Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bake (Don't Buy) Zucchini Bread For Your Doctor

mom's zucchini bread

Jeff meets a lot of interesting people in his dermatology practice, like Mr. Petroni (not his real name). They hit it off instantly -- they're both native New Englanders with Italian names and a fondness for meatball sangwiches. (It also helped that Jeff fixed his rash.)

After one of Mr. Petroni's visits, Jeff discovered a small package wrapped in crinkly green cellophane on his desk. A handwritten note was attached; its shaky inscription read: To a great doctor. Thank you for making my husband feel better. I hope you and your wife enjoy the zucchini bread. Sincerely, Mrs. Petroni.

Jeff was touched that this elderly Italian woman, whom he had never met, would bake him a loaf of bread. As he toasted a slice for breakfast the following morning, he offered me one. I declined; I wasn't that hungry. Jeff ate the bread, murmuring contentedly, licking his index finger periodically to pick up the crumbs that fell on to the plate. "Sue, you gotta try this," he persisted.

Reluctantly, I took a small bite. It was incredibly moist. Each slice was speckled with green zucchini shreds and studded with toasty walnuts. This bread wasn’t good. It was amazing. Our hands bumped into each other as we reached for seconds.

"See, that's the problem with living in Southern California," I said, "there aren't enough little old Italian ladies making homemade bread like back home."

When Jeff left for work, he had a mission: Get the recipe from Mrs. Petroni. Upon entering the house that night, I bombarded him: “Well, did you get the recipe? Was there coconut in it?"

“Yes, I spoke with Mrs. Petroni,” he said, “but I didn't get the recipe.”

“But, why?” I whined. Mrs. Petroni was flattered that we loved the bread, "But," she said, "I don't know the recipe. I bought it from Katella’s Bakery and just wrapped it up for you."

shredded zucchini for zucchini bread

Note: The following recipe is neither from Mrs. Petroni nor from Katella's. It's my mom's. Bake it for your cardiologist or dermatologist this week. They'll appreciate it more than you know.

Mom's Zucchini Bread
Makes 2 (9 X 5) loaves

My mom's zucchini bread is chock full of zucchini, coconut, pecans, and pineapple. It's like an old-fashioned zucchini bread married a pineapple upside-down cake. Don't be surprised if you find your family fighting over the last slice.

Print recipe only here.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts, preferably walnuts or pecans
2 cups shredded zucchini, with the skins
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1. Place oven rack in center of oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat 2 (9 X 5) loaf pans with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

3. In a medium bowl beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer. Add oil and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir by hand. Fold in nuts, zucchini, pineapple, and coconut.

4. Divide batter evenly between two pans. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and place on a wire rack.

You might also enjoy these quick breads:

Healthy Cherry, Banana, and Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

Lemony Blueberry Corn Bread with Basil

Mango Bread

Here are more zucchini bread recipes:
Two Kinds of Zucchini Bread at Simply Recipes
Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread at Baking Bites
Low Sugar and Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread at Kalyn's Kitchen
Special Zucchini Bread at 101 Cookbooks

Thursday, August 27, 2009

San Diego Summer: Time For Creamy Corn and Zucchini Soup

zucchini and corn curry soup

Last week I was shopping in Marshall's when someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around to find a petite woman wearing a sleeveless black mini-dress and flip-flops; she was visibly shivering. "Excuse me," she said, "Do you know where they sell leggings?" I instantly thought, tourist.

I directed her towards the leggings (and the jackets), and asked her, "Are you visiting?" She replied, "Yeah. And I'm freezing! I thought San Diego was supposed to have perfect weather all the time? I'm from New York, and it's warmer there than here!" She thanked me, then scampered away, vigorously rubbing her arms for warmth.

That's the thing about San Diego. Our summers aren't like the rest of the country's. Although we have occasional heat spikes, the temps usually hover in the 70's and dip in the morning and evening. Most people aren't expecting such cool temps in August, and they're certainly not expecting overcast or drizzly weather like we had last week.

If you're feeling envious, don't worry. Hot weather will strike in September and October. That's when hot, dry desert air will turn most of Southern California into a pizza oven. Just as the rest of the country starts wearing sweaters and eating stews, we'll be in spaghetti straps and eating salads.

zucchini and corn curry soup

We certainly won't be making soup, so I have decided to enjoy my fall soup season now. It may not be chilly enough to wear my fleece, but it's just the right weather for a bowl of Creamy Corn and Zucchini Curry Soup with Corn Relish. Summer time staples such as sweet corn on the cob, tender zucchini, and fragrant cilantro are warmed up with earthy potatoes, hot curry, and soothing coconut milk for a soup that transitions deliciously from summer to autumn.

Apparently I'd better hurry up and finish my soup. We're expecting one of those occasional heat spikes this weekend. So much for wearing my fleece.

Creamy Corn and Zucchini Curry Soup with Corn Relish
Makes 4 servings.
Print recipe only here.

Note: This soup tastes even better the next day. So it's a good meal to make over the weekend for a quick and easy mid-week dinner.

Corn Relish:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup fresh corn kernels (or canned)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt, to taste

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups fresh corn kernels from 2 ears (or canned)
3 cups chopped zucchini (2 medium)
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (the more the seeds, the hotter the flavor)
2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon hot curry powder
1 (15 ounce) can regular or light coconut milk
juice of 1 lime (3-4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup each finely chopped fresh cilantro and mint

1. To make the relish, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn kernels, red pepper, and green onions, cooking until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, and add fresh cilantro and salt, to taste. Set aside.

2. In a deep pot over medium-high heat, melt butter. Saute onions for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add potatoes and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add corn kernels, zucchini, jalapeno, ginger, salt, and curry powder, and stir well. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, and herbs. Turn off heat and cool for 10 minutes.

3. Puree soup in two batches until smooth, and return to the pot over medium-low heat.

4. Taste it, and adjust seasonings accordingly. Garnish each serving with a spoonful of corn relish.

You might also enjoy these soups:

New England Clam Chowder

Curried Red Lentil, Chickpea, and Kale Soup

Here are more soups featuring corn and zucchini:
Chilled Corn Soup at Cooking With Amy
Thai Chicken and Corn Chowder at Slashfood
Cream of Zucchini Soup at A Veggie Venture
Zucchini Pear Soup at Bitten (NYT) with Mark Bittman

Monday, August 24, 2009

Red Grapes In Muffins? Oh, Yeah.

red grape and sweet wine muffins

Prior to blogging, I rarely made muffins. OK, I never made muffins. Now I find it difficult to go a week or more without baking some. There are so many things to love about muffins: They're easy to make. They're endlessly versatile. And, unlike many baked goods, they're portion controlled. (That is, as long as you don't eat two or three per sitting.)

While I enjoy baking traditional muffins like my Mom's Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins, I really love to play around with ingredients and concoct unique muffins such as Fresh Apricot and Kiwi and Coconut.

Up until a few weeks ago, however, I had never made muffins with red grapes. I mean, red grapes in muffins? Is that natural? Oh, it's beyond natural. It's extraordinary. I should know. I have made them three times within the past few weeks, including for a brunch, where they received rave reviews.

farmers' market red grapes

These wonderfully moist muffins are laced with fragrant, subtly sweet wine and punctuated with juicy, red grapes. They're lovely as a midday snack with a cup of tea and even work well as an appetizer or light dessert when paired with a glass of wine and some cheese.

Come to think of it, it's been nearly two weeks since I last made these muffins. And it just so happens that I have a bunch of plump, juicy red grapes in the fridge....

red grape and sweet wine muffins

Sweet Wine and Red Grape Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular sized muffins
Here is the original recipe for Individual Grape and Vin Santo Cakes on

Note: The original recipe calls for a jumbo/Texas muffin pan. Since I don't have one, I used a 12-cup regular muffin tin. I was only able to fill 11 cups, so I filled the 12th cup with a little water while they were baking.

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon orange zest
2/3 cup sweet wine (I like Rieisling and Muscata)
1 cup seedless red grapes

confectioners' sugar for garnish

1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 375 degrees F.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. Beat butter with 2/3 cup sugar using an electric mixer on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in zest.

4. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternately wtih wine, beginning and ending flour, mixing until just incorporated.

5. Toss grapes with remaining tablespoon flour, then fold into batter.

6. Divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until golden and springy to the touch, 18-20 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then loosen with a knife, and remove. Cool to warm, 5-10 minutes more. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Here are more muffins you might like:

Sweet Corn and Honey Muffins

Orange, Walnut, and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Peach Pie Muffins

Here are more great grape recipes:
Champagne Grape Loaves at Melecotte
Grape and Raisin Bread at Baking Bites
Red Grape and Aniseed Schiacciati at Morsels and Musings
Citrus Grape Cake at Green Gourmet Giraffe

Monday, August 17, 2009

Raspberry Sour Cream Cake May Just Be the Perfect Summertime Cake

fresh raspberries

Our local market recently had raspberries on sale -- 77 cents per half pint. I bought 8.

Since tangy fresh raspberries are highly irresistible (and perishable), Jeff and I have eaten a lot of berries over the last few days in cantaloupe boats, smoothies, berry parfaits, salads, scones, and today's raspberry sour cream cake.

raspberry sour cream cake

This may just be the perfect summertime cake. It's delightfully quick and easy to make, and it's versatile. I know. I loved the raspberry sour cream cake so much that I made a blueberry buttermilk one too. Most of all, it's delicious. Underneath the crunchy sugar-dusted top is a pillowy soft interior punctuated by bursts of juicy, tart raspberries. This cake needs no adornment, but a dollop of creme fraiche doesn't hurt.

raspberry sour cream cake

Raspberry Sour Cream Cake
Serves 8
Print recipe only here.

Note: This recipe is adapted from an original raspberry buttermilk cake at Gourmet. I have made this cake both with sour cream and buttermilk. When I made it with buttermilk, I used 1 egg; with sour cream, I used 2 eggs.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh raspberries

1. Place rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 400°F. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with Pam baking spray (or coat with butter and dust with flour).

2.Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs and beat well. Add sour cream and beat well.

4. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar.

5. Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

You might also enjoy these fruity summertime desserts:
Nectarine and Raspberry Crumble
Peach and Blueberry Galette
Mini Custards with Limoncello-Spiked Raspberry Sauce

Here are more delicious summertime cakes:
Plum Nectarine Buttermilk Cake at Two Peas and Their Pod
Blueberry Peach Mango Crumb Cake at Playing House
Lemon Cornmeal Bundt Cake with Raspberries at Baking Bites
Blackberry Breakfast Cake at A Southern Grace
Blueberry Upside Cake at Cookie Baker Lynn

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eggplant 101: How to Select, Store, and Cook Them


Of all the fabulous and quirky names out there such as aubergine, brinjal, melanzane, and egg apple, we had to go with "eggplant." It's such a dull name to describe such a singular vegetable. (Botanically, it's a fruit, but we all use it as a vegetable, so let's go with that.)

Why "eggplant"? Apparently some 18th century European cultivars resembled goose or hen's eggs, so planters called them "eggplants."

Eggplants have a long history. They are native to India where they were first cultivated over 4,000 years ago. During the Middle Ages Arabs introduced eggplant to the Mediterranean region. Eventually European explorers introduced eggplant to places such as Africa and North America. Today China, India, and Egypt are the world's leading producers of eggplant.

Eggplants are available year-round in most major supermarkets, but they are best during August-October, their prime growing season. So here are some tips on how to select, store, and cook with eggplant:

How do you select eggplant?
  • Look for glossy, richly colored skin that is free of dimples and bruises. Pick it up. It should be firm and heavy for its size. Gently squeeze it; it should give slightly. Avoid either rock hard or squishy eggplants.
How do you store eggplant?
  • Store unwashed, uncut eggplant in the crisper drawer for up to 2-3 days. Once you cut the eggplant, the flesh will begin to oxidize, or turn brown. That's okay. It's not bad, just not pretty. If, however, you cut into the eggplant, and it's already streaked with brown, or the seeds are blackened, then toss it. It's old.
How do you prepare and cook eggplant?
  • Rinse the eggplant with water, and cut off the green top. Use a very sharp knife; otherwise, the rubbery skin will make slicing difficult.
  • Many people swear by "sweating" raw eggplant before cooking it; that is, sprinkling it with salt and letting it rest for 30 minutes, to remove the bitterness. I have done it and have never noticed any significant difference. To me, it's more important to by a fresh eggplant.
  • Eggplant can be steamed, sauteed, roasted, broiled, baked, or grilled.
What are the health benefits of eating eggplant?
  • 1 cup of eggplant is only 27 calories and is a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins B1 and B6.
What can you do with eggplant?
eggplant napolean

Of all the cooking methods, grilling may be the kindest to eggplant. The intense heat lightly chars the outside of the eggplant, lending it an irresistible smokiness, yet keeping the flesh deliciously tender and creamy. These Grilled Eggplant Napoleons are ideal for a dinner party -- they're a breeze to make yet make a grand impression.

Grilled Eggplant Napoleons
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a generous sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 medium eggplant, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds, about 20 slices total
1-2 tablespoons olive oil for brushing eggplant
a generous sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large beefsteak tomatoes (or large heirloom tomatoes), sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 small bunch of fresh basil
8-10 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds

1. Whisk all dressing ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Preheat grill to medium high.

3. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill that has been lightly oiled. Grill eggplant for 5-7 minutes per side, or until tender and lightly charred.

4. To assemble stacks, start by placing an eggplant slice on a plate. Top with a slice of cheese, then tomato, then basil. Repeat one more time. End with a slice of eggplant. Repeat with remaining ingredients until 4 stacks are made. Drizzle with dressing, and serve immediately.

Drizzle with basil pesto.
Substitute arugula for basil.
Add slices of roasted red pepper.
Add olive tapenade in between layers.

You might also enjoy these Mediterranean dishes:

Roasted Asparagus with Breadcrumbs and Parmesan

Mediterranean Wheatberry Salad with Lentils and Chickpeas

String Beans with Prosciutto, Pine Nuts, and Meyer Lemon

For even more delicious eggplant recipes, check out my article on Foodie View: "Every Kitchen Needs Some Black Magic: Cooking With Eggplant."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I've Got a New Recipe for Peach Pie Muffins

I couldn't decide if I felt like having peach pie or peach muffins. So I created peach pie muffins. You should too.

peach pie muffin

Each pecan crumb-topped muffin gives way to a moist, cakey inside that is studded with bits of fresh, juicy, sweet peaches. Oh, and did I mention there's no crust to roll out? Yeah, baby.

Peach Pie Muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins.
Print recipe only here.

Pecan Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup light brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh diced peaches with skins

1. Place rack in center of oven, and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. To make the crumb topping, in a small bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and pecans, and toss until well combined. Pour melted butter evenly over mixture, and using your fingers, quickly toss and pinch the mixture until little pebbly pieces form. Refrigerate while making the muffins.

3. Combine flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl, and stir well.

4. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, honey, sugar, butter, eggs, ginger, and vanilla, and whisk well. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in peaches.

5. Spoon the batter evenly into the into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle pecan crumb topping evenly over the muffin tops. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

Here are more sweet summer baked goods you might like:

My Mom's Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

Peach and Blueberry Galette

Fresh Cherry and Peach Upside-Down Cake

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Okra: One of the World's Most Misunderstood Vegetables

whole okra

Do a quick Google search of most hated vegetables, and okra pops up everywhere. I can understand why. Unless you grew up eating okra, it's an intimidating vegetable. Its outward appearance doesn't give you too many clues about how to eat it: Do you cut off the top? Do you eat it raw? How the heck do you cook it?

When you finally conquer your fear and cut into okra, the round, white inner pods release a juice that can be best described as "slimy." For many people, the sliminess factor is enough to completely halt their okra eating experience. That's too bad, because okra has a lot to offer.

In many parts of the world, slender, tapered okra is referred to as "Lady's Fingers," which is a much more charming name. Okra's texture is highly appealing. When cooked properly, it retains a crunchy on-the-outside, creamy on-the-inside quality that is uniquely satisfying. Its flavor is similar to green bell peppers, but earthier. Plus it's easy to cook, versatile, and healthy.

sliced okra

How 'bout you? Do you love or hate okra? Why?

Here's a guide to selecting, storing, and cooking with okra.

How do you select okra?
Choose brightly colored green pods that are firm and sport a pale peach-like fuzz. Avoid okra that is bruised, darkened, or limp. Okra is available at most supermarkets year-round, though it peaks during late summer and early autumn.

How do you store okra?
Place whole, unwashed okra in a plastic bag, or wrap in paper towel, and place in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.

How do you prepare and cook okra?
Rinse okra well and pat dry. Cut off tops and discard. Although okra can be eaten raw in salads, most people prefer it cooked. Slice for stir-fries and gumbos, or keep whole if frying. Okra can be microwaved, sauteed, broiled, roasted, baked, steamed, and grilled. To reduce sliminess, add something acidic such as vinegar or tomatoes to the okra while cooking.

Okra is most commonly found in hearty gumbos and stews. It's also wonderful in stir-fries with vegetables such as onions, red bell peppers, corn, and zucchini. It's most irresistible when dipped in buttermilk, then cornmeal, and fried to golden perfection, which is a delicacy of the American South.

What are the health benefits of okra?
Okra is a low-carb vegetable. 1 cup has only 36 calories, 0 fat, o cholesterol, 4 g carbs, and 2 g fiber. Okra is especially high in vitamins C and K, which help boost your immune system and prevent bone loss, respectively.

quick chicken and okra stew

Quick Chicken and Okra Stew

Makes 4 servings

Okra's characteristic sliminess functions as a natural, flavorful thickening agent in stews and soups.

Print recipe only here.

1 tablespoon plus olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 pound okra, tops removed and sliced thickly
1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth, with 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup queso freso cheese, plus extra for garnish*

1 cup cooked grain of your choice, such as quinoa, brown rice, or couscous

1. In a large frying pan over medium high heat, warm olive oil. Add onions; saute 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

2. Add chicken. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, or until browned.

3. Add red bell peppers, okra, and jalapeno. Saute 3 minutes.

4. Add diced tomatoes with juice, vegetable broth with cornstarch, cumin, and salt. Raise heat to high; bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy, and the sauce has slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in fresh cilantro and queso fresco. Season with salt as desired.

5. Add 1/4 cup cooked grains to each dish. Top with 1/4 of the stew. Garnish with additional cheese and cilantro. Serve immediately.

*Queso fresco, a mild flavored, soft Mexican cheese with a crumbly texture, is available at Mexican specialty markets as well as the refrigerator section of most major supermarkets. Cotija anejo, another mild-flavored Mexican cheese with a crumbly texture, is a good substitute and is also found in most major supermarkets.

You might also like:

Elote, or Mexican Grilled Corn

Caramelized Plantains with Honey and Lime

Red Corn with Cilantro and Cotija Anejo Cheese

More okra recipes you might like:

Southern Fried Okra at Seriously Good
Okra Gumbo at Nola Cuisine
Indian Sweet and Spicy Okra at Aayi's Recipes
Smoky Pickled Okra at Desert Candy

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cantaloupe Boats Are Delicious, Refreshing, and Fat Free

cantaloupe fruit bowl

I don't remember the first time I ate a summer cantaloupe boat, but I do know the attraction was immediate. That's surprising since it was a product of one of my mom's 1980's diets. She never did the grapefruit diet (too sour) or the cabbage soup diet (too bloating), but she did do the low-fat diet, which included rice cakes (a euphemism for styrofoam) and lots of low-cal cantaloupe.

Cantaloupe has always been a good friend of those watching their weight because it's a high water-content food. That means it helps fill you up quickly without added calories and helps you minimize bloat naturally. With high levels of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, it's also a powerhouse of nutrition. And let's not forget that a perfectly ripe chilled cantaloupe is irresistible -- delicate, juicy, and sweet.

I don't diet. But I do love cantaloupe boats because they're healthy and refreshing on a hot summer day. And who wouldn't love that?

Summer Cantaloupe Boats
Serves 1
Print recipe only here.

These are highly versatile, so play around with ingredients you like until you find your favorite combination.

1 large ripe cantaloupe, cut in half and cleaned of seeds
1 cup non-fat vanilla yogurt
1-2 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, optional
pinch of lime zest
1/2 cup fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries

1. In a small bowl whisk yogurt, honey, mint, ginger, and lime zest. Gently stir in berries. Pour inside of the cantaloupe half. Enjoy.

Try flavored yogurts, low-fat frozen yogurt, non-fat cottage cheese, or even sorbet.
Try other fruits such as cherries, peaches, or kiwis or dried fruits such as apricots and raisins.
Try orange or lemon zest.
Sprinkle yogurt with granola, chopped nuts, or trail mix.

You might also like these skinny dishes:

Skinny Berry Parfaits

Chili Lime Fruit Salad

Creamsicle Power Smoothie

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Healthy Cherry, Banana, and Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

healthy cherry banana oatmeal bread

I always crave banana bread -- moist, tender, nut studded slabs with plenty of butter on top. I don't always crave the calories that come with it. That's why I have been experimenting with a creating a healthier, reduced fat banana bread that will keep both tummy and my hips happy. I have succeeded.

This banana bread is low in fat and calories yet high in fiber, protein, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Instead of fats such as butter or oil, I used healthier egg whites, low-fat buttermilk, non-fat yogurt, and orange juice. Instead of just plain white flour, I used protein and fiber-rich oats and whole wheat flour and omega-3-rich flax seed and walnuts. The cherries are a seasonal surprise that add sweet juiciness to eat bite. Of course, you could substitute other fresh fruit such as apples or mangoes or dried fruit such as raisins or apricots.

Oh, and don't worry. It tastes great.

healthy cherry banana oatmeal bread

Healthy Cherry, Banana, and Oatmeal Breakfast Bread
Makes 2 (8 1/2 X 4 1/2 -inch) loaves
Print recipe only here.

1/2 cup toasted rolled oats (or old-fashioned oatmeal)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs plus 4 egg whites
1 cup low-fat buttermilk (or low-fat vanilla soymilk)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of one orange
2 small very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 cup pitted, halved fresh cherries
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup flax seed or ground flax meal

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat 2 (8 1/2 X 4 1/2 -inch) loaf pans with cooking spray.

2. To toast the oatmeal, place in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a medium size bowl, whisk the toasted oats, flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

4. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar and eggs. Add buttermilk, yogurt, orange juice, and vanilla; beat until batter is smooth. Lower the speed; add the orange zest and bananas, and beat briefly (it's ok if the batter has a few lumps).

5. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, and mix until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cherries, walnuts, and flax seed. The batter will be thick. Pour the batter into the pans. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.

6. Transfer the breads to a rack; let cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and place on a rack to cool to room temperature.

You might also like:

Healthy Muffins

Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones (Heart Healthy & Low Fat!)

Banana Coconut Almond Bread (It's not low-fat, but it's oh-so-good.)

Here are a few more healthy banana bread and muffin recipes:
Low Fat, Eggless Chocolate and Banana Loaf at Priya's Easy and Tasty Recipes
Whole Wheat Healthy Banana Bread at Recipe Girl
Healthy Banana Apple Muffins at 17 and Baking

Don't forget to enter for your chance to win 2 free tickets to see Julie & Julia in LA on Thursday, August 6th!