Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maple Oatmeal Bread

I don’t think that I will ever be warm again… oh, yes, I know how silly that statement really is. In about 5 months I will be sitting at this same laptop, but positioned under a ceiling fan on the back porch, trying to catch a cool evening breeze. But now it’s late January. We have had snow and bitter cold and ice accumulation for weeks, and it just feels so damp and chilly.

I am dying to get outside and run. I miss my trails, but they are under snow, so I have to be content with the exercise bike and occasional forays outdoors to carefully walk around the patios and sidewalks which are now ice-skating rinks. I discovered that there is a layer of ice on top of the grass in the yard which is revealed either when the sun happens to peek through and melt a bit of the snowy layer on top, or when I take a step into the "safe" grassy area and my feet shoot out from under me.

Today Spooky came out with me since it wasn’t snowing and actually reached 27 degrees. I’ve been keeping a “trail” around the patio shoveled and de-iced for him, which probably sounds weird, but Spooky likes to go out. If he doesn’t get some form of activity every day or two, he follows me around all day, giving me huge Spooky-eyes until I stop what I’m doing and spend 15 or 20 minutes playing. We play chase-the-feather (peacock feather on a string), pounce-on-the-snake (a long boot string), and something’s-coming-up-from-the-basement. About that last game, I swear that someday I’m going to misstep and tumble down those stairs and break another bone… But it keeps Spoo occupied and active. He’s so spoiled. :)

Because we went outside for a while today and walked around, he’s napping on the radiator. I must have spent some energy, too, because I’m not sleepy, just hungry. Dinner isn’t for a few hours, so I’m going to toast a piece of maple oatmeal bread and make a cup of tea. Sounds about perfect.

I found the recipe at Laura’s site a few weeks ago and couldn't wait to try it. Then I made this bread for the second time last weekend and I have to say that it is one of the best bread recipes I’ve tried in a while. This second effort yielded even better results. I only made two changes to the original recipe. I increased the water and added oat bran, and I decreased the amount of maple syrup and added some maple extract. The reason for the latter change is purely economic—“real” maple syrup is incredibly expensive. I couldn’t notice a discernable difference between the original recipe’s amounts and this substitute.

There is something wonderful about the smell of toasting bread, but add a subtle whiff of maple, and it’s heavenly.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Maple Oatmeal Bread

Adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

Makes 2 loaves

24 servings

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

3 cups boiling water

1 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup oat bran

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon maple extract

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour -- (white whole wheat preferred)

3 1/4 cups bread flour -- plus 3/4 to 1 cup additional

Mix the oats and oat bran in a large mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over and stir. Allow to sit for 30-45 minutes. Add the maple syrup, extract, salt, and olive oil and stir. Let sit until mixture cools to lukewarm (about a half hour). Add the dry yeast and mix well. Add the whole wheat flour and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

While the mixer is running, add the bread flour slowly until thoroughly combined. Scrape sides and beater, cover with a towel, and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Switch the flat beater to a dough hook and mix in enough additional bread flour so that the dough clears the side of the bowl and forms a ball around the hook. Knead for 8 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, turn to oil the top of the dough ball, and cover with plastic. Allow to rise for an hour, or until doubled.

Divide the dough in half and form each into a log. Place each in a greased 1 pound loaf pan (8" x 4"), cover with plastic, and allow to rise above the edge of the pan (about 45 minutes).

Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, rotating pans from front to back halfway through. The bread is done when the bottom is deep golden brown, sounds hollow when the bottom crust it tapped with fingers, and/ or reaches an internal temperature of 200F. Remove loaves from the pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before serving.


"2 loaves"

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Per serving: 140 Calories (kcal); 2g Total Fat; (12% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 180mg Sodium; Fiber 2g

Food Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

'Bye January!

Welcome February. Now you get the heck over with, too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Silicone Egg Poaching Cups

I’ve been enjoying a new “toy” that I got as a Christmas gift.

I have never been able to poach eggs in the traditional way in which you bring a sauté pan of water to a simmer, use a spoon to stir a small area, then pour the egg into the swirl where (supposedly) the yolk will center and the water will “push” the whites toward the yolk. The few times I have tried this, I have ended up with strings of egg whites and underdone yolks and it has not been a pretty sight.

So, for years, I have used an egg poacher. Not a bad compromise, but the one which I have been using for the past 10 years or so isn’t a very good design and is difficult to clean. Still, I use it because it is there. Why buy something new just for convenience sake, especially when it’s such a small thing?

Well, my Mom shares my love of eggs and I was telling her a few months ago about something which I saw in a recent Williams Sonoma catalog—silicone egg poaching cups. It’s ridiculously simple—drop the cup in boiling water, crack an egg into the cup, boil. But, as I said, I have an egg poacher so I didn’t pursue it further.

On Christmas morning, as we sat around eating cranberry-pecan rolls and sipping spiced coffee, we opened our gifts to each other. After I opened one small box from Mom, I pulled the silicone egg cups out and grinned. Of course, Dad and Jack were completely confused as to what these were, and proceeded to have quite a good time between themselves guessing… one would have thought they had been in dipping into the eggnog bowl…

I have to say that I am not a fan of silicone baking pans. I have a couple and find myself reaching for my good ol’ metal ones instead. But these are a great idea. It’s so simple—shoot a little cooking spray into the cup, add an egg, lower it into a saucepan of boiling water, cover, cook until done. The silicone does not get hot, so you just lift the cups out of the water, flip onto the plate, and press a little on the bottom (if necessary) to release your perfectly poached egg. Now I cook mine until the yolk is very firm, so a different method may be necessary to release a poached egg with a runny yolk, but how difficult could it be? And these things clean so easy, too.

Mine were purchased at a kitchen store instead of through a catalog, and will probably be more readily available as time goes on. If you make poached eggs, and are flummoxed by the simmering-water-bath method, pick one or two up and give them a try!

An update to the above information:

For the past months I have used these once a week, at least, and remain quite pleased. I have discovered a few "tips" to make the process even easier:

The pot I am using above is (I think) a 3 quart. A slightly larger one would work better, as the cups are a bit difficult to get into the pot as they squish together a bit. But I'm not buying a new 4-quart just for that! Or, will I???

Keep the water level down to about 1/3 the depth of the pan. And keep the water to a simmer rather than a boil (water splashes into the cups otherwise).

I cover the pot slightly, just enough to keep the heat in, but so there is not a buildup of moisture on the lid which drips onto the eggs.

Cooking spray without a silicone in it seems to work best ("Mazola Pure", and I prefer the butter flavor, rather than "Pam"). And these eggs are so easy to unmold. Just press the underside a bit and they pop out. Seriously. Do it over a plate. :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

HomeStyle Meatloaf with Garlic Smashed Potatoes

The winter doldrums have officially arrived...

I'm tired of being cold, tired of snow, and it's still January! We haven't had weather like this for 14 years, and I sincerely hope that it stays away for another 14 (maybe, by then, Jack and I will be in our retirement digs someplace warmer, although he continues to talk about moving to Maine...).

The oven is getting a workout which it rarely experiences during other months of the year. If it's bake-able, then I'm making it! Yesterday I received a subscribed weekly recipe from Foodfit. Homestyle Meatloaf with Garlic Smashed Potatoes.

I had bought a large quantity of ground turkey at Sam's Club last week and planned to make and freeze meatballs yesterday, so I decided to make the meatloaf for dinner as well. That would get the oven going for a couple of hours, and perhaps we could even have dinner in the kitchen instead of in the slightly warmer dining room. I like the dining room, but the table is too huge for two people. I see cartoons of this, the woman at one end of the table, the man at the other, using the dedicated butler to relay messages as mealtime conversation. Alas, we have no butler, dedicated or otherwise!

The meatloaf turned out better than I had anticipated. I haven't yet found a meatloaf recipe that I like, remembering my Mom's meatloaf but trying to make it in a method using ground turkey was a failure. That particular meatloaf needed ground beef. So I've tried many over the years, and one or two passed muster, but this one will now be the "go to" recipe.

FoodFit's recipe called for a combination of ground sirloin and ground turkey. Ground sirloin is a good choice for a lowfat diet since it is one of the lowest-fat red meats, but since we don't eat red meat that had to be eliminated. So I just added in that amount of ground turkey. Even if the ground turkey is mixed dark and light meat, it remains low enough in fat that it can get dry and lose moisture during baking, becoming tough. To remedy this, I added some moisture-filled vegetables and also a tablespoon of monosaturated fat-rich olive oil. It worked quite well.

Adding chopped spinach and grated carrots also adds nutrition to the meatloaf, and you really cannot taste the additions (just be sure to finely grate the carrot and also finely chop the already-chopped spinach).

I have found that brushing the top of the meatloaf with ketchup adds a flavor that is quite necessary. I've previously used tomato sauce (and I cringe when I see some recipes calling for undiluted tomato soup as a topping), but I think that the spices in the ketchup, along with the sugar which will caramelize a bit as the meatloaf cooks, is a pleasant flavor (and also prevents the meatloaf from drying out). I'm not a Ketchup Person. I buy a bottle and will invariably toss it because it goes past the expiration date far enough for the condiment to start to turn color. However, there must be ketchup on top of meatloaf... ;)

Along with the recipe for the meatloaf was one for garlic smashed potatoes. Don't miss this one, either. I didn't realize how easy it was to roast a couple of cloves of garlic then smash them into potatoes (especially easy since the potatoes are microwaved, unpeeled, then smashed with a potato masher). This was a perfect side for the meatloaf, and adding the requisite peas-and-carrots, a warming comfort-food meal worthy of a snowy Saturday evening was prepared with a minimum of fuss. And Jack loved the fact that the portion sizes were larger than he had expected (of the meatloaf only, for according to him there are never enough potatoes...) !

* Exported from MasterCook *

Turkey Meatloaf

Recipe By: FoodFit
Servings : 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion -- chopped (3 ¼ ounces, about ¾ cup)
2 cloves garlic -- minced
1/2 cup ketchup -- plus extra for brushing on top
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley -- chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces frozen chopped spinach -- (about 1 cup, loosely packed); thawed, squeezed, then chopped even more
1 large carrot -- finely grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 2 minutes more and set aside to cool.

3. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the ketchup through olive oil, and hen tthe cooled onion mixture. Add the turkey and lightly until it is just combined.

4. Pack the mixture into a 9-inch loaf pan, brush the top with ketchup and bake for 1 hour until fully cooked. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Alternatively, on a baking sheet covered with cooking spray, form the meatloaf into a 10" x 7" oval, slightly flattening the top with your hand, then brush on the ketchup. This will take about 45 minutes to bake (internal temperature at least 190F).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 320 Calories (kcal); 15g Total Fat (3 saturated); (39% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 104mg Cholesterol; 580mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

* Exported from MasterCook *

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Recipe By: FoodFit
Servings : 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 pound potatoes -- (Yukon Gold preferred), scrubbed
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth -- (may also need to add some skim milk as well)
1 large garlic bulb -- unpeeled
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt -- (approx)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper -- (approx)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the garlic cloves in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with olive oil. Place the dish, uncovered, in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the garlic is golden brown and soft. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. Prick each potato several times with the tip of a sharp knife. Place them in a single layer in a microwave-safe container and microwave until they are tender throughout, about 8 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.

4. In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil and turn down to a simmer.

5. Cut off the root end of each bulb and squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into a small bowl. Mash the garlic with a fork and throw the skins away.

6. Mash the potatoes (and their skins) with a potato masher. Add the roasted garlic. Slowly add the stock and mash until the desired consistency is reached.

7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 89 Calories (kcal); 2g Total Fat (trace saturated); (18% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 368mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes

I am just finishing with reading my December magazines now. Every year it seems as though periodicals accumulate on the kitchen table from October through the end of the year and unless someone points me to a particularly good recipe/article in a current magazine, I will have to wait until after the craziness of the holidays' end before I start to go through them. I'll then make notes on recipes or projects to try later in the year.

The recipe featured on the cover of December's Cooking Light was especially tempting. Hot chocolate fudge cakes, baked in individual ramekins, sprinkled with powdered sugar. But there were so many goodies made from Thanksgiving through New Year's that I couldn't find the need to make these until a special dinner last week.

Several reviews on their website indicated that many people who tried this recipe received varied results. Gathering all of this information, I gleaned 2 very important things to remember. #1 use the very best quality chocolate, and
#2, do not overbake

Both seem quite obvious to me, but when my ramekins were done 4 minutes early, I realized just how important it was not to overbake these (because they will, as one reviewer stated, turn into a big brownie).

The result were little dishes of warm, gooey, chocolatey heaven. A lightly crisp top crust gave way to a soft, warm chocolate cake speckled with melting bits of chocolate. I'm drooling...

The original recipe called for using 10 4-ounce ramekins, but I cut the recipe in half and used 4 8-ounce ramekins. Sorry, but those little bitty 4-ouncers would have been a joke! Yes, I know that I then almost doubled the calories and fat but I won't be making these every day. For a once- or twice-a-year treat, it's darn worth the splurge.

And, check it out, these are made 4 hours in advance and up to four days! It took me 20 minutes to put them together. Two days later, having taken the roast chicken out of the oven, I kept the oven on, then just had to remember to slide these cakes in the oven when we were about halfway through eating the main course. Easy and delicious, what more could you ask for?

Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes

These hot-from-the-oven desserts are ideal for a holiday celebration and can mostly be made up to two days ahead.

3.4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
5 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (2.6-ounce) bar dark (71% cocoa) chocolate (such as Valrhona Le Noir Amer), finely chopped
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Sift together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt.

2. Place butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars, beating until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating until well blended. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture; fold in chocolate. Divide batter evenly among 10 (4-ounce) ramekins; arrange ramekins on a jelly-roll pan. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Let ramekins stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Uncover and bake at 350° for 21 minutes or until cakes are puffy and slightly crusty on top. Sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar; serve immediately.

Yield: 10 servings (serving size: 1 cake)

CALORIES 260 (28% from fat); FAT 8.2g (sat 4.5g,mono 2.3g,poly 0.2g); IRON 2.3mg; CHOLESTEROL 12mg; CALCIUM 63mg; CARBOHYDRATE 43.9g; SODIUM 189mg; PROTEIN 5.1g; FIBER 1.8g

Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2008

My notes:
Did not use espresso powder because Jack hates the taste of coffee. Odd, but true.
Instead of chopping up a 71% cocoa dark chocolate bar, I used Ghiradelli's bittersweet chocolate chips
Mine were "done" after 17 minutes

Friday, January 16, 2009

Smoky Winter Vegetable Soup

It is very, very cold outside. When I forced myself out of bed this morning, the outside temperature was -5ºF, and it was not until 1pm that it pushed its way up past 0. Good grief.

I am sitting here in the living room of my not-too-warm old farmhouse. The gas stove is running, with very comforting flames dancing about. To further this illusion of an old-fashioned wood fire, I have lit a stick of pine incense which has filled the first floor with the scent of burning logs. If I cannot have a real wood-burning fireplace, I can at least pretend!

In a while, I will go to the kitchen and turn on the oven on order to roast a chicken and bake bread. The kitchen was an addition built onto the original house in the 1960’s, and for some reason heat wasn’t added. It’s a darn cold room in the winter, but even more so during these nasty, frigid days. I’ve been baking a lot of bread in the past few days, and making oven-cooked dinners, just to warm up the place a little.

For lunch today, I made soup. This was the kind of soup which one prepares for warmth and comfort.

I sautéed thick slices of turkey bacon, then onions, potatoes, carrots, and garlic. After the vegetables were softened I added vegetable stock, dried thyme, and lots of black pepper. This simmered for a bit, then I thickened it with flour, then added chopped collards and some smoked paprika. I finished it with a couple of drops of hot pepper sauce and, voila!, a very simple soup, served with bread, which produced a lunch that was both nutritious and warming.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Smoky Winter Vegetable Soup

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings : 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

3 ounces turkey bacon -- thick-sliced preferred

2 teaspoons olive oil -- divided

4 ounces finely chopped onion -- about 1 cup

11 ounces white potatoes -- peeled or not; cut into 1/2" cubes; about 2 1/4 cups

3 ounces carrot -- diced 1/4"

2 large garlic cloves -- minced

6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

1 teaspoon dried thyme -- crushed

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups collard greens -- tough stems removed, chopped

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

hot sauce to taste

Parmesan cheese -- grated to garnish, optional

In a nonstick Dutch oven, fry the turkey bacon in a teaspoon of olive oil until browned. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Add the remaining olive oil to the pot and add the potatoes and carrot. Cook stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, chop the bacon into small pieces.

Add the bacon, vegetable stock, and thyme to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Turn the heat back up to a boil. In a small bowl, mix the flour with 1/4 cup of cold water and whisk until no lumps remain. Pour into the boiling soup slowly, stirring constantly until the broth thickens a bit. Turn the heat down a little and continue to boil for 1 minute, stirring.

Add the collards, turn the heat to low, and stir in the smoked paprika. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until the collards soften (can use spinach as a sub for the collard greens). Add freshly-ground pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan, if desired.

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Per serving: 202 Calories (kcal); 8g Total Fat (2g saturated); (34% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 19mg Cholesterol; 379mg Sodium; 3g Fiber

Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Um.... this photo.....

Okay, this is not only a bland photo, but I cannot get it to upload horizontally!

Sorry. You get the idea... (and, need I say, the soup tastes better than it looks!!!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Orange-Pecan Whole Wheat Monkey Bread

I do not bake sweet-dough breads very often, preferring to stick with my whole grain loaves (less fat, less calories, less temptation!). This past weekend we visited friends and I offered to make cinnamon rolls to take for Sunday breakfast. However, very ominous weather forecasts posted on Friday made us think that the trip would need to be postponed (the snow we can handle; ice and sleet accumulations are very nerve-wracking, not to say dangerous, to drive in). I didn’t want to make cinnamon rolls and end up with them sitting here, incessantly calling me, instead of being taken away.

On Saturday morning, however, the severity of the storm anticipated for our area was downgraded and we decided to make a go of it. Although we were driving an hour north, we hoped that the delayed weather front would give us a chance to arrive safely.

I did not have time to make the cinnamon rolls. Instead, got online to see what I could make with frozen bread dough. During the holidays, I had made several batches of whole wheat bread dough and still had 2 loaves in the freezer. I discovered something called Monkey Bread. :) The name was amusing, and it was a simple enough premise—balls of bread dough baked in a tube or bundt pan. There were several variations and, seeing what ingredients I had on hand, I chose 2 recipes and merged them with an addition of my own.

It went together way too easily. I made cinnamon syrup before leaving, and also mixed together cinnamon and sugar. I then chopped some toasted pecans. I just needed to remember to put the frozen dough in the refrigerator after dinner that evening.

Well, I did (!!!) and the following morning all I had to do was cut the loaves of dough into pieces, roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, layer the dough balls in a bundt pan (of which I had coated the bottom and sides with orange marmalade and then sprinkled chopped pecans on the bottom). After the dough balls had been added, I poured the warmed cinnamon syrup over all, covered, and set it to rise for 45 minutes. It took about 23 minutes to bake (I actually remembered to check early since I was using a dark pan), and I removed it from the oven where the bread cooled for 5 minutes. After loosening the sides and middle with a spatula, I placed an inverted serving platter on top. Holding both pan and platter together, I held my breath and flipped it over. Then I realized that everyone, kids and adults, had come into the kitchen to watch. I took a deep breath and gently eased the pan from the bread. Perfect. Absolutely gorgeously perfect! I would have liked to shout and take a jump into the air, but that would have given the impression that I was not confident about this recipe. I wasn’t, but I like to pretend (remember, this was the first time I tried such a bread). ;)

Look at this mass o’ gooey deliciousness!

Although the saturated fat amount is low, the calories per serving is high (and remember, this is for 2 rolls per serving). Still, I took a little comfort in the fact that this was made with whole-wheat dough… hey, 3g of fiber per serving-- practically a health food!

The bread was tender, and the topping a heavenly sticky mixture of cinnamon and orange and pecan.

Anyway, it was a big hit and I definitely will make this again. It is best eaten shortly after baking (the leftovers get soggy), so it is a perfect bread to make for a special brunch or breakfast with family and friends. I’m going to try to remember this recipe for when we visit my parents in March.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Orange-Pecan Whole Wheat Monkey Bread

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 12

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

Whole Wheat Bread -- dough; 2 pounds (can use frozen)

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup 2% low-fat milk -- (skim milk may also be used)

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup orange marmalade

1/3 cup chopped pecans

If frozen, thaw the bread dough in the refrigerator for 12-14 hours. Otherwise prepare dough through second rising, then punch down and cover.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small saucepan, mix the next five ingredients (sugar through butter) and heat until boiling, then turn down the heat a bit and simmer for 2 minutes (stir frequently). Pour into a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

Mix the next 3 ingredients (sugar through cinnamon) in a small, shallow bowl and set aside.

Spray a large (12-cup) Bundt pan with cooking spray. Spoon the marmalade into the bottom of the pan and spread it around a little. Sprinkle the pecans on top of the marmalade. Set aside.

Place the dough on a cutting board. If using fresh dough, divide into 2 pieces and form each, on a floured board, into an approximately 8" long log. For both fresh and frozen dough, cut each log in half lengthwise. Turn each of the four pieces onto the cut side and cut again lengthwise. Cut each log-quarter across into 6 pieces. You will have a total of 24 roll-sized pieces of dough (alternatively, you can divide the dough into 24 pieces, then roll each piece into a ball, but I feel that this way is easier).

Use the same cutting technique for the frozen, thawed bread dough. Most of the commercially-prepared doughs come in 1-pound loaves.

Dip each piece of dough into the dry cinnamon/sugar mixture and roll until coated. Place each piece into the Bundt pan, arranging them evenly. When finished, pour the (warm) liquid cinnamon/sugar mixture over all. Spray with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until doubled.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly. Remove from oven to a rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Loosen the outer and inner edges with a spatula. Invert a large serving plate over the top and, holding both plate and pan firmly, flip over. Wait for about 30 seconds, then carefully remove the pan. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Per serving: 272 Calories (kcal); 7g Total Fat (3g saturated); (22% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 6mg Cholesterol; 128mg Sodium; 3g fiber

Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates

Friday, January 9, 2009

Losing a very special friend, Dr. June Iben

I was all set to write a couple of recipe reviews when a letter arrived that squashed my mood for today. No recipe writing, now. I need to write about something, someone, else.

Several years ago, I read an article in a local newspaper about a place in our area which rescued large, exotic cats from abusive owners, tried their best to repair these animals both physically and emotionally, and cared for them for the rest of their lives. Both Jack and I love cats, both large and small, and I was amazed that such a place existed close to us.

I wrote to the veterinarian who was in charge of this “wild animal orphanage” and asked if I could please bring my husband to their facility to look at the big cats as a birthday gift. Dr. Sheperd returned my letter and gave me the name of Dr. June Iben, another veterinarian who lived on the property and might be able to give us a tour.

I called her and was a bit surprised by the deep, forceful voice which answered the phone, wishing me “Jambo!!!”, which I later found means hello in Swahili. She told me that we were more than welcome to visit, and she would give us a tour of the facility, the following week on Jack’s birthday

(I have no idea what this box is, and how it got here... )

This place ended up being less than a half hour from our house, nestled in hills and farmland in an area we had never been before. We saw the huge fences before arriving at her small home, and drove up the dirt driveway. She was waiting for us, a medium-height older woman, white hair, bright blue eyes sparkling as she greeted us. It was a very memorable visit. She walked with us on a tour of the large area where lions and tigers and other cats were housed in huge chain-link enclosures. Although we weren’t allowed to, she would reach her arm through the fencing and scratch the tigers on their foreheads, rub the ears of the lions. She clearly adored them, and they her.

In addition to the lions and tigers, the Western Pennsylvania Wild Animal Orphanage had rescued numerous other big and smaller cats (panther, lynx, cerval, etc.) and also any other creature who was in need of a good, safe home (wolf, llama, and so on). Dr. June also had two large dogs living in her house, I believe that they were greyhound rescues, and that little house burst at its seams.

Through the course of our visit, we discovered that she had previously had a practice in another town near Pittsburgh, had been to Africa, and actually had lions living in her house at various times. In fact, after the tour we went into her house to get out of the June sun, and there was a cougar in her bedroom! This room was halved by a chain-link fence, a platform was built on the wall for cougar-lounging, and a large “pet door” offered Munchkin outdoor access (into another fenced area).

At Dr. Iben’s urging, Jack placed his face close to the cougar, and received a birthday lick. Then the cougar reached his paw through the fence and tried to pull Jack into his area! We laughed and laughed, what a wonderful experience for his birthday!

After that, we tried to visit at least once a year and after the Orphanage started to have monthly public tours, we would see her at those as well. One time we visited and she treated us to videos of one of her big cats from when she lived in suburban Pittsburgh. It was a lioness and, when the television screen showed her ripping down a set of blinds from a window, Dr. Iben chuckled and said “well, that was the last time I had window coverings for a long time!”. The lioness also played with a bowling ball, rolling it around the furniture, down stairs… We had a great time that evening.

This past year, we didn’t visit. A couple of times we spoke over the telephone, once while I was recuperating from a broken ankle we both commiserated about doctor’s visits (she was having back problems). I don’t know why, but the rest of the year slipped by and in late October we received a note from Dr. June that she had surgery recently, but was doing well. I sent her a get well card and mentioned that, if the weather was good, we would like to visit her sometime between Christmas and New Year. Then, a few weeks later, I sent her a Christmas card.

Well, the weather was not good after Christmas this year. I can’t remember a more miserable ending to a year, but this one was filled with extreme cold, sleet, rain, etc. Not very conducive to walking around outside, talking to the animals.

Because we liked to make a donation to the Orphanage each time we saw Dr. June, and it was the end of the year when Jack and I sit down and figure out what charity we would like to donate to, we had just written her another letter and enclosed a check. I told her that, as soon as we had a break in the cold (and on a Sunday, because that was the preferred day), we would call and set up a visit.

Jack walked these letters down to the mailbox, but the mail had already come. He came into the house, set our stack of letters with contributions on the table, and pulled an envelope out of the mail we had just received. It was from Dr. June’s niece, MaryLou. We both looked at each other, and hesitated to open the envelope.

Dr. June Iben, age 81, healer, defender, and protector of animals, passed away exactly three weeks ago.

I am so upset, and more than angry with myself. We should have made time to visit her. Even though we didn’t know that she was so ill, we still should have done it because we enjoyed her so very much. She dedicated her life to her animals, and she was so willing to talk about her experiences. Here will never be another person like June Iben. Ever.

The Western Pennsylvania Wild Animal Orphanage goes on, and if anyone out there would like to learn more, or contribute, please do. It’s an organization made up of volunteers and they all work so hard. But the hardest working of all was our friend, Dr. June. We shall miss her terribly, and I can't imagine how her animal friends, and other human friends, feel..

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pozole Rojo

There has been a lotta ice and sleet happening lately. Once again, I am quite blessed to not have to drive to work. Sometimes, just walking to the home office is dangerous enough (I have always have been somewhat of a klutz, and it hasn’t gone away as I became older…).

These damp, cold, grey days are depressing. And, living in an old house, I cannot seem to get warm so I depend on heating up the kitchen (and myself) by cooking and baking. Yesterday, a nice, warming soup seemed to be in order for lunch.

I had never tried hominy until a couple of months ago. There was a soup (Pozole Rojo) reviewed by Kristi of A Global Kitchen a while back which contained hominy and it looked interesting so I printed it and tossed it into the “to try” pile of recipes beside the computer. We enjoyed it the first time, and today seemed the perfect day to give it another try.

I had never bought hominy before and originally had some difficulty locating it but finally did in (of all places) the Latin American section of WalMart. I thought that the texture would be mushy but that was not the case. The corn kernels are firm and almost chewy, even after cooking. And I found out why:

A description:

Hominy is an essential ingredient in Mexican cooking. You may find it either as a side dish or as an integral part of the main dish, such as Menudo or Pozole. Hominy is made from the pre-Hispanic Aztec staple, corn. The corn is dried and then boiled and soaked in lime until it is moist and plump. The lime allows the corn to keep a firmer texture rather than turning mushy. It is then washed thoroughly to remove the hull and any trace of lime. The cleaned, boiled and washed corn is known as nixtamal, or Mexican-style hominy.

This is the brand which I used.

The resulting pozole was incredibly good. Excellent flavor, although I could taste the chili powder (Jack didn’t seem to notice). It was a bit on the spicy side, but we dealt with it. :) And it is very easy to put together as well.

Served with a side of steamed corn tortillas, or cornbread, this made a hearty cold-weather lunch. A green salad, dressed with lime juice, garlic, and olive oil would have been a good addition, but there was no lettuce to be had in the vegetable bin...

Posole Rojo
recipe by:
Steve Sando, Rancho Gordo

1 tbs olive oil
2 med white onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tomato paste
3 tbs chili powder
1 tbs Mexican oregano(mine is Turkish)
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked hominy
7 cups cooked shredded chicken(I poached boneless skinless breasts in chicken broth)
salt and pepper

Garnishes: diced avocado, chopped cilantro, finely chopped onions, chili powder, crumbled queso fresco, thinly sliced radishes in any combination.

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until soft. Add tomato paste and spices stirring until mixed and warmed.

2. Add 4 cups of water, broth and hominy. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add chicken and serve with garnishes.

Kristi said that she garnished the soup with avocado, cilantro and queso fresco. I only had the cilantro on hand, so I used shredded lowfat cheddar.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Crab-Stuffed Shrimp with White Wine Sauce

Look at the size of these babies:

Yep. They’re shrimp. Weighing in at 4-1/2 to 5-1/4 ounces each, they were obviously the class bullies! We bought some for our Christmas Eve celebration with my parents, and saved a few for our New Year’s Eve Dinner. Although they tasted more like lobster, they were nevertheless absolutely delicious.

I had planned to stuff them with crabmeat stuffing from a recipe which my friend Jenni sent to me. Unfortunately, I made a last minute decision to leave my laptop at home as we were packing the car for our trip, and that’s where the stuffing recipe was. Not wanting to get sucked online while at my parents’ house, I sat down with a paper and pencil and wrote down what ingredients I could remember and what I thought would be in a crabmeat stuffing. The Mom and I made it, tasting and writing down the measurements. It was perfect.

(A silly story: We had made the stuffing early Christmas Eve day, put it in the refrigerator, and then Jack and I went to an afternoon party at my cousin’s house. As always, we drank and laughed and I ended up over-imbibing a little. Okay, a lot. When we got back to Mom & Dad’s, I set about preparing dinner. I shelled those huge shrimp, butterflied them, set them perfectly (tail up) into the baking dish, and then proceeded to scoop the crabmeat stuffing onto the shrimp. Except that it wasn’t the stuffing! Mom had rinsed out the plastic crabmeat container and stored some leftover potato salad from lunch in it. I saw the container and, in my boozy mind, I had thought that it contained the crabmeat stuffing! Fortunately, I had only prepared one shrimp before we realized the mistake, that lump of potato salad was removed, and replaced with the real stuffing. Potato-salad-stuffed shrimp, anyone? *no, thanks*)

Anyway, I present to you:

* Exported from MasterCook *

Crab-stuffed Shrimp with White Wine Sauce

Recipe By : Vicci
Servings : 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 teaspoons minced celery
1 1/2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
dash cayenne
4 whole saltine cracker -- crushed
8 ounces crab meat
16 ounces shrimp -- U4 size; 4 total

***Paprika and minced parsley to finish.***

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and red bell pepper. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and continue to saute, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, for another 2 minutes or until the vegetables are softened.

Remove the vegetables to a medium bowl to cool, keeping some of the butter in the pan. Place back over the medium heat and add the wine. Cook and stir for 6-8 minutes, until it is reduced almost by half; then add the cream and dijon mustard. Stir for another 2 minutes and remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

To the vegetables (cooled to about room temperature) add the ingredients mayonnaise through cayenne. Stir. Add the crushed crackers, mix slightly, then lightly mix in the crabmeat.

Prepare the shrimp: remove the shells, leave the tails on if desired, then butterfly. Place in a buttered baking dish, open side down with tail curling upward. Divide the stuffing between, mounding nicely on the shrimp. Drizzle the wine sauce over the stuffing and the excess into the dish. Spray the tops of the shrimp (especially the tail which was not covered with sauce) with cooking spray to keep moist.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and flesh is opaque. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 317 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat; (43% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 247mg Cholesterol; 624mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 5 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

I am sorry that there is no photo. The finished dish was very beautiful, but my family is not much for stopping to admire their dinner before digging in. Think: white baking dish, mega-sized pink shrimp each with a very lightly browned crabmeat stuffing mounded on top, a very pale golden wine sauce pooled beneath, and flecks of red paprika and green parsley over it all. I want more!

The above is a photo of our New Year's Eve dinner. We had a few of the mega-shrimp left over and, because Jack does not like crab (silly man), I subbed lightly poached tilapia in its place. It was very good, but I still prefer the crab stuffing. :)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Monte Cristo sandwich (lower fat version)

I often visit Nikki's blog, NikSnacks, to enjoy her humorous (and informative) writing, and her recipes. She posted one recently for a Monte Cristo sandwich and I copied it because there was some ham, brought back from my parents' earlier in the week, in the refrigerator.

Jack and I do not eat red meat, but he loves the ham which my Mom makes at Christmas and Easter. Dad buys it from a local farm and it is the leanest, most flavorful ham in the world (Jack says this, and I agree because I occasionally will sneak a bite or two!).

This sandwich, featuring ham or turkey and Swiss with mustard and a surprise addition of tart-sweet cranberry sauce, is dipped in an egg/milk mixture and grilled. I used lowfat Jarlesberg, but the rest of the recipe was unaltered. I made mine with deli turkey, and it was very good, but judging from Jack's reaction when he bit into his ham version, his was better!

Here is her post. Visit Nikki's blog when you have the opportunity, you'll learn something new (almost) every time you do!

Monte Cristo Sandwich

Serves 1

When I was a kid, there was this diner not far from our house, Oak Lane Diner, on Broad Street in North Philly. It's been open since 1944 (or '41...'42...I'm not sure. It's really old. I know that much) and they serve breakfast all day long. This with a duo of eggs and hash and I was in heaven. This recipe of mine is a lower fat/calorie version that makes leftover turkey and or ham take the grilled cheese/croque monsieur-madame thing to another level. It's dipped in an egg batter and either deep fried or pan-griddled. Sometimes there is powdered sugar dusted on top. A sugary-sweet raspberry sauce is served on the side or poured on top, to make this the most decadent thing since fried PB&J sandwiches.

2 slices sandwich bread
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp shredded swiss cheese
2 thin slices deli ham or turkey
1 Tbsp cranberry sauce
Cooking oil, for the pan
1/4 cup egg substitute or 1 egg
1 Tbsp milk
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter

Spread 1 slice of bread with the mustard. Then layer on 1 slice of cheese followed by both slices of ham and the last piece of cheese. Spread the cranberry sauce on the other piece of bread, then press it, spread side down, onto the sandwich. Use a piece of paper towel to rub an unheated heavy skillet with a little cooking oil. Place the skillet over moderate heat. As the skillet heats, whisk the eggs, milk, and salt in a shallow bowl until frothy.

Put the butter in the center of the pan. As it starts to melt, hold the sandwich together firmly and briefly submerge one surface in the egg batter then twist and submerge the other surface. Immediately place the sandwich in the pan, before the butter browns. Grill the sandwich on the first side for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Then flip it with a spatula and grill it on the second side for another 3 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the sandwich from the pan to a plate, slice it in half, and serve.