Good Morning Sunshine Pumpkin-Lemon Chia Muffins

As the luck of the Irish would have it, we spaced on today's date and took a total departure from all of the traditional St. Patty's Day fare floating around the blogsphere. These muffins will brighten any rainy day, which is something the Irish may need from time to time! Nothing green in 'em or about 'em, except that they are made with organic, unbleached white and whole wheat flours AND the fact that my sister picked her own rose hips and made this jam lower in sugar than most, AND because we did not have to drive anywhere to buy the ingredients, we just happened to have all of these in the cupboard which is how this recipe came to be.

These muffins are loaded with Vitamin C and packed with Superfood nutrients from the pumpkin, chia and flax baked within.  Enjoy!


Erin Go Braugh (less)! YES, this is my passport :-)

Pumpkin-Lemon Chia Muffin

Ingredients: (I used all organic including the pumpkin)

3/4c. Whole Wheat Flour

3/4 c. Unbleached White Flour

1 c. sucanat or raw cane sugar

1 T. baking powder

2 t. Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 T. ground flax meal

2 T. Chia Seed

1 c. pumpkin puree

3/4 c. low fat or fat free non-dairy milk

1/2 c. applesauce

2 T. Maple Syrup or Molasses

juice and zest of 1/2 lemon


Oven 400 degrees

1. sift dry ingredients together.

2. in separate bowl blend all wet ingredients

3. add wet ingredients to dry and mix delicately until all incorporated

4. using 1/4 cup scoop, fill muffin tins (either lightly wiped or sprayed w/pan spray or use liners) to 3/4 full.

5. bake for 15 - 20 minutes depending on your oven. I have fan oven (convection) and things tend to bake up quickly. If you have a regular oven, you might boost the temperature up to 425, especially if it is a gas oven.



Its Sugar Time!

Not this kind of Sugar!!
March has rolled in like a lamb this year with temperatures on the Ridge reaching the 60 degree mark. The sap is rising FAST around here and maple syrup producers are racing to get their buckets emptied before they runneth over! With all this talk of sugar, in the form of maple syrup or otherwise, whether to eat it, drink it or have it at all, I could not resist using some of it. The manifestation of this strong sense of sugar were these cupcakes and boy are they delicious, or so I hear. I wouldn't know because I have not eaten one. I have resisted temptation to devour one of these little cuties by giving them away to the staff of the YMCA Teen Center where we are having the Kickstart Classes. The staff have been so wonderful and accommodating during the last 3 weeks of classes, helping me move furniture, work the somewhat complicated TV/DVD player, etc. I did not feel so bad providing them with a vegan treat because I have seen what is in the cupboards and vending machines around that place and these cupcakes, although not my usual low or no-fat style, are much healthier! They have a minimal amount of oil and sugar, lower than the recipe from Chef Chloe Coscarelli's. I used only 1/3 cup of oil and 3/4 cup of sugar and made 24 mini cupcakes from this recipe. I used the aluminum cupcake liners which make a nice size mini cake, more than enough for a single serving. For the frosting, well I made it almost to the recipe (less sugar) but I used less than a tablespoon on each cake. Like I said, I didn't eat 'em!
Maple Syrup Sunday is March 25

On to other things, like more SUGAR! What is the difference between Maple Syrup, honey, dehydrated cane juice, agave, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, etc. Is Maple Syrup "healthier" than the others? All of these sweeties are just a different means to the same end if you consume too much ~ a toxic overload in your system. No matter which the source, these sweeteners break down to fructose and glucose unlike other complex carbohydrates which break down solely in to glucose.  Glucose is needed by our cells for energy, fructose needs to be broken down even further which is where the liver enters the equation, and if we hit it with too much fructose, nasty things can happen. But, on the bright side, unlike table sugar or HFCC, Maple Syrup has other positive health benefits because it is less processed, still retaining some antioxidants and minerals but there is no science to support this according to the Cornell Sugar Maple Research & Extension Service.

Maple syrup can be substituted for while sugar in cooking and sometimes this is a nice swap for flavor's sake. For each cup of white sugar, use 1 cup of Maple syrup and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 3 Tablespoons.

Yes, it is lovely at this time of the year in our little neck of the woods. We watch the sap dripping into the buckets and wait for the rest of spring to arrive. Robins, Cardinals and other birds fly by, busy feeding in the now exposed and softer ground and soon-to-be bud-bursting trees. Will we have another nesting pair of Robins above our entryway? We are busy planning this year's garden and Rosie is still eating Kale, when she can convince us to share. Life is Good!


Kale Eating Dog or Dog Eating Kale, which is it?

Dog eating kale or kale eating dog? from MiMi McGee on Vimeo.

Our Kickstart Series is off to a great start with many interesting topics discussed during the first class. We talked about everything from RA to IBD, from Fats to Fiction and also-Kale. The question arose whether to buy organic or not. I thought I would take a this opportunity  to share a video of our dog enjoying some kale and lend a little advice on buying produce.

Last night we showed Forks over Knives to a packed House Party crowd. It was a fun evening and today we are testing a recipe for Kale Chips made with some of the leftover party food if the kale chips, which I'm making as we speak (or umm, as I type) turn out to be yummy, we'll include the recipe and a recipe for our new FAVE Kale Salad too! I suppose you might say this is a Kale-centered post :-) All Hail Kale, after all, it is the new beef and Rosie says: "Eat more Kale!"

OK, here is the skinny on organic.

Is it important to buy organic?
When it comes to produce, buying locally grown organic fruits and veggies is the pièce de résistance or best in quality.  I stress the importance of fresh, locally sourced produce because organic produce can travel great distances and not be so fresh or sustainable as we hope due to the miles it may travel (affecting carbon footprint) and the time it takes to do so (affecting freshness). Organically grown plant foods are more flavorful than conventionally grown crops, more nutritious and are richer in cancer-fighting compounds and other phytochemicals. To find organic produce at affordable prices, look for CSA's in your area or shop at your local farmer's markets. Reba from the Hachett Cove Farm was at the FOK party last night a spoke a bit about the CSA concept and buying local.

You could try using this list of the Dirty Dozen or Clean 15 to help clarify which produce is the most important to buy organic.
With all of that said, don't let the lack of locally grown, organic produce prevent you from eating your fruits and veggies! It is more important to eat lots of fresh, frozen or canned (in that order) veggies and fruits within your budget and your reach than to worry about finding organic and avoiding fruits/veggies altogether because they are not. Buying organically raised meats and dairy items does not eliminate the health risks associated with them such as HCA's , saturated fats, cholesterol and increased blood levels of IGF-1 which has been associated with increased cancer risks so you will still want to be sure to limit or better yet avoid animal products altogether.

Examples of the PLU numbers on produce

What do those numbered stickers on my fruits and veggies mean?? What are they for??
Those annoying numbered stickers on each and every fresh item in the grocery store are sometimes more than just a PLU code for the checkout person. Often you can tell if an item is conventionally grown or organically grown by these numbers. Here is how:
If the item's sticker is 4 digits and those numbers start with a "3" or a "4", it is a conventionally grown item and has  likely been sprayed with synthetic and chemical or petroleum based pesticides or fertilizers.
If the item is a 5 digit number starting with a "9" it is an organically grown item and has not been sprayed with synthetics pesticides, fertilizers, etc.

If you see an "8" start the sequence of numbers, you are looking at a GMO product but NOT ALL GMO products have the 5 digit number starting with an 8!  Initially the system was set up this way but when producers realized consumers where avoiding products starting with an "8" they stopped using those numbers and GMO produce is now lumped in with all the 4 digit group. Read more on this here.

Well, the Kale Chips are finished and they are almost GONE! Yep, that is the problem with kale chips, they disappear way faster than you can make them. I suppose this is a sign that they were yummy! So often you see a recipe for Kale chips which is way too high in fat. You ruin all that good nutrition from the kale by adding tons of olive oil or ground nuts to the sauce.

Here is the recipe, written in a style I love, courtesy of one my beautiful and talented nieces. Brianna recently shared a curry recipe for a swap in which we were involved. It was written similarly to this one. I can tell that Brianna is a great cook by the way she wrote her recipe!

1-2-3-4 Kale Chips

1 bunch Kale (locally grown & organic if possible) washed, dried and torn into medium sized pieces

couple tablespoons low-fat hummus (I used the leftovers from last night's FOK party)
couple tablespoons lemon juice or rice vinegar
little bit of sweetener such as maple syrup or agave
sprinkles of nutritional yeast
sprinkles of sesame seeds

1.Mix all sauce ingredients in a salad bowl and adjust seasoning to taste. You need about 1/2 - 3/4c sauce.
2.Throw the kale pieces into the bowl and toss/massage with your clean hands being sure the kale bits are completely coated. You can stop right here and eat this baby as a salad!! OR...
3. Place kale pieces on baking sheet (with parchment paper or silpat OR sprayed with pan spray, spread out and flatten nicely.
4. Bake in low-temp oven (250 or 300, my oven does not go below 300) for 10 -15 minutes or until crispy OR bake in low temp oven for 8 minutes and then place in dehydrator for another hour or so until crispy.
If you can save any chips from your mouth, you can use them as garnish on many other dishes, the sky is the limit!

photo courtesy of Whole Foods Market

And as promised, the recipe for our new favorite Kale Waldorf Salad adapted from a recipe by Whole Foods chef, Chad Sarno.

Kale Waldorf Salad 
6 cups clean, chopped kale, packed
1 firm, red apple such as honeycrisp or braeburn
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces, divided in halve
1/4 cup craisins
2 medjool dates (or a 2T of golden raisins)
2 T water
2 T dijon mustard
1 T red wine vinegar

Place kale in a large bowl. Add half the apple to kale along with celery, 1/2 of the walnuts and 1/4 cup craisins. Put remaining apple in a blender along with remaining walnuts,  2 dates or 2 tablespoons raisins, mustard, water, vinegar and salt. Purée until well combined and slightly thick, adding water if needed to thin. Pour dressing over kale salad and toss to combine. YUMBO-LICIOUS!