Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cherry Pancake Muffins

I’m always looking for something delicious and easy to have for breakfast. I love sweets and luckily fruit tends to do the trick (most of the time!) I was in the mood for pancakes this morning and thanks to a good friend I learned of pancake muffins (maybe I've been living under a rock) – they're easy to whip up and you stick them in the oven so there’s no flipping!
I decided to fill these little breakfast treats with fresh cherries (you can also use frozen cherries, or any other fruit you have laying around). I made my favorite pancake batter, no boxes here! Sprayed a cupcake tin, filled each cup about 1/3 of the way, added the freshly cut cherries and maple syrup, and topped each cup off with the rest of the batter to fill each cup about ¾ full. I popped these bad boys in the oven for 15 minutes on 350 and, voila! Perfectly cooked pancake muffins! I added more cherries on the side and topped with a little more syrup for a great breakfast treat.
These muffins are a great breakfast option for kids, brunch with friends, or breakfast in bed with the one you love!
Pancake Batter (makes 6 muffins)
1 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
¾ cup milk
2 ½ tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup fresh cherries, diced, plus extra for topping
½ cup Maple syrup, plus extra for topping
Preheat oven to 350.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. 
Mix milk, butter, egg, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a small bowl. 
Make a well in the dry mixture and add wet mixture; mix until smooth.
Pour batter in each muffin tin to 1/3 full.
Add cherries and maple syrup evenly to each tin and top with pancake batter to fill each tin ¾ of the way.

Bake for 15 minutes and enjoy!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Farro - My New Favorite Grain!

 I recently became introduced to farro at a local breakfast spot that included it as part of their granola option. It was paired yogurt, fresh diced fruit, and honey. I loved the texture and flavor and wanted to learn more. Little did I know that this tiny grain packed such a nutrient-rich punch! Its fantastic and can be used in anything from breakfast items such as the granola I had to soups and salads and more! Here's some interesting information I found on the old world grain...

In recent years, quinoa and cous cous have become staples in many households across the US. With their known health benefits, these grains provide a lot of protein, dietary fiber, and iron. These whole grains provide a natural balance to a diet that may be lacking in such nutrients, specifically those who are vegan and vegetarian. Farro is a whole grain sustained from Roman times and has been a staple across the Middle East and Italy for centuries. It has most recently gained popularity with many chefs and is being featured on menus everywhere from five-star restaurants to local breakfast spots throughout the Western world.

What is Farro?
Farro is a whole grain derived from something like a wheat plant. However, it is actually considered a “light wheat” which means it is lower in gluten than many wheat products. This is especially good news for those with a gluten intolerance, GI discomfort, and those with Celiac’s Disease. Farro has a chewy, nutty texture which compliments many of the dishes it is served with. It is a great substitute in foods that typically contain rice, oats, and pasta such as soups, breakfast meals, and salads.

What are the nutritional advantages of farro?
Farro has many nutritional advantages over other whole grains such as wheat, quinoa, and rice. Although all of these grains have their advantages, it may be beneficial to add farro to your recipe book for a bit of variety. Farro is known to contain less calories and fat than quinoa, while it contains more protein and calcium. It contains more protein, iron, calcium, and fiber than brown rice and can be used in quite a few more dishes as a substitute.
Farro is a good source of complex carbohydrates which is linked to lower blood cholesterol. Since it contains a good source of protein, minerals, and vitamins, such as vitamin B, it can be eaten alone or with fresh vegetables or legumes for a complete meal.

Where can I find farro?
While it is still gaining popularity in the US, farro can be found at many health food stores in the same section as the rice and quinoa. Store brands can be found in some and may be a cheaper alternative. While brown rice is still one of the cheapest grains, farro contains more nutrients per serving. Farro is typically found cheaper per package than quinoa or kamut. Another great alternative is that because it is such a nutrient-rich grain, the portion sizes can be kept to about ½ cup of cooked farro.

Nutritional Information
½ cup of cooked farro contains: 100 calories; 1 gram of fat; 3.5 grams of fiber; 5 grams of protein; 4% daily calcium; 4% daily iron
When combined with nutrient dense vegetables, legumes, and fruits, this super-grain provides a flavorful meal packed with energy that lasts! Try it as an alternative to your next stir fry, grain-salad (recipe below), or pair it with diced apples, Greek yogurt, and cinnamon for breakfast!

Information adapted from Clemson.edu library online and NYTimes.com online. Pricing information adapted from bobsredmill.com

Mediterranean Farro Salad (from Bob’s Red Mill Organic Farro package)

·         1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Farro
·         3 cups Water
·         1 cup cubed Eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
·         5 Tbsp Olive Oil (3 Tbsp for frying)
·         Salt as needed
·         1/2 cup diced Red Onion
·         1/2 cup low sodium chickpeas (Not part of the Bob's Red Mill recipe*)
·         1 cup seeded and diced Tomatoes
·         1-1/2 cups seeded and diced Cucumber
·         1/4 cup Lemon Juice
·         1/2 cup chopped Parsley
·         1/4 cup chopped Mint
·         1/4 cup chopped Dill

1.       Prepare farro using the direct or quick-cooking method. Drain and let cool.
2.       Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread cubes on several layers of paper towels and lightly salt. Let sit for about 15 minutes to extract any excess water from the vegetable. Blot cubes dry.
3.       Heat 1/2-inch oil in a heavy skillet. Fry eggplant cubes in batches, stirring often to brown all sides. When dark brown, remove eggplant from oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt, if desired.
4.       When cool, toss farro with vegetables, chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil and herbs.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 4 - 8 servings

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories per serving: 210
Total Fat per serving: 12g
Total Carbs per serving: 22g
Dietary Fiber: 20%

Protein: 4g (*Can be increased by 20g (40% daily value) by adding chickpeas/garbanzo beans to salad)

First Things First...

I'm starting a blog?!!

After graduating from Arizona State University this past December with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, I, as many graduates, wondered, “Where do I go from here?” I have a great job at one of the busiest restaurants in the Phoenix metropolitan area. I have a solid group of friends who motivate me. I have a beautiful house with two silly dogs and a wonderfully handsome boyfriend. My life is perfect, for me. But, as I’ve always been, I strive to do more.

My dream in getting a degree in dietetics was to educate others about health and fitness and show them that it is much more fun, delicious, and easier than thought. I have a few friends who are bloggers and it has always seemed fun, but maybe a little too revealing for someone as myself. I am quite outgoing, but can also be very shy and insecure when it comes to personal thoughts and goals. I finally sat down and said to myself, “Do it! What’s the worst that can happen?” People can laugh at me, people can make fun of me, people may not even care. But it’s a way for me to utilize my time, knowledge, and quirkiness and hopefully make someone’s day by giving them motivation, a healthy new idea, or just by making them laugh. And hey, it is going to be fun!

My boyfriend is one of the most supportive people in my life and when telling him I wanted to start a blog, he jumped at the idea, which of course just made me more confident. Thanks, babe! Although, when asking his idea for a name for the blog, he was quite quick to say, “How about ‘My Annoying Girlfriend’?” See if he ever gets to eat the cake batter from the bowl again…

So here we are, my first blog. Something to hold myself accountable for my own goals and hopefully to influence those of you who are interested. My plan is to give advice on lifestyle (diets) and exercise. I’ll share recipes on those delicious, not so healthy, but ok in moderation, treats. And of course, many recipes for delicious AND healthy meals and snacks.