Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chai Shortbread Cookies

These little cookies are spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper to remind you of chai tea. I'm not a fan of plain shortbread or sugar cookies - I need something to make it interesting and these fit the bill perfectly. I found the original recipe in Cooking Light Magazine (December 2007). I decided they needed more spices and so I doubled the amounts called for in the recipe. I have been very happy with the results. One caution - make sure your pepper is finely ground and don't use more than 1/8 tsp ground pepper. It really sticks out if you get too much or the pieces are too large. If you aren't sure how much spice you like, you can half the amounts shown here and work up from there to your taste.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup powdered sugar
10 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tbs ice water
  • Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife. Whisk together flour and next five ingredients (through pepper). Place sugar and butter in a medium bowl and beat with mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined (mixture will appear crumbly). Sprinkle dough with 1 tbs ice water, toss with a fork. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a log about 6 inches long. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill about 1 hour, or until very firm.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap dough logs. Cut each log into 18 slices using a serrated knife. Place slices 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Cool on pans for 5 minutes before moving to cooling racks, allow to cool completely. Makes 36 cookies. Each cookie is 55 calories (3.2 g fat).

Lowfat Brownies

This is a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I have made it twice now and it produces delicious, moist, fudgy brownies every time. Makes 16 servings.

¾ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup dutch process cocoa
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 tbs butter
2 tbs lowfat (or fat free) sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 whole egg plus 1 egg white
1 tbs chocolate syrup

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt bittersweet chocolate and butter together using a double boiler or microwave (takes about 1 minute in my microwave). Prepare 8 inch cake pan by lining with foil, spray foil with cooking spray (or spray pan and then flour pan).
  • Mix first 4 ingredients together. Lightly whisk eggs with sour cream, vanilla, chocolate syrup and melted chocolate/butter mixture. Stir in sugar, then add to dry ingredients. Stir until smooth. Pour into prepared cake pan. Batter will be thick and you will need to spread it out evenly in the pan with a spatula or spoon.
  • Bake @ 350 for 20-22 min – you want a few moist crumbs on a toothpick inserted in the center. Let cool in the pan (about 1 hour). This will help keep the brownies moist. However, if you just can't help yourself and you have to eat them warm, go ahead. Just cover the remaining ones with plastic wrap or in small container as soon as they are reasonably cool. The brownies will be about 110 calories each if you cut 16 of them. This is only about half (or less) the calories in a regular brownie recipe.

Baked Ziti Casserole

This is a recipe for baked ziti that I have adapted from one I found in Cooking Light Magazine. It was delicious! Recipe makes 4 1-cup servings.

6 oz. uncooked ziti (short tube shaped pasta)
2 cups basic marinara sauce
1 cup shredded part-skim mozarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Asagio cheese
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
1 1/3 cups Morningstar Farms griller crumbles (or 6 oz. ground turkey breast for you carnivores)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat, drain. I make my own basic marinara sauce by mixing together 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce and 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, adding whatever seasonings I like (such as basil, oregano, minced garlic, crushed red pepper) and simmering in a saucepan over medium/low heat for about 30 minutes. This results in a sauce with fewer calories than any canned marinara I have been able to find (about 35 calories per 1/2 cup).
  • Combine pasta, marinara sauce, 1/2 cup mozarella, 2 tbs Asagio, salt, pepper sauce and griller crumbles (or turkey) in a large bowl. Spoon into an 8 inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and 2 tbs Asagio. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
  • This is a very forgiving recipe and easy to adapt for your needs. For example, if you don't like meat substitutes you could used chopped mushrooms. Portabellos would add a nice meaty texture and reduce the calories even more. I forgot to buy Asagio cheese, so I used the same amount of mozzarella to replace it. Its also not necessary to thaw the griller crumbles, or brown the turkey before mixing it with the other ingredients. Both will cook thoroughly as it bakes. You can also easily double it to feed a larger crowd, just bake in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish for 35 minutes. As I prepared the recipe (with griller crumbles and my own sauce) it is about 345 calories per 1 cup serving.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Keeping up with things

We've been back from vacation about a week now...somehow it seems longer. Anyway, I am still catching up with all the things to be done around here. The groceries have finally been restocked, laundry washed and I unpacked the suitcases within 48 hours of returning home (yeah me!). Procrastination is always lurking...So here is what I would like to get done tonight.

1) fold and put away all that laundry
2) sweep the floors and mop the kitchen
3) make brownies for my husband
4) make chai shortbread cookies for me :)
5) make a new baked ziti recipe for dinner
6) mix up a bread dough starter for tomorrow
7) make hardboiled eggs for sandwiches

Recovering from vacation can be exhausting!