Saturday, November 27, 2010

pie in the sky

I love pie crust. I'll come right out there and say it. Wish it weren't so, but it's just the way it is. I can't train myself to unlove pie crust. The kind made with 100% butter and boasting layers as thin as snowflakes that hang together in that wonderful pastry-dough sort of way. I usually decide to just get rid of all but a thin layer of that extemporaneous filling and focus on the all-important crust.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I also do this with burritos when made with a particularly delicious tortilla. If I'm getting a little full, out goes the filling and onward with that tortilla. I'm just saying.

In honor of the eating season that comes with our glorious holidays we bring you a recipe that will release any crust lover from their vice, should they choose. This recipe is for a pumpkin flan with crunchy sugared pecans, and that pretty much explains the dessert. What it doesn't do is tell you how wonderfully flavored the pumpkin custard is with the time-honored flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and how well it mingles with the sweet bite of the caramelized sugar that is found in flan. The thought of crust evaporates without so much as a sputter. This is a treat without need of a shoulder to lean on. And it is decadently gorgeous in presentation--a humble show-stopper.

As a side note, it is nonfat (except for the pecans which can be omitted if desired, but please don't desire this!) and cholesterol free. But go ahead and scoot such thoughts serious, ba-humbug thoughts from your mind. After your first bite you won't believe it anyway.

We hope you all had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving--now on to the merriest of Christmases.

Pumpkin Flan with Sugared Pecans

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups egg substitute or egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 3/4 cups nonfat evaporated milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbs sugar

In a skillet melt sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown and completely liquid. Pour into 9-inch cake pan or baking dish that is about 2 inches deep. With the back of a spoon, quickly spread the caramelized sugar evenly over bottom of pan and set aside. As it cools you will hear the sugar make cracking sounds. This is normal, don't worry!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine egg substitute or whites, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and evaporated milk. Whisk together until completely blended. Pour into sugar-coated baking dish. Set this dish inside a larger pan and place both into oven. Carefully pour very hot water into the larger pan until it reaches about 3/4 of the way up the sides of flan baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour or until knife inserted into center of custard comes out clean. Remove flan dish from oven and allow water pan to cool completely before removing from oven.

For sugared pecans: In a small skillet combine pecans and sugar. Stir constantly until sugar melts and pecans are toasted. Turn out onto foil to cool. Set aside.

Refrigerate flan overnight or until completely chilled, at least 8 hours. When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around edge of the flan. Place a larger, rimmed serving dish over the top of the flan dish and quickly invert. The flan will slowly loosen and rest on the serving dish. The sauce made from the caramelized sugar will flow over the surface of the flan.

Before serving, sprinkle sugared pecans over flan. To serve, slice in wedges and top with nonfat whipped topping if desired. Serves 10 to 12.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

falling for fall

What to do with a bountiful harvest of yellow crook neck squash and a husband who is way less than eager about having it for dinner? That was my dilemma the other day as I gathered a small part of my incredibly huge yield of this golden vegetable from my garden. Besides finding this a delicate and delicious summer vegetable, I have always enjoyed its shape, reminding me of part of a pretty yellow paisley design.

This year we planted our garden for the second season. Having been rather successful in our efforts last year, we approached this growing season with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn’t on her best behavior and the rain and cool weather persisted into early July, resulting in a stingy growing season. Our tomatoes totally flunked and our corn had to go in so late, that we are going to have to be satisfied with harvesting corn stalks for fall decorations. None of those succulent, tender ears that leave us salivating just at the mere thought.

However, one of the surprise stars of this year's harvest was my hearty and abundant crooked neck squash! In spite of the short season, those vines blossomed and produced many, many pretty yellow paisley shaped vegetables.

Last year, what looked like some lovely squash of the same variety, turned out to be yellow GOURDS! It was actually pretty embarrassing, since I discovered it after I had shared a basketful or two with friends. I learned it only upon trying to prepare some for our own table. Not my proudest moment as a cook or gardener as I had to get out my cleaver and deliver a hearty karate chop to pierce the tough exterior, only to find nothing fit to eat inside!

As I looked at my tender, honest-to-goodness squash last week, I was determined to find a preparation that would make my husband’s mouth water and demand a second helping. Surveying the basket of veggies I had brought up from the garden, I began to get a vision of a successful combination that would be flavorful enough to be irresistible. There in my basket along with the squash, were shiny dark green bell peppers and beautiful oval purple onions. Outside on my patio I perused my happy, healthy little herb garden. The basil and oregano just begged to combine with my basket of yummy garden treasures, and with a few snips I was ready to take on the challenge. The following recipe is what I came up with, and wonder of wonders, I was rewarded with his compliments and that request for a second serving. I had won him over.

Encouraged, I prepared it again a few days later, this time for other guests, and met with the same happy results. So, even if you have to get your vegetables from the produce department or your local Farmers' Market, this is a tasty, flavorful way to enjoy the late summer's harvest.

Warm Orzo Veggie Medley

1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups crook neck squash, coarsely chopped ( You may substitute green or yellow zucchini if you wish.)
1 cup green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dry)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Spike (found in spice section of most grocery stores) or other seasoning salt
3 cups cooked orzo pasta
2 cups diced tomatoes
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves

Spray large skillet with cooking spray. Add olive oil. Over medium high heat, sauté onion, squash and bell pepper till slightly softened (4-5 minutes). Add herbs, pepper, salt, Spike or seasoning salt,orzo, pine nuts and diced tomatoes. Toss together and heat until tomatoes are just warmed.

Line a wide shallow serving dish with a generous layer of spinach leaves and pile the orzo-vegetable mixture
on top. Serve immediately, making sure to scoop up spinach with the vegetables. You can make a dinner entrée out of this by adding sliced, grilled chicken on top.

Serves 6 or more, depending on whether it is served as a side or an entrée.

My other bumper crops are pumpkins and spaghetti squash. Stay tuned for some more warm, cozy autumn offerings from my garden harvest!

Stay tuned for a yummy fall dessert we're cooking up....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

what's on tv

We've been visiting our local morning news shows! You can click below to see Janelle on Studio 5. Alice was on A.M. Northwest this morning in Portland, Oregon, and we will have her segment posted shortly.

We are now back to our blog and another yummy recipe is in the works and coming your way tomorrow!

For those who have asked how to get their hands on Simply Deliteful, you can click on the link at the top of the blog. Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

what's in an index?

I had never contemplated that an index is actually written. There is an actual process which involves putting hand to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and thinking it all out. Mind you, that's a serious mind-twisting puzzle. You know, like the kind you work out with that Michael Jordan tongue sticking out of the corner of your mouth because you're concentrating so hard. Next time you open a cookbook, check out the index. If you've ever had to write one, they will all seem like their own litte masterpieces. Every bit as difficult as coming up with the 300 or so recipes that actually have to get categorized in an index.

So, we are in the midst of listing our bruschettas and our layer cakes in a way that will hopefully make it easier than ever for you to find them amidst the 200 pages of our wee book. After all, that is by definition the job of an index. And we are so glad to be at this stage.

After a few years of work we are about to unveil the finished product. We're planning on having Simply Deliteful available in time for Christmas. We will be back soon to let you know when to expect it for certain.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

bless these vittles so we can eat!

A sausage is not something to be trifled with. They seem to command center stage wherever they are.

I'll admit to a mild fear of anything sausage related (except with pizza, because come on, if it's smothered in cheese it's got to be good) until I traveled to Munich while on study abroad. Now, this is the place to go for sausage, folks. Even with the carefree, perpetual vacation attitude that accompanies the young while on study abroad, I couldn't extend the same attitude to the realm of the sausage, which runs rampant in Europe. After awhile, I realized I was being a bit silly because after all, those Europeans are still alive and kicking, right?

Still, this was a mighty barrier to cross for an otherwise adventurous girl. I remember the white food car perched right at home on the Munich sidewalk. There were no fancy signs, no music, or any other sensory frills to speak of. I don't speak German and I can't remember how I ordered what I did or what the name of this particular sausage was (the varieties were legion), but somehow I ended up with a piping hot white [yikes!] sausage, cut in chunks and unadorned except for a utilitarian toothpick speared in its side alongside a slop of zingy mustard, all cradled in a stiff red and white paper carton that I could hold with one hand. I felt like I should introduce myself or something, such was the momentousness of the occasion. No one else on that city street could have known what was about to transpire. I remember feeling a little freakish and a little proud of myself all at the same time. But it was still pure grit that made me take the first bite.

And I ate the whole darn thing. I even licked my lips afterward and could have happily gone back for more. Call me converted. Thank you Munich.

Unfortunately, sausages are not well known to be kind to the waistline. Dieters can reserve sausage rites for holidays, binges, or just kiss it off altogether. But that didn't sound like any fun at all. So I was happy to find a chicken sausage that was very flavorful and lacking tons of the fat normally found in the happy sausage, and it wasn't even advertised as a low-fat item. It pays to read lables when on such a hunt. [For those wondering, I got the AmyLu Smoked Andouille Chicken Sausage sold at Costco.] Since sausage is a willing player in almost anything you want to throw together, we thought we'd try pasta this time and tossed in something green and delicious to boot.

Oh, and when eating sausage smiling is required, not to mention licking the old chops.

Riccioli with Sausage
Serves 6 to 8

You can substitute the broccoli and pasta for any like ingredient. As for the pasta, the short, tossable variety works well, especially those with ridges or curves to better capture the sauce. For veggies, you might try zucchini or even spinach, though you may need to alter the amount used. If you choose to use spinach, I would just toss the uncooked leaves in at the same time as the tomato sauce, broth, and nonfat half-and-half since it will wilt just fine with the heat of the other ingredients.

Small amount of olive oil
1 pound riccioli pasta (or penne, rigatoni, etc.), cooked al dente
8 cups broccoli florets, steamed until fork tender
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups low-fat sausage sliced on the bias
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup nonfat half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded parmesan, optional

Drizzle just enough olive oil in the bottom of a frying pan so that the onions won't stick, 1 to 2 teaspoons. Caramelize onions over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until they are limp, completely tender, and have deepened in color. This takes some time, about 20 to 45 minutes depending on your stove, but it doesn't require much fuss so you can tend to the rest of the dish
while the onions cook. A few minutes before the onions are done, add the garlic. Remove from heat when done.

Meanwhile, spray a frying pan with nonfat cooking spray and over medium high heat quickly sear the sausage (which should be already cooked through) to bring out color and flavor, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Over medium-high heat combine the cooked pasta, cooked broccoli, onion and garlic mixture, and seared sausage. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, and nonfat half-and-half, stirring to incorporate and heat through. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

on chocolate, Mayans, and cravings



Need we say more?

Well, no. But of course we will.

We owe our thanks to the Mayans for bringing the delightful cacao bean to the world stage. When most of us think of chocolate, we think of the high-fat candy that comes in chip or bar form. But in the form of cocoa powder it can be utilized in the nonfat kitchen with fabulous and skinny results. Diets may come and go, but cravings for chocolate will ever remain. One of life's constants, like a true friend. So, to keep this craving on the friendly side we came up with a versatile and delectable little dish.

Some might call this cake, but to us it has more the feel of a brownie with its heavier, slightly sticky crumb. We hope you enjoy.

Nonfat Chocolate Brownie

This dessert is easy, and we like that. It is wonderful served on a plate with nothing more than a flourish of nonfat Cool Whip to rest on top and provide the creamy taste that pairs so beautifully with chocolate (sprinkle with cocoa or nutmeg for a finishing touch). For variations you can add nuts or dried fruit before baking or sprinkle a bit of either on top before serving. Also, you could break this into chunks and layer with nonfat pudding, whipped topping, and pie filling to create a decadent trifle or individual parfait. And of course, nonfat ice cream piled under, in between or on top is enough to make anyone smile.

2 cups unsweetened apple sauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup white flour

¾ cup cocoa (not Dutch processed)

1 ½ cups white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325. Spray one 9x13 or two 8-inch round pans with cooking spray and dust with flour. In a large bowl combine the applesauce, vanilla ,and vinegar and mix well. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to applesauce mixture, stirring until well mixed. Turn into prepared baking dish and bake 35-60 minutes, depending on size of pan. My 9x13 took about 40 minutes, but ovens vary widely. Test the center like you would a regular cake; toothpick inserted in center will come out mostly clean with just a few crumbs. Remove from oven. Cool for five to ten minutes and turn onto cooling rack or allow to cool completely in the baking dish itself. Drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze or dust with dry powdered sugar. Keep covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the sun will come out

It's the season for baseball games, soccer practices, and end of school activities....

It's the season for anticipation of change, newness, awakenings, and getting your wheels in motion after laying frozen and dormant...not to mention getting off the treadmill and onto an outdoor trail for pete's sake!

It's definitely not the time for long, complicated meal preparation!

One can only make so many frazzled dinner trips to the snack bar over the course of multiple outdoor sports games each week. Popcorn, hot dogs, and red licorice ropes don't do much to help you keep in shape, or keep you feeling very spry for that matter. Wouldn't it be nice to have something that's homemade, prepared without a whole lot of fuss, and can be eaten quickly or transported fairly handily to your sideline spectator's chair? We did this by making pulled barbeque chicken sandwiches. Pack along a bag of fresh cut watermelon cubes, dripping with ripe juice, and you can happily cheer your little sports stars to victory without any more trips to that unfulfilling snack bar. Really, those little snack shacks were only exciting when you were like 7, don't you think?

I'm looking forward to picnics, generous servings of a crunchy, healthy tossed coleslaw, fresh fruit of all kinds, cool popsicles that sharpen and freshen the tongue and help you savor the lingering rays of the sun. Yes, I know that Spring is a fickle season and can grace one day with heavenly warmth only to lash out with wind, falling temperatures, and wisps of snow the next. But it's those blessedly warm days that have been popping in here and there that have got me thinking...and I'll just let you know that I have my sights firmly and optimistically set on the return of warmth.

In this, I am undeterred. Even though we sat blue-lipped on the bleachers at my son's baseball game tonight, inwardly pleading that the minutes would tick-tick quickly by so we could escape to the warmth of the car, I watched another baseball game earlier this week without even a coat! So you see, I have reason to feel encouraged.

What we have in mind this week boasts the all-American flavors of sweet, smoky barbeque sauce, and in our minds it bids a happy welcome to the milder outdoor seasons that will bring a thaw to this stubborn Old Man Winter. So, keep this one handy. It'll be a great standby all through the coming season.

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Makes 6 to 8 large sandwiches

Personal tastes as they pertain to specific barbecue sauces are many and varied. Search out your favorite. We happen to love Famous Dave's and Baby Ray's. The addition of liquid smoke to this recipe adds depth in flavor with just a measuring spoon and a little tip of the wrist. While standard hamburger buns are certainly acceptable (checking to make sure they're good for you, of course), try to find good quality bread as we tend to go by the rule that your sandwich gets exponentially better as you improve the quality of bread that is used to make them.

This recipe makes eating on the go or entertaining a snap. You can feel free to add extra condiments as you desire. Some possibilities are spicy mustard, horseradish, pickles, tomatoes, jalapenos, diced onions, etc. These are not required, however, since these sandwiches are delectable just as they are, especially if your transporting the meal.

This recipe pairs beautifully with picnic-type salads. And we love recipes like this with no added fat that don't sacrifice an ounce of flavor - or eating enjoyment for that matter!

4 large chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 c BBQ sauce or to cover

1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Salt and pepper, optional

1/2 c nonfat mayonnaise

1 T BBQ sauce

6 to 8 large good-quality hamburger buns, or rolls of similar size

In a medium mixing bowl combine the barbeque sauce and liquid smoke. In a large crockpot add chicken breasts and pour barbeque sauce mixture over. Cover crockpot and set on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. (Because crockpots vary in cooking temperature, it is a good idea to check the chicken early to assess doneness as they may be cooked and ready earlier than these times given.) Remove chicken from crock pot onto a cutting board (leaving barbeque sauce and cooking juices in pot) and shred each piece using two forks in a pulling motion. Return shredded chicken to the crockpot and stir to mix in with cooked barbeque sauce. If it isn't moist enough you can add a little more barbeque sauce and salt and pepper if needed.

In a small mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise and barbeque sauce thoroughly and set aside.

You may choose to toast the buns by setting them under the broiler briefly (on a layer of foil or on a cookie sheet) until lightly browned. Otherwise, just split the buns in half, slather on some dressing and put a generous scoop of chicken in the center of the bottom half, before topping with other half of bun. Repeat with the rest of the bread. Serve while warm.