Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Slimming it down the Southern way

For more than a week now, I’ve been wanting to make carrot cake muffins from “The Slim Down South Cookbook” from Southern Living.
I loved the idea of making the breakfast treat, packed with grated carrots and crushed pineapple. The day before I had made cinnamon swirl cake from this book, and it was very good, but I really wanted to make these muffins before writing my food column. So I did.
Not only are these tasty muffins a beautiful shade of brown, speckled with pineapple and carrot, but they are very good! Don’t make them thinking you will be sampling a slice of carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting. This is something different. This is a lightly sweet cousin of that decadent dessert, and I enjoyed it Tuesday morning as my morning snack. So did co-workers I shared them with; several immediately asked how I made them.
Author Carolyn O’Neil has packed her cookbook with recipes that have roots in our Southern favorites. Her purpose is to show readers that favorite Southern foods can fit in a healthy, modern lifestyle.
“The stay-slim philosophy of ‘The Slim Down Cookbook’ starts with wholesome ingredients you should be eating more of, not avoiding. Fresh peaches, pecans, okra, greens and sweet potatoes fill Southern pantries with good health and great taste,” she writes.
O’Neil, a dietitian and food writer, offers plenty of advice along with her recipes.
She suggests teaming a healthy diet with physical activity and a few treats thrown in for good measure.
“The Slim Down South Cookbook” is divided by categories with an introduction at each chapter on ways to eat better. In the dessert chapter, O’Neil discusses the advantages of choosing desserts with fruit, serving smaller portions and making smart substitutions such as low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk.
In addition to the two recipes I’ve already tried from this book, I have marked a number of others, including chopped chicken sandwiches that are topped with crunchy pecan slaw. I really want to make this slaw that features Napa cabbage and apples with a sweet and spicy dressing. I’d also like to try her apple-a-day pork chops and the honey pecan chicken thighs in the entertainment chapter.
O’Neil’s book is more than a cookbook, really. It’s a guide to healthy eating and is enjoyable to read.
Throughout the book, O’Neil includes comments from food writers and others, who tell their stay slim secrets. Evelyn Crayton, a nutrition professor, says she makes it a rule to never fry food at home. Instead, when the craving hits, she goes to a restaurant.
As you start the new year and are trying to stick to resolutions to eat better, this book could be a good guide for some new recipes and inspiration.
“Slim Down South” by Oxmoor House has a $24.95 sticker price but is offered for less online.

Carrot Cake Muffins
  • 13⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3⁄4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
  • 11⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans crushed pineapple in juice, drained*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • Paper baking cups
  • Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.
Whisk together oil and next 3 ingredients; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Fold in carrots. Place paper baking cups in 18 muffin cups and coat with baking spray; spoon batter into cups, filling two-thirds full.
Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.
“The Slim Down South Cookbook”
*Notes: I had a 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple in its own juice. I took out a little of the pineapple for 16 ounces, but next time I will use it all. I “grated” my carrots in my small food processor; the author mentions you can buy carrots already grated to make the recipe even easier. I failed to spray my cupcake liners, and the muffins did stick. 

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

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