Monday, February 22, 2010

Sugar-free Banana Cookie Cream Pie

I went over to visit my daughter at her college this past weekend and we had a wonderful time together. She's a creative cook and we enjoyed talking recipes while she whipped up an incredible spinach and goat cheese pizza for our lunch. She's graciously posted the recipe on her food blog, if you want to give it a try: http://whaticooked-ixipixi.blogspot.com/2010/02/pesto-pizza-with-goats-cheese.html Sometime later, our conversation turned to banana pudding when I complained about how her Dad will buy lots of bananas and not eat them, so I end up scrambling around having to use them in recipes or fruit smoothies before they get too ripe. I returned home to a speckled, ripe banana on the counter and knew exactly what to make!

This recipe is even faster and easier to make than cookies because you don't have to fiddle with measuring out teaspoons of dough and having to watch several batches, you just spread it in a pie tin and bake! The "pie crust" is nothing more than a big, delicious cookie filled with a thick, banana cream pudding. The taste will remind you of the famous banana pudding made with Nilla wafers, but this sugar-free recipe only has 9.1 grams of net carbohydrate per serving! So, if you're in need of some southern comfort food without the guilt, enjoy a slice today.

Banana Cookie Cream Pie
(Makes 10 servings)

½ cup almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened (¼ stick)
1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
1 large egg
1/3 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 small)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients:
2 oz. mascarpone cheese (¼ cup)
¾ cup skim or 1% milk
1 tablespoon Splenda granular
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
one 1.4 oz. pkg. sugar-free, fat-free instant banana cream pudding mix

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Spray a pie tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

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

3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, canola oil and Splenda with handheld or standing mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well incorporated and thickened slightly. Add mashed banana and vanilla extract and beat until well blended.

4. Add dry ingredients ¼ cup at a time, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Using a rubber spatula, spread dough evenly in the prepared pie tin along bottom and sides. Bake until set and golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Immediately remove from oven and onto wire rack to cool.

5. When crust is cool, combine the mascarpone cheese, milk, Splenda and vanilla extract in a medium mixing bowl with a wire whisk or mixer. Add the pudding mix and whip until well combined and thickened. Spread evenly over the cookie crust and refrigerate until set, at least 20 minutes. Optional: Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or light whipped topping (not included in nutritional information below).

Nutritional Information per serving: 143.4 calories, 10.5 g carbohydrates, 9.6 g total fat, 3.4 g saturated fat, 1.4 g fiber, 3.5 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Poached Salmon in an Herbed Orange Sauce

I find it exciting to sample new fruits and vegetables. The other day in my supermarket, they were offering a different type of orange called a Cara Cara Navel, so I had to give it a try. It's flesh is dark, almost as dark as a Blood Orange, and its juice has a slight tang to it. It's really quite lovely and there are no seeds! Since citrus of any kind pairs beautifully with salmon, I created this elegant, delicious recipe using my delightful new discovery. It may look fancy, but this meal is extremely quick and easy to prepare, although do remember to marinate the salmon for at least an hour before to obtain the best and most flavorful results.

Also, I'd like to point out, that this would be perfectly delicious made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts but, if you're like me and looking for more ways to bring Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, stick with the salmon.

Poached Salmon in an Herbed Orange Sauce
(Makes 2 servings)

1 large or 2 smaller oranges (navel, blood orange or Cara cara navel)
2 center-cut salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each (or chicken, if you prefer)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Herb rub (I used a Nantucket blend)*
¾ cup fish or chicken stock
1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese

1. Zest one orange and set aside. Cut 4 thin slices off one end of the orange and reserve for a garnish later. Squeeze the juice from the remaining orange(s); set aside. (You'll need at least 5 tablespoons of juice.)

2. Take the herb rub and sprinkle over both sides of the salmon fillets. Press with your hand until it is well adhered. Place salmon fillets in a zip-lock plastic bag. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the olive oil, 2 tablespoons orange juice and half of the orange zest. Pour into the plastic bag and seal, trying to remove as much air as possible. Massage the bag until the oil mixture coats the salmon well. Place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 1 hour. Before poaching, allow salmon to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

3. Mix together 3 tablespoons orange juice and stock. Pour into a small skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove salmon from marinade; discard marinade. Place fillets into the simmering liquid and cover. Poach for about 6-8 minutes or until salmon is flaky and no longer pink in the center (do not overcook). Remove salmon to a dish and cover with foil to keep warm.

4. If necessary for a smooth sauce, strain poaching liquid and return to pan. Remove cover from skillet and raise heat to high. Boil poaching liquid until reduced by half (takes about 5-10 minutes). Whisk in the mascarpone cheese and stir until melted. Continue reducing liquid until there's about 1/3 cup remaining and it has thickened slightly. Add remaining orange zest and stir. Remove from heat.

5. To serve, arrange two orange slices on plate, top with a salmon fillet and pour half of sauce over the fish. Repeat with remaining salmon and serve immediately.

*The herb blend I used was a mixture of dried rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, black pepper, onion powder, ginger, and lemon peel. You can easily make your own, if you do not have a purchased blend.

Nutritional Information per serving: 366 calories, 10 g carbohydrate, 19 g total fat, 4.9 g saturated fat, 1.3 g fiber, 43.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lemon Pasta Primavera

I am reading a book in which the author moved to Rome to live (and eat) after an agonizing divorce. As she strolls the winding streets of this magnificent city, dining in one tucked away restaurant after another, I am reminded of my two visits to Italy and all the wonderful food. The saying is, "You can't get a bad meal in Rome," and it's true! My husband, daughter and I found a wonderful little place not far from the Pantheon where my daughter ordered the most delicious Lemon Spaghetti. After one taste, I couldn't stop my fork from wandering over into her plate for more and more, until I had eaten at least half of her dinner. (Don't worry, I shared my Carbonara with her, so she didn't starve.) On a return trip to Rome a few years later, we found that restaurant again and I ordered my own plate of this never-to-be-forgotten pasta and savored every tangy mouthful.

Reading this book had me dreaming of that unique pasta dish again, so I had to think of a way to fit it into my food plan. Considering I rarely eat pasta anymore and will never sit down to a heaping plate of it again (until I return to Rome), I decided that a variety of fresh sauted vegetables and only a little pasta might just satisfy my craving. It worked! This makeover recipe has the exact, same tangy flavor that so captivated my senses in Rome and I feel good knowing it is made with healthier ingredients. You might also enjoy adding shrimp along with the vegetables to boost the protein. (Sadly, my husband is allergic to shellfish, so I had to leave it out.) The small amount of pasta interspersed among the beautiful plate of spring vegetables is just enough to make me think I'm eating the real deal! All I have to do is close my eyes and I'm back in Italy again.

Just an aside: If you're looking for a meatless meal this Lenten season, give this one a try. But I must warn you, if suffering and sacrifice is your main objective, then maybe save this recipe for another day because you will not feel deprived in any way while eating this!

Lemon Pasta Primavera
(Makes 4 servings)

Zest and juice of 2 lemons
3½ tablespoons + ½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2½ ounces dry linguini or spaghetti noodles (I suggest Dreamfield's or Carba-Nada)
4 ounces sliced white mushrooms
½ small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 small to medium yellow summer squash, cut into half-moons
1 small to medium zucchini, cut into half-moons
½ pound asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1½ cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. In a small bowl, mix together 3½ tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice; set aside. Prepare pasta according to package directions until just al dente.

2. Meanwhile, saute mushrooms in a large, dry, non-stick skillet until moisture has been released and evaporated. Add sliced onion, ½ teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt to pan. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until onion is soft. Add broccoli, squashes, asparagus and garlic to pan and saute until vegetables are tender crisp. Add basil, olive oil & lemon mixture to pan and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Drain pasta and stir into vegetable mixture. Add parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving (made with Dreamfield's pasta): 287.7 calories, 24.7 g carbohydrate, 18.7 g total fat, 3.7 g saturated fat, 5.7 g fiber, 12.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this compare with traditional Lemon Spaghetti made from an authentic Italian recipe? The traditional recipe is loaded with saturated fat and carbs, without the benefit of vitamins and minerals from vegetables because a traditional recipe doesn't include any vegetables. Although its tart, lemony flavor may taste "light," do not be deceived. The nutritional information per serving of a traditionally prepared Lemon Spaghetti is an alarming 670 calories, 86 g carbohydrate, 27.2 g total fat, 13.5 g saturated fat, 4.6 g fiber, 25.5 g protein.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Quick Lemon Ricotta Tart

I love the seriously tart flavor of lemon or lime curd, but each tablespoon is 11 grams of carbohydrate, all of which are sugar. Here is an excellent way to satisfy my craving for this sweet, delectable spread and receive some good nutrition at the same time!

Fat-free ricotta is a smooth, rather bland, cream cheese that delivers 200 mg of calcium with only 45 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving. Combined with lemon zest and lemon curd, it becomes a lightly sweetened, creamy spread. Try it with other citrus flavors, such as lime or orange for variety. This simple and quick "tart" makes a wonderful snack or serve it alongside a salad for lunch. You'll enjoy it's tangy flavor so much that I guarantee it will brighten up your gray, cold, February day, too.

Quick Lemon Ricotta Tart
(Makes 4 servings)

2 Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats or Arnold’s Sandwich Thins (7 Grain or Oatmeal)
2 teaspoons 0% trans fat light buttery spread (such as Smart Balance Light)
4 tablespoons Splenda granular, divided
1/8 teaspoon ground mace (or nutmeg)
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons lemon curd*
Zest from one lemon (about 2 teaspoons)*
¼ teaspoon lemon extract*

1. In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon Splenda with the 1/8 teaspoon ground mace; set aside.

2. Split apart the bread thins and spread each flat side with ½ teaspoon light buttery spread to edges. Sprinkle with the Splenda-mace mixture and toast in a toaster oven or oven preheated to 350-degrees until crisp and golden. Remove from oven and cool completely.

3. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, lemon curd, lemon zest, lemon extract and 3 tablespoons Splenda. Spread ¼ cup of ricotta mixture on each toasted bread round and serve immediately.

*This recipe is equally delicious if you substitute lime curd or orange marmalade and flavor with the zest of those fruits.

Nutritional Information per serving: 139.5 calories, 21.5 g carbohydrate, 1.4 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2.6 g fiber, 8 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cream-Filled Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Nothing says love like chocolate, at least that's my husband's motto. For Valentine's Day, I always make him a special dessert which must include chocolate in some form. This year, I went all the way! These dark chocolate devil's food cakes are filled with a delicious chocolate cream and topped with velvety, rich chocolate ganache. Ganache is typically a mixture of melted chocolate and heavy cream but, to lower the saturated fat, I used almond milk in place of the cream (or substitute skim milk, if you prefer.) Traditional devil's food cake recipes call for 4 ounces of sweet baker's chocolate, which is loaded with 6 to 9 grams of saturated fat per ounce! Instead, I used a combination of 1 ounce of baker's chocolate and ½ cup cocoa powder, which reduced the saturated fat by two-thirds. For extra dark chocolate cake, the way my husband likes it, try using Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder which has zero saturated fat, but provides loads of dark chocolate flavor.

The really fun surprise of this recipe is the cream filling INSIDE the cakes! It's easy to do with a pastry bag and a round cake decorating tip. Don't worry if you don't have one because you can still make these chocolate marvels by cutting an inverted cone out of the top, spoon the filling in and replacing the cake on top. It will resemble a "top hat" and taste just as delicious! Have a happy, chocolate Valentine's Day!

Cream-Filled Triple Chocolate Cupcakes
(Makes 16 servings)

Cake Ingredients:
¾ cup almond milk
1 oz. unsweetened or bittersweet baking chocolate (1 square), chopped
1¼ cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs + 1 egg white
¾ teaspoon instant coffee granules (decaf or regular)
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons canola oil
One 2.5 oz. container of baby food prune puree (about 3 tablespoons)
1 cup Splenda granular
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

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

Chocolate Ganache Topping Ingredients:
1/3 cup almond milk
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Prepare muffin tin by placing a paper liner in each cup or spray with non-stick cooking spray; set aside. In a small saucepan, heat ¾ cup almond milk over medium-low heat to scalding or microwave on high for 60-90 seconds. Remove from heat and add the roughly chopped unsweetened baking chocolate square and instant coffee granules; stir until melted and smooth.

2. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flours, ½ cup cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl and using a handheld or standing mixer, beat the eggs and egg white 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 prune puree, Splenda and vanilla extract. Beat until well incorporated, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl at least once. Alternate adding the dry ingredients ½ cup at a time and the hot milk and chocolate mixture until well combined, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally.

3. Spoon into prepared muffin cups only until 2/3 full (do not overfill). Bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 4 minutes. Remove a wire rack and cool cakes completely before filling.

4. Meanwhile make cream filling by first melting the 1½ tablespoons cocoa powder in almond milk over low heat or in the microwave for about 45-60 seconds on high. Stir to incorporate cocoa into milk. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. (If desired, place in refrigerator to hasten cooling.) Place mascarpone cheese in a large mixing bowl and add cooled almond milk mixture. 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, extract and continue to beat until incorporated. Add the 2 tablespoons of chocolate instant pudding powder and beat well. Place in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes to set. Stir before filling cupcakes.

5. To make chocolate ganache icing, heat milk in microwave for 45-60 seconds on high (or heat in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until beginning to boil). Add chocolate morsels and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth; set aside to cool. Mixture will thicken as it cools. To hasten cooling, refrigerate for 10-15 minutes until the consistency of very thick cream, stirring occasionally.

6. When cupcakes are completely cooled, fill a pastry bag with chocolate cream and fix a round decorating tip onto the end of the bag. Insert tip into the top of each cupcake and squeeze about 1 tablespoon of filling into each cake. (If you do not have any cake decorating tips, remove a cone of cake from the top of the cupcake with a small, serrated knife. Fill hole with 1 tablespoon of filling and replace cake on top. The cake will stick up and resemble a top hat.) Dip cupcakes to coat top or drizzle 2 teaspoons of chocolate ganache icing over the top of each cupcake. Allow chocolate ganache to cool and set. If there is any leftover chocolate cream filling, you may decorate the top of each cupcake with additional chocolate cream before serving. Store in refrigerator, but allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per cupcake with chocolate cream filling and ganache topping: 234.6 calories, 21.5 g carbohydrate, 15.9 g total fat, 4.1 g saturated fat, 2.7 g fiber, 5.3 g protein.

Nutritional Information per cupcake with only chocolate cream filling (no ganache topping): 198 calories, 16.4 g carbohydrate, 13.8 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 2.7 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Nutritional Information per 1 tablespoon chocolate cream (recipe makes about 20 tablespoons): 31.6 calories, 1.5 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g total fat, 1.4 g saturated fat, 0.2 g fiber, 0.6 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Navy Beans and Ham

Here is a recipe that brings back pleasant memories from my childhood. I remember spending the night at my grandmother Gaga's apartment (fondly called "the pink palace") where we would share a warm, comforting meal of her delicious navy beans and ham soup. This simple meal we often would have together because she was the kind of person that would make your favorite dish when she knew you were coming over for a visit. I always loved that about her! Although it's been a couple of decades since she past away, I can't help but think of Gaga every time I make this meal. I've changed her recipe a bit, using less sugar and making it much thicker than soup, but the taste satisfies my memory. I enjoy mine with a slice of homemade cornbread to soak up the wonderful, rich broth.

There is another story about this family favorite. My daughter was 3 or 4 years old and had always been satisfied with the meals placed before her. That particular night, it was her first experience with Gaga's navy beans with ham and, to our surprise, when she finished her bowl she held it up and asked for more. It was the first time she had ever asked for a second helping of any food. I agree, this delicious recipe deserves an encore! It is so good, you won't make it just once. Like for me, it may become one of your favorites, too!

Navy Beans and Ham
(Serves 8)

1 pound dried navy (small white beans) or great northern beans
½ tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon dried mustard
3 tablespoons sugar
1 whole onion
Leftover ham bone with some meat (or pieces of leftover ham)
½ tablespoon salt or to taste

1. Pick through and rinse dried beans. Place in a large mixing bowl and cover with cold water (at least 3 inches over top of beans) and soak overnight or for at least 4 hours until plump.

2. Drain and rinse beans and place in a large Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot with lid. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 15-20 minutes or until skins split and curl when you blow on them. Bring pot over to the sink, add baking soda and stir. Beans will bubble and release their gas. (Do this over the sink in case the liquid bubbles over the top of the pot.) Drain and rinse beans in a colander. Return beans to pot.

3. Preheat oven to 275-degrees. Add fresh water until beans are just covered. Add dried mustard and sugar; stir to combine. Add onion that has been peeled of outer papery skin, but leave whole so it will not fall apart while cooking. Add ham bone or ham pieces to pot and cover. Cook in oven for 2 hours.

4. Remove ham bone from beans and remove any meat and cut into bite-size pieces. Add ham to pot and add salt to taste. Test beans for doneness. If additional cooking is required, return to oven and continue cooking until beans are soft and mealy. Total cooking time is usually between 2-3 hours, but may differ depending on altitude and type of bean used. Before serving, remove onion and discard.

Nutritional Information per serving: 253 calories, 38.9 g carbohydrate, 3 g total fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 13.8 g fiber, 18.8 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010
Inspired by a recipe from the cooking notebooks of my grandmother, Grace Layman.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pink Lemonade Cake with Strawberry Cream

Valentine's Day is only a week away, so I turned my lemon cake "pink" for the occasion. The lightly sweetened cake and tart lemon filling (tinted with a few drops of optional food coloring) pairs beautifully with the rich, velvety strawberry cream frosting. Also, do you find yourself wanting to disguise your vegetables so the kids don't know they're eating them? What better place than to hide them in a delicious pastry! They will never know they're eating zucchini in every bite of this sweet treat.

The other thing I love about this cake is it's beautiful, pastel color. It was especially cold outside today and the combination of delicate fruit flavors in this spectacular dessert, along with it's spring-like appearance, just made me smile!

Pink Lemonade Cake with Strawberry Cream
(Makes 12 servings)

Lemon Filling Ingredients:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup cold water
1 egg yolk, beaten
¾ cup Splenda granular
Pinch salt
Zest from one small lemon (1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon butter
Juice from one small lemon (about 3 tablespoons or to taste)
3-4 drops of red food coloring (optional)

Cake Ingredients:
1¼ cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs
¼ cup sugar
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons light sour cream or buttermilk
¾ cup Splenda granular
2 teaspoons lemon extract
¾ cup finely grated zucchini, peeled of all green skin

Topping Ingredients:
2 tablespoons seedless, all-fruit strawberry jam
½ cup almond milk (original or unsweetened)
½ cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
1 tablespoon sugar-free strawberry syrup
2 tablespoons fat-free, sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix (dry powder)

1. To make filling, blend cornstarch, cold water, egg yolk, Splenda and pinch of salt in medium saucepan. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and beginning to boil. Remove from heat and add butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir until butter is melted. Allow to cool for 4 minutes, add food coloring if you desire a pink color and stir again. Pour into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to touch the surface of the pudding mixture so skin doesn’t form on top. Place in refrigerator until completely cooled.

2. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in lemon zest and 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 lemon extract. 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 zucchini.

4. Pour into an 8-inch round cake pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 28-32 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and continue cooling on a wire rack for at least one hour.

5. Meanwhile make cream topping by first melting strawberry jam in almond milk over low heat or in the microwave for about 45-60 seconds on high. Stir to incorporate jam into milk. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. (If desired, place in refrigerator to hasten cooling.) Place mascarpone cheese in a large mixing bowl and add cooled almond milk mixture. 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, strawberry syrup and continue to beat until incorporated. Add the 2 tablespoons of vanilla instant pudding powder and beat well. Place in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes to set. Stir before spreading onto cake.

6. When cake is completely cooled, take a serrated knife and cut in half lengthwise and place bottom half, cut side up, onto a serving plate. Stir the lemon filling until smooth, spread on cake and place the remaining top half of the cake, cut side down, on top of filling. Spread strawberry cream over top and sides of cake like frosting. Store in refrigerator, but allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving of cake with lemon filling and cream topping: 266.5 calories, 20.9 g carbohydrate, 18.5 g total fat, 3.9 g saturated fat, 1.6 g fiber, 5.4 g protein.

Nutritional Information per serving of cake with only lemon filling (no cream topping): 212 calories, 17.8 g carbohydrate, 14.4 g total fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 1.6 g fiber, 4.8 g protein.

Nutritional Information per 1 tablespoon strawberry cream topping (recipe makes about 20 tablespoons): 32.2 calories, 1.8 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

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cannellini Beans with Caramelized Onions & Bacon

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my mother and she introduced me to a wonderful cookbook called Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando. As I thumbed through the pages, I was overcome with an overwhelming craving for beans! Luckily, my mother had a basket full of every kind of dried bean imaginable, so I immediately went to work to find the most tempting recipe. Although it was difficult to decide, I landed on page 124 of the book and was intrigued. The recipe was fairly simple to make and sounded good, so I grabbed a bag of beans and began soaking. The next day, we created a steaming, delicious pot of beans and topped them with caramelized onions and bacon. Since that day, I have purchased the book for myself and am very excited about all the creative possibilities for cooking beans. Luckily, here in Maine we have a wonderful selection of dried beans in our local supermarket, including several heirloom varieties, so I imagine beans will be on the menu often this winter.

On the subject of beans, I recently taught a cooking class at our neighborhood recreation center where I demonstrated a variation of the bean recipe my mother and I had made earlier. One change from the original recipe is that I boiled my beans in broth to enhance their flavor, since dried beans are like sponges and take on the flavors in which they are cooked. Another shortcut was my use of ready-cooked bacon. It only has 17.5 calories per slice and 0.5 grams of saturated fat -- it is my new best friend. Although this recipe does require planning ahead because the beans need to soak overnight and it takes a few hours to prepare, it is worth every minute. Just one bite and you'll fall in love with beans, too!

Cannellini Beans with Caramelized Onions & Bacon
(Serves 8)

12 ounces dried Cannellini Runner Beans*
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
5-6 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock (or sodium free)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
1½ large onions, thinly sliced
6 slices of ready-cooked bacon, chopped
Freshly ground pepper

1. Pick over beans to check for stones. Soak beans in cold water overnight or for 3-4 hours until plump. Drain off water and place beans in a large, heavy cooking pot or dutch oven. To degas beans, cover with fresh water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 30-40 minutes or until skins split and curl when you blow on them. Bring pot over to the sink, add baking soda and stir. Beans will bubble and release their gas. (Do this over sink in case the liquid bubbles over the top of the pot.) Drain and rinse beans in a colander. Return beans to pot.

2. Add stock to cover beans entirely. Add garlic powder and celery stalks. Partially cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until beans are tender, between 2 to 2½ hours. (After 2 hours, test beans for doneness. Continue cooking and testing occasionally, if necessary.) Add additional stock if necessary to keep beans covered. When beans are nearly soft, add salt to taste.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, lightly browned and beginning to caramelize. Add chopped bacon and continue cooking until onions are well browned and bacon has rendered its fat and crisped.

4. To serve, remove celery pieces from beans and discard (or eat them, they are delicious). Ladle beans and a bit of broth into a serving bowl. Top with caramelized onion and bacon mixture. If desired, serve with a salad and toasted french bread for a complete meal.

Nutritional Information per serving of beans with onions & bacon: 196.7 calories, 30.1 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 7.3 g fiber, 16 g protein.

*The Cannellini Runner Bean is an heirloom bean that can be purchased on the internet. Or any large white bean can be substituted, such as Yellow Eye, Butter Beans or Lima.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010
Inspired by "Florida Butter Beans" recipe by Steve Sando in Heirloom Beans, p. 124