Sunday, January 18, 2009

Healthy Cake

Two words you don't usually hear together. That's okay though. Just because something is healthy, it doesn't mean that it has to taste bad.

I have an over abundance of pears in the house, so instead of letting them go bad (I can only eat so many pears for lunch), I thought I would make good use out of them. I looked everywhere for a good pear upside-down cake, but stumbled onto this recipe instead. I was intrigued. Pears, poppyseeds, ginger and stiff egg whites. It sounds like a strange combination, but it really works!

This cake sounds like it's a lot of steps and labor intensive, but it's really not. I just happen to have one mixing bowl for my Kitchenaid, so it took me a little longer than it would take most people. I had fun putting it all together, and it makes me happy to know that it's healthy. I don't have to feel horribly guilty if I have an extra piece. I was able to brush up on my skills for folding in egg whites, which I don't do often.

I didn't have almond extract so I substitued with vanilla and the cake was still very good. The end result is a moist cake that's airy because of the egg whites.

My oven runs really hot, so even with reducing the heat in the oven and cooking this for way less time than the recipe called for, the top still got overly brown. That's okay, it still tasted yummy.

Now, let's hope I don't have to take a drug test anytime soon. How in the world would I explain that it's poppyseeds in my system?

Pear Poppyseed Cake
from: Weight Watchers

2 large pears, peeled and cored
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
6 tbsp butter, softened
3 medium egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Heat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray; dust with flour.

In microwavable bowl, heat pears until tender, about 2 minutes on high.

Strain 1/4 cup pear juice into measuring cup. Add buttermilk and stir in almond extract.

Mash pears with fork until they're about the texture of applesauce.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, poppy seeds, ginger, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, cream butter with a mixer on medium speed until light; add pear purée and mix to combine. Alternately add dry ingredients and pear juice mixture in three additions, starting with dry mixture.

In another bowl, whip egg whites with mixer until almost stiff. Add sugar slowly and whip until stiff. In three additions, fold whites into pear mixture. Pour into pan.

Bake until cake springs back in middle when lightly touched, about 45 minutes. Cool on rack and serve.

Shrimp Again

A few months ago, I posted about my first experience with using seafood in a recipe. I have done it again folks: Made something with shrimp. I think my hesitation with using shrimp in any dish is always the cost. Not that shrimp is really any more expensive than beef or chicken, but the price tag of $6.99 per pound is enough to make me think twice.

I found this recipe out of my new favorite cookbook, Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2009. I love it because it's a year's worth of recipes from their magazine. Definitely worth the $35 price tag. That is the second time I have mentioned price in this entry. Hmmmmm.

The combination of ingredients seems a little strange and it was found in the creative twist to old fashioned casseroles. I don't know about you, but I have never heard of a shrimp and grits casserole. Is this a Southern dish maybe? Regardless, I wanted to try it.

Here's a confession though: Grits scare me. I have never eaten them thanks to a bad experience at a Waffle House in Pensacola, Florida. I was eating there years ago and saw the vat of nasty looking yellow grits. That killed any idea of ever eating grits. What changed? My latest motto: Branch out.

This was very easy to prepare. You have to stir the grits constantly, but that isn't horrible considering you are only cooking them for a few minutes. Here's another confession. Okay, two. I didn't use fresh herbs. I can't justify buying fresh considering how seldom I cook. So, I used dried. Second confession: I don't have an 11x7-inch baking pan. So instead, I used a Corningware casserole dish. Did either of these confessions effect the dish in any way? Well, not that I could tell.

The results were creamy, a little tangy from the cream cheese and extremely yummy! This is comfort food at its finest and who would have known that it was light? Yum.........I am already thinking of leftovers for tomorrow.

Shrimp and Grits Casserole
from: Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2009

2 cups reduced-fat milk (2%)
3/4 cup fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 package (3 oz) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, coarsley chopped
cooking spray
hot pepper sauce (optional)
* Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

* Combine milk and broth in a medium heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Gradually add grits and salt to a pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in parmesan, butter, and cream cheese. Stir in parsley and next 4 ingredients. Spoon mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes or until set. Serve with hot pepper sauce if desired.

Warning: Not Healthy!

Once in a while, you just have to cook something that sounds good regardless of what it's made out of right? At least that was my reasoning when I made this chicken. I found it online on my favorite message board website. Being that I was feeling lazy and didn't want to cook, that's why I decided to make it.

This is extremely easy to make. And takes very little ingredients. The ingredients that it does take are strange. If you are not a mayonnaise fan, you probably won't like this. Not that I eat mayo by the spoonful or anything and I don't eat it very often.

Ready for how easy this is?

Mix together 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Spread over chicken breasts (I made three). Sprinkle liberally with Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Done! Simple as that! So, if you are feeling lazy, make this. I am sure there are a thousand different ways to jazz this up, but I thought it was tasty just how it is. The chicken was moist, and no, it didn't taste like eating mayonnaise. Pair it with some mashed potatoes and a veggie, and you have a complete meal.

Curious Case of Fennel

I have two recipes bookmarked to make in the upcoming weeks that involve fennel. I have two problems with this:

1. I don't like licorice, and fennel tastes like licorice
2. I have never cooked with fresh fennel before. I don't even know how to cut it up and dice it.

But, in order to broaden my horizons, I decided to go for it. My first recipe is the one below. I love, LOVE to pack soup for lunches and this soup from my new Cooking Light cookbook sounded unusual and tasty. I immediately saw the listing for fennel and thought "Oh great, what am I going to substitute for THAT?!" I will try it. I may not like it, but I will try it. I figure that Cooking Light must have put the fennel in the recipe for a reason right? It must add some needed flavor.

Off to the grocery store I go. What does fennel even look like anyways? I find whole fennel complete with its pretty frondy tops. Besides the licorice vegetable in this recipe, it called for Swiss Chard, which I could not find at my grocery store, as well as butternut or acorn squash, zucchini and carrots. I suppose all the root vegetables is what makes this Winter Minestrone.

I get to the checkstand with my fennel, squash, spinach (as a substitute for the chard) and all my other groceries. Guess how much the fennel cost? $5.00. For one vegetable. Holy cow, add this fact to the third reason I don't like fennel: It's expensive!

I made this minestrone today and I must say, it was delicious! Not only is it a different spin on a common soup, but it made my entire house smell wonderful. I can even admit that fennel tastes better cooked. I let my husband have a taste, and even he liked it which is amazing for a squash-hater. Look how pretty the veggies look when they are all cut up and cooking in the pan:

The more color in a recipe, the better nutritionally it is. With the beans for protein, the huge variety of veggies, spices and a little bit of pasta, you don't need much else with this soup except maybe a piece of fruit to round out the food groups.

My only beef about this recipe is that the serving amount said 6 servings. When I sectioned it up into containers to take for lunches, it only made 5. That was after I added an extra 1/2 cup of water. Now, that could be my fault for overcooking or cooking it too high. So, if you want to have extra soup, I would suggest adding another 1 cup of water or 1 cup of chicken broth to the ingredient list.

I can't wait for my lunch tomorrow and the rest of this week!

Winter Minestrone
from: Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2009

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups cubed peeled acorn or butternut squash (about 1 medium)
3/4 cup diced zucchini
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup diced fennel
1 cup water
1 can (14 oz) fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
5 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
1/4 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
2 1/2 cups chopped Swiss chard
1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned Great Northern beans
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black papper
2 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients to pan; saute 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add squash and next 3 ingredients; saute 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup water, broth and tomato paste; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in pasta; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chard; cook 3 minutes. Add beans; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in pepper. Serve with cheese.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Date Night

We didn't really go out on a date, but my husband and I had a date with our Wii. We have a new game and decided to stay in this evening. The weather outside is still cold and frightful, we don't have a fire that would be so delightful, so I made chili. After all, chili is a stick-to-your-ribs type meal. To keep in theme with my healthy resolution, this is turkey chili from Weight Watchers.

Don't fear, the ingredients look like a lot, but a lot of them are spices that you would already have in your spice rack. You don't expect to see ingredients like carrots in chili (at least not in the chili I have ever made), but that's okay. It adds bulk and extra texture to the dish. Oh, and by the way, don't omit the green onions at the end. They really add to the flavor and crunch of the overall dish.

I like making chili for some reason. I am not sure if it's because one-pot dishes appeal to me for easy clean up, or if I just like the heartiness, or the flavor. Maybe it's because you don't need to add anything to eat with chili other than some cornbread and a salad. That's exactly what I did with this recipe. Honey cornbread (from a box, sorry!) and a green salad. I was sufficiently stuffed after this meal.

At this point, I have posted so many Cooking Light and Weight Watchers recipes, I should just change the name of my blog. But, alas, I won't. Here's where I stand with the weight loss: As of today, I have lost 13.4 pounds. I am hoping for another pound lost at weigh-in on Tuesday.

As long as I continue to eat healthy using recipes such as the ones below, I will be in good shape for our vacation on a white sand beach in 2009.

Hearty Turkey Chili
from: Weight Watchers

1 spray cooking spray
1 tsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium garlic clove, minced
2 medium carrot, thinly sliced into rounds
1 pound lean ground turkey
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 cup canned chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup scallion, chopped

Coat a large pot with cooking spray; place over medium heat. Add oil and onion; sauté onion until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and carrots; cook until garlic is softened, about 1 minute. Add turkey; brown meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Stir to break up lumps.

Add chili powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin, tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, beans and green pepper; bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until meat and vegetables are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; garnish with scallions. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

Double Chocolate Goodness

I am not going to lie. These were a pain. Not to mix together, but to get onto the baking sheet. The dough was so sticky! It resembled cookie dough more than biscotti dough. If you can get past the poopy fingers, this recipe is a good one!

Anything that is titled Double Chocolate is sure to be a hit right? Cooking Light is my favorite magazine, and they didn't disappoint with this recipe. The picture is incredibly beautiful (of course), which led me to make it. Plus, I had all the ingredients on hand. That always is a nice surprise.

If you don't have a kitchen scale (mental note: buy kitchen scale), that's okay. The flour in the recipe measures out to about 1.5 cups. It takes such ordinary items from your pantry and you are bound to have everything you need to make them. I had leftover mini-chocolate chips from the last time I made biscotti, so I didn't have to buy any.

Here are the results of the biscotti after the first go-round in the oven:

These would be wonderful dunked in a cup of coffee, a la Italian style, or eaten by themselves as a snack or dessert. Now, if I can just hold myself back from eating the whole batch. That wouldn't be low fat or low calorie after all.

Double-Chocolate Biscotti
from: Cooking Light December 2008

6.75 ounces flour (about 1.5 cups)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate minichips
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg white

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine vanilla, eggs, and egg white in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture; stir until well blended. Divide dough in half. Turn dough out onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. With floured hands, shape each dough half into a 12-inch-long roll; pat to 1/2 inch thickness.

3. Bake for 22 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 18 (1/2 inch) slices. Carefully stand slices upright on a baking sheet. Bake biscotti an additional 15 minutes or until almost firm (biscotti will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove biscotti from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack.