopped tomato, lettuce, salsa, lime wedges

Directions:  Add olive oil to medium saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Add spices and heat until they are fragrant (a few more minutes).  Add tomato, black beans and corn.  Cook until filling is heated through (about 10 minutes). Top with freshly chopped cilantro and serve.

While taco filling is cooking prepare taco shells.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place taco shells on cookie sheet and heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve.

recipe-redux-linky-logo

Dark Chocolate Seville Orange Truffles (with Avocado)

img_6996
Dark Chocolate Seville Orange Truffles (with Avocado)

I remember making truffles years ago, but only once or maybe twice a year because they were so rich.  Traditional truffles are made with butter or cream to make them so smooth and creamy, with the incredible texture that only truffles have.  If you love truffles, this recipe is going to change your life.

Avocado, which is today’s butter, oil, cream, cream cheese, and mayo substitute, couldn’t be more popular.  Avocado is used to replace fat in all kinds of recipes from brownies, pudding and cheesecake to the ever popular avocado toast.  When combined with dark chocolate in these truffles, it makes a rich, decadent, heavenly dessert that is delicious yet healthy too.

Avocado and dark chocolate are very heart healthy foods. Avocado is made up mostly of fat, but predominantly  heart healthy monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce cholesterol. It is also high in antioxidants and is nutrient rich. Flavonoids and  phytonutrients in dark chocolate have anti-inflammatory, anti-clogging, and antioxidant properties all of which benefit the heart. Much of the fat in chocolate (cocoa butter) is heart healthy as well.  When choosing chocolate, try to find one with seventy percent cocoa or more.  Making truffles with dark chocolate and avocado for your sweetheart is a wonderful way to express your love but also protect their heart.

Dark Chocolate Seville Orange Truffles

Makes 24

1/2 cup hazelnuts

140 grams dark chocolate

1/2 ripe avocado (70 grams)

6 tablespoons Seville Orange Marmalade

pinch salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

Pre heat oven to 300 degrees.  Place hazelnuts on an oven tray and roast for about 10 to 15 minutes, until fragrant.  Remove from oven and with oven mitts, rub hazelnuts together to remove skins.  Let cool.

While nuts are roasting, place 1/2 avocado in food processor and pulse.  Add marmalade, salt, vanilla and process until smooth.  While this is working slowly melt chocolate in a medium size heat proof bowl and let cool slightly.  Slowly add avocado mixture to warm chocolate and stir to combine.  Let cool and if mixture is too runny to make balls, refrigerate or freeze to firm up.

Pulse hazelnuts until fine or until desired texture for rolling truffles in.  Place in shallow bowl or plate.  Spoon truffle mixture onto nuts and roll until coated.  Store in the refrigerator.