Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Leprechauns are Marching...

OK, so I'm a little late for a proper St. Patrick's Day post, but there are lots of St. Paddy's parades today, so I figured I could still post this recipe.

Growing up, as the daughter of a kindergarten teacher, every holiday was a big deal. We celebrated every holiday - major or minor - and Mom made a big deal of decorating and making special foods in honor of the current holiday. I remember coming down for breakfast before school on Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, and Mom would have the table set with all kinds of decorations and a themed breakfast. It really was fun and now, as a grown-up, not even having kids of my own, I wonder how she found the time and energy to do it!

For St. Patrick's Day, mom would make this amazing Irish Scawn Bread, with raisins and this crisp sugary topping... Although it's so delicious (especially toasted and drenched in butter), it's actually quite low fat. So - I thought it appropriate to include it in healthy.tasty.easy!

This bread is so delicious it's easy to keep slicing a I decided to make muffins this year instead of a loaf, an attempt at portion control. The recipe makes 24 muffins (or two loaves) so it's up to you how to make them! Although this is an "Irish" recipe it tastes just as good in October as it does in March... you could mix it up a bit by using dried cranberries instead of the raisins. In this version I substituted half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour to add a bit of fiber.

Mom's Irish Scawn
  • 4 cups flour (2 cups all-purpose plus 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins (mini raisins work best)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 - 1 1/2 cups fat free buttermilk
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. granulated or sanding sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the raisins and mix well.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs. Add enough buttermilk to bring the total contents up to the 1 cup mark. Add vanilla, then pour into the flour mixture.
  4. Here's the warning about the mixing part... it's not easy. The dough is going to be a bit intense - mix the batter, and add buttermilk gradually so that the mixture is moist but not too moist. Once you've incorporated all of the dry ingredients, you're done. Turn the batter into 2 9x5 loaf pans, or 2 12-muffin muffin tins.
  5. Place into the oven. For the loaves, you'll cook a total of 40-45 minutes, while the muffins will need 25-30 minutes.
  6. Glaze: 5 minutes before the end of baking time, add enough water to the 1/2 cup granulated or sanding sugar to make a relatively thin glaze. Spoon it over the top of the loaves or muffins (about 1 t. per muffin) and put the pans back in the oven to finish baking. Don't worry of the "glaze" seems a bit watery; it'll all bake off.
  7. The scawn is done when a toothpick (or piece of uncooked spaghetti) is inserted and comes out clean. Take the scawn out of the oven and cool. Enjoy!
Nutrition information: Per muffin or slice (assuming 24 slices): 137 cals, 29 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g fat, 3 g protein

Holy Posole!

A few weeks ago I was skiing in Colorado... Aspen, to be specific. Just before heading home, we spent the day in Denver having brunch at Eri's friend Kimmy T's house. On the way there, we stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things and saw the most beautiful array of chili powders, chilies, and other Mexican spices that we just don't see here on the East Coast. Not in Hull, anyway! Eri, who was traveling with me, had told me she would be the very delighted recipient of a posole recipe from Kimmy's fiance, who is of Mexican descent. So she scooped up some chili powder and hominy, and I did the same, excitedly dreaming of the spicy soup.

Once I got home, I looked at a few recipes, and as I usually do, just made something that "felt" right. I made it once with pork (boneless center cut loin ribs) and once again with chicken breasts. The pork definitely brings a bit more flavor (and more fat), but the chicken tastes quite nice and is a bit lighter. Technically, chicken is used in "green" posole, not red, but what the heck. I'm a gringa. Also, the soup tastes much better on the second day, so I'd advise making it ahead of time to let the flavors really come into their own. You can follow the same recipe with either the pork or the chicken, so here it is...

Posole Soup (serves about 4)
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts (or boneless pork ribs) (you could use boneless or bone-in, just account for the weight of the bone in the total weight)
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth plus about 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or the equivalent in prepared or dried garlic)
  • 1 can hominy, drained (Yeah, I cheated and used a can of Goya hominy. If you have time and interest, you can use dried hominy, soak and cook, but allow an "overnight's" worth of work for that)
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes with chilies (I used Trader Joe's fire-roasted tomatoes with chilies)
  • Hot chili powder, 1/4 t. to start (I used 1/2 t.)
  • Chipotle powder, 1/4 t. to start (I used 1/2 t.)
  • Oregano, 1 t.
  • Fresh cilantro, 1-3 sprigs
  • 1/2 lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Garnishes: diced avocado, tortilla strips, diced onions, cilantro
  1. Place the chicken in a saucepan and cover with the broth. Add the bay leaf and garlic. Place a lid on the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
  2. Remove the chicken from the broth, and strain the broth through a mesh strainer. Return the broth to the saucepan.
  3. Add the spices (chili powders and oregano), tomato, and hominy to the broth. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Shred the chicken using two forks, or your hands (careful, it's probably still hot!) and add it to the soup mixture.
  5. Tear the cilantro and add it to the soup; squeeze the lime juice into the soup, and taste. Adjust seasonings to your taste (you may need to add salt and a bit more chili powder). Try not to add more than 1/8 t. of chili powder at a time - it's very spicy!
  6. Simmer the soup for about 30 minutes, covered, to allow the flavors to blend. Add water or broth if needed.
  7. Top with the toppings of your choice and enjoy!
Nutrition information per serving if made with chicken, about 1.5 cups (for soup only, no toppings included): 236 calories, 2 g fat, 29 g protein, 5 g fiber, 24 g carbs

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mardi Gras, one day late

Wow - has it really been three weeks since I last posted? Yikes! Well, a lot has happened. Actually, I was on vacation for one week - the rest of the time I was just too pootered (apparently) to post. The important thing is, I'm back!

I have another recipe to post (Holy Posole!) which I'll save for tomorrow, but today's recipe is an adapted Shrimp Etouffe, partly in honor of Mardi Gras (yes, it was yesterday!) and partially because I had the Holy Trinity (pepper, celery, and onion) in the fridge. So using a few recipes for inspiration, I created this one - the main adjustment I made was to use 1 T. olive oil instead of the 4-8 T. of butter typically called for in these recipes, saving about 700 calories total. I had this with some roasted cauliflower to get a few more veggies in.

Jen's Shrimp Etouffe

  • 1 bell pepper (red, yellow, green, or orange), cut into chunks
  • 3 medium celery stalks, coarsley chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 t. (or more to taste) cayenne pepper
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t. thyme
  • 1 15-oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with chiles
  • 12 oz. raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
  1. Finely chop the celery, onions, and pepper (or pulse in a food processor). Heat olive oil in a saucepan over a medium high heat and add vegetables. Cook, stirring, about 10 minutes or until vegetables soften. Add the flour and stir completely until flour is incorporated. Stir frequently so that it doesn't burn, about 5 minutes, then gradually add the chicken broth, stirring to incorporate each addition. Turn the heat down to a medium-low. Add seasonings and tomatoes, stir to incorporate, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Stir every few minutes to ensure it's not sticking.
  2. Add the shrimp, stirring to ensure they're incorporated; replace the lid and simmer for 5-7 minutes being careful that the shrimp doesn't overcook. Serve over rice.
Nutrition information per serving: 200 calories, 17g carbs, 5g fat, 21g protein, 2g fiber