Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lookin' for a tasty snack? How about Pumpkin Muffins!

I am always on the hunt for a good pumpkin muffin recipe and I have finally found “The One!” (Of course I played with the recipe it to make it extra tasty!) The ingredients list looks long, but please don't let that fool you. This recipe is very easy and quick.

The pumpkin flavor really shines in this recipe while letting the spices gently emerge. I love the addition of bright red, dried cranberries because they add a slightly chewy texture, and the pecans add a sweet, delicate crunch. Textures and colors in my food always make me happy...well, usually. Ha!

Pumpkin Muffins

• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 cup canned pumpkin
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup wheat flour
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup dried cranberries
• 1/2 cup pecans
Streusel Topping
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1 Tbs flour
• 1 Tbsp butter cut into small pieces
Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Add the butter and blend together with your fingers…go ahead…get dirty!

1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Line your muffin pans with the paper liners.
2. Combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt and set aside.
3. Mix together the sugars, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla.
4. Add the pumpkin and milk to the sugar mixture and mix well; then add the flour and stir to combine.
5. Fold in the dried cranberries and pecans.
6. Scoop the batter into 12 regular size muffins.
7. Generously sprinkle the streusel topping onto each muffin.
8. Bake for around 15 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

Alternatives, ideas and suggestions…
• If you have non-stick muffin pans, paper liners will do you fine. If you don’t, I recommend you spray your muffin pan with a non-stick pan spray and also use paper liners…you can’t be to careful!!
• Feel free to mix up the mix-ins...i.e. pecans & cranberries.
• If you don’t have pecans, walnuts can be added instead.
• Rather use frozen or fresh cranberries? Go for it! Just give them a rough chop.
• If you don’t want dried cranberries in your muffins, try substituting them with raisins.
• Don’t want cranberries or raisins in your muffins? You could add a 1/4 cup of pecans to the 1/2 cup that is called for in the recipe.
• Why do I choose to use pecans instead of walnuts? Pecans are a bit sweeter and crunchier, and I just love them.
• Remember, toasting the pecans first gives them a more refined flavor.
• Don’t want dried cranberries, raisins,walnuts or pecans in your muffins? How about adding 3/4 cup chocolate chips?
• Mini chocolate chips work really well because they lend a nice texture in the muffin, but I’d only use 1/2 cup…pumpkin should be the main flavor here.
• If you’re a purest, just leave out the mix-ins an go for the straight-up pumpkin.

Use your imagination and go play with your food!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do you like curry as much as I do?

It's recipe time and here's one that will knock your socks off...Thai Coconut Curry!! It's super tasty and very easy to make, but there's one involves tofu. Don't panic! I know it is foreign to a lot of people; and I want to take that fear of cooking it (and eating it!!!) away from you because it is very easy to work with and is loaded with protein. The texture of tofu is a bit...shall we say...different... but after you cook it, it gets more palatable. It is an acquired texture, and once it's in the mix, it is delicious. The flavor is very light and takes on the taste of whatever you season it with. Tofu can be marinated the same way you would marinate a steak, pork or chicken, and after it is marinated, you can grill it, sauté it, fry it, or broil it.

If you’ve never tried tofu before, just give it a chance…it is healthy and funky, and you control the flavors! If you’d rather not use tofu, you can use any protein you'd like in this recipe.

Thai Coconut Curry

1 tablespoon canola oil 
2 tsp sesame oil
2 (12 ounce) package extra-firm tofu  
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium sweet, yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 celery stalks, sliced
1 (13 ounce) can coconut milk
1T 2t curry powder
2 tsp cumin
2T soy sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts

1. Wrap the extra-firm tofu in a couple of paper towels and press the water out. Be gentle when pressing because the tofu is delicate when it is right out of the package. This is important because we are going to be frying the tofu and you know what happens when water is added to hot oil…booms and splashes = burns and messes. No bueno!
2. After most of the water has been pressed out, cut the tofu into cubes.
3. Heat the oils together in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and fry until golden on all sides. (This takes about 15 minutes.) Remove from skillet and set aside.
4. Melt butter in the same skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender.
5. Add the celery to the garlic and onion.
6. Combine the coconut milk, curry powder, cumin, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, peanuts and add to the skillet.
7. Return the tofu to the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
8. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
8. Serve over rice.

Alternatives, ideas and suggestions…
• Don’t have cilantro? Don’t like cilantro? Don't use cilantro! Think of another herb that may have a similar flavor or will brighten a dish like cilantro will…how about basil...oooh, or mint!
• I like the onion to be seen in this recipe. To do this, cut the onion in half and then cut each half into quarters. They add a nice delicate crunch when cut this way.
• Feel free to use 3-4 green onions instead of the sweet yellow onion.
• If you’d rather, you can use olive oil instead of butter to sauté the onions and garlic.
• When substituting another protein in this recipe, go by weight to figure out how much to use. This recipe calls for 24 ounces of tofu, so you could use 1 1/2 pounds of the protein of your choice.
• Coconut milk is available in a light variety and is an excellent substitute for the regular coconut milk which is very high in saturated fat. I always use the light coconut milk.
 • Whenever we have this dish, I serve it over Jasmine rice, but I think it would be super delicious over brown rice too!!!
 • If you don’t like spicy food, eliminate the red pepper flakes. This is one of those things that you can alter in the recipe according to your likes. I’d hate to see anyone turn this recipe away because they don’t like spicy foods!
 • Peanuts are also optional, but I just L.O.V.E. the added crunch and flavor they offer!!
• Add any veggies that float your boat! Try adding sugar snap peas, baby corn, broccoli,carrots etc.

Why do I offer these alternatives, ideas and suggestions? Because cooking is like art. When the strokes of a brush are swept across a canvas, a beautiful, unique piece is being created. You must be patient and a certain order is required, but a masterpiece is in the making. The same goes for cooking. There is an ebb and flow with the ingredients, the tools, the method, and the cook. When you see a recipe, I want to encourage you to feel freeeeeee in the kitchen!! Art, either in the studio or in the kitchen, should be liberating, fun and creative. If every detail of how the paintbrush is moved is written down, every painting would look the same; you need to add your own personal touch to the artwork. The same goes for cooking. Ingredients can be substituted and some steps may be altered; it is up to you, the cook, to choose how the final product will turn out!!

Now get out there and play with your food!!!!!!!!!!!