Thursday, December 31, 2009

Buttery Mashed Potato Swedes

The humble swede is a root vegetable used in a variety of ways and very popular in England and Europe. Although it is a good source of vitamin C, folate and fiber, it is a vegetable often overlooked in the United States probably because it is known here by its less appetizing name of rutabaga or yellow turnip. (Really! Try telling your kids, "Eat your rutabagas; they're good for you!" and watch them run from the dinner table.) But honestly, they are quite delicious and easy to prepare. For someone on a reduced carb diet, they are an excellent substitute for mashed potatoes with only half the carbs and twice the fiber! Their taste is distinctive, but quite pleasant. I suggest cooking them in broth because, as they boil, they'll take on the flavor of the liquid and broth is so much more flavorful than plain water. In this recipe, I have mashed them with a potato and butter in a fashion Americans have come to associate with "comfort food." Mashed swedes are especially appealing at this time of year when you might be craving heartier, warmer foods to combat the cold of winter. If you've never eaten swedes (or rutabagas), I hope I've convinced you to give them a try soon and see what you've been missing!

Buttery Mashed Potato Swedes
(Makes six ½-cup servings)

1 large swede (also known as yellow turnip or rutabaga)
1 small to medium russet potato
1½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup milk or light cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and cut swede and potato into 1-inch chunks. Place chunks in a large saucepan and add broth. Add enough water to cover vegetables. Add ½ teaspoon salt to pan and boil for about 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.

2. Reserve ½ cup cooking liquid, then drain remaining liquid from cooked vegetables. Add butter and milk to hot pan, return vegetables to pan and mash with a potato masher or whip with an electric mixer. Add reserved cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. (For a smoother texture, run mashed swedes through a food mill.) Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per ½ cup: 58.5 calories, 11.6 g carbohydrate, 3.6 g total fat, 2.3 g saturated fat, 2 g fiber, 1.5 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this recipe compare to traditional mashed potatoes? Swedes are half the calories of potatoes, lower in carbs and higher in fiber. For comparison, the nutritional information per ½ cup mashed potatoes made from a homemade recipe is 118 calories, 17.8 g carbohydrate, 4.3 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 1.5 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spice Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

This seems to be the month for making over favorite family recipes. One of my husband's very favorite desserts is a spice cake with penuche-peanut butter frosting lovingly made famous by his Aunt Margie. The cake alone is wonderful and spicy but when topped with penuche, a southern recipe of brown sugar fudge in which Aunt Margie adds a few tablespoons of peanut butter, this cake becomes nothing less than a slice of heaven! To try and reproduce this well-loved recipe in a low-carb version that could pass my husband's taste test was a huge challenge.

To begin with, cake frosting is difficult to make low-carb because it is mostly sugar and butter whipped together. To make a frosting that could stand in for a brown sugar-peanut butter fudge was nearly impossible! My main focus in this makeover recipe was to create a very spicy cake that could stand up to the bold flavor of peanut butter without being overpowered by it. The addition of a single tablespoon of cocoa powder in the batter created a depth of flavor that really made the cake something special. The peanut butter and cream cheese frosting with a hint of molasses really gives this cupcake the unique taste of the traditional recipe. My husband and daughter both loved them...and I think Aunt Margie would be pleased, too!

Spice Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
(Makes 14 cupcakes)

1 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar can be substituted)
¾ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or “no sugar added” apple butter)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon butter flavor extract

Frosting Ingredients:
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup light cream cheese
2 teaspoons molasses
¼ cup Splenda granular
¼ cup dry milk powder
2-3 tablespoons milk

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and spices. Stir with a fork to break up any lumps in the almond flour; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a handheld or standing mixer until light and lemon colored. Add the brown sugar, honey, Splenda, oil, applesauce, vanilla and butter flavor and beat for 2 minutes until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat only until blended. Using a ¼ cup measure or large cookie scoop, pour batter into prepared muffin tins (do not overfill). Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.

3. To make the frosting, beat together the peanut butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, Splenda and milk powder and beat until well blended. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until a spreading consistency is reached. Spread approximately 2 tablespoons of frosting on each cooled cupcake and serve. If not eating all the cupcakes within a few hours, only ice the number of cupcakes to be eaten. Store remaining frosting in refrigerator and ice cupcakes as needed. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for longer storage and thawed to room temperature when needed.

Nutritional Information per cupcake (no icing): 170 calories, 12.8 g carbohydrate, 12.4 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1.3 g fiber, 3.1 g protein.

Nutritional Information per cupcake with frosting: 246 calories, 17 g carbohydrate, 17 g total fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 1.9 g fiber, 6.5 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009
Inspired by a recipe by Margie Fitzpatrick of Tulsa, OK.

How does this compare to the traditional cake recipe? Unfortunately, Aunt Margie's delicious cake is no longer a dessert that can fit into my food plan, even on a rare occasion, because the carbs and fat grams are simply too high. For comparison, the nutritional information for one slice of Aunt Margie's cake is 456 calories, 62.3 g carbohydrate, 20.2 g total fat, 5.3 g saturated fat, 0 g fiber, 5.3 g protein.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Eve Vegetable and Bean Soup

It has been a standing tradition for decades that on Christmas Eve we have a simple meal of leek and potato soup made from a family recipe, rolls and dessert. The soup recipe has always been the same and, as a matter-of-fact, it is known as "Christmas Eve Potato Soup" at my house because I serve it only once a year so it remains a special treat. The combination of the humble Irish potato and German flavors are meant to be a reflection of my family's Irish-German heritage. We love this soup and look forward to it every year. It is the taste of Christmas for all of us!

However, the emphasis on the potato in the traditional soup causes the carb count to go beyond my limit, making it impossible to enjoy without guilt and a BG response that is too high. My challenge was to reduce the carbs while keeping the same wonderful blend of flavors and textures that we associate with this special holiday meal. First, it is the combination of bacon, leeks and the velvety sour cream that are the distinctive flavors in the traditional recipe. Luckily, those ingredients are used in this makeover recipe in the same proportions. My substitution of turnips for the potatoes may sound strange, but actually they are a mild vegetable that readily takes on the flavor of whatever they're cooked in. Another potato substitution is cannellini beans (white kidney beans) that add that mealy, soft texture you expect from boiled potatoes. The first sign that this makeover recipe might be a winner came when my husband and daughter arrived home and the first words out of their mouths were, "It smells like Christmas in here!" Most importantly, we all agree it is the taste, that mirrors the original so closely, which allows this new soup to be deemed a delicious low-carb success!

Christmas Eve Vegetable and Bean Soup
(Makes six 1½ cup servings)

4 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
1 large leek, sliced
½ medium onion, chopped
4 stalks celery (including leaves), sliced
3 medium-sized turnips, peeled, quartered and sliced
5 cups chicken stock
One (15.5 oz.) can of cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup light sour cream
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the bacon in a large pot and turn on heat to medium. Heat, stirring occasionally, until fat has been rendered and bacon is brown and beginning to crisp. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add leeks, celery and turnips. Cook vegetables, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add chicken stock, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add rinsed beans to soup and continue simmering until heated through.

2. Meanwhile, mix together sour cream and egg yolks in a medium bowl. Add a ladle of the hot to soup the sour cream and stir to temper the eggs. Repeat with another ladle of soup. While stirring, slowly add the sour cream and egg mixture to the soup. Return to a low simmer (do not bring to a full boil or eggs and cream may curdle). Taste soup and adjust seasonings before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving: 200.5 calories, 21 g carbohydrate, 8.1 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 4.4 g fiber, 11.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this compare to the traditional family recipe made with potatoes? This reduced carb version is over 100 calories less per serving and has fewer than ½ the carbs of the original. Also, this makeover recipe has less overall and saturated fat grams. For comparison, the nutritional information for a serving of the traditional recipe is 335.7 calories, 47.1 g carbohydrate, 11.8 g total fat, 5.2 g saturated fat, 3.7 g fiber, 11 g protein.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Betty's 7-Up Pound Cake

This is one of my very favorite recipes that I discovered in the handwritten recipe notebooks I inherited from my grandmother, Gaga. The original recipe was from Betty Layman, her daughter-in-law and my aunt. I remember Gaga loved this cake and served it often at family gatherings. It was so delicious, almost tasting like an eggnog cake, which makes it nice to have around Christmas. The secret ingredient is ground mace, which is similar to nutmeg and derived from the same plant, but has a fruity, delicate flavor. (Nutmeg is the spice taken from the seed, while mace is derived from the dried outer covering of the nutmeg fruit seed.)

To reproduce this recipe in a reduced-carb version was a challenge because, like all pound cakes, the list of ingredients included loads of butter, buckets of sugar and a barrel of flour (see the comparative nutritional information for the original recipe below). There is nothing healthy or diabetic-friendly about any flavor of pound cake! Honestly, I wasn't sure a makeover was possible until I figured out a way to reduce the saturated fat by substituting mascarpone cheese for a good portion of the fat in the recipe and adding imitation butter extract to keep that rich, buttery flavor that is the signature feature of a pound cake. Swapping out almond flour for most of the white flour and using Splenda in place of all but ½ cup of the sugar reduced the carbs by two-thirds! The final result was a delightful surprise. This cake has all the flavor and texture of the original that I so fondly recall from my childhood with only 12 net carbs per slice! I dedicate this recipe to my Aunt Betty and Gaga, who both are my source of inspiration and the memory makers that have made this special dessert a favorite of my family for as long as I can remember.

Betty's 7-Up Pound Cake
(Makes 20 servings)

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1¾ cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mace
6 tablespoons butter, softened
6 oz. mascarpone cheese (12 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
½ cup sugar
2 cups Splenda, granular (not baking blend)
3 eggs, room temperature
2 egg whites
1½ tablespoons imitation butter flavor extract
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup 7-Up (or other lemon-lime soft drink, not diet)

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Prepare a Bundt pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Measure and sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and mace together into a medium mixing bowl; set aside.

2. In a large bowl and using a mixer, cream together the butter, mascarpone cheese and shortening until fluffy. Add the sugar and ½ of the Splenda and cream with the butter mixture. Add the remaining cup of Splenda and continue beating until well blended. Add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the extracts and beat until incorporated.

3. Alternately add the flour mixture and 7-Up, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat until well blended. Pour into prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cake is supposed to come out brown, crisp and yummy!

Nutritional Information per serving: 188 calories, 13.6 g carbohydrate, 13.2 g total fat, 4.9 g saturated fat, 1.2 g fiber, 4.5 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009.
Inspired by a recipe by my aunt, Betty Layman.

How does this compare with the traditional family recipe? The traditional recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter and ½ cup shortening, 3 cups sugar, 5 eggs and 3 cups of white flour. Just reading the list of ingredients clogged my arteries and sent my cholesterol and blood glucose sky high! Without sacrificing the delicious flavor of the original, my makeover recipe is over 130 calories less and has less than 1/3 of the carbohydrates, not to mention a significant reduction of saturated fat per slice. For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size piece made from the original recipe is 321 calories, 44.3 g carbohydrate, 15.3 g total fat, 7.3 g saturated fat, 0.5 g fiber, 3.5 g protein.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cocoa Drop Cookies with Chocolate Mint Drizzle

My husband has two sisters that are excellent bakers. Every year they generously send Christmas boxes full of cookies, breads and other sweet treats. Tis the season I get to sit by and watch my husband with his milk and a heaping plate of Christmas cookies. This nightly ritual is pure torture for me. I try not to be bothered by it but (I can be honest here), I am only human...and one with a very sweet tooth! I want a Christmas cookie, too.

Motivated by my selfish desire, I created this masterpiece of low-carb, chocolate delight! In this recipe, I tried something different to keep the saturated fat grams in check. Knowing that the chocolate chips I wanted for the glaze would add to the overall fat grams, I made a partial butter substitution of mascarpone cheese in the dough that worked out perfectly. Mascarpone cheese usually can be found in the specialty cheese section of your grocery in a plastic tub that looks like cream cheese. It is a super thick cultured cream that only has half the calories and saturated fat of butter. The end result was a soft, moist cookie that I topped with melted dark chocolate laced with peppermint! At only 4.8 net carbs each, tonight I happily will be joining the Christmas cookie ritual without guilt.

Cocoa Drop Cookies with Chocolate Mint Drizzle
(Makes 3 dozen)

½ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon buttermilk powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
5 tablespoons (2½ oz.) mascarpone cheese
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
1 large egg
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze Ingredients:
1/3 cup dark chocolate morsels
1½ tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon peppermint extract

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, measure flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, buttermilk powder and salt. Stir with a fork to break up any lumps in the almond flour; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and mascarpone cheese using a standing or handheld mixer. Cream in the sugar and Splenda (¼ cup at a time) until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well.

3. Add ½ of the flour mixture and beat until blended. Add the water and continue beating with the mixer until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, stir until incorporated.

4. Use a small cookie scoop or drop by rounded teaspoonful onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes (do not over bake). Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool and reserve the parchment paper. When completely cooled, line cookies on the reserved parchment paper in 3 or 4 long lines. Meanwhile, combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and microwave on high for about 6-8 seconds at a time until morsels are melted. Stir until smooth and allow to cool slightly. Place glaze into a plastic sandwich bag. Snip off one corner and drizzle melted chocolate back and forth across the cookies. Allow the chocolate to cool completely and set up before storing in airtight container, about 45 minutes.

Nutritional Information per cookie: 71 calories, 5.9 g carbohydrate, 4.8 g total fat, 1.9 g saturated fat, 1.1 g fiber, 1.7 g protein.

Original Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tangy Glazed Chicken & Peaches

Rush, rush, rush! Everyone is busy getting ready for the holidays and no one has time to cook, right? Due to the emotional stress and lack of time brought on by these preparations, restaurants see a surge in their business at this time of year. That is one reason why many people have difficulty sticking to their food plan or gain weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially when the extra calories of "dinners out" are added to all the rich foods that we've come to love and expect at the holidays. What's the solution?

For me, it is planning extra simple meals that can be whipped up in 20 minutes or less. Chicken tenderloins cook up fast and they always turn out moist and flavorful. This recipe was a spur-of-the-moment creation that came about because I had a can of peaches in the pantry and the chicken was already cooking on the stove! Honestly, I didn't know what was going to end up on my dinner plate when I put the chicken in the skillet. Wow! What a wonderful, tasty surprise these few common ingredients turned out to be! It was quick, extremely easy to prepare, healthy, delicious and I received lots of "m-mmm's" and high praise from my husband. What more could a busy woman ask for?

Tangy Glazed Chicken and Peaches
(Makes 4 servings)

1 pound chicken tenderloins
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ cup chicken stock
1 15 oz. can sliced "no sugar added" peaches, drained of all but 1 tablespoon liquid
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Season the chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Add oil to a non-stick skillet and heat to medium. Add chopped onion to pan and sprinkle with a little salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft.

2. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to pan and cook about 4 minutes per side until lightly browned and juices run clear. Add vinegar and chicken stock; stir into the onions. Add sliced peaches and nutmeg and cook until sauce has reduced into a thick glaze (most of the liquid will have evaporated). Divide chicken, onion and peaches equally among serving dishes and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 180 calories, 15 g carbohydrate, 2.7 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 1.1 g fiber, 22.3 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Poor Man's Treasure Soup with Parmesan Herb Scones

A large pot of warm and hearty soup simmering on the stove is the ideal comfort food to come home to on a cold day. I call this recipe "Poor Man's Treasure Soup" because it is full of nutrition and has a delicious depth of flavor without costing a lot of money. At a time when people are tightening their belts and economizing, homemade soup is a wise meal choice. It goes a long way and keeps well in the fridge. During the long, cold months in Maine, I usually make one or two pots a week, then we return to it for other meals during the rest of the week and the taste just gets better as the flavors "marry." Even though it's certainly delicious on the first night, it's truly better a day or two later!

To accompany my steaming bowl full of healthy, I made some savory parmesan and herb scones. Scones are similar to a biscuit, but not as flaky. They are extremely easy to make, taking only about 30 minutes from start to finish. They don't require kneading or even a rolling pin, just pat them into a square shape and cut them to size. This recipe pairs beautifully with soup, but they are also delicious for snacking or topped with an herbed cream cheese spread.
Poor Man's Treasure Soup(Makes eight 1½ cup servings)
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery (including leaves), sliced
3 carrots, cubed
2 chicken and spinach sausages, quartered lengthwise and cut into bite-size pieces
6 cups chopped kale
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
One 15.5 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sprinkle with a little salt and continue cooking until onion is soft. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

2. Add sausage and continue cooking until sausage has begun to brown. Add herbs and stir to combine. Add chopped kale and cook until greens are wilted. Add stock to pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes. Add drained and rinsed beans and peas to pot, return soup to a boil and continue simmering for 10 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper only if necessary. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Nutritional Information per serving (1½ cups): 156 calories, 19 g carbohydrate, 4.1 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 4.4 g fiber, 13.4 g protein
Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Savory Parmesan and Herb Scones(Makes 32 mini scones)
1¼ cup
almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
½ cup all-purpose flour (or gluten free all-purpose baking mix)
¼ cup corn meal
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons mascarpone or cream cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons buttermilk (or milk that has been soured with ¼ teaspoon lemon juice)
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water for egg wash

1. Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Put butter in freezer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Prepare cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
2. In food processor or in a large bowl, measure flours, corn meal, herbs, baking powder and salt. Pulse to combine or stir with a fork to break up any lumps and set aside while you measure out the rest of the ingredients.

3. When all ingredients are assembled, place cold cubed butter into processor and pulse a few times until butter is distributed and mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg and mascarpone or cream cheese and pulse again to combine. Add Parmesan and pulse 2-3 times to distribute. Finally, while the food processor is running, add buttermilk one tablespoon at a time until a soft dough forms, then turn off machine. Do not over beat dough. (If not using food processor, cut butter into flour mixture with pastry cutter. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.)

4. Turn dough onto a well floured counter or board (the dough will be sticky). Pat dough into an 8" x 8" square, about ¾-inch thick. Cut dough into 4 strips, and then cut across to create sixteen 2-inch squares. Cut each square into two triangles until you have 32 mini scones. (If necessary, dip knife into flour between cuts to prevent sticking.) Place scones on cookie sheet about 1-inch apart. Brush tops with egg wash.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. These are best eaten warm out of the oven, or store in airtight container at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per mini scone: 75.6 calories, 3.2 g carbohydrate, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0.6 g fiber, 3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gingerbread Cakes

When I'm invited to a party and asked to bring a dish, I always bring something I know will fit into my food plan. This weekend, we will be attending the best Christmas party of the season hosted by a couple of our best friends! We look forward to their gathering every year because we know the company of our friends will be wonderful and the atmosphere will be festive. As always, the food will be abundant and delicious as everyone brings something to share. This year, I will be making these moist, spicy gingerbread cakes that weigh in at only 11.2 net carbs each! As for their taste, no one will ever know that they are a diet dessert.

You can certainly bake these in an ordinary muffin pan, as is suggested in the recipe. For an extra special touch, I have in my bakeware collection a mini bundt cupcake pan that takes the same amount of batter as a traditional muffin tin but the end result are adorable little molded cakes! When I present these at the party, it may look as if I've been baking all day, but you and I will know it was as easy as making a cupcake.

Gingerbread Cakes
(Makes 14 servings)

½ cup water (or boiling water)
1/3 cup molasses
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
1 egg
¼ cup ginger ale (not diet)

1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together the water and molasses. Microwave until very hot (if you do not have a microwave, boil the water first). Add baking soda and stir. Mixture will foam and bubble, so be certain your container is at least two cup capacity or it might bubble over. Allow to cool for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, assemble the rest of the ingredients and bring to room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt and spices; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter until fluffy. Add Splenda and beat until creamed with the butter, about 2 minutes. Add egg and beat well. Alternately add the dry ingredients (in ½ cup increments) with the molasses mixture and ginger ale, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat well after each addition, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

4. Measure ¼ cup into each muffin cup (do not overfill) and bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for about 12 minutes. (Cakes will be very delicate while hot. To prevent breakage, do not rush this step and try to remove from pan prematurely.) Carefully turn cakes out onto a wire rack and allow to cool. Allow to cool for another 15 minutes. Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.

Serving suggestion (optional): To serve, top with a tablespoon of unsweetened applesauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon or real whipped cream laced with ginger and cinnamon. To make whipped topping, beat ½ cup of whipping cream, 2 tablespoons Splenda, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon until light and fluffy (do not overbeat). Serving size of whipped topping is 1 rounded teaspoon: 26.5 calories, 1 carbohydrate, 2.5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein.

Nutritional Information per serving (no topping): 148 calories, 12.5 g carbohydrate, 10.2 g total fat, 3.4 g saturated fat, 1.3 g fiber, 3 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this recipe compare with traditional homemade gingerbread? Traditional gingerbread usually contains 1 stick or more of butter, 1 cup molasses, an additional ½ to 1 cup sugar, 1-2 eggs and 2½ cups white flour. All that sugar and flour makes even one small piece a carb overload! My recipe has only ½ the calories and 1/3 the amount of carbohydrate, plus it has more than twice the amount of fiber and more protein. For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size piece of traditional gingerbread is 288 calories, 37.4 g carbohydrate, 15 g total fat, 4.6 g saturated fat, 0.6 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Smoky Turkey Vegetable Soup

Do you have leftover turkey in your fridge or freezer looking for a recipe? This bowl of "healthy" is just perfect to have in the midst of a demanding work schedule, festive dinners, parties, holiday shopping and all the other things that try to lure me away from my food plan at this time of year. It makes a lot and keeps well in the refrigerator so I can lunch, snack or have a quick dinner ready at a moment's notice. This hearty, delicious soup is what I'll be eating for the next week!

When I told my husband the list of ingredients and he heard the word "kale," he balked. Having never eaten it before and not feeling particularly adventurous today, he asked if I would use spinach instead. I compromised and decided to use both (and told him he could eat around the kale if he didn't like it). He had to admit, when faced with both greens in his bowl, he couldn't even tell them apart and he gave an enthusiastic thumbs up for the soup, as I knew he would ;)

Kale is an incredible green! When cooked in soup, it has a mild flavor and really stands up to the heat and won't wilt to the point that it is unrecognizable. In this recipe, it enhances the smoky flavor I was trying to achieve. Kale is a wonderful source of protein, vitamins C and A, beta carotene, calcium and is one of the best natural sources of the elusive vitamin K. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer properties and works as an anti-inflammatory in the body. Hopefully, after tonight's good experience with kale, my husband will soon be adding it to my shopping list himself and requesting other recipes that highlight this delicious vegetable.

Smoky Turkey Vegetable Soup
(Makes eight 1½ cup servings)

6 slices of double smoked bacon, cut into ½" slices
½ large onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced into ½ rounds
2 carrots, cubed
3 stalks celery, sliced
½ bunch kale, washed and chopped (about 4 cups)
2 cups baby spinach
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1½ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon Montreal Steak Seasoning
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
One 14½ oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid
½ cup frozen corn, thawed
8 cups turkey or chicken stock
2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
One 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the bacon in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Turn heat to medium-low and slowly cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until fat has been rendered and bacon begins to brown. Add chopped onion and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and continue cooking on fairly low heat until onion is translucent and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add leek and continue cooking until soft. (Don't be in a hurry for this step because this slow cooking of the onion in the bacon will add a lot of smoky flavor to the soup.)

2. Add carrots and celery. Turn heat to medium and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chopped kale and spinach and cook until greens are wilted. Add seasonings, tomatoes, corn, stock and turkey to pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium or low and simmer for 25 minutes. Add drained and rinsed beans to pot and continue simmering for 10 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper only if necessary.

Nutritional Information per serving (1½ cups): 191 calories, 20 g carbohydrate, 3.8 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 4.3 g fiber, 20.2 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Williamsburg Queen's Cake

Recently my husband and I visited Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. We both agree that it is one of our favorite places on the planet! It is so easy to be swept into the bygone era when our nation was being born by walking the streets, eating the delicious colonial fare and engaging in conversation with the costumed interpreters. If you've ever been there, you're sure to know of the Bake Shop hidden away behind the Raleigh Tavern filled with authentically reproduced cookies, cakes, ham biscuits and other delights. My favorite is the Queen's Cake, which is a modernized version adapted from a colonial recipe found in The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy that was published in 1760. It is a rich pound cake, studded with plump currants and infused with bold citrus flavor that is baked in a loaf pan then served in thin slices. It is heavenly, but extremely too high in carbohydrates and fat for me to have much more than a small bite.

I came home from my trip determined to recreate this moist cake. I'm happy to say this reduced-carb version looks and tastes every bit like the original with only 1/3 the carbs and only 1/2 the amount of saturated fat and calories! I took this dessert to a luncheon and my friends raved. One in particular, who visits Williamsburg regularly, couldn't believe it was anything but the traditional recipe!

If you bake these in small loaf pans and reduce the baking time to about 20-25 minutes, they make wonderful holiday gift cakes when wrapped in silver foil or colorful plastic wrap and tied with a pretty ribbon. Also, feel free to bake it in an 8" x 8" cake pan (reduce the cooking time by 10 minutes) and serve it as a coffee cake. Anyway you bake it, this flavorful cake will be a hit with your family and friends this holiday season.

Williamsburg Queen's Cake
(Makes 16 servings)

½ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cup almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
¼ cup almond milk (plain or original)
½ cup currants

1. Before you begin, have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Prepare an 8½" x 4½" loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir with a fork to break up any lumps in the almond flour. Measure the currants into a small bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of the flour mixture; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl and using a handheld or standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add ¼ cup of the Splenda and continue beating until incorporated. Add one egg and beat well. Add another ¼ cup Splenda and continue beating until incorporated. Repeat with second egg and the remaining ¼ cup Splenda, beating well after each addition. Add the final egg and extracts and beat well. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the almond milk in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating well after each addition. Fold the currants into the batter and pour into prepared pan.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Test at 45 minutes and bake longer if additional time is needed. Do not overbake to avoid drying out.

5. Remove from oven to a wire rack. Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and continue to cool on wire rack for another hour. This bread can be left at room temperature for 1 day or overnight, or wrap well and store in refrigerator.

Nutritional Information per serving (½" slice): 147 calories, 13 g carbohydrate, 9.4 g total fat, 3.2 g saturated fat, 1.3 g fiber, 3.6 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this compare to the version adapted from the Colonial recipe? Traditional Queen's Cake calls for 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sugar, 5 eggs, 2 cups of flour and 2 cups currants! This results is a very high carb, high saturated fat dessert. (No wonder the Colonials didn't live very long!) For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size slice made from the traditional recipe is 282.5 calories, 38.8 g carbohydrate, 12.75 g total fat, 7.5 g saturated fat, 1.4 g fiber, 4 g protein.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sugar-free Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry sauce with my turkey, but traditional cranberry sauce is off the charts! Even a small portion of only 1/4 cup is loaded with 22 grams of added sugar and a total of 27 grams of carbs. Add that to the other carbohydrates in a Thanksgiving meal and cranberry sauce, even a spoonful, is off limits for me. Instead of dwelling on the things I can't have because of my diabetes, on this Thanksgiving Day I smile and am thankful I live in an age when there are so many wonderful alternatives that make it easy to manage this complicated disease.

It's simple to make homemade cranberry sauce and it tastes so much better than canned. I tweaked the traditional recipe just a bit to create this delicious variation that calls for a combination of erythritol sweetener, stevia and applesauce to replace the sugar called for in the recipe found on the back of a bag of fresh cranberries, plus it cooks up quick on the stovetop. The hint of cinnamon, cloves and vanilla balances out the tartness. The pectin in the applesauce helps to thicken the sauce perfectly. This cranberry sauce is so delicious, I top it with whipped cream and have it for dessert, use it as a fruit spread on my gluten free waffles or stir it into yogurt. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sugar-free Cranberry Sauce
(Makes eight ¼-cup servings)

One 12 ounce bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup LaKanto Monkfruit sweetener (or other erythritol sweetener)
a pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (no sugar added)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (I used Sweet Leaf brand)

1. Rinse and pick over the cranberries and place them in a large saucepan. Add the LaKanto Monkfruit sweetener, salt, water, applesauce, cinnamon and cloves. Stir to combine.

2. Boil gently for 5-8 minutes (skins will split), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and stevia powder to taste. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to cool until it reaches room temperature. Store in the refrigerator until time to serve.  The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Nutritional Information per ¼ cup serving: 28 calories, 7 g carbohydrate, (2.3 g dietary fiber, 3.2 g sugars, 8 g sugar alcohols), 0 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 16 mg sodium, 7.8 mg calcium, 50 mg potassium, 0.2 g protein.  Net carbs per serving: 4.7 grams

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009, revised 2016

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baked & Stuffed Acorn Squash

Winter squash abound at the grocery and farmer's market these days. They are delicious roasted in the oven and make an excellent side or main dish. They are considered a starchy vegetable but are much more glycemic-friendly than potatoes or rice, plus they are rich in beta-carotene, high in fiber and are a good source of other vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, vitamins C & B and magnesium.

Acorn squash is typically green in color, but other colorful varieties are now available and worth sampling. Some others to look for are carnival, delicata (or sweet potato squash) and golden acorn. In this recipe, I used carnival squash which is a small, multi-colored member of the acorn family. The flesh is golden and mildly sweet when roasted. Because of it's colorful exterior and heart shape, it makes a spectacular presentation on the plate. The combination of smoky sausage, seasoned spinach and creamy fresh mozzarella is a wonderful and satisfying meal on a cold night. So, celebrate the late autumn harvest and eat a squash!

Baked & Stuffed Carnival Squash
(Makes 2 servings)

1 small carnival or acorn squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sausage patty, cooked and chopped (meat or vegetarian)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 ounce fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Cut squash in half. Scoop out and discard seeds. Drizzle olive oil onto baking sheet and place squash, cut side down, onto baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes until tender when pierced with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, place chopped spinach in small sauce pan and add about ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Drain any remaining water and season with salt and pepper. Add sausage and stir to combine.

3. When tender, remove squash from oven and turn over. Season each half with a little salt & pepper. Add cubed mozzarella to spinach mixture and stir. Divide spinach mixture equally and fill each squash cavity to overflowing. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon Parmesan over each portion and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 207 calories, 28.2 g carbohydrate, 4.7 g total fat, 1.3 g saturated fat, 8.6 g fiber, 12.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pumpkin Pie in a Cup

Thanksgiving! My favorite meal of the year. I read somewhere that when you're a PWD (person with diabetes), you never get a holiday and that's true. Just because it's Thanksgiving doesn't mean your blood sugar gets to take a holiday and go off the charts. You need to plan ahead, make choices or substitutions and measure portions just like every other day of the year. I know for me, giving up my favorite holiday foods, especially dessert, would leave me feeling unsatisfied and left out of the festivities. The experts will tell you "don't make it about the food" but, let's be honest here, Thanksgiving is very much about the food! Are those experts giving up their slice of pumpkin pie? (I doubt it.) Well, neither am I!

This excellent recipe has been perfected after many trials. I tried making a low carb crust with almond flour in various combinations with white or wheat flour, but they all turned out to be duds. Either they were too soggy, too tough, too high in carbs, or were too far from the REAL pumpkin pie taste that they failed the test. I almost gave up on the idea of crust altogether and thought I'd have to settle on pumpkin custard (which is good but doesn't have that same pie taste without the crust), then a light bulb went on over my head! The crust doesn't have to be on the bottom, I can have a little bit of real crust on the top while keeping the carbs down with other minor adjustments to the filling recipe -- I can have it all and so can you! Have a happy and sweet Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pie in a Cup
(Makes 6 or 8* servings)

3 eggs
One 15 oz. canned pumpkin (2 cups)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/3 cup LaKanto Monkfruit Sweetener (or other erythritol sweetener)
1 teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (I use Sweet Leaf brand)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups almond milk or coconut milk (no sugar added, not vanilla flavor)
¼ purchased gluten-free pie crust
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
Whipped topping (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large mixing bowl or 5 cup measure, beat eggs and add canned pumpkin. Whisk in brown sugar, sweeteners, spices (2½ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice can be substituted), salt and almond milk; set aside.

2. Place six* (7-ounce size) custard cups into a 9" x 13" baking dish. Measure 2/3 cup of pumpkin mixture into each cup. Pour very hot water into pan until it reaches about half way up the side of the custard cups and carefully transfer to oven. (Tip: To avoid spilling water, place pan on oven rack before pouring in hot water.)

3. Bake for 60-70 minutes until set and a knife comes out clean when inserted in center of custard. Remove from oven and transfer custard cups to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. While custard is cooling, preheat oven to 375-degrees. Using only ¼ of the gluten free pie crust, cut out 18 small leaf shapes with tiny cookie or pie crust cutters. Place on a cookie sheet that has been covered with a piece of parchment paper (or lightly grease with butter). Combine the egg with water and beat with a fork. Brush egg wash on pie crust cutouts and bake for 15 minutes or until browned. Remove to wire rack to cool. Store in a sealed plastic bag until serving time. To serve, place three cutouts on each pumpkin custard as garnish.

Nutritional Information per serving with 3 crust cutouts (topping not included in calculations): 140 calories, 19.4 g carbohydrate, 5.1 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g fiber, 4.3 g protein.

*NOTE: If you desire smaller portions with fewer carbs, use small custard cups and fill each with ½ cup pumpkin mixture. Cooking time will be reduced to 45-55 minutes. This measurement will yield eight servings with the following nutritional information per serving: 105 calories, 14.5 g carbohydrate, 3.8 g total fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 1.9 g fiber, 3.2 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this recipe compare with traditional Pumpkin Pie? It is much lower in calories, fat and carbohydrates, plus, with this recipe, you actually get more pumpkin filling than you would if you had a slice of pie! For comparision, the nutritional information for 1/8th of a 9" traditional pumpkin pie is 375 calories, 52.5 g carbohydrate, 16.2 g total fat, 7.5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Carb-Friendly Vegetable Lo Mein

I love eating at a Chinese restaurant and one of my favorite dishes is Vegetable Lo Mein, which is chinese noodles with the most heavenly sauce. One might think because it's a vegetarian dish with the word "vegetable" in the name that it would be a good choice. Sadly, it is high calorie, carb dense and contains a lot more noodles than vegetables. So, what's a diabetic to do? Give it up completely? Not when you can make it at home with this quick and easy recipe that tastes every bit as good! The trick is to swap out the high carb noodles for a lesser amount of a high quality, low-carb pasta and fill in with a mountain of delicious, stir fried vegetables. You can make your own sauce or use a teriyaki bottled sauce. My favorite is Stonewall Kitchen's Garlic Teriyaki Sauce which contains about the same nutritional totals as my homemade version and, when I'm in a hurry to get dinner on the table, that's what I use.

The best thing about this recipe is the amount of food per serving! This is not a skimpy portion size; you'll get a plateful of incredible, tender-crisp vegetables with a satisfying amount of pasta glazed with a delectable sauce. Feel free to add whatever vegetables your family likes best. It is out-of-this-world delicious! So, if you miss having your favorite Chinese noodle dishes, give this one a try and I think it will become one of your best loved recipes, too.

Carb-Friendly Vegetable Lo Mein
(Makes 2 servings)

1½ cups cooked reduced-carb pasta (I suggest Dreamfield's or Carba-Nada)
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups broccoli florets
2 carrots, sliced thin and cut into 2” pieces
1 small zucchini, sliced thin and cut into 2” pieces
½ small onion, cut into 1” chunks
4 stalks bok choy (white part) or 2 celery stalks, cut on the bias into ½” pieces

Sauce ingredients: (or use ¼ cup bottled teriyaki sauce*)
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1½ tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon rice wine (mirin) or sherry
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon cornstarch

1. Prepare low carb pasta according to the package directions. If not using a bottled teriyaki sauce, mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil on medium-high in a large non-stick skillet. Add carrots and celery and saute for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add remaining vegetables and continue to stir fry until tender crisp. Add sauce to pan and stir constantly until mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from heat. Drain cooked pasta and add to vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving (½ of recipe): 234.5 calories, 39.1 g carbohydrate, 4.8 g total fat, 0.62 g saturated fat, 4.8 g fiber, 10.6 g protein

*I recommend Stonewall Kitchen Garlic Teriyaki Sauce. It has exceptional flavor and about the same nutritional information per ¼ cup as the recipe provided.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this recipe compare with traditional Vegetable Lo Mein? This recipe is about half the calories and significantly lower in carbohydrates and fat. For comparison, the nutritional information for the same amount of traditional lo mein is 411 calories, 64 g carbohydrate, 11 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 4 g fiber and 5 g protein.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breakfast Smoothies

Occasionally I'm asked to suggest breakfast recipes. This is difficult for me to do because I don't eat breakfast in the traditional sense. Instead, I start every day with a high-fiber, protein smoothie that often incorporates fruit or chocolate (cocoa powder) that satisfies and keeps me going for hours! About a year and a half ago, I gave up cereal, toast, oatmeal, bagels, muffins or anything else many people turn to for breakfast because these items just don't contain the same nutritional density that my smoothie does and all are downright "carb-age" and would do my body more harm than good. I give my morning smoothies a lot of credit for my initial weight loss and I continue to drink them to maintain my weight. I want to be clear: I don't have a smoothie with breakfast, the smoothie IS my breakfast. But it doesn't need to be used only as a replacement for the morning meal, it can be used anytime of the day as a meal replacement.

Most of the products I use in my smoothies are easily found in your grocery store, such as frozen fruit, fresh fruit, cocoa powder, creamy nut butters and almond milk. There are other ingredients that may need to be ordered on the Internet. For example, to boost the fiber content, I add PaleoFiber powder which contains 10 grams of fiber per tablespoon! (If you don't have a fiber powder, substitute Ground Flaxseed Meal or chia seeds which are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.) Also, for flavoring, I often add Sweet Leaf flavored stevia drops. My favorites are Vanilla Creme, English Toffee, Lemon Drop and Dark Chocolate. For my protein powder, I have used almost exclusively collagen hydrolysate and highly recommend it for this purpose. It is pure, unflavored protein that contains all of the essential amino acids without other additives or fillers. It dissolves in cold, warm or hot liquids. If you're in the weight loss phase and wish to purchase another type of protein powder, I suggest purchasing a low-carb one made especially for weight loss which will help you accomplish this goal.

Green Smoothies are the craze these days. My mother has one every morning and she swears by them. If you're lucky enough to own a Vitamix high-power blender or another brand with a 2-hp motor or higher, try one soon. A regular blender will work, but you may have to blend for a longer amount of time. Green Smoothies are a mixture of fresh or frozen fruit, leafy greens (such as spinach, kale and collards) and water that has been liquefied into a smooth, vitamin-packed drink. The fruit adds sweetness and disguises the taste of the greens. It's a great way to get two or more servings of vegetables in one sitting. Here's a link to a video that will show you how easy it is to make one: Green Smoothie Video. If you want to learn more, search YouTube.com for other excellent demonstrations and testimonials about green smoothies.

Finally, before I post a couple of my own recipes for smoothies, I would like to recommend a few low-carb smoothie recipe books that I use for flavor ideas:


2. Low-Carb Smoothies by Dana Carpender. (This one is out of print, but very good if you can find it.)



My Breakfast Smoothie Recipes


Strawberry Banana Smoothie (Makes 1 serving, pictured above)

In a blender, blend on high until well mixed together:

1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
½ cup unsweetened plain yogurt (or unsweetened plain kefir)
2 packets stevia (I use Sweet Leaf brand)
1/4 small banana
1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon PaleoFiber powder (or substitute chia seed or ground flaxseed meal)
1 tablespoon collagen hydrolysate (or Vanilla protein powder of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Nutritional Information per serving: 276 calories, 44.7 g carbohydrate, 2.6 g total fat, 14.3 g fiber, 16.7 g protein.

Snickers Smoothie (Makes 1 serving)

In a blender, blend on high until well mixed together:

1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
½ cup unsweetened plain yogurt (or unsweetened plain kefir)
2 packets stevia (I use Sweet Leaf brand)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
5 drops English Toffee stevia
1 heaping tablespoon creamy peanut butter or almond butter (no sugar added)
1 tablespoon PaleoFiber powder (or substitute chia seed or ground flaxseed meal)
1 tablespoon collagen hydrolysate (or Vanilla protein powder of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Nutritional Information per serving: 309 calories, 35.2 g carbohydrate, 11.2 g total fat, 14.8 g fiber, 18.4 g protein.


Original recipes by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Game Day Munchies!

My large extended family are dedicated fans of college football. Although we may cheer for different teams on any given Saturday, we all enjoy the weekly watching parties that accompany the games. It's too easy to overeat when your attention is on the TV screen, so it's a good idea to plan ahead and provide finger foods that are nutritious and fun to eat. Put out some sliced apples or pears sprinkled with cinnamon and you'll see the fans gobble them up! Here are a couple of my favorite healthy party appetizers that are easy to prepare and delicious. They're perfect for any occasion, so keep them in mind for the upcoming holiday season. Go team!

Spinach Pepper Jack Dip
(Makes ten ¼ cup servings)

1 can condensed Cream of Celery Soup
¼ teaspoon pepper
One 10 oz. frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese (or Mexican Blend with spices)
½ cup light sour cream
¼ teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
2-3 dashes of Tabasco sauce or to taste

1. In a medium sauce pan, heat soup, pepper, and spinach on medium-high heat to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add cheese, stir until melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

2. Add sour cream and cayenne, stir to combine. Sample mixture to check spice level. If you like it hotter, add Tabasco sauce to taste. Serve with a variety of raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli florets, and cauliflower. This also is a great dip for my Oven Fried Spicy Chicken Nuggets (see recipe below).

Nutritional Information per ¼ cup dip (vegetables not included in calculations): 104.8 calories, 6.1 g carbohydrate, 6.7 g total fat, 2.9 g saturated fat, 1.1 g fiber, 4.1 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009


Oven Fried Spicy Chicken Nuggets
(Makes eight appetizer servings of 3 nuggets each)

12 chicken tenders (cut each in half)
½ cup whole wheat style Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon onion salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Dash of cayenne (ground red pepper)
½ teaspoon smoked Paprika
1½ tablespoon olive oil (or use oil in a Misto pump sprayer)

1. Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Drizzle ¾ tablespoon olive oil onto a baking sheet and place in oven until hot.

2. Meanwhile, place panko, cheese, onion salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika into a large food storage bag and shake to combine. Remove baking pan from oven and tilt to coat pan with hot oil. Add a few pieces of chicken to the breadcrumb mixture at a time and shake until chicken is lightly coated. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces. Carefully arrange them on the hot baking sheet in a single layer without pieces touching. Drizzle remaining ¾ tablespoon oil over chicken and bake for 10 minutes. (If you have a Misto pump, spray oil to coat top of chicken.)

3. After 10 minutes, remove pan from oven and turn chicken over to brown second side. Bake for another 8 minutes until chicken is cooked through and crispy. If necessary, remove chicken to paper towels to drain briefly before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving (3 nuggets): 94.7 calories, 3.5 g carbohydrate, 3.2 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0.5 g fiber, 12.2 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Doodles

Today was a cold, rainy day that just called for baking cookies. This time of year, I always have a craving for spicy desserts made from pumpkin. This delicious, soft, cake-like cookie really fits the bill! It's rolled in a sugar-spice mixture in the same way you'd make the classic Snickerdoodle cookie, thus the name. Instead of only cinnamon in the sugar, I used pumpkin pie spice which is a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. This substitution really gives these cookies the flavor of my favorite holiday dessert. These sweet, wholesome cookies have lots of hidden nutrition from the flaxseed meal, almond flour and canned pumpkin. Flaxseed meal provides lignans, Omega-3 fatty acids and is loaded with thiamine (vitamin B1). It also helps to stabilize blood sugar. As I've mentioned many times, almond flour is a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, iron and fiber. Pumpkin provides vitamin A and beta-carotene, plus many other nutrients. Weighing in at only 5.6 net carbs per cookie, you can feel good about indulging on this sweet treat because it packs a serious, nutritious punch!

Pumpkin Doodles
(Makes 36 cookies)

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¼ cup flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
¾ cup Splenda granular
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 egg
¾ cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup zante currants (or for color, chopped dried cranberries can be substituted)

Topping Ingredients:
1 tablespoon Splenda
1½ tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. If desired, line cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flours, flaxseed meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange zest, and pie spice. Stir with a fork to break up any clumps in the almond flour; set aside. Measure the currants (or chopped dried cranberries) into another small bowl and add ½ teaspoon of the flour mixture and toss to coat; set aside.

3. Prepare the topping by placing the Splenda and powdered sugar in a food processor and grinding into a uniform fine powder. In a small bowl, mix the processed Splenda and sugar and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice; set aside. (If you do not have a food processor, grind the Splenda with the back of a spoon until it becomes a finer powder, then mix with the powdered sugar.)

4. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening, Splenda and brown sugar with a handheld or standing mixer. Add egg and pumpkin and beat for 2 minutes. With a wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients all at once and stir until well combined. Fold in currants or cranberries. Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonful into the sugar-spice topping mixture (or a level small cookie scoop). Roll just one side in the sugar-spice mixture and place on cookie sheet with the topping mixture side up. Flatten slightly with palm or bottom of glass. (Tip: If dough is too soft, place in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes and it will be easier to handle.)

5. Bake for 11-13 minutes until bottom is golden brown. (Top will not brown much, so watch carefully.) Remove to wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per cookie: 61.3 calories, 6.4 g carbohydrate, 3.6 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0.8 g fiber, 1.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Note added 11/5/09: I had a few of these cookies leftover and they were beginning to dry out and become a bit stale, so I crumbled them and added one packet of Quaker Maple Brown Sugar Weight Control instant oatmeal and 3 tablespoons firm butter. Using a pastry cutter, I blended the ingredients until they formed coarse crumbs, sprinkled it over a dish of sliced apples and baked it in a 350-degree oven for 35-40 minutes. It made the most awesome, fragrant Apple Crisp! I served this quick and easy dessert to my in-laws and they raved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pom-Pear Chicken over Spinach

Pomegranates are on special this week in my grocery, so I purchased a couple to play with. As I've mentioned before, they are a super fruit! The arils (seeds) are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals that can heal your body from within. Although they're a culinary adventure to eat fresh, pomegranates can be juiced and used in cooked recipes, as well. As in this savory dish, they can be combined with other mild tasting fruits, such as pear, which only enhances the best qualities of both.

I consider this a main dish salad because the spinach is fresh and uncooked. Pile it high on your serving plate then top with the warm chicken and sauce. It will only slightly wilt the spinach, so you'll be sure to get all the nutrients from this delicious green, including calcium, vitamins A, C and K, beta-carotene and folate. This dish is practically wearing camouflage--your family will have no idea how healthy it is!

Pom-Pear Chicken over Spinach
(Serves 2)

1 pomegranate
two (4 oz.) boneless and skinless chicken thighs (all visible fat removed)
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
2/3 cup chicken stock
1 pear, peeled and chopped into small chunks
1 tablespoon seedless all-fruit raspberry jam
3 cups baby spinach leaves

1. Cut the pomegranate, not in half, but at the 1/3 mark (so one piece will be 2/3 of the fruit and the other piece will be 1/3). Take the 2/3 side and using a citrus juicer, juice the pomegranate until all the arils (seeds) have been drained of their juice. If necessary, strain the juice of pits or flesh and set aside. You should have approximately 1/3 to ½ cup juice. From the remaining piece, carefully spoon the arils into a small bowl: set aside.

2. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high and cook the chicken until browned on both sides and almost cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Meanwhile, divide spinach leaves between two serving plates and set aside.

3. Add the shallot to the pan and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add the vinegar, reserved pomegranate juice, chicken stock and stir to loosen any brown bits from bottom of pan. Cook for a few minutes until slightly reduced. Add the pear and jam and continue to cook until jam is melted and the liquid has reduced and thickened into a nice sauce.

4. Place a piece of chicken on top of each pile of spinach. Divide and spoon sauce evenly over chicken, allowing the sauce to spill onto the spinach. Over each serving, sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the reserved pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 274.5 calories, 29.3 g carbohydrate, 10.3 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 3.9 g fiber, 16.9 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tangerine, Pomegranate and Cashew Salad

Last year, my daughter introduced me to pomegranate. I was surprised by its strange, seed-filled center (called arils) and delighted with its burst of floral, sweet and tangy flavor when you bite down on them. Pomegranate is being hailed as a super fruit because it is filled with antioxidants and phytochemicals that help the body fight infection and disease, including cancer. It is also a good source of Vitamin C, B5 and potassium. If you've never tried this exotic fruit, it is a unique and tasty experience I highly recommend.

Another fruit coming into season and available in the stores right now are Clementines, which are small tangerines that are most often seedless. They are easy to peel and perfect for packing into lunch boxes for a quick, Vitamin C rich snack. The origin of this light salad came about because I had a half bag of Clementines in my refrigerator that needed to be eaten. The addition of fruit to a green salad brightens the flavor and brings a sweet taste that is most appealing to children (and adults) that claim they "hate" vegetables. The Asian-style dressing was a spur-of-the-moment creation, using what I had on hand, that resulted in a delicious, low-fat topping that perfectly complimented the combination of fruits, vegetables and nuts. This recipe is a keeper and one I'll turn to often this winter while Clementines are so abundant.

Tangerine, Pomegranate & Cashew Salad
(Makes 2 meal-size servings or 4 side salads)

6 cups salad mix (I use Fresh Express Fancy Greens) or lettuce
¼ cup grated carrot (if not included in mix)
1 celery stalk, chopped
¾ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons pomegranate arils (seeds from inside fruit), rinsed
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
2 tablespoons cashews, chopped
2 Clementine tangerines, peeled, seeded and sectioned

Dressing ingredients:
3 tablespoons tangerine juice (squeezed from 2 Clementines)
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seed oil
2 teaspoons almond butter (or tahini paste can be substituted, if a stronger sesame flavor is desired)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuce mix, carrot, mushrooms, pomegranate arils, cranberries, cashews and tangerine sections; set aside.

2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until well combined and emulsified. Pour over lettuce mixture and toss to coat.

Nutritional Information per meal size salad (½ of recipe): 218 calories, 27.2 g carbohydrate, 11.3 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 4.8 g fiber, 4.7 g protein.

Nutritional Information per side salad (¼ of recipe): 109 calories, 13.6 g carbohydrate, 5.6 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 2.4 g fiber, 2.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creamy French Vegetable Soup

Last year, my husband and I went to Europe to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. While in the Normandy region in France and after a long, emotional day visiting the beaches and cemetery at Normandy, we spent the night in the beautiful village of Bayeaux. There, we were served a delicious soup that was just lovely. I asked how it was prepared and was told it was simply leeks, potatoes and carrots that had been pureed into a smooth and creamy soup. Being mainly potatoes, I knew the carb count was too high to eat very often, but since returning home I've tried on several occasions to duplicate that soup in a way more fitting with my dietary restrictions. Since the main emphasis cannot be white potatoes, I've substituted other more glycemic-friendly vegetables to recreate a similar taste and texture. The small addition of white cannellini beans really did the trick to boost the fiber and protein and added a "starchiness," similar to potatoes, that seemed to be missing from my other attempts.

This is a great recipe for the whole family. For kids who won't let a vegetable pass their lips, the smooth texture hides the fact that this soup is 100% vegetables. At this time of year, it's fun to create a spider web of creamy topping by dragging a toothpick through a spiral of sour cream that has been piped on top! For added fun, toast the squash seeds and drop them in the web as a garnish. A nice side dish might be cheese toast where a jack-o-lantern's face as been cut out of the cheese slice before melting under the broiler. Get into the season by choosing some different and interesting squashes that are abundant in the stores and farm stands or substitute other favorite root vegetables to make this soup exactly to your liking.

Creamy French Vegetable Soup
(Makes 8 servings, about 2 cups each)

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 carrots, diced
2-3 leeks, (white & light green parts), sliced
5 stalks celery (including leaves), sliced
2 small red potatoes, diced
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
2 turnips, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1½ teaspoons herbs de Provence
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Topping ingredients:
½ cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons light garlic and herb Alouette cheese spread

1. Cut or sliced all vegetables in a small dice, uniform in size. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and add leeks, carrots and celery. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook stirring often until leeks are quite soft, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, squash, parsnips, turnips, garlic, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook for another 5-8 minutes, stirring often. Add broth, herbs, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes until vegetables are cooked through and soft. (Time will depend on size of diced vegetables.)

2. Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool for 40 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Add cannellini beans and stir. Puree soup with a handheld immersion blender or blend in small batches in a regular blender until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Mix together the topping ingredients and spoon into a plastic sandwich bag. Snip corner of bag and pipe the sour cream mixture in a spiral on top of the soup to serve. If desired, drag a toothpick through the spiral design to create a spider web effect.

Nutritional Information per serving (soup only): 161.2 calories, 31.2 g carbohydrate, 2.2 g total fat, trace saturated fat, 5.7 g fiber, 5.3 g protein.

Nutritional Information per 2 teaspoons topping: 23.7 calories, 1.6 g carbohydrate, 1.5 g total fat, 0 g fiber, 0.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Smarter Peach Muffin

The goal of my cooking and baking is to make substitutions or additions to recipes that will boost the nutrition while reducing the carbohydrates and sugars without compromising flavor or texture. These wholesome muffins are a fine example. I have taken a traditional peach muffin recipe, substituted almond flour and oats for most of the nutritionally-empty white flour and further boost the nutrition by sneaking in pureed squash. (Use your own leftover cooked butternut squash or substitute canned or pumpkin.) By doing this, I have created a delicious muffin bursting with fresh fruit flavor that is an excellent source of potassium, Vitamins E, C and A, beta-carotene, magnesium, Vitamins B2, B6 and niacin. You'll never get all of that from a traditional peach muffin made from white flour and sugar! While all of this is good to know, what really counts is the taste. Trust me, these are delicious, especially warm out of the oven on a frosty morning.

Smarter Peach Muffins
(Makes 12)

1 large ripe peach (or 1 cup thawed from frozen), chopped into small pieces
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¾ cup rolled oats
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Grated rind of 1 small orange or large lemon
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
¼ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup pureed butternut squash or pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Spray twelve muffin cups with non-stick vegetable spray; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Break up any lumps in the almond flour with a fork; set aside. Chop peach and set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg, citrus rind, brown sugar and Splenda with handheld or standing mixer until well combined. Add oil and vanilla and beat for 1-2 minutes until thick slightly increased in volume. Add squash puree and beat until combined.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Mix quickly with a wooden spoon, just until the dry mixture is moistened. Fold in chopped peaches. Using a ¼ cup measure or large cookie scoop, fill the muffin cups ¾ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 3 minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers may be frozen.

Nutritional Information per muffin: 151 calories, 16.3 g carbohydrates, 8.7 g total fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 2.2 g fiber, 3.6 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009


How does this recipe compare with a traditional peach muffin made with white flour? This recipe is packed with more fiber, vitamins and minerals (as mentioned above), plus it is 100 calories less and only half the carbohydrates! For comparison, the nutritional information for a traditional peach muffin is 258 calories, 36.6 g carbohydrate, 10.8 g total fat, 0.3 g fiber, and 3.5 g protein.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pork Tenderloin with Leek and Mushroom Pan Sauce

This is a wonderfully rich tasting, but surprisingly light main dish that is perfect for company. Recently, I discovered another low-carb pasta that is delicious and much lower in carbohydrates than any I've ever tried, plus it has more fiber than whole wheat. It isn't often I splurge and eat pasta, but the nutritional content of Carba-Nada might just permit an occasional pasta meal to fit into my diet again! (If you can't find Carba-Nada, use Dreamfield's brand which is found in most supermarkets in the pasta aisle.)

Pork tenderloin is a lean meat and, when pounded into medallions, is quick cooking while remaining moist and incredibly tender. The sauted vegetables in this dish add a wonderful flavor to the creamy pan sauce. The leeks have a very mild onion taste without being too bold or overpowering and I find mushrooms to always be the perfect companion for sour cream. This recipe would be equally delicious made with turkey cutlets, chicken or even sole. I hope you'll give this savory, saucy meal a try soon and let me know what you think.

Pork Tenderloin with Leek and Mushroom Pan Sauce
served with Low-Carb Pasta
(Makes 4 servings)

1 pound pork tenderloin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and light green portion, sliced
1½ cups mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
½ cup + chicken stock
3 tablespoons light sour cream
6 ounces reduced-carb pasta (I suggest Dreamfield's or Carba-Nada)

1. Slice pork tenderloin into eight 1¼" slices and place cut side down onto plastic wrap. Cover with another piece of plastic wrap and pound each slice until about ½" thickness. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

2. In a 1 cup measure, place 2 teaspoons Worcestershire, 2 tablespoons Marsala wine, and enough chicken stock to reach ¾ cup mark; stir and set side.

3. If your panko is not finely ground, place it in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add chopped parsley, salt and pepper to season breadcrumbs. Lightly dredge pork tenderloin medallions in seasoned panko crumbs; set aside.

4. Boil water for pasta and prepare as directed on package. (If using Carba-Nada brand, it takes about 5 minutes, so add pasta to boiling water after pork medallions are browned and you are preparing pan sauce.)

5. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pork medallions about 3-4 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Remove to serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

6. Add leeks, mushrooms and a small amount of the chicken stock mixture to deglaze the bottom of the pan, stirring to loosen any brown bits from bottom of skillet. Saute leeks and mushrooms until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle vegetables with 2 teaspoons of flour and cook for another minute. Add remaining chicken stock mixture to pan and stir to combine. Cook until bubbly and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add light sour cream to sauce and stir until smooth and creamy.

7. Divide pasta equally among four serving plates. Top each with two pork medallions. Divide and spoon mushroom sauce equally over each.

Nutritional Information per serving with low-carb pasta: 369.7 calories, 33.1 g carbohydrate, 11.8 g total fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 5.3 g fiber, 32.3 g protein.

Nutritional Information per serving of meat and sauce (no pasta): 264.7 calories, 15.1 g carbohydrate, 11 g total fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 0.8 g fiber, 23.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cherry Chocolate Cream Torte

My husband says, "It's not dessert, if it's not chocolate!" Personally, I like fruit flavors best but, occasionally, I'll make a special dessert for him and find myself being swayed by his conviction because chocolate is so rich, decadent and utterly delicious. No wonder cocoa was once used as currency and was reserved only for royalty. There is something about the creamy, smooth texture that satisfies like nothing else in the world!

This cake is very quick to prepare, taking only minutes to bake and cool. I was able to whip up this spectacular dessert in less than 1 hour from start to finish. Essentially, it is a thin chocolate angel food cake with four layers of creamy, gooey goodness! The success to whipping egg whites is to allow your eggs to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes and be certain to use a very clean bowl and beaters, then the magic just happens. It's easy, so don't be afraid to give this fabulous recipe a try. The chocoholic in your family will love you for it.

Cherry Chocolate Cream Torte
(Makes 10 servings)

Cake Ingredients:
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon chocolate extract (or 1 teaspoon strong cold coffee)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
½ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend), divided

Filling Ingredients:
1¼ cups skim milk, cold
2 oz. mascarpone cheese (can be purchased in specialty cheese section of grocery)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pkg. sugar-free, fat-free instant chocolate pudding (the size that makes 4 servings)
1½ cups canned lite cherry pie filling (I use Lucky Leaf brand)
2 tablespoons chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Line a 15" x 10" jellyroll pan with parchment paper. (Batter will not spread, so any baking sheet with low sides will do. If yours is larger than recommended pan size, fold edges of parchment paper to create the proper size space for batter.)

2. In a small bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Stir with a fork, breaking up any clumps in the mixture or sift through a fine sieve; set aside.

3. Separate eggs by placing the yolks into a small mixing bowl and whites into a clean, dry large mixing bowl. Set yolks aside. Using clean beaters, beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, about 1-2 minutes. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons Splenda and continue beating until stiff peaks form; set aside.

4. Add chocolate extract to yolks and beat with a handheld or standing mixer at high speed for 4-5 minutes until thick and yellow. Gradually add 1 tablespoon sugar and 6 tablespoons Splenda to yolk mixture and continue beating until sugars are dissolved.

5. With a rubber spatula, take about 1/5 of egg whites and stir into yolk mixture to lighten. Pour ½ of yolk mixture into egg whites and gently fold to incorporate. Repeat with remaining yolk mixture until fully incorporated, being careful not to deflate egg whites. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold until just blended and cocoa is evenly distributed.

6. Quickly pour into prepared pan and spread to create an even layer. Bake in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and allow the cake to cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then move to wire rack and remove parchment paper from bottom.

7. Meanwhile make filling: Place milk, mascarpone cheese, cocoa powder, Splenda and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl and beat with a wire whisk until cheese and cocoa powder are blended into the milk. Add the entire package of pudding mix into the milk mixture and beat until well blended and smooth, about 2 minutes. Place in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, until thick and set.

8. Cut cake in half, and then cut each piece in half again to create four equal slices. Be certain that cake is cooled completely before proceeding. To assemble, place one slice of cake on a serving platter. Spread 1/3 cup of cherry filling on top, breaking up cherries to more easily distribute them. Top with 1/3 of the thickened pudding mixture and spread to edges. Place second layer of cake on top of pudding and repeat with 1/3 cup cherry filling and half of the remaining pudding. Repeat procedure with third layer, 1/3 cup cherry filling and the remaining pudding. Top with final cake slice and dollop ½ cup of cherry filling evenly over top of cake and gently spread to cover. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving (1/10th of cake, not including shaved chocolate garnish): 145.6 calories, 17.8 g carbohydrate, 5.8 g total fat, 2.3 g saturated fat, 1.6 g fiber, 5.8 g protein.

Original Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009