Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies; Brownie Cupcakes; Nutty Phyllo Logs

As I write this, a friendly Verizon repairman is trying to locate the reason why we have had only intermittent telephone service for the past week. This is why I haven’t had the opportunity to post, since we have dial-up internet. He seemed rather surprised that we still have dial-up… and no cell phones or cable, either. We’re just a couple of basic people, I suppose. Well, except for shelling it out for really good rum and food. Seriously, who needs anything else?!

It was so funny, the expression on his face when Jack mentioned our dial-up connection speed. I’ve honestly never seen anybody’s “jaw drop”! He has something called Fios (of course, he works for Verizon!). He asked how we can stand waiting for things to download. I answered “patience”. In a former life, I used to hurry. No more.

Today I will continue with my review of my Valentine’s Day Baking Extravaganza with Jenni.

I know that I mentioned the peanut butter fudge in my last post, but I really do need to reiterate that this stuff is seriously addicting. I am determined to ignore its little peanut-buttery voice, calling me from the laundry room refrigerator, but some days I am simply too weak. :)

Next up,yet more cookies.

I found this recipe on A Spiced Life and Laura reviewed them very favorably, so we made a double batch. Lots and lots of cookies! Ten dozen, I believe, were the final count.

Now I have gone over and over how I prepared these and I cannot figure out what exactly went wrong but there seemed to be something missing. Jenni agreed with me, but Jack and my Mom thought that they were delicious. I think that they should have had more sugar, but that would my personal preference (being that I have such a sweet tooth…). The toasted hazelnut flavor was just spectacular, though, and I will make them again, perhaps adding an extra ¼ cup of brown sugar to a single batch of dough. And they freeze very well, too.

Following is the recipe as copied from A Spiced Life. Laura got 34 cookies when she made them, but ours were smaller (I used a 1-tablespoon capacity cookie scoop) and we got about 60 per single batch. And, regarding grinding the nuts to powder, I did that and kept a close eye on them (since the time it takes to make hazelnut powder into hazelnut butter is mere seconds). Laura's way is safer, but I was impatient...

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Nancy Baggett's The All-American Cookie Book

7 oz (1 1/3 cups) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

252 g (2 cups) AP flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

heaping 1/4 t salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) shortening, room temperature (I used Earth Balance buttery sticks as it was what I had but white is what she calls for)

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 T milk (I used 2%)

2 t vanilla

1 cup (6 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips

Set a baking rack in the top third of the oven. Preheat to 350 F.

If you have had success grinding nuts to a powder before, then separate out half of the nuts and grind you a powder--chop the other half. What I did instead was partially grind all of them in the food processor until I got 3.5 oz to sift through as powder. The remaining chunks I left as they were.

Whisk together the hazelnut powder, the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder and the salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and shortening together until totally blended and then add the sugars and cream to fluffiness. Add the egg, vanilla and milk and totally blend together. Add the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Add the chocolate chips and the hazelnut pieces and mix those in. Set the dough aside, preferably in a cool place, for 15 minutes (this is not necessary but I like it as it allows the dough to meld better and firm up a bit--if I had easy room I would always do in the fridge).

Using a mid size ice cream scoop, scoop out level balls of dough, about 12 to a sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes, rotating front to back halfway through. Because they should bake in the top third of the oven, only one sheet at a time can cook. I got 34 cookies. Let them cool on a rack on the sheet for about 3 minutes and then transfer the individual cookies to a cooling rack.

Next, and my to-die-for favorite, the chocolate brownie cupcakes with fudge icing. Kill me, I’m in heaven.

I had a stash of heart-decorated cupcake liners, but I wanted to make something more substantial than cupcakes to mail to my parents.

For some reason, I am unable to locate the source of this recipe. Once we have a reliable internet connection I will search for it because this was a keeper recipe. The brownie cupcakes were dense, fudgy, and chewy (like my favorite kind of brownie), and didn’t even need the frosting. I dusted the tops with powdered sugar on the cupcakes I mailed to my parents.

However, that frosting was fantastic! I needed to thin it with milk, though. To frost the remaining cupcakes I used a pastry bag with a closed-end flower tip. The recipe, however, made an awful lot of frosting and I will cut the ingredients in half next time. And what did I do with the remaining fudge frosting, you might ask. I left it at Jenni’s. Her willpower is way, way stronger than mine. I would have eaten it with a spoon… seriously.

Brownie Cupcakes


4 ounces (120 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3/4 cup (105 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

4 ounces (12 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/3 cups (1600 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line 12 muffin tins with paper or foil baking cups.

Melt the chopped chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.

Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Then stir (can also use a hand mixer) in the sugar. Add the vanilla and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the flour and salt until well blended.

Evenly divide the batter between the muffin cups. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake has moist crumbs.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if piping, using a large Wilton 6B closed star tip to make little rose buds.

Chocolate Frosting:

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2 -3 minutes).

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Here is a photo of the resulting “cookie plate” (minus the biscotti which I posted about earlier). The brownie cupcakes are such a rich, dark color that it was impossible to photograph them well.

And for the final cookie produced for Valentine’s Day this year, ta-da, this one came from this past December’s issue of Eating Well. I’m not big on lowfat cookies because so many of them taste lowfat, and I dismissed the entire “Holiday Cookie Recipe Winners” article because first place was an (ick) no-bake cookie (oh come on, for Christmas?! Seriously, now.). But Jenni suggested the recipe for Nutty Phyllo Logs and I am glad that she did.

Jenni had prepped the filling before I arrived, so these were extra-easy to make. A few sheets of phyllo, spray with butter-flavored cooking spray, sprinkle with filling, cut into pieces, roll up, spray again, and bake. These were finished with a drizzle of chocolate. They were quite good, very crispy (Jack nicknamed them Explod-O-Logs) and the nutty-orange filling and chocolate complimented each other beautifully.

The recipe claims that you can freeze these logs without the chocolate drizzle, but I did and found out why-- the drizzle falls off when the cookies freeze! Not a problem since, by the time I did this, there were only a few left and they were "just for us".

Because of this Mad Cookie Frenzy, the next several posts will be of healthy, light food and hopefully no sweets. Five weeks until Easter and I have to get my sweet-tooth shipped back into submission...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Almond Macaroons, Orange-Almond Biscotti

With last week being Valentine’s Day, and my Mom’s birthday, I set aside a few days to do some baking. Because Mom’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day, I get to go a bit overboard on the “heart” theme and this year was no exception. Her gifts were wrapped in pink and red paper with hearts, the box in which I mailed them was lined with red shredded paper and pink tissue paper with tiny white hearts; even the box of goodies which I sent to her and Dad had the same colors and theme and lots of curly ribbons as well. What the heck, it’s a long winter. ;) I feel that we have had a lot of snow here, but they have had to deal with much more. Time for a break!

For me, too. I love to bake, but since I also love to eat, I try to hold myself back as much as I can. Christmas, of course, is a biggie in the baking schedule. As is Easter. And Valentine’s Day. During these holidays, I pretty much forget about “light” baking. I probably shouldn’t, but when I give these goodies as gifts, I want them to be extra-good, and that means (cover your eyes!) butter. I rationalize that I bake healthy during most of the year, I can take on a few splurges.

My friend Jenni suggested getting together to bake at her house, so I spent the day before baking a couple of “extra” items. The resulting list of Valentine’s Day goodies was:

  • Chocolate-dipped Almond Macaroons
  • Chocolate-drizzled Orange Almond Biscotti
  • Peanut Butter Fudge
  • Nutty Phyllo Logs
  • Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes

Today I will post about the first three.

I have made these coconut macaroons for a few years now. Last year, they spread a little more during baking so I drizzled them with chocolate. This year they stayed relatively in the ball-shape which they were scooped onto the baking sheet in, so I decided to dip the bottoms I melted chocolate. Seriously, words cannot describe how good these little babies are—coconutty, almondy, chocolatey…. All non-words, but perfect in their description! The macaroons are moist (do not overbake!) and chewy. Wrapped individually in bits of plastic wrap, they travel very well, too.

I buy hunks of almond paste at an Italian grocery and, wrapped tightly and placed in a heavy freezer bag, it will last for several months (or, in my case, Christmas baking through Easter baking!). The batter for the macaroons is rather stiff, and it takes some work to incorporate the beaten egg whites into it, but persistence will be rewarded. I used a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop to measure out the macaroons, but next year I hope to remember to buy a slightly smaller scoop so the cookies will fit better into small candy cups for serving.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Heavenly Almond Macaroons

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 30

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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3 1/2 ounces almond paste

3/4 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon orange zest -- freshly grated is preferred

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

14 ounces sweetened coconut flakes

1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

1 large egg white -- room temperature

2 ounces dark chocolate -- chips will melt more evenly

2 ounces milk chocolate -- chips will melt more evenly

3/4 teaspoon vegetable shortening

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a small food processor or blender, chop the almond paste.

Add the sweetened condensed milk and puree until well blended. Add the extracts, salt, orange zest, and flour and pulse until combined. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the coconut and mini chips. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white at high speed of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Dollop the egg whites onto the surface of the coconut mixture and fold in gently until the egg is incorporated into the dough.

Line baking sheets with parchment. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets (I use a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, coating the interior of the surface with cooking spray after every six cookies or so, then packing the coconut mixture firmly into the scoop to form nicely rounded mounds of dough).

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the bottoms are a light golden color. Remove from oven, allow to sit on the baking sheet for a minute, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

In a small bowl, melt the dark and milk chocolate and the shortening in the microwave until almost melted. Stir until all chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

For drizzling the macaroons:

Pour melted chocolate mixture into a small plastic sandwich bag (stand the bag up in a coffee mug for stability) and snip off a teeny, tiny part of the corner (or use a pastry bag with a #3 round tip). Drizzle the macaroons with chocolate. Allow to stand at a rather cool room temperature until chocolate firms up.

For dipping the bottoms:

Hold the macaroon by the top and dip the bottom into the melted chocolate. Lift from the chocolate, allow the excess to drip back into the bowl for a couple of seconds, then use a small spatula to remove excess as you transfer the macaroon to a sheet of waxed paper to firm up.

Store in a tightly covered container (also can be refrigerated).

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Per serving: 108 Calories (kcal); 6g Total Fat, 4g Saturated Fat; (46% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 54mg Sodium

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

The biscotti was a relatively easy recipe, and one of the two lower-fat cookies which was baked (the other being the Phyllo Logs).

This biscotti just has so much going for it, with all of the wonderful flavors and not a one dominating the other. One caveat, you must use fresh orange peel. I’ve subbed for the oj with no major difference in taste, but subbing reconstituted peel for the fresh was not a good decision.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate-Drizzled Orange Almond Biscotti

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings : 40

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white whole wheat flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

2 large egg whites

1 tablespoon orange zest -- freshly grated, no substitutes!

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice -- in a pinch, can sub 2 teaspoons thawed, undiluted orange

juice concentrate and 1 teaspoon water

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 tablespoons canola oil

3/4 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup dried cranberries -- orange-flavored is best

3/4 cup toasted almonds -- chopped

1 tablespoon Demerara sugar

4 ounces dark chocolate

1/2 teaspoon shortening

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flours through salt in a large bowl. Make a "well" in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg and egg whites until foamy. Add the orange zest through the slmond extract and mix well. Pour this mixture into the center of the flour, stir until combined. Add the cranberries and almonds and mix.

Divide the mixture in half. Shape each half into an 11" long x 2-1/4" wide log, patting top slightly (coating the log with cooking spray will help with "sticking issues"). Keep logs about 4" apart.

Sprinkle with Demerara sugar and bake for 22-24 minutes, or until the bottoms of the logs are golden (lift slightly with a wide spatula to check this or the log may start to break).

Remove from oven. Turn oven down to 325F and, using 2 spatulas, transfer the logs to a cooling rack. Set the baking sheet and parchment aside.

Cool logs for 1/2 hour. Transfer to a cutting board and slice diagonally into 1/2" slices (using an electric knife works very well). Stand the slices upright on the parchment and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Remove slices from baking sheet, cool completely.

Arrange the biscotti, cut side up, about 1/2" from each other, on a wire rack with waxed paper underneath (to catch the chocolate drips).

Melt chocolate and shortening in a small bowl and stir well. Place a plastic sandwich bag in a mug, roll back the opening a bit, and pour the chocolate in. Close the bag tightly (expel excess air). Cut a very small piece from one corner (you can always make a bigger cut, but can't make it smaller!), and drizzle the biscotti with the chocolate. Let sit in a cool area until chocolate has firmed up.

These will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container (separate layers with waxed paper) and can also be frozen for longer storage.

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Per serving: 94 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat (trace Saturated); (31% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 5mg Cholesterol; 72mg Sodium

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

Jenni found the peanut butter fudge recipe at the King Arthur Flour recipe website and it has to be the best pb fudge I’ve ever had (and, yes, I’ve had a lot!). She pressed chopped peanuts into the top of the fudge and that gave the pieces a nice texture as well as an extra burst of peanut flavor. The photo will be in the next post, along with the entire cookie tray.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stuffed Poblanos with Cinnamon Rice Pilaf

Mention was made of stuffed poblanos on the Cuisine At Home community website, and after I requested it, Jean was kind enough to post the recipe. It has sat patiently in my notebook since then, waiting for me to remember to buy poblano peppers; when I went to the Strip last week, I picked up a package. They were nice-sized, well-shaped, shiny green, and perfect. And half the price of the ones (in a much sorrier state) which I saw in the grocery store.

I almost never follow a recipe exactly as written. I substitute according to what our tastes are, and what I have on hand so I was fairly surprised to realize that I had followed this recipe almost exactly. It was absolutely delicious!

Broiled, peeled poblanos were stuffed with a very tasty mixture of ground meat, onion, tomatoes, apple, almonds, and spices, then covered with a slightly spicy tomato sauce. These were baked, then served with a drizzle of walnut cream sauce. Good heavens, they were delicious!

The recipe suggested serving with cinnamon rice pilaf, and of course I waited until the peppers were in the oven before realizing that I didn’t have the recipe! So I "googled", and was fortunate to come up with a winning recipe on the first try. From Southern Living, it was a very simple pilaf of rice, shallots, chicken broth, and cinnamon. Very fragrant and a perfect side to the poblanos. I also put together a quick side of diced zucchini, red bell peppers, onion, and corn seasoned with Mexican oregano and lime.

Because of the wonderful fragrance and beautiful colors, Jack was a bit more impatient than usual as I photographed the plate prior to our eating (I tell him to start eating without me, but he doesn’t).

He took his first bite, then another, looked at me and demanded to know just why I had never made these before! :)

A few comments:

The changes which I made were to the stuffed poblanos were:

  • Substitute ground turkey for ground pork, since we do not eat pork
  • Use an equivalent amount of canned, diced tomatoes for fresh (since fresh tomatoes are so abysmally awful at this time of year)
  • Omitted the raisins. Not a fan.

The original recipe called for blistering the peppers then placing in a plastic bag to steam. I never do this because, in my opinion, it is a waste of a plastic bag (who bothers to rinse it, dry, and reuse afterward? And throwing it away after one short use is such a waste.). I place peppers, when I prepare them this way, in a large saucepot and cover it. They steam just fine…

And, for the walnut cream sauce, I used almonds (since there were almonds in the poblano stuffing) and lowfat ingredients (neufatchel cheese, light sour cream, lowfat half-and-half) where I could. This took the total fat per serving from 11g to 7, and saturated fat from 5g to 2, without losing its wonderful, nutty, creamy flavor. Also, the nutritional info is for the stated recipe servings. The next time, I will cut it in half because there was too much sauce left over.

Next time I will make more of the tomato sauce (about 50% more) and less of the walnut (actually, almond-)-cream sauce (also, about 50%)

Oh, and Jack said that there was no way he would eat only one pepper. He had two.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Turkey-Stuffed Poblanos

Recipe adapted from Southern Living

Servings: 8 (but maybe not!)

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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8 large poblano peppers

1 pound ground turkey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion -- chopped

1 large garlic clove -- minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

2 large tomatoes -- chopped

1 small apple -- chopped

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup diced almonds -- toasted

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup tomato sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Broil Chile peppers on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet 5 inches from heat about 5 minutes on each side or until peppers look blistered.

Place Chile peppers in a saucepan, cover and let stand 10 minutes to loosen skins. Peel peppers. Gently split Chile peppers open lengthwise, keeping stems intact; remove and discard seeds. Set aside.

Cook ground turkey in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Add chopped onion and next 4 ingredients; cook, stirring often, 7 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in tomato and next 4 ingredients. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt.

Stir together tomato sauce and next 3 ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat 5 minutes.

Spoon about 1/2 cup pork mixture into each pepper, and place in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Pour tomato sauce mixture over peppers.

Bake, covered, at 350° for 30 minutes.

Top with Walnut Cream Sauce.

Garnish with cinnamon sticks, if desired, and serve over Cinnamon Rice Pilaf.

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Per serving: 177 Calories (kcal); 7g Total Fat; (32% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 45mg Cholesterol; 580mg Sodium

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Walnut Cream Sauce

Serving Size : 8

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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

3 ounces neufchatel cheese -- softened

1/2 cup walnuts -- toasted

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup lowfat half & half

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth stopping to scrape down sides.


"1 1/2 cups"

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Per serving: 82 Calories (kcal); 7g Total Fat (2g saturated); (74% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 9mg Cholesterol; 113mg Sodium

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

For the cinnamon rice pilaf, I eliminated the butter in the original recipe and used butter-flavored cooking spray to sauté the shallots. Because I wasn’t too keen on breaking up vermicelli into ½” pieces (really, do I need to vacuum the kitchen again?!?!), I just added more rice and broth. The recipe called for baking the rice, but I steamed it on top of the stove because I had put the stuffed poblanos in the toaster oven to bake and there was no room for the rice. Again, having all of the recipes on hand and reading them through before starting would have been a good idea. :) But the stovetop method worked just fine.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cinnamon Rice Pilaf

Recipe adapted from Southern Living

Servings : 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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

2 medium shallots -- minced

1 cup basmati rice

2 ounces vermicelli -- uncooked, broken into 1/2" pieces.

If not used, increase rice to 1-1/4 cups and broth to 2-1/3 cups.

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Spray a skillet with butter-flavored cooking spray. Over medium heat, sauté the shallots for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add rice (and vermicelli, if used) and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and cinnamon; stir.

Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Without removing the lid, turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.

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Per serving: 234 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 290mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Voila! The resulting meal:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tilapia with Roasted Pepper and Tomatillo Sauce

Today I traveled into Pittsburgh to soak up some city life. :)

First stop was the Strip District where I stocked up on some beautiful, and rather inexpensive, red bell peppers, snow peas, zucchini, scallions, and other veggies that are a bit pricey in the grocery store just now.

Next, Trader Joe’s for the usual (wonderful) stuff.

Then I browsed through a couple of gift shops for no particular reason than to see what is out there. I found a few decorative items that I think may go on my birthday wish list (can’t start too early now, can we?).

Then lunch at an Indian restaurant, Petco for a new scratching post for Spooky, TJ Maxx for a few items, Michael’s to figure out an unusual way to present and gift wrap a necklace which I bought my Mom for her birthday next week (thanks, Jan—before I met you I would have wrapped the store gift box, and that would have been that), Sam’s Club, grocery store,… it was an exhausting day and all I did was drive and shop!

After the car was unloaded, I had several bags and 2 coolers to unpack. I changed back into my alter-ego farm clothes, washed the makeup from my face, decided on wearing slippers for the rest of the evening (am I getting old or what???), and unpacked stuff. Lots of stuff. It was 7pm before I even thought of dinner.

Before unpacking, I placed a package of tilapia fillets in a bowl of cold water in the sink to thaw. Looking through the refrigerator, I took note of a couple of key ingredients, and decided to pan-fry the tilapia and serve with a quick sauce.

Salsa verde is a cooked salsa made from tomatillos. We enjoy it more than the traditional tomato-based salsa. I have also seen salsa verde made with green chili peppers, and this recipe may be good with that type but I won't make any recommendations until I can try it myself.

The fish would actually be quite good without the sauce, as the coating is crunchy and spicy. But the sauce is very flavorful, with the smokiness of roasted red pepper and the tang of tomatillo.

I served with steamed corn tortillas and corn (I love the frozen shoepeg variety) and edamame.

A cilantro garnish would have been nice, but I was too tired to chop! I also forgot the lime wedge...

* Exported from MasterCook *

Tilapia with Roasted Pepper and Tomatillo Sauce

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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1 1/2 ounces roasted red pepper -- roughly chopped, about 1/4 cup

1/3 cup salsa verde

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

3/4 teaspoon honey

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper -- optional

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

10 ounces tilapia fillets

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro -- optional

1/2 medium avocado -- diced

1 medium tomato -- diced

2 lime wedges

Place the red bell pepper pieces in a small food processor and pulse a few times. Add the remaining sauce ingredients (through 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin) and pulse a few times until the mixture is still a bit chunky but well mixed. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl and set aside.

In a shallow dish, combine the flour through ground black pepper.

Heat oil in a large nonstick sauté pan until it shimmers. Dip the tilapia fillets in the flour mixture, pressing the mixture into the fish, then turning and pressing more. Place in the pan and cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned and done--depending on the thickness of the fish, around 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes per side).

While the fish cooks, warm the sauce in the microwave.

Serve the fish with the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if desired. Garnish with diced avocado and tomatoes. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over all.

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Per serving: 220 Calories (kcal); 15g Total Fat; (58% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 292mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 3 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Salmon with Spiced Tomato Sauce; Indian Cauliflower with Onions and Tomatoes

One of our "favorite" fish is salmon, but I sometimes come to a road-block finding new, creative ways to prepare it. To be honest, plain ol' outdoor grilling is my favorite in the summer (with lots of fresh lemon and a dollop of sour cream-cucumber topping) but winter poses a challenge. With great interest, I found a recipe for salmon that was Indian and gave it a try. Absolutely delicious. The spiced tomato sauce is full of flavor but, since salmon itself is a strongly-flavored fish, they complimented each other beautifully. And I prepared cauliflower cooked with Indian spices as a side which was a winner as well. In fact, I was surprised when Jack declared that he loved the fish, but the cauliflower was incredible. :)

The salmon is easy and quick to put together, the cauliflower a little less so because of the onion puree and additional steps (rather than tossing the flowerets into a veggie steamer...).

Both recipes call for canned tomatoes, so I used a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes. Half I whirled in the food processor for a couple of seconds to "crush them" for the salmon sauce, the other half was used in the cauliflower recipe.

Hmm, looks a little... pink... :)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Salmon with Spiced Tomato Sauce

Recipe Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian
Serving Size : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
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10 ounces salmon fillets
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup lowfat half & half
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix the turmeric, salt, cayenne, and black pepper in a small cup. Dust the salmon fillets with this mixture and set in the refrigerator for 20 minutes

In a small bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes and the next 7 ingredients (through nutmeg).

In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add the salmon and cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side. Turn off the heat for a minute, then add the tomato mixture (it may spatter). Turn on the heat to low and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce the heat to very low and cook, carefully turning the salmon halfway through, and cook
for 6-8 minutes.

Transfer salmon to plates, top with additional sauce, and add chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

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Per serving: 208 Calories (kcal); 6g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (23% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 74mg Cholesterol; 481mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

* Exported from MasterCook *

Indian Cauliflower with Onion and Tomatoes

Recipe Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking
Servings: 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
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1 medium onion -- peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon canola oil
16 ounces cauliflower flowerets
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 small fresh hot chili -- minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon garam masala

Put the onion, ginger, and water into a small food processor or electric coffee grinder and blend to a paste

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until a few brown spots start to develop. Remove the cauliflower to a bowl and return the pan to the heat.

Put the onion-ginger mixture into the pan and stir for a minute. Add the tomatoes, cumin, and coriander and stir until it starts to turn brown (about 3-4 minutes). Add the turmeric, cayenne, fresh chili, lemon juice, and salt. Give a few stirs then turn the heat to low. Add the cauliflower and any liquid which may be in the bowl with it. Add 3 tablespoons water, stir gently to mix, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until cauliflower is tender (about 5-8 minutes). Remove lid, sprinkle with garam masala, and stir. Serve.

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Per serving: 63 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat (trace Saturated); (33% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 611mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Monday, February 2, 2009

Oven-Fried Chicken FIngers and Garlic Fries

Why does it take three-and-a-half times longer to decorate a Christmas tree than it takes to un-decorate it? Just wondering… and yes, I just took down The Tree. I know people who cannot wait to get theirs unornamented and tossed out to the curb (or up to the attic, as in our “artificial” case), sometimes the day after Christmas, sometimes just after New Year’s Day. I just can’t see it. I enjoy having it decorating the living room. I packed up our collection of Santas a couple of weeks ago, and also nutcrackers and smoking men and other things that are used to decorate various rooms. Then the garlands and wreaths came down and were packed away. But the tree… although the ornaments were taken off of a week ago, I just like having it around. It’s large, 9’ tall and 7’ diameter at the base. I wind the white lights over each branch, from tip to trunk (again, it takes way longer to do this than to un-do this!). It’s a very dominant presence in the room, grand and sparkly; and during those awful January nights, when it was bitter cold and sleet blew against the windows, it was so comforting to turn on the tree, light a candle or two, and curl up with a book.

No more. And now that stupid groundhog has predicted another 6 weeks of winter. He always predicts more winter. Those tuxedoed guys in Punxsutawney pull that fat rodent from his burrow just before dawn, with camera lights flashing and street lamps glowing, of course he sees his shadow! Geez. Let him emerge as he normally would. There is no sun. There’s hardly ever any sun in western Pennsylvania this time of year. He wouldn’t see his shadow and spring would be early. It would be so easy…

And, if we didn’t need more excitement, yesterday was the Super Bowl. I try to avoid the local television newscasts, preferring the local PBS stations, but some times I can’t avoid it. As the Super Bowl got closer, the news stories were mostly Steeler-related and many bordered on the ridiculous. A man whose house is a Steeler shrine and has the team tattooed on his expansive back. People in the local grocery stores, women wearing black & gold feathered boas, men with their Steeler shirts, and children dressed up in all kinds of Steeler-related clothing. A feature on what a certain Steeler eats during an average day. And, of course, the anchors are wearing any combination of Steeler colors for every newscast, every day. Do other towns with pro football teams act this way? Perhaps it is because I am no fan of football that it annoys me.

I am thankful, however, that my husband is not compelled to sport tattoos to show his devotion to the his team. He wears a logo sweatshirt. Period.

Jack and Spooky watched the game (and the hundred hours of pregame coverage) together. I quite happily did my own thing. :)

I was, however, requested to make the same meals which I made when the Steelers won the playoff game two weeks ago (these games, and their pregame coverage, covered both lunch and dinner!). I have to admit, that part I enjoyed.

Lunch was Jack’s manly version of a perfect meal—meat, potatoes, not a veggie to be found.

The chicken fingers were marinated in buttermilk for a little bit to make them very moist and tender, then rolled in a panko/ breadcrumb/ herb mix and baked until crispy. These were served with honey-mustard (I mixed equal parts of Gulden’s spicy brown mustard and honey, using what was leftover as a base for a salad dressing) and jalapeno mustard (purchased).

The fries were spectacular. They are a Cooking Light recipe and actually are a bit on the greasy side for me. Jack, however, couldn’t stop raving. It’s a simple recipe, cut potatoes are tossed with canola oil and salt and baked then, just before serving, they are tossed with melted butter, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan. I decreased the butter by 1/3, but am thinking about going further, to ½,next time. I may find, though, that the butter is necessary to help the other ingredients “stick” to the fries.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Oven-Fried Chicken Fingers

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
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10 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/3 cup panko
3 tablespoons Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme -- crumbled
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Slice chicken across the grain into 1/4" wide strips. Place in a shallow dish and pour buttermilk over. Toss to coat, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.

In a shallow bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Drain the chicken in a colander and place 1/4 of the slices at a time in the panko mixture. Toss until coated and place on prepared baking sheet in a single later. Repeat with remaining chicken. Spray the top of the chicken pieces with cooking spray.

Bake for 6 minutes, turn the pieces over, spray the top with cooking spray, and return to the oven for an additional 6 minutes (or until crispy on top). Serve immediately.

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Per serving: 250 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat (1g saturated); (10% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 83mg Cholesterol; 451mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 4 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

The garlic fries were rated 5 of 5 stars by 44 Cooking Light readers-- not bad! I was planning to post the recipe here, but the laptop is giving me a hard time today.

And, for dinner, Thai Veggie Pizza (you knew that he’d have to get his vegetable quota in for the day somehow). I will dig around for the recipe and post it soon.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Black Bean Chicken Over Rice Noodles

We need flavorful, warming meals on these cold winter days. One of Jack’s favorites is a chicken stir-fry with black bean sauce, served over fine rice noodles. This usually one of my go-to meals when time is tight and I’m in a hurry to get dinner on the table, but last night I took my time and actually measured so that I can post the recipe here.

One caveat, however. If you don’t have the fermented black beans, it would be a good idea to wait until you buy them to make this. Black bean sauce can be substituted, I suppose, but the flavor of the individual fermented black beans is so much richer and dominating in the dish (which it should be—chicken with black bean sauce!).

The next time you’re at an Oriental grocery, buy a small package. Keep it, tightly wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator and it will last for years. I believe that I bought mine 5 years ago.

Wider (linguine-size) rice noodles may be substituted, but I love the texture of the very thin rice noodles instead. The sauce is dark and a bit spicy, with a salty bite to it. Other vegetables can certainly be used, my favorite in this recipe is snow peas but they were $4.99/pound at the grocery store last time I checked.

One of my favorite Trader Joe’s discoveries has been their vegetable potstickers and Goyza dipping sauce to accompany them. Last night, celebrating the last day in January (YAY!!!), we added these to the menu as well


* Exported from MasterCook *

Black Bean Chicken over Rice Noodles

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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1 large egg white

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon canola oil

8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine -- or dry sherry

1 teaspoon black bean sauce

1/2 teaspoon chile garlic sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 ounces mai fun rice noodles -- (thin rice noodles)

2 small cloves garlic -- minced

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons fermented black beans

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar -- or dry sherry

3 ounces red bell pepper -- cut into 1/4" strips (about 1 cup)

2 1/2 ounces onion -- sliced vertically (about 3/4 cup)

2 ounces broccoli florets -- (about 1 1/4 cups)

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until foamy. Add the next three ingredients (through canola oil) and mix well.

Slice the chicken breast into thin strips and stir into the egg white marinade. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes


Start a pot of water to cook the noodles. When it comes to a boil, stir in the mai fun noodles, turn off the heat, cover, and allow to sit for 8-10 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Drain and set aside.

While the water is coming to a boil, mix the sauce ingredients (chicken broth through black pepper) in a small cup and set aside.

Heat a wok over medium high heat. Drizzle in some canola oil and dump in the chicken and marinade. Stir fry until the chicken is lightly browned. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Return the wok to the heat and drizzle in more canola oil. Add the garlic and ginger and give a few stirs. Add the black beans, stir a few more times, then splash in the tablespoon of rice wine. Stir a couple of times, then add the vegetables and stir fry until they are almost tender. Add the chicken, then the sauce ingredients. Stir until this comes almost to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the noodles, and stir well.

Divide between two plates, garnish with toasted sesame seeds, if desired, and serve.

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Per serving: 227 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat; (16% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 66mg Cholesterol; 712mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates