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Healthy Cupcakes

Check out my latest piece on NPR about healthy cupcakes!

Igos

It is fig season; the time when markets are filled with figs of all shapes and sizes, beckoning me to drop cash that I do not have to indulge in the end of summer fruit.  I don’t know what it is, there’s just something, well, kind of sexy about them.  Maybe it’s the Biblical association: fig leaves were used to clothe the naked Adam and Eve in Genesis and they show up in the Song of Solomon as well, forming in the year of love.  Or maybe it’s their Greekness.  Greek things are sexy, I guess: togas, beaches, flaming cheese.

Either way, I have a love of figs.  I could not help but incorporate them into my latest dinner party.  On total improvisation, praying they would turn out okay, I put together plum and fig tarts for my friends.  The pastry I must admit was slightly crunchy, I think partially due to a lack of butter (I always try to be healthy, sometimes to a fault), so here I added a bit more to the recipe.  But, the figs and plums were delicious, highlighted with a hint of thyme and honey.

Makes 6 tarts

Pastry:

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

a pinch of ground ginger

1 1/4 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and mix with a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and ice water and work that in with your hands. (Or do the whole thing in a food processor, pulsing a couple of times to combine the dry ingredients, then pulsing in the butter, and then the egg.) Check the consistency of the dough by squeezing a small amount together between thumb and forefingers: You want there to be just enough moisture to bind the dough so that it holds together without being too wet or sticky. If it’s still crumbly, add a little more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time. When you get it to the right consistency, shape the dough into 6 disks and wrap it in plastic. Put it in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.

For filling:

3 plums, pitted and sliced

6 figs, cut into 6ths

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 egg, beaten with a drizzle of water

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Move the oven rack to the bottom third of the oven.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough. Loosely drape the dough round over the rolling pin and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Trim the edges if you want the tart to look more refined (I skipped this part).  You should have 6 rounds on two baking sheets.

Toss the fruit with the sugar, thyme, honey, lemon, and cornstarch.  Place the fruit in each round, half a plum and a fig in each. Fold up the edges around the fruit, pressing with fingers to seal.  Brush with the egg glaze. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling up through the vents, 40 to 50 minutes. Cover the edges with aluminum foil if they brown too fast. Cool on a rack before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Oatmeal Epiphany

Like people in any profession, you observe the work and admire select people in your field.  For me, Margaret Tung at The Atlantic consistently posts recipes I love.  Granted, in total that is three recipes, but still, what are the chances of me truly loving all three?  In fact, her chocolate cake has become my Passover cake (for those who accept legumes), and her blood orange cake is beautiful (and based on a recipe by Ina Garten whom I also love).  So I was not-all-too surprised when I decided to make Margaret’s pumpkin oatmeal that it was outrageously delicious, nutritious, and filling.

Courtesey of Margaret Tung at The Atlantic

The recipe is so simple, yet adds a flavor component that completely changes the texture and flavor of the everyday oatmeal.  The recipe calls for pumpkin spice and walnuts, and not having either on hand, I skipped them and still the overwhelming feeling of fall and pumpkin pie filled my bowl.  Of course, I now have the wheels churning: pumpkin oatmeal muffins with chocolate chips?  Pumpkin oatmeal pancakes?  Keep your eyes peeled for a future pumpkin post….

Muffins Galore!

For whatever reason, I am currently in a muffin phase.  I can no longer deny myself the lovely comfort of carbohydrates!  Sometimes my craving is frozen yogurt, sometimes dried fruit (pineapple!), sometimes chocolate, and right now it’s muffins.  But, as always, I am an avid supporter of healthy foods; my goal is to cause the least amount of damage while achieving the highest amount of satisfaction.  For muffins, I have found that butter and oil are easily replaced by yogurt, pumpkin, or applesauce.  Anything creamy will keep the baked good moist and delicious.  I started my muffin quest with pumpkin muffins.  Crossing my fingers that they would be edible, I was pleasantly surprised when they were not only fluffy and moist but also delicious.  I kept them on my counter, indulging whenever I needed an afternoon snack or a breakfast on-the-go.  This week, I baked a chocolate chip banana bread for my cousin and decided that I wanted something similar for myself.  Looking in my fridge I saw two small zucchinis sitting alone in my vegetable drawer.  An hour later I had banana zucchini muffins.

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup SPLENDA brown sugar blend

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tsp honey

1 cup buttermilk

Lychees

Check out my new piece on NPR: “Cracking The Lychee ‘Nut‘”

A new music video for you!  Admittedly, these are two of my friends, but I am super impressed by their new album and even more so the fact that they have a music video, so I thought I’d share it with you all.  This is HarperBlynn (formerly Pete and J)’s new video for “Lonliest Generation.”

Israel Cont’d

A perfect example in the New York Times today of my previous post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/08/opinion/08kristof.html?src=me&ref=general

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