Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Biscuit, A Basket

You know, I knew it was coming. We all did - but it actually hit me tonight (at 10PM no less) that I wouldn't be going back to the Boys and Girls Club for work next week. And unless some powerful, rich overlord decides to shove a whole whack of new funding into the association (and really, any donations to them, money or otherwise, make a huge difference!) I'm not likely to be able to work there again. I still can't believe that out of hundreds of students and several years of begging and pleading, Marlene picked me as her first co-op student ever!

I can't thank the whole community group enough for letting me bake and cook up enough things to provide blogging material for the next year or so - as long as I can remember the stories to go along with the recipes! I've already been told they miss me - and I hadn't even left the site yet! All I can say is that hopefully a small part of what I drilled into the kids got lodged in their brains, even if they don't realize it.

These were the last goodies I got to make the kids and staff before I left - dead simple, mix-pat-and-cut biscuits that I jazzed up with coconut and allspice. I liked that they didn't involve cutting in any butter or shortening (not only better for you health wise, but less clean up!) and as a bonus it allowed me to roadmap a future cooking program activity for my boss. With a side of either honey butter or guava jam (yay for the random pantry staples!) they fit perfectly with the afternoon coffee breaks of the assorted staff members.

Easy Tender Biscuits
Makes 8
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar (if you want sweet biscuits for breakfast, add 3 tablespoons)
1 ½ cups whole milk (or half-and-half cream)

Optional add-ins (not included in NI):
2 teaspoons of any spice (cinnamon or garlic powder, herbs, black pepper, etc.)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese or coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 500 F and coat a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flours, salt, baking powder, sugar, and milk (plus any mix-ins if using) until the dough forms a ball.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a surface lightly dusted with flour.
  4. Fold the dough in half, and knead 5 to 7 times. Add only enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your hands.
  5. Gently pat the dough out into a ½” thickness.
  6. Cut dough into 8 biscuits with a round cookie cutter or a glass.
  7. Place on baking sheet, leaving at least 1” between each biscuit.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Serve warm!
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 95.4
Total Fat: 1.8 g
Cholesterol: 4.6 mg
Sodium: 18.6 mg
Total Carbs: 16.1 g 
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 3.5 g

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mum's the Word

How many times do you hear the phrase "just don't tell the kids there's ________ in it" when it comes to making healthier or "out of the box" recipes that (on the outside at least) seem like perfectly kid-friendly fare? Now, I may be in the minority, but I never really felt comfortable keeping the healthier elements of recipes like my pancakes and brownies locked away like some secret government document. I mean, yes - hiding things like tofu and whole grains in your recipes a la Deceptively Delicious can work... for a while. But kids are smart. They can read - and see. And, speaking from experience with one of the pickiest eaters I know, it is far better to come clean up front and deal with it then than to have the kids distrust anything you cook up for them post-discovery. Who knows - when vegetables wind up in things like these muffins, nobody seems to care one way or the other that they exist at all. It's not that they're hidden, it's that they're not a dominant flavour role... and I'm sure the chocolate factor doesn't hurt either.

Many thanks to fellow Canuck Kevin (a la Closet Cooking) for the recipe I used as my base!

Rich Double - Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Makes 26
2 cups flour

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup Nestle NesQuik chocolate drink mix powder
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup melted butter
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
2 eggs
3 medium zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and line muffin tin.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, Quik and cocoa. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine butter, chocolate, sugars, yogurt, eggs and zucchini, mixing well.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they test done.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 162.5
Total Fat: 6.0 g
Cholesterol: 26.5 mg
Sodium: 42.4 mg
Total Carbs: 26.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tweaking Tradition

I love being able to bring a new face and fresh perspective to the areas I work in these days. In fact, everything to do with my kitchen exploits in the past week or so has been all about putting the state of things in a new perspective. Between our constantly changing inventory at the Club (including both massive shortages and gluts of things!), coming back from a week off to a failing freezer and a waiting delivery truck at the retirement home, vacation tickets still "in the mail" (with our departure date only two weeks away!) and my absolute inability to locate the key ingredient for my favourite after-dinner dessert, flexibility has become somewhat of a religion!

Of course, the road is a whole lot smoother when you add a decent dose of sugar to the mix - and who doesn't like a good red velvet cake once in a while?? I jazzed up the standard recipe while I was playing around at co-op, trying to use up some withering bananas and a not-so-small glut of cream cheese (oh, only 10 kilos!). I wound up not only making a banana and cream cheese filling / glaze type of thing (it was too runny to be a proper frosting, but I stuffed it in between the layers anyway!), but I also added some of the cream cheese to the batter in place of half the butter. The cake was definitely tipped in favour of the "chocolate" team of red velvets too, since I added chocolate soy milk, an extra tablespoon of cocoa powder, and a topping of semisweet chocolate chips!

Red Velvet Redux Cake
Serves 12
1/4 cup raw sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
3 tbsp red food colouring
1 tbsp water
3 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate soy milk
2 tbsp vinegar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour either two 9" cake pans or one large (9 x 13") pan.
  2. Cream sugars, butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Make a paste of the food colouring, water and cocoa powder, add to above mixture, mixing well.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together flours and salt.
  6. Add dry ingredients, alternately with the soy milk, to the creamed mixture.
  7. Mix vinegar and baking soda to combine well (it will foam).
  8. Add to the batter, mixing in thoroughly but quickly.
  9. Pour into prepared pan(s), tap on the countertop to dislodge any large bubbles.
  10. Bake 30 minutes (for 9" pans), until cakes test done.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 225.1
Total Fat: 7.4 g
Cholesterol: 50.9 mg
Sodium: 55.6 mg
Total Carbs: 36.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 5.4 g
The frosting, or glaze if you will, is one of those perfectly simple recipes that fits with so many other things that after a while it becomes ingrained in your memory. A recipe is almost unnecessary regardless, as the amount of sugar you wind up adding is directly poportional to the size and ripeness factor of the bananas you use. If you need to "tighten" up the frosting (which, when nice and thin, is perfect over ice cream!) without adding too much sugar, I suggest using a little bit of tapioca flour (not pearls!) to the mixture.

Sweet Banana - Cheese Filling
Serves 16
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
2 medium, over-ripe bananas, pureed
1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth, add bananas and lemon juice and beat well.
  2. Store in refrigerator.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 92.2
Total Fat: 5.0 g
Cholesterol: 15.6 mg
Sodium: 42.2 mg
Total Carbs: 11.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g
Protein: 1.2 g

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Overdue Thank You

I'm finally catching up on a host of to-dos this weekend, now that my school year is finally winding down. With only one more report to write, and two weeks of co-op left (yikes, that's only 2 weeks left for me to write my job application to the BGC!!), I've been able to decompress a little bit. Of course, I owe a lot of my tension relief to the Club, and my supervisor, who allow me to go in and spend eight hours doing what I love to do above all else - cooking for people with no other purpose than to make them smile.

One of the many things I definitely had to do this weekend was to finally say thank you to Bonita (of Bon Eats) for bestowing the honour of a Kreativ Blogger award on me. Like Bon, my blog is clearly a casual hobby of mine - I'd be firing myself if it was anything professional - but I do try to be as fresh as I can!

Apparently we have some rules to follow though:
  1. You must thank the person who has given you the award.
  2. Copy the award logo and place it on your blog.
  3. Link the person who has nominated you for the award.
  4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
  5. Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers.
  6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
  7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.
So, to pass this along (spreading the love!!) here is my "short list" of "Kreativ" Bloggers - choosing seven out of the many out there that deserve the honour was way harder than I thought, but I did it!
  1. Micaela of Striving Bean
  2. Marye of Restless Chipotle
  3. Kimberly of Poor Girl Eats Well
  4. Ninette of Big, Bold, Beautiful Food
  5. Lindsay and Taylor of Love and Olive Oil
  6. Lydia of The Perfect Pantry
  7. Vincci of Ceci n'est pas un food blog
You all rock, and I hope you all enjoy the honour (and pay it forward to some other awesome bloggers out there!).

Hmm, so now to find 7 interesting things about me (this is the hardest part, really!).
  1. I adopted and named my cat purely because of a dream I had one night - of finding a purely black kitten in a dish cupboard, and hence naming her Dish.
  2. I'm a gung-ho participant in Project 365 (I definitely suggest checking it out!).
  3. I collect two things (other than cookbooks) - analog clocks and elephants. I'm even considering weaving the two together into a tattoo design.
  4. Speaking of tattoos, I have one - a black and white "sketch" design of Tinkerbell on my thigh.
  5. I abhor the taste of avocado and coconut. Always have. Don't know why!
  6. I do however, have a very strange affinity for pickled food - I love pickled ginger, pickled onions, vinegary coleslaw, sauerkraut and best of all - kosher dills! I do draw the line at kimchi and pickled eggs, though.
  7. I am incapable of working on a task without doing at least one other thing - call it ADD, massive distraction, or "this generation" syndrome!
Well, that's it for me tonight!! Next up, just one of the bajillion cakes I've been making!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Feeding Mom, Nourishing Me

I've gotten out of the habit of cooking for my mom lately - it's not for lack of ideas though, but lack of time, energy, and the sheer fact that neither of us is exactly home enough these days, so whatever I do make (or bring home from co-op, like that veggie sauce or the stew, lasts forever!
I did know what I wanted to make though - more for my own mental benefit than for my mom's stomach: chicken noodle soup from scratch. The bird, the stock, the soup - the whole shebang! I had never attempted making any of the elements of a classical chicken noodle soup before: since I don't eat meat, roasting a chicken isn't part of my repetoire, and any soup I've done before has been pretty much a combination of fresh stuff and stock out of a box or made with a powder. Good stuff - but not the same as the feeling and experience of seeing each little piece, each hour of prep work and roasting and stuffing and simmering and straining, unite into a glorious, delicious whole.

I have to give major credit to the two incredible chefs that enabled me when it came to the two major components of the soup. I used Julia Child's method of roasting the chicken after stuffing it with lemon wedges, garlic, thyme and celery leaves (her timing is dead-on PERFECT... down to the minute). Instead of a rack, though, since I'd be using the veggies for Mark Bittman's method for a dark, roasted chicken stock anyways, I made a bed of acorn squash, leeks, celery stalks and mushrooms to soak up all the delicious juices. The only other thing I did was to slide slivers of garlic under the chicken skin while it roasted - you can never have too much garlic!

Like I said, I used Mark Bittman's recipe (or theory, really) in How to Cook Everything to make the stock - roasting the leftover bones from the chicken (of course I saved the meat for the soup!) along with some chicken backs I picked up before adding them with all the chicken stuffing and roasted veggies to a stockpot and simmering it away for the day. Then I strained it to make a broth that was so incredibly dark that it looked like beef broth rather than chicken - but it smelled like sheer heaven! Oddly, though I know you are supposed to discard the stock solids - and I was going to - my mom swooped in, picked out all the bits of meat and sodden veggies, packed it up into a container and took it for lunch the next day, declaring it "the most delicious thing she had that day". Okay then... so if you are needing to be super frugal, there you are. Another dinner out of that!

The rest of the soup, I'm proud to say, is all mine. Instead of the traditional carrots, I opted for the sweetness of butternut squash (which is also why I used acorn squash for the stock), and since my mom loves leeks above any other onion I used those for the majority of flavour, throwing in a quarter of one that was sitting in our crisper just to use it up. Red peppers and green peas added boosts of colour to the soup, and then just because I could, I chose to use soba noodles instead of traditional semolina pasta! They played well with the "hominess" of the broth and other ingredients, and of course their "slurpability" made them a winner!

This homey, noodle-y meal is being sent to Presto Pasta Nights, being hosted at More Than Words this week!

Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup (Incl. Roasted Chicken, Rich Chicken Stock and Soup Recipes)Makes 6 BIG bowls

Salt and black pepper
1 medium acorn squash, unpeeled, cut into chunks
2 leeks, cut into 2" pieces
5 stalks celery, cut into 2" pieces
½ lb button mushrooms
½ tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, cut into chunks
1 head garlic (about 20 cloves), cloves peeled but left whole
1 ½ cups celery leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1 unwaxed lemon, cut in eighths
1 (3-4 lb) chicken, washed and patted dry
2 cloves garlic, cut into slivers

2 lbs bone-in chicken backs
2 bay leaves
¼ cup whole peppercorns
1 cup dry white wine
6 quarts cold water

1 tsp olive oil
¼ large onion, thinly sliced
½ small butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ red pepper, diced
1 leek, washed and sliced thinly
6 cups prepared chicken stock
2 cups water
1 sprig thyme, de-stemmed
½ tsp dried basil
½ cup frozen green peas
13 oz diced cooked meat from the stock chicken
4 oz dried soba (or whole wheat) noodles, broken in half

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. In a deep roasting pan, stir together squash, leeks, celery and mushrooms. Spread in an even layer on the bottom of the pan, drizzle with ½ tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine the onion, whole garlic cloves, celery leaves, thyme, lemon, salt and pepper. Toss well.
  4. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the mixture, add any remaining stuffing to the roasting pan with the vegetables.
  5. Make slits into the skin of the chicken all over (do not penetrate the meat), stuff each with a sliver of garlic.
  6. Rub the outer skin of the chicken with olive oil and and lightly season with salt and pepper.
  7. Tie the legs together, and set the chicken breast side up on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.
  8. Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and baste with the pan juices.
  9. Continue roasting the chicken, basting every 15 minutes, until the juices run clear - a total of 45 minutes plus 7 minutes per pound. (In other words, a 3 1/2 pound chicken would take a basic 45 minutes plus an additional 25 minutes, for a total 70 minutes or 1 hour and 10 minutes of cooking time).
  10. Remove from the oven and move chicken to a plate or board. Cool chicken until easily handled if making stock (reserve stuffing, minus the lemon pieces). If serving as a roasted chicken dinner, tent with foil and rest 10 minutes before carving.
  11. Return remaining vegetables to the oven, raise the heat to 450F and roast a further 30 minutes.
  12. Either serve roasted vegetables with chicken or proceed with stock recipe.
Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Stock
  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. With your hands (I find it easiest), remove the majority of the meat from the chicken bones.
  3. Place the bones in a roasting pan or rectangular pan with chicken backs, spray with canola oil.
  4. Roast for 40 minutes.
  5. Add the roasted bones, reserved roasted vegetables, roasted chicken stuffing, bay leaves, and peppercorns to a large stockpot.
  6. To the pan that held the roasted chicken, add wine and bring to a simmer, stirring to dislodge the pan juices and roasted bits from the bottom. Add to the stockpot along with the water.
  7. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, partially covered, for 5 hours. Skim the surface of any foam or scum and stir every hour.
  8. After 5 hours, remove from the heat and strain into a clean pot.
  9. Place back on the stove over high heat.
  10. Cook until slightly reduced, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Use immediately or let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and squash. Cook, stirring frequently, 10-12 minutes.
  3. Add celery, red pepper and leek. Cook, stirring, 5-6 minutes.
  4. Stir in chicken stock and water, then add herbs.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
  6. Stir in frozen peas, chicken meat and noodles.
  7. Simmer until noodles are cooked, about 4-5 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 290.3
Total Fat: 5.1 g
Cholesterol: 46.4 mg
Sodium: 576.2 mg
Total Carbs: 38.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.2 g
Protein: 24.5 g

Soba on Foodista

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Feeding the Neighbourhood

These days, it seems like my life is filled with dollar signs everywhere I go. From putting together order sheets for the retirement home I spend 1/3 of my co-op term at to costing snacks for the Club kids to running cost control for the stuff I bake at home, everything is always boiling down to the cash left over at the end of the day. Even the simple, everyday things (like making sure I have enough cash for a tea at Timmie's) come down to the end dollar amounts. I'm sure it was always like this in one way or another, but I suppose that now, with everyone scrimping and saving what they can, it's more "public" knowledge than it used to be!

At the Club, at least, with our budget the way it is (read: dinner equals the donations from the truck and whatever's in the cupboard), we don't have all that much time to deal with the exact amounts of expenditure at mealtimes. Since my mom had generously donated a 10 kilo bag of rice after I told her about our shortage a couple weeks back, and I had a bunch of both dried and canned beans in my pantry that were sitting idle, I pitched the idea of a good ol' "beans and rice" stew for the kids last Friday to stretch whatever "meat" protein we'd get. Lo and behold, we didn't get any meat anyways, so the pot (and I don't know whether to call it a stew really... it clearly isn't a soup, so I'll call it a "pot") became a totally vegan meal. I chucked in some of the Cajun spices we had - Cajun seasoning blend, some fresh thyme I had, smoked paprika, and other stuff - and let it simmer away! We had a lot of stew in the end, so much so that the staff in the Club ate it for lunch and dinner too (with rave reviews!) and a few of them even asked if I was "feeding the neighbourhood". You know, if I could, I would!

"Feed the Neighbourhood" Beans and Rice Stew
Serves 60
3 tbsp chili oil (or canola oil + 1 tsp red pepper flakes)
5 onions, diced
5 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 bunch celery, sliced
4 bell peppers, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup smoked paprika
3 tbsp Cajun seasoning
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tbsp black pepper
6 1/2 cups dried mixed beans, soaked overnight
3 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
Water to cover
5 lbs potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
3/4 cup chili sauce (like Heinz, NOT hot sauce!)
4 cups tomato sauce
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
2 (19-oz) cans small red Mexican beans, drained
1 (19-oz) can kidney beans, drained
1 cup bulgur wheat
1 cup dry red lentils
3/4 cup wild rice
3 cups brown rice
Salt to taste
  1. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring, 10 minutes.
  3. Add peppers, mushrooms and spices. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are coated in the spice and mixture is fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add soaked beans, bay leaves, thyme, and bouillon cubes.
  5. Cover with water to 1" above the mixture, bring to a boil.
  6. Stir well, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 4 hours, stirring periodically and adding small amounts of water as needed.
  7. Add remaining ingredients, recover and cook 40-50 minutes longer, until rice is done and mixture is thick (uncover and reduce if desired).
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 184.9
Total Fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 262.8 mg
Total Carbs: 35.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.4 g
Protein: 8.3 g

To go with the slight spice and savouriness of the beans and rice, I whipped together an enriched sweet yeast bread that I filled with flaxseed and whole wheat, not to mention delicious buckwheat honey and cream cheese for tenderness! It was a great foil for the main meal, and the four "medi-baguettes" (bigger than minis, smaller than normal!) made just enough for the gang. I'm sending this Flaxen Sweet Bread off to Susan's YeastSpotting event.

Flaxen Sweet Bread
Serves 40
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp instant yeast
2 tbsp vital wheat gluten
3 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup lite cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp vanilla
  1. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, salt, yeast, gluten and flaxseed.
  2. In a large glass or bowl, heat milk, water and honey until just above body temperature.
  3. Add liquids to the flour mixture and mix to incorporate.
  4. Add cream cheese and vanilla, beat well (with a stand mixer and dough hook for 10 minutes on low speed, or equivalent by hand).
  5. Cover bowl and let rest for 40 minutes.
  6. Divide dough into 4 pieces, shape each into an oblong loaf and place on baking sheets (2 per sheet). Re-cover and allow to rise 2 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F.
  8. Bake loaves for 30 minutes, cool completely on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 95.7
Total Fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 3.1 mg
Sodium: 16.7 mg
Total Carbs: 18.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 3.4 g

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Banana Benefits

The appearance of spotty, super-ripe bananas will always equal one of two things in a household: delight or anathema. If you have the time to devote to baking up one of the trillions of banana breads out there, and the mouths to feed it to, then all's well and good. But then there are those days - you know, the ones that have you rushing in the door at 8PM after a 5AM start, unfed, kids screaming, dishes unwashed... yeah, those days. Becoming a creative wizard is probably not in the cards.

You could of course freeze all the blackening bananas - and believe me, I do that frequently, peeling and wrapping them in groups of 3 (as called for in my go-to recipe for banana bread) - hence why I have a rather large cache that spills out of the freezer when I pull it open! Eventually something has to give, and since I have not had anyone knocking down my door lately looking for 20 loaves of banana bread, I've decided to switch it up. Forget loaves for now. Muffins are where it's at these days as a use-up plan (including how I powered through a donor box of past-their-primes at the Club!). Portable, definitely office and school friendly, and something that is infinitely variable. Check the pantry if you don't believe me. See something you like? In! In! In!

I started off the banana free-for-all with these miniature bites of spice drenched goodness. The recipe is one I adapted from Nicole over at Baking Bites, who made a loaf - and there is no shortage of flavour in them, not to mention they're unlike any banana muffin you've ever had. Really.

Banana Spice Minicakes
Makes 32 Mini-Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large bananas, mashed
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil (I used a light olive oil)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a mini-muffin pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
  3. In another bowl, beat together brown sugar, banana, fresh ginger, molasses, maple syrup, buttermilk and oil.
  4. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Bake 15 minutes, turn out immediately and cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 78.2
Total Fat: 1.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.2 mg
Sodium: 7.4 mg
Total Carbs: 15.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 1.2 g

If nutty banana muffins are more your style, these babies will fit the bill for sure. I couldn't bring them in to the Club for tasting, since they're a nut-free facility, but the moist, fruit and white chocolate treats I made with an adapted mix from VegWeb found good - if not too good - homes with the office crew. 

Studded Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
Makes 18
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup skim milk
2 tbsp fat-free vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (not natural)
1/3 cup oil (I used a light olive oil)
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together bananas, sugars, milk, yogurt, peanut butter, oil and vanilla until well blended.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and nutmeg.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir until almost blended.
  5. Add chocolate chips and cranberries, folding in quickly but gently.
  6. Bake for 18 minutes, until the tops spring back when touched and they test done with a toothpick.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 250.3
Total Fat: 10.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.7 mg
Sodium: 64.1 mg
Total Carbs: 38.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 5.5 g

With a completely whole-wheat base, and a touch less fat than the original recipe of Elise's I used, I had to go whole-hog with my additions and chuck in a whole cup of a Bulk Barn impulse buy of late - another trail mix! This one is called "Cranberry Classic", and has cashews, peanuts and pumpkin seeds along with the cranberries and golden raisins.

Trail Mix Banana Muffins
Makes 12
4 large, over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup soft low-fat margarine (I used Becel Light)
2/3 cup Demerara sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp maple extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup trail mix
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, mix bananas, margarine, sugar, egg, vanilla and maple extract until well blended.
  3. In another bowl whisk together baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour.
  4. Add to the wet mixture, mixing until it is just incorporated. Fold in the trail mix.
  5. Bake for 28 minutes, remove immediately from tin and cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 242.6
Total Fat: 7.9 g
Cholesterol: 17.7 mg
Sodium: 71.0 mg
Total Carbs: 28.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.7 g
Protein: 5.6 g

It was this recipe from Maple and Cornbread, though, that I first brought to the Boys and Girls Club when the donation box of bananas rolled in. Between the glut of fruit, and my goal to consolidate as much of the stuff in the community kitchen's pantry as I could (would you believe we had 4 jars of mustard, or 3 boxes of salt open? Not to mention 20 bags of croutons we would never use?), the graham cracker streusel mixture became an unexpected delight for the staff come coffee-break. The two that were left over at the end of my shift I bagged and squirreled away to my dad and Martha to have with some of the soup I did for my mom (and will eventually post!).

Super - Banana Muffins with Graham Cracker Streusel
Makes 12
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
5 large, over-ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oats
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 12 cup muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the coconut oil, sugar, sour cream, egg and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add bananas and beat well
  4. In a seperate bowl, whisk dry ingredients.
  5. Stir into the creamed mixture just until moistened.
  6. Spoon into the muffin tins.
  7. Mix the streusel topping together and sprinkle generously over the batter.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 317.0
Total Fat: 9.1 g
Cholesterol: 26.7 mg
Sodium: 55.8 mg
Total Carbs: 61.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.3 g
Protein: 4.9 g

What's your favourite use-up trick for bananas? Come to think of it, now that I've come into posession of 5 1/4 lbs ricotta, 4 3/4 lbs cream cheese, 500mL of sour cream and a litre of whipping cream, any ideas (short of a trillion cheesecakes) for using the cheese in particular? Portability / versatility is a bonus - then they can go into the office!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Play Day, My Way

I adore the days that our Second Harvest truck comes in at the Club. For the two of us that live in the kitchen during the week, it's essentially like Christmas every Wednesday morning when we're able to unpack the box of produce and see what it is we actually have. I have to admit though, it was less than thrilling for me that first week - I was so used to the A-1, super-prime quality fruit and vegetables that were delivered to the school and long-term care kitchens that peering into a seemingly endless mountain of floppy carrots, browning celery, spotted tomatoes and the like was a major letdown.

Marlene, though, has never looked that gift horse in the mouth, and now I wouldn't dream of it either. Regardless of the state of the donations, they are donations, and without them our kitchen simply could not function! We come in to simply find creative ways to prevent any waste that we can, and feed the kids over the course of the week with what we have. It can be tricky, for sure, but you get resourceful, and I'm proud to say that I've been able to bring in my experience from cooking for this blog to add a fresh approach to the menu. Even when the produce is (to the naked eye) too far gone to save, I've adopted the "never say die" approach - I at least try to do something with it!

Major case in point was the box we got last week - 20 tomatoes in various states of disrepair, a handful of very wilted scallions, two bags of baby carrots, 5 or 6 bell peppers, 5 zucchini and a large bag of bruised, pre-peeled garlic were amongst the goodies. There wasn't enough of anything to use for a single meal for the kids, and nothing would keep until the next week's box came in (not that it would be usable either!). As I stared at the table of produce, it finally hit me - sauce! Few things are easier to make and store for a decent period of time than a rich, roasted melange of vegetables pureed into a velvety topping for pasta or rice.

There isn't really a recipe for the sauce I concocted, since it truly depends on what you have on hand. For us, that was all our tomatoes, peppers, scallions, garlic, baby carrots and two of the zucchini, along with two large onions, that I tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper before throwing them onto a couple sheet trays and roasting them for about an hour at 375F. Then, I begged Marlene to drag out her Vita-Mix (I know!) and threw everything into it along with a can of tomato paste and some Italian seasoning.

The result was something garlicky but sweet at the same time, perfect over that week's myriad of pastas that were put together both for the kid's meals and that the staff brought in for lunch. Some of it even got used as a dipping sauce for Club-made tortilla crisps, as well as leftover pizza crust and breadsticks from their movie night. Even the young kids took to it, having it with radiatore and garlic bread one lunchtime. It would probably make a fantastic stew addition too.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Not Cool, Blogger!

Arrrgh! I just spent the last hour waxing poetic about my time at co-op, my unwillingness to grow up and embrace the furthering of my adult life with my birthday tomorrow and my ability to continue being a kid at heart by living vicariously through "my kids" at the Club, then Blogger decided to go all AWOL on me and delete my post!! Given that it's almost midnight, you'll have to forgive me for this half-assed re-writing, but I wanted to share these cookies I made up for the kids to do this week while they were still (semi) topical! Even though I'm not getting this post out as early as I wanted to (I had hoped to have it up a few days back so that you could actually have them on Easter if you wanted), if you happen to have leftover goodies hanging around after the kids have slung themselves off on their respective sugar highs, keep these in mind! They're cute, colourful and incredibly rich, but so worth every bite!

Colourful Easter Nest Cookies
Makes 15
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup Kamut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup jumbo semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup miniature M&M's
15 chocolate "Mini Eggs"
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.
  3. Add cocoa, flours, baking powder and salt, stir in gently.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips and mini M&M's.
  5. Drop 1 1/2" balls of dough onto the sheet, leaving about 1 1/2" of space.
  6. Lightly press a Mini Egg into the centre of each ball of dough.
  7. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes.
  8. Cool completely on the sheets. 
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 153.0
Total Fat: 7.2 g
Cholesterol: 23.2 mg
Sodium: 13.1 mg
Total Carbs: 22.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 2.4 g