Friday, April 18, 2014

Whole Wheat Tropical Cupcakes

Whole Wheat Tropical Cupcakes
I am always on the search for a healthier cupcake recipe that will provide a few nutritious ingredients while still feeling like a treat.  My daughter loves cupcakes, but since I try to turn even the most healthful of muffins into "cupcakes" by adding a layer of peanut butter or cream cheese on top, she doesn't really trust me anymore.  So imagine her surprise when I made these and they really do taste like cupcakes. Granted they are a bit hearty since they are made with all whole wheat flour, so if your family is pickier than mine or not used to whole grain texture, you could definitely use half white flour as well.  I just try to stay away from simple carbohydrates as much as possible and leave treats like that to occasions when I am not in control of the baking process (like a friend's birthday party or an event at school, etc...)

Instead of the usual butter and sugar used in most cake recipes, I opted for organic virgin coconut oil and raw honey.  Not only do they add an intense tropical flavor, but they provide hidden nutrients that you would not expect in a cupcake.  Coconut oil* has been shown to boost the immune system, aid in weight loss, digestion, blood sugar regulation and the maintenance of a healthy level of cholesterol, among other things.  It is a saturated fat and as such, should be used sparingly, but as someone who does not consume a large amount of saturated fat often found in animal and dairy products, I consider it a vital part of my everyday diet.  Raw honey, which I don't use very often since it is quite expensive, is one of the healthiest sweeteners available.  It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties while providing a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and phytonutrients.  Of course regular honey, maple syrup, or even plain white organic sugar could be used in place of the raw honey, if desired.

I made these for a bake sale at my daughter's preschool because as an avid baker it is hard to say no when asked for donations.  But all too often I have seen my healthful treats (usually made with expensive organic ingredients) get passed over for brightly colored cupcakes and old fashioned chocolate chip cookies.  I just can't bring myself to make something that I wouldn't normally serve my own family.  I added the Nutella frosting and the chocolate eggs on top in the hopes of attracting kids and I think they were my most successful sale yet.  I just hope that everyone who purchased one enjoyed them as much as my family and I did.  And I can rest assured that I helped to add a slight nutritional boost to someone's afternoon snack.


* http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/organic-coconut-oil/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil.html  
* http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Warm Kale Salad with Quinoa and Broiled Tempeh

Warm Kale Salad with Quinoa and Broiled Tempeh

I wrote my last post after a few days of summer like weather but now the weather has turned again and it feels more like winter!  So perhaps this is a good day to post a hearty salad that could hold up to a cold windy day. One look at the ingredient list and the health benefits of this dish should be obvious.  But if you aren't familiar with vegan fare, you might not have ever tried cooking with tempeh.  Even I have only used it a handful of times, so this recipe began as an experiment to see if I could broil it instead of fry it on the stove top and I was pleasantly surprised with the results.  I marinated the diced tempeh for a couple of hours and then cooked it for about 20 minutes while I prepared the rest of the salad. Even my husband, who is often weary of soy products like this, enjoyed the meal.  So try going meatless the next time you prepare a dinner salad and give broiled tempeh a try!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Springtime Quinoa with Green Peas, Feta and Mint

Springtime Quinoa with
Green Peas, Feta and Mint
It is finally Springtime here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, although this past weekend felt more like summer with temperatures reaching into the upper 70s.  The only things missing were the leaves on the trees, green grass and flowers.  Not that I was complaining.  I spent as much of the weekend as possible outdoors, raking my recently thawed garden beds, sitting on my front steps enjoying the sun and playing baseball with my kids.  And the best way to celebrate the end of what I think was one of the stormiest and coldest winters I have ever experienced, is to eat a couple of good meals outside, listening to the sounds of birds chirping, wind blowing and children yelling. :)

Although I couldn't go to my barren garden to get any of the fresh ingredients for this dish yet, I definitely plan to make it again once I have my own green peas and mint growing in abundance. The combination of the mint, the feta and the Greek olives give this salad a Mediterranean twist that tastes as fresh and wholesome as it is good for you.  If you are like my husband and I and have never been keen on the strong flavor of regular quinoa, you really should give organic red quinoa a chance.  It has a much milder flavor, while still providing a large serving of protein and fiber.  It cooks up quicker than rice and can be served warm or cold.  We ate this salad the night I made it with a side of rotisserie chicken and organic grape tomatoes, but it honestly tasted better the next day straight out of the fridge.  The perfect Spring (or Summer!) salad is only about 30 minutes away!