Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nuts for Cheese

I've been perusing the Super Charged South Beach Book and I'm super-charged about trying some of their new menus. I've read the intro/philosophy/basics so many times, that now I just jump immediately to the recipes. So far, I've selected a number of main courses that sound pretty yummy and can reappear as the next day's lunch and/or dinner and maybe a lunch again. (I can't see me cooking a different meal every night, it's just not my style) And I plan to share these dishes in the blog, and tweak them and re-mix them as long a I'm able to maintain their relative calorie, carb and fat counts. And I also plan on spending a good portion of my paycheck at the grocery store and possibly developing some gastro intestinal issues due to the enormous quantities of fresh vegetables involved. So thank goodness for cheese. Cheese is supposed to be binding. Right?

Well, speaking of cheese, which you know I love, there is a dessert in phase 1 that was truly created for me. It's called Peanut Butter Delight- and it's a creamy, rich-tasting concoction of peanut butter and ricotta cheese that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The first time I made it I ate 3 times the recommended amount. However in reality, the 1/2 cup serving is very satisfying and decadent. Yes, decadent.

Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter Delight (from The South Beach Diet Super Charged) makes four, 1/2 cup servings

2 cups part skim ricotta

1/4 cup all natural peanut butter

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

4 packets of Equal or other sugar substitute- use real sugar if you like, I'm just not sure of the exact amount you'd need

8 dry roasted peanuts chopped (my contribution)

South Beach recommends that you process the ingredients in a blender. Do that if your blender is not tempermental. Mine is, so I use a hand mixer first and combine all ingredients until they are nicely incorporated. Then I transfer the mixture to my blender and whirl away until I see a silky, smooth, ice cream-like consistency develop. Refrigerate and then serve with chopped peanuts as a garnish. I think that little bit of peanut crunch is nice with such a creamy dessert.

I haven't done a re-mix for this, but my first thought was Nutella instead of peanut butter. Then I read the Nutella label and saw the sugar number was 21 grams versus the 3 grams in the peanut butter. So I guess that will have to wait until next year. Which reminds me, Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gone Crackers

I'm gearing up for an attempt to lose a few pounds after the new year and have been revisiting old recipes, exercise routines and motivational articles I used to diligently read while working at the gym. When I want to lose weight I usually count carbs and loosely follow the South Beach approach which is probably the route I'll take this time. I admit I will miss the fruits, the breads and of course the sweets. Well, I won't be eliminating the bread completely, but the desserts I've been inhaling daily will not be making an appearance in my new eating plan any time soon.

So let's talk about my plans for bread. I enjoy a sandwich once in a while because it makes me feel FULL, which is important when you're counting calories, carbs or whatever it is you're counting. So when I'm counting, I count on Lavash bread. It's a flat bread that I layer with assorted roasted vegetables, turkey, lowfat cheeses, lettuce and sprouts for crunch, and anything else I have on hand. I then roll it up like a burrito and have me a healthy Dagwood of a meal.

Not all lavash is created equal. I buy Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran and Wheat Lavash which claims to be reduced carb, low fat, high protein with no cholesterol. Each serving contains 4 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, no sugar and 5 grams of protein. Be sure to check the lavash in your market to see how it compares with Joseph's.

So, now that you know how healthy lavash is, how about another treat for when you're counting calories, carbs and whatever else you may be counting. Yes, I've gone CRACKERS!

Lavash Crackers (makes 16 crackers, 2 servings)

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees and cut one sheet of lavash into 16 squares.

Make spice mixture:
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place lavash squares on baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle spice mixture on squares. Bake 7 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on paper towels.

Now you're ready for a smorgasbord of tuna salad, hard boiled eggs, low fat cheeses and dips, guacamole, smoked salmon and cold cuts-all healthy choices to top your healthy crackers.

Cracker Re-Mix: Try it Tex-Mex: to the original spice mix add 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder and a pinch of ground cayenne. Make it Italian: to the original spice mix add 1 T grated parmesan cheese

note: I have intentionally omitted the word "diet" from this post because I didn't want these tasty food ideas to be tainted by the negativity the D word connotes. So whether you're watching your weight or simply enjoying smart meals, think about incorporating these good eats into your lifestyle. How about that?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Trinity

I've been a busy gal this holiday season. At least three times a week this month I've had a date after work. Well, a date with my oven that is. I've been competing in my self-declared yearly cookie baking marathon and have now finally come into the home stretch.

One of the things I did differently this year was make up my own All Purpose Flour. As you know, I like to include a little oatmeal and a little whole wheat along with my white flour when I bake. And this little trinity seems to do the trick. It's simply 1 part AP flour, 1/2 part old fashioned oats ground in a spice mill and 1/4 part whole wheat flour. I made a big batch of this and it turned out to be a great time saver and produced some fabulous baked goodies.

Linda's All Purpose Flour
4 cups white flour- I used organic but any will do
2 cups ground old fashioned oats
1 cup traditional whole wheat flour
Sift all 3 flours into a large bowl, stir with a whisk or fork and store in a covered container

I used this mix in my standard chocolate chip cookes and Giada's chocolate hazelnut cookies and they came out great. Better than I expected. So I kept going. It then made an appearance in Erika's Schweddy Balls, my last few ricotta cakes, and a liquored-up version of my pumpkin bread. So if you're looking for more than white flour in your baked goods, and don't know where to begin, give this a try. Any recipe that calls for all purpose flour should adapt very nicely to this blend. And as I love to say, that's one smart reason to have a second helping.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) softened

1/4 cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup plus 2T Splenda Brown Sugar Blend

1/4 cup granulated sugar or 2T Splenda Blend

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 large egg

2 cups Linda 's AP flour mix

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.In large bowl using electric mixer, combine butter, sugars, vanilla, salt and baking soda until mixture is smooth. Add egg and mix until incorporated. Add flour and when blended, add chips. Drop by heaping tablespoons on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Say Cheese

Since I have a camera now, I was hoping to display here a glorious picture of my chocolate ricotta cake and I'm disappointed that it's just not going to happen. First off- dark, dense chocolate does not really make a beautiful picture- using kitchen lighting no less. But I worked that problem out and got two decent shots. Now it's locating my photos (that are uploaded somewhere) in my Picasa file that's been giving me a problem. Before I started this blog, I bought a book called Google Blogger for Dummies and it helped me get started. I may have to invest in one for Picasa (for dummies) if they actually have one.

On to the cake. I was recently cleaning out my fridge and had a few lemons and a container of ricotta cheese that needed attention. I went to Mike's Table and found his recipe for lemon ricotta pound cake. It was easy. And it was yummy. So then I began experimenting with a chocolate version. I am apologizing in advance for the two sticks of butter, but it just isn't the same without them. And it does make me feel a bit better that this recipe makes a very large cake. So pull out your biggest loaf pan, like the one for Nigella's chocolate cake, and treat yourself to a little chocolate decadence.

Chocolate Ricotta Pound Cake

2/3 cup AP flour
2/3 cup old fashioned oats ground in spice grinder
1/3 cup baking cocoa
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar (1/2 cup Splenda Blend)
1/2 cup brown sugar (1/4 cup Splenda Brwon Sugar Blend)
15 oz part skim ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brewed cold coffee
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
Prepare large loaf pan with cooking spray
In medium size bowl, combine flour, cocoa, ground oats, baking powder and salt. Stir with whisk or fork to incorporate. Set aside
In large bowl mix butter, sugars, ricotta, coffee and vanilla
Add the eggs
Add the dry ingredients
Fold in the chips
Pour into prepared pan
Bake 15 minutes, lower temp to 325 and bake 45 minutes more
Let cool before removing cake from the pan
Dust with powdered sugar

A little background- I tried sifting the dry ingredients. Not necessary. I also dusted the loaf pan with cocoa one time and flour another. The cake was actually easier to remove from the pan when I used only cooking spray. I did take the eggs and ricotta out of the fridge ahead of time and let them come to room temperature. The original recipe suggested you rotate the pan 180 degrees before you lower the temp. I never did that. And I've been tempted to bake it at 350 the whole time, but haven't tried that yet. I've been omitting the powdered sugar, but it is a very good option.

The Re-Mix: I think this is as good, if not better than the original. If you like orange and chocolate together then you'll like this re-mix. Zest one large orange and extract the juice. You'll get about three tablespoons of liquid. Add these to the butter/sugar mixture and eliminate the brewed coffee. I made this last night and it's really a winner.