Helping families eat healthier for less

Helping families eat healthier for less

Sunday, February 22, 2015

dark chocolate + black beans = guilt-free brownies

Guilt-Free Black Bean Brownies

The theme for February for Recipe Redux is to identify your favorite chocolate match.  Valentine’s Day is over and many of us may have “extra” chocolate laying around.  So, we need to show our favorite healthy chocolate combo.

For me, I love dark chocolate brownies. But there can be a guilt factor with the “normal” or “traditional” brownies. So, I make mine using canned black beans in place of the vegetable oil typically called for in the recipe. It saves on calories and total fat and adds fiber. And, it means less guilt while enjoying them.

E-Z Bean Brownies

1 15 oz. can cooked beans, drained and rinsed well (can use black beans or dark red kidney
2 large eggs
¼ cup water
1 19-1/2 oz. package chocolate fudge brownie mix
1/4 cup bittersweet 60% cocoa chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9 X 9-inch baking pan with foil; then spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Place the drained beans in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth and creamy.  In a large bowl combine the pureed beans, eggs, water, and brownie mix; stir just until smooth, about 50 strokes.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Top cooked brownies with chocolate chips as soon as remove from oven. Spread in even layer with spatula. Let cool completely. Lift out of pan and cut into squares.
Makes 20 Servings
Nutrition Information per Serving (1/20 of recipe):
150 calories, 3.8 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.6 g dietary fiber, 3.0 g protein, and 134 mg sodium.
Cost per Serving (1/20 recipe): $0.18

Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices except for the brownie mix (on sale for $1.50 a box).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cheesy Pepperoni Bread Loaf Perfect for the Big Game

This gooey, cheesy bread loaf is sure to please a hungry crowd.

I received free samples of Cabot Cheese mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe challenge sponsored by Cabot Creamery and am eligible to win prizes. I was not additionally compensated for my time.

Cabot Creamery is a  family-farmer owned cooperative of more than 1200 farms located throughout New England and New York. One-hundred percent of Cabot's profits go back to their farmers.  Their Cheddar cheese is a protein-rich snack and is naturally lactose free.

The big football game is just about here and it's time to think about what snacks to prepare for a  roomful of guests. Whether it is a football game, family reunion, or any large gathering, this recipe is perfect to feed a crowd.

Cut bread into 1-inch squares.

Slice cheese into 1/8-inch slices.

Tuck cheese into rows.
Wrap pepperoni slice around cheese slice.
Tuck cheese and pepperoni into rows.

Below is the complete recipe. I used an 8-ounce package of Cabot's Pepper Jack and an 8-ounce package of Cabot's Seriously Sharp Cheddar cheese. I found a beautiful 2-pound round loaf of whole grain bread at my local Costco store.

Cheesy Pepperoni Bread Loaf

1 2-pound loaf whole grain round bread
2 8-ounce packages Cabot cheese (Seriously Sharp, Extra Sharp, Vermont Sharp, and/or Pepper Jack)
1 5-ounce package sliced turkey pepperoni
2 tablespoons sliced green onions (both white and green part)

Heat oven to 3500 F. Cut two pieces of aluminum foil, each about 30 inches long, and place on baking sheet forming a cross.

Using a serrated knife, cut bread into a grid pattern with rows about inch apart in both directions. Be careful not to cut through to bottom crust. Place cut loaf into center of foil on baking sheet.

Cut cheese into about 1/8-inch slices, getting 35 to 40 slices per 8-ounce piece. Then cut all slices in half yielding cheese pieces that are about 1-inch squares. Place half of cheese slices into parallel rows of bread so that just the top of cheese is exposed. If needed, press up on bread carefully from underneath to open up each row to make room for the cheese. Start with the center rows and work to outside edges. For the other half of the cheese, wrap each slice of cheese in a pepperoni slice and insert into remaining bread rows that are 90 degrees from the first rows. Tuck cheese and pepperoni deep into row so that just the top is exposed.

Wrap foil loosely around bread. Bake 25 minutes. Pull back foil and top with green onions. Broil about 6 inches from heat until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings.

Note: Recipe can easily be cut in half, using a one-pound road loaf of whole grain bread, if desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving:
376 calories, 17 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 6 g dietary fiber, 23 g protein, and 790 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of protein and calcium.

Cost per Serving: $1.40
Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices.

Be sure to check out these other cheesy favorites.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Recipe Redux - Spicy Bok Choy Soup

Spicy Bok Choy Soup is fast and easy.

This month for Recipe Redux we were given the challenge to show a healthy dish we are heating up with smoke and/or spiciness. I choose spiciness. It is perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold, winter day

This is an fast and easy soup that goes to together in no time. You can add as mush or as little sriracha sauce as you like.

Spicy Bok Choy Soup

3 cups bok choy
6 cups chicken broth                
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or sherry  
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
3 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (use both white and green parts)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce, or to taste
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
6 to 8 ounces dry Chinese egg noodles or soba noodles

Cut off the stem end of bok choy; separate leaves. Wash and dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces.

Combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, garlic, and green onions in a large pot.  Season with pepper and sriracha sauce; stir the ingredients until well mixed.  Heat over medium-high heat. Once the mixture has reached a boil, add bok choy , sesame oil, and noodles. Reduce heat to medium; cook for 3 minutes or until the noodles are tender. Ladle soup into bowls.

Makes 6 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving:
148 calories, 2 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber, 7 g protein, and 541 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of vitamin A and C.

Cost per Serving: $1.25

Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices.

Preparation photos:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Modified Chef John Ash's Brisket Braised in Coffee

Pork Roast Slow Cooked in Coffee

The theme for Recipe Redux this month is “Grab a Book & Cook.” Because Recipe Redux is celebrating 42 months, our challenge was to grab a cookbook and prepare/modify a recipe found on page 42 or 142.

I have a four-shelf bookcase filled with nothing but cookbooks, so selecting just one cookbook for this month’s Recipe Redux was a challenge. After looking at a few to see what recipes fell on pages 42 or 142, I selected Chef John Ash’s Cooking One on One: Private lessons in simple, contemporary food from a master teacher. I have met John a couple of times at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and he is not only extremely knowledgeable about culinary topics, but he is also very approachable and kind.

On page 142 of his cookbook is a recipe for Brisket Braised in Coffee. Have leftover coffee? Hate to throw it away? This is a great way to use it.

I modified Chef Ash’s original recipe in several ways. While at the supermarket, ready to buy the needed ingredients, I decided to substitute a pork end roast for the brisket listed in the original recipe. This is because the brisket was $7.49 per pound, meaning that a 4 pound piece of meat would be about thirty dollars. The pork end roast, on the other hand, was $1.49 per pound, or about six dollars total. I also decided to use a slow cooker to prepare this recipe instead of a 300 oven for 3 hours. I wanted to let it cook for hours so that the flavors would meld and the meat would be ultra tender. I also cut the amount of olive oil in half, reduced the amount of salt, and used canned tomatoes with no salt added in place of regular canned tomatoes.

Here are photos of the preparation steps:

Top: browning the roast; Middle: adding strong coffee; Bottom adding other ingredients.
Here is the roast cooking in the slow cooker:

All ingredients cooking in slow cooker

Here is the modified recipe:

Modified Brisket Braised in Coffee

4 pounds pork end roast (with bones), trimmed of excess fat
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large yellow onions (about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds total), peeled and sliced
1/4 cup sliced fresh garlic (about 1 medium bulb or 12 cloves)
2 tablespoons (or more) pure chile powder, such as ancho or Chimayo
2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar (with mother, if desired)
4 cups strong brewed coffee
1 cup homemade chicken, meat, or vegetable stock or broth
1 14-1/2 ounce can no salt added diced tomatoes with their juice

Season meat with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven and brown the meat on all sides over medium-high heat. Remove meat and place in slow cooker. Add onions and garlic and sauté over medium-high heat stirring frequently until they just begin to color. Add the chile powder and sauté, stirring, for a minute more, until fragrant. Add the fennel, cumin, sugar, vinegar, coffee, stock, and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Pour mixture over meat in slow cooker. Cover and cook for 4 to 6 hours on high heat (or 8 to 10 hours on low heat) or until meat is tender.

Remove meat from slow cooker and place on cutting board. Puree the braising liquids and vegetables until smooth using an immersion blender (or transfer to a food processor or blender and puree in batches). Season with salt and pepper, as needed. Slice meat thinly across the grain. Serve meat with warm sauce spooned over it.
Serves 8.

Nutrition Information per Serving:

587 calories, 30 g total fat, 10 g saturated fat, 144 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber, 47 g protein, and 365 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of protein, thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B-6.

This roast is good the day it is prepared, as well for a few days later.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dehydrated Mushrooms Easy To Do

Dried Mushrooms Are Easy To Do

The Recipe Redux theme this month is to think dehydrated favorites using a food dehydrator, a low, slow oven, or natural sunshine to preserve natural healthfulness. I decided to try dehydrating mushrooms. I have purchased dried mushrooms in a package before, like porcini and wood ear, but had never dried drying my own before this month’s challenge.

I started with a bunch of white button mushrooms. Of course, you can use any type of mushroom.
You start by cleaning them. I used a dry paper towel and rubbed them gently to remove any visible dirt. Several sources suggest that one not use water to clean them as this adds too much moisture to the mushrooms and they will take longer to dry.

I then used a slicer to cut the mushrooms into uniform slices. This slicer can be used for cooked eggs and strawberries, as well as mushrooms. It creates uniform slices. You can also use a sharp knife or a mandolin.

Place the sliced mushrooms in a single layer on a dry baking sheet. Do not spray with cooking spray or coat with oil. I also decided to experiment and seasoned half of the slice mushrooms with dried thyme. You can use any of your favorite spices. Curry, lemon pepper, or basil are other ideas.

Bake in a 150 to 170 degree oven for one hour. The lowest temperature my oven goes is 170 degrees. Several sources I read said 150 degrees. After one hour, turn the slices over. Place back in oven and cook for another hour.  Check the mushrooms. They should be dry and brittle and crack when you bend them. If not this dry, put back in oven and cook for another hour.
Let the dry, cooked mushrooms cool completely on a rack.
Once dry, place in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Store in a dark, cool place.

Dried mushrooms can be rehydrated in boiling water or soup. Use them in pasta dishes, stews, soups, omelets, or a variety of dishes.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Powerhouse Oatmeal Parfait

Powerhouse Oatmeal Parfait Packs a Punch

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by National Dairy Council and the Quaker Oats Center of Excellence and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

I love oatmeal. I eat oatmeal for breakfast normally about 5 out of 7 mornings a week. It’s my favorite breakfast. I change it up by adding different toppings, such as ground cinnamon, cocoa nibs, walnuts, dried plums, dried apricots, frozen blueberries, and other foods. So, I was excited to hear about a recipe contest featuring oatmeal and lowfat or nonfat dairy products, of which I am also a big fan.

Most people, in fact 99%, don’t meet the recommended daily requirement for whole grains; and 85% don’t meet the daily requirement for dairy. So, one easy way to help meet these requirements is to start your day with a bowl of oatmeal and milk or yogurt.

For this contest, I decided to create a recipe for oatmeal that was packed full of nutrients and that anyone would love to eat. In my recipe, I cook the oatmeal in fat free milk instead of water for added nutrition with a little bit of cinnamon. I then layer the cooked oatmeal with lowfat vanilla yogurt, fresh raspberries, and toasted almonds for a nutritious breakfast parfait. Serving it in a parfait glass instead of a regular bowl adds to the fun factor and eye appeal.

This parfait provides a powerhouse of nutrients as just one serving provides an excellent source of protein (22 grams), fiber (10 grams), calcium (54%), and vitamins D, C, and B-12. It is also fast and easy to make on a busy weekday morning.

Powerhouse Oatmeal Parfait Packs Nutrients

Here’s the recipe:

Powerhouse Oatmeal Parfait

1/2 cup old fashioned or quick cooking oatmeal
1 cup fat free milk (can be lactose-free, if desired)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
6 ounces lowfat or fat free vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted

Cook oatmeal according to package directions, cooking in milk instead of water and omitting salt if listed. Stir in cinnamon. Place half of oatmeal in bottom of 12-ounce or larger parfait glass; press down with spoon to eliminate air pockets. Top with half of yogurt, then half of raspberries. Repeat layers one more time. Sprinkle top with almonds.
Makes 1 serving.
Note: Recipe can be doubled or tripled, if desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving:
391 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 10 g dietary fiber, 22 g protein, and 189 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of protein, fiber, calcium, vitamins D, C B-12, and thiamin.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Peach Cake with Peach Schnapps is a Great Way to Use Summer Peaches

Peach Cake Uses Summer Peaches and Peach Schnapps

The theme for Recipe Redux for July is to show others how you like to cook, bake, or mix-it-up with spirits, extracts or other alcohols. What’s your healthy recipe with spirit? What immediately came to my mind was a great tasting and great looking peach cake I made several years back that uses peach schnapps to intensify the peach flavor of the cake.

I found this Summer Peach Cake recipe in the July/August 2011 issue of my favorite magazine, Cook’s Illustrated. I love this magazine because they do an outstanding job of creating wonderful recipes and testing them umpteen times to get just the right cooking method and the perfect amount or proportion of ingredients. You also refresh your memory or learn many food science concepts.

The peach cake uses 2 and a half pounds of fresh peaches in one 9-inch round cake. Prior to mixing the peaches in the cake, you bake the slices in the oven to help intensify their flavor and caramelize their juices in order to prevent a runny cake. Yvonne Ruperti, the person who created this recipe for Cook’s Illustrated, tried lots of ways to enhance the peach flavor, from using dried peaches to peach-flavored yogurt. The peach schnapps was the winner. I was extremely pleased with the final product. It looked fabulous, like I had spent a lot of time (which I didn’t). It tasted great and had great peach flavor.

By getting the peaches on sale, I was able to make this cake for $6.27 total, or $0.63 a serving for 10 servings. A great buy for an impressive-looking summer dessert.

Here is the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated:

Summer Peach Cake

From Cook’s Illustrated, July & August 2011, page 24-25.

Serves 8 to 10

2-1/2 pounds peaches, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges

5 tablespoons peach schnapps

4 teaspoons lemon juice

6 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup packed (3-1/2 ounces) light brown sugar

2 large eggs

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup sour cream

1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, crushed fine

  1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray. Gently toss 24 peach wedges with 2 tablespoons schnapps, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in bowl; set aside.
  2. Cut remaining peach wedges crosswise into thirds. Gently toss chucks with remaining 3 tablespoons schnapps, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in bowl. Spread peach chunks in single layer on prepared sheet and bake until exuded juices begin to thicken and caramelize at edges of sheet, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer sheet to wire rack and let peaches cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  3. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs together in second bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add sour cream, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract; whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
  4. Transfer half of batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle crushed bread crumbs evenly over cooled peach chunks and gently toss to coat. Arrange peach chunks on batter in even layer, gently pressing peaches into batter. Gently spread remaining batter over peach chunks and smooth top. Arrange reserved peach wedges, slightly overlapped, in ring over surface of cake, placing smaller wedges in center. Stir together remaining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and remaining 1/8 teaspoons almond extract in small bowl until sugar is moistened. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top of cake.
  5. Bake until center of cake is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack cool 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Peach Cake Preparation
Be sure to check out these other spirit-inspired recipes.