Month: August 2015

Zucchini Muffin Recipe: Veggies in your muffin? Why not!

Zucchini Muffin Recipe: Veggies in your muffin? Why not!

The basic elements for growing a plant are the following: water, oxygen, soil and sun. If you have access to all four, then you are ready to start your own garden. Either in the front of your house, in the backyard, or even inside your house, as long as you have windows and raised garden beds on wheels, it will work! But why should you try to grow a plant, or moreover, your own vegetables?

Some reasons are more obvious than others. You can control what chemicals go into it; you can save some money by growing your own organic produce; , you are helping the planet, and you will taste the satisfaction of success in a vegetable you grow yourself. Other less apparent but perhaps more important reasons for trying to grow some vegetables yourself include therapeutic stress relief, knowledge and respect for nature, cultivating patience versus anger and overall contributing to a much better world for future generations.

Planning is a crucial part of growing food. Learning the weather patterns and how each affects specific varieties of seeds is a good place to start. There is a lot of “learning as you grow” when you first join the expanding group of “home food growers.” The resources are fantastic and most of them are accessible from your home computer. Here are few links that may help you get started:

  1. For types of garden to build and how to start: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/gardening/
  2. USDA People’s Garden: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=peoples_gardening_resources.html
  3. USDA Tips for Organic Gardening: http://blogs.usda.gov/2015/03/17/tips-for-starting-an-organic-garden/

One of the best parts of growing your own food is eating it! And if you find yourself with an abundance of a specific fruit or vegetable during picking season, don’t forget to freeze it or dry it to save it for the winter. Add your home grown produce to your daily menu in a variety of creative ways. The zucchini muffin recipe below is a perfect example of how to use up some of your summer harvest. These muffins freeze well so that you may bake them and have a lunchbox or snack item stash for when you need it. The secret to turning zucchini into a muffin is adding almond butter, of course! zucchini is mild tasting veggie, so when paired with Once Again Lightly Toasted Unsweetened and Salt Free Creamy Almond Butter,  it absorbs its flavors and highlights its best qualities. Not to mention, they make  a powerful nutrient combo— the zucchini offers vitamin C, A and fiber, while the almond butter brings on the protein, iron and omegas.

You may follow the same recipe below using summer squash, as well! If you just can’t wait for your produce to be ready for picking, this recipe is worth a try with some local market ingredients!

zucchini muffinZucchini Muffins                       makes 30 mini muffins

  • ¼ cup Once Again Killer Bee Honey
  • ¼ cup Once Again Creamy Almond Butter
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ cup grated zucchini
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon and oats. In a separate bowl combine eggs, milk, coconut oil (liquid at room temperature), almond butter and honey. Once well mixed, combine both mixtures until blended but don’t over mix it. Use mini muffins pan or a regular-sized one. Bake at 375 degrees oven for 15-20 minutes, depending upon which pan you use. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days, or freeze to keep for up to 3 weeks.

zucchini muffin2

Almond Butter Pie: “As Easy As Pie”

Almond Butter Pie: “As Easy As Pie”

Why do we use the phrase, “As easy as pie” when referring to a job or task that should only take minutes and little work to complete? After all, rolling out flaky pie crust, mixing up the perfect filling and baking a pie is really not that simple! Maybe the common saying refers to how easy it is to eat up a slice of pie? Regardless of its origins or appropriate meaning, the four-word phrase inspired me to come up with a pie recipe that really is easy to make and delicious to eat, of course.

There is no need to roll out dough or preheat the oven for our Almond Butter Pie recipe. This is a freezer/refrigerator pie that uses a cookie crust. The cookies most commonly used for crusts are graham crackers, but feel free to crush up your favorite  to make this crust. Chocolate graham crackers crushed up inside a sealed plastic bag, then mixed with coconut oil take only minutes to prepare, and makes a rich pie crust that goes well with any Once Again Nut Butter you choose to mix  in  for your pie. There is another surprise in this recipe —  it is a healthier pie you can indulge in, even having two pieces at a time if you’d like to! There are only two ingredients: Greek yogurt and almond butter. You may add maple syrup as an option for a sweeter version, but honestly you won’t miss it much if you don’t.

The pie goes into the freezer for 45 minutes, then into the refrigerator for 10 minutes before serving. It is best to eat it right out of the refrigerator.  It can melt if left outside for too long. I made the pie in a 9- inch glass pie dish, but next time I plan on cutting the recipe in half and making it in single serving glass dishes instead. The larger pie is perfect for a party or larger family dinner, but when it’s just there are just 3-4 people to serve, the smaller recipe would be just perfect.

Almond Butter PieAlmond Butter Pie
Serves 6-9 people

6-8 chocolate graham crackers
2 tbsps. coconut oil
28 oz. vanilla Greek yogurt
1 cup Once Again Creamy Almond Butter
Prepare the crust first by crushing the graham crackers in a sealed plastic bag; then add to glass bowl and mix with about two tablespoons of coconut oil. You may add extra oil if your crust is not sticking together well.  Place in 9-inch pie dish and press to form crust. Set aside to prepare the filling. Mix 28 oz. of Greek yogurt with one cup of almond butter.  You may choose peanut butter or sunflower seed butter as well! Mix well using a large spoon, and then add it to the pie crust. Place in refrigerator until about 30 minutes before you are ready to serve. Then set it in the freezer for the last 30 minutes. This will make the pie  easier to slice and serve.

… have a deliciously healthy day,

Carolina

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins: Relax and Enjoy!

Recently at a general physical with a primary physician I was told that I need to find some “me” time, some relaxing activities to integrate daily in order to decrease my levels of stress. t Just hearing that made me even more stressed! What do you mean I need to find time to relax? Should I google: How to relax? Is there a class I need to take? Can I bring the kids with me?

Stress is not something to be taken lightly though. When you are stressed, your hormones, such as cortisol will produce the “fight or flight response” in your body causing increased heart rate, heavy breathing and constricted blood vessels .  When these responses happen repeatedly, they can lead to hypertension, migraines, mental health disorders, asthma, insomnia and the list goes on.

Relaxing and balancing the stress is a priority for a healthy life, but finding  time to  accomplish this  can be a challenge. As usual, research and some conversations with the right people set me  on  the right path. I put together a short list of things you can do to help you de-stress, and since they are simple and quick, you can do it once or several times daily, when you have time. After all, finding time to relax can just add to stress! Instead use the time you are waiting for your toast to pop at breakfast, or seize the  moments while in car line to pick up a child, or when you’re in line at the grocery store. The good news is that our body is also equipped with hormones to slow down your heart beat and promote balance, and these activities will you help you trigger that healing side you have within.

  1. Deep Breaths: Just take a series of 3-4 long deep breaths. Fill your lungs in with air coming through your nose, and let it out slowly through your mouth. This will reduce tension due to the extra boost of oxygen, stimulating a parasympathetic reaction, which helps you calm down.
  2. Muscle relaxation: Start with your toes, and then tighten your foot muscles for just a couple of seconds and then in turn, relax them. Move up to your calf muscle, then the thigh, repeating the action,  all the way up to your face. Tighten and relax each muscle for a few seconds each: this sounds a little awkward but this can help with anxiety and stress!
  3. Snack break: Stress is a brain and immune system response, yet  our gut is the largest organ in your immune system. Stress-eating doesn’t have to be bad! Pick a nutritious snack that will fill you up and eat it slowly; focus on the texture, how it tastes, how much you enjoy it or what you would change in it, and you’ve just turned your snack time into meditation! Here is a perfect on- the- go snack time to help you relax  during  your most stressful days: Peanut Butter Jelly Muffins — see recipe below!PB and Jelly Muffin
  4. Watch a funny video: Laughter increases your intake of oxygen, which stimulates your heart, lungs, muscles and increases the endorphins released by your brain. Laughing helps your body relax! So pick your favorite cat video on YouTube, or re-watch some bloopers from your own family videos and laugh out loud!
  5. Walk: Take a 10 minute walk,and it’s better if it can be outdoors —  even go barefoot. Our body craves connection with outside elements like wind, water, earth. A brisk walk will boost your endorphins and even help clear your mind. Consider looking around while you are walking,. Don’t focus on any one aspect;instead look at the sky, and  then direct your attention to the grass.  This will prevent you from directing your thoughts back to your to-do lists.
  6. Hand pressure point: Apply pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle to help create an instant sense of calm. “It activates a nerve that loosens the area around the heart, so any of that flutters feeling you feel when you’re nervous will end up going away.” S. Melnick (business psychologist).
  7. Music: Add some classical tunes to your track list! Classical music will slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and help decrease stress hormones. Actually, any music you enjoy will do the trick ! And if you are stuck somewhere without headphones, you can even hum your favorite tune to calm down your heartbeat.

PB and Jelly Muffin1Peanut Butter Jelly Muffins

serves up to 15 people

2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup Once Again Creamy Peanut Butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk (or milk alternative)
¼ cup coconut oil
1 tsp.  vanilla
½-1 cup jelly or jam of your choice

Combine all dry ingredients first; then add peanut butter and using a large spoon, mix  until you achieve a crumbly texture. In a separate bowl, place eggs, milk and coconut oil. Make sure they are all at room temperature,  so the coconut oil will remain at liquid form; now add it to the dry ingredients; set your hand mixer on low and mix for 4-6 minutes. Add mixture to muffin cups, filling them only about half way. Spoon in about ½ tbsp. of your favorite jelly or jam into each slot ,  and then complete muffin cup with the mixture. Bake in 375 degree  oven for about 15-20 minutes.  The mixture will make about 12-15 muffins. Store them  in an  airtight  container for up to 4 days.

Peanut butter and jelly muffin

Go nuts for Doughnuts! Baked Peanut Butter Doughnut Holes

Go nuts for Doughnuts! Baked Peanut Butter Doughnut Holes

Doughnut holes made with Once Again Nut ButterWho knew there was a national day dedicated to doughnuts? Well, apparently the whole world knew – except me. A few weeks ago, social media had a very sweet day with pictures of all sorts of delicious doughnut creations. From the best gourmet doughnuts, to homemade versions, they all turned into inspiration for me in the kitchen for creating my own doughnut recipe. Deep frying was out of the question, both for nutritional purposes; also   a big pot filled with oil at high temperature oil is not my idea of happy cooking. But how do you keep the moist and soft texture you get when you bite into a doughnut when baking instead of frying? I played around with the ingredients and found that using coconut oil and peanut butter was the perfect solution for a doughnut like mouthfeel and flavor. So although you may substitute some ingredients in this recipe, using coconut oil and peanut butter is a must.

Collecting kitchen gadgets is somewhat of a hobby for me lately, but I haven’t added the “doughnut pan” to my pantry just yet. Therefore making doughnut holes using a mini-muffin pan was the way to go! The small pan made these tiny treats perfectly- sized since who can really just eat one, right? And you don’t have to feel guilty about popping two or three of these into your mouth; they are a much healthier version than their traditional deep fried, high sugar, low protein alternatives.20150527_203504107_iOS

You may notice this recipe has the same ingredients as a previously shared recipe for our “Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins”.  It’s fantastic when one recipe can be made into so many different ways! I have made the recipe below with a gluten- free flour mixture, as well, for a friend and it worked beautifully.

Doughnut holes made with Once AgainPeanut Butter Doughnut Holes

1 cup all-purpose flour (or any flour substitute you may prefer)
1/2 cup Once Again Creamy Peanut Butter
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tbsp. baking powder
1 egg
½ cup milk (or milk substitute)
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. coconut oil
½ cup sugar and cinnamon mixture
Coconut Oil for brushing the doughnut holes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium size bowl, add sugar, peanut butter, and mix well; then mix in flour, salt and baking powder.  In a separate bowl whisk together egg, milk, vanilla and coconut oil ,making sure that  all ingredients are at room temperature. Combine ingredients in both bowls and mix well. Add to mini-muffin pans, filling almost to the top of each cup. This will make them more rounded when they rise in the oven. Bake until you can insert a toothpick, and it comes out clean. Depending on oven settings, this usually takes 15-20 minutes. Brush each doughnut hole with coconut oil and roll it in the sugar and cinnamon mixture. The recipe makes about 18 doughnut holes. Store them in air tight container for up to 4 days.  They are best when warm and fresh!

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