Making a Bran Muffin Delicious – Part 1

I’m in a routine where I grab something out of my pantry and create recipes around that item. It can be creative and fun. Today, I pulled out a box of “All Natural Unprocessed Wheat Bran.” The first thing that popped into my mind was, “bran muffin.” The second thing was, “snooze fest.” And that’s the challenge! How to make a bran muffin enticing, intriguing, and delicious? Well, let’s try!

I decided to work from the recipe on the back of my box of bran with a few many alterations… I decided that I am going to try two bran concoctions and see which Tim and I like best. Tim can be brutal when rating food, so if he likes it– it’s a winner.

I rummaged through my cabinets again to see what I might have on hand. I found cherry flavored dried cranberries, bananas, edible orange oil, coconut, crushed pineapple, a variety of nuts, coconut milk, molasses, honey, chocolate chips… I could go on but I think I can use some of this stuff.

The first run at the bran muffin recipe will be:

  • 3 cups wheat bran
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit you like)
  • 1 ripe mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup butter (or butter substitute to make it vegan)
  • 2 1/2 cups white flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda (make sure it’s fresh or it will affect the rise)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten (or egg substitute to make it vegan)
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (or nut milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

I added 1 cup of bran and the cranberries to the hot water, mixed and let it sit until the bran absorbed the water. In a separate bowl, I blended the sugar, molasses, banana, and butter together using a fork because I didn’t want to pull out my mixer. I added the flour, baking soda, and salt to the bowl. Then, I went back to my bran bowl and added the eggs, the remaining 2 cups of bran, coconut milk and vinegar. Then I added the flour mixture to this and stirred until well blended.

I poured my muffin batter into 12 extra large silicone muffin cups. I like using these because I don’t have to buy paper muffin cups and with these silicone cups, I can place them on a cookie sheet and make as many or as few as I like and they will all cook evenly. Once the batter was poured, I sprinkled a few oats on top just to make them look a little prettier.

I preheated my oven to 400º F. I baked until done (because of the extra large muffin cups it took 20 minutes). I used a toothpick to test doneness.

This is how they turned out:

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They were moist and delicious! Tim gave them a 7 out of 10 in the realm of bran muffins. I give them a 10… because it’s my recipe 😉

Tomorrow I will do the recipe again but this time, I will make them tropical… stay tuned!

 

 

 

Nutty Granola

I have a love-hate relationship with granola. I go in phases. I needed to make something for us to eat for breakfast this week and I didn’t want to go to the store, so I rummaged through my cabinets and decided to make some granola. I was a little ho-hum about it but forged ahead.

So, I had in my cabinets:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw almonds (yes, more almonds)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/8-1/4 cup cherry flavored craisins – chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt to boost flavor
  • 4 oz. honey
  • 1 Tablespoon veggie oil (I would suggest coconut oil if you have it– I didn’t)

I Mixed everything together in a bowl until it was well coated.

Placed a piece of parchment paper on a tray and sprayed it with buttered flavored pam (use whatever you like ;-)) and spread the granola evenly across so it browned nicely.
Then I popped it in a preheated oven at 375 F and watched it diligently!! Checking it every couple of minutes, stirring to allow for even browning. It burns in seconds, so be careful. My batch took a total of 8 minutes.

When I was done, I let it cool on the pan completely before transferring it into a sealable container.

I have to say– this stuff is delicious! I cut up a banana and added some almond milk and it was SO good! 

So, my ho-hum attitude turned into happiness– especially, when I woke up the next morning and realized what I was having for breakfast 🙂

Not Your Average Veggie Burger

Have you ever tried a veggie burger? Some of you may turn your nose up to them but hear me out. You can have an amazing burger experience without all that fat and cholesterol clogging your arteries.

img_20170609_123505_662-1.jpgOne of my husband’s favorite places to eat is a little grimy diner called Twisted Burger in Grayslake, IL. I call it grimy only because it is so popular, they have trouble keeping the floors clean 😉 I’m not being cheeky here, it’s packed all the time.

Why is it so popular? Well, it’s local and we love neighborhood spots, right? And they have the craziest burger options… that taste great! The minus side? It’s a heart attack on a plate:

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What you are witnessing here is a “Twisted Burger.”  It’s the actual name of the burger. This is their description:

Twisted Burger

I actually ordered it by mistake because I got distracted, like a goldfish, and forgot what I was going to order. So this massive burger came to the table and as the waitress placed it in front of me, Tim started laughing. The flavors were great but it was too much and the rest of the day I had a constant sluggish feeling. So, I thought– what if I create this Twisted Burger my way… and this is what I came up with.

See, that looks appetizing to me. Here’s what I did:

I switched out some of the ingredients. Instead of cheese, I used mashed ripe avocado. That gives the creamy texture of cheese without all the bad fat. If you are on a “healthy eating plan,” like me (especially after that last burger), use just enough avocado to satisfy the texture of creaminess. Avocado is good for you and has good fat but it’s still high in calories. I switched the fried egg out for sautéed mushrooms. I got rid of the bacon– settle down!img_20170609_204109_304.jpg You can add fake bacon or turkey bacon or baco bits if you really need that flavor. I left it out completely because there is already a lot going on here. I added lettuce from my garden, tomato, and red onion. Instead of fresh jalapeños, I added Giardiniera (because I like it) and I replaced the burgers with 1 veggie burger. I like boca burgers and I plop them on a paper plate (to absorb excess oil from patty) and microwave it for 2 minutes because my microwave is pretty wonky. Once assembled, I drizzled BBQ sauce on it. It was delicious!!

AND I didn’t feel sluggish the rest of the day. Try it out if you can. I promise you’ll like it!

Chinese Chicken Salad My Way

This is such a great summer meal that you can make from left over chicken. This is a merge of two recipes. My mother’s Chinese Chicken Salad and Martin Yan’s Recipe from Martin Yan’s Invitation to Chinese Cooking.

You don’t need a bunch of stuff for this– however, the dressing has several elements (don’t worry!).

Ingredients for the salad:

  • Left over chicken shredded
  • 2 Green onions (I sliced mine into julienne strips)
  • 1 carrot, cut in julienne strips (or however you like)
  • Cilantro (a handful– use as much or as little as you like)
  • Sliced almonds (optional- as many as you like)
  • Sesame seeds (optional- but it’s a nice textural addition)
  • Iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • pre-made fried wonton strips or any crunchy noodle type thing you like.

Dressing for salad:

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil– use a light oil or even 1 T. oil and 1 T. water instead)
  • 1/2 Teaspooon finely chopped ginger (more if you love ginger, but Tim can’t stand it so I toned it down for him)
  • 1 Heaping teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 Cup rice vinegar (this makes a difference)
  • 2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (you can use regular but low sodium is just as good and healthier for you)
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey or Agave (or any sweetener you like– I prefer honey)
  • 2 Teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 Teaspoon chile oil (optional– leaving this out is just fine)
  • Ground pepper and salt to taste
  • Taste it and if you like, add some Chinese 5 Spice, just a sprinkle. BUT if you like it as is, don’t mess with it because the dressing can go south very quickly if over seasoned.

When it comes down to it, making the dressing is the most annoying part of the dish and it really isn’t that bad. Mix the dressing together and drizzle over the chicken. Toss it and let the chicken sit with the dressing while you get the rest of the salad ready.

Once you’ve put together your salad, add the chicken and toss. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sesame seeds. Everything will be lightly coated and taste delicious!

I placed my salad on pre-made fried wonton pieces. You can fry them yourself but I don’t have time for that!

I also made some Limeade to go with the salad, and I have to say— OMG it was delish! I just mixed 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, 5 cups water and 1 cup sugar or sweetener. I put the sugar in a pan with one cup of the water and dissolved it over low heat. Then I mixed everything together and put it over ice. It was SO refreshing!

So, this recipe has more elements than I usually like to use but it was worth it and makes a satisfying dinner on a hot night.

Making Dinner from Cleaning Out the Fridge

We’ve been trying hard to use everything we have in the fridge and cupboards so we don’t waste food. Tonight, I cleaned out the fridge and created a quick pasta meal that was delicious!

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I had some left over cream and wine from my Monday night’s dinner, an orange bell pepper, mushrooms, an onion, garlic, butter, chicken broth, parmesan cheese, some frozen peas and broccoli.

I sautéed the veggies in a tablespoon of butter and a splash of oil (this helps prevent the butter from burning). I removed the veggies and set them aside. In the same pan, I melted more butter with another splash of oil and sautéed the garlic. I then added 1/4 cup wine and 1/2 cup chicken broth and reduced the liquid by half. I added the cream next and brought it to a boil briefly and then down to a simmer.

Finally, I added 1/4 cup of the parmesan and stirred till melted. When the sauce was incorporated, I added the veggies back in to heat through. As I was making the sauce, I popped on water to cook my pasta. I went with linguine and when it was ready I drained the pasta and popped it in the sauce with the vegetables. I added some fresh basil from my kitchen garden and added a bit more cheese on the top.

This meal was not only quick, but really delicious. It’s different every time depending on what’s in my fridge.

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Sourcing My Cookbooks for a Quick Meal

Jacques Pepin, Heart and Soul in the KitchenMondays I have no creativity. The week is beginning, I have lists of things to do and I don’t want to think creatively about what we’ll eat. So, on Mondays I do a quick recipe– generally one that is partially pre-made, like roast chicken from the store and a salad. But if I don’t want to run to the store, I grab a recipe that is fast and uses only a few ingredients.

One of my favorite cookbooks to turn to is Jacques Pepin’s Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen. This is a beautiful cookbook! Jacques Pepin creates delicious meals with few ingredients and most of his recipes are easy to follow. You can also easily build off of his recipes to make it your own.

Tonight I chose Poulet a la Creme.

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It looks fancy but it is really simple. The main ingredients are chicken thighs (I used boneless), butter, cream, mushrooms, and optional dry white wine. He uses fresh tarragon as a garnish and I have to say, if you have access to it, add it! If you are interested in his exact recipe, please follow the link to his blog: Poulet a la Creme .

I love this recipe because you basically throw everything in a pan, let it cook for 25 minutes, and you are ready. And it’s delicious every time. I added a lot more mushrooms 20170522_171855than the recipe called for because I like them. I chose baby Portabellos because they have a nice flavor. I know this is somewhat of a debate but I wash my mushrooms. Chef Alton Brown did an episode on this mushroom controversy in one of his Good Eats segments and came to the conclusion that washing doesn’t make them retain too much water. 20170522_171256So I wash and air dry them on my produce mat.

I’d suggest if you do choose to add wine, make sure you add a good wine. Don’t add that grocery store cooking wine. My mother told me some time ago, when cooking with wine– always use a wine you would want to drink. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just drinkable. And if you think about it, it makes sense– wine in cooking is to enhance and marry the flavors. If you use a wine that tastes awful, you are infusing your dish with that terrible flavor… I’m not much of a drinker, so when I cook with wine, I inevitably have most of the bottle left over. White wine will last in the fridge for a few days before going bad. One way to save your wine is to freeze it in an ice cube tray. If you are interested in doing this, read this great article from VinePair. They give you the step by step instructions complete with pro-tips. I love their suggestion of using a large cube tray so you can freeze in 1/2 cup increments. If you are interested in purchasing a tray like that, I found one on Amazon– just click here to see.

Another suggestion I’d make is to start your own mini herb garden at home. You can often get small herb plants for less than the cost of cut herbs in the grocery store and you only have to purchase the plant once to reap the benefits year after year. This is my “indoor herb garden” right by my kitchen sink.20170523_123504

If you are not feeling creative about adding sides to your dish, go with something simple. I made this recipe over rice and threw together a small side salad and fresh sliced baguette to complete the meal.

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Simple and Delicious Lunch

Most days I am pretty busy and if I’m not careful, I miss lunch altogether. So, when I know I will be swamped, I grab this for lunch which is quick and easy to eat while I am working. A bit of cheese, a bit of baguette, and some sliced tomatoes does the trick. I love Brie– well, to be honest, I love most cheese. Brie has a creamy decadent texture and tastes better as it sits out to rest at room temperature. Add a few nuts and dried fruits on the side to really create a feast!

Even though I make lunch just for me, I like to create a simple but pretty presentation. A nice looking plate makes the food seem to taste better and really doesn’t take a huge effort. As you can see, I just plopped my food on one of my cutting boards!