Maple Pecan Dates Muffin

IMG_2802I am the kind of person who has a constant need to munch on something, and my sweet tooth is, well, insatiable. This completely contradicts with my need to be healthy. In a typical utopian world, I would have planned out all my meals and be feeling completely smug about it too. Reality, however, is far off from it. I do desperately want to live in this world, but striking that balance is quite a struggle on an everyday basis.

IMG_2791To motivate myself I was browsing through cookbooks on Amazon, looking specifically for healthy books with recipes that would, besides delivering on the health premise, also appeal to my bratty taste buds. My search yielded me a whole lot of gluten free cooking. Now I am not gluten intolerant, neither am I going to hit you in the head with it, but it is hard to ignore all the information out there. Given I do not have an opinion on this subject, I browsed through a couple of books (Yes I sometimes test out recipes before buying the book) and chose one that had least obscure ingredients and did not make me go out of the way to acquire a new healthy habit. Despite my bull headedness, the Maple Dates Pecan muffin recipe called for mostly everyday pantry items. The only minor kink was the almond meal. I am honestly quite wary of recipes that promise to be healthy and taste delicious all the same. It just seems like a lofty claim to make and more often than not, results are quite flawed. The thought of having a muffin with almond meal and some of my other favourite ingredients thrown in, however, tickled my taste buds and the slightly modified recipe did not disappoint me in the least bit.

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This recipe is a keeper, you can make them ahead of the weekend and if they last – grab one for breakfast, or fuel up before you work out, or treat yourself to a pick-me-up afternoon snack when you’ve hit a plateau staring at a dull computer screen. You could bake a batch for brunch on mother’s day or take it with you as a little present for your dinner party hosts; they make for a wholesome treat in the morning. I have made this twice since I found the recipe and have been gorging on it guilt free.

IMG_2801Maple Pecan Dates Muffins (Gluten Free)

Makes 12 muffins

Barely adapted from The gluten free Almond flour cookbook Elana Amsterdam

  • 3 cups blanched almond flour/ almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil or grape seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure organic maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium apples peeled, cored and diced (I used 1 plum and 1 apple)
  • 1 cup pecan coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup dates shopped into ¼ inch piece

Crumb topping

  • 3 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil/ melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350OF and line a muffin tray with 12 paper liners

In a larger bowl combine the almond flour/meal, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon. In a blender combine the wet ingredients – oil, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla extract, and apples till it is smooth and frothy (I used an immersion blender for this).

Stir in the wet ingredients into the dry almond meal mixture until thoroughly combined. Then fold in pecans and dates. Spoon the batter in prepared muffin cups.

In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the crumble – oats, oil and sugar (You can completely do away with the crumbs and the muffins taste just as good).

Evenly distribute the crumble on all the muffins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until muffin tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean.

Let the muffins cool in the pan before serving.

Apple Radish Salad with a Ginger Lime dressing

Apple Radish Salad

Although we are into spring for the last week or so, it has still been quite cold in Ontario. It is almost as if the weatherman’s memo did not reach whoever it had to. We have been dawdling with the change with no glimmer of warm sunny days in sight. This time last spring, we had stowed away all our winter gear and were busting out the shorts.  Patios were teaming with people sipping heady concoction and eating all sorts of mouthwatering food that spring had to offer.

Every year I look forward to start off spring. The sudden change in vibe amazed me in my FOB (Fresh off the Boat) years in Toronto. A spring date was picked and like a beautifully synchronized orchestra, the sun would shine benevolently, birds would chirp, trees that had been barren through the dread of cold would begin to sprout greens, grocery stores stock a new selection of veggies and fruits, menus in restaurants would be updated, racing season would begin.  Even after 4 years, this rather dramatic overhaul in weather still excites me.

salad3This year however, it has been a tad bit disappointing with the delayed start we are experiencing. At these uncertain times of varying temperatures, I have been looking for something fresh and bright but also warm and soothing. This apple radish salad with a ginger lime dressing offered me that balance. The crisp apple, peppery notes of the radish is offset by the freshness of the lime and warmth of the ginger. It makes a nice slaw or it can be used as toppings for burgers or tacos.

Apple Radish Salad with a Ginger Lime dressing

Serves 2-3

  • A small bunch of radish sliced thinly into strips (I used 4 large sized ones)
  • 1 apple sliced thinly into strips (granny smith would be the best, I used honey crisp at the time when I was photographing it)
  • Handful of cilantro or parsley chopped
  • 1 green chilly (optional)
  • 1 spring onion finely chopped (The salad is perfectly fine without it, but I used in some other versions and loved it)
  • ½ inch ginger grated
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1-teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Assemble the Salad

In a bowl mix the thinly sliced apple, radish, cilantro, green chilly and spring onion

Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, ginger salt and pepper

Pour in the dressing over the apple radish mixture when you are about to serve

Capsicum Rice

Capsicum Rice

When my mom and I meet we almost always discuss food and exchange new recipes we have tried, although I think it is more of a crash course in cooking for me (I barely ever see her take any notes). My mom on her part is always pushing and prodding me to cook at home more often. She always has a recipe for my ‘dinner parties’ or ‘quick fix after a long day at work’ or a ‘Lazy Sunday brunch affair’. I am quite impressed with the tricks she’s got up her sleeves. Her sleeves know no dry spells and more importantly, the recipes always come at a time when they are most wanted. This capsicum rice is one such recipe that I learnt from her.  I have made it several times for lunch, dinner and on those I-do-not-want-to-cook-days. Each time I would tell her that it is a wonderful inclusion to my recipe book. One day, on our one hour long international call, she admitted that this recipe was from vahrehvah.com, but that doesn’t stop me from claiming it as hers.

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You can make a bigger batch of the dry masala and store it in an airtight container in your freezer. My mom had made a big batch of it before she left, I was very grateful to that. I have also used other vegetables like eggplant and zucchini, but my favourite is peppers.dry masala

Capsicum Rice

Serves about 3-4 people

Dry Masala

  • 5-6 dried red chillies (you can reduce it if you do not like the heat, but mine were quite mild)
  • I teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • I teaspoon coriander seeds
  • I teaspoon cumin seeds
  • I teaspoon urad dal
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder or garam masala
  • A big bunch of curry leaves
  • 3 tablespoons raw peanuts (I used a little more because I love the flavour and the crunch)

Bell Pepper rice

  • 3 cups cooked basmati rice (1 1/2 cup basmati rice cooked with 3 cups of water)
  • 3 coloured peppers (for this recipe I used, orange, yellow and green peppers)
  • 2 teaspoon ghee or oil
  • 1 lime
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander leaves chopped
  • Salt to taste

For the dry masala

In a small skillet dry roast all the ingredients except the cinnamon over medium-low heat, till fragrant and the urad dal turns golden, this should take 6-8 minutes.

Cool the roasted spices. Then using a spice grinder or food processor, grind into a semi fine powder. I like it a little course, adds a nice crunch to the rice.

You can even grind the mixture using a mortar and pestle, although it tends to be a lot coarser.

Now add the cinnamon powder to the spice mix, alternatively you can even add half teaspoon garam masala. This would also be a good time to salt the dish.

For the rice

Chop the peppers into 1 inch squares

In a pan, heat a little oil or ghee and saute the peppers for 3-4 minutes or till it just begins to soften. I like the peppers to have a bite in my rice.

To this add the spice mixture and 3 cups of cooked rice, mix till evenly coated. Turn off the heat when the rice is heated through.

Squeeze a whole lime and garnish with coriander leaves.

I like to eat it with a little plain yogurt or cool cucumber and mint raita.

Note: The rice needs to be clump free. For this the cooked rice needs to be cooled on a plate before adding to the peppers and spice mixture.