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Apple Pecan Bran Muffins

January 24, 2012

For those still holding fast to new year’s resolutions to lose weight or just eat healthier in 2012 — you can do it! And you can enjoy these healthy apple bran muffins. Natalie and I made them yesterday and they are surprisingly good. Josue even liked them — a lot! I found the recipe on the Weight Watchers website. For those counting, they have 4 PointsPlus per muffin.

I made a few adaptations to the recipe. It calls for walnuts, but I had pecans on hand and I toasted the nuts first (something I always do to enhance their flavor). I didn’t have fat free buttermilk so I added a tablespoon of cider vinegar to a cup measure and filled the rest of the cup with skim milk. And I subbed olive oil for the canola oil which gave them a nice flavor. I used all-purpose flour, as the recipe called for. Next time, I will try replacing half of the all-purpose with whole white wheat flour (which has a milder flavor than the typical red whole wheat).

I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

Apple Pecan Bran Muffins
Adapted from Weight Watchers website
Yields 12 muffins - 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus each

  • 3 T pecans
  • 5 T brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.25 c. bran flakes
  • 1 c. fat free buttermilk
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T molasses
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. wheat germ
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 apple
Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a muffin pan.
Chop the pecans into small pieces and toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet often so the nuts don’t burn. Carefully place 1 T. of the toasted nuts in a small bowl, along with 1 T of the brown sugar and set it aside.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining 4 T. of brown sugar, the eggs, bran flakes, buttermilk, oil and molasses. Allow the mixture to stand for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, in a medium bowl, mix the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Peel the apple and shred it into a small bowl, using a grater. Discard the core.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Add the shredded apple and the remaining 2 T of nuts and mix.
Spoon the mixture into the greased muffin pan and sprinkle the brown sugar and nut topping over the top. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Fall = Time For Homemade Applesauce!

October 3, 2011

One of my favorite things about fall is making applesauce. Canning homemade applesauce has been a family tradition as long as I can remember. Growing up with my grandparents, we had 50 acres of apple trees in our backyard. We didn’t maintain the orchard, so the apples weren’t always pretty, but they were perfect for cooking, baking and canning. Every fall we spent at least a day picking the apples, cooking them into sauce and canning enough for the year ahead.

To this day, I can’t bring myself to buy the bland, overly sweet, store-bought stuff because homemade applesauce tastes so much better. Try it and see for yourself! Homemade applesauce also has a pretty, pinkish color because you cook the apples with their peels on.

If you don’t have an apple orchard in your backyard, ask your local orchard for their seconds. They’ll be a lot cheaper and they’ll work great for applesauce.

No-Sugar-Added Homemade Applesauce
Yields approximately 1 quart

  •  6 pounds apples*
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Quarter the apples. It’s not necessary to peel or core them. (The seeds have a small amount of cyanide in them so you can remove them if you want. We never did and from what I’ve read, it’s not necessary.) Add enough water to a large pot to just cover the bottom. Add the cinnamon stick and the apples and cover the pot. Cook over medium-low heat for approximately 30 minutes, until the apples are very soft. Place a food mill over a large bowl. Run the apples through the mill. The mill will push the applesauce into the bowl and prevent the skins and seeds from getting into the sauce.

*The secret to a really good applesauce is to use a variety of apples. Use apples that are naturally sweet and you won’t need to add sugar. Some good choices include McIntosh, Gala, Fuji, Jonathan, Pink Lady and Winesap.

Recipes Inspired By The Farmer’s Market

August 17, 2011

I love going to the farmer’s market – being outside and seeing the colorful variety of fresh produce, bread, meats, eggs and spices. I can hardly wait to get home and cook. Plus, everything is grown in Oklahoma, so it tastes so good! One thing I enjoy about the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market in Tulsa in particular is the diversity of the vendors whose products reflect their cultures. Lemongrass, Thai basil, Thai eggplant … I can’t even find these items in the grocery store!

In early July, I was planning for my August Oklahoma Eats page and I decided I’d write recipes that feature farmer’s market ingredients. What better way to be inspired than to visit the farmer’s market?

When we arrived, the first thing we did was get a breakfast burrito. If you’re ever at the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market, you have to try the breakfast burrito from Pare (which is usually at the corner of Quaker and 15th). It’s a spinach wrap filled with eggs, veggies and turkey sausage – so good! Even Natalie loves it!

Here are some of the other sights from our trip the market:

After walking up and down the street to check out all of the produce, I decided tomatoes and garlic would be perfect early-August ingredients to feature. The result was this pasta dish, which relies on fresh garlic and tomatoes; as well as two types of bruschetta – one with fresh tomatoes, basil, onions and garlic and the other with fresh goat cheese, homemade pesto and toasted pine nuts (I’ll post the recipes soon!). The pasta dish was so good that I’ve made it four times in the last month and a half! Don’t let the anchovies scare you — it doesn’t taste fishy at all!

Linguine with Tomatoes, Anchovies and Capers

Serves 4-6

  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces anchovies
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup capers (drained)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While it’s heating, add the sliced garlic and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil to a large skillet. Cook the garlic over medium heat for about a minute. Add the anchovies to the pan and cook until they melt into the olive oil. Add the red pepper flakes and capers and continue to cook. After a couple minutes, add 2 cups of the boiling water to the skillet. Next, add the tomatoes to the skillet and bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it’s not quite done. Using tongs, carefully transfer the pasta into the skillet with the sauce. Add another cup of water to the skillet and increase heat to medium-high. Cook for a couple more minutes until the sauce reduces a bit. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive and toss the pasta with tongs. Serve immediately, topped with toasted breadcrumbs, parsley and grated cheese.

Ricotta Cheese – So Easy A Toddler Can Make It!

July 26, 2011

Ricotta cheese isn’t something I always keep on hand. When I want to make pasta, pizza, or a dessert with the cheese, it used to go on my grocery list. However, with a toddler in the house, I always have an abundant supply of whole milk. I recently discovered how easy it is to make fresh homemade ricotta with whole milk. It takes less than 10 minutes of work (plus an hour to drain the cheese) and I think the flavor is better than the store-bought stuff!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup white vinegar or lemon juice
  • cheesecloth
  • 1 toddler (optional)

Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Add all of the ingredients to a 4-cup liquid measure and stir. Heat in the microwave for about 4 minutes, until the milk is simmering but not boiling and the solids in the milk start to separate from the liquids.

Pour the mixture into the prepared colander and allow it to drain for about an hour. After an hour, the whey will have separated from the curds. What’s left in the cheesecloth is your ricotta.

Use it in lasagna, pizza, ice cream, cheesecake, or just grab a handful and enjoy!

The Easiest Blackberry Cobbler Ever

July 5, 2011

Easy Blackberry Cobbler

The other day I walked into the grocery store to quickly grab something – I don’t remember what. On my way to get whatever it was, I saw a sign for blackberries – $1/pint. At first I didn’t believe it, but I went and checked it out and it was for real. Then I assumed that they were probably rotten, but they weren’t. My lucky day! Even though I didn’t come for blackberries, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stock up on one of my favorite early summer fruits. With one of the pints, I made this very easy and delicious blackberry cobbler. Even Josue, who doesn’t normally like blackberries, loved it. The recipe can be adapted for any fruit; I’ve made it with peaches, pears, and blueberries. It’s also great for entertaining because you probably have all the ingredients on hand and it goes together quickly.

Blackberry Cobbler with Browned Butter

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ t. baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pint blackberries

Preheat the oven to 350. Place a stick of butter into a 9 x 13 pan. Heat the butter in the oven until it’s melted and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. While the butter is melting, mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk. Once you remove the pan from the oven, pour the batter into the pan, but don’t mix. Sprinkle the blackberries over top of the batter. Bake the cobbler for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick insert into the center comes out clean and the cobbler is lightly browned on top.

Cobbler with fresh blackberries

Blackberry cobbler

I Don’t Have Ice Cream… But I Have Pizza!

July 4, 2011

Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Happy Fourth of July everyone! A couple people have let me know that 208 years after the Declaration of Independence, Ronald Reagan established another important holiday in July — National Ice Cream month (thanks Emily and Aunt Sue Ellen!).

I didn’t know about the holiday when I decided to make 30 types of homemade ice cream to share at my 30th birthday party later this month. Unfortunately, my month of ice cream has come to an unexpected halt as our 3-year-old fridge/freezer stopped working. (Ironically our home warranty expired two weeks ago – thanks Murphy.) We’re hoping the fridge is still under manufacturer’s warranty, but by the time we thought to call the place where we bought it, it was closed for the holiday.

As we started moving our food into a cooler, I came across some frozen pizza dough I had made and I knew exactly what to make with it. Earlier in the week, I had visited a little friend’s garden. During his summer break, he decided to plant a garden and he wanted to show me. I was definitely impressed – egg plant, popcorn, two types of tomatoes, three types of squash, watermelon, peanuts, peppers, beans, several types of herbs, and probably more that I’m forgetting… He definitely has a green thumb! He was nice enough to share some of the fruits of his labor with us – thanks Jeff!

Dill

Basil

A sweet, fresh tomato!

Deep Dish Pizza With Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Pizza dough
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella

Slice the garlic and allow it to soak in the olive oil for several hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place an iron skillet into the oven as it’s preheating. Remove the skillet and carefully stretch the dough to fit it. Brush the crust with the garlic oil and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Top with the tomatoes, basil, red onion and sliced garlic (from the oil). Slice the fresh mozzarella and place the pieces on top of the veggies. Drizzle with any remaining garlic oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden and cheese is browned.

Pizza

Grillin’ for the Fourth!

July 1, 2011

Tomorrow I’ll continue my month of ice cream with one of my favorite ice creams ever, but I couldn’t wait to share some grill recipes for this Fourth of July weekend. Beer can chicken, grilled potato salad, grilled sweet corn and grilled peaches – an entire meal from the grill! Wishing you a safe, fun and delicious weekend!

Beer Can Chicken

  • 12 ounce can of beer or cola
  • 1 whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Dry rub (recipe below)

Preheat your grill to medium and prepare the grill to cook the chicken over indirect heat. (If you’re cooking over charcoal arrange the coals along the outside of the grill so the chicken won’t be directly above them; if you’re using gas don’t place the chicken directly above a burner.)

Remove the giblets from your chicken and rinse it well. Pat it dry, inside and out, with a paper towel. Brush the chicken with the oil and then massage the dry rub into the chicken, inside the body, outside the body, and between the skin and the flesh. Open the can of beer or cola and remove half of the contents. Once the grill is preheated, place the opened can of beer or cola into the cavity of the chicken (with legs downward). Place the chicken on the grill with the can upright and position the legs of the chicken to help stabilize it. Cook the chicken for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until a thermometer inserted into the breast reads 165 degrees and inserted into the thigh reads 180 degrees.

For the Dry Rub

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Grilled Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds red-skinned potatoes (unpeeled)
  • Canola oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 ear of corn
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ yellow bell pepper
  • ½ small red onion, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat the grill to medium. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Toss the potatoes with a tablespoon of the canola oil and half  a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Place the potatoes on a large piece of foil in a single and form a packet around them. Place the potatoes on the grill, directly over the heat. Cook for approximately 40 minutes, flipping the packet over after 20 minutes.

Peel back the husk on the ear of corn, leaving it attached at the base. Remove the silk. Soak the corn in cold water for about 5 minutes.  After soaking, brush the corn with oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.  Pull the husk back up around the cob. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, rotating the corn several times. After removing the corn from the grill allow it to cool and then cut the kernels off of the cob.

Cut the bell peppers in half. Remove the core and seeds from the half of the pepper you’ll be using and cut each half in half again. Brush both sides of each quarter of the pepper with canola oil. Place the pieces on the grill and cook for about 10 minutes per side or until the skin of the pepper is charred. After removing the pepper pieces from the grill, carefully remove the skins and cut the peppers into ½ inch pieces.

Combine the cooked potatoes, corn, bell peppers in a medium bowl with the onions and basil. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette shortly before serving.

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar.  Mix in the minced garlic.

Corn on the Cob with Herb Butter

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat the grill to medium. Peel back the husk on the ear of corn, leaving it attached at the base. Remove the silk. Soak the ears of corn in cold water for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the butter, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. After soaking, brush each earn of corn with the butter mixture. Pull the husk back up around the corn and place it on the grill. Cook for about 10 minutes, rotating it several times.

Grilled Peaches

  • 4 ripe peaches
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Canola oil

Preheat the grill to medium. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Brush the cut side of each peach with canola oil and sprinkle it with the cinnamon sugar. Place the peaches, sugared side down, on the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes, until the peaches are tender. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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