Monthly Archives: September 2011

Chocolate Banana “Ice Cream”

I typically eat my bananas with breakfast although they also make delicious desserts. Here’s the proof: a few weeks ago I froze some ripe bananas before they spoiled. I did a quick Internet search to figure out what I could do with the frozen fruit. A recipe on Dr. Weil’s website for Cocoa-Banana Frozen Dessert got me thinking…I could try something like this! Below is my version of the recipe:

Peel and mix 4 frozen bananas together with an electric mixer until smooth. Next, mix in 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Top with either fruit, grain-sweetened chocolate chips, unsalted peanuts, or all three! Makes 4 servings.

I am also sharing this recipe with Joy of Desserts, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Beauty and Bedlam, Lady Behind the Curtain, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, This Chick Cooks, Food Trip Friday, Sweet as Sugar Cookies and Cybele Pascal Allergen-Free Cuisine.

Grilled Wild Salmon Creates a Quick and Delicious Meal

Just because summer has drawn to a close and autumn is upon us does not mean that one has to hang up the grill tools. SensitiveHusband grills year-round, much to my delight. One of his masterpieces is grilled salmon, which is really easy and quick to prepare.

Start with a good fillet, season with kosher salt and pepper, and wrap the fish in aluminum foil. SensitiveHusband has developed a trick: he puts the fish skin side up on the foil, and he folds it over the skin, making sure the foil is flat against the skin. Then seal the foil around the edges of the fish.

He has a grill trick too: he puts the skin side on the grill first, flips once, and then when he opens the foil the skin is on top and peels right off!

Grilling times vary by fish type: wild-caught salmon needs less time to cook than a farm-raised fish because it is less fatty. Wild-caught takes approximately 6 minutes per side while farm-raised should be grilled for 8-9 minutes per side. Start the grill on high heat and once the salmon is on the grill, turn it down to medium heat.

If you are debating whether to purchase wild or farm-raised salmon, the wild is a healthier choice. The wild salmon does not contain pesticides, antibiotics or artificial coloring; has less fat and more protein; and is more concentrated in omega-3 fatty acids.

Fresh, wild salmon is available nearly eight months of the year, with high quality “frozen at sea” (FAS) available during the other months. According to the George Mateljan Foundation (GMF), a nonprofit that provides information about healthy foods, when buying salmon, opt for line-caught Alaskan fish first because the healthiest populations and habitats exist in Alaska. My favorites are the Alaskan Sockeye and Coho; the King Salmon is a real treat during the summer.

Another note from GMF is that fresh “Atlantic” salmon is generally farm-raised, so the name refers to the species rather than the origin.

If you are also looking for sustainable fish choices, the Marine Stewardship Council has a searchable database of products that adhere to strict sustainable fishing practices.

So fire up the grill, cook some couscous, and enjoy some wild salmon throughout the year!

Happiness is…a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownie

My focus lately has been on creating tasty cookies without cane sugar, although I do not want to slight my good friend the brownie. Brownies are also delightful treats and my mouth started to water when I saw this recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies in the September 2011 issue of Cooking Light Magazine.

To remove the cane sugar, I substituted with honey. I used a lovely organic creamy peanut butter and added peanuts for a little extra crunch. The recipe below also calls for more chocolste chips than the original, which seemed like a good idea to me. Another possibility is to crumble some peanut butter cups on top – that sounds like a good addition. I did not have a 9-inch square plan so I used a 6 x 10 inch pan and it worked out just fine. I hope you enjoy these cake-like, chewy, peanut-y, chocolate-y treats.

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk. Combine honey and next 5 ingredients (through eggs), stirring well. Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and peanuts.
3. Scrape the batter into a 9-inch square baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging.

I am also sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Joy of Desserts, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Lady Behind the Curtain, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Food Trip Friday and Sweet as Sugar Cookies.

A Flavor and Cost Review of Whole Grains

Since I made the maple raisin scones using millet flour, I have been interested in learning more about whole grains. Since my use of millet flour was such a success, what other whole grains could I use?

Grains are the seeds of certain plants. Inside the seed is the germ, and attached to the germ is a starch called the endosperm. Both are protected inside the bran that surrounds them. When grains are refined, the bran and germ are stripped away, leaving the starchy part that is less nutritious. When in the grocery store, look for labels that list whole wheat flour, whole oats, or other whole grains. Wheat flour is not a whole grain.

The following chart is adapted from the Whole Foods Market Magazine, North Atlantic Region, Spring 2011. The chart lists all of the whole grains along with their characteristics and other intereting food facts.

The economist in me also decided to do a cost comparison among the whole grains. So I searched for each whole grain on Amazon, and chose the first one listed to create a relative whole grain price index. I divided the price per ounce for each of the whole grains. It is interesting to note that the spread among the prices for the whole grains is not too large, although rye is the least expensive and quinoa is the most expensive. Compared to alternative sweeteners, whole grains are a relatively good deal!

If you are willing to buy in bulk, Whole Foods Market allows customers to special order bulk items in “case” quantities to receive a 10% discount off regular bulk retail price. It’s another way to keep your grocery bills on a budget.

I now have my sights on some other whole grains to try…which do you plan to try, or which ones do you already use?

Inspired by Millet to Bake Raisin Maple Scones

Yesterday afternoon I found myself (yet again) walking slowly up and down the aisles of my neighborhood health foods store. There are many things to look at and try! I paused to check out all of the flours – there are so many kinds! Apparently I was feeling courageous because I picked up a kind of flour I had never tried before – millet flour. In fact, I have never used anything other than flour made from wheat, although the recipe on the back of the packaging caught my eye and persuaded me to get creative. I had not eaten a scone since incorporating a yeast and sugar free diet, and upon reading the recipe I suddenly had a hankering for the English biscuit. So I bought my millet flour and brought it home.

You may ask what millet flour is…I did the same, and did some online research. According to WiseGeek, Millet flour is made from millet, which is a whole grain and gluten free. A serving of the flour, which is one third of a cup, contains about 4 grams of protein, 15% of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iron; is high in B vitamins, magnesium and potassium; and has 12% of the U.S. RDA of dietary fiber.

Millet flour has a naturally sweet taste so you can often cut sugar in recipes when using the flour. A little millet flour in breads makes them lighter with a crunchy crust. However, many suggest that no more than a third of wheat flour in recipes should be replaced with flour from millet because it also requires a complementary binding agent.

It was now time to bake…the recipe on the Bob’s Red Mill Millet Flour package was my starting point. However, I substituted the sugar with maple syrup. I also added some oats for a little crunch and sprinkled some maple sugar on top for extra sweetness. My whole milk yogurt also worked just fine even though the recipe called for nonfat. These scones were delicious! I liked the taste of the millet flour…it has a nutty flavor. I hope you enjoy this very lovely treat.

Millet Raisin Maple Scones
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup millet flour
4 Tbsp oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher (or sea) salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
4 egg whites
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup raisins
maple sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside. In a large bowl stir together the flours, oats, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In another bowl mix together the maple syrup, canola oil, egg whites and yogurt. Pour oil mixture into flour mixture, and stir until well blended. Next mix in the raisins. With your hands form the dough into a ball and place on a floured surface. Knead dough lightly 3 or 4 times, then place onto baking sheet. Pat into a smooth 8-inch circle. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 wedges; leave in place. Sprinkle with maple sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Yields 8 tasty servings.

I am also sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Joy of Desserts</a, Beauty and Bedlam, The Lady Behind the Curtain, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Something Swanky, Food Trip Friday, This Chick Cooks, Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Everyday Sisters and Cybele Pascal Allergen-Free Cuisine.

Steak and Statistics

Did you know that the first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on September 5, 1882, in New York City, organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary? By 1893, more than half the states were observing “Labor Day,” and Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day. Thanks to the U.S. Census for this information and the statistics that follow.

How are you celebrating this holiday? I have had the opportunity to go shopping to take advantage of some fabulous sales, along with visiting family and friends I haven’t seen in awhile. I had a “Wicked” good time seeing that musical too! And what’s on the menu for dinner tonight? Grilled steak! It is such an appropriate Labor Day entree, don’t you think? Enjoy the following statistics and your Labor Day.

153.2 million
Number of people 16 and older in the nation’s labor force in July 2011.

84.7%
Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2009.

Americans work in various occupations. Below is a sample:
Teachers (preschool – grade 12): 3,039,523
Computer Operators: 101,889
Actors: 10,980
Telephone Operators: 32,394
Bus Drivers: 265,429
Bakers: 117,405
Telemarketers: 55,733
Hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists: 395,503
Janitors and building cleaners: 1,478,204

26.2 million
Number of female workers 16 and older in management, professional and related occupations. Among male workers, 16 and older, 24.0 million were employed in management, professional and related occupations.

53%
Projected percentage growth from 2008 to 2018 in the number of network systems and data communication analysts. Forecasters expect this occupation to grow at a faster rate than any other. Meanwhile, the occupation expected to add more positions over this period than any other is registered nurses (581,500).

76.1%
Percentage of workers who drive alone to work. Another 10.0 percent carpool and 5.0 percent take public transportation (excluding taxicabs).

25.1 minutes
The average time it takes people in the nation to commute to work. New York and Maryland had the most time-consuming commutes, averaging 31.4 and 31.3 minutes.

3.2 million
Number of workers who face extreme commutes to work of 90 or more minutes each day.