Thursday, August 23, 2012

Low Fat Banana & Pumpkin Seed Muffins

Well, as you may have noticed I haven't posted in awhile.  I apologize for the delay.  It doesn't mean I haven't been cooking up a storm as usual what with CSA veggies pouring in!  It has been an extremely hot summer so that decreases cooking motivation for sure.  There were other factors at work though making my love and desire for cooking and baking take a turn for the worst.  a) we moved across town, b) it was hot and humid everyday and c) at 28 weeks I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Soon after posting the last batch of strawberry recipes, I found out I had gestational diabetes!  This came as a surprise to me--maybe not to you if you saw all the strawberry sweets I made :)  I couldn't believe it because I thought I ate healthily.  I learned so much during this process.  Basically, what I was eating didn't cause this to happen.  It happens to about 5% of pregnant women and is more common if you have risk factors like a history of family with Type 2 diabetes, such as mine.  The hormones of the placenta block my body from being able to make adequate insulin so therefore my glucose #s were out of whack.  The risk is the baby would get very overweight and make a natural delivery difficult if not impossible.  As soon as I have the baby, I should go back to normal, however, this *new* way of eating actually makes me feel better, gives me more energy, less bloating and very little (almost no swelling).  Also, I don't experience the hanger sensation quite as often because I am getting the right mix of foods.   Also, my health care providers tell me if I stick with my current eating, I will be much less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life!  Hooray!

This all sounds so positive, but I assure you I didn't start out feeling like a super-lucky individual to get the diagnosis.  I was upset and felt like it was unfair.  I didn't want to eat weird sugar substitutes.  I felt like I had so many restrictions and rules to follow and everyone else could eat whatever they wanted.   I had to watch my carbohydrate intake, eliminate sugar, reduce fat and up my protein.  All I wanted was a giant bowl of ice cream and chocolate chip cookies and pizza, but I figured they would be impossible to have.  I had to check my blood sugar 4x/day and send the results to a diabetes nurse.  

Soon I became obsessive about my numbers trying to aim for perfect scores.  Thankfully, Nathan helped me to relax and let go the notion of being perfect.  Rather than thinking of numbers as good and bad, they simply just were numbers that were in my reading as a result of what I ate.

I desperately searched for blogs or helpful diet plans for women with gestational diabetes and couldn't really find anything.  So...I decided from this point on the Hangry Foodsaurus has a new mission!  To focus on posting recipes and meals that I created mindfully throughout the pregnancy and beyond.  Of course, it isn't any substitute for your own dietician and/or medical advice.  Just simply me having fun, being creative and doing the best I can for my body's needs.  It took me a few weeks to get the hang of it, but I think I've got it down for the most part.

The gestational diabetes plan is basically exercising (I'm good on that front) and watching carbs (not eliminating them, but making sure they are healthy sources like fruits and whole grains and having them in moderation), eating copious amounts of veggies (not a problem for me) and having lean sources of protein with every meal and snack.  I have to be more mindful of food pairings and timing of when I eat.  My pancreas isn't as active at night, so eating too much too late doesn't work for me.

I even learned that I don't have to eat weird sugar substitutes.  I can eat the occasional chocolate chip cookie, or low fat frozen yogurt or small amount of pizza as long as I make sure I front load with healthy foods or have it as a small snack knowing that I'll have to give up something else more nutritious.  It's all a balance and has made me a much more mindful eater.  The feelings of being deprived have grown less and less as I realized there is so much I can actually eat and enjoy and feel satisfied.  Letting go of the emotion attached to the food has really helped the process.

For example, here is a recipe I made today (the first thing I've baked in 10 weeks)!  It isn't totally sugar-free and definitely has carbs.  I managed to fit it in as a between breakfast and lunch snack with peanut butter (for more protein).  I loved the texture, moist and spongy and with the crunch of the pumpkin seeds it was awesome!  

Here's the extra tip:  Give away as many baked goods as possible!  My neighbors were moving today and they were my main motivation for baking.  Moving is always stressful and the last thing you think about on moving day is eating.  I wanted to give them something they could snack on while they worked that was healthy, tasty and would give them some sustenance.  The report came back that it was a winning recipe, so here's my version:

Adapted from make happy blog:

1 1/2 cups ripe, mashed bananas (about 3--I used two large and two mini bananas)!
1/2 cup Trader Joe's unsweetened applesauce
less than 1/2 cup brown sugar (can substitute a little honey or agave)
2 eggs
1/2 cup non fat Greek yogurt (Fage brand)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour (I thought about going all wheat but wasn't sure if they'd be too dry, I think you could use spelt or another grainy flour if you had it on hand because they were pretty moist)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Hangry Foodasaurus, 2012

1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds/Pepitas (or pecans or walnuts or any combo)
  • In a large bowl, mash the bananas.
  • Add applesauce, sugar (if desired), eggs and yogurt; combine thoroughly.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients; stir until just combined.
  • Gently stir in vanilla and pumpkin seeds.
  • Lightly grease a muffin tin tray or use papers for no added fat.
  • Bake at 350° for 12-18 minutes. Test with a toothpick inserted and if it comes out clean you're all set.
Hangry Foodasaurus, 2012

I plan to make these again and freeze them so when we need a little treat they'll be waiting for us.  Hoping next time I post it will be to share news of our baby's arrival!  I can't wait to have him helping me in the kitchen someday!

I also want to post some more meal ideas as the food pairings are the really important thing to focus on with a diabetic diet.  Let me know if you have any ideas or things you'd like to see.

Till next time...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Strawberry Muffins, Crisp and Dressing, Oh My!

The Hangry Foodasaurus herself!  2012
Hangry Foodasaurus, June 2012
           Hangry Foodasaurus, June 2012

There is nothing better than fresh, local produce!  I love the summer and all it has to offer.  This past weekend my husband and I went strawberry-picking at Red Fire Farm in Western, MA.  For the second year in a row we have our CSA here and this was our first visit to the farm.  It was a little adventure for us to get out of the city,  plus an experiment to see how long I could last in the car (at 28 weeks pregnant).  We rented a Zipcar for the day and headed out to the Pick Your Own patch in Granby, MA.  It was so beautiful to see rolling hills, hear frogs and peepers and see barn swallows swooping over the fields.  We could hear a baseball game nearby and the fresh air and breeze were incredibly therapeutic to us.  We were so used to our surroundings as children growing up around Pittsburgh, PA and living for 6 years in Ithaca, NY where open land and nature surrounded us.  We were excited to move to a city (Cambridge in 2010) but the glamour has worn off and we really realized how much we missed the farms and fresh air!  We still love cities, but we feel like someday we need to settle in a more wooded community :)

My plan was to take it easy and not overdo it, but as soon as I got in the fields I couldn't help but get into my Yoga squat position and pick away!  8 quarts of strawberries later my fingers were berry-stained and we were happily sweaty and satisfied with our goodies.

On the way home, with the strawberry scent wafting in the breeze, I began to dream up ideas for what to do with all of our booty.  I certainly was too tired to deal with them on Saturday, so we stored them in the fridge (unwashed) in open colanders to preserve freshness as much as possible.

On Sunday I was a baking machine making strawberry wheat muffins, strawberry crisp with almond crunch topping and strawberry-poppyseed salad dressing.  Not to mention having strawberries on granola, cereal, in fruit salad drizzled with yogurt smoothie and of course, by the handful!  We also froze some to have on the ready for fruit smoothies.

For the Strawberry Crisp, I adapted the recipe from Eclectic Recipes blog

I doubled the strawberries, didn't use rhubarb and lessened the brown sugar.  I also added coconut to the topping.

Hangry Foodasaurus, June 2012
The muffins were very easy.  I followed a recipe from Alida's Kitchen  almost exactly.  I used a little more yogurt and did less sugar than instructed.  I also sliced a strawberry to place on top of each muffin for a nice presentation effect.  

For a really tasty dressing, try this strawberry poppy seed dressing.  For the salad I used mixed greens, spinach, slivered almonds, raisins, strawberries, onions and kohlrabi.

Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

HF, June 2012
Agave nectar-small amount
2 teaspoons German mustard (any will work fine though)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup rice vinegar (or apple cider, red or white wine would be good)
2 Tablespoons Vidalia onion (red onion could work here)
8 fresh strawberries
1 T. water
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (vegetable or canola would be OK)
2 tsp. poppy seed
Hangry Foodasaurus, June 2012
Throw all ingredients in the blender and puree.  Dressings are fun because you can mix and match ingredients that you prefer.  This dressing is a really pretty pink color when finished! 

If you haven't already, please sign up to become a follower of the Hangry Foodasaurus!  I love to share my recipes and love of food, so pass it on!  Thanks :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Colorful Salad with Golden Beets

Hangry Foodasaurus, May 2012

I am all about plating my food and making it look presentable.  Presentation is so important to me that even if I cut up apple slices with peanut butter for myself I can't help but arranging the slices in a radiating pattern with a dollop of peanut butter in the center.  I think things just taste better when you take them time to arrange them artfully.  Plus, it makes you more excited to eat it because it seems more special.

This simple and delicious salad is perfect for a light lunch or to go along with dinner.  It is particularly colorful (I love the purple/yellow combo) and even though it only has 5 ingredients it's packed with flavor.  You can have this a few days in a row if you plan ahead in advance.  It takes about one hour to roast the beets and 20 minutes to roast the onions, so take that into account.  What I like to do is roast beets and onions after dinner (or along with dinner) one night so they are ready for the next day.

You'll need:

1 bunch of organic golden beets (with stems)
1 large organic red onion
Organic mixed salad greens, arugula or baby spinach
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Parmesan or Goat cheese
Salad dressing of your choice (I will give my staple dressing below)

Remove tops and bottom root with a sharp knife.  Scrub beets thoroughly.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap each individual beet in foil.  Roast on 400 degrees F for about 50 minutes or until a fork can poke through with ease.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes more before peeling and slicing.

(save the tops in a bag in your fridge and for later use--sauteed beet greens are mild and tasty.  I used mine in my quiche recipe)

Peel and slice red onion, place on a roasting sheet with sides and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper--notice the pattern ;)  Roast about 20 minutes on 400, or until the onions start to carmelize, but not burn. Use a spatula to turn them about halfway through.  Remove from pan and put in a bowl to cool.

Toss pepitas onto a baking sheet and toast them until they are fragrant (keep checking because they burn quickly)!  I use the toaster oven but you can do this in an oven as well along with your onions and beets.  Remove from heat, toss and cool on baking sheet.

Hangry Foodasaurus Go-To Dressing:
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3-4 teaspoons of Cider or White vinegar
salt and pepper
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil into mix and stir vigorously until everything blends together into a golden yellow dressing.  Add more/less to taste of any of the ingredients.

If you aren't making the salad the same day, refrigerate the beets, onions and store seeds in an airtight container once cooled.

If you ARE making the salad, go ahead and plate up your washed greens, top with beet slices in a circular pattern, and display onions across the center.  Sprinkle with desired amount of goat cheese or Parmesan cheese and pepitas.  Drizzle with dressing and enjoy!  Serve with multigrain bread and some protein item of your choice.

Makes about 4 servings

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hearty Daily Granola

I honestly can't believe it's taken me this long to post one of my staple foods in the house:  granola!  I know, I know, being the "Earth People" that we are (term coined by my mother-in-law), it comes as no surprise that we eat granola every single morning with our breakfast.  And sometimes for a snack!

This winning recipe is the best because it's easy, fast and makes a large volume.  I've adapted it from a Bed & Breakfast on the San Juan Islands (off the coast of Washington State).  I haven't purposely omitted their name, I just forget!  If anyone knows the name of the B & B, please remind me and I'll give them credit!!  It's a gorgeous and rare escape only a quick ferry ride from Seattle.  In 2008, my wonderful friends Tessa and Dave were married there and part of her wedding favor for guests was this very granola!  She gave me the recipe because I loved it so much and we've been making it religiously ever since.

Hangry Foodasaurus, 2012

Here's what you need:

o   7 cups oats  (regular or steel cut or a mixture)
o   ½ cup brown sugar (you can always use a little less)
o   ½ cup olive oil (I used ¼ cup EVOO and ¼ cup coconut oil)
o   ½ tsp sea salt
Hangry Foodasaurus, 2012
o   ½ cup each of:
o   almonds
o   pecans (I omitted pecans, doubled up on other seeds/nuts)
o   walnuts
o   cashews
o   pepitas
o   sesame seeds (I omitted)
o   flax meal (I used whole flax seeds or sometimes omit altogether)
o   millet
o   oat bran
o   coconut
o   sunflower seeds
-¾ cup honey  (you can substitute maple syrup or a blend of both)
-1 T vanilla extract (I sometimes use almond extract)
-2 tsp cinnamon

You can also spruce it up by adding your favorite dried fruits or other grains!!  I tend to get the raw, unsalted and preferably organic versions of all the nuts and seeds.  Roasted nuts work too, but stick with the unsalted.

Mix everything together in a very large bowl.  Leave some clumps remaining.  Spread onto 2 large-sized flat baking sheets with sides.  Bake at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes.  I always put the racks towards the center and switch places with the two sheets on the shelves halfway through—stir at this point.  Allow to cool on baking sheets (it will continue to cook), stirring frequently until completely cooled.  Store in airtight containers in the fridge.  

Tip:  Once refrigerated it is trickier to break apart, so I always leave out the container that we're currently using and rotate through the refrigerated ones.  

Even though there's a ton, it goes quickly around our house, so I like to stock up for at least 2 batches worth when I go to the grocery store.  My favorite thing to do is top Greek yogurt with this granola and berries, mangoes or other fruit.  Also, amazing on its own with unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or your milk of choice).

Happy Crunching!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Hangry Hiatus

I can’t believe how long it has been since my last post!  I am sorry for all of my readers who have by now, given up on the Hangry Foodasaurus.  I’d like to think I have a pretty good excuse for not writing and my hope is that once I explain what’s been holding me back, you’ll forgive me.

As some of you know I’ve just completed my 200-hour Yoga teacher training, which took place over the course of 9 intensive weekends.  We traveled from Boston to Philadelphia about once per month and Nathan and I were hosted while we were staying there by some very gracious friends in the area :).  The weekends were extremely challenging physically and mentally, but one particular weekend I was more exhausted than ever.  I could hardly keep my eyes open.   The next morning I tried drinking some coffee and for those of you who know me coffee is a must!  After the first sip I could hardly keep it down.  Hmmmm…well after putting two and two together I surmised I might be pregnant, and it turns out I am!

Of the many interesting changes that come with being pregnant I found one of the craziest to be the absence of hangriness.  No shakiness, dizziness, extreme agitation.  In fact, for the first 3 months I could hardly eat anything at all and especially couldn’t fathom touching a vegetable.  Hummus became my enemy.  The thought of salad made me gag.  I was all about reverting to my childhood:  mac and cheese, pop-tarts, frozen waffles, pierogies.  Thank goodness I am over that hump because it was starting to get a bit unhealthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I still need snacks and treats, but at least I can say I eat vegetables again.  Way back in December I started to get a hankering for scones.  I found a really good recipe from Joy of Baking, which I’ve adapted slightly.  Since then I’ve made this recipe a total of three times, each time varying the ingredients ever-so-slightly with amazing results. 

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
  •  1 total cup of filling ingredients such as: chocolate chips or chunks, toasted walnuts or pecans, dried cherries or cranberries, fresh blueberries or candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract OR almond or lemon extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons of lemon or orange zest
  • 2/3 - 3/4 cup (160 - 180 ml) buttermilk (I never seem to have buttermilk so you can use regular milk and sour it by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice and allowing it to stand for 10-15 minutes)
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Basically you want to pick things that sound like they’d work well together like:  Lemon-ginger, dark chocolate and dried cherries and walnuts, cranberry-orange, lemon-blueberry.

How to:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in middle of oven.

2) Grease a baking sheet with organic vegetable shortening or use parchment paper.

3) Zest orange or lemon if using zest.

4) In a small measuring cup whisk together the buttermilk (or milk and lemon juice) and extract.

5) In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

6) Cut the cold butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. I don’t own a pastry blender so I just ended up crumbling it with my fingers to get all the big chunks out.  (The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.)

7) Stir in the chocolate chunks, dried cherries, nuts, lemon or orange zest, etc.

8) Add wet mixture to the flour mixture. Very Important! Stir just until the dough comes together (add more buttermilk or flour as necessary). Do not over mix the dough.

9) Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round and about 11/2 inches (3.75 cm) thick. At this point my dough is always on the flaky, dry side and not every bit of flour is mixed in but that is OK.

10) Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 4 pie- shaped wedges (triangles). Place the scones on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar for a nice effect.

11) Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Makes 8 scones.

Dark Chocolate, Cherry, and Walnut Scone: A. Andiorio
These have been an absolute winner every time I’ve made them.  They are moist, flaky and go great with your morning coffee or tea.  They are best consumed right out of the oven, but if you somehow have any leftovers they are also good warmed up in a toaster oven.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Birthday Times! Ice Cream and Cake and Cake!

The finished product!  Yellow Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

Yummilicious with French vanilla ice cream
On January 3, we celebrated Nathan's 31st birthday!  Some neighbors and friends joined us and though it was bitter cold outside (8 degrees F!) we had a cozy little gathering.

If you want the recipe, it is from an awesome food blog Smitten Kitchen 

I pretty much followed the recipe exactly, except for the cake: I used wheat flour, and organic cane sugar, which created a cornbread-like effect and was very tasty.

Also for the icing what I did differently was omit espresso and used brown rice syrup instead of corn syrup.  It was sort of difficult to spread, but with some elbow-grease it all worked out nicely.

Now for the hilarious part!  So, I have never made a real, from-scratch cake.  I was hell-bent on doing a 9-inch layered cake and this recipe seemed fool-proof, or so I thought...

Cake batter prep went smoothly and looked beautiful.  I popped the pans in the oven and about halfway through baking I smelled something burning.  I ran over to the oven to discover my cakes flowing like lava out of the pans and oozing onto the oven and all over the racks!!!  I quickly slid some baking sheets under to catch the goo.  Sadly, that didn't work and the bits on the bottom caught fire and smoke was billowing out of the oven :(

Thankfully, Nathan saved the day by calmly opening the window, shutting off the oven and helping me pry burnt pieces from the oven.  He reassured me the cakes could be recovered, which I doubted but wanted to believe.

So I set about scraping the pans' edges free of batter, placing sheets under the pans and commencing with part 2 of the baking.  It worked!!!  I was thrilled!  Nathan was thrilled too because the cake kept oozing but eventually formed a nice little mold of cake around the outside of the pans which we were able to eat right away!

If I didn't tell you it happened, there was no way to tell there was a cake mishap!  The only thing I can think that went wrong is that perhaps the pans were 8-inch causing the overflow.  Or maybe my baking soda was too fresh?  I checked and the flour was definitely not self-rising.

Everyone liked it, we had a little adventure making it and I finally succeeded in making a cake from scratch.  Yay!

I'd love to hear about your baking mishaps--do share as it's way more funny after the fact ;)