Pumpkin Muffins with Pepita Streusel Topping

Pumpkin Muffins

It’s almost Halloween, therefore it’s time to make Pumpkin muffins! I just served these to my adult ed computer class for our graduation party and they gave me their enthusiastic approval. The muffins are filled with nuts and chocolate chips for an extra treat. The first time I made these I put the pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) in the dough, but they came out a bit dry. I got the idea for the streusel from Aida Mollenkamp‘s recipe at http://saltandwind.com/recipes/407-apple-cinnamon-pumpkin-muffins-pepita-streusel-recipe although I added pumpkin pie spice to mine. Thanks Aida! The streusel made a good muffin great! These muffins are low in fat, using just 1 TB olive oil in the dough, and also fairly low in sugar. There is a nice taste of honey in it. I used the same method as my banana nut muffins recipe.

Ingredients

¼ cup 1% milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup unbleached white flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup finely ground whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flax seed

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I use Trader Joe’s brand)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tb olive oil

¼ cup honey

14 ounce can pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce (I use the little packets that come in a package of 4)

1/3 semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

½ cup walnut and/or pecan pieces

For the streusel: 

3 TB  brown sugar

2 TB white flour

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

a couple shakes sea salt

1/3 cup pepitas

2 TB  softened butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F

Add vinegar to milk in a small cup. Let it sit while you are mixing the other ingredients. The milk should curdle.

Make the streusel:

Sift together the dry ingredients and whisk well in a small bowl. Mix in pepitas. Add softened butter and mix with your fingers until it comes together when squeezed. Cover it and freeze until ready to use.

Make the dough:

Sift both flours, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice into a medium bowl. Add flax seed and whisk ingredients well.

Whip eggs in mixer until well combined. Add sugar and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy. This is called making a ribbon. Pour 1 TB oil into a ¼ cup measure and coat it well, then add the oil to the egg mixture. Now pour the honey into the same measuring cup and it will slide right out into the mixer! Add the vanilla, applesauce and  pumpkin puree and mix well.

With the mixer on low, add 1/3 the milk and 1/3 the flour mixture, and then repeat twice. Mix only until ingredients are almost combined. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips until they are just combined.

Line muffin tins with paper muffin cups. Because of the low fat content of the ingredients, you should spray them with non-stick spray so they won’t stick to the muffins. Otherwise, spray the muffin tins directly. If you choose to make a pumpkin bread loaf, line it with parchment paper and spray it with non-stick spray.

Putting the streusel on:

Remove the streusel mix from the freezer. crumble it up with your fingers. Sprinkle a little bit on each muffin top so it comes out evenly. Press it down just a tap onto the muffin.

Place on the middle shelf of preheated oven. Bake loaf 45 minutes, muffins for 35 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Let cool on a rack a few minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Agua fresca del melón -Fresh Melon Drink

agua de melon                                  agua de melon honeydew

This refreshing natural beverage is a perfect compliment to spicy Mexican food. I add no sugar or sweeteners to mine, using a ripe sweet melon and water only. This is wonderful with any kind of firm melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew. This is similar to agua de sandia.

melon

I large melon

4 cups water, or 3 cups water, 1 cup ice

If you make this the night before your party, you only need to add water and refrigerate. Stir before serving, as the beverage will separate.

Wash melon well.Cut melon in half and scoop out seeds. Scoop out melon fruit and fill the blender, then add 2 cups of water for each blender quart. Blend on high until fruit is liquified. I think it’s sweet enough with just the ripe fruit, but you can add a bit of sweetener if you like.

Peachy Pie

sliceLate summertime brings fresh peaches, the sweet juice dripping down my chin. And of course peach pie. Make your own pie crust, topping with either a full crust or a fancy lattice. You can also top with a crumb crust.
Compared to commercial pies and most recipes, I use very little sugar, letting the natural sweetness of the peaches bring out their flavor. I also don’t peel the peaches, since the peel brings a pretty red color to the pie.

cut pie

Preheat oven to 425’ Move oven rack to lowest level.

Use 6 soft medium or 5 large peaches =2 ½ lb peaches= 5 cups sliced peaches. Slice peaches ¼ inch thick on skin side and place in a large bowl.

Sprinkle over peaches:

¼ cup brown sugar

2 Tb white sugar

3 ½ Tb quick cooking tapioca

2 Tb lemon juice

¼ teaspoon almond extract

a couple of shakes of  nutmeg

a few shakes salt.

Stir gently with a large spoon. Let peaches stand 15 minutes, and stir occasionally.

???????????????????????????????Pour into bottom crust and top with 2 Tb butter cut into small pieces.

Cover with upper crust or lattice and crimp together tightly. Cut steam vents in top if using solid upper crust. Brush with a bit of milk and sprinkle about a spoonful of raw sugar evenly on top.

Immediately place on lowest rack of preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

Line a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with foil. This will make clean up much easier. Slip it under the pie and lower oven to 350’.  Bake 30 -35 minutes more until thick juices bubble up through the vents and the top crust is browned. If outer crust begins to burn, cover it with a foil pie protector. If the top gets too brown before its time, tent with a sheet of foil.

If you can stand to wait until the pie cools, the juices will solidify and it will be easier to serve, but that never seems to happen in my house.

DSC02992

4 Bananas Low-fat Banana Bread or Muffins

strawberry banana bread

Strawberry banana bread

banana nut bread  banana muffins in basket

I used four soft, speckled bananas to add natural sweetness and rich banana flavor to this delicious bread with minimal oil and sugar. The bananas and just one tablespoon of olive oil make this bread moist.  Add strawberries for a taste of strawberry jam or blueberries. Add chocolate chips for a nice gooey sweetness.

muffMakes one loaf or 12 muffins.

speckled bananas

Ingredients

1/3 cup 1% or skim milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 cup unbleached white flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup finely ground whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flax seed

A dash each of nutmeg and cinnamon.

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar plus 1 Tb for sprinkling on top. I used turbindo sugar for sprinkling.

4 bananas (1 ½ cups mashed)

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 Tb olive oil

¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

3/4 cup roughly chopped strawberries (optional)

1/2 cup blueberries (optional) If you are using frozen blueberries, defrost them and drain them before adding

½ cup walnut and/or pecan pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F.

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Add lemon juice to milk. Let it sit while you are mixing the other ingredients. The milk should curdle, resembling buttermilk. (You can skip this step and use buttermilk instead if you prefer).

Sift both flours, baking soda, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, and flax seed.  Stir well to combine ingredients.

whipped egg and sugarWhip eggs in mixer until well combined. Add sugar and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy.

Mash bananas with a fork or potato masher. You can also whirl them in a food processor. Add them to the egg mixture, along with olive oil and vanilla. Whip for another minute.

With mixer on low, add half the milk and half the flour mixture, and then repeat. Mix only until ingredients are almost combined. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips and/or blueberries (if using) until they are just combined.

Spray a loaf pan or muffin tins with non-stick spray. (because of the low fat content of the ingredients, you should spray paper muffin cups with non-stick spray if you choose to use them.) For extra buttery flavor, wipe a smear of butter at the bottom. Pour in batter. Sprinkle the top with sugar.  Place on the middle shelf of preheated oven. Bake loaf 50 – 55 minutes, muffins for 35-40 minutes,  just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Remove bread from pan and let cool on a rack a few minutes before slicing.

banana bread with cream cheeseDelicious spread with cream cheese!

Arroz con leche (Rice Pudding)

I used to sing this folk song to my kids whenever I’d make this for them.

“Arroz con leche
me quiero casar
con una viudita
de la capital”
 

This comes out very creamy even though I use only 1% milk. I sweeten it with raisins and piloncillo, (pea-lon-SEE- yo), which is brown raw sugar, sold in cones in Mexican groceries. If you can’t find that, substitute about 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. I only use a small cone, but if you like yours sweeter, add more. For me, the cinnamon and vanilla is flavorful enough that less sugar is needed.

My mom used to add walnuts to hers, which I thought was fantastic. I’ve had sublime Indian rice pudding with cardamom, coconut milk and pistachio nuts, so I added this option as well. For a vegan version, use all coconut milk.

Serves 6

1 ½ cups cooked rice. Although white rice is traditional, I like the nutty flavor of brown rice. I cook the rice only with water, a teaspoon of butter, and a sprinkle of salt.

3 cups low fat milk or 2 cups milk and 1 cup coconut milk

1 Tb. vanilla extract

1 ½  tsp. cinnamon powder

¼ tsp. cardamom powder (optional)

1 small cone of piloncillo

¼ cup raisins

1/2  cup chopped walnuts, pecans or unsalted pistachios (optional)

1 stick cinnamon to garnish

Heat milk with vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, and piloncillo until it starts to bubble around the edges, but not boil. Stir in  raisins and rice. Heat on low for 30 minutes, stirring often so that a skin doesn’t form. The pudding will thicken as it heats. Add the nuts. Let sit until cool. The longer it sits, the more the milk is absorbed by the rice. You may want to add more milk after it has sat awhile. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Eggplant Marinara


Rich with eggplant, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes, spicy with Italian sausage,  garlic and pepper, and fragrant with fresh herbs, this marinara sauce is ideal for pasta or Lasagna. There are two ways to make this marinara: with eggplant purée or sliced Italian eggplant. You could even use both for an extra helping of vegetables. I roasted the mushrooms to bring out their earthy flavor.

I took a tip from The Breakaway Cook Eric Gower, and added ground dried mushrooms for umami, (Japanese for savory deliciousness), which wonderfully expands and rounds out flavors.

Along with my homegrown herbs, I add a fresh bay leaf. I pick them when I get the chance to hike in the hills around Berkeley and Palo Alto. Their aroma brings me memories of my youth hiking and biking those hills. Just be careful about leaving them in too long – the fresh ones are very strong and can overpower the sauce, making it bitter. Just leave it in about 15 minutes.

Serves 8 (with pasta)

3 links turkey Italian sausage or vegetarian sausage

1 Tb olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 Tb  salt (to taste)

½ tsp. red chili flakes

5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

3 Tb minced fresh oregano OR  3 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp. minced fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp dried tarragon

several grinds black pepper

2 bell peppers and/or red bell peppers. (can substitute 3 cups frozen or 2 cups jarred roasted red peppers)

1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste

¼ cup red wine

2 lbs or 14 large soft Roma tomatoes (substitute 24 oz can of crushed tomatoes and 24 oz diced tomatoes

1 Tb sugar to taste

1 bay leaf

3 dried mushrooms

1 roasted globe eggplant  and/or  4 Italian eggplants, cut in rounds and quartered

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1  14-oz can artichoke hearts, quartered

I bunch (1/4 cup minced) fresh basil

Italian eggplant method: Roast or barbecue eggplant and peppers. Discarding ends, slice eggplant into rounds, then quarter the rounds.

Globe Eggplant Method: Pierce globe eggplant with a fork, and roast in a heavy oiled baking pan in 400’ oven for 1 hour until it collapses.  Roast red peppers and mushrooms for the last ½ hour alongside the eggplant. You can roast the vegetables a day ahead of time.

You can also barbecue the eggplant peppers and mushrooms.

While eggplant is roasting and cooling, make the rest of the sauce.

Slice, quarter and brown sausages and drain the fat.

Sauté onion and salt in olive oil until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes Add sausage, chopped fresh or frozen bell peppers (if not roasting them), chili flakes, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme and black pepper. Sauté another couple of minutes until herbs release their fragrance.

Add tomato paste, then fill tomato paste can with water then stir in the tomato paste that has stuck to the can.

Halve Roma tomatoes and scoop out seeds and fibrous ribs.

Pulse tomatoes in food processor until desired consistency is reached. I did mine on the chunky side. (If you are using canned tomatoes, add them instead.) Stir into tomato paste and herb mixture. Add sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

If using chopped Italian eggplant, add it to sauce.

If using globe eggplant, scrape it out from the peel and mince it. Stir it into the sauce.

Quarter mushrooms and mix in sauce.

Grind the dried mushrooms until pulverized in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Stir into sauce.

Add 1/4 cup wine and sip some on the side…

If using roasted bell peppers, stir them into the sauce.

Stir well and let simmer for an hour. You can make this in a crock pot and let it simmer for several hours.

Add quartered artichoke hearts and tarragon for last 10 minutes of cooking. Just before serving over pasta or making lasagna, stir in basil and cook a couple of minutes.

“Daddy Cereal” Oatmeal

When I was a little kid, my daddy made us oatmeal for breakfast so often that we called oatmeal “Daddy Cereal.”  I’m posting this on Father’s Day  in his memory.

These days I make oatmeal for my family. We only like the regular kind, not the quick oats, which taste mushy. (We really dislike the flavored packaged stuff, which is overly sweet and tastes artificial.) Oatmeal really does lower cholesterol, so if you need to keep yours down, it is a delicious choice.

Serves 2

ingredients

2 cups water

1 cup oatmeal

¼  cup raisins

½ tsp cinnamon

shake or two of salt

a handful of walnut pieces

I mix the cinnamon and raisins with the water and oats, which adds a natural sweetness. 1/8 cup raisins per person is 70 calories.

ingredients in pot

Boil,  then cook for 5 minutes on medium flame, stirring often. When it’s done,  add maybe a teaspoon of maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter. Serve with milk  (or soy milk for a vegan version.) I like to add walnuts to the oatmeal. It adds a delicious crunch as well as extra protein for making it through the morning.

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