Banana Oatmeal Muffins

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Overripe bananas on sale at the grocery store or you purchased more than you anticipated eating? Banana oatmeal breakfast muffins are an exceptional way to save “wasted” bananas. Unlike muffins from Starbucks, these easy breakfast or snack treats are free of sugars and loaded with nutritional benefits like flax seeds

Flax seeds come in two basic varieties: brown and yellow (also known as golden linseeds). Most types have similar nutritional characteristics and equal numbers of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. The exception is a type of yellow flax called solin (trade name Linola), which has a completely different oil profile. Solin is very low in omega-3 fatty acids. Although brown flax can be consumed as readily as yellow, and has been for thousands of years, it is better known as an ingredient in paints, fiber and cattle feed. Flax seeds produce a vegetable oil known as flaxseed or linseed oil–is one of the oldest commercial oils­–and solvent-processed flaxseed oil has been used for centuries as a drying oil in painting and varnishing.

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Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. I like to use Chobani when baking or cooking with Greek yogurt because of its
    thicker texture.
  2. You can use vanilla yogurt just remember to nix the teaspoon of vanilla.
  3. The honey works well to add sweetness to the dish.
  4. Do not use agave!!! Although agave is becoming increasingly popular, agave is made with high fructose corn syrup.
  5. The flax seed is an added nutritional benefit as noted above.
  6. Your bananas should be spotted brown and very ripe. They will mash easily; the riper the banana, the sweeter the taste.
  7. I cooked my muffins at 400 degrees and they were still moist and delicious.
  8. Pulsing the oats in a food processor creates oat flour.
  9. I added pecans to my batter.
  10. The muffins will be dense and moist from using a banana base.

Muffins are always a great way to create a grab-and-go breakfast. The use of sweet bananas and the acidity of the pecans work as a perfect pair. There is room for diversity in ingredients. Try dark chocolate for a dessert muffin; try raisins for a healthier muffin; try strawberries for a fruity muffin. Any way you like it this muffin can offer.

Leave a comment with your favorite muffin mixes. Follow my Pinterest. Check back again next Wednesday for more tips and tricks from The Cooking Bug.

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Curried Quinoa Stew

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Quinoa is thriving in the new year. People, like myself, are enjoying the seed that offers vast amount of protein per carbohydrate. It can run close in comparison to the textures of couscous or pearl barley and works as a gluten free, nutritional powerhouse. The addition of quinoa to stews works perfectly because the seed grows and cooks in a liquid base. So, jumping on the quinoa bandwagon, the curried quinoa stew delivers on all notes.

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Curry, is the generic English term primarily employed in Western culture to denote a wide variety of dishes whose origins are Southern and Southeastern Asian cuisines, as well as New World cuisines influenced by them such as Trinidadian, Mauritian or Fijian. In originaltraditional cuisines, the precise selection of spices for each dish is a matter of national or regional cultural tradition, religious practice and, to some extent, family preference. Curry powder, a commercially prepared mixture of spices, is largely a Western notion, dating to the 18th century. Such mixtures are commonly thought to have first been prepared by Indian merchants for sale to members of the British Colonial government and army returning to Britain. Curries may be either wet or dry. Wet curries contain significant amounts of sauce or gravy based on yogurt, coconut milk, legume purée (dal) or stock. Dry curries are cooked with very little liquid that is allowed to evaporate, leaving the other ingredients coated with the spice mixture. The main spices found in most South Asian curry powders are turmeric, coriander and cumin; a wide range of additional spices may be included depending on the geographic region.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. I used baby carrots in place of chopping a large carrot.
  2. Using fresh ginger is essential in curry related meals. It adds depth and a more authentic taste to the dish.
  3. I made my own curry powder. It is an equal mixture of turmeric, ground cumin, coriander and cayenne (optional).
  4. I used tomato sauce. I do not care for tomatoes and the sauce thickens the stew without leaving chunks.
  5. You can use vegetable broth for a vegetarian dish.
  6. I used white kidney beans in place of black beans. It was by random chance that I mixed the two cans up; however, I feel the kidney beans work better to balance the dish whereas black beans would overpower the flavors.
  7. The nut buttes add a depth of flavor to the dish and a creaminess to the soup. Also, it provides a hint of the end color.
  8. I nixed the cilantro because I do not care for the minty Mexican spice.
  9. Use a fair amount of spinach because it will wilt in the stew. Tearing it can be essential in dispersing the spinach evenly without spinach balls.
  10. I liked to cook my dish in my dutch oven. It works equally to a large pot, but the spices and flavors of curry will sink into the soul of your dutch oven: YUM!
  11. After adding the quinoa, stir the dish occasionally to keep it from burning. You will begin to notice that the stew becomes thicker as the quinoa absorbs the liquid while
    being tossed.
  12. Similar to the quinoa chili I have created in the past, you could substitute the carrots with sweet potatoes. Keep in mind that your nutritional information would then change as well since carrots are low in calories.

I have a knack for enjoying Indian dishes. Curry’s potent flavors and aroma are one of my favorite spices to work with. It can transform dishes into wonderful meals. I enjoy that curries and Indian dishes incorporate a vast amount of spices: meaning I can obtain flavor without calories. From the nuttiness of the peanut butter to the protein of the quinoa, my stomach was dancing after enjoying the meal. Eaten on a cold winter night or for an Indian flared party, the dish will wow friends and family alike.

Leave a comment with your favorite Indian recipes. Follow my Pinterest for more recipes. Check back again next Wednesday for more tips and tricks from The Cooking Bug.

Pumpkin Sage Polenta

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The pumpkin saga continues with a pumpkin sage polenta.  I’m sure my pumpkin recipes outnumber a majority of my other recipes: obsessed much.  I love the soft, moist tenderness that pumpkin tends to add to these dishes.  Pumpkin fits nicely into polenta because it obtains a velvety texture when cooked.  The softness is complimented well with the powerful sage for a complete balance of flavors, texture and delicacy.

As it is known today, polenta derives from earlier forms of grain–puls or pulmentum, more commonly known as gruel or porridge–eaten since Roman times.  Polenta has a creamy texture due to the gelatinization of starch in the grain. However, it may not be completely homogeneous if a coarse grind or hard grain such as flint corn is used.  Historically, polenta is served as a peasant food in North America and Europe, but is considered upscale today.  Polenta is cooked by simmering in a water-based liquid combined with other ingredients.  It is often cooked in a huge copper pot known in Italian as a paiolo.  Polenta is known to be a native dish of and to have originated from Friuli.  Boiled and leftover polenta may be left to set, then baked or fried.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Use legit polenta not the pre-made, pre-packaged gross polenta.  It has sodium and preservatives through the roof.
  2. I used homemade pumpkin puree; however, you can use canned pumpkin puree if
    need be.
  3. In place of water, you can use milk for a creamier polenta.  If using milk, nix the cheese
    in half.
  4. Limit the sage.  Sage is a powerful flavor profile, and you do not want to overpower
    the dish.
  5. The parmesan cheese softens the dish as a whole creating a deeper depth of flavor.
  6. You can use salted butter, but nix the salt otherwise.
  7. Be sure to continuously whisk the polenta after boiling to keep the polenta from burning and mix the ingredients.
  8. The polenta will begin to thicken once you begin stirring.
  9. Keep stirring!!!!  Polenta is a corn meal base that requires constant stirring in order to cook correctly.

This dish is the perfect holiday and special occasion meal.  Creamy and dreamy, the silky consistency and decadent aromas will melt in your mouth.  Whipping up the pumpkin sage polenta will add a dash of autumn to your plate.  It’s a sophisticated dish made easy.

Leave a comment with other pumpkin favorites.  Follow my Pinterest for more recipes.  Check back again next Wednesday for more tips and tricks from The Cooking Bug.

Black Bean Soup

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I specifically go to Paradise Bakery, owned by Panera, on Tuesdays because they have black bean soup.  So, I was excited to find a black bean soup favorite soup with a hidden twist.  The smokiness of the black beans and cumin pair well with the sweetness of the pumpkin puree.  Neither flavor is suppressed creating a sweet and savory dish perfect for those cold fall and winter nights.

I recommend making the soup with fresh pumpkin.  Canned pumpkin has added preservatives that change the flavor profiles.  The squash and pumpkin allow for a creamy texture in the soup.  Adding nutmeg creates a sweeter soup; adding jalapenos or adobe chilies creates a spicy soup; adding sour cream on top of the finished product creates a cooling element to the soup.
Photo from Julia

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. I used homemade pumpkin puree since I pretend to live in fall year round, but the recipe works with butternut squash as well.blackbeanpumpkinsoup2
  2. Be sure to have a food processor.  I had a hand one that worked well, but it left a few chunks.
  3. Use vegetable broth for vegetarians.
  4. Use fire-roasted tomatoes for an extra, southwest flavor blast.
  5. I nixed the shallots because it was difficult to find them at the grocery store.  In place of shallots, substitute extra garlic and onion.
  6. Replace the butter with pam to sweat the onions and bringing out the sweetness.  I suggest using red onions because they are sweeter.
  7. The cumin provides a smoky and spicy flavor reminiscent of many Southwest dishes.
  8. I suggest simmering the soup for only 15 minutes or until it becomes thick.  You do not want to overcook the soup and pumpkin.
  9. Homemade pumpkin will create that soft orange color lightly darkened by the beans
    and tomatoes.
  10. I suggest adding the rest of the black beans from the can into the soup because I enjoy chunky soups.

blackbeanpumpkinsoup3The black bean and pumpkin soup combines my two favorite flavors.  I am obsessed with pumpkin, making everyday fall.  I love that this soup can be made and frozen for a day I need a warm pick-up.  A spicy kick and a sweet ending blend the flavors of fall and the southwest.  Be a cowboy in the kitchen!

Leave a comment with your favorite pumpkin recipes.  Follow my Pinterest for more recipes.  Check back again next Wednesday for more tips and tricks from The Cooking Bug.