Sunday, December 7, 2008

TastyKate Loaded Banana Bread

Since moving to Boston I have had several unsuccessful attempts at banana bread and/or muffins. I don't know if it is just a matter of getting used to the gas oven or not using all-purpose (white) flour anymore. Today my poor banana muffin streak came to an end, using a recipe from the Complete Cooking Light Cookbook (go figure!) for inspiration.

I love lots of "stuff" in my banana bread. I think it keeps the mixture moist and I love the texture of nuts, coconut, dried fruit, etc. The proportions in this recipe were great -- and I hope that I will be able to replicate in the future!

TastyKate's Loaded Banana Bread/Muffins
(adapted from Mom's Banana Bread Recipe in Cooking Light)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 (mine were large) ripe bananas
1/4 cup fat free milk
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups white whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups of oats, dried sweetened coconut, walnuts, diced dried apricots, jumbo plump raisins, raw pumpkin seeds, even chocolate chips.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat sugar and butter until well-blended. Add other "wet" ingredients -- banana, milk, cream, eggs, vanilla -- and beat well.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt together (sprinkle nutmeg on top).
4. Add "wet" ingredients to dry ingredients and fold mixture together until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Try not to overmix!
5. Add in mix-ins and continue to fold until incorporated throughout the batter.
6. Pour batter (I used an ice-cream scoop) into lightly greased muffin pan and 1 mini-loaf pan (or 1 large 9-inch loaf pan).
7. Bake muffins for about 20 minutes, mini-loafs for 40 minutes, regular loaf for 1 hour.
8. Let cool, remove from pan, and enjoy!

Cooking Light suggested -- low-fat sour cream, 1/4 cup butter (I would then add 1/4-1/2 cup applesauce if using a smaller amount of butter), and 2 egg whites rather than whole eggs.

If you try this -- let me know how it turns out!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Comparing Apples to Apples: The Organic Debate

The Boston Globe just published a great piece on the controversy surrounding the added health benefits of eating organic produce versus commercially grown produce (i.e., grown with the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides). The take home messages for me:

1. Eat your fruits and veggies.
Too few Americans are getting even close to the healthful quantities of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are considered nutrient dense, calorie light foods. They are essential to a well-balanced lifestyle. There may be some harm in giving Americans yet another reason to skimp on their vegetables by saying that commercially grown produce is harmful to your health.

2. Organic produce is intuitively, but not scientifically proven superior to commercial produce.
As a student of epidemiology, the idea of being able to scientifically prove anything is elusive. All we can ever do is disprove; disprove that organic produce is not the same as commercially grown produce. Detecting a significant difference between organic and commercial produce is made even more difficult when the effects of such exposure is likely to manifest itself in many different ways over the course of one's life. Teasing out how the pesticides in produce cause poor health compared to the myriad other causes is nearly an impossible task. We must first look to more basic science studies for this one.

3. Buy organic when you can, and when it matters most.
In the midst of an economic recession, it is likely that people will be splurging on organic (and out of season) blueberries, nectarines, and avocados. However, the price differential of some organic vs. conventional produce is not quite as steep. Also, certain conventionally grown produce has been shown to require much more pesticide and chemical manipulation. A list of "top" fruits and vegetables to buy organic, if possible, can be found at the DeliciousOrganics website, which also has a list of links to more information surrounding this controversy. I will not say these are bias-free links or sites.

Remember to consider the advantages to buying local, as well. You may not be able to find local, organic produce at your nearest farmers market (are you so blessed as to have one where you live). But, there are many environmental advantages to buying local (Time included this in their Global Warming Survival Guide).

Happy eating!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Equal Exchange Film Challenge

As a member of the Harvest Co-op here in Boston I was apprised of a recent Equal Exchange 48hr film challenge that generated 13 creative takes on sustainability, farming, and food. I particularly enjoyed the judges' selection for best overall film "Hard to Swallow" by Bouncing Poodle Production.

You can access the short films via the Equal Exchange website or YouTube (links embedded above).

My second favorite was "The Only Way to Eat" by Stop Talking. 

Check a couple of them out. What do you think of their satire on the current state of food and nutrition in the US today?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Finding Great Inexpensive Wine

Enjoying Wine on a Budget

Sometimes I wish I was back in California just to get a good inexpensive bottle of red. This short video from the Wall Street Journal gives consumers some pointers on picking out budget-friendly vino.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pinot Grigio #1

As a nod to free-range, natural foods here's a delicious wine I recently picked up at the local Harvest Coop:

I couldn't resist the rooster on the bottle.

Enjoy (in moderation)!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Power breakfast: TastyKate's Oatmeal

Have you noticed that single-serving commercial oatmeal is often excessively sweet and lacks the great texture of old-fashioned stovetop oats? This really frustrates me. Oatmeal should be nutritious and really satisfying (for more information on the health benefits of oatmeal you can look here). Determined to prepare my morning high-fiber, low-glycemic index breakfast led me to develop the following recipe that can be easily altered with your favorite fruits, nuts, and (non-)dairy preferences. Key ingredients that make this TastyKate's oatmeal are hearty rolled oats (the TJ's brand is much better than Quaker Oats in my opinion), cinnamon, and plain yogurt.

Note: I have prepared this in the microwave (2 minutes on high, stirring after about a minute and watching CAREFULLY), but it is better if you have time to do this on the stovetop.

TastyKate's Oatmeal


1/2 C Old-fashioned rolled oats (I used Trader Joe's Organic) **not steel-cut/Irish oats**
1 C + 2 Tbl Water
A few walnut pieces (almond, cashews or pecans are also good)
small handful of fresh berries
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg (optional)
1 Tbl raw honey, to taste
1/4 C low or non-fat plain yogurt

Combine the oats and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the nuts and spices. Simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. If using fresh berries (raspberries shown in the picture above) add them after nearly all the water has been absorbed by the oats. Take off the heat and stir in honey. When the oatmeal has cooled a bit, stir in the yogurt.

Enjoy with a cup of organically grown tea or coffee!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fresh and Fast -- Fish

This is a fast and easy weekday meal to whip up when you want to feel like a cooking superstar with minimal effort. Fish can be very healthful and I try to eat a low-mercury content fish at least once a week. It is generally lean with a good balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. The nutritional benefits of fish vary by species and location of the catch. Generally speaking, wild caught fish is more healthy to eat than farmed. But there are enviromental and sustainablity issues surrounding some wild-caught species. For more details on fish that are healthful and environmentally friendly check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium website or go here

Using fresh greens from our local CSA Two Small Farms combine diced red peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Whisk together a quick vinegarette using some extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Trust me -- use a whisk!

Fish & Pesto:
I thawed two tilapia filets in the refrigerator all day and lightly coated them with eggs and a bit of seasoned (salt and pepper) flour. Then I heated a saute pan over medium heat with a little oil and pan sauteed the fish for about 3-4 minutes on either side until golden brown.

I topped the cooked with with arugula pesto, which was made in the food processor.

Pesto Ingredients:
1 1/2 C arugula (about a bunch)
1/2 C parmesan cheese
2 tsp crushed garlic (or 3-4 cloves fresh garlic)
Drizzle enough oil (I used grapeseed oil, EVOO would work well too) to meet your desired consistency.
Salt & pepper to taste

Once you have the dish assembled don't forget to squeeze lemon on top of it all! Bon appetit!