Asiago oat bran muffins

A couple of months ago, I blogged about oat bran muffins that I made from a recipe on a blog called domestic affair. I liked them a lot, and have made them several times since.

But it occurred to me that it might be interesting to try a savoury version. My friend Jeff, one of my walking partners, suggested that Asiago cheese would be a good addition.

I was shopping yesterday and happened to find grated Asiago, so I decided to adapt the recipe, replacing cinnamon with thyme, and adding finely chopped onion and sundried tomato instead of apples and raisins. I reduced the amount of maple syrup just a touch, and the result was both sweet and savoury – flavourful, but not overpowering. It may just be my new favourite muffin recipe.

Asiago Oat Bran Muffins (adapted from Domestic Affair’s Apple Oat Bran Muffins)

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

3 to 4 sundried tomatoes

2 cups oat bran

1 tbsp. baking powder

generous 1/4 tsp. thyme

a pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup yogourt

1/4 cup apple sauce

just under 1/2 cup maple syrup, plus canola or safflower oil to equal 3/4 cups liquid

1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese

1. Chop onion. Soak sundried tomatoes in boiling water 2 minutes, then chop finely.

2. In large bowl, mix oat bran, baking powder, thyme and sea salt. Add yogourt, apple sauce, oil and maple syrup, and combine until mixed together and oat bran is absorbed.

3. Add onion, sundried tomatoes, and scant half-cup Asiago cheese, and mix in.

4. Spoon batter into muffin trays lined with paper muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with a few additional strands of cheese, if desired.

5. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven about 16 minutes, until toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean.


Chocolate Sunday – Granola!

The first gift my husband gave me when we were dating was a jar of granola, which he swears he made himself.

Our daughter is skeptical about this story, because it’s my father-in-law who’s the chief granola-maker in the family. A retired pharmacist who learned to be precise about measuring and mixing long before he began baking, Dad is also known for his other specialties including blueberry tortes and potato-leek soup.


Dad’s granola, updated

He doesn’t remember where he got his granola recipe, but it’s been a family favourite for a long time. I’ve made it many times myself.

As an alternative, a few years ago, I also began using a simpler recipe – the Maple-Nut Granola from Aviva Allen’s Organic Kosher Cookbook. It calls for a mix of oats, nuts, olive oil, maple syrup and a bit of sea salt – nothing else – and has become my other favourite granola recipe.

Dad’s granola is no more difficult to make, but it virtually teems with ingredients – coconut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, wheat germ, up to three kinds of nuts, and – as “optional” ingredients – chocolate chips, raisins, and vanilla extract. The add-ons were never optional for me, though – especially the chocolate chips. The recipe uses honey as sweetener, but I tried it this week with maple syrup, and that was good too.

Most of the component ingredients remain discrete in the finished product, but the granola also includes a few larger clumps – the best parts – which provide a tasty, unexpected hit of melted chocolate.

Both recipes are delicious, and should probably be eaten sparingly. I often sprinkle granola over a plainer cereal, and add berries or bananas, and almond milk.

When I made the granola this week, I reduced the amount of coconut because it is high in saturated fat, and I used oat bran instead of wheat germ because I wanted to minimize the amount of gluten. I also used olive oil for its health benefits, even though the original recipe didn’t specify it.

The recipe is very flexible, and optional ingredients in the original version are listed without quantities. I measured what I used so I could include amounts in the recipe that follows.

Dad’s Granola (updated)

4 cups rolled oats

½ cup coconut

½ cup sesame seeds

1 cup chopped pecans (or almonds, or a mix of nuts)

½ cup sunflower seeds

½ tsp. sea salt

½ cup oat bran

¾ cup chocolate chips

¾ cup raisins

½ cup liquid honey or maple syrup

(optional: 1 tsp. of vanilla if using honey)

½ cup olive oil

1. Oil 9 x 13” pan, and add dry ingredients in order given.

2. Add oil and maple syrup or honey (with vanilla, if you like), and mix well.

3. Bake 20 minutes at 275F, stirring every five to seven minutes.

4. Let cool about an hour. Store in glass jars.


Apricot Coconut Tart

Every year, after Passover, I have leftover coconut that sits in my cupboard until the following year. I love homemade macaroons for the holiday, but don’t think to make them during the year.

Last month, as part of an attempt to be organized and use ingredients on hand, I tried a decadent coconut tart recipe that I found online.apricot coconut tart

It’s from a blog called Orangette, by Seattle restaurateur and author Molly Wizenberg. I tweaked the recipe just a bit. Wizenberg had already put her own spin on it, after finding a macaroon tart recipe in Super Natural Every Day, a cookbook by Heidi Swanson.

I think the best part is the fruit hidden under the coconut crust. It’s tasty, balances the richness, and ups the nutrient content. This time of year, when fruit is at its freshest, is a perfect time to try the tart.apricot coconut tart inside

Wizenberg adapted the recipe to make it gluten-free, but I opted for a mix of half white and half brown rice flour, which lowers the gluten content but doesn’t eliminate it.

I used a star anise-flavoured sugar, because it had also been in my kitchen for a long time (sigh!). I also reduced the butter from 10 tablespoons to 8 (1 stick), because – to be honest – I couldn’t bring myself to use that much butter. The crust was still melt-in-your-mouth rich, but the tart was a bit hard to slice.

A bonus: it looked pretty because of the fluted tart pan.

I wondered if it would freeze well, so I put a small piece in the freezer overnight after Friday night dinner. It was still delicious the next day.

The recipe can be found here.

Wild Rice with Sauteed Sweet Potatoes

Now that I’m blogging about food, I’m more motivated to look for creative ways to use ingredients that are already in my kitchen.Image

In recent years – and recent weeks – a couple of things have changed.

1.     Over the last few years, the internet has influenced the way I source recipes and plan meals. Instead of relying primarily on my cookbooks, I often turn to Google, and enter ingredients that I want to use up. I’ve come across interesting food blogs and recipes, and I find it’s an efficient way to use what I have, as well as delay grocery shopping a day or two.

2.     The other thing that’s different is that, as a newbie food blogger, I’m concerned about the risk of breaching copyrights on my blog. From what I’ve read online (which isn’t necessarily authoritative), lists of ingredients are not subject to copyright laws, but recipe instructions may be. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of ways to adapt favourite recipes to make them my own.

The other day, I cooked some wild rice, which had been in my pantry for months. I considered adding red peppers, snow peas, and cashews, key ingredients in a recipe that appears in Susan Mendelson’s Official Cookbook of Expo 86. Unfortunately – or maybe not – I didn’t have the necessary ingredients.

The dish that I ended up making was inspired by Mendelson’s recipe, and by the limited choice of vegetables I had on hand. Her book dates back to the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver, BC, and is a favourite of mine for its appealing pictures and easy-to-follow instructions.

Although the book doesn’t mention it, her wild rice recipe (and mine too) is vegan and dairy-free. It can be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free tamari for soy sauce.

I used sweet potato and zucchini, which added flavour, colour and contrasting texture to the wild rice. Not to mention that sweet potato is a  so-called “superfood.” We enjoyed the resulting side dish the day I made it, and ate it chilled the next day as a salad.

Here’s my recipe:

Wild Rice with  Sweet Potato & Zucchini (inspired by Susan Mendelson’s Wild Rice with Red Peppers & Snow Peas)                                                  NB – recipe has been updated to make it gluten-free

1 cup wild rice

4 cups water

canola oil to thinly cover pan

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 –inch dice

½ zucchini, cut into ¼-inch dice

1 T. low-sodium soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari, for a gluten-free version)

sesame seeds for garnish (and nutrients!)

1.     Cook wild rice according to package directions. Keep an eye on it. Mine was ready sooner than I expected. Drain well.

2.     Heat oil in large non-stick pan on medium high. When one piece of onion sizzles, add garlic and the rest of the onion, and sauté for a minute or two.

3.     Add sweet potato for about a minute, then add zucchini. The sweet potato should be cooked until edible but not overly soft. Taste-test or insert the tip of a paring knife into one of the pieces to check for doneness.

4.     Add soy sauce and vegetables to rice, and combine.

5.     Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

6.     Enjoy!

A bonus today – friends travelling in Costa Rica sent me a link to this blog,  written by teachers from Chattanooga who are on the same tour. Yesterday, they posted food pictures for me! They also have some interesting photos of wildlife, and instructions for choosing a tasty pineapple: