Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Food for Thought: Brain Food

As summer turns to fall, and my days of racing to a patio at 5pm end, I personally struggle with keeping my concentration levels high.

I was happy to read that I am far from alone. Seasons, diet and the inevitable aging are all contributing factors that affect memory.

The below article from The Province suggests to “eat brain food to keep your noodle like new”.

While the “noodle” brain reference seems outdated, the information does not.

The article argues that even though supplements have their place, “the problem with pills is that the extracted form of a nutrient rarely matches up with the complex whole form found in food.”

Find out more about what to eat to keep your “keys out of the freezer”.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes (or muffins)

These are a great " healthi-er" cupcake recipe. Obviously they still have sugar and butter but not that much and if you omit the frosting they are still quite lovely. Moist, chocolatey goodness.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup applesauce or applebutter
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of walnuts (OPTIONAL)

Chocolate Creamcheese Frosting:
1/3 cup light cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed until well blended. Stir in applesauce.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 4 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating just until moist. Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips, and walnuts if using. Pour batter into mini muffin or regular size tins. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean.
Meanwhile, beat creamcheese and butter with vanilla. Add salt. Slowly add powdered sugar. Frosting should be fairly thick consistency and may need additional sugar. Scrape frosting from bowl with a spatula and place in a icing bag. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes.
Once cupcakes are cooled pipe icing onto each one and bite in.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fig and Blue Cheese Pizza

This is pretty rich and decadent. Like wearing a fur bikini on a yacht in St Tropez, while drinking champagne and having peeled grapes fed to you. BUT a lot cheaper and tastier!

Fresh figs are best but dried will definitely be a great substitute. I like to serve these more as an appetizer than a main. Cut into squares and devour!

10 Fresh figs, cut and quartered
4-6 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup of blue cheese or gorgonzola
1/2 cup pecans
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
Ground pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: Balsamic Reduction

Pizza dough (your favorite recipe or purchased -- but make sure it is the dough. Not that premade shell stuff!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Servings: 15 as an an appetizer

Roll out pizza dough into a 9 x 14 inch rectangle (approximately).
Spread honey evenly on pizza dough. Arrange figs in 4 even lines on rolled out pizza dough. Top with blue cheese, pecans, rosemary and pepper. Cook for 20 minute or until crust is set.
Remove, let cool, and drizzle with balsamic reduction, if using. Cut into 2x2 inch squares.

Before Oven

After Oven

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chipotle Cornbread

This cornbread is very corny. Ha, ha. I recommend serving it with BUTTER and WARM. Yum.

3 tablespoons butter
1 chipotle pepper finely minced
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 cups corn, fresh sliced off the cob
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup minced cilantro
OPTIONAL: 1 cup shredded aged cheddar or monterey jack
Servings: 12 squares

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, melted butter, corn, chipotle, red pepper and cilantro. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just combined. If using the cheese, pour half the batter into a greased 8x8 pan. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheese over top and pour remaining batter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of remaining cheese.
Fill it with the cornbread batter, pushing the batter out to the sides if needed. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until center is j set and a knife can be inserted and removed without batter.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chai Zucchini Bread

I wanted to do a zucchini bread that was different than the norm. By adding the cardamom it gave it a spicier flavour and with the icing made it very reminiscent of carrot cake which I adore. This is not only lighter in calories and fat but super moist and tasty. You won't know the difference.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup agave
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup light buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini

Orange Frosting (optional)
2 tablespoons light creamcheese
Zest from 1 orange
1 teaspoon orange juice
3/4 cup of icing sugar

Servings: 12-16

Combine flour through ginger in a large bowl and mix well. In a medium bowl with a handmixer whisk together butter through vanilla. Add zucchini to wet mixture. Combine with flour and whisk just until blended.
Pour batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 11 pan, loaf pan or muffin pan (your choice). If baking the loaf set for 60 minutes, muffins 25 minutes, pan 30-35 minutes.
If making frosting on high, whisk with handmixer until ingredients are blended. Once loaf has cooled spread over top and serve.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Food for Thought: Dinner Texting

It has long been considered common courtesy to not answer a phone call while you are at dinner. However, somehow text messaging has managed to slip through the etiquette cracks.

Some argue it is not as intrusive to the dinner environment since you are not speaking and are able to stop or start as you please- but to me that is the exact problem... it's 100% voluntary.

No one ever says "Sorry I have to take this text" or "It's business". For the most part texting is still largely a leisure activity.

There are certain circumstances where you can excuse a phone call at the dinner table. Yet does the same rule apply for texting?

The New York Times article "Play With Your Food, Just Don’t Text!" uses several examples to explore the social perception of texting in the dinner setting.

Harry Lewis, a Harvard computer science professor and one of the authors of “Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness After the Digital Explosion”, has strong opinions regarding the matter.

He believes that “people think they can time-share: both texting and talking at once [but] you’re not fooling anybody. No one thinks someone on the cellphone can really be paying attention to another person.” This made me think of a few other instances when I tried to "time share" and how that affected my visit or my experience.

I don't know about you but going forward my phone will remain buried in the abyss that is my purse at mealtime.