Low Fat Mini Pumpkin Muffins with Pepitas

Recently, I had another “first-time” food experience. This time it was with pumpkin.  Back in the day, and I’m talking way back in elementary school…grade 5 to be precise, was the last time I had had any experience with pumpkins.  It was in Mr. McFarlene’s class and we were carving pumpkins for Halloween.  Now, we didn’t really celebrate Halloween, but because this was a class activity, my parents let me drag a pumpkin to school and carve it with my classmates. I remember sticking my hand inside my pumpkin and feeling all of the gushy, thready goo, and giggling/cringing as I scooped out the seeds and flesh until the insides were smooth.  I was no artist, so I drew out a very simple Jack O’ Lantern design- a face with a very toothy grin.  After school, I dragged the pumpkin back home and planted it on the front porch. When my dad came home that night, we lit a candle and put it inside the pumpkin and had that stupid grin shine up on the wall.  Ahh…life was so simple back then……

Flash forward a “few” years (ahem..) and pumpkin has re-entered my life yet again. This time in the form of a can.  I thought I would have to cut, clean out, and cook a pumpkin to make this, but luckily this recipe from Gina’s Skinny Recipes called for good ol’ canned pumpkin puree. The first time I tried this recipe, I followed it to a T.  Unfortunately, I found the taste to be very OVERWHELMING because of the amount of pumpkin pie spice used. The second time I made them, I cut the pumpkin pie spice in half and found the flavour to be much more appetizing.  If you like your pumpkin baked goods to be very spicy, go right ahead and use the original measurements. But if you want a more delicate taste, use the measurements from below.

Low Fat Mini Pumpkin Muffins with Pepitas

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups Nutri-Blend flour (same as white whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp pepitas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray mini muffin tins with some oil.

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.
In a large bowl beat together egg whites, pumpkin puree and vanilla at medium speed until thick.
Add flour mixture and mix at low speed until wet and dry ingredients are just combined.
Scoop out batter into mini muffin tins using an ice cream scoop.  Sprinkle pepitas on tops of muffins and bake on the centre rack for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Remove muffins and place on cooking rack.

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A first for moi: the S’More

When my parents immigrated to Canada over 40 years ago, they came with the clothes on their backs, a little pocket money, and plenty of hopes and dreams.  They worked hard, and raised and educated three kids all the while discovering and creating a unique cultural identity- a Canadian Pakistani Muslim identity.  They meshed together bits and pieces from Canadian and Pakistani societies that would enable them to create this identity, this culture without compromising on their religious values. Essentially they took parts of Canadian and Pakistani cultures that would compliment Islamic culture and belief and created a wonderful cohesive mix.

Now in terms of food, Pakistani cuisine won hands down. It took my mom several years before she started experimenting with ingredients and recipes that didn’t stem from the sub-continent. She’s an awesome cook and I think I get my “let’s try something new, or let’s combine these different flavours together and see what happens..” thought process from her.  Still, there are some “exotic” fruits and veggies that haven’t made their way into her tummy or kitchen, but they have in mine. Spaghetti squash, rhubarb muffins (thanks Linds!), kale, star fruit, baby buk choy, anchovies, pumpkin, calamari, lobster, chives..really the list is endless. Some of you may be scratching your heads and thinking…Hinna, these ain’t exotic.  Trust me…in a home of Pakistani heritage..these ARE exotic! lol
This blended culture that we grew up with also shaped the types of familial activities that we would enjoy. We swam, skated, played soccer and street hockey, rode our bikes, roller bladed, skied and skipped. But, we never went camping, or had a clue about what a cottage was until later on in life.  I am proud to say that we have been to a cottage and do know what it’s used for! :p  I’m not sure if I’m up for camping, but I am excited to say that I finally tasted the quintessential camping treat…..the S’MORE!  Taking inspiration from Ina Garten’s adult s’more, I was able to recreate this treat in my kitchen with my gas stove!
S’Mores

1 package of cookies that have one side coated with plain chocolate
1 small package of halal marshmallows
long wooden skewers
Turn on your gas stove burner onto low. Lower a skewered marshmallow close to the flame until the marshmallow begins to melt and turn brown.  Try to keep the marshmallow from burning or carrying a flame.  Place the melted marshmallow onto the chocolate side of one cookie. Create a sandwich by squishing down another cookie, chocolate side down. Follow the same process and make as many s’mores as your heart desires!

Red Pepper Quinoa Cakes

This has probably been the warmest Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend I can remember.  Everyone had a chance to get rid of their sweaters and jackets, roll up their shirt sleeves and bask in the warm glow of the sun.

It’s supposed to warm up even more today, so it looks like I’ll be wearing sandals when I head out. :o)  
I recently purchased some organic quinoa and quinoa flour for some recipes, but silly me, I forgot my quinoa cookbook back in LA.  After searching for a bit on the Internet, I came across this recipe from the Cooking Quinoa site.  The first time I made the cakes, the only ingredient I changed was the organic corn- I used diced red pepper.  The second time I made the cakes, I added more spices because I found that the original recipe didn’t have enough flavour.
Red Pepper Quinoa Cakes

2 cups cooked organic mixed quinoa (you can use yellow quinoa if you can’t find one that is mixed)
1 red pepper, finely chopped by hand or in a food processor
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 shallots,  finely chopped by hand or in a food processor 
2 tbsp whole wheat flour

2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp paprika
t tbsp olive oil
tsp balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp freshly minced garlic
In a medium-sized bowl, combine cooked quinoa, chopped red pepper, 2 tbsp parsley, chives, breadcrumbs, shallots, and flour.  Mix until combined and add eggs, sea salt, and spices.  Form the mixture into small patties.   Heat a skilled to medium-low. Add the olive oil to the heated pan and cook patties 5 to 7 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towel and repeat with remaining patties.
In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, vinegar, shallot, garlic and parsley.  Mix well.  Serve on the side with the quinoa cakes.

A breakfast time saver!

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that I don’t have enough hours in the day to get things done. It seems like I blink my eyes and three hours have gone by!  There is so much to get done: I have a stack of books to get through, some unit plan designing to complete, prayers to read, and online classes to attend. Not to mention the daily household chores that must get done after work and daily trips to the gym.

 I know if I manage my time a bit better ( I blame it on no longer having a steady work routine!!), I would be able to complete many of these tasks.  From the minute that I wake up to the time I go to bed, I have to make sure I am not wasting any time.  I’m hoping to start off with a simple breakfast routine on days that I know I will be extremely busy.  I whipped up a really simple breakfast parfait this morning to kick start my day.  Since there is a lot of protein in the Greek yogurt, I felt full and satisfied. If you think this isn’t enough for you eat a boiled egg on the side.

Breakfast Parfait

2 scoops PC 0% Honey Greek Yogurt
1 large stem of Seedless Organic Coronation Grapes
3 tbsp PC Blue Menu Raisin & Almond Granola

Place a scoop of yogurt in the bottom of a wide-rimmed glass.  Layer on some grapes and 1 tbsp of granola. Create a second layer of yogurt, grapes and granola.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

I’ve always been a fan of Martha Stewart. I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with her shows on The Food Network, maybe my last year in high school? Anyhow, I loved her so much that I would plan my schedule around her show and on the off chance that I wasn’t at home, I would tape the show to watch at a later time.  I was such the die hard fan, that when I got married, I made sure that R got the cable package that had the The Food Network in its list of channels.  And when Martha Stewart transitioned into the daytime talk show/craft show/food show scene, I, like many of her fans, made the transition with her.  I watched her for several more years until she annoyingly moved her show to a specialty channel and that’s when I got cut off. :o(

So now instead of watching her and writing down her recipes, I go to her books for inspiration.  One that I keep handy is Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. It is filled with 175 wonderful cupcake recipes for all sorts of occasions.  What’s also great is that just by switching the baking pan, these cupcake recipes can easily become cake recipes.
One of my go-to recipes in the book is the Brown Sugar Pound Cake.  It’s got the texture of the classic pound cake but with a nutty, caramel-like taste. It’s a very simple recipe to follow and can be made the night before a party or the day of.  I baked this cake the night before a sisters-only event with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus at the Seeker’s Hub two weeks back and if I do so say so myself, it was mighty tasty! Instead of using all purpose flour, I used cake flour and this simple change made the cake very light.  If you want to stick with the original recipe, substitute in the all purpose flour for the cake flour.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

3 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups light-brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and line 2  8“ or 9“ cake pans with parchment paper or butter 1 Bundt pan.

In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In another bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well incorporated.  Add flour in three batches, alternating between 2 additions of buttermilk, beating until combined after each.

Divide the batter evenly between to two lined cake pans and bake with the rack in the centre of the oven until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring cakes to a cooling rack.