Recipe Face-Off!

Recipe Face-Off: Corn Muffins

Corn Muffin Face-Off

Even back when sugar-crusted, store-bought muffins were something I ate regularly (when I cared about neither my waistline or a balanced meal), I would never go for the corn muffin. Chocolate chip? Yes. Blueberry? Definitely. But for some irrational reason the corn muffin always looked so nasty to me, so I never tried it. It wasn’t until recently when my boyfriend said he loved corn muffins that I came around. At first I was like what, why? And then I realized if I like cornbread there’s no reason why I wouldn’t like them in muffin form. It’s so weird how we just fear things we’ve never tried before.

I still have never bought a corn muffin, but I have been making good use of my Bob’s Red Mill Organic Medium Grind Cornmeal and making them myself. I like the medium grind for the slightly crunchy texture it gives my cornbread and corn muffins. I had been using Ina Garten’s corn muffin recipe (you know how I love Ina) until recently, when I came across Running to the Kitchen’s Strawberry Corn Muffins. Gina’s muffins don’t have wheat, table sugar, or dairy. I was really curious about them, so it was face-off time. I left out the strawberries to make the two recipes comparable. (Note: I called Gina’s muffins “paleo”, but they’re technically not paleo. “Wheat/sugar/dairy-free” just didn’t sound as catchy.)

Ina Garten’s Corn Muffins

Regular Corn Muffin

I don’t know if Ina has a giant muffin tin or what, but I got way more than 12 muffins out of this recipe! Other than that, these are wonderful. Sweet, crumbly, really high in calories…basically, everything a corn muffin should be.

Running to the Kitchen’s Corn Muffins

Paleo Corn Muffin

The last time I baked something wheat, sugar, and dairy-free, the result was tasty but barely resembled the original baked good it was based on. So I was really pleasantly surprised when I pulled these out of the oven and they looked a lot like the corn muffin we know and love, with crumbs and all. I was concerned about whether or not the coconut oil and almond meal would give the muffins a weird taste but, nope. They tasted like corn muffins but earthier with just a touch of sweetness.

Final Verdict

Running to the Kitchen’s corn muffins win, I can’t believe it! This is our first Recipe Face-Off where “the real thing” didn’t win. Running to the Kitchen’s muffins are much lower in calories and way cleaner with almond meal, almond milk, honey, coconut oil instead of wheat, dairy, and table sugar. The texture wasn’t compromised by the alternative ingredients either. But most importantly, I actually preferred the taste. I loved the earthiness of it and that it was much less sweet. These are actually muffins I can eat for breakfast! Sorry, Ina. I love you but I’m switching recipes.

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Links and Life

Links and Life: April 2013

wedding

April has been a craaaazy month for me! You can probably tell I’ve been slacking on the blog a bit but a) it’s been crunch time at work, b) one of my best friends got married and I was the Maid of Honor (see above), and c) I had to pack/donate/sell/throw out all my possessions  As of tomorrow, I will be homeless until I fly out of the country for the big move! But don’t worry, I have a place to crash :)

I’m not gonna lie. The past two weeks had plenty of stress-eating involved and I’m ready to detox! I look forward to more time to devote to clean eating, food shopping, and cooking in May.

April Links

One last thing….anyone going to be in NYC this weekend? I’ll be participating at this awesome bake sale at Brooklyn Flea. Click the banner below for more info. Also, check out the raffles. There are some awesome prizes!

NYCBakeSale_2013_WebBanner

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Recipe Face-Off!

Recipe Face-Off: Banana Bread

Banana Bread Face-off

Even though I have my own set of food ideas and philosophies, I actually spend a surprising amount of time listening to or reading stuff written by those who have totally different views. I don’t want to be a vegan, live the paleo lifestyle, or completely swear off sugar. Yet every camp of thought raises excellent points and gives me plenty to think about. It’s nice to see what we have in common, like pretty much everyone thinks we need more veggies and less processed food. But hearing views opposite to your own really helps you question and doubt your own belief system, which is a great thing, because no one should ever blindly and militantly believe anything without really examining different sides to the story.

That’s the philosopher in me. The food lover in me is like, whatever. Let’s make some banana bread.

I heard about Civilized Caveman Cooking when blogger, George, was interviewed on the Fat Burning Man podcast. Both interviewer and interviewee were gushing over how delicious George’s paleo banana bread recipe is. This piqued my interest, so it was Recipe Face-Off time. Civilized Caveman Cooking’s Paleo Banana Bread vs In The Small Kitchen‘s Banana Bread (my Amazon affiliate link). Sans chocolate chips to make it a fair experiment. I’m scientific like that. I halved the recipes and adapted them for a muffin tin, ’cause lord knows I don’t need two loaves of banana bread in the house.

Civilized Caveman Cooking’s Paleo Banana Bread

Paleo banana bread

This was super quick and simple to make, and I love how clean the ingredients list is! I used bananas, eggs, almond butter, coconut oil, almond flour, and just a little cinnamon, baking soda/powder, vanilla and sea salt. Dassit. The taste was great–a subtle, natural sweetness. The bread was really moist though. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just different from what we’re used to. As you can see from the first photo, it was already much flatter than the regular banana bread. For the second photo, I pressed down with light pressure and it just sunk down completely. Sad.

Regular banana bread

In The Small Kitchen’s Banana Bread

Can ya tell I love In The Small Kitchen? The cookbook and the blog that started it all, Big Girls, Small Kitchen, are such great go-to resources for us quarter-life aged folk. This is a pretty foolproof banana bread recipe. Tasty, perfect texture, and without adding the chocolate chips it’s surprisingly not too sweet at all.

Final Verdict

Oh, snap. This is the first time I’m going to declare a tie! So far, the original recipes have won in these face-offs (see here and here). I’m brutally honest about what tastes better, and as you can probably tell, I have a “if-you’re-going-to-eat-it-at-all-just-eat-the-real-thing” stance when it comes to treats. This time I decided it was a true tie–both taste as great as the other. I might not love the texture of the paleo version as much as the regular banana bread, but the ingredient list is so incredibly clean, it is totally worth having a moister bread.

Still can’t say it was better, though. Still keeping it real here on Eating Clean in the Dirty City. ;)

Have you guys tried baking “paleo” treats? How was your experience?

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Dessert

No Hearts of Darkness Here! My 2013 Valentine’s Treats

My seventeen year old self would be disgusted with me. Back then, when my college dorm roomies suggested we cut out paper hearts and color them red and pink to decorate our suite for Valentine’s Day, I proceeded to color one black and wrote on it: “HEART OF DARKNESS“. Guess who was the most popular roommate. (Not I.) Fast forward a decade later, I listen to a lot less death metal, LOVE pink, and own a heart shaped muffin tin. Yikes.

Valentine's 2013 chocolate strawberries and muffins

I decided to start a new tradition last year: to spread the love on Valentine’s and make treats for everyone. Last year it was heart shaped chocolate chip cookies and homemade “Milano” cookies. This year I decided to make chocolate dipped strawberries, which is awkwardly sexual for my coworkers I guess, but I figured the weight-conscious people would appreciate an alternative to baked good. But I had to do some baking too, ’cause c’mon, that heart-shaped mini muffin tin is just too cute.

I even made some Valentine’s crafts. Take that, seventeen year old Iris.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I hope this day and everyday of your life is full of love. <3

Valentine's 2013 strawberries and muffins

Chocolate Cranberry Mini Muffins
Makes about 36 muffins

3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing tin
10 ounces sour cream
3/4 cup chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease mini muffin tin with butter. (Bonus points if it’s heart-shaped one like mine, but a regular tin is just fine!) Put dried cranberries in a bowl and cover with very hot water. Set them aside to plump while you make the batter. Drain before mixing in with other ingredients.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl, then add the sugar and whisk until thick. Add the 4 tablespoons of butter and whisk to combine. Add the sour cream, whisking just to combine.

Add the chocolate and drained cranberries to the dry ingredients and gently mix to combine. Pour in the sour cream mixture and gently fold it in with a spatula or wooden spoon until the batter comes together and the chocolate and cranberries are evenly distributed.

Divide batter among the muffin cups. If you do have a heart-shaped muffin tin, I’ve found that filling each cup about 3/4 full gets you better heart-shaped muffins. Depending on the number of cups your muffin tin has, you might have to do the baking in a few batches. Bake until light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the baking time. Check if they are ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin–it should come out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and let them cool for 5 minutes.

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Dessert

Joy the Baker’s Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies

joy the baker book

I said a while ago that I was going to rely more on my cookbook collection rather than the internet for recipe inspiration. Err, that didn’t happen too often. Oops. But I’m ready to recommit to this plan. Now I have extra motivation–I’m relocating in a few months and I won’t be able to take most of my books with me. Sad! I’ll have to make good use of them while I can.

I have a not-so-secret love for the Joy the Baker blog, as well as Joy’s podcast. (I also have a not-so-secret OBSESSION with podcasts in general. It’s a sickness, really.) Ironically, I’ve owned Joy’s book for a while now and had only made one of the recipes. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that all her recipes are sinfully delicious, and I’m convinced I won’t be able to stop myself from inhaling it all. But last month I decided to give this book the attention it deserves and made a few more of the recipes.

So far, my favorite has been her Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies. They are to die for. And, though far from being healthy, I like that they don’t have flour. It’s nice to switch it up in the kitchen like that, you know? They’re the perfect dessert for dudes, too. Well, who doesn’t love peanut butter and bacon?! Oh yeah…my vegetarian friend with a peanut allergy. But everyone else will love them, so go make a batch now!

Peanut butter bacon cookies

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Recipe Face-Off!

Recipe Face-Off: Walnut Brownies

photo

Time for Eating Clean in the Dirty City’s second Recipe Face-Off! I first heard about black bean brownies when Rocco DiSpirito went on the show The Doctors to promote his book. I haven’t heard the best things about either him or his book, so I already knew it would unfair competition to use his recipe for this post.

But here’s someone I do trust: Joy the Baker. I decided to compare her Triple Chocolate Black Bean Brownies to my go-to classic brownie recipe from Big Girls Small Kitchen.

Big Girls Small Kitchen’s Brownies

Walnut BrowniesI love these. They are what brownies should be. Not too sweet, moist with a crackly top, and that teaspoon of espresso powder makes the flavor amazing.

Joy the Baker’s Triple Chocolate Black Bean Brownies

Triple Chocolate Black Bean BrowniesI under-cooked these a little so they look a little more moist in the photo than they should (although, no complaints from me!). I was a little surprised at how good these brownies were, though I really shouldn’t doubt Joy. If you didn’t know there were beans in them, you probably wouldn’t even notice that these aren’t regular brownies. I did taste the black beans, but I thought they gave the brownies a nice kick that complemented the chocolate.

Final Verdict

As good as the black bean brownies are, I still have to pick Big Girls Small Kitchen’s brownies as the winner. They are the perfect, classic brownie for me. But Joy’s black bean brownies weren’t far behind, taste-wise. If the recipe were a little healthier (there really weren’t too many beans involved) and tasted just as good, I could call it the winner. But given the minimal extra protein and fiber compared to the regular brownies, taste still trumps.

Have you ever made black bean brownies? How did you like them?

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Breakfast

How Watching Scrubs Leads to Baking Blueberry Muffins

OK I realize I’m over a decade late with this one. I recently discovered how awesome the TV show Scrubs was. Hey, better late than never right? This summer I went through a bit of Scrubs obsession, only giving up really late in the seasons when everyone became parents and it got weird.

I don’t really eat muffins. They’re often almost the size of your head, and I find it’s like having a giant cake for breakfast. On the other hand, if you consider it a dessert, well, there are better options than muffins. Bottom line, I never see an opportune time to eat them. They’re usually too sweet or stale anyhow. I have a muffin tin and yet choose to make duck prosciutto egg cups or mini sweet potato, kale, and egg bakes in it instead.

But once I got to the part in Scrubs where Dr. Kelso won unlimited muffins for life at the hospital cafe, I couldn’t help but have muffins on my mind.

Then I saw these blueberry muffins on Not Derby Pie. I knew it was time to use that muffin tin for its true calling. I bought some beautiful blueberries from the farmers market and decided to bake them with crème fraîche instead, which is just so much sexier. Once they cooled a little, I took a bite of my very first fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin. Oh man. Now I get it. When they are fresh, are well-made, use seasonal fruit, and are the appropriate size, muffins are awesome for breakfast. I was surprised at how quick and easy they are to make too. Freshly baked muffins is a must next time I host brunch!

Crème Fraîche Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
About 280 calories per muffin

Adapted from Not Derby Pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing tin
10 ounces crème fraîche
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin tin with butter.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl, then add the sugar and whisk until thick and homogeneous. Add the 4 tablespoons of butter; whisk to combine. Add the crème fraîche, whisking just to combine.

Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently mix to combine. Add the crème fraîche mixture and gently fold it in with a spatula or wooden spoon until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed.

Divide batter among the muffin cups. Bake until light golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the baking time. Check if they are ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin–it should come out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and let them cool for 5 minutes.

Bonus: Have leftover muffins? Check out this cool post on storing muffins I found while trying to figure how to transport them to my sister’s place.

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Dessert

I Did It For The Fruit

There’s a reason why I switch to ice pops in the summer. It’s dang hot! I still want dessert but I don’t want to turn my oven on. However, now that we’re in late, late summer, I’m feeling sad that I will no longer be seeing gorgeous berries, peaches, nectarines, and watermelons at the farmers market. I’ve been enjoying summer fruit raw, but it would be a shame not to bake something delicious with them while they’re still around. So as gross and hot as it is, I turned on the oven. I did it for the fruit.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m totally obsessed with the Joy the Baker podcast. So here’s a recipe from Joy’s partner in crime: Tracy from Shutterbean.com. I’ve had a bag of black sesame seeds sitting in my cupboard for God knows how long, so I saw her Peaches and Plums with Sesame Crumble recipe as a good excuse to use some.

It turned out really good. Even better with a dollop of whipped cream. Why do people buy the pre-made stuff anyway? It takes like 10 seconds to whip up.

P.S. I got a new toy! And by toy I mean camera. Still have no idea how to use this thing, so the photos came out so-so. But I have high hopes for the future of photography at Eating Clean in the Dirty City.

 

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Dessert

What a Mug Cake Has To Do with Clean Eating

Dessert is not healthy. Unless your idea of dessert is just plain fruit, then yes, that’s pretty healthy. But real desserts like cookies, ice cream, apple pie, or crème brûlée are not. There are things you can put in desserts like fruit, nuts, or vegetables to give it a vitamin or two, but let’s be real. It’s mainly sugar, butter, and/or flour. It’s totally fine if you have small servings of them once or twice a week with a healthy diet, but it will never classify as a nutritious food on its own.

And if you’re going to have dessert, eat a real one. Made out of real ingredients. It might be easier to buy something packaged that has a year-long shelf life at the supermarket but processed food is so not worth it. It doesn’t taste all that great and it’s bad for your health.

Ingredients in Iris’ chewy chocolate chip cookies: butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sea salt, chocolate chips

Ingredients in Chips Ahoy chewy chocolate chip cookies: Enriched Flour, Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate Vitamin B1, Riboflavin Vitamin B2, Folic Acid, Semisweet Chocolate Chips, Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin An Emulsifier, Milk, Palm Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Dextrose, Cornstarch, Soybean Oil, Salt, Baking Soda, Molasses, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Caramel Color, Annatto Extract Vegetable Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor

Mmmmmm-hmmmmm.

So while real dessert isn’t necessarily good for you, manufactured desserts with all kinds of weird additives are definitely much worse. The problem is, of course, you don’t always want to whip up a batch of cookies, or bake a whole cake. And you may not have a quality bakery near you. Here’s where the mug cake comes in.

You no longer have an excuse to go to the junk food aisle of the supermarket when you’re craving a sweet treat. This 5 Minute Chocolate Fudge S’mores Mug Cake recipe…well, takes five minutes to make! Literally. OK maybe seven minutes the first time I did it just ’cause I was reading through all the steps but from then on, five minutes. It’s tasty, easy, and you made from real-ish food. Don’t like s’mores? Google “microwave cakes” and I’m sure you’ll find other quick and easy desserts you can enjoy. So put down the Twinkie! Make a mug cake.

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