Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Broccoli and Beans Braised in Saffron Broth

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Saffron

I’ve been so busy lately that I have a stack of magazines that have been piling up, waiting to be read. I finally read the holiday issue of Saveur magazine. There was an interesting article in there by Andy Isaacson about saffron. What made this particular article different was that it talked about domestic saffron, and, in particular, saffron grown by the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Skunky saffron

Skunky saffron

Yeah. Who know that Amish people grew saffron? Apparently, it’s part of their heritage. And that got me thinking about how very little Americans use saffron, while in some cultures it’s an integral part of their cuisine. Of course, cost is a factor—saffron is the most expensive spice in the world (anywhere from $1500 to 10,000 per pound). I almost laughed myself silly when I saw some saffron in an Asian market for $1.99. It was the skunkiest saffron I’d ever seen and wondered what it really was (it looked like singed gorilla hair).

Well, that in turn reminded me that I still had some great saffron that my brother brought me from Morocco, and I was inspired to use it in this dish. In this recipe, you have protein, heart-healthy vegetables, and the exotic saffron to give it a special flavor, aroma, and color. Enjoy!

Broccoli and Beans Braised in Saffron Broth

2 cups dry white beans
3 cups vegetable broth
Pinch of saffron
1 large head broccoli, cut into large florets
1 large onion, sliced
3 or 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Clean the beans by rinsing them and picking out any stones or debris. Place them in a medium saucepan pot and cover with water by about 3 inches; bring it to a boil. Let it boil for about 2 minutes, then shut the heat and let the beans set for about an hour. IMG_5909

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Crush the saffron into the broth and let it sit for a few minutes.

Drain the beans.

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Transfer the beans to a large casserole dish. Pour in the broth. Combine the broccoli, onions, salt, and pepper and place them on top of the beans. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour.IMG_5919

Stir the contents, and bake another 20 minutes to thicken. If it seems dry at this point, add another 1 cup of broth or water.IMG_5921

Serve with brown rice or noodles.IMG_5924


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Cranberry Bread

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Do you still have cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving? I’ll bet many of you do. Maybe it’s a stray can hanging out in the pantry, or it’s a cup or so in the fridge that you haven’t been able to bring yourself to throw out. That’s okay—cranberry sauce lasts a long time in the refrigerator, but at this point, use it or lose it.

There are many things you can do with leftover cranberry sauce, but making a loaf is one of my favorites. (This is a wheat-free version, but it has spelt flour, so if you have—or are making it for someone with—Celiac disease, this isn’t the right recipe for you. It also contains soy flour, so if you’re avoiding soy, again, this isn’t right for you.)

This is not overly sweet, so it makes a nice breakfast loaf, toasted with some butter or jam. But it’s got enough sweetness and crunch from the walnuts (if you want to use them) that it makes a great snack with an extra dollop of cranberry sauce.Pilcrow & Dagger Cover

I’m happy to say that another version of this loaf (not gluten free) appears in the holiday issue of the literary magazine Pilcrow & Dagger, along with my recipe for homemade cranberry sauce. Check out a sneak preview HERE. And if you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you can do so HERE.

So, rescue that leftover cranberry sauce and make this tasty loaf and enjoy.

I hope you all had a wonderful, joyful holiday season, and may 2016 bring happiness and success, whatever that means for you.

Cranberry Bread

Makes 1 (8 x 4) loaf.

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup soy flour
¾ cup chickpea flour
¼ cup rice flour
½ cup sugar or maple crystals
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 medium eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan (or line is with parchment paper).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.IMG_5633In a small bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, coconut oil, and ¼ cup water.IMG_5634Mix this into the flour mixture just until all dry ingredients are moistened. If it seems dry, add a bit more water.IMG_5635

IMG_5636Stir in the walnuts, if you’re using them, then stir in the cranberry sauce, but don’t mix it in completely—just run it through.IMG_5639Spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out fairly clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Some moist cranberry on the knife is okay.

If the loaf starts getting very dark or starts burn around the edges but the loaf isn’t done, cover it with a piece of foil and continue baking.IMG_5645Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto the rack. Serve warm or cool completely.IMG_5646

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Wheat-Free Carrot Cake

IMG_5598This is one of those recipes that I made spur of the moment but, luckily, turned out well. So, I needed a quick dessert to make for a lunch at my parents’ house. We were having a guest who is gluten-free and I wanted to make sure there would be dessert for her.

There’s nothing easier than carrot cake. I love carrot cake. It’s not only flavorful and delicious, but it’s also very difficult to do badly. I mean, I’ve had great carrot cake, good carrot cake, and so-so carrot cake, but I don’t recall ever having terrible carrot cake.

That’s probably because it would take a deliberate effort to make a terrible carrot cake. There’s no creaming of butter, no whipping of egg whites, no adding of things in additions, or layering of ingredients. Aside from whisking together the dry ingredients first, everything gets mixed together. (And, quite honestly, you probably don’t even really need to mix the dry ingredients. I just recommend it to ensure that you get no lumps.)

I call this cake “wheat free” and not “gluten free” because it calls for spelt flour. I didn’t want to use all chickpea flour because I didn’t want it to be too heavy or dense or taste to “beany.” Spelt is related to wheat, so it’s the non-wheat flour that is closest to it in chemistry, flavor, and behavior. However, because it’s related to wheat, people who have Celiac disease can’t digest it. People who have a gluten/wheat intolerance, on the other hand, can usually consume it without negative consequences.

I (and everyone else) was pleasantly surprised at how light and moist this cake came out. It has a somewhat unusual flavor because of the chickpea flour but not a bad one. Just different. I hope you like it.

Wheat-Free Carrot Cake

1 cup chickpea flour
¼ cup spelt flour
½ cup coconut (palm) or date sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrots
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup water

Frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan or line it with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in the carrots, eggs, vanilla, applesauce, and water with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Make the frosting: With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, and zest until smooth.

Remove the cake from the pan. Invert the cake, then invert it again on a serving plate. If you used parchment, peel it off gently. Spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides. Serve.

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(For the cake in the photo, I chose to use a simpler confectioners’ sugar icing and coconut flakes. Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with a tablespoon of water. Mix until smooth, adding a tiny bit more water at a time, as needed. Spread over the cake, then sprinkle on 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes.)


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PB&J Cake, aka Space Cake

IMG_5052You might be wondering why I’ve given this cake the alternate name of Space Cake. Or maybe you’re not, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

I went into my local kosher market to pick up a few specific things (it’s the only place I know of that carries my favorite hummus). As I do in any market, I started looking around to see if there was anything new and/or unusual, anything I haven’t tried before. And I was rewarded for my efforts.IMG_5025

I found a bottle of peanut butter powder. Yes, that’s correct. Peanut butter that has been dehydrated and turned into powder. Curiosity overcame me and, of course, I had to buy it. To use it, you mix the powder with water until it’s a paste. When I did that, I have to say that it looked, smelled, and tasted like peanut butter.

Space food.

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Gluten-Free Buttermilk Coconut-Almond Cake

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In the world of gluten-free baking, things can get complicated. Without wheat flour, you need the right combination of ingredients to create a a cake that is light and flavorful, that has good texture and pleasant mouthfeel. A gluten-free cake can very easily be heavy, dense, bland, gritty, flat, and, at its worst, taste like sawdust.

But when the ingredients come together well, you have something that rivals traditional wheat-flour cake. It won’t taste exactly the same, but it’s just as good.

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Blue Corn Muffins

 

IMG_4771For some reason, I got it into my head that I wanted to make blue corn muffins, and what follows is my recipe.

But first, let’s talk about corn. Corn is, unfortunately, one of the most genetically modified crops in the United States. Unless you buy corn that is specifically labeled organic, you can be absolutely certain that the corn you just purchased has been genetically modified. And it isn’t just the corn that you eat, it is also the corn that is fed to the animals that you eat, and that means animal products as well—i.e., eggs, cheese, yogurt, etc.IMG_4718

Organic products aren’t cheap, though. Some people who are health conscious but can’t afford to go totally organic have a list of products that, if nothing else, they always buy organic. If you are one of those people, keep corn on that list.

Organic blue cornmeal is available (Arrowhead Mills has it and can be found in Whole Foods, other natural food markets, and sometimes well-stocked supermarkets). However, I wasn’t able to get my hands on organic blue corn meal in time to make the muffins when I wanted to make them. So, I made the conscious decision to use blue corn meal that I picked up at a Latin supermarket near where I work. Having said that, I urge you to use organic corn—in all its forms—whenever possible.IMG_4720

Now, onto the recipe. Blue corn meal makes for a beautiful purple batter, but the final product isn’t as vibrant. It’s usually a light lavender color. I’m not quite sure why mine came out so much darker than the average blue corn muffin—I suspect that my ratio of cornmeal to all-purpose flour was too high. Nevertheless, I decided that I like them and am keeping the recipe as is—at least for now. I like to add corn to the batter for an extra bit of texture, but you can omit it if you like.

Next time, I’m going to do a gluten-free version. Enjoy!

Blue Corn Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.

1½ cups blue cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup grapeseed (or other) oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 medium eggs
1 cup corn

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease the cups of a medium 12-cup muffin tin, or line them with paper cupcake wrappers.

In large bowl, mix all the ingredients, except the corn, with spoon or rubber spatula just until mixed.IMG_4742IMG_4750Fold in the corn, if you’re using it.IMG_4751Fill the muffin cups equally. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the tin on a rack and let cool. If you try to remove them immediately, they’ll crumble. If you have to, run the tip of a knife around the edges to loosen them.IMG_4759Turn them out onto the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.IMG_4762Enjoy with butter and jam.

 


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Almond-Lucuma Cake

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Photo: Akramm via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Akramm via Wikimedia Commons

If you haven’t heard of lucuma, it’s because it’s a fruit indigenous to Peru, Chile, and Ecuador that hasn’t really had much play outside of its native region, especially since it only thrives in subtropical climates. It has a dark green skin, and a pit (sometimes two) that look like avocado pits. Its yellow flesh is dry and often compared to hard-boiled egg yolk, and its mild flavor has been likened to maple syrup, caramel, and sweet potatoes.

Indigenous Andean peoples used lucuma not just as food but medicinally as well. The Incas believed it to be a symbol of fertility and creation and it was dubbed “Gold of the Incas.” Modern studies of lucuma show that the fruit contains beta carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. It aids in warding off heart disease and hypertension, maintaining skin health and blood sugar levels (and it is hoped that it will help people with diabetes), and supporting healthy digestion.lucuma[1]
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