Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Plantain Pumpkin Muffins

I'm back? Sorry to have lost focus for six months or so. Isn't it funny how life interferes with best laid plans and all that stuff? Or maybe not funny, but tragic. Or just humdrum. I don't know. I haven't been feeling too creative when it comes to cooking and baking these days because my kids have dug into their preferences and it is worse than pulling teeth (which I had to do to my older son last month due to a dangling dentifrice) to get them to try anything different. However, the kids actually liked these! WOW! 

I have a couple of paleo blogs that I follow as three of four residents in our household are gluten-free. My husband is the lone hold out declaring Raisin Bran to be his favorite thing in the world. He's an adult, so I can't really force him to go paleo, or even gluten-free, but he has promised me that he will cheerfully eat what is provided to him in our home, as long as the Raisin Bran is available at breakfast. So I've been trying to bake paleo treats and goodies for the home from the recipes. Some paleo bloggers are using plantains in lieu of nut flours. My experiences with nut flour muffins are okay at best. They can be soggy. So I decided to create a muffin recipe using plantains as the base. These are not low carb because plantains are starchy.

Chocolate Chip Plantain Pumpkin Muffins


    •  2 medium green plantains, peeled and quartered*

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  •  1/2 tsp salt

Mix in separately:
◦    1/3 cup coconut flour

Pulse in:
    ½-1 cup chocolate chips

Sprinkle on:

◦    Maple Sugar

Detailed Instructions: 
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Put initial ingredients into a food processor, plantains on the bottom, and run until the plantains are pureed (1-2 minutes). Green plantains take a long time to break up in the processor because they are so starchy. Don't be afraid to let it run for a while.
3. Add the coconut flour and run briefly (30 seconds) to mix it in. Wait 2-3 minutes to allow the coconut flour to absorb moisture. Now pulse in chocolate chips.
4. Scoop spoonfuls of the mixture into a greased muffin tin. The muffin wholes can be pretty full. Bake for 30 minutes.
5. Sprinkle a small spoonful of maple sugar on each muffin. This will give it a little extra sweetness.
6. Take out muffins as soon as the top looks done. (They are done if the top looks firm and dry and doesn’t give too much as you press on it.) The muffins are very moist, so using a toothpick to test them won’t work.
7. After cooling for 5 minutes in the muffin pan, take them out and cool them on a rack.
8. Makes 12 muffins, try not too eat too many at once.

*When choosing plantains, choose very green, hard, medium ones. I once found some plantains at the supermarket that were longer than my forearms. They were so big they were like clubs. Go for the medium ones. The best way to peel plantains is to cut them in quarters and then gently peel them. These suckers are starchy, so it's not easy peeling like a ripe banana. DON'T try to eat plantains raw. YUCK, YUCK, YUCK!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lobster Tail and Maple Pudding

No, this is not a post about avant garde desserts. This is a post about having lobster tail for dinner and maple pudding for dessert. I'm not that weird.

Our local fishmonger had Maine lobster tails on sale for $5.99 each. It doesn't really match the $4.99 a pound whole lobster price that I found this summer on Cape Cod, but it's not bad for down here. I bought three tails and grilled them. I made a basting sauce with melted butter, fresh garlic that I put through a press and fresh lemon juice. I cut the tails down the middle, smothered them in the baste and grilled them flesh side down for five minutes and flipped to the shell side for three minutes. I also made local grassfed sirloin steak from the same fishmonger. I salted the sirloin with smoked sea salt and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour, then put olive oil on it for grilling. I rounded off the meal with boring old steamed broccoli. (I also had steamed cauliflower, but I'm the only one who eats it, so I didn't put it in the picture.)

Craig and I each had three halves of the lobster, plus steak. Craig said the whole dinner I made was perfect. This is high praise as he is brutally honest and will tell me from time to time, with no sugarcoating, that the dinner I made was just fair or contained too much ginger. The boys ate steak and broccoli. I got to use "You can't have your pudding if you don't eat your meat!" And it made sense in this case! Sometimes I use it, complete with fake accent, to get them to eat their dinner. It felt great to use it with actual pudding and meat involved. And yes, I know that pudding in British sense doesn't really mean pudding, but hey, who cares?

My boys (husband included) wax and wane on how much milk they drink. I buy two gallons every two weeks of Wainwright Dairy's pasteurized, non-homogenized grass-fed milk. This seems to be a slow milk using week. I still have a gallon and a half left and we're at the halfway mark! Usually we're cracking open the second gallon. I decided pudding was a great way to use up a bunch of milk.

I love pudding and homemade pudding is super easy to make. I also love the taste of maple syrup, so instead of using sugar, I decided to sweeten it with 100% pure maple syrup instead of sugar.

Maple Pudding
2 cups whole milk (I haven't tried it but you can substitute whole coconut milk)
2 T butter
1 T vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 T tapioca flour (You can also use arrowroot starch or cornstarch)

Place double boiler in a pot with water in it. (You can jury rig a double boiler by putting a smaller pot into a larger pot, but I have a dedicated stainless steel double boiler. My younger son uses it as a helmet sometimes.) Turn on high so that the water boils. Make sure it does not boil over the side; pour some out if you need.

Heat milk and butter until butter is melted. Add vanilla and salt to milk and butter mixture. Whisk together beaten eggs, maple syrup and tapioca flour. Add it to milk mixture and whisk together until it thickens. You may need to use a Cuisanart Quick-prep or similar to really mix the lumps away.

Pour into either a large bowl or multiple smaller bowls and put in refrigerator until cool and a skin forma. I happen to love the skin, so I let it cool that way. My supertaster said it was just okay, but my younger son with more expansive taste buds is eating seconds. So is Craig! Victory all around tonight!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chocolate Beet Cake, Grain-Free!

I'm back! I had to take some time off to help care for my grandmother (94 and still going strong!) and play chauffeur (chauffeuse?) for my kids this summer while they enjoyed camps on Cape Cod while I drove around.

I did get to eat local food on the Cape, mostly lobster and lobster rolls. Lobsters were an insanely cheap, $4.99 a pound at the supermarket, and I really should have eaten more than I ended up ingesting.  I also got an abundance of fresh produce from our wonderful neighbor Jim across the street. I made kale chips (parmesan cheese and garlic powder were divine), tzatziki sauce and chocolate zucchini muffins.

Jim also gave me beets with the tops attached. After washing the tops three times to get the sand out, I sautéed them in bacon grease as a nice green side. But what to do with the beets themselves? I knew I could roast them, but that wouldn't get them into my kids. I knew from the past that they will eat chocolate beet cupcakes because I called them cupcakes.

I wanted to make a grain-free version so I could also enjoy them. These do contain almond flour, so obviously if you have an almond or tree-nut allergy, please don't eat these.

2.5 cups puréed beets
1/4 cup melted butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup coconut sugar (or plain sugar)
1 T vanilla
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400F.

Boil peeled beets until soft. Retain cooking water. Place beets in blender or food processor and purée. Add as much water as necessary to thin the beets enough to easily purée. You don't want beet soup, so it should be a thickish consistency.

Let the purée cool somewhat in a bowl. Whisk in three eggs, melted butter, sugar and vanilla. If you don't let it cool, the eggs with cook and then you'll have beet custard. Actually, that may be pretty good!

In a separate bowl, combine almond flour, tapioca flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Stir until mixed.

Pour beet mixture into flour mixture. Stir until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into greased 9x13 baking pan.  Bake at 400 about 30-35 minutes or until cake is firm and slightly pulled away from edges.

Cool on rack. Refrigerate for best consistency.

Buttercream Frosting:
1 stick butter, softened.
1 pound confection sugar
1 T vanilla
1 T reserved beet water for color (more or less depending on color desired)
1/4 tsp salt

Cream everything together in mixer. Ice cold cake. Eat entire cake because it's so good.

I separated the batter into two cakes, one iced, one plain. Here's a picture of the plain cake:

The plain cake isn't as sweet without the frosting, but it is very rich. The consistency is almost brownie like in that it's thick and gooey.

Here's a comparison of the two cakes:

If you have leftover liquid from the boiled beets, feel free to drink it. It's quite yummy after it's been refrigerated. That way you get all the nutrients you may have lost from boiling the beets. You can add it to smoothies, too!

How do I figure out how many beets make up 2.5 cups of puréed beets? I overestimate. Three or four really large beets make that much or 12 really small beets. It's better to overestimate than underestimate because you can eat the boiled beets in salads later.

I hope you enjoy this! This is my very first original recipe that I've published, so please feel free to link to my site, but remember that I retain all copyright to this! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

An Entirely Local Meal!

This month, Hogtown Homegrown is once again hosting the Eat Local Challenge. The challenge is self-explanatory. Try to eat local, seasonal foods at home or in locally owned restaurants every day for the entire month of May. Since I buy local, pastured eggs, this is incredibly easy for me as I eat them everyday for breakfast. But what about an entirely local dinner? Could I have a well-rounded meal from local sources? Yes!

It's almost an embarrassment of riches! Local, grass-fed sirloin! Local cherry tomatoes! Local corn! Local green beans! Local broccoli! Local zucchini! The only thing not local was the olive oil I used to grill the zucchini. I let the sirloin marinate for 24 hours. Usually I'm not this organized; I was intending to cook this meal last night but after my son's seventh birthday party, I was so tuckered out that I just couldn't bear to cook. I had Craig pick up a rotisserie chicken from our supermarket. The kids were so full from the party they didn't even eat dinner! I choked down the chicken, but it was so dry and tasteless. It was nothing like a local pastured chicken tastes. 

Honestly, eating local food has kind of ruined my tastebuds. Everything pops with flavor! Factory and industrial agriculture foods taste bland and boring. Plus, I can't really enjoy most restaurants anymore either, since almost all cook with nut and seed oils that start turning rancid as soon as they are pressed. I guess I'm stuck with cooking for myself. This is a true First World problem, I know.

Even dessert was local! One of my favorite farms sold these tiny melons, about the size of a grapefruit. I filled it with fresh blueberries. Delicious! 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Two Drink Minimum

I usually eat with my parents and my grandmother every night. My mother is a little frazzled by taking care of my 93 year old grandmother, so I help out by cooking for them and my three boys (husband included). We got our CSA share when all seven of us were eating together. However, my parents, being snowbirds, have migrated North for the summer. I have a ton of CSA produce hanging around that I can't seem to finish as all three of my boys can be picky. I can only eat so many vegetables, you know.

What about juicing, you say? I have a Jack LaLane Power Juicer sitting around that I've never really used. I browsed some juicing websites and thought, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." (Really, I did. Sometimes I think in clichéed adages.)  Here's the result:

I juiced one beet, one (spicy?) pepper, one enormous cucumber, about 20 leaves of red leaf lettuce, one gala apple and a hunk of ginger. The first four ingredients were from the CSA. The end result was such a brilliant fuchsia! I may have put too much ginger in because it was sweet and spicy at the same time. Or maybe it was a spicy pepper, I have no idea. I think I may be hooked on juicing the extra veggies and fruit. I didn't take any pictures of the initial juicing; let's just say that I didn't have all the pieces of the juicer on properly and there were little pieces of dry beetroot everywhere. Luckily my friend Kim helped me figure it out! I won't offer this particular juice to the boys because of the spiciness, but I will start juicing things for them that are on the sweeter side.

Here's the second drink, this one definitely for adults.

This was a variation on my drink from Saturday Night Special post. I had some extra watermelon lying around (sadly not yet in season here in Florida) as well as the last blueberries from the blueberry farm. I poured strained watermelon juice in a tall glass about two-thirds full. Then I added the blueberries, mint and firewater. I finished it off with frozen watermelon cubes to keep it cold. Make the frozen watermelon cubes but cubing the watermelon and then freezing it. Pretty self-explanatory. Should I have even given directions for it? Anyhoo, it was delicious and I will repeat it. I'm sure rum or vodka would be a great alcohol in it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cooking Shortcuts.

No, I'm not Sandra Lee and I'm never going to make a terrible, horrible cake. (I found out that Semi-Homemade is trademarked. That was the original title of this post but I'm not bringing her wrath on me by using it!)

I got my CSA share today. Michael and Mariana, the farmers, gave everyone onions, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, lettuce and basil. I'm kind of sick of cucumbers because I don't like them very much and I've gotten them for the past three weeks. I love tzatziki sauce, but how much can I really make? I started thinking about global agriculture and how lucky(?) we are to have an almost unlimited variety of fruits and vegetables available year round. Of course, it really isn't unlimited as we have lost hundreds, maybe thousands of heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables due to big agribusiness. Before, when people had to rely on their own gardens and local farmers, seasons ruled availability. You ate what grew that day or the day before or you ate canned or preserved food from prior seasons. If you pined for something different, tough. As my son's kindergarten teacher says, "You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit." I appreciate that I am getting fresh, local food, even if it repetitive and not always what I would have picked.

Enough philosophical waxing! On to dinner!

I sauteed diced onions and sliced zucchini in extra virgin olive oil. I then added jarred tomato sauce and some of the fresh basil and let it simmer. I poured it over rice noodles and baked chicken. Delicious! And for the record, I can make homemade tomato sauce, but I didn't have the time today to do it. Have I failed my Italian grandmother? Probably, but I'll make and freeze my own tomato sauce when tomatoes are in season, to enjoy when fresh tomatoes are no longer in season. I also didn't amok my own rice pasta. I'll leave that to the experts.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Take-a-Chance Tuesday

I love that I have a wonderful fishmonger nearby. (The word "fishmonger" is woefully underused, by the way.) Not only do they have fresh Florida seafood, but they also have local grassfed beef in the freezer. I opted to get shrimp fresh off the boat from St. Augustine for dinner tonight. Neither of my boys eat shrimp so I decided to get a little creative with the meal.

I melted a mixture of butter and coconut oil in the skillet. I added some chopped ginger (from a bottle, sadly. My fresh ginger root had become moldy because I didn't use it quickly enough.) and let it infuse the oil. Next I added the shrimp. I was going to leave it at that, but then I saw a jar of Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste in the fridge. Why not? The kids certainly weren't going to be eating it. I added a tablespoon of the paste and stirred, then about 1/4 cup of leftover Chardonnay. Chopped scallions I bought at the farmers' market on Saturday finished the dish. I also added some leftover chicken from a roasted chicken from last night. (The chicken was pastured and this farm produces the most delicious chicken I have ever tasted. It tastes like chicken.)

I had leftover sweet potato from last night's dinner and put the shrimp on top of it. Side note, you should only ever bake sweet potatoes. Microwaved sweet potatoes are gummy and bland. Baked sweet potatoes have caramelized and are soft. End Note. I had a sauté mix from the farmers' market that included mustard greens, chard, spinach and other mystery greens. After I put the shrimp on the potato, I sautéed the greens in the same pot to get the curry flavor on the greens. That was okay, not great. Mustard greens and curry don't mix well, FYI. Maybe fresh greens with a curried dressing might be interesting...

However, the spicy shrimp paired with the sweet sweet potato was perfect! I'm totally doing this again!

My picky eaters ate broccoli yet again. Don't they ever get bored of it? At least they're eating some vegetables...