28 July 2008

Kicking Cholesterol's Butt with Muffins

One of the cardinal rules of fighting high cholesterol is "Incorporate oats into your diet." There are lots of ways to do this: eat oatmeal every day, eat healthy versions of oatmeal cookies, add oat bran to your morning cereal, and more.

When I found out I'd have to lower my cholesterol (later, I found out it was actually the function of an under-active thyroid gland), I bought a copy of The New 8-Week Cholesterol Cure. I read the book, marking quite a bit of it with pink post-it tabs for items to return to later.

In the back of the book is a list of very useful and healthy recipes. The one I picked for my first foray into cholesterol-butt-kicking cooking was Banana Nut Muffins. These muffins are completely oaty. The recipe does not use any flour at all, but instead uses oat bran cereal (which is just oat bran). I'd bought one of those nice, big, relatively inexpensive bags of organic oat bran from Trader Joe's to add the stuff to my hot cereal, so I had it in the house. Ironically (I thought), the recipe includes 2 eggs (or 4-oz of egg substitute), but the book gives instructions for taking phytosterol supplements to offset the eggs. It's an interesting idea that actually works.

The resulting muffins are mighty hearty, yet not nearly as dense as I had imagined they would be. I substituted a few items, and in the future, I would definitely add some raisins, vanilla, and more spices. The original recipe did not include any spices. I can only imagine how plain they tasted. Many of the other recipes seem like they need seasoning (no salt at all!) as well, but I can work with that.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Banana Nut Oat Bran Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.


2 1/4 cups oat bran
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
6 oz pureed ripe bananas
2 beaten eggs (or 4 oz egg substitute)
3 tablespoons canola oil


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line your muffin pan with baking cups and spray them lightly with canola oil.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the oat bran, baking powder, and apple pie spice.
3. In a separate bowl (or a very large measuring cup), mix together the agave nectar, almond milk, bananas, eggs, and canola oil until very well combined.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
5. Fold in the walnuts and mix for 1 minute. ***Important: Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes. This allows the oat bran to soak up some of the liquid and soften.
6. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop out the batter into each of the cups until they are filled evenly. They will have to reach the tops. These will not puff out like typical muffins will.
7. Bake for approximately 18 minutes until they are golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
8. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before releasing the cups and letting the muffins cool completely on a wire rack.
9. Spread with your favorite fruit spread or nut-butter and enjoy!

24 July 2008

Wordle Me This!

This is how Worldle reads this blog. Fun, isn't it?

15 July 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion and a Small Kitchen Fire

Every once in a while, I post something at Here and There worth parroting here. That said, last week I had a harrowing experience with my stove in which I was slightly electrocuted and the thing started a small electrical fire.

After the smoke cleared and John disconnected the power from the wall and pulled the knobs off the range so that we wouldn't mistakenly turn the gas back on, I could go to sleep without worrying too much. However, when the repairman came, he deemed the stove to be "unrepairable." Because we have a home warranty (which I highly recommend, by the way), a new stove will be coming to replace the old one very soon.

Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about poetry and the writing of it. It inspired me so much that I had a dream about a poem -- an ode, if you will, to the errant stove. While I admit it was better in the dream, what spilled from my head into my fingers and onto my computer monitor is this at Here and There).

07 July 2008

Still Life with Yogurt Scones

You wouldn't think you could get a fluffy and flaky scone from a whole-wheat recipe. However, like all the Moosewood and Mollie Katzen recipes I've tried, this scone far exceeds expectations. Of course, using 2/3 of a stick of butter doesn't hurt either. They were very easy to make and took only a short time to bake. They're not terribly sweet, so if you like a sweeter scone, add a little more agave and a few more currants.

In fact, these scones could easily pass for biscuits. Just leave out the currants and add a little cheddar cheese and some jalepenos.

These are definitely best 10 minutes out of the oven. However, if you do need to keep them for a few days, just warm them in the toaster oven, and they'll be good as new.

This recipe is adapted from the now-out-of-print Still Life with Menu cookbook by Mollie Katzen. It's a gorgeous cookbook with loads of original prints from Katzen. I highly recommend it.

I made a few minor changes to the ingredients and directions, so I'll publish it here as I made the recipe.

Yogurt Scones
(based upon the recipe of the same name from Still Life with Menu cookbook by Mollie Katzen.)


1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons very cold, salted butter
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 1/3 cups Greek-style non-fat, plain yogurt
2 eggs
1-2 teaspoons milk
heaping 1/2 cup currants


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of your food processor.
3. Cut the butter into 1-in slices, then add those to the food processor. Pulse the butter and the dry ingredients until you see a coarse meal. Transfer this into a large bowl. DO NOT USE AN ELECTRIC MIXER -- IT WILL OVER-MIX IT.
4. In a large measuring cup, beat the yogurt with one of the eggs. Add this to the dry ingredients with the currants and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. If your dry ingredients are very dry and the mix absorbs all the liquid before the flours are incorporated, add a teaspoon of milk and mix a little more. Just be careful because you don't want to over-mix your dough or let it become too wet.
5. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop out 12 even portions on the first cookie sheet, then the remaining six (evenly spaced) onto the second sheet.
6. Mix one teaspoon milk with the remaining egg and beat well. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash. *If you're making a sweeter scone, you can add a teaspoon of agave nectar to the egg wash before beating it. Just remember to keep an eye on them if you go this route, as the tops will toast up very quickly this way.
7. Bake for 7 minutes, then turn the sheets and switch their positions in the oven (top sheet goes on the bottom, etc.). Bake another 7 minutes and cool on a wire rack until you just can't stand it anymore and have to try one with even more butter or jam.