Friday, May 24, 2013

Quinoa Applesauce Muffins




Since I work full-time, I often have breakfast on the go. My go-to breakfasts are usually bagel and cream cheese, with a tomato, a pastry, or some sort of muffin. Buying a muffin or pastry every day can be unhealthy, not to mention expensive. You never know what ingredients they use. This is especially important if you have dietary restrictions. As an example, for a while, I was watching my cholesterol, potassium, and phosphorus. A daily dose of store-bought muffins can create havoc in one’s diet.

So starting last year, I decided to experiment on making muffins. I’ve had a number of successes last year mostly experimenting on different flavors, reducing sugar and fat, and using rice flour. This year, I wanted to experiment with using different flours or grains. Since I still have quinoa, I thought this would be a great time to try quinoa muffins.

I made applesauce muffins before, but using regular flour or rice flour (a gluten-free option). I’ve made it so many times that I have made a low fat version. (which can be easily converted to non-fat if you really want to).

Note to self: Blog post on Basic Applesauce Muffins! That is also a good recipe.

I am not sure exactly what proportion to use with quinoa, but most recipes recommend about 2 parts flour to 1 part quinoa ratio. As I prepared the batter, I found that a 1:1 ratio is better (maybe because the quinoa is a bit mushy).


Mad Gourmet's Quinoa Applesauce Muffins


Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preparation
  •  Cook about 1/3 c of quinoa per package directions. I usually just cook a cup and leave the rest for later use (pancakes or side dish).
  •  Melt the butter on stovetop for mixing (You can do this while you are prepping your dry ingredients; If I am having burgers for lunch, I save the pan to cook the burger for that yummy buttery flavor).


Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease muffin tin.
  2. Sift together the flour, quinoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. Beat eggs. In a large bowl, combine melted butter, applesauce and eggs.
  4. Beat wet ingredients in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.
  5. Stir in the raisins and walnuts. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  6. Scoop into muffin cups.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown, Test to see if a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.

Verdict

I really enjoyed these muffins. The quinoa added a great texture and a protein boost.  I did expect a crunchier consistency, but maybe next time, I’ll toast the quinoa first.



I think for next time, I would use some baking powder to give it a bit of a rise.

Also, I wish I read this article from lunchboxbunch.com on how to cook fluffy quinoa before I got started.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quinoa Pancakes

I bought a new packet of quinoa this week. Ever since our trip to Peru six years ago, I have always wanted to cook with quinoa but never had a chance.

When we were in Peru, we had lots of yummy quinoa soup, but that recipe looked time-intensive. So I was on the search for a quick quinoa recipe.

I ran into this quinoa cakes recipe in Martha Stewart's website, and this looks like the perfect candidate. I LOVE PANCAKES and other breakfast items, like PANCAKES. She also has a good number of quinoa recipes: clusters, cereal were just a few examples. But the pancakes.... well, enough said.

Preparation and Cooking

Since I have not cooked with quinoa before, I followed the cooking instructions on the package.
I also remembered that our guide from Peru said that we need to be extra careful preparing quinoa: rinse, rinse, rinse is what she said. So it's better to be safe than sorry.

I thought it cooked longer than what the package said, but that can just be due to my old stove.
 
I also decided to follow the recipe to the letter (well, almost). I used low-calcium soy milk instead of low-fat milk, and I had a few additions near the end of preparing the batter. 

preparing the batter
Preparing the batter

If you've made pancakes before, making the batter and cooking the cakes were straight-forward. The quinoa does add a certain lumpiness which makes it look more interesting. The batter seemed to be a bit bland, so I added about a teaspoon of agave nectar and alcohol-free vanilla extract would be a good addition (I would think regular vanilla extract would work, too).

quinoa pancake batter
Lumpy batter: Almost like mixing tapioca

Making quinoa pancakes
Cooking like a normal pancake

Here's the recipe.

Quinoa Pancakes
Slightly modified from Martha Stewart's Quinoa Cakes


Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (prepare as package directed)
  •  3/8 cup all-purpose flour
  •  1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet
  • 1/8 cup soy milk (or almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used alcohol-free)
  •  Non-stick spray, for cooking
  •  Maple syrup, for serving
  •  Fresh fruit or fruit preserves (optional), for serving

Directions
  1.  In a medium bowl, mix together quinoa, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2.  In another medium bowl, mix together egg, egg white, butter, milk, and syrup until smooth. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and whisk to combine.
  3.  Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with butter and heat over medium. Drop about 1/4 cup of into skillet. Cook until bubbles appear on top, 2 minutes. Flip cakes and cook until golden brown on underside, 2 minutes.
  4.  Wipe skillet clean and repeat with more melted butter and remaining batter (depending on your stove, reduce heat to low if overbrowning).
  5.  Serve with maple syrup and fresh fruit, if desired.



Verdict and Next Steps

I love the difference in texture and flavor provided by the quinoa. I had fresh blueberries, so I served the cakes with the fresh fruit and about a teaspoon or two of maple syrup.


Quinoa Pancakes with Blueberries

I think this will be a regular part of my breakfast rotation. Just to make it healthier, perhaps I will use whole wheat flour or maybe even oat flour next time. 



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Skillet Flatbread Pizza with Pears and Pancetta


I have been missing pizza. My dietician told me no fast food for a while (too high sodium and fat), so I have not had pizza from a restaurant for a while.

I decided that it is about time that I try making my own. Shouldn’t be too hard: pizza dough, cheese, sauce, and some toppings.

My biggest challenge was finding pizza dough. I have not made dough of any sort at all, so I decided not to take on that challenge (yet). I just wanted to have an easy pizza. However, our local grocery stores do not carry pizza dough. It’s either Boboli or some premade variety. Fortunately, I remembered that our local Trader Joe’s sell pizza dough; although, it look me two visits before I can find fresh ones. 

Having not made any sort of pizza before, I used some of the advice from The Unintentional Vegan on making Skillet Flatbread Pizza. In my first attempt, I did not feel like tomato sauce, so I just decided to prepare it like flatbread and top it with olive oil, onions, and pears. I needed some protein in it – so I thought some soy sausage would be okay – having nothing else on hand. This combination was acceptable, but I would not recommend it, unless you are desperate.

Prepping and Cooking the Dough

I took a portion of the dough (about a fifth) and tried to flatten it by hand: I was not very successful and found a new respect for pizza makers who flatten by tossing the dough. Not wanting to take out the rolling pin, I continued to flatten in by hand and ended up with a thick-crust pizza. Perhaps next time.

First Pizza
First Try: Soy Sausage and Pears
I also did the Cook, Flip, Flip, Top method as described by The Unintentional Vegan.  If you need some clarification on this (like I did), it is as follows: cook on one side until it bubbles, flip and cook the bubbly side, then flip again and top. This approach makes sense, since the flatter originally cooked side will be the bottom of your pizza.

The pizza that was featured seemed to have raw toppings: I did not feel like raw at this time, so I precooked mine.

Overall, my first attempt was yummy. I was a bit disappointed with my dough performance, but I promised to use the rolling pin on the dough next time.

Rounds 2 and 3

My second attempt is more successful. I used similar toppings, except this time I had pancetta instead of sausage. My topping skills also improved: I even have a pattern now. If you are feeling artistic, it is not as hard as it looks, just be patient. Arrange the pears and pancetta in an alternating circular pattern. I accompanied it with a simple arugula salad. Great combo! The arugula complemented the pears so well, I could have included the arugula in the topping.

Pears and Pancetta "Pizza" with Arugula Salad

In my third attempt, I decided to use a tomato sauce base. I still had some pancetta, but running out of arugula for a salad, so I decided to use the remaining arugula as a topping. With mushrooms, this was a killer combo. Also, my pizza dough turned out a weird shape, i.e., it was not circular. Good thing though: it was flat, thanks to my rolling pin. I think it give it character. It still needs a little something for plating.

Pizza with Tomatoes and Pancetta
Tomato sauce based pizza with pancetta and arugula


The Verdict

Overall, good attempt and I am getting better at it. It is a bit of a pain to flatten the dough with a rolling pin, especially just for a quick lunch. It’s a bit more clean-up than I bargained for. However, cleaning up maybe a bit less, if I get a kid’s sized rolling pin or if I let my husband do the cleaning (LOL).

I may also try to make my own pizza dough next time. The technique seems easy enough for a novice cook like me to try. Besides, punching the dough seems appealing to me (Huh, wait. What?)

However, this is a great lunch for one – maybe two – if you make a bigger pizza and have a bigger skillet. Nonetheless, I will definitely do it again for a nice weekend lunch!



Here’s the recipe.

Skillet Pear and Pancetta Pizza For One

Ingredients

Pizza
  • About 1/5 of pre-made pizza dough (I prefer whole wheat)
  • About a handful of cornmeal for the dough (optional)
  • Olive Oil, to brush the dough and to sauté the pears and onions.
  • Mozzarella Cheese (be as cheesy as you want to be. For this pizza, I prefer light amounts of cheese to let the flavor of the pears and the onions come through)
  • ½ of a pear, sliced
  • 4 slices of Pancetta
  • Handful of sliced onions (about 1/4 cup)
Side Salad (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of Arugula
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
  1. Begin to roll out the pizza dough. You can use whatever method works for you here. As suggested, I initially tried to work it into a circle with my hands, but that yielded a thick crust pizza. Since I do not have that much experience, I prefer using a rolling pin. The key is to make it fairly even in thickness, leaving it a bit thicker on the edges. Be sure to make your circle a bit smaller than your skillet, as it will expand a bit when it heats up.
  2. Heat a 9-10" metal skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Brush one side of the circle with olive oil and dust with cornmeal. Add it to the skillet, oiled side down and cook for several minutes - you want the crust to bubble a bit and the bottom to get lightly browned. Flip and cook until the bubbly side is slightly charred.
  4. While the dough is cooking, sweat the onions and pears in a different pan. If you prefer, very lightly heat the pancetta in the same pan.
  5. Flip the dough again. Brush the dough with olive oil and top the pizza with cheese and the pear sauté. Be very careful as the pan is hot. However, I am a big proponent of minimizing cleaning as possible, but if you prefer take the dough out of the pan, put your toppings, and put it back in the pan. Also, leave about 1/4 in to 1/3 in” un-topped around the edges so you have a nice handle for eating your pizza.
  6. Cover with a lid and let it cook until the bottom is lightly charred and the toppings are warmed through. This takes about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and let cool slightly. Cut and serve with arugula topped with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, if desired.

Variations:
  • Try a regular pizza with tomato sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, and peppers. I would sweat the mushrooms and peppers first, as well. Then crust the handle with Parmesan cheese. Yummy.
  • In spite of my earlier comment, using soy meat was equally good too. Great for Meatless Mondays. No soy sausage with pears anymore, though… not a good combination, maybe with the tomato sauce and mushrooms.