Our theme for October’s Recipe Redux has to do with one of my favorite colors: orange! “Orange You Glad It’s Fall?” I certainly am!

Markets are plentiful with the colors of autumn including pumpkin, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and even golden beets. Not only are these produce bursting with fall flavors but they are also chocked full of carotenoid antioxidants.

No matter how they look, pumpkins are loaded with carotenoids!

What’s a car…carrot…caroten…that thing you said? ker-ROT-n-oids are plant pigments that your body converts into vitamin A. Fruits and veggies in red, orange, and yellow (hey, fall colors!) have various concentrations of this. Even leafy greens like kale and spinach contain the yellow carotenoid hidden beneath a healthy concentration of chlorophyll. Vitamin A helps protect your cells against damaging free radicals, improves your immune system…and you know the old saying about how carrots are good for your eyesight? Well with all that beta-carotene,  there just might be some truth to what mom used to say at dinner time!

After making the Chocolate Pumpkin-Coconut Pudding for the “How to Tofu” challenge sponsored by the National Soyfoods Council, not only have I been eating a lot of tofu (and scrapping several failed recipes), I’ve been craving the delicious taste of pumpkin. So much so that I’d like to share two pumpkin recipes with you today!

Recipe 1: Pumpkin Coconut Muffins
I love baking with spelt flour. It’s more substantial than regular white flour but can still result in tender cakes with the addition of fats, such as coconut oil. Plus, if you’re sensitive to wheat products but not allergic, spelt flour is easier on your stomach. Here I’m using several coconut ingredients: coconut extract, coconut milk, coconut oil, and dried coconut. Am I coo coo for coconut? You bet!

I asked my husband what he thought of these and he said, “It tastes like windmill cookies (spekulaas)…in cake form!”

mini pumpkin coconut muffins

Pumpkin Coconut Muffins
These tender muffins are filled with warm spices and delicate coconut flavor. 

Ingredients:

2 cups spelt flour (or regular all-purpose flour)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon*
1 teaspoon ground ginger*
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/2 teaspoon allspice*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic (or non-organic) pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 cup organic virgin coconut oil, melted (or cooking oil)
1/2 cup organic coconut milk, such as Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk (or almond milk, soy moo or moo juice)
unsweetened coconut flakes

*alternatively, use 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray muffin tins with nonstick spray or line with paper baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients with a wire whisk. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients until well blended. Add to dry ingredients (mixture will be thick).

Spoon mixture into prepared muffin pans until 2/3 full. Sprinkle with coconut flakes. For mini muffins, bake for 10-12 minutes. For regular sized muffins, bake for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Makes  approximately 20 regular muffins, 40 mini muffins.


Recipe 2: Pumpkin Risotto:
After buying a few pumpkins at Frog Pond Produce Stand to decorate our front door I had pumpkins on my mind…again. I wanted a cozy, comforting pumpkin dish for dinner. What could be cozier than a creamy risotto?

Warm up a chilly evening with this creamy pumpkin risotto.

Creamy Pumpkin Risotto, serves 2
Sage, nutmeg and allspice makes this dish warm and savory with a bit of heat from red pepper flakes.

Ingredients:

1/2 pie pumpkin, seeded (about 1 – 1 1/2 pounds)
cooking spray
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup arborio rice
1 quart (32 ounces) chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon dried sage, divided
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an 8″x8″ pan, add 1/2″ water. Place pumpkin cut side down in pan, carefully score with a knife. Spray outside with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until soft. Let cool for a few minutes, drain any remaining water from baking dish. Peel off pumpkin skin (I actually like to eat it!) and mash the filling in the baking dish with a fork. Set aside.

After the roast.

Pumpkin is very tender, removing skin and mashing with fork will be a cinch.

In a large frying pan, heat cooking oil over medium heat. Add chicken, cook for 1 minute. Add sage and salt, cook 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add onions, cook for 1 minute. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

In the same frying pan over medium heat, add risotto and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Stir and cook until liquid is absorbed, adding 1/2 cup more each time but don’t let the pan dry out. Stir frequently and keep adding broth and cook for 20 minutes. Risotto should be chewy, almost done.

If you like, replace 1/2 cup of the broth with a wheat beer or white wine.

After 20 minutes add half of roasted pumpkin (about 1 cup) to risotto, stirring well. Add rest of pumpkin, remaining sage and salt, and red pepper flakes and nutmeg, stirring well for 2-3 minutes. Stir in cooked chicken and onions and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more. Add more salt to taste.

Serve on a bed of spinach or lightly steamed kale, topped with roasted pumpkin pieces. Enjoy!

Check out other nutritious fall favorites from fellow Recipe Redux members:


This month’s Recipe Redux theme is something pretty interesting, it’s all about fermented foods!

Have you grown up eating something that you didn’t know was good for you? Sure there are healthy dishes like baked potatoes with steamed broccoli & cheese, roasted chicken and veggies, or a nice chef’s salad. One of my favorite Japanese foods was a simple soup made with miso paste and garnished with green onion and tofu. Japanese restaurants always serve this with your meal, but homemade versions of miso soup can have dried shrimp, pieces of chicken or beef, a raw egg stirred into the steaming broth (like Chinese egg flower soup) or it can be made into a hearty meal with pearl barley, carrots, and konbu (see my recipe here). It’s also eaten for breakfast! Better than a bowl of cereal, miso soup is gluten-free, vegan, contains probiotics to keep your gut healthy, is low in fat and calories, and even contains protein, vitamins and minerals. (The ingredients of Shirakiku brand shiro miso contains water, soybeans, rice, salt, and alcohol.)

Turkey and Vegetable Seaweed Soup uses chicken broth and white miso.

After doing some reading, I now know a little more about the benefits behind this savory soy-based paste. Probiotics are the gut-friendly bacteria that help maintain the integrity of the stomach lining, break down food, and boost our immune systems. These little critters are found in fermented foods like miso, kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage), tsukemono (Japanese pickles), sauerkraut, dill pickles, and yogurt. Though bacteria might seem indestructible when you’re trying to get rid of it, they can be destroyed with antibiotics, a poor diet, or stress, and this leads to an increase in the unfriendly bacteria that causes gas, bloating, cramps, and…well, you probably know what I’m talking about! But as long as we have a good amount of probiotics in our gut, it will be easier to stay healthy and function like the happy humans we were born to be.

Another way to ensure a good supply of gut-friendly bacteria is to eat yogurt. Check the label to be sure it contains live active cultures.

Here is an easy recipe for chicken that is marinated overnight and cooked in just minutes. For an easy clean-up, use a foil lined pan or do what I do and improvise!

Easy Miso Chicken (serves 2)

1/2 cup shiro (white) miso paste
1/2 cup sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 teaspoon white or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
sesame oil
several pieces green onion (about 1/4 cup chopped)

Directions:

Combine miso, sake, sugar, and pepper flakes in a bowl, mix with a wire whisk until combined. Reserve half of marinade and store in tightly sealed container in refrigerator. Add chicken, coat well. Cover with plastic wrap or store in a plastic container with lid, refrigerate overnight.

Pan-fry Method: Heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off. Fry chicken pieces for 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Top with reserved marinade and let simmer for a minute or two before serving. Garnish with chopped green onion.

No pan? Use heavy-duty foil or double-up regular foil, fold the edges up to form a shallow dish and pinch the edges. Place on a pizza pan or cookie sheet when baking. Use foil to store leftover chicken or toss when done.

Oven Method: Drizzle sesame oil in a shallow baking dish lined with foil, add chicken and marinade, making sure chicken is in one layer. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 7 minutes or until top is starting to brown. Remove and set oven to broil. Top with reserved marinade, return to oven and broil for 3-5 minutes or until top begins to scorch (but don’t let the whole thing scorch!) Garnish with chopped green onion.

Serve on a bed of fresh spinach with steamed brown rice and kimchee or tsukemono.

Easy miso chicken

Here are more recipes using miso:

Panko Crusted Chicken Strips
Miso-Lemon Dressing
Miso Quinoa Salad (use Miso-Lemon Dressing above)
Turkey and Vegetable Seaweed Soup (shown above and featured in May’s Recipe Redux)
For more information on the health benefits of miso, check out this great article at The World’s Healthiest Foods : http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=114.

Want to know more on probiotics and Asian fermented foods?

Kimchi and probiotics: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grace-suh-coscia-lac-diplom/fermented-foods_b_1220756.html
A mouth-watering guide to Japanese pickleshttp://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2349.html
7 Benefits of probiotics: http://www.3fatchicks.com/7-benefits-of-probiotics/
Facts on my yogurt of choicehttp://chobani.com/products/faq/




Is it August already?! Time flies when you’re having fun, especially for those of us who share yummy treats and awesome eats on What I Ate Wednesdays!

Last month was incredibly fun with Jenn’s theme of “Food, Fun and Fitness” and the momentum is carried over to August with “Summer Staples.” One summer staple I’ve been enjoying are big bowls of healthy fruit disguised as lunch salads. Combinations of fresh fruits, veggies, yogurt, and even some protein powder make a wonderful midday meal that is packed with vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, protein, and deliciousness! It’s a mish-mash of raw foods and gut-friendly yogurt, so it’s also great for digestion. Plus, it’s low in fat…reeealll low! ;)

On to breakfast!

Post-workout breakfast was peanut butter jelly toast, coffee and fruit (recycled picture here):

Lunch was a fruit & veggie salad bowl (It’s been my favorite for the past couple weeks now!) If you regularly have a good supply of fruits and veggies, you can come up with some crazy combinations that taste great!

A mish-mash of fruits, veggies, and marinated tofu & cucumber…delicious!

This has got to be the most delicious and healthy snack I’ve made in a long, long time: 6oz yogurt mixed with a spoonful of protein powder, dash of cinnamon (for sweetness and flavor,) and a heaping half cup of fresh fruits:

Make your own yogurt bowl with any combination of yogurt and fruits (no granola needed!)

Dinner was inspired by Paula Deen’s recipe for “Oven Fried Chicken.” I reduced the cheese and oil and added miso paste for flavor (and some salt.) Instead of water and additional oil, I used lemon juice. Serve it up with Lemony Basil Pesto and steamed brown rice (don’t forget the chopsticks!)

With brown rice and Lemony Pine Nut Pesto, this dinner is complete!

Basil Crusted Panko Chicken Strips – serves 2

Ingredients:

1 cup panko or crushed corn flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 8-oz chicken breast, cut into 1/4″ think pieces
optional veggie sides: asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, or any veggie you like roasted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix panko, cheese and basil. Divide in half, set aside. Mix olive oil, miso, and lemon juice. Add chicken pieces and stir to coat. Dip chicken pieces in half of the panko mixture, adding more from the reserve mix as needed. Place on silpat or cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray, leaving some room for veggies, if using.

There was enough room to squeeze in the asparagus. Perfect dinner for two!

Using your hand, toss veggies in leftover miso paste, add 1-2 tablespoons panko mixture and tossing well to coat. Place on cookie sheet with chicken or on a new sheet if not enough room. (leftover panko mix can be used in your favorite burger, meat loaf or meat ball mixture. Store in fridge for up to 3 days.)

Bake for 10-12 minutes (3-5 minutes longer if your chicken is cut into thicker pieces.) Serve immediately with Lemony Pine Nut Pesto.

What are some of your favorite fruits of the summer? Got any great recipes for potlucks, picnics or family gatherings?

Has anyone been having a crazy hot & sunny week like we’re having in Upstate NY? I’m glad for the sunshine, but doing yard work is more difficult with the heat, as well as the bugs that keep attacking me. My sister also gets a ton of bug bites and calls them “noseeums,” because you really can’t see what the heck is biting you!

Checked the thermometers around 4 o’clock in the afternoon: one on the south side of the house says 95, the one facing west says 105, and another is 120! I felt more sorry for the cats, especially Wolfie, who’s more equipped for cooler weather (see below pic.) I waited until the sun was behind some trees to do some weeding and redo the stones by “the gateway”:

Wolfie, guarding his catnip plants.

Last month we got an unfinished wooden picnic table that started looking pretty yucky after a few days in the rain. It needed some color, even a neutral color would be an improvement. I had the hardest time deciding on a paint color at the store when Fate stepped in (or was her name Karen?) and put a few gallons of “reject” paint on the clearance shelf. A $36 can of exterior paint marked down to $8? Works for me! I painted the picnic table gray, then dry-brushed and damp-sponged it with white. I think it turned out pretty great!

A little neutral color goes a long way

– This also turned out to be a good background for my photos. Here you can see the white over gray brush/spongework:

Peony in silver vase

Peonies in silver vases

I was planning to make some curry for dinner (following the “Flavor of the Week” theme) but it was so incredibly hot, I needed something cool and refreshing. There was some leftover quinoa, veggies, and chicken that needed to be cooked so I made a miso-based sauce with a healthy squirt of fresh lemon juice for this pretty tasty quinoa chicken salad:

A light, refreshing salad that’s also filling: quinoa, tomatoes, water chestnuts, chicken, green onion and a dressing made with miso paste, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and lemon juice.

We also had some kale massaged with salt, lemon juice and sesame oil. Delicious!

What are some of your favorite summertime salads?

Rich, slightly smoky, tangy barbecue sauce. Great on beans, too!

The other night I really wanted some barbecue ribs. Back home, my Uncle Paul would make these huge, Flintstone-style ribs on the grill with a few simple seasonings and it always came out perfect. It was tasty stuff and, as a kid, gnawing on those huge bones was a lot of fun!

Since there was no chance I would be eating any of my uncle’s barbecue ribs anytime soon, I still had a craving, and more specifically, for that one thing he rarely put on his own ribs: barbecue sauce! I tried a recipe for “St. Louis Style Barbecue Sauce,” but it was way too sweet for my taste and was missing that umami flavor. So I improvised and made up my own recipe (below.)

While the sauce was simmering,  I made a quick batch of wheat-free corn bread muffins (Blood Type Diet A recipe from Cook Right 4 Your Type.) The scant 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour make it taste less like a traditional corn muffin so next time no buckwheat. Two chicken breasts were cut in half lengthwise, seasoned with a bit of salt and red pepper flakes, then pan-fried in unsalted butter. I still had some cooked beans from when I made turkey bean burgers the other night so served that on the side topped with barbecue sauce. Everything tasted much better than I thought, and I was surprised at how fast I ate everything on my plate! Maybe I was craving ribs, but the chicken and barbecue sauce were more than satisfying for tonight’s dinner.

And who knows, maybe my uncle might like it. :)

 

Jenny’s Tangy Barbecue Sauce
makes about 1 1/2 cups 

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine (I just used a table wine, but something dry would be good)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons tamari
1/2 onion, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried onion)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried garlic)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Put everything in a pot, bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning. Turn off heat and taste. If too sweet, stir in 1 tablespoon mustard. If too vinegary, add 1 teaspoon more sugar. Use as a baste or topping.