One of our major gripes about “healthy” cookbooks is that they are often the culinary equivalent of kissing your cousin. The recipes kinda work, but the result is usually “meh” food that celebrates what isn’t in the dish, and not giving you something that is healthy and tastes good. We think food, “healthy” or not, should taste good and satisfy your soul. So when we recently got Heidi Swanson’s “Super Natural Cooking”, we were curious to see how the recipes would turn out.
If you are unaware of Heidi Swanson, she is a successful food blogger and designer. Her blog 101 Cookbooks is a nationally recognized blog for simple recipes using sustainable, whole foods. We are fans of the blog and decided to give the cookbook a try. The theme of “Super Natural Cooking” is the use of whole, natural foods in easy, basic vegetarian recipes. Think of the book as a solid introduction to the world of whole-foods cooking (and if you don’t know about ingredients like amaranth or quinoa, you soon will).
Happily, Swanson does a good job of providing simple recipes that highlight the natural ingredients, rather than trying to re-engineer classic dishes. We are moving through her recipes and they are clear, well-written and the results are tasty. One of the first recipes we tried from the cookbook were for her Espresso Banana Muffins, but Swanson notes that adding chocolate chunks is a good option- so we ran with that and adapted the recipe.
Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip muffins sound exactly like what they are. The “natural” adaptation is the use of white whole wheat flour and cane sugar instead of their refined cousins white flour and sugar. The white whole wheat flour provides a slightly nuttier flavor than white flour, which is welcome in this dish, as it compliments the bananas. As for the use of cane sugar, most people will be hard-pressed to taste a difference in flavor. Cane sugar has more of the natural molasses than refined sugar and gives a bit of pleasant (at least to us) “funk” to the sweetness of the sugar. To be honest, we use cane sugar syrup in cocktails all the time but could not taste it in the muffins. But this is fine, it just makes the point that cane sugar is a worthy option to replace refined sugar, if you are so inclined.
As for making the muffins, it’s a traditional muffin recipe. The dry and wet ingredients are combined separately and then the dry ingredients are folded into the wet ingredients. Mix as little as possible to keep the muffins from getting tough. Pour into cups and bake. The only “extra” step is mashing the bananas, which takes less than a minute. And you can use a stand mixer, or not. Easy. Continue reading