Thursday, December 11, 2014

Healthier donuts and my sparkling new kitchen toy

With Hanukkah around the corner, I've been thinking of healthy-fying the holiday menu a bit. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the Hanukkah tradition celebrates the miracle during the rededication of the Second Temple when the menorah’s candles burned for 8 nights even though there was only enough olive oil to keep it burning for a single day.   So, oil is a must, and oily food has been the tradition serving as a true symbol of the holiday miracle.

But really, with traditional latkes (potatoes deep-fried in oil) already planned for 2-3 of the 8 day long celebration, something's gotta give... And I decided that it'll have to be in the dessert section.
So, a week before hanukkah, I started planning our holiday menu. The dessert menu would include baked donuts instead of the traditional sufganiyot.  After all, I'll still be using a bit of oil in the batter and spraying the pan with non-stick spray. That should count for oil! But as luck would have it, I also found 3-in-1 cake pop, donuts and cupcake maker that would make treats more interesting year round, and the kitchen less messy, making for a much easier life! The gadget has 3 different plates that you can interchange to make mini-donuts, cakepops and cupcakes. I was hemming and hawing at first on whether I should get it, but decided that 1) my daughters love cake pops, and I can make a healthier and cheaper version than Starbucks' cake pops with this new gadget 2) and hubby  just got himself a new car, so yeah, I deserved a new toy too.


I stumbled upon a paleo donut recipe online, which I tweaked ever so slightly. Mind you, I'm not on a paleo diet, but I do love high-protein treats, which this recipe was.  A must-have for making donuts is, well, a donut mold. Or, a sparkling red multi treat maker like mine! Seriously, I'm sold on this new toy. I can churn donuts like I'm in a restaurant business!

And I got these beautiful, healthier donuts that my kids and husband couldn't stop eating. This recipe is flourless, and sugar-free. I made 2 batches with the intention of freezing half, but had to defrost it the following day because my cuddly monsters devoured them like they haven't seen donuts before. I also added a heaping scoop of protein powder to make it an even greater protein-packed treat after my workout, but alas... I've only managed to enjoy a few. I swear I'm sneaking in spinach, carrots and kale (gasp!) the next time I make these.

So, the recipe is as follows:
1.5 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Ghirardelli preferred; but if you find parve cocoa, it's even better)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened pure organic applesauce
pinch of salt
6 eggs (it's ok, it made 42 mini-donuts! Also, maybe try flax eggs next time for the vegan version?)
2 tbsp coconut oil (Hanukkah-required!)
6 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (optional)
Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tsp coconut oil
Instructions: You can buy almond meal, or you can grind almonds with Vitamix, which I did. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Spoon into sprayed donut tin or in a sparkling red multi treat maker! If using the sparkling red mini-donut maker, bake for 4 mins and 44 seconds.  Why? Because I'm too lazy to push other numbers in my timer. If baking in regular donut tin, bake for 15 mins. Remove and cool on wire rack. Make the glaze by melting chocolate chips and mixing with oil. Put glaze in ziplock, and cut one corner (very small). Drizzle over donuts over the sink to make cleaning even easier.
Other comments: I don't think this recipe will work as a "drop" because the batter is very runny.   This is super moist because of the applesauce and doesn't taste like cardboard-textured passover treats. But I bet it can be made into one for passover season.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Color me purple

On the very last weekend of Farmer's Market season, I wept and wept, and rejoiced at the same time. Wept - for obvious reasons - fresh herbs, giant heads of cauliflower, multicolored tomatoes, and gourds of all shapes and sizes all done for the season. BUT, the biggest surprise of all was that I found 2 great finds - red adzuki beans and... dun, dun, dun, purple yam! Or, purple Yummm!

Purple yam, ube in Tagalog, is one of my favorite Filipino flavors. While I'm not that fond of the yam itself, I, along with most Filipinos, loooove all sorts of ube treats. While kids in the US grew up on candy corns and chocolates, I remember running with my 25c to stores to buy ube candies, ube polvoron, and ube pastillas. To this day, whenever I'm in California, my sister and I hunt around the state (San Diego, L.A., etc.) to find the best ube polvoron in town. This reminds me of Philippine fiestas and Christmas season when halayang ube (molded solid jam dessert) becomes ubiquitous in fish shapes - no rhyme or reason for this shape. And summers in the Philippines are not complete without halo-halo with ube ice cream on top. Ahhhh...
So, with about 2 or, I don’t know, maybe ~25 lbs of purple yam hauled from the farmer’s market, I stingily planned things I should make. I patiently roasted these gems, peeled and mashed them to this delightful mass. Isn't it beautiful?

roasted and mashed

After that, it was time to make things out of it. First out of the oven was the ube version of Taro rolls, which I have been craving for a while now. Due to the dearth of Korean bakeries in the Twin cities, I was forced to make 3 dozens of these suckers. My youngest daughter loves these, but I froze a dozen for future emergency ube roll cravings. This is best serve warm and with honey.

roll with honey

Next I made ube loaf alongside rye pumpkin bread. Interestingly enough, the ube bread came out almost emerald green, which got my brain cogs turning.

Before baking; Ube loaf alongside Rye Pumpkin loaf
After baking

Most folks know that potatoes and yams are a good source of carbohydrates, proteins and vitamin C, and contain phytochemicals, including polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoids, tannins, stilbenes and lignans, which are best known for their antioxidant properties. Although I think most people associate these compounds more with wine. Seriously. Hmmm. Anyway, the media has highlighted different studies showing the decrease in the risk of chronic diseases with consumption of these colorful tubers. As such, different shades of potatoes are starting to appear mainstream. Anthocyanins are the ones which give the vibrant color in pigmented potatoes and yams. However, these compounds are not very stable and are sensitive to pH, light, oxidation, enzyme activity, concentration, etc. especially depending on storage conditions, processing and cooking methods. So, the levels of polyphenols found in raw and cooked yams and potatoes are different, which also explains why my ube loaf was no longer purple. Also, if you heat a slice up in the microwave, it turns bluish green!

Apparently, different cooking methods also has different effects on the anti-oxidant activity. This symposia paper shows the ranking as it relate to the antioxidant activity of the unpeeled potatoes: boiled > uncooked > steamed > microwave > baked. A significant increase of the antioxidant activity in boiled potatoes and a significant decrease in the baked potatoes was observed when compared with uncooked potatoes. Hmmm. Boiling seems to be the most promising method for preserving the bioactive compounds. But, doesn’t that also take away the taste the most? Something to consider anyway.

After I’ve settled that mystery, I went on and made my ube jam. It’s not very onerous if you have a hand-held processor, but it does take a lot of patience to keep stirring so the jam doesn't stick to the bottom of your pot.

After putting away 2 bottles of the jam, which won't last me the whole winter through,  I went on to make the best treat of all, saving the best for last – ube pastillas.I know that technically this should be made with carabao’s milk, but I have to settle with what I have on hand.

And they turned out so delicious! Who ate the last piece of pastillas?  Guilty, as charged.  That, my dear, is how you settle an ube-craving for good! Is it Farmer’s Market season again yet???

Friday, September 12, 2014

Encantada, Lisboa!

Day 4 is essentially a travel day. I only had enough time to enjoy a liesurely breakfast. So, I leave you with some thoughts about Lisbon.

Indeed, three days is too short a time to enjoy this place.  But, I think that even a month is still not long enough to enjoy it. In spite of my short trip, I made the most of it, sleeping at 4 am and getting up at 8 am to really experience the culture as best as I can. - something I would not recommend doing for long periods of time.  Hence, I felt that I got to see enough to know that this city has heart at its center.  I've been to many beautiful places, which I leave with a promise of coming back.  But, there's something different about Lisbon. 

Front of Jose Saramago's house (top)
Lisbon Cathedral's entrance door (bottom)
On the way to Sintra, an acquaintance from Oxford, UK asked how I liked Lisbon. I casually replied, "I want to live here." She looked at me in surprise, and said "Are you serious?". As it turned out, she didn't care for the graffitti-covered walls (art, to me), and the loudness (festive conversations, to me).  I guess our coversation spoke volume.  Depending on your background and interests, you will like it here or you won't.  Some may see the old buildings as poor, and some will see it as preserved history.  Remember that crazy driver that I spoke about on Day 1? Who am I kidding? They all drive crazy! Anyway, he was lamenting the construction of tall glass buildings. And I completely agree with him. In streets lined with intricate period architecture next to glass and steel buildings, those glass buildings just look blah. Unmemorable.  In the city center, Praca Rossio, you will find a few of these, but in the intimate alleyways, you will see nothing but charm.

Streets and alleys
The atmosphere is friendly but not suffocating, and as you walk Alfama, you're bound to hear someone breaking into a song. If you need more art in your life, you don't even need to go to museums. All you need to do is take a walk.  Walk in Alfama, and see the Fundacao Jose Saramago's structure, or walk up to the Lisbon cathedral.  As you take these walks, look at the tiles defining Calcada Portuguese, a point of pride for the locals, and the Azulejo-covered walls of houses. On Tuesday, prior to my Tuk-Tuk tour, I just wandered the hilly cobblestone-covered streets. Some alleys are lined with the equivalent of banderitas even. Combined with locals gathering to play cards at the park, tourists milling around with maps on their hands, and Fado at night, the festivity seems to run day and night.

I was told that Lisbon is experiencing a renaissance of sort.  I just hope that it preserves its culture and history.  But judging from how it's done so far since the 8th century, I have no doubt that it will.  This city is laid-back, but buzzing in activity, historic, real, and beautiful. It was a privilege to visit. Encantada, Lisbon!

Now, to go home and convince my husband to move here.  Dum-dee-dum. And this picture is for my kids, who again sent me traveling with a trustworthy and adorable companion, "Up Above", to keep me company. You can say that he's the star of this show!