Saturday, November 22, 2008

Puppy Cakes - Lick them before they lick you!

Pin ItTonight's project was decorating miniature cupcakes with my sister-in-law H for our niece B's birthday party.  B turned 3 on Thursday, and she is so cute!  Anyway, these little cakes were H's idea (the creative genius).  She baked them in a miniature cupcake pan, mixed up some basic buttercream icing, and brought them over to my house for the fun part.  I got to help decorate them.  Neither one of us has ever taken a cake decorating class (which I would still like to do), but I am very proud of how these turned out.  One mini cupcake is the base, while half a mini cupcake is attached with a toothpick or icing for the head.  We mixed up the different colors of icing and used sandwich bags with the corners snipped off to make the "fur".  We used cut up pieces of chocolate chips and raisins for eyes and noses and finished them off with little pink icing tongues.  They almost look like they could give you wet puppy kisses.  I think the kids will lick them first though!  They were a lot of fun to make.  Now I just need an excuse to come up with another cake decorating project.  

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Matter Paneer Made Vegan

My husband really likes Indian food.  When we started dating, he took me out to an Indian restaurant for my first taste of it.  I love that there are so many vegetarian options and it's all so good!  It's loaded with calories though, so we don't go out for it very often.  I was thrilled when I found this recipe for Matter Paneer in the October 2006 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine.  It can be made either vegan or vegetarian, depending on your preference.  The first time I made it, I was able to find some paneer at a local Indian grocery store, and it was delicious but full of calories and saturated fat.  After that, I used the suggestion from VT to make it with tofu and I think it is really good that way.

Serves 4-6
1 large onion, quartered
1 1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp.)
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 10-oz. pkg. frozen peas, thawed (1 generous cup)
3 Tbs. reduced-fat or fat free sour cream (or soy yogurt, or leave out completely)
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 8-oz. pkg. tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes (or paneer if you choose)
  • Purée onion in food processor.
  • Heat oil in pot over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, cumin and bay leaf. Cook 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  • Add onion and garlic, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until browned. Stir in tomato sauce, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, salt and paprika. Simmer 10 minutes, or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Add up to 1/2 cup water if sauce is too thick. I don't usually have to add any water.  
  • Stir in peas, tofu, sour cream (or soy yogurt or nothing) and sugar. Simmer 15-20 minutes more.  Remove bay leaf and serve hot with basmati rice or naan bread.   
  • If making with paneer, add the paneer 5 minutes after adding the peas and cook for only about three more minutes.
My tofu of choice is Mori Nu Lite Firm Tofu.  I like it because it has the fewest calories of any light tofu I have found, and it doesn't have to be refrigerated until opening.  I buy it in bulk so I always have some on hand.  This tofu comes in 12.3 ounce packages, so you may use only half the package for this recipe.  I usually double the recipe so I can use up a whole package.  It is good leftover and it never lasts long!  Your amounts of tofu and peas don't have to be exact for this recipe, but I generally add 2 1/3 cups frozen peas if I double the recipe.  I also like to serve this as a main dish meal, so if I make it as written, I divide it in half to make just two servings (1 1/2 cups per serving, makes 3 cups total or 6 if doubled).  I serve 1 1/2 cups of the matter paneer over 1 cup of basmati rice which makes a nice meal for about 475 calories (275 for the matter paneer, 200 for the rice).

When I started making this, I had trouble finding garam masala.  Here is a recipe to make your own, also from Vegetarian Times (I don't remember what issue).

Garam Masala
1 TBS ground cumin
1 TBS ground coriander
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Mix together well and store in an airtight container away from light.

If you want to make fragrant basmati rice, like you get in Indian restaurants, here is how.

8 whole green cardamom pods
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vegetable oil (optional, I leave it out)
1 cinnamon stick
Add to basmati rice and cook according to package directions.  Remove cardamom and cinnamon before serving.  Note: I wasn't able to find whole green cardamom pods, so I used a couple pinches of dried whole cardamom.  It worked well, and you don't have to worry about removing them at the end - they're a little crunchy but not hard or unpleasant.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

The recipe for these muffins came from a November 2006 issue of Cooking Light Magazine.  They are quite different from the Pumpkin Oat Muffins I posted previously.  I have to say, I think I like these better, but I didn't really give the other ones a fair chance with all the substitutions I made.  I'm hoping these will freeze well so we can enjoy them from now through Thanksgiving Day.  The recipe says they can be made up to two days ahead.  Tip:  to make your own pumpkin pie spice, follow this link.  I used recipe #4. 

Makes 18 muffins
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup golden raisins (I used dark raisins, since that's what I had)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare enough muffin tins for 18 muffins by coating with cooking spray.  
  • Spoon flour into dry measuring cups, leveling with a knife.  Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, ginger, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Stir in raisins and make a well in center of mixture.
  • Combine brown sugar, canned pumpkin, buttermilk, canola oil, molasses, vanilla, and eggs, stirring well with a whisk.  Add sugar mixture to flour mixture, stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  • Spoon batter into 18 prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.  
These muffins turned out perfectly when baked for exactly 15 minutes in my oven.  I forgot to spinkle the granulated sugar on top, but I didn't miss it.  They were delicious!  They are 200 calories per muffin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cranberry-Honey Spice Pinwheel Cookies

I found this recipe in an issue of Eating Well Magazine (November/December 2005).  These are great because they make a large batch ( about 90 cookies), and you can make them ahead of time, freeze the logs, and then only slice and bake as many as you want at a time.  You can also do the dough and the filling at different times (make the filling up to 2 days before you want to make the dough and assemble the logs).  They take about 1 1/2 hours of hands on time to make, and a total of 6 hours from start to finish, including freezing and cooling times.  They have a wonderfully spicy aroma and smell just like Thanksgiving and Christmas to me!  I am enjoying the smell of the first batch baking as I write this....mmmmmm.

1 1/2 cups sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or allspice

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or allspice
1/3 cup canola oil
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons lowfat milk, plus more as needed
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • For the filling:  Combine all filling ingredients in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat.  Bring mixture to a gentle boil and cook, stirring, until the fresh cranberries burst and soften, about 4-5 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor and puree.  If the mixture seems dry, stir in up to 2 teaspoons of water.  Transfer mixture to a nonreactive container and refrigerate while preparing the dough.  Personal note:  When I first combined all these ingredients in the saucepan, I thought the mixture seemed very dry and I wondered how it would come to a boil, but have faith, as the honey warms and the fresh cranberries start to burst, the mixture will become very moist.  I did not have to add any water when I pureed it.
  • For the dough:  Whisk all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cardamom (or allspice) in a large bowl.  In another large bowl, combine oil, butter, sugar, honey, eggs, milk, orange zest, vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat wet ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed, then on medium speed until well combined.  Add half the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Stir in the remaining dry ingredients until evenly incorporated, adding up to 1 tablespoon more milk if the dough is too dry to hold together  (I did not have this problem, my dough was just right without the extra milk).  Cover and refrigerate the dough for 30-45 minutes to reduce its stickiness.  I would recommend even refrigerating it for an 1-1 1/2 hours.  It was not overly sticky after 30 minutes, but I think it would be easier to handle and roll out if chilled well.
  • Turn dough out into a work surface and divide in half.  Shape each half into a 6-inch long log.  Working with one log at a time, center it on a 16-inch-long sheet of baking parchment or wax paper.  Cover with a second sheet and roll into a 12x15-inch rectangle of even thickness, inverting the dough to roll out any wrinkles and patching it if necessary to make the sides as even as possible.  Transfer the dough, in the paper, to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining log.  Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the dough is slightly firm, about 15 minutes.  Personal note:  I would freeze the sheets of dough for 20 to 30 minutes.  Take only one at a time out of the freezer, and work quickly.  As the dough warmed, I had problems with it coming apart a little when spreading the cranberry mixture and sticking to the wax paper when I tried to roll it up.  I also recommend oiling your hands a little bit and using the side of an oiled spatula to loosen the dough from the paper as you roll it, if sticking is a problem.
  • To prepare pinwheel rolls:  Place one sheet of dough on the work surface.  Peel off the top sheet of paper.  Spread half the reserved filling evenly over the dough (it will be a very thin layer).  Working from a 15-inch long side, tightly roll up the dough jelly-roll style, leaving the bottom sheet of paper behind.  Wrap the roll in a clean sheet of wax paper, twisting the ends to prevent unrolling.  Place on a baking sheet and repeat with the second piece of dough.  Put both rolls into the freezer on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, at least 3-4 hours.  Note: to get a uniformly round cookie, enclose the rolls in the cardboard tubes from paper towels or foil before freezing.  Slit each tube lengthwise and insert the wrapped pinwheel log.  Secure the tube around the log using rubber bands or tape.
  • To bake the cookies:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Working with one pinwheel roll at a time, trim the uneven ends.  Cut the roll crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices using a serrated knife.  Periodically turn the roll to maintain a relatively round cookie shape.  Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart.  Bake until puffed and barely golden brown, 12-16 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Immediately transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.  Personal note:  I recommend putting the roll you are slicing back into the freezer while waiting for cookies to bake.  Even though I did that, it started to get a little soft towards the end, making it more difficult to slice.  Don't worry if the cookies aren't perfectly round, they will look better after baking.  They were done after 14 minutes in my oven.
These little cookies are delicious, and so pretty!  They smell wonderful and I think they will be a great addition to my Thanksgiving dinner.  I sliced and baked only one of the rolls for now and I'm saving the other one for next week.  These cookies will be good stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or you can freeze them after baking for up to one month.  The tightly wrapped dough rolls can be frozen for up to 2 months (do not defrost before slicing and baking).  They are 54 calories and 1g fat per cookie.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Mix in the Pan" Vegan Chocolate Cake

Recently, my sister-in-law L had a birthday (Happy 17th!).  She is vegan, so I wanted to make something she could enjoy.  This recipe from Choosing Voluntary Simplicity was just perfect.  Go here to get the recipe and see the original post.  I don't know the name of the lady who does this blog, but whoever you are, I like your site!  I have found more than a few great recipes there, along with some excellent advice.  This cake is so simple to make, and results in a moist chocolatey cake that is so delicious you would never know it has no dairy or eggs (soy free too).  This was also my first attempt at making vegan cake frosting and it was a flop, unfortunately.  I found some recipes online that looked good. but required special ingredients I did not have, such as egg replacer.  I tried making a frosting with a substitution, and it was okay at first but started to separate and look a little funny after a while.  If anyone has a good vegan frosting recipe with a consistency similar to regular buttercream I would love to know about it.  Anyway, I was very happy with how this cake turned out.  It is also very low in calories for cake - ONLY 133 CALORIES PER PIECE!  That is if you cut it into 16 pieces, and it is made in an 8-inch square pan.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Velvety Buckwheat Bread

This bread is a variation on the Basic Hearth Bread from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible.  The variation is hers of course, not mine.  I liked the idea of this bread the first time I read about it, and I've been planning to try it for quite some time.  To refer to the original recipe click here.  You will need it to complete the bread, as I am only giving the variation.
  • In the dough starter (sponge): Omit the whole wheat flour and use a total of 1 1/4 cups (6.7 oz/192 grams) bread flour.  Increase the yeast from 3/8 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon.  Replace 2/3 cup of the water with 3/4 cup of sour cream (so you will use a total of 2/3 cup of water plus 3/4 cup sour cream for the liquid in this version).  
  • In the flour mixture:  Use 1 1/4 cups of bread flour and add 3/4 cup buckwheat flour.  
  • Bake at a lower temperature: 450 degrees for 5 minutes; then 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes more, until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  I only needed the addtional 25 minutes in my oven.
This bread is definitely velvety.  You can tell the difference just in kneading the dough.  It is soft with the faint hint of the sour cream, giving it a smell similar to a very mild sourdough bread, but with a little nuttiness from the buckwheat flour.  When you make the starter, it will be thicker than the original version, so you won't be able to whisk it, just stir with a spoon until combined.  Also, I didn't throw the ice cubes into the pan at the bottom of the oven for this bread, I just misted it with a spray bottle and quickly closed the oven door.  The crust came out just right for me.