Green Tea Cupcakes with Pomegranate Foam

Green tea cupcakes topped with pomegranate foam

Green tea cupcakes topped with pomegranate foam

This weekend I was tasked with providing a non-chocolate dessert for an Oscars party. With a pomegranate languishing on my counter, I headed to Foodily, a website and smartphone app that makes it easy to find recipes by ingredient. A featured recipe from Cupcake Bakeshop caught my eye: Green Tea Pomegranate Cupcakes.

Gabrielle enjoys a cupcake

Gabrielle enjoys a cupcake

I love green tea desserts, and keep matcha powder in my pantry the way I do sugar, flour, and other baking staples. Green tea cake, green tea ice cream, green tea cocktails… you name it, I love it. I was slightly weirded out by the idea of putting pomegranate seeds into my batter the way the original recipe did, and was also low on useable pomegranate seeds, so I omitted that step. I also made changes to the recipe: using white whole wheat flour (reducing the amount to avoid changing the texture), adding vanilla, and making a more complex flavor profile for the foam topping. I also added cream of tartar to stabilize the egg whites. The result: a perfect pairing of fluffy, earthy green tea cake cut with an airy topping with the tangy sweetness of pomegranate and a hint of orange. These little numbers got rave reviews, not only from Gabrielle, but from the rest of the group as well. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

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Meatless Monday: Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

In my quest to discover and invent delicious, healthy recipes, I have come to love tofu.  I used to think that it was bland, cardboard-like, or when uncooked, an undesirable texture. But as I have started to experiment, it’s really amazing how much you can do with tofu.  While I know I have only scratched the surface of tofu possibilities, one my favorite things to do with it is to lightly brown it.  It takes almost no time at all, and will take on the flavors that you cook it with.

In this recipe, I browned tofu on top of a bed of arugula and other mixed greens with a few of my favorite salad additions.   The toppings combinations are endless, but I found the crunch of cucumber, and green onion with the soft avocado made a lovely texture combination. The blood orange juice is a nice alternative to the usual suspects in a Japanese inspired dressing, but in a pinch, orange or lemon juice would also provide a nice balance to the sesame oil and white balsamic vinegar.

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Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

  • Juice from 1.5 medium sized blood orange
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 large garlic clove pressed
  • 2 tbs “shoyu” (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 2 inch chunk of ginger grated
  • 2 tbs White balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of paprika
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs Canola or other cooking oil
  • 2 14oz packs of extra firm tofu
  • 1 large bag of arugula or other desired salad green
  • 1 bunch of green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 cucumber, sliced in thin rounds and then halved
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 small handful of sesame seeds (optional)

Whisk together the first nine ingredients in a large bowl; taste and season as needed.  Prepare cucumber, avocado and green onion and set aside.  Remove excess moisture from tofu and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the cooking oil, with salt and pepper in a large saute pan and bring to medium heat.  Saute tofu until golden brown on both sides *NOTE depending on size of saute pan, may need to cook tofu in multiple batches.  Meanwhile, toss the salad greens, green onions, cucumber, and avocado in the large bowl with the salad dressing.  Once the tofu has reached the desired color on both sides, remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Add the room temperature tofu to the salad mixture and toss until all ingredients are evenly coated. Add sesame seeds last on individual portions.

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If you like this salad but want to try something different next time, instead of sauteing the tofu, caramelize it.  There really are so many ways to do tofu well.  So if your only experience of tofu so far has been as a bland, mushy, inferior meat substitute, give this recipe a try and see if you too become a tofu convert.  Happy Meatless Monday!!

Meatless Monday: Asparagus and Spinach Pesto

Super Natural Cooking coverI adore all things basil:  Caprese salads, adding it to pastas, and of course, pesto. The challenge is, Shay, my fiance, does not like traditional pesto (insert sounds of shock and slight outrage here).  So when my mom recommended that I start reading Heidi Swanson’s blog www.101cookbooks.com and then generously bought me one of her cookbooks, “Super Natural Cooking”, I was excited to see a pesto alternative recipe!!

For those who are unfamilar with Heidi Swanson, she is a San Francisco native who practices and preaches healthy eating with natural, organic, sustainable ingredients. Her recipes are inventive, varied, and absolutely delicious.

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Series Switcheroo: “Cheese of the Week” to “Meatless Monday”

Cheese of the Week will be taking a hiatus in favor of a brand new series starting on Monday!  We have really enjoyed Cheese of the Week — discovering new cheeses, revisiting old favorites — but we are very excited for something new on Monday. We hope that rotating series will keep us all exploring different types of food! But not to worry, Cheese of the Week will be back.

Meatless Monday logoOn Monday, I will be joining the Meatless Monday campaign and posting a new Vegetarian or Vegan Recipe weekly. I have started exploring vegan dishes and am so excited to share some of the wonderful recipes I have stumbled across and created.  As is true of so many great things in my life, Maddie introduced me to this campaign and gave me the idea for the new series. I hope you all enjoy it, and for all of the cheese lovers out there, don’t worry, there will definitely be some cheesey recipes in Meatless Mondays.

The World’s Easiest Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark Recipe

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark

I don’t really go in for the whole Valentine’s Day experience.  It’s what I call a Hallmark holiday, invented by card and candy companies to move product.  On the other hand, I’ll take any excuse to eat chocolate… not that I need one.  Whether you’re looking for a quick treat for yourself, your loved one, or want to give it away as gourmet gifts, this recipe for peanut butter bark is delicious and darn easy to boot.

Just how easy is it?  To give you an idea, I invented it this past Saturday, probably between 11 and midnight, in the middle of a [paused] movie.  What can I say?  B wanted something sweet and crunchy, and I wanted to deliver.  And in this case, it was easy: it only takes about 5 minutes of active work (plus time to set).

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Cheese of the Week: La Tur

La Tur Cheese

La Tur Cheese, image courtesy of Murray's Cheese

My mother and I spent the day together last Saturday pouring over cookbooks, exchanging recipes, and trading healthy secrets to wonderful desserts. I was realizing in these moments just how much she influenced me in so many ways, but especially in my food choices and habits. So, in honor  of my mom, I present La Tur, a cheese that is, to this day, frequently is in her refrigerator and therefore, that I grew up on.

Jane Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle accurately describes La Tur as “luscious”, a cheese that can “truly stand in for any dessert.” Its texture is almost mousse-like, similar to Nicciolo but a tad more dense, with a soft, creamy exterior encased in a soft rind. Also like Nicciolo, this succulent cheese uses sheep, goat, and cows milk which creates its warm, rich flavors.

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Whole Wheat Chocolate-Orange Muffins with Raspberries

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But really, who has time to make scrambled eggs with whole grain toast and fresh fruit salad every morning? I return once more to the muffin, God’s gift to the working (wo)man. The challenge remains, to pack as much nutrition as possible into a handy grab-and-go package.

Healthy Chocolate-Orange Muffin

Healthy Chocolate-Orange Muffin

What you want at breakfast is something thats going to sustain you, body and mind, through the first big push of your day. From a nutritional standpoint, protein will keep you feeling full longer, but the mental aspect of satiation is just as important. Studies show that people who plan something sweet into their day are less likely to overindulge than those who restrict themselves. Whole wheat flour and fat-free cottage cheese provide the protein you need for fuel, while the richness of dark cocoa is sure to stave off your chocolate cravings, sprinkled with refreshing pockets of tart raspberry fruitiness. (more…)

Low-Fat Banana Bread Recipe

As you may have read, Maddie’s zucchini bread started a revelation for me: Dessert can be reasonably healthy AND delicious(!!!). I have friends who do not need dessert and can give it up for months at a time. Let’s be clear: I can’t do that. I have dessert way more often than I probably should, so this discovery that it can be delicious and healthy enough to have several times a week was extremely exciting.

Sometimes, Shay buys more bananas than he can consume in a week. On one such occasion last week, as the bananas were starting to get a little soft, I decided to try out Maddie’s zucchini bread recipe but with bananas and a few minor changes. Instead of half white flour and half whole wheat, I used my new latest obsession: whole wheat pastry flour. Seriously folks, those who have not tried it, jump on the band wagon, you won’t be sorry.

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Cheese of the Week: Humbolt Fog

For a month or two now, my fiance Shay, has been asking me to do Humbolt Fog as the ‘Cheese of the Week’ but I  was having way too much fun discovering new cheeses on my own, plus visiting some old favorites. Finally, this week when we were grocery shopping, he picked up a piece and placed it in our cart insisting that I try it.

Humboldt Fog

Humboldt Fog

Maddie came over for dinner this week and I had decided to save the cheese tasting for this occasion so she could see what all the fuss was about too.  I wish Shay could have been there to see the looks on our faces when we first tried the cheese.  Clearly, I should have listened to Shay weeks ago when he first suggested I try this fantastic, unique cheese. (more…)