Sunday, August 30, 2009

Low-Carb Honey Whole Wheat Bread with Walnuts

After nearly a month of no bread eating because of the South Beach Diet, I decided to knuckle down and make the whole wheat bread recipe from the South Beach Diet Cookbook. I am in phase 2 of the program now, so there's no harm in having bread again. When I went to the store, of course, I couldn't find whole wheat flour. I was wanting to combine the South Beach bread recipe with Nigella Lawson's brown bread recipe, and of course there wasn't any rye flour for that recipe, either. I ended up getting some white whole wheat flour (by King Arthur Flour), which is basically flour made from soft white wheat that still has the fiber intact like regular whole wheat flour.

This recipe came together really quickly with the aid of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and dough hook. I didn't have to knead once, and once the bread was done mixing in the machine I drizzled it with a little oil to coat, covered it, and stuck it in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. So, if you are intimidated by bread making, this recipe is for you! All you need is a dough hook, but even if you don't have one just knead the dough by hand and it's still easy.

I think the combination of the original recipe and Nigella's basic white bread recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking really made this bread perfect. Her directions are more detailed, and I used her tips of a cold, long rise overnight in the fridge to cut down on effort. I was really impressed with the final result, too. I've made whole wheat breads before and had them be crumbly and dry, but this bread, while dense, is quite light with a delicate crumb. The flavor of the white whole wheat flour is less prominent than regular whole wheat flour. The walnuts, while adding healthy monounsaturated fats, also add texture. I had an end piece hot from the oven with natural peanut butter slathered on it, but I can't help but think this bread would be the perfect vector for some well-made chicken salad.

Low-Carb Honey Whole Wheat Bread with Walnuts

1 1/2 cups water (at room temperature)
2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp honey
3-3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp gluten flour (aka: vital wheat gluten)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast
more white whole wheat flour for dusting
more extra virgin olive oil for oiling the bowl
nonstick cooking spray

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, oil, honey, 3 cups whole wheat flour, gluten flour, walnuts, salt, and yeast. Turn on the machine to form a rough dough. If the dough is very sticky, add some of the remaining 1/2 cup flour and mix some more. Let the dough stand in the bowl with the dough hook removed for 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, you could use a wooden spoon or your hands to mix the dough instead of the dough hook.
2. Place the dough hook back in the dough and let knead for 10 minutes. If the dough starts climbing too much, use the rest of your reserved flour, and maybe a little more. Alternatively, you could turn the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes.
3. Place the dough in a bowl oiled with olive oil. I just re-use the mixing bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm spot for an hour, or until it has doubled. You can also let it slow rise in the refrigerator overnight: cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a cloth and sit it in the fridge until it has doubled.
4. Once the doubling occurs, preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
5. Turn the dough onto a board and shape it into a loaf. For country-style bread, place the bread onto a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray to cake. For a neat and tidy loaf, place the bread into an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan. I like to try to remember to place the most attractive-looking side of the bread dough face up onto my baking surface (as Julia Child would say, there is a public side and a non-public side...I like the public side face up).
6. Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes. The outside of the bread should sound hollow and not yield when you tap your finger on it.
7. Remove the bread from the oven and turn it onto a cooling rack. Try to eat a warm heel of the bread as soon as it's cool enough to handle.

Makes 16 slices:
Per slice:
Calories: 130
Fat: 5 g
Saturated fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 220 mg
Carbohydrates: 19 g
Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 4 g

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eggplant Gratin

Though the farmers' market is dwindling in variety, eggplant has been consistently good over the past couple of weeks. This week I bought some Japanese eggplant, which are longer and thinner than the traditional ones you see in the grocery store. I also think they are firmer in texture. Their skin is less dark than traditional eggplant and the flesh has a lovely pale green color.

I roasted 3 eggplants last night, 2 of which went into my dinner with the other one going into the fridge for weeknight meals. I've been trying to cook ahead as much as possible because my life has been so hectic lately. The semester started and I started teaching as well. My strategy is to cook portions of meals ahead, such as the eggplant, to make sure I have healthy food to turn to when I come home famished. So far, it seems like cooking several chicken breasts on Sunday night to eat for the next several days has been helpful. Also, casseroles such as this eggplant gratin cook several portions at once so that I can eat it for several days as well.

This particular recipe for eggplant gratin combines two different recipes. One of the recipes comes from the cookbook called The Silver Spoon, which is the bible of Italian cuisine. The other recipe comes from Ina Garten of the Food Network show Barefoot Contessa. The first recipes has a cheese and breadcrumb topping, whereas the second has a fluffy ricotta topping. I chose the ricotta because I love the idea of a browned cheesy topping.

Eggplant Gratin

1 lb (2 small) eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch round slices
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
2. To prepare the eggplant, brush the slices with the olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place them in the oven and roast them until they are tender and browned. Once they are done roasting, turn the heat of the oven to 400 degrees F.
3. Blend the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, egg, and some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. In a 1.5-quart casserole dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, add a thin layer of marinara. Top the marinara with a single layer of eggplant, then top those slices with a little more marinara. Create 3 layers total, finishing with sauce. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over top.
5. Cover the dish with foil or a lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove the lid, then turn on the broiler and broil the dish until the cheese is browned, about 5 minutes.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 324
Fat: 19.1 g
Saturated fat: 7.2 g
Cholesterol: 79 mg
Sodium: 761 mg
Carbohydrates: 23.2 g
Fiber: 6.3 g
Sugar: 11.3 g
Protein: 16.1 g

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Julia Child's Mustard Marinade with Pork Loin Chops

Happy Birthday Julia Child!

When I read on another blog that Julia Child's birthday was the 15th, I knew I had to do something special. She's one of my cooking heroes and I truly feel the cooking industry would not be the same without her. She revolutionized cooking with her concept of cooking on television, and even now I find her shows from long ago very helpful and of course entertaining. I'm really looking forward to seeing the Julie & Julia movie, also. I read the book a couple of summers ago and really loved it, so I hope the movie stays true to the book.

To commemorate her, I chose a recipe that I found on that was featured in Julia's The Way to Cook. As I try to make healthy recipes, this one appealed to me because it's one that actually doesn't have butter in it! This marinade instead uses olive oil. Julia seemed to use more olive oil in the later part of her career, and I think olive oil is one of the best fats to cook with if you want to keep things healthy. As for the rest of the marinade, it consists of mustard, herbs, soy sauce, lemon, and garlic. According to the title, this is best for lamb and pork, so I chose to use lean pork loin chops. After using the marinade, however, I feel it would be great with all sorts of meats, including turkey, chicken, and sturdier fish.

For the final product, the pork was nice and juicy. The marinade didn't overwhelm the meat, despite all the herbs and garlic. This may become my staple marinade.

In the words of Julia, "bon appetit!"

Julia Child's Mustard Marinade with Pork Loin Chops

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
20 oz thin cut pork loin chops or lean thin cut boneless pork chops (about 10 pork chops total)
non-stick cooking spray

1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients through the lemon juice. Then whisking, slowly pour in the oil to emulsify the marinade.
2. Brush each pork chop on all sides with the marinade. Set them on a plate and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 1 hour.
4. Heat and non-stick grill pan or a large non-stick skillet (or use the outdoor grill) over high heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and add the pork chops. Sear them until they are deeply caramelized on the first side before flipping them to caramelize on the second sides.

Per pork chop:
Calories: 190
Fat: 13.4 g
Saturated fat: 3.7 g
Cholesterol: 45 mg
Sodium: 273 mg
Carbohydrates: 0.9 g
Protein: 15.8 g

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hot Ginger-Lime Beef Salad with Peanut Dressing

While my parents were here, I went grocery shopping with them. I knew I wanted steak for a salad, but now that flank steak is so popular the prices have become quite expensive. I ended up getting some steak strips marked "fajita meat." They were very lean and cut against the grain. I got home to look at the recipe only to find out that I needed a full piece of beef. So, I basically chucked out the recipe and decided to go along with a concept: crispy veggies with beef flavored with soy, ginger, and lime grilled and served hot on baby spinach that would wilt the tiniest amount. I was going to do a vinaigrette, but then I thought about a dressing with peanut butter...sort of like satay sauce. As much as it sounds weird, I really like the flavor of meat and peanut butter. It reminds me of my favorite burger back at the Triple XXX diner near Purdue's campus. It was called the Dwayne Purvis (named after some sort of athlete, I'm sure). It was a huge burger fully loaded with the usual suspects of toppings, plus creamy peanut butter. This particular burger was sampled by Guy Fieri from the Food Network Show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and he threw a fit about it not being good. I beg to differ. Anyway, this salad is a hit of nostalgia from my time at Purdue combined with Thai flavors: a rich dressing that melts with the heat of the meat, soy-salty, gingery beef, and crispy veggies. It's basically a salad for those people who think salad is wimpy food. If you have leftovers, keep the components separate, then the next day toss them together and place them in a wrap for lunch and eat with as much greed as possible to make your co-workers jealous.

Hot Ginger-Lime Beef Salad with Peanut Dressing

For the beef:

3/4 lb extra-lean beef (such as top sirloin), cut into long strips
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and cracked open
1 tbsp lime juice (juice of half a small lime)
sugar or sugar substitute, to taste
black pepper

For the salad:

6 cups baby spinach
1 bell pepper (any combination of colors), cut into strips
3 scallions

For the dressing:

3 tbsp natural peanut butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced (a hand grater works best here)
1/4 tsp chopped fresh red or green chili, or to taste (optional)
2 tbsp cider or rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar or sugar substitute, to taste

sesame seeds for garnish

1. Combine the 1/8 cup soy sauce, ginger, garlic clove, lime juice (along with the bits of lime rind leftover after squeezing out the juice), sugar or sugar substitute, and pepper with the beef in a plastic zip-top bag. Marinate at least 1 hour or overnight.
2. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick spray and add the meat. Cook the meat until desired doneness.
3. Meanwhile, combine the spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, and scallion in a salad bowl.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients and set aside.
5. Toss the hot beef with the salad and the dressing. Serve immediately. Garnish with sesame seeds, if desired.

Servings per recipe: 3
Per serving:
Calories: 362
Fat: 15.6 g
Saturated fat: 4.2 g
Cholesterol: 101 mg
Sodium: 1103 mg
Carbohydrates: 14.2 g
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 42.3 g

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Broiled Eggplant and Chicken Casserole

I managed to make it to the farmers' market this weekend after nearly two months of not being able to go. My field work kept me away on the weekends. I was sad to learn that I had missed out on figs, but at least there were some really pretty tomatoes. I also picked up a couple small eggplants. I prefer small eggplants because they're not as seedy and not as bitter. Eggplant has never been one of my most favorite vegetables unless it's been dredged in breading and fried, however I've noticed that if I cook the hell out of it until it become nice and mushy and then I think it's delicious.

Tonight I used one of my eggplants to make a layered chicken casserole. The idea sort of came to me as I was defrosting chicken and had no plans for it. I had been having a lot of Asian flavors in my food lately, so I thought I'd go to the northern hemisphere and hit up Italy. Though this dish is seemingly light with chicken breast and vegetables, the little bit of Parmesan cheese (my favorite cheese!) adds just enough richness to make this feel like a real meal. The burnished, charred bits on the broiled eggplant add a slight smokiness as well. This would be a great date meal because it perfectly serves two.

Broiled Eggplant and Chicken Casserole

1 small eggplant (about 1/2 lb)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small chicken breasts (about 1/2 lb), diced
1/2 cup diced bell pepper, any color
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup canned petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup marinara sauce
6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. To prepare the eggplant, peel some or all of the skin. I like to peel stripes of skin so some of the flesh is exposed. Cut the eggplant into lengthwise slices about 1/4-inch thick, brush them with the olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place them under the broiler to brown them on each side. Once they are done broiling, turn the heat to 375 degrees F.
2. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat, then spray it with cooking spray. Add the chicken and cook it until the chicken has started to brown, then add the bell pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, and some salt and pepper and cook the mixture until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes and marinara and cook about 10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
3. In a 1.5-qt baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, add half of the eggplant slices, then top them with 2 tbsp of the cheese. Once the chicken mixture is reduced, pour it on top of the eggplant slices. Arrange the last half of the eggplant on top, then top with the remaining cheese.
4. Cover the dish with foil (re-use the foil from the baking sheet), and bake it for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil so that the cheese browns and the liquid evaporates and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Servings per recipe: 2
Per serving:
Calories: 378
Fat: 16.2 g
Saturated fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 87 mg
Sodium: 556 mg
Carbohydrates: 22.5 g
Fiber: 7.2 g
Sugar: 7.2 g
Protein: 35.5 g

Monday, August 10, 2009

Quick Hummus

As I was sorting through the few foods that I managed to keep in my possession during my recent move, I noticed a can of tahini (sesame butter) that was in desperate need of use. Whenever I think tahini, I automatically think hummus. Now that I have a food processor in my midst the making of hummus is easy again.

I know, there are millions of hummus recipes out there. When it comes to making hummus for me, however, I want it quick. I don't want any long-term chickpea soaking that some recipes require. Also, I feel that hummus is trial and error depending on your personal taste. For me, I want the acerbity of the lemon and the acridness of the garlic to jump out at me right away, only to be followed with a hint of nuttiness provided by the tahini. The chickpeas are simply a vector for these flavor agents. My own personal additions that you don't see in every recipe are cumin, which adds a lemony smokiness, and paprika, which has a subtle smokiness but mainly acts as a food color to turn the hummus from plain beige to a light peachy color (lovely).

Quick Hummus

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lg lemon, juiced (about 3-4 tbsp)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
freshly ground black pepper

1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients.
2. Start by pulsing, and when the ingredients have come together, let the food processor whirl for a few minutes to remove any clumps.
3. Place the hummus in a sealed container. It tastes best if it's had a night in the fridge. Serve with soft or toasted pita and crudites (bell peppers are my favorite, but carrots, celery, cauliflower, and broccoli are nice too).

Servings per recipe: 8
Per serving:
Calories: 84
Fat: 4.4 g
Saturated fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 80 mg
Carbohydrates: 9.2 g
Fiber: 2.5 g
Sugar: 1.6 g
Protein: 2.9 g

Big Easy Shrimp

Here is another installment from my South Beach recipe. This recipe comes from the South Beach Diet Cookbook by Arthur Agatston, M.D. This recipe, called Big Easy Shrimp, is supposed to be a quick creole-inspired recipe. You can serve this with cooked brown rice or, if you are watching your carbs, steamed cauliflower is a nice accompaniment.

Big Easy Shrimp

2 strips turkey bacon or Canadian bacon
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 16-oz can petite-diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce (or to taste, optional)
1 lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined with the tails left on

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Place on paper towel to drain. Crumble when cool. Remove and discard all but 1 tbsp of drippings from the skillet. If there are no drippings, add some non-stick cooking spray.
2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery to the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Increase heat to high and cook until the mixture boils. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Add the shrimp and bacon and cook 10 minutes more or until the shrimp are opaque. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf before serving.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 185
Fat: 4 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 177 mg
Sodium: 329 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sugar: 2.1 g
Protein: 26 g

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Cups

I decided to cook myself a special Sunday breakfast and made the Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Cups from the South Beach Diet cookbook. I did make a few modifications, such as using scallion as opposed to regular onion. I don't care for the sweetness of regular onion with the eggs. I also halved the amount of mushrooms, and I'm glad I did because the batter was nearly to the tops of each cup. I also ended up baking them for 5 extra minutes because when I inserted a knife into them after 20 minutes they were still runny on the inside. After the extra 5 minutes, they had puffed up from the tops of the cups and looked like little souffles! The good thing about this recipe is that you can make extra to eat over the next few days; just cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a sealed container.

Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Cups

4 oz lean turkey sausage or cooked and crumbled turkey bacon
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 scallions, sliced
5 large eggs
1 6.5-oz can sliced mushrooms, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar
non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 6-cup non-stick muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or line with paper muffin cups.
2. In a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, pepper, and scallion for 5 minutes or until the sausage is no longer pink. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and cool slightly. Stir in the eggs and mushrooms. Evenly divide amongst the muffin cups. Sprinkle with cheese.
3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the egg is set.

Per cup:
Calories: 140
Fat: 9 g
Saturated fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 195 mg
Sodium: 400 mg
Carbohydrates: 4 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sugar: 1 g
Protein: 12 g

Crispy Moroccan-Spiced Chickpeas

I have officially moved into my new apartment and have been enjoying cooking in my new, larger kitchen. My parents came for the week for a visit and we cooked some nice meals. It made it a lot easier to cook now that I have the cooking equipment and cookbooks that I left with me in Indiana when I moved to Georgia.

Now that I have my South Beach Diet cookbook back, I'm going to start referring to it to inspire my creativity. Today I decided to cook from it one of the snack recipes, which is crispy roasted chickpeas. I decided to spice up the plain chickpeas with some Moroccan spices. These should make a nice afternoon or evening snack.

Crispy Moroccan-Spiced Chickpeas

1 14.5-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Arrange the chickpeas on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.
3. Sprinkle all the spices over the chickpeas and toss to coat.
4. Bake the chickpeas for 50 minutes, or until they are toasty enough to rattle on the pan, tossing them at least once during cooking. Allow them to cool, then serve. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 70
Fat: 1 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 10 mg
Carbohydrates: 11 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sugar: 0 g
Protein: 4 g
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