Morning Oatmeal Muffins

March 10, 2009

Sometimes I forget how good really simple meals can be.  Most everything I make nowadays has a sauce or multiple components, but tonight we just ate pan-fried steak, brown rice and boiled turnip greens, and it was really good.  This recipe is kind of the opposite –although the preparation is quite simple,  it’s a muffin form mix of everything you might think to put in your oatmeal in the morning, all at once.  If I’d had either less or more than one banana, it might have been different, but really these muffins can take anything you want to throw in them(although if you switch out the apples for something less acidic I would take out the baking soda).


(makes 12 muffins)

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 apple, finely chopped or 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375F, and prep 12 muffin tins – either with spray oil or paper muffin cups.  Stir together the dry ingredients, being sure to break up chunks of brown sugar, then add the wet and stir until just mixed.    Fill the muffin cups — they will be very full, but these don’t rise very much — maybe 15%.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.


Carrot Muffins

March 7, 2009

In the spirit of my whole wheat pumpkin muffins, I’ve been searching around for a good carrot muffin recipe for a few months now, and I think I’ve finally found the one.  It’s delicious, fairly healthy and extremely easy to make.

It’s based off of this carrot cake recipe from userealbutter, which I first made as a cake — and it makes a great cake, even subbing half the white flour with whole wheat.  But I was looking for something a little different… something a little more muffinlike – heartier and less sweet.


(makes 12 muffins)

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 cups shredded carrot(about three largish carrots)
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 and set up your muffin tins – either with spray oil or paper cups.  Stir all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the wet ingredients and stir until just mixed.  Fill each muffin cup about three quarters of the way for average, not very top heavy muffins, or all the way for larger muffins.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Peppers ready for roasting

Peppers ready for roasting

A Moroccan inspired dish adapted(slightly) from Epicurious.  A traditional harissa is just made from roasted hot peppers, which would be a bit too much for this dish(and for us).  If you want to kick up the heat a bit, add a second roast jalapeno — that was about our maximum spice tolerance.  The fish can also be fried or grilled, but rubbing with olive oil allows the spices to adhere nicely with a minimum of grease.


(serves 2)


  • 2 fillets tilapia
  • a few pinches of cumin and coriander
  • olive oil
  • wedge of lemon (for serving)


  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Halve and deseed the red pepper, then rub with olive oil.  Rub the jalapeno and garlic with oil as well, then roast them all on a foil-covered cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.  Remove the garlic and flip the peppers, then roast for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rub the tilapia with some olive oil, then lightly dust  with cumin, coriander and salt.  Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat and fry the fish until browned, about three minutes per side.   Keep warm while you assemble the harissa.

Remove the skin from the red pepper and the stem from the jalapeno, then place everything(peppers, garlic and spices) in a food processor.  Blend until the peppers are broken down, then gradually add olive oil until .   Season with salt and pepper.

Plate the fish and squeeze the lemon over each piece, then top with the harissa.  We like to serve this over some whole wheat couscous with sunflower seeds to add a bit of crunch.

These pancakes aren’t really whole wheat, just half and half, but it lends a slight nutty taste and makes the recipe a bit more healthy.   This recipe makes about ten medium sized pancakes, which is just about enough for a big weekend breakfast for two people.  Any leftovers can be frozen and reheated in a toaster just like frozen waffles.

Cranberry syrup is just one of the many possible pancake toppings, and one of the more complicated ones at that.  Other options include:  a quarter cup of frozen raspberries(blackberries or blueberries), microwaved and smashed with a tablespoon of maple syrup stirred in or Nutella.


(serves 2)


  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • (optional) 2 tbsp shelled pecans

Stir together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Melt the butter in a glass measuring cup and mix in the milk and egg.  Stir into the dry mixture.  If it looks too thick, thin with a little water.  Toast the pecans.  Heat a nonstick frying pan or griddle  over medium heat and brush with butter or oil(really, less is more).  Pour about a quarter cup of batter onto the griddle and press three pecan halves into each pancake.   Cook until golden brown on the bottom(about two minutes on my stove), then flip and cook about two minutes longer.  If preparing all pancakes before eating, keep warm in a 250 F oven.  Extra pancakes freeze well and can be reheated in the toaster.

Cranberry Syrup

  • 1/4 cup fresh/frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until all the cranberries have burst and the mixture begins to thicken a little, about ten minutes.  Smash the cranberries a little more and add extra maple syrup if it gets too thick.

Pasta Puttanesca

February 14, 2009

Pasta Puttanesca is a chunky sauce of intense flavors that meld together perfectly – olives, anchovy paste, capers and hot red pepper.  You can either enjoy it as is, or mellow it out slightly by melting some goat cheese into the sauce.

I first came across Pasta Puttanesca in an Italian restaurant somewhere in Delaware.  At that point, I didn’t like olives, capers or anchovy paste, but this dish called to me anyway and I loved it enough to try reproducing it at home.  Over the years I’ve grown to love olives and capers(I’m still working on the anchovy paste), and moved up from just dumping in a can of black olives to using a mix of Kalamata’s, green and black olives.


(serves 4)

  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 sausages, sliced (optional)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, without calcium carbonate
  • 1 tbsp anchovy paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups mixed olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 4 oz goat cheese (optional, but awesome)

In  a large bowl, crush the tomatoes with your hands.  You don’t need to be very thorough, since the heat will finish breaking them down, just make sure to squeeze any large pieces through your fingers.   This can be kind of fun and stress relieving.

Meanwhile heat up the oil in a large saucepan and saute the garlic and hot pepper flakes until fragrant, about a minute.   Then add the sliced mushrooms and the sausage(if using) and saute until the mushrooms begin to water.

Add the red wine and let it boil up, then add the tomatoes, anchovy paste and herbs.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for twenty minutes while you cook the pasta.  You should use a shaped pasta that will hold a lot of sauce — like penne or campanelle.   If you’re skeptical about the anchovy paste, taste it now and add more red wine if it tastes too fishy.

Stir in the olives, then bring back up to a simmer and taste to adjust salt, pepper and acidity.  Too sweet?  Add some lemon juice and pepper.  Too acid?  Add some sugar.   Remove from the heat and stir in the capers.   At this point, remove any sauce you want to save for another meal and stir the goat cheese into the remaining sauce appropriate (1 oz per person) and then toss thoroughly with the pasta and serve.

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

February 8, 2009

We’ve been attempting to broaden our palettes by trying a new fruit or vegetable each week.  This week I brought home some fennel(labeled anise at the grocery store).  I’d heard that orange and fennel pair well together, and we had a leftover grapefruit lying around, hence this salad.  It turned out much better than I was expecting.  This is a salad where the whole really is more than the sum of the parts.  The acid of the grapefruit brings out the delicate flavor of the fennel.


(serves two)

  • 1/2 bulb fennel
  • 1 grapefruit

Slice the fennel as thin as you can; for me this varied between zero and  1/8 inches, which was fine.  Supreme the grapefruit by slicing off the top and bottom, then removing the peel with a knife all around the fruit.  Once this is done, cut along the skin to remove the segments.  Alternatively, you can do what my mom does, which is to halve the grapefruit, then scoop out each section with a  grapefruit spoon.  Either way, make sure most of the juice ends up in the bowl with the grapefruit.  I’ve never supremed anything before tonight, so it was slow going, but I think with practice supreming will be both faster and prettier.

Now combine the fennel and grapefruit in a medium sized bowl and finish the dressing with some olive oil and salt

  • 1 glug of olive oil, maybe 1 1/2 tbsp?
  • 1/4 tsp salt, and then to taste

This makes a very refreshing side salad, or you could top it with some grilled seafood or chicken to make a meal.  We tried adding in some Kalamata olives, which may work with meat, but didn’t work as a stand alone salad.

I was intending on roasting the rest of the fennel, but never got around to it — instead I boiled it in some homemade chicken broth with orzo for a light soup.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

January 17, 2009

In order to successfully incorporate whole wheat flour into a baked good, you need a moist recipe — here mashed banana and yogurt provide the  extra moisture.



  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/8 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, cover with warm water.  Preheat oven to 35o F.   Stir together dry ingredients.  Beat eggs and sugars on medium for 8 minutes, then beat in oil slowly.   Next, beat in banana, yogurt and vanilla.  Stir in the dry ingredients, walnuts and cranberries.  Spray a large loaf pan with Pam and pour in the batter.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about an hour and fifteen minutes.  If top starts to brown, tent some foil over the top.

Three Cup Chicken

January 17, 2009

Three cup chicken is an extremely flavorful dish from southern China — so-called because it consists of one part sesame oil, one part rice wine and one part soy sauce, flavored with garlic, ginger and basil.


(serves two)

  • one deboned chicken leg or two thighs
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2″ of ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or rice wine
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 basil leaves

Cut the chicken into bite sized chunks. Heat sesame oil over medium heat, and add ginger and garlic. Sautee until fragrant, about one minute. Increase the heat to high and add the chicken. Cook until you can’t see any more pink flesh, then add wine, soy sauce and sugar. Reduce heat, cover and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about fifteen minutes. Stir in basil just before serving.

When we want a quick, but delicious, weeknight dinner, we’ll often make something with pounded chicken – either with garlic and capers(to be posted) or  this tomato, olive and goat cheese topping.    Pounding the chicken makes it cook more quickly, while developing a nice crust and staying tender.


(serves two)

  • 1 chicken breast, pounded to about 1/4″ thick
  • 1 tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 10 kalamata olives, halved

Make a lemon-oregano viniagrette by whisking together

  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp(dried) oregano
  • pinch salt
  • pinch ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Adjust salt, pepper and honey to taste –it  should taste like something you would want on your salad.  If you have plenty of time, marinate the pounded chicken for up to 12 hours, but feel free to be lazy and just salt and pepper the chicken before frying.

Fry the chicken in some more olive oil until cooked through — about three minutes per side.  Meanwhile, let the tomatoes and olives sit in the viniagrette.  When the chicken is done, remove from the heat and let sit, covered.  Add the tomato mixture to the pan and heat until just warmed through.  Mix in

  • 2 oz goat cheese

and pour on top of the chicken.

We often serve this with roasted potatoes or with jasmine rice and some sort of green vegetable on the side.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

January 15, 2009

Mt. Muffin

Mt. Muffin

Also adapted, more seriously, from Pinch My Salt.    These muffins are my go-to snack during the week.  I like to think that because they’re whole wheat, they must be healthy, although, since I’m too lazy to butter my muffins, I just put all the butter in the batter.  I’ll bake a full batch and then freeze most of them.  After 30 seconds in the microwave and 5 minutes in a warm(200-ish degrees) oven, they’re as good as new.  Then I wrap them in foil and take them to school for an afternoon snack.

Makes 24 large muffins.


Preheat oven to 375F and prep 24 muffin tins – either with muffin papers or Pam.

Dry ingredients – just mix together in medium sized bowl

  • 5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 5 tbsp buttermilk powder(optional)

Wet – stir together in large bowl

  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla

After combining the two(don’t stir too much), stir in

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts(I use walnuts)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Fill up the muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the muffins spring back  when poked.

(for my mom – these muffins have 35 carbs each)