Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Morning Pancakes

Everyone has their weekend rituals. For E and me, one ritual we have is Saturday morning pancakes. Typically this involves my going downstairs first, putting on a pot of coffee and cleaning the kitchen (depending on how much cleaning up we didn't do from Friday night's dinner - if it's been a long week and there was a martini involved, chances are no dishes got done on Friday night), then getting pancakes going - and E finally comes downstairs after everything has been magically cleaned and the pancakes are nearly done. His sense of timing is quite remarkable in this regard.

Anyway, I have a pancake recipe that's now committed to memory, which I love to make - it's easy and tasty and, of course, healthy (sensing a pattern yet?). I'll make it with pumpkin and spices during the fall and sometimes into the winter, and with applesauce the rest of the time. I love topping these pancakes with no-sugar-added pumpkin butter and pure maple syrup (2 T does the trick) as I have given up artificial and processed foods - I used to be a SF syrup junkie!

Here's the recipe... it turns out best if you have a cup of coffee to keep you company as you cook.

Oh - and I've written this recipe for people who may not make pancakes that often, so it has a lot of guidance. If you're an expert pancake maker and are just interested in the recipe, well, you know what to do.

Saturday Morning Pancakes (makes 24 pancakes, 4 pancakes per serving)
  • 2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 T. granulated sugar or evaporated cane juice
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 1/2 c. low-fat or fat free buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin or 1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • Optional add-ins: fresh blueberries, dried cranberries, chocolate chips
**Pre-heat an electric griddle to 350 degrees, or one of those stove-top grill pan / griddles over medium-high heat. I don't recommend using a skillet as you can only make 2 or 3 pancakes at a time and it will take forever!
1. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl
2. In a medium mixing bowl (or a 4-cup measuring glass if you hate doing dishes as much as I do), whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and pumpkin (or applesauce)
3. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently until combined. It's important that you NOT over-mix or the resulting pancakes will be flat and sad, and nobody wants that. The batter will look a little bit lumpy, and you will see some bubbles start to form as the baking soda and powder begin to react with the buttermilk. Let the batter sit for a few moments before you start making pancakes.
4. Now, make the pancakes.
  • I've found that using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup to pour the batter works well - you end up with evenly sized pancakes at just about the right size. Spray the skillet with a little cooking spray (canola oil is best) and dab any excess with paper towel.
  • Using the measuring cup, pour the batter onto the skillet, evenly spacing each pancake - you want about half an inch between them. My skillet fits eight pancakes (2 rows of 4). Bubbles will start to appear on the surface of the pancakes.
  • When the edges of each pancake look like they're cooked, and the bubbles have slowed / stopped - this should take about 2-3 minutes - it's time to flip the pancake.
  • This is the fun part - and the part that takes practice if you're a pancake novice. Just trust that it will work, and it will - if you get too nervous, you'll psych yourself out, the pancakes and the spatula will sense this, and they'll flop. Take a spatula and with confident, quick, movement, slide it under the pancake. Again, with confident, quick, movement, flip your wrist so that you put the pancake back on the griddle on its other, uncooked side. Smile at your mad pancake flipping skills, but briefly - you've got 7 other pancakes to flip.
  • Take a moment to observe the color of the pancakes - do they look golden brown? A bit too dark? Not dark enough? Adjust the cooking time if necessary.
  • After you've flipped all of the pancakes, they'll need another 1 or 2 minutes before they can be removed and the next batch of batter can be cooked.
  • You can tell if the pancakes are done in a couple of ways: Lift the edge of a pancake with the spatula and have a peek - is it golden brown? Then it's ready. You can also poke the top of the pancake with your finger - if the surface springs back, it's ready. If not, leave it for a while longer.
  • I like to put the finished pancakes on a large platter that sits underneath the griddle to keep them warm - you can also keep an oven-proof platter in the oven at about 200 degrees, and put the finished pancakes in there until all of the batter is cooked.
  • Nutrition information per serving (about 4 pancakes): 186 calories, 33 g carbs, 3 g fat, 3 g fiber, 10 g protein
Recipe Notes
  • Buttermilk: If you don't have buttermilk, you can use regular milk - just reduce the amount to 2 cups. You can also add plain yogurt to milk to thicken it up, or you can add 2 T. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to the milk and let it sit to thicken for a moment.
  • Applesauce vs. pumpkin: I've found that you need less applesauce than pumpkin, as the pumpkin is a bit thicker. If you're opening a new can of pumpkin for the pancakes, freeze the rest in 1/2 cup portions so you can thaw just what you need for the next batch. Or, make some pumpkin muffins with the rest. If you're not someone who eats a lot of applesauce (like me) I've found that the applesauce cups are a great way to buy applesauce for baking - they come in 1/2 cup portions and you don't end up opening a whole jar that will likely go to waste.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Recipe update: dark chocolate brownies

So - last night we had some turkey chili to try and ward off Snow Fatigue... after shoveling snow today for about an hour (E's forearm is still hurt from the spill he took on some ice last week, so I was shoveling solo) I thought about how it would be nice to be someplace warm. Where they have nice, spicy food. And ice cold beer. And nice, spicy food. Ooops, I said that already.

Anyway, when I posted the Dark Chocolate Brownie recipe, I had said I wanted to try them with chipotle, so I thought that today would be the perfect day to do that. I also wanted to see if I could cut the fat - and keep / increase the moisture - by replacing the canola oil with reduced fat buttermilk. I also happened to have dark chocolate on hand, so instead of the substitution I made last time (cocoa powder, canola oil, and sugar), I used the chocolate.

The resulting flavor is nice - the cinnamon really comes out, and the heat is slow to build. You don't taste the chipotle right away, rather it builds with every bite. My suggestion for serving these brownies would be topped with a scoop of either vanilla or dulce de leche ice cream, drizzled with Kahlua, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. If you use just a small scoop of ice cream, you're not adding too many calories. Next variation will be to bake these with the Mexican spices, but add some coconut. I'll also try ratcheting up the chipotle, as these could have been a bit spicier.

Oh - and a note on moisture... I think that unless you're using the usual amount of butter called for in brownies, you're going to have a cakier brownie. Delicious, but cakey and crumbly. E said that these brownies were more delicious than the "original". In his taste buds I trust!

So - here is the revised ingredient list; follow the directions as before:

* 8 ounces dark chocolate (chips or broken into pieces)
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
* 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (from Nuts Online)
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 3/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (less or more to taste)
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 4 large eggs
* 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
* 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
* 1/4 cup buttermilk (substitution for canola oil)
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Per brownie (assuming 24): 119 calories, 19g carbs, 5g fat, 3g protein, and 2g fiber (savings of 3g fat and 30 calories per brownie from the "other" recipe)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fight Snow Fatigue with Tasty Tukey Chili

So, we're supposed to get more snow tonight. Yay. I wanted to eat something for dinner that was warm - both temperature warm and spicy warm. Something with a kick!

I got some new spices, which also helped to inspire me, from Penzeys Spice: a chili powder, some cumin, and some chipotle powder, which I was dying to try. To bring the flavors out, I took some inspiration from a Cooks Illustrated Texas Chili recipe which called for cooking the spices with the onions and some tomato paste at the beginning, for about 10 minutes, before adding the meat and beans. I also cooked the ground turkey separately to make it easier to leave any fat behind. To add more depth of flavor, I used diced tomatoes with chiles and tomato sauce (you could save some calories by using chicken broth instead of the tomato sauce; chicken broth also results in a less "intense" tomato flavor).

Here's the recipe - it makes 4 generous servings, 6 smaller sized servings.
* 1 lb. ground turkey (I used Nature's Promise)
* 1 T. olive oil
* 1 medium yellow onion (or two small), peeled and diced
* 2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed, or the equivalent
* 2 T. tomato paste
* 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles (I used Trader Joe's)
* 1 15-oz. can light or dark kidney beans, or beans of your choice, drained
* 1 c. tomato sauce or puree
* 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced or chopped into small pieces
* 1 T. chili powder, such as Penzeys Spices Chili 9000
* 1/2 t. ground cumin
* 1/2 t. ground chipotle powder (lends a spicy smokiness - use 1/2 t. additional chili powder if you don't have chipotle)
* salt and pepper to taste

1. In a skillet coated in cooking spray over medium heat, saute the ground turkey until cooked through, breaking it as it cooks into small pieces

2. While the turkey cooks, heat 1 T. olive oil in a saucepan; add the onions and garlic and stir to combine. Cook for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the tomato paste and the spices to the onion mixture, stir to combine, lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir periodically to ensure it doesn't stick to the pan or burn.
4. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, bell pepper, turkey, and beans to the tomato and onion mixture, and stir to combine. Cover and simmer over low to medium heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are cooked through.

Serve over brown rice or a multi-grain pilaf topped with sour cream, shredded cheese, cubed avocado, or your favorite chili toppings.

Per serving (4 generous servings): 357 calories, 11 g fat, 35 g protein, 33 g carbs, and 8 g fiber

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Red and Yellow Peppers

This is a really easy recipe that tastes much more delicious than the time you put into it. It's doable for a weeknight after work, and it's yummy enough to serve for company. Serve it with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, butternut squash, or your favorite starch. The original recipe called for rosemary, which I don't like, so I substituted thyme and it tasted just delightful.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces pork and about 1/2 cup bell pepper mixture)


* 1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick medallions
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
* 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
* 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch strips
* 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch strips
* 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork to pan; cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; turn pork over. Add thyme, garlic, and bell peppers; cook 7 minutes or until peppers are tender and pork is done. Drizzle with vinegar.

Per serving: 215 calories, 10g fat, 25g protein, 5g carbohydrates, 2g fiber

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie Stew with Drop Biscuits

Just before we got the Blizzard here in Massachusetts earlier this week, I started craving warm comfort food. I also want to make something delicious for E, because isn't the way to every man's heart through his stomach? Sure, I know I have his heart, but I like to spoil him - especially when he's traveling. I saw America's Test Kitchen over the weekend - one of my favorite cooking shows ever - and they did a segment on "the perfect" chicken pot pie. The key, they said, was to cook the ingredients separately before joining them together, to allow each one to develop its own personality and flavor. Makes sense to me.

I didn't want to "spend" a lot of calories on the crust, and I also wanted to save a little time on preparation, so decided to try this as a stew with quick drop biscuits.

The stew recipe is inspired by ATK and Martha. The biscuit recipe is from Cooking Light.

Chicken Pot Pie Stew (Serves 4)
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • Chicken broth (enough to just cover chicken breasts)
  • 1/2 c. Dry white wine
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 t. dried thyme
  • Low fat milk (about 1 1/2 cups)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Poach the chicken breasts in the broth - cover the breasts in broth, and bring to a boil. Cook about 10 minutes, until breasts are fully cooked through. Remove breasts from poaching liquid and transfer to a cutting board to cool. Strain the poaching liquid into a 4-cup measuring cup, ensuring you add no more than 1 cup of poaching broth. Add the wine to the measuring cup. Add enough milk to bring the total amount of the liquid to 2 1/2 cups.
- When it is cool enough to handle, shred the chicken using two forks.
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions and carrots in the olive oil with the thyme until the carrots are tender; add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the flour to the onion / carrot mixture and stir for about 1 minute.
- Add the liquid to the pan gradually, stirring as you add it, and cook it, stirring, until it thickens.
- When the sauce has thickened, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the peas and the chicken. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until it bubbles around the edges.

Per Serving: 272 calories, 20g carbohydrates, 6g fat, 30g protein, 3g fiber

Drop Biscuits
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 450ยบ.
- Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives** until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk; stir just until moist.
- Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove biscuits from pan immediately, and place on a wire rack.

**after trying to use two knives, I tried an apple corer / slicer and found that it works as well as a pastry blender!

Per biscuit: 119 calories, 17g carbohydrates, 4g fat, 3g protein, .5g fiber

Bring it all together
Use pasta dishes or plates with rims to serve. Slice one biscuit (or two!) in half and spoon one fourth of the stew over it. Enjoy!

Kitchen tools I can't live without

I believe that for the most part, you shouldn't have any "one trick ponies" in your kitchen - every tool that you have should be able to serve at least a couple of different roles, with a couple of exceptions (citrus reamer comes to mind). With that said, here's a list of tools that I can't imagine not having in my kitchen:
  • Digital kitchen scale - this is the one scale I love to have around! It's a must for accuracy in portion control. Eri gave me one for my birthday last year and it's hands down, my favorite and most used kitchen tool!
  • Salad spinner - this one does double duty on lettuces and fresh herbs, taking the once onerous and tedious task of washing your lettuce and making it fun. That's right, fun.
  • Kitchen Aid stand mixer - I have the "lowly" Artisan model (my sister has the bigger, better model), but this is my prized kitchen possession. I have the citrus juicer attachment as well as the shredder / slicer attachment, and these both make life so easy - especially when you don't want to drag the Cuisinart out. The attachments are so easy to clean, too!
  • Parchment paper - no, it's not "green" per se, though you can buy recycled parchment paper, but this makes cleanup very easy. I use it when baking cookies and anything else that tends to make a mess on baking sheets.
  • Kitchen gloves - these are disposable rubber gloves that you can use when dealing with smelly or gross food (think onions, garlic, raw meat and seafood, etc.). They help keep your hands clean, and keep them from retaining smells that are hard to get rid of.
  • Electric griddle - OK, I use this only for pancakes, but I like it better than the stove top griddle because a) it's got a larger surface area, b) it holds heat more evenly, and c) I can control the temperature by selecting it on the dial, instead of checking my front and back burners to see that the flames are about even.
  • Wooden spoons - there's just something nice about using a wooden spoon instead of a plastic or metal one. I feel like I'm "connecting" better with the food that I'm making when I use a wooden spoon: it's not going to bend like a plastic one, and it's not going to scratch your bowls like a metal one.
  • Nonstick skillet - this is used for frying eggs, sauteing onions, making shrimp arrabbiata, and so much more. The trick to keeping the nonstick skillet nonstick is to ensure you're not scrubbing it with anything too scratchy. If something does happen to stick to it, soak the skillet until the food can be removed easily with a rubber spatula.
  • Meat thermometer - sure, you can use your senses of touch and sight to tell whether meat has cooked properly, but wouldn't you like to know for sure?
  • Rubber spatula / spoonula - I love that I'm not leaving too much behind in the baking dish or the mixing bowl, because the spatula will scrape it all up. The one I use most now was a giftie from my BFF Eri, so I'm not sure who made it, but I absolutely love it.
  • Immersion blender - this one is excellent for those of us who want the results of a blender or food processor for soups / sauces, but hate to clean. They're pretty inexpensive, too! Mine has a cute little attachment that you can use to chop and nearly pulverize things like nuts or frozen cranberries!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Where I shop for healthy food

I have a few favorites that I frequent for my grocery shopping and healthy ingredient pantry stocking:
  • Stop & Shop (local to the New England area, a "sister" chain to Giant in the mid-Atlantic). S&S is the grocery store I grew up with, and they've done a nice job in the past couple of years of introducing more and more natural and organic products. This has culminated in the launch of the "Nature's Promise" line of products, natural and organic foods that are bottom line-friendly. As always, read the labels to ensure that the ingredients and the calories are bottom-friendly, but Nature's Promise is my go-to brand within S&S. Fave S&S / Nature's Promise products: eggs, baby carrots, chicken broth, frozen veggies.
  • Trader Joe's. TJ's has a ton of unique and interesting products you just won't find in "regular" grocery stores. They also have great prices on spices and herbs, and a wonderful selection of nuts and dried fruits. Their product offerings change with the seasons, so go often! Fave TJ's products: multigrain english muffins, Fair Trade Morning Blend coffee, pre-cooked frozen brown rice, olive oil.
  • Whole Foods. A lot of my friends call this store "Whole Paycheck" - and with good reason! But when WF has sales, they're often really good ($0.39 / lb butternut squash is a recent good one!). And their prices for the "mainstream" organic food like Kashi and Amy's are usually better than you'd find at a "regular" grocery store. Their prepared food section is also quite nice. I always order my Thanksgiving turkey from WF and have always been happy with the quality. Fave WF products: Amy's breakfast scramble wrap, anything from the cheese section, Greens + bars, Bell & Evans chicken.
  • Nuts Online ( I love, love, LOVE Nuts Online. They have a wonderful selection of coffee, baking supplies, spices, nuts, dried fruits, snacks, etc. I've gotten wonderful gift baskets and custom snack mixes from them and everyone raves about the quality. They're always adding new products and often offer free shipping or other savings for their customers. Fave NO products: Copenhagen coffee, organic whole wheat pastry flour, organic raw cacao powder, Southern Heat Snack Mix, dried whole cranberries.

healthy.tasty.easy. Kitchen Staples

While for most recipes you'll want to have fresh ingredients on hand (meats, vegetables, dairy), there are several key ingredients you can keep in the pantry or freezer which will make preparing healthy food quickly an easy task.

  • Canned beans (pinto, garbanzo, black, cannelini)
  • Canned tuna (packed in water)
  • Rice (brown, long grain, medium grain)
  • Canned tomatoes (diced with or without chiles, crushed, whole, tomato paste)
  • Broth (chicken, beef, vegetable)
  • Pasta (whole wheat spaghetti, linguine, ziti)
  • Spices: cinnamon, chipotle, cayenne, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla beans and vanilla extract
  • Herbs: basil, sage, thyme, tarragon, oregano
  • Salt, baking soda, baking powder
  • Whole wheat pastry flour
  • Sugar: organic granulated sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar
  • Cocoa powder and chocolate chips
  • Minced garlic
  • Yogurt: fat-free or low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Eggs (eggs actually keep for quite a while)
  • Lemon juice or lemons
  • Buttermilk
  • Pre-cooked rice (from Trader Joe's)
  • Chicken breasts
  • Ground turkey
  • Frozen veggies: green beans, pre-cut peppers, peas

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Yesterday, a recipe for dark chocolate brownies popped up on my Facebook news feed. The recipe was from Ellie Krieger, the healthy cooking chef from Food Network, and Paula Deen and Ina Garten's caloric opposite. I decided to make them, but on further inspection of my pantry I had to make a few adjustments. So here is the recipe with my adjustments. The result is a cake-y, moist, not-too-sweet brownie with a nice chocolate flavor. The cinnamon gives it a nice flavor dimension. You can save calories by omitting the walnuts, though they don't add too much fat - and provide Omega-3 fatty acids which are good for you!

The recipe makes 24 brownies, each with 142 calories, 8g fat, 15g carb, 3g protein, and 2g fiber.

* 80 g (3/4 c) raw cacao powder (from Nuts Online), plus 1/4 c. canola oil and 1/2 c. granulated sugar (this was a substitute for 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, which I did not have on hand)
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
* 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (from Nuts Online)
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 4 large eggs
* 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
* 1/2 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
* 1/4 cup canola oil
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Combine the cacao powder, granulated sugar, 1/4 c. canola oil, and butter in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture comes together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, Dutch process cocoa, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the yogurt, 1/4 c. canola oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the cacao-butter mixture to this and whisk until blended. Add the flour mixture to this and mix until just moistened.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 24 squares.

Serving size: 1 square

Notes on this recipe:
* Whole wheat pastry flour: I used Bob's Red Mill flour, which you can find in the natural foods section of most grocery stores, or at Whole Foods. You can also order this from Nuts Online, which is where I source a lot of my ingredients.
* Bittersweet chocolate vs. Cocoa / Cacao: According to, if you don't have bittersweet chocolate, you can substitute unsweetened chocolate and sugar at the ratio of 1/2 oz. cocoa plus 1 T. granulated sugar for every 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate. If you don't have unsweetened chocolate, you can substitute 3 T. (20 g) cocoa powder plus 1 T. melted butter or oil for every 1 oz. of unsweetened chocolate you need.
* Brown sugar: I used dark brown sugar in this recipe, although the original called for light brown sugar, in an attempt to deepen the flavor a bit.
* Yogurt: The original recipe called for "low-fat yogurt" but I used low-fat Greek yogurt. What's different about Greek yogurt? It has a thicker, less watery consistency which I thought would contribute to a thicker, denser brownie.
* Cinnamon: The original recipe didn't call for cinnamon at all, but I added this to lend a bit more depth of flavor. Next time I'll try a "wicked" brownie by adding chipotle and cayenne pepper in along with the cinnamon.