Sunday, January 31, 2010

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies with Cinnamon Cream Filling

It is freezing cold in Maine and, although the calendar still says January, I'm beginning to suffer from cabin fever. That's not good news, because I have many months of winter to endure before the thaw in April. To combat this restlessness, my husband and I took a drive down the coast yesterday to experience the brilliant sunshine, even though the temperature was 12-degrees outside! During our adventure, we stopped in York at the headquarters of Stonewall Kitchen, a gourmet food company that makes a wide range of unique products. This delicious recipe was inspired by one of their baking mixes that happened to catch my eye. Unfortunately, diabetes makes a traditionally prepared carrot cake or whoopie pie out of my reach, so I came up with my own recipe using an alternative flour to bring the carbs down to a reasonable 13 grams per serving and the taste is amazing!

Whoopie Pies are considered a New England phenomenon, although they are increasingly found across the country these days. Normally, they are chocolate cookies filled with a vanilla cream, but creative bakers are coming up with a variety of flavors to rival the traditional chocolate. I wouldn't deem this recipe a serving of vegetables, but it does include sweet, fresh grated carrots in a soft, cake-like cookie. Along with the creamy, cinnamon filling, this whoopie pie tastes like a delicious, light carrot cake. They were fun to make and eat...maybe being stuck inside isn't so bad!

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies with Cinnamon Cream Filling
(Makes 32 cookies or 16 whoopie pies)

1½ cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
¼ cup sugar
½ cup canola oil
1/3 cup light sour cream
¾ cup Splenda granular
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon butter flavor extract
1 cup grated carrot

Filling Ingredients:
½ cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup almond milk (original or unsweetened)
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons fat-free, sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix (dry powder)

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet or spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl and using a handheld or standing mixer, beat the eggs until light in color and increased in volume. Add sugar and continue beating until well combined. Slowly add the canola oil and beat on high for 1 minute. Add the sour cream, Splenda, and extracts and beat until well incorporated, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl at least once. Reduce speed and add the dry ingredients ¼ cup at a time until well combined, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the grated carrot.

4. Using a small cookie scoop or rounded tablespoon, drop batter onto prepared cookie sheet 2 inches apart (batter will spread during baking). Bake for 10-11 minutes until cookie springs back when lightly touched or when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cookies will not brown much, so watch carefully and do not over bake. Remove from cookie sheet onto a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

5. To make cream filling, place mascarpone cheese in a large mixing bowl and add almond milk. Beat with a handheld or standing mixer on high until well combined and mixture is light and fluffy (it will resemble whipped cream). Add Splenda, vanilla, and cinnamon and continue to beat until incorporated. Add the 2 tablespoons of vanilla instant pudding powder and beat well. Place in refrigerator for 5 minutes to set cream.

6. To assemble whoopie pies, pair two cookies by size and place 1 slightly rounded tablespoon of cinnamon cream filling on the flat side of one cookie, top with second cookie and press gently. Repeat with remaining cookies. If not serving immediately, wrap each whoopie pie in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.

Nutritional Information per whoopie pie: 209 calories, 13.1 g carbohydrate, 16 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 1.3 g fiber, 4.3 g protein.

Nutritional Information per cookie (no filling): 86.2 calories, 5.9 g carbohydrate, 6.4 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 0.6 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Nutritional Information per 1 tablespoon filling (recipe makes 20 tablespoons): 29.3 calories, 1 g carbohydrate, 2.4 g total fat, 1.4 g saturated fat, 0 g fiber, 0.4 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this compare with a whoopie pie made with a traditional recipe? This recipe is considerably less in fat and carbohydrates and has only half the calories! For comparison, the nutritional information for a Pumpkin Whoopie Pie, which is similar in flavor to my carrot recipe, is an alarming 424 calories, 55.6 g carbohydrate, 21.7 g total fat, 8 g saturated fat, 1.5 g fiber, 3.4 g protein.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Multi-Use Spicy Turkey Tomato Sauce

My husband doesn't mind helping in the kitchen and enjoys cooking. One night, several weeks ago during the Christmas rush, I was so busy with my home-based business that I couldn't get away to make the spaghetti dinner I had planned. Happily, my husband stepped in and created the best, spiciest pasta sauce I've ever had. When I asked how he did it, he said he opened the spice cabinet and started adding whatever sounded good. His instincts were right on and the final result was a huge hit with my family. Since that evening, he's made his now-famous sauce a couple of times and tonight I stood by and took notes so I could share his fantastic recipe with you.

This is more than just pasta sauce with a kick. We've had it as Sloppy Joe's, over baked potatoes, and once as the base for a taco salad for lunch the next day! Because we start with lean ground turkey breast, it is extremely low in fat when compared with regular meat sauce made from beef. Normally, I find ground turkey to be bland or dry, but not in this recipe! So, open up your spice cabinet and be adventurous.

Multi-Use Spicy Turkey Tomato Sauce
(Makes 4 generous servings)

1 pound ground breast of turkey (99% fat free)
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano leaves, dried
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chives, dried
1 tablespoon parsley flakes, dried
½ teaspoon basil, dried
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon garlic & black pepper
¼ cup chopped onions (or 1½ tablespoons dried chopped onion)
1/3 cup red wine
26 ounce jar spaghetti sauce (Marinara)

1. Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Add ground turkey and spices. Break up and stir often until meat is starting to brown. Add onions and continue cooking until meat is well browned. (If using dried onion, wait until marinara sauce has been added in next step.)

2. Add wine to deglaze pan and allow to simmer until almost completely evaporated. Add spaghetti sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 15-20 minutes.

Serving Suggestions (extras not included in nutritional information below): Serve sauce over pasta, cooked spaghetti squash or baked potato. It may be served on toasted hamburger buns as a Sloppy Joe. Add a can of drained and rinsed red kidney beans and it’s great as a topping on a taco salad.

Nutritional Information per serving of meat sauce (¼ of recipe): 262 calories, 20.4 g carbohydrate, 5.1 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 5.2 g fiber, 28.6 g protein.

Original recipe by Martin Sheehan, copyright 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Warm Chicken & Bacon Cabbage Salad

This main dish salad is quick to make and simply delicious! It came about because I had a leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge and a head of Napa cabbage. If you've never tried Napa cabbage (also known as Chinese cabbage), please let me introduce you to this crunchy, yet tender, mild, wonderful vegetable! It is different from it's green or red cousin, without their pungent flavor or tough, leathery leaves. It a good source of vitamin C and makes a wonderful substitute for lettuce anytime.

Another time-saving ingredient in this recipe is ready-cooked bacon. It lends this salad it's delicious, smoky flavor without all the fat because it's already been cooked and drained. Simply chop, saute it for a few minutes in a hot pan and it's ready to go! (If you prefer, you may substitute turkey bacon, but it will have to cook a bit longer until crisp.) Another nice thing about this salad is that you can make the crunchy noodle topping and dressing ahead of time, so final preparation can be reduced to 15 minutes or less for when you want a healthy meal FAST!

Warm Chicken & Bacon Cabbage Salad
(Serves 4)

Crunchy Topping Ingredients:
1 package ramen noodles (any flavor)
3 tablespoons slivered almonds

Dressing Ingredients:
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup honey mustard
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Salad Ingredients:
1 medium head Chinese or Napa Cabbage, quartered and thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
3 green onions, sliced (white and green parts separated)
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
4 slices pre-cooked bacon, chopped
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into small pieces or shredded
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Remove the ramen noodles from the package and discard flavor packet. Break noodle block into several pieces and place in a sealed plastic bag. Using the handle of a knife, gently pound until crushed into small pieces. Spread broken noodles onto a cookie sheet and toss with almonds. Bake for about 12 minutes, stirring once, until golden in color. Place toasted noodles into a small bowl to cool completely. (NOTE: For this salad, you will only need ½ of this mixture, so reserve the remaining portion in an airtight container to top future salads.)

2. While the noodles are toasting in oven, mix together the dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whip with a wire whisk; set aside.

3. Place the sliced cabbage, shredded carrot and green part of onions into a large bowl and toss to combine; set aside.

4. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat (do not add oil to the pan). Place sliced mushrooms into the heated pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture has sweated out of them and evaporated from the pan. As soon as they begin to brown, add the bacon and white part of onion. Saute until bacon has rendered a small amount of fat and has begun to crisp. Add cooked chicken and stir to combine. Cook only until chicken is heated through. Add dressing and stir ingredients together. Continue stirring until dressing is hot and bubbly. Pour mixture over cabbage and toss to combine ingredients. Just before serving, add ½ of the toasted noodle and almond mixture into the warm salad and toss. Top with freshly ground pepper and serve. (If not eating entire salad in one sitting, remove only the amount to be eaten and add 2 tablespoons per serving of the noodle mixture to each portion. Remaining salad can be refrigerated and eaten as a cold slaw within 1-2 days, adding the toasted noodle mixture just before serving.)

Nutritional Information per serving: 290 calories, 27.1 g carbohydrate, 10.6 g total fat, 3.2 g saturated fat, 5.2 g fiber, 20.1 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Salmon & Creamed Spinach with Balsamic Reduction

There is a wonderful restaurant that is a favorite of my husband and mine called 21 Milk Street. It's hidden away, but worth seeking out if you're ever visiting downtown Portland, Maine. Every time I go, I get the same dish because it is so incredibly delicious! I really have no idea how they make it but, through experimentation, I have created my own version that satisfies my craving perfectly.

As elegant as this dish appears on the plate, it is very quick and easy. Also, the creamed spinach portion of this recipe is wonderful by itself as a vegetable side dish. The sauce is a simple balsamic reduction that simmers along side in a small saucepan while the rest of the meal is prepared. If you've never had balsamic reduction, you must give this a try. In this recipe, I've cut the vinegar by half with stock for a slightly smoother taste. I love this sauce and can eat it alone by the spoonful; it is so tangy and sweet. This is the perfect Valentine's Day dinner that will impress your family or special someone...but keep the secret in your vault of how truly simple it is to make!

Salmon & Creamed Spinach with Balsamic Reduction
(Makes 2 servings)

¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive or canola oil
¼ medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
2 center-cut salmon fillets (about 5 oz. each)
1 teaspoon grapeseed or canola oil

1. In a small saucepan, stir together the stock and vinegar. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. The mixture will thicken slightly and coat a spoon. Simmering time is approximately 12-15 minutes; do not reduce too much or the sauce will be too thick.

2. While the vinegar mixture is simmering, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Saute until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Add thawed spinach, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until spinach is cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and stir until melted and spinach is creamy. Remove from heat while you prepare the salmon.

3. Heat a heavy skillet over medium to high heat (I use a cast-iron skillet). Season salmon fillets with salt & pepper and rub the grapeseed or canola oil on each side. When skillet is very hot, place the oiled salmon in the pan and do not disturb for at least 2 minutes until a brown crust has formed. Turn salmon and sear other side for at least two minutes. Turn again and complete cooking to desired doneness. (If you like your salmon on the rare side, the 2 minutes per side should be fine. I like mine cooked through to flaky and no longer pink in center, which takes another 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook, or fish will be dry.)

4. Briefly reheat creamed spinach over medium heat. Divide equally between two serving plates. Top mound of spinach with a salmon fillet and spoon ½ of the balsamic reduction over fish and drizzle around plate.

Nutritional Information per serving (½ recipe) of spinach, salmon and sauce: 413.5 calories, 11.5 g carbohydrate, 10 g total fat, 7.5 g saturated fat, 2 g fiber, 45.6 g protein.

Nutritional Information per serving of creamed spinach only: 119 calories, 7.5 g carbohydrate, 6 g total fat, 3.7 g saturated fat, 2 g fiber, 4.5 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010
Inspired by my favorite dish at 21 Milk Street Restaurant, Portland, ME

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Zucchini & Bean Bake with Chicken Sausage

I consider beans to be the perfect food. They're a complex carbohydrate with protein and are an excellent source of fiber. A dilemma can be how to serve them creatively and often without feeling like you're eating only beans all the time. (Also, some might point out that the resulting digestive disturbance is a side effect they're not willing to deal with, but I suggest Beano or Gas-X which usually solves that problem.) Canned beans are a staple in my cabinet and I toss them on salads or in soups almost on a daily basis. Often, I include them in main dish recipes even if they aren't meant to be the main attraction, such as in this delicious vegetable dish.

Another convenience food that's quick and easy to prepare are the fully cooked chicken and turkey sausages available in the meat department of your grocery. There are so many wonderful varieties, including some with spinach or sun-dried tomatoes, that are excellent. You may certainly cook this recipe without the sausage for a meat-free, vegetarian option, but the sausage does add a nice spicy flavor and more protein for a complete meal.

Zucchini & Bean Bake with Chicken Sausage
(Makes 4 servings)

½ large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchini, sliced in half moons
1 (14.5 oz.) canned diced tomatoes, drained
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
1½ cups canned beans (your favorite), drained and rinsed
1½ teaspoons dried basil
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces low moisture, part skim mozzarella, cut into small cubes
4 chicken sausage links (fully cooked), any variety of your choice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add chopped onion, a pinch of salt and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, for another 1-2 minutes. Add zucchini, tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, herbs and cook until just heated through, stirring to distribute ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Add cubed mozzarella and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to an oven-proof casserole dish. Pierce each sausage with a knife in several places and arrange on top of vegetable and bean mixture. Place dish in oven and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, until sausage is heated through and cheese is bubbly. If more color is desired, place under broiler for a few minutes to brown sausage. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving with one sausage link: 391 calories, 27 g carbohydrate, 18 g total fat, 5.8 g saturated fat, 8 g fiber, 29.5 g protein.

Vegetarian Option: Nutritional Information per serving of Zucchini Bake only, no sausage: 201 calories, 26 g carbohydrate, 6 g total fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 8 g fiber, 12.5 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Glazed Meyer Lemon Cookies

I'm back from a fun and restful vacation with my family in Oklahoma. On the drive home from the Boston airport, I stopped at Trader Joe's and loaded up with lots of delicious, healthy foods. (I look forward to the day when TJ's comes to Maine but, until then, Boston is the closest location.) I was happy to see one of my favorite citrus fruits returning to the produce bins: meyer lemons! It is believed that meyer lemons are a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges, and so are sweeter than an ordinary lemon. I enjoy making meyer lemonade and homemade pudding, both are a nice variation to delicious recipes that can be found in my blog archive.

Today's creation is a wonderful, sugar-glazed cookie that bursts with the unique flavor of the meyer lemon. It's a light and refreshing dessert or snack that is especially delicious with a hot cup of tea in the afternoon. All I had to do was close my eyes to the falling snow outside my bay window and imagine the sunshine and warmth that went into the formation of this marvelous, tangy fruit. So, find yourself a few meyer lemons at your local grocery, Whole Foods or (if your lucky enough to have one nearby) a Trader Joe's and mix up a batch of sunshine!

Glazed Meyer Lemon Cookies
(Makes 26 cookies)

1 cup almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Zest from 2 meyer lemons (minus 1 teaspoon reserved for glaze)
4 tablespoons butter, softened (½ stick)
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed meyer lemon juice

Glaze Ingredients:
1 teaspoon meyer lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed meyer lemon juice
1/3 cup powdered sugar

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

2. In a small mixing bowl, mix together flours, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest and salt; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together granulated sugar and butter with handheld or standing mixer until light and fluffy. Add canola oil and Splenda and beat until well incorporated and thickened slightly. Add egg, lemon extract and 2 tablespoons meyer lemon juice and beat until well blended.

4. With a wooden spoon, stir in dry ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoon approximately 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten slightly and bake until set, about 8-10 minutes. Cookies will not brown, except around edges, so watch carefully and do not overbake. Immediately remove from cookie sheet onto wire rack to cool.

5. Stir together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Spread ¼ teaspoon glaze on the top of each cookie and allow to set. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per cookie with glaze: 92 calories, 8.9 g carbohydrates, 5.8 g total fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 1.5 g fiber, 1.8 g protein.

Nutritional Information per cookie without glaze: 85.6 calories, 7.1 g carbohydrates, 5.8 g total fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 1.5 g fiber, 1.8 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Poached Fish in Wine with Caramelized Onions & Grapefruit

Every year, my husband's parents treat us with a huge box of the best ruby red grapefruit I've ever tasted. It is as sweet as candy and most evenings my husband will peel and section one for us to share. It is a light and refreshing dessert that helps to bring a little of the long forgotten sunshine to the darkest days of our Maine winter.

This is the season for buying the juiciest and sweetest grapefruit of the year, so stock up. Store in a cool, dry place (we keep ours in a part of our basement that gets only a little heat but won't freeze), and they will last for a couple of weeks. Red grapefruit is sweeter than the white variety and is packed with vitamin C and fiber. Besides just peeling and eating for breakfast or juicing, most people can't think of another way to eat grapefruit. It can be difficult to incorporate it into a hot recipe because, once heated, it will fall apart easily. The trick is to add it during the last minutes of cooking or, as suggested in this recipe, sprinkle sections with brown sugar or honey and place under a broiler. It is simply delicious prepared in this way!

Poached Fish in Wine with Caramelized Onions & Grapefruit
(Makes 2 servings)

8 ounces mild white fish (tilapia, halibut or haddock)
½ medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
Pinch of salt
¼ cup sweet wine or sherry
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon red or white wine vinegar
1 cup grapefruit sections
2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar

1. Choose an oven-proof skillet just large enough for the fish to be side by side in the pan. (I used an 8-inch cast iron skillet.) Heat olive oil in pan and add chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, lightly browned and caramelized, about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, mix together the wine, juice, stock and vinegar in a measuring cup and stir to combine; set aside. When the onions are soft, remove and add them to the wine mixture. Turn up heat to medium and place the fish into the skillet and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook briefly for 1-2 minutes, turn fish and add poaching liquid to pan and bring to a boil. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Add grapefruit sections to cover fish and spoon the cooking liquid over sections. Drizzle honey or brown sugar over the grapefruit and place skillet in the oven under a broiler until honey or sugar is bubbly and starting to brown. Divide fish, sauce and grapefruit equally between two dinner plates and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 229.5 calories, 21 g carbohydrate, 4.2 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1.5 g fiber, 23.7 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010