Mary's Busy Kitchen

Mary's Busy Kitchen

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

How To Choose A Fresh Pineapple

I think just about everyone would agree that there is nothing quite like a fresh, juicy, ripe pineapple. 

And just about the best way to enjoy a fresh, ripe pineapple is to know how to pick one out correctly at the market.

Fresh pineapple is delicious on pizza, bbq'd  on a skewer with vegetables, in a fresh fruit salad, and of course, just eating some with your fingers piece after piece.

 Here are just a few steps that will help you pick the perfect pineapple:

- Smell the pineapple right at the base. It should have a sweet, pleasant aroma.  If it has more of a vinegar-like smell, don't buy it…it is beginning to rot. And this is also smell, not ripe.

- No withered leaves in the crown, they should be fresh and green.

-The body should be firm with just a little give, not soft and wrinkly.

- Is it heavy? A heavy pineapple is a juicy pineapple…just like picking an orange. Feeling heavier is different than finding the biggest pineapple. Let several sit in your hand with your palm up, and you will notice a difference.

- No mold, no mold, no mold!

-Refrigerate your pineapple if you are not going to use it right away.

*Note: And just for the record…pulling a leaf from the top is not the correct way to choose a ripe pineapple. I found that out the hard way!

And remember…it's easier to encourage healthy eating when the food is delicious.

Enjoy your pineapple!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Heart Healthy Apple Crisp - gluten free, With a New Banana - Grape Sorbet Recipe

I'm always on the look-out for healthier desserts. My husband loves apple crisp…any fruit crisp for that matter. But right now since we have an excess of apples, I am focusing on apples.  I found this recipe in a new cook book called, Forks Over Knives, The Cookbook. It's great, I love the lower fat options. I have made it twice now, and my version has a few changes as far as spices, a thicker crumb topping,  and gluten free oats vs regular oats.

My household likes lots of topping, so I doubled the recipe, and I used sun flower butter instead of cashew butter. As I mention below, any nut butter is fine. I also added 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the topping.

Heart Healthy Apple Crisp                        Serves 6-8
8 apples, peeled and sliced (I have also made this with 1/2 pears)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 cloves
2 - 2 1/2 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400.  Prepare  9"x 9 " baking pan with a non-stick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl add sliced apples. Sprinkle vanilla extract over sliced apples. In a small dish mix dry ingredients. Add dry mixture to sliced apples mixing well to coat. Pour pure maple syrup over apples and mix well. Pour into pan. Push down a little if it looks like there won't be room for the topping, not to will cook down.

*Note: Optional tip. I like to precook my filling for about 3-5 minutes in the large mixing bowl before placing into the baking pan. This always ensures the apples fully cook.

4 1/2  tbsp nut butter, I used sun flower seed butter. Almond, cashew, hazelnut are ideas too.
6 Tbls pure maple syrup
3 Tbls applesauce, I use unsweetened
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups gluten free old fashioned oats, regular if gluten free is not needed
*optional 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a small mixing bowl add nut butter, pure maple syrup, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix well. Add oats, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well. Spread the topping over the apples. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Set oven temperature at 350 and continue to bake another 30 minutes. If necessary cover with foil the last 10 minutes to prevent over browning.

Let cool a bit and serve with a fat free Vanilla Soft Serve variation or a whipped topping of your choice.

We served ours with a delicious banana and grape sugar free sorbet that took about 5 minutes to prepare.

Banana - Grape Sorbet
3-4 frozen bananas, cut in chunks
2 1/2 - 3 cups of frozen grapes, we used mixed varieties from our garden
1/4 -1/2 cup non dairy type milk, we used rice milk

Mix in a heavy duty processor stirring often to move the frozen pieces around. Once it is swirling in the processor…it's done.

Maybe pack some apple crisp in a picnic lunch. A delicious treat on a warm fall day.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cinnamon Sprinkled Dried Apple Slices

My daughter likes to buy these dried apple slices with cinnamon, but it's expensive for a college student on a fixed budget…so we decided to make our own.

We like to leave the peeling on the apples, think of it like...getting an extra bonus. There are antioxidants and essential nutrients in apples with peels.

Cinnamon Sprinkled Dried Apple Slices
Apples - any variety you like. Washed, dried, and sliced. Core removed.
Cinnamon - a container with a shaker on top is helpful.
Food dehydrator 

I set my dehydrator temperature on 135. 
Place sliced apples on a flat surface like a large baking sheet. 
Sprinkle with cinnamon. We go heavy on the cinnamon, my daughter really loves this stuff.
I suggest starting lightly and let your taste buds decide.
Let dry about 4-6 hours. It will depend on the thickness of your slices and your particular type of dehydrator. The key is making sure all the moisture is gone from the apple. This increases the shelf life. A properly dried apple can last all year in a tightly sealed container or freezer bag, stored in a cool place, away from heat. 

Eat your dried cinnamon apples for snacks, cut up in cereal (hot or cold), add to trail mix and granola.
Maybe stir some cut up dried apples in a cookie or snack bar recipe. 

Take some to a party and watch how fast they disappear!  

A no sugar added healthy snack!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Oh So Healthy - Apple, Banana - Oat Waffles ...always gluten free

Are you like me and still trying to figure out how to use all those apples off the tree before the fruit flies take over the kitchen?!

Here is an idea I came up with last week.  I cut an apple into 4 sections, removing the seeds. Put it right into the blender with the rest of the ingredients.

You can see the red apple peel flecks in the batter before closing the waffle iron.  I like this... and the apples not only add more fiber, but the peels are rich in antioxidants as well.

No need to peel organic apples!

 And like many of my waffles, I suggest you sprinkle some healthy hemp seeds over the batter before closing the waffle iron. This will create a delicious toasted seed over the top of the waffle. Hemp seeds are high in protein, containing all 9 of the essential amino acids.

Oh So Healthy - Apple, Banana - Oat Waffles                      Makes   4  waffles
2 1/2 cups gluten free old fashioned oats
1 banana
1 apple, cut into 4 pieces and seeds removed
2 cups water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
*add optional ingredients for variety:
-optional hemp seeds (do not add if wanting a fat free waffle)
-optional chia seeds - stir in 1 Tbl or so after pureeing - beware this will cause a little thicker batter. Not to worry, just add a little more water if batter becomes too thick.

*NOTE: depending on the size of apple you use, this could change the consistency of the batter. If the juice of the apple makes the waffle batter too runny, add 1/2-1 cup more oats, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/4 tsp cinnamon.

This is a user friendly recipe - it is impossible to ruin it - the general rule is…the longer it sits, the thicker it gets. You can even put the batter in the refrigerator and use it later.

Puree all ingredients (except hemp seeds) in a heavy duty blender until apple is pureed within batter. Stir in optional chia seed. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes while waffle iron heats up.

Prepare waffle iron with a non-stick cooking spray. Set to medium or medium high.
When ready pour 1 cup of batter onto the waffle iron.  Sprinkle on some hemp seeds if you like, and  cook for 10-12 minutes.

Serve up or let cool on a wire rack.

This is a perfect waffle to freeze and pop in the toaster for breakfast or a snack. I like to take one in my lunch like a sandwich with sunflower butter and an all-fruit jam.

If counting weight watcher points each waffle has 6.25 points, or about 1.5 for each 4th.

      Great for healthy snacks too!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GF Peanut Butter - Banana Oat Waffles

This waffle is so versatile and healthy, I just love it.
Recognize this recipe?  It's my favorite waffle recipe with a little more protein, about 4.5 grams per waffle.

I decided to add some applesauce and peanut butter to the recipe. Of course any nut butter would be great.

GF Peanut Butter -Banana Oat Waffles            Makes 4 Waffles
2 1/2 cups gluten free old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 banana
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter, or other nut butter
2 1/2  cups water
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Puree all ingredients at once in a blender. Let sit about 5-8 minutes.
Prepare waffle iron with a non-stick cooking spray. Heat to medium or medium high setting.
Pour 1 cup of waffle batter at a time onto waffle iron, and let cook about 12 minutes.

These will be soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside.  Eat right away with pure maple syrup, fresh sliced fruit, or more peanut butter and jam…maybe even homemade jam!

Freeze leftovers and pop in toaster for a fresh waffle on a busy morning, or for a healthy snack.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Quick & Easy White Bean Chicken Chili

Simple, healthy & fast…it doesn't get any better than that!  There is no added fat, dairy, or gluten. Even yeast free diets can enjoy a bowl of this delicious chili. 

A perfect meal for a busy night or when you have leftover chicken. You could even substitute in turkey after the holidays!

I served this chili with some fresh homemade corn bread.

Corny or Homestyle Corn Bread

Gluten Free Corn Bread

 If you are counting weight watcher points 7 (6.8) points for 5 servings, and 8.5 for 4 servings.

Quick & Easy White Bean Chicken Chili                                   Serves 4-5
3 cups cooked & cubed chicken, I used breast meat.
1-2 sweet red peppers, chopped - mixed colors are fine.
1 large onion chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 - 3/4 tsp ground cumin, it's about preference here.
2 cups frozen corn
2 15 oz cans white beans, I used small white beans. Any combination is fine.
4 cups chicken broth

In a large saucepan saute onions and sweet peppers in about 1/4 cup of the chicken broth, more as needed. Add all spices and cooked chicken cubes, continue to sauté. Add chicken broth as needed to keep things moist within the liquid. Stir in corn and up to 3 cups of broth. Mix well. Stir in drained beans and as much broth as desired. Some like a thicker chili and some like more liquid. I added all 4 cups. Let simmer about 20 minutes.

While my chili simmered I prepared and cooked the corn bread. If the corn bread takes longer than the chili, just turn the chili off and leave the lid on to retain the heat.

This was a big hit at my house. After my husband took his first bite he asked if I had made a double batch.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pleasantly Pumpkin - Applesauce Muffins - no sugar added

Pumpkin bread was always a favorite of mine growing up.  These muffins have a very nice, mild pumpkin flavor. You could always add about 1/8 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon, but I found the flavor perfect without.

The muffins are low-fat and sweetened only with the unsweetened applesauce and optional raisins.
The pumpkin does not add more sweetness to the muffins. 

Weight watchers count 4 points for each muffin with raisins, 3 points without raisins.

Pleasantly Pumpkin - Applesauce Muffins - no sugar added           Makes 12-13
1 egg or egg replacer
2 Tbls oil
1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour (or other gluten free flour such as oat)
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp xanthan gum or guar gum
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins, optional  (leave out for yeast free diets)
*optional add in spices:
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare muffin tin with a non-stick spray or liners.
In a medium size bowl add the egg or egg replacer, oil, applesauce and pumpkin. Mix well using a wire whisk.

In a small bowl add flours, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum or guar gum and optional spices.
Mix together.  Add dry mixture to applesauce mixture, mix well with a large spoon. Stir in raisins.

Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and let muffins sit a couple minutes before removing from pan. Cool on a wire rack.

Store muffins in the refrigerator for several days or freeze for longer storage.