Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Toast to the New Year

A Toast to the New Year 2014

Chocolate Mousse
Cook's notes: This recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine February 2013. It is rich,decadent and oh, so good. Serve it in small demitasse like cups. Makes 5-6 small servings.
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee or espresso at room temperature
  • dash of salt
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • 8 oz. of semi sweet chocolate chopped or bittersweet chocolate (61-72% cacao)
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp. creme of tartar 
  • 2 TB. Kahlua or Amaretto
  • Beat 1/2 cup whip cream and refrigerate
  • Combine egg yolks, coffee or espresso, salt and 2 tsp. sugar in a metal bowl
  • Whisk and set bowl in a larger pan of simmering water
  • Whisk constantly until mixture is lighter in color and has doubled in volume about 8 minutes
  • Remove bowl from water and stir in chopped chocolate pieces and whisk till blended 
  • Add in Kahlua or Amaretto blend well and cool to room temperature
  • Beat egg whites in another bowl with creme of tartar and 1 tsp. sugar-beat until firm peaks form
  • Gently fold egg whites into whipped whip cream
  • Fold egg whites/whip cream mixtures into chocolate  
  • Top with crushed almonds or toasted coconut
  • Refrigerate till serving
Pecan Cream Cheese Appetizer 
  • 8 oz. cream cheese-softened
  • 1-1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 1/3 cup Miracle Whip
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup chopped pecans or almonds
  • Use a glass pie pan or similar size baking dish and lightly grease
  • Beat all ingredients and spread in baking dish
  • Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 15 minutes, stir and bake another 5 minutes or until bubbly 
  • Serve warm with crackers

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tying Up Loose Ends

Buttermilk Fig Cakes Makeover
Cook's notes: The Buttermilk Fig Cake recipe got a makeover today. 

If you recall I posted the Buttermilk Fig Cake recipe last week using mini muffin tins. But when I spied this pan at the grocery store I knew it was the perfect size for the cake recipe for this week's The Seasonal Plate food column. 
I will repost the recipe and note the baking time is about 19 minutes using this type of pan. The recipe makes 24 snack cakes which would be the same size as a regular muffin pan or making a large cupcake. I used a different glaze and added candied lemon peel as a decoration.
  • 2 cups of flour 
  • 1 cup of sugar 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves 
  • 1 cup vegetable oil 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1 cup fig preserves 
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  • Stir flour and next 5 ingredients 
  • Gradually add in oil beating until well blended 
  • Add in eggs one at a time and beat till blended 
  • Add in buttermilk and vanilla, beat until blended 
  • Add in fig and blend, fold in toasted pecans 
  • Grease pan and pour batter into pan. If using muffin tins fill each well about 3/4 full 
  • Bake 15-20 minutes for regular sized muffins, 15 minutes for mini muffin sized and 25 minutes for a 13 x 9 pan 
  • Cool in pan 5 minutes and then invert cakes to wire rack to cool 
Buttermilk Glaze

  • 1/8-1/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 1 TB. butter 
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar 
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla 
  • Add all ingredients in a small bowl and add buttermilk as needed for desired glaze consistency 
  • Beat till smooth
  • Place wax paper underneath wire rack and spoon glaze over cooled fig cakes
  • Optional adding candied lemon peel on top of glaze
Roasted Root Vegetables
Cook's notes:This recipe is also a part of the next Seasonal Plate Food Column. Parchment paper can be substituted for foil.

  • A mixture of vegetables such as celery root, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes and red onion slices 
  • One ripe pear
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Dice or slice all veggies the same size 
  • Slice one ripe pear 
  • Lightly grease a foil lined rimmed baking sheet 
  • Mix 2 TB. fresh thyme and 2 TB. fresh Rosemary or ½ tsp. dried thyme and1/2 tsp. dried Rosemary with 3 TB. olive oil 
  • Toss veggies with olive oil/spice mixture 
  • Arrange veggies in a single layer on baking sheet and drizzle with balsamic vinegar 
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until veggies are tender al dente. Be sure to stir mixture once halfway through the baking time
  • Add in pear slices the last 10 minutes of cooking time 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Festive Occasion

An invitation to a Christmas concert at Assumption church provided a few unexpected surprises. The church is in the downtown area of St. Paul and was founded in 1856 to serve newly immigrants from Germany. The architecture is Romanesque. Their Christmas concert is renown for decorations and music. But I was unprepared for the stunning beauty inside the church.

The pictures speak for themselves. Christmas music with carols and a few songs sung in German added to the solemnity of the evening. 

I do have to say that an added bonus for me was being with a lady who is a professional photographer. She showed me how to use some extra features on my camera I had never used before. And wow... what a difference it made following her advice to take these pictures with so many bright lights.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The World According to Bella and A Buttermilk Recipe

"Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you." 

Maori Proverb 

J.Kenji Lopez is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. He tested over 10 products on grocery store shelves that were advertised as buttermilk ranch dressing. One of his conclusions was that making a homemade dressing with fresh ingredients was superior in taste over using a prepared bottled dressing.
The three most common herbs found in ranch dressing are dill, parsley, and chives. You can substitute any one of these or all if you'd like. There's no added sweetener in homemade ranch dressing because the recipe calls for store-bought mayonnaise, which already has sugar (or HFCS) in it. This recipe has a small amount of Worcestershire to add savoriness to the dressing.
The following recipe is adapted http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/06/homemade-ranch-dressing/

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing 


  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 TB. fresh chives
  • 1 cup (real) mayonnaise not Miracle Whip
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (as needed to desired consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp. white vinegar 
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TB. fresh dill 
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika 
  • tabasco (optional to taste)

Mince the garlic with a fork into a paste and sprinkle Kosher salt on it. Chop the parsley, chives and any of the optional herbs very finely and add to the garlic.

In a bowl combine all ingredients, adding in other optional ingredients as you wish, tasting frequently and adjusting seasonings as needed. Add ingredients to a jar with a screw top and shake till blended or use a blender.
Chill for a couple of hours covered before serving.

The World According to Bella
Being Resourceful and Learning New Words 
Santa must have gotten my list. He thought I had been good because I got lots of rawhide bones and even one that was shaped like a lollipop. But there was one unexpected gift. 

A cool ornament that looked just like me. Mrs. S said I was now immortalized (new word #1) in gold. The day after Christmas was another unexpected gift-a trip to the lake. And did I ever have fun even though my behavior went from very good to very bad. 
Here I am at full speed sprinting across the lake to catch up to Mr.C who was skiing. We were on our way out to pay a social call to our neighbor Paul at his ice house. When Paul heard I was at the lake he had rushed back to his house to put his fish in a safer spot. Guess he remembered what I did last year.  
The day went well but that night I got a little crazy. I was supposed to just go outside and "do my business"  but instead I disappeared into the night. I was gone a very long time before I returned with saliva dripping from my mouth and I was licking my chops. I didn't fool Mr. C and Mrs. S one bit. They knew what I had done but didn't have any actual proof.  But the next day my cover was blown.
Again, I was expected to go out and "do my business" but I disappeared for a very long time. This time my behavior was what Mrs. S called brazen (new word #2). I showed up at the door with a fresh piece of deer carcass hanging from my mouth. Mr. C had a hard time getting me to drop it for a trade. His trade was a dumb piece of turkey but  I thought mine was better. Later Mr. C made an unexpected discovery in the fire pit. And I was busted! Just when I thought I was being resourceful (new word #3). I had dragged all these pieces of dead deer carcass to the fire pit. I was stockpiling (new word #4) so I had a supply of food. I thought I was being resourceful foraging (new word #5) and saving Mr. C money on buying dog food. 
I was sorry when Mr. C and Mr. S announced it was time to leave for the cities. I was having such a good time.     
Love, Bella  


Friday, December 27, 2013

The Magic of Buttermilk Continues

Perhaps you bought that carton of buttermilk to make pancakes on Sunday morning or maybe you baked a cake or made some biscuits. For whatever reason, you still have that carton in your fridge, and the expiration date is inching closer, and you want to put it to use. Here are some more ideas using the magical ingredient; buttermilk.

The acidic properties of buttermilk make it an effective and flavorful marinade particularly with poultry. Many prefer dipping meat, poultry and fish in buttermilk rather than milk before coating for frying and baking.

The buttermilk tenderizes the chicken, keeps it moist, and adds a slight tang. If you are tired of dried out baked chicken, this is the recipe for you. However, take care not to over-cook the chicken or you will be back to square one.

Buttermilk Chicken

  • 3- 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, such as breasts, thighs and legs - I used 2 chicken breasts that were cut in half, as well as 3 chicken thighs. If you're going to use breasts, make sure you cut them in half so the buttermilk gets absorbed into the meat, it doesn't work as well with whole breasts.
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 TB. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried sage
  • 1 tsp. paprika (try Hungarian paprika)
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 beaten eggs
Panko Crumb Coating
  • 2 cups Panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 TB. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder 
  • 1 tsp. thyme 
  • 1 tsp. paprika

  • In a medium sized bowl, pour in buttermilk with spices and stir to combine.
  • Place chicken pieces into a gallon sized ziploc bag (or you can just throw the chicken in the same bowl as the buttermilk mixture, but make sure it's a large bowl). Add in the buttermilk mixture, and zip up the bag. Make sure to shake the bag a bit so that all of the buttermilk gets on and seeps into all of the chicken pieces.
  • Refrigerate the chicken for 8 hours or up to 24 hours. If you're using a bowl to marinate the chicken in, make sure to cover the bowl tightly with either plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid.
  • After the chicken has marinated, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat each one dry. 
  • Mix Panko crumb coating mixture, dredge each piece of chicken in beaten egg and then into the crumbs.
  • Place the chicken pieces on a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper that has been sprayed with PAM .
  • Roast the chicken until cooked through (or internal temps for both the breasts and thighs reaches 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer), about 45- 50 minutes or 25-30 minutes on the grill. Be sure to turn the chicken once during the cooking process
  • Garnish with sprigs of Rosemary

Healthy Fish Tacos with Buttermilk Avocado Puree
recipe adapted from azcentral.com Serves: 4

  • 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into eighths
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups shredded Napa cabbage
  • 1- 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrot
  • 1 cup coarsely grated radishes
  • 1/4 cup white wine or cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into 8 equal pieces or another fish of choice
  • Whole-wheat flour, for coating the fish
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Eight 6-inch corn tortillas
  • Sliced fresh jalapeno peppers and chopped fresh cilantro, to serve
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 F.
  • In a food processor, combine the avocado, buttermilk, 1 clove of garlic, lime juice and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, then set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cabbage, remaining garlic, carrot, radishes, vinegar, sugar, lime zest and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Set aside.
  • Heat a heavy skillet (such as cast-iron or stainless steel, but not nonstick) over medium heat. One at a time, place the tortillas in the skillet and toast for about 30 seconds per side. As the tortillas are toasted, stack them on a sheet of foil. Wrap the foil around the tortillas, then place them in the over to keep warm. Alternatively, the tortillas can be held with tongs and toasted directly over a gas burner for a few seconds per side.
  • In a pie plate or other wide, shallow bowl, combine about 1 cup of whole wheat flour with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. One at a time, dredge each piece of fish through the flour until coated evenly. Shake off any excess.
  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the fish to the pan and cook, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes a side. Transfer to an oven-safe plate and set in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and fish.
  • To serve, top each tortilla with a bit of the avocado puree, then a piece of fish. Drain the cabbage mixture, then mound some of that over each portion. Serve with jalapeno slices and cilantro on the side.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Buttermilk A Magical Ingredient

Random thoughts on buttermilk...
You might be surprised to learn there is no butter, per se, in buttermilk, and it is lower in fat than sweet milk. Old-fashioned homemade buttermilk is the slightly sour, residual liquid which remains after butter is churned. It was usually flecked with tiny spots of sweet, creamy butter that did not quite make it to the top to be skimmed. The flavor of buttermilk is like yogurt. It is slightly thicker in texture than regular milk but not as heavy as cream. 

I like to think of buttermilk as a magic ingredient. It can transform the texture of meat by tenderizing it and turns baked goods into springy, moist confections. It gives tang and texture to dressings, ice creams, and custards. And, of course, it’s the not-so-secret ingredient in fluffy pancakes. 

Different cuisines have focused on different properties of this magical ingredient. In the Deep South, buttermilk is used to tenderize chicken before frying. In India, it's mixed with spices and served as 'chaas' - a drink which cools the palette and aids digestion. And in Ireland, the acidity of buttermilk is used to react with bicarbonate of soda and cause soda bread to rise without the need for yeast.

Buttermilk is readily available from the store but you can make your own. In a measuring cup pour in 1 cup of milk and add 1 TB. of vinegar to it. Let stand for 5 minutes. You will only use 3/4 of the vinegar mixture for this recipe. 

Ever Ready blog will feature on the next few postings a variety of recipes using the versatile ingredient buttermilk in baked goods, meats, dressings and sauces. 
Baked Goods
The slight acidity of buttermilk tenderizes and moistens baked goods while allowing you to cut way back on butter or oils. Buttermilk lends a slight tanginess to the winning combination of bananas and blueberries. 

Buttermilk, Banana and Blueberry Loaf
Cook's notes: This adapted recipe comes from http://www.weavethousandflavors.com/2012/06/three-bs-to-a-loaf-

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup regular white sugar
  • 2 overripe bananas to yield about 3/4 cup mashed bananas
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 stick (4TB.) butter - melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 TB flour

  •  Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees
  • Spray the loaf pan with non-stick baking spray
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugars
  • Blend eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and pure vanilla extract with a mixer, beat until fluffy 
  • Drain blueberries, pat dry on a paper towel and toss with 2 TB flour-set aside
  • Add the wet ingredients (egg mixture) to the flour mixture and blend with a spatula until just combined
  • Stir in mashed bananas and blueberries 
  • Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan and smooth the top surface
  • Mix 2 TB. sugar with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top
  • Bake for about 55-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • Let loaf cool in pan 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely
Buttermilk Glazed Mini Fig Cakes
Cook's notes: By Christmas Day I figured most of us have had our share of holiday meals and sweets. So when I had to go to a family gathering I picked this dessert recipe and baked it in a mini muffin pan so people had small bites. I must say these moist mini fig cakes were quite a hit with a hint of spice and fig flavor.
Note when using this mini size pan recipe makes 64!!
Next time I make this recipe I will try a regular size muffin pan so each person could have an individual cake.
A 13 x 9 pan could also be used for this recipe.
The recipe was adapted from Southern Living November 2013  
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup fig preserves
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Stir flour and next 5 ingredients
  • Gradually add in oil beating until well blended
  • Add in eggs one at a time and beat till blended
  • Add in buttermilk and vanilla, beat until blended
  • Add in fig and blend, fold in toasted pecans
  • Grease pan and pour batter in each well about 3/4 full
  • Bake 15 minutes
  • Cool in pan 5 minutes and then invert cakes to wire rack to cool
Buttermilk Glaze
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • Bring sugar, buttermilk, butter, baking soda and cornstarch to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring often
  • Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar with vanilla
  • Place wax paper underneath wire rack and spoon glaze over cooled mini fig cakes  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holiday Greetings

My nephew's wife is an avid follower of Pinterest. She found a creative idea and made some kid friendly treats for Christmas Eve. The kids enjoyed the snacks while waiting for Santa's arrival. 

The PB and J sandwiches were shaped using a Christmas tree cookie cutter. Star tree toppers were paper stars anchored on a toothpick. To the left of the sandwiches were mini veggies and dip in plastic cups. 

Merry Christmas from Ever Ready blog  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

'Twas the night before Christmas

According to legend, Clement Clarke Moore wrote his immortal poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," also known as "The Night Before Christmas," for his family on Christmas Eve 1822. He never intended that it be published, but a family friend, Miss Harriet Butler, learned of the poem sometime later from Moore's children. She copied it into her album, and submitted it to the editor of the Troy (New York) Sentinel where it made its first appearance in print on December 23, 1823.
Soon, the poem began to be reprinted in other newspapers, almanacs and magazines, with the first appearance in a book in The New York Book of Poetry in 1837. It was not until 1844, however, that Moore himself acknowledged authorship in a volume of his poetry entitled "Poems"published at the request of his children. One hundred and eighty years later it is the most-published, most-read, most-memorized and most-collected book in all of Christmas literature. The poem is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today.

A Visit from St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Share this text ...?
Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House Inc., 1983)

Monday, December 23, 2013

The World According to Bella

The World According to Bella
Counting Down...
Hung my stocking 

Checked my list twice and mailed it.

Helped Mrs. S make gingersnap cookies for Santa (I cleaned up crumbs off the floor)

So now I am told I need a more festive look.  But these antlers- well- I am not so sure even though Mrs. S says wearing it is a must. 

The bell on my new collar makes me jingle with each step.

I'm groomed, ready for the big day and sending you'all a very Merry Christmas greeting.
Love, Bella
Low Calorie Holiday Desserts
Cook's notes: Use this, not that! Cut fat but not the taste. Here are some easy ideas to adapt your recipes.

For bread puddings and fruit breads:
Use this: Mini-muffin pans
Not that: Souffle or baking dishes
In puddings and pudding pie fillings:
Use this: 2% milk
Not that: Heavy cream
In fruit pies:
Use this: Half the sugar
Not that: All the sugar
For every cup of sugar you don't use, you'll save 744 calories. "It doesn't change the chemistry of the pie, so you can go as low in sugar as you'd like," Gans explains. "In fact, a fruit pie's natural sweetness is often all you need."
In cookies and crusts:
Use this: Half whole-wheat pastry flour and half all-purpose flour
Not that: Just all-purpose flour
Whole wheat has 12 grams of filling fiber in every cup, and your guests probably won't notice the difference.
In brownies, chocolate cake, and fudge:
Use this: Three tablespoons of cocoa powder
Not that: One ounce of baking chocolate
Substituting cocoa powder peels off 85 calories and 13 grams of fat.
In cheesecake:
Use this: Part-skim ricotta cheese
Not that: Cream cheese
You'll double the amount of hunger-fighting protein and cut the fat by close to 60 grams for each cup you use. "It's much less heavy and caloric than cream cheese," Gans says.
In brownies, cakey cookies, and fruit breads:
Use this: Pureed pumpkin
Not that: Oil
Pumpkin puree keeps baked goods deliciously moist, and for every half-cup you sub out, you'll save more than 900 calories and 100 grams of fat.

Bittersweet chocolate and Dutch-process cocoa meld with a shot of fresh brewed coffee to give an ultra-rich flavor to this creamy French silk pie. A frothy meringue is the secret to lightening the brown sugar-sweetened filling. Follow the link below to this scrumptious recipe and several others for calorie conscious holiday eating.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Healthy Alternatives to Holiday Eating

No need to be a calorie Grinch this holiday! 

These healthy, delicious dishes are meant to be shared and savored.

Lemon-Roasted Asparagus With Parmesan
Recipe serves 6 and adapted from Healthy Living Magazine

  • 2 bunches of asparagus with ends snapped off
  • 1- 1/2tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 minced garlic cloves 
  • peeled zest (in long strips) and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 oz shaved Parmesan
  • sliced almonds
  • drizzle of  Balsamic vinegar
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • In a roasting pan or a cookie sheet lined with foil toss the asparagus with the oil, garlic, lemon zest, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and roast 20 to 25 minutes, tossing occasionally until browned
  • Drizzle lemon juice to taste over asparagus and transfer to a serving dish. Discard strips of lemon zest, sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and almonds

Spicy Asian Chicken Stir-Fry
Cook's notes: Shrimp can be substituted for chicken. Shrimp are a low calorie food item when prepared the right way. Three ounces of raw shrimp has about 80 calories. So the fat and calories in the shrimp you eat are entirely dependent on how you prepare them. Fried shrimp, of course, are high in fat and calories. The same goes for shrimp dishes that are prepared with a lot of butter such as shrimp scampi.

This recipe is adapted from Special K Foods and serves 2-3
  • 1-1/2 ounces medium rice noodles
  • 1/3 cup broccoli florets
  • 3 red bell pepper rings
  • 1/3 cup fresh snow peas
  • 2- 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 3 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large carrot cut on the bias
  • 2-1/4 tablespoons Thai-style peanut sauce, prepared
  • 3/4 teaspoon soy sauce, reduced sodium
  • Pinch of chili powder (optional)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons roasted peanuts, chopped and unsalted
  • Cook noodles as instructed on the package, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside
  •  In nonstick large skillet or wok coated with cooking spray stir-fry broccoli, carrots and bell pepper over medium-high heat for 2 minutes
  • Stir in snow peas and stir-fry for 1 minute more. Remove vegetables from skillet and set aside
  • Add oil to same skillet. Add in chicken and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink
  • Reduce heat to medium and return vegetables to wok
  • Stir in peanut sauce, soy sauce and ground red pepper (if desired)
  • Add in noodles and toss until combined and heated through 
  • Transfer to serving plate and sprinkle with peanuts
  • Serve over brown rice

Grilled Tuna Steak with Salsa

Cook's notes: Grilled tuna steaks are rich in protein, low in calories and full of B vitamins and minerals. Even though tuna itself won’t give you a lot of calories, adding oil during the cooking process can quickly add up the calorie content. To keep your tuna steak as light as possible, you might want to use nonstick cooking spray, which only has a trace amount of calories, instead of a high-calorie oil. Both yellow fin and skip jack tuna provide around 110 calories from a 3-ounce grilled steak. Recipes comes from Special K Foods and an option is 
buying prepared salsa.
The recipe serves 2 
Tuna Steaks can be grilled, pan fried, broiled or baked. I found this link particularly helpful on different ways to cook tuna steaks.
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped mango
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped kiwi fruit
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons seeded and finely chopped jalapeño pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 (5 oz.) tuna steak, about 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 small clove garlic 
  • lemon slices
  • In small bowl toss together mango, kiwi fruit, lime juice, jalapeño pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil. Set aside
  • Brush tuna steak with remaining olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice
  • Rub garlic clove over both sides of steak and sprinkle with fresh herbs (Rosemary, thyme, parsley) 
  • Grill tuna directly over medium heat about 4 to 6 minutes or until desired doneness, turning once or bake tuna at 450 4-6 minutes per 1/2 inch thickness
  • Transfer tuna to serving plate and spoon mango mixture onto plate beside the tuna. Serve with lemon slices.
Next blog will feature several low calorie dessert recipes just in  time for your holiday entertaining.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Embrace the Light

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. For thousands of years, the winter solstice has played a significant role in religion, spirituality and celebratory festivities. While it's certainly the day with the least amount of sunlight, let as look forward to the the weeks ahead that become brighter. These lyrics embrace the dance of life. Enjoy every step as we sing and dance toward spring.
"Lord of the Dance" is a hymn with words written by English songwriter Sydney Carter in 1963. He borrowed the tune from the American Shaker song "Simple Gifts." The hymn is widely performed in English-speaking congregations and assemblies.
It follows the idea of a traditional English carol, "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," which tells the gospel story in the first person voice of Jesus of Nazareth with the device of portraying Jesus' life and mission as a dance.
Lord Of The Dance
I danced in the morning when the world was young
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

I danced for the scribes and the Pharisees
They wouldn't dance, they wouldn't follow me
I danced for the fishermen James and John
They came with me so the dance went on 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame
They ripped, they stripped, they hung me high
Left me there on the cross to die 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

I danced on a Friday when the world turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body, they thought I was gone
But I am the dance, and the dance goes on 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the life that will never, never die
I'll live in you if you'll live in me
I am the Lord of the dance, said he 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he
Eggnog Cheesecake Bars
Cook's notes: If you still have some baking to do try these wonderful creamy eggnog bars. The recipe was quite easy. It comes from Midwest Living Magazine November/December 2013. 
In this photo I made a Gingersnap cookie crust as an alternative to a graham cracker crust and added crumbled almonds.I really liked the crust which was a nice contrast to the flavor of eggnog/cheesecake. 

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs or gingersnap cookie crumbs-reserve 1/4 cup crumbs
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup eggnog
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or rum (optional)
  • For the crust, combine the 2 cups graham cracker or cookie crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Stir in the melted butter with a fork until evenly combined. A food processor or blender can be used for this step
  • Transfer the crumb mixture to an 8 x 8 glass baking pan 
  • Press crumb mixture down flat in an even layer. Bake in a 375 degrees oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees 
  • For the filling, in a large mixer bowl, beat cream cheese on high for about 1 minute
  • Add in 1/3 cup sugar, eggnog, egg and bourbon or rum beat until the mixture is light and no lumps remain
  • Pour the filling over the crust in the baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup crumbs
  • Bake for 28 minutes or until the center is just set. Cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour
  • Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. 

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...