Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spiced Pecans

Are you looking for a gift to make the special PWD (person with diabetes) in your life this holiday season? Spiced nuts are a Christmas tradition, but ordinary recipes call for nearly 1 cup of sugar, which turns what should be a low-carb snack into a high one! The truth is that some sugar is necessary to achieve the crispy coating, but most can be exchanged with a sugar substitute and the taste results are exactly the same as the traditional recipe. Even people on your gift list that aren't watching their carbs don't need all that sugar, so this recipe is for everyone!

The most surprising thing about this snack is the health benefits you and your friends will receive. Pecans are a good source of Omega-6 fatty acids, containing about half as much as walnuts. Clinical research has shown that eating a handful of pecans per day can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) similar to what is seen with cholesterol-lowering medications. Pecans are also a good source of zinc, manganese, magnesium, vitamin B1 and iron. Who would have guessed that so much LOVE and GOOD FORTUNE accompany this easy-to-prepare holiday treat?

Spiced Pecans
(Makes 16 servings)

1 tablespoon butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
½ cup Splenda granular
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons cold water
1 pound of pecan halves

1. Preheat oven to 275-degrees. With your fingers, spread softened butter over the entire cookie sheet; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, Splenda, spices and salt with a fork. In a small bowl, beat the egg white and water together. Add the egg white mixture to the dry ingredients and stir into a paste.

3. With a fork or rubber spatula, stir in ½ of the pecans and gently fold until coated. Add the rest of the pecans and continue stirring and folding until all the pecans are coated with the sugar-egg mixture. Spread in one layer on the cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until coating is crisp and golden brown.

4. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature while on the cookie sheet. Carefully break apart any pecans clusters and store in an airtight container.

Nutritional Information per ¼ cup serving: 204 calories, 4.1 g carbohydrate, 21.1 g total fat, 2.2 g saturated fat, 42.5 mg sodium, 2.8 g fiber, 2.8 g protein.

Variation: Aztec Cocoa Pecans
Omit the ginger, add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and add an additional ½ tablespoon Splenda to the dry ingredients. To the egg white add an additional 1 teaspoon water. Proceed according to above directions.

Recipes by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Slice-of-Pie Oatmeal

The mornings are getting colder and I'm in the mood for a hot breakfast. These quick, flavorful additions to a bowl of steaming oatmeal make a wonderful start to the day! Using simple ingredients you might already have on hand, you can create a different flavor every morning. Oatmeal makes an ideal brunch, especially on weekends when most people sleep a bit later. Also, I'll admit to eating it as an afternoon snack, especially when it tastes like pie or cheesecake! My favorite style is the old-fashioned oats (or steel cut), which only take 5-7 minutes to prepare over the quick cooking variety, because the thicker grain is heartier and more substantial. I like my oatmeal to have a bite to it! Quick cooking is fine, but instant is too mushy in my opinion. Whatever time of day you get a craving for it, just boil some water and, in a few minutes, you'll have a satisfying bowl of warm goodness.

Slice-of-Pie Oatmeal
(Serves 1)

½ dry oatmeal, old-fashioned or quick cooking (not instant)
1 cup water
Pinch salt

Prepare oatmeal on the stovetop according to package directions. (Quick cooking may not require as much water, so please check the package.) Add topping of your choice from suggestions below and add nutritional information accordingly.

Nutritional Information for cooked oatmeal alone: 150 calories, 27 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 250 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Oatmeal (pictured): Top cooked oatmeal with 1 tablespoon pumpkin butter, 2 tablespoons light vanilla yogurt and 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. If you like it a bit sweeter, add ½ teaspoon Splenda granular and stir.
Add the following nutritional information to cooked oatmeal: 47 calories, 12 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 7 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0.5 g protein.

Apple Pie Oatmeal: Top cooked oatmeal with 1 tablespoon apple butter or ½ grated apple, 2 tablespoons light vanilla yogurt, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon. If you like it sweeter, add ½ teaspoon Splenda granular and stir.
Add the following nutritional information to cooked oatmeal: 47 calories, 12 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 7 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0.5 g protein.

Banana Cream Pie Oatmeal: Top cooked oatmeal with 1 tablespoon mashed ripe banana, 2 tablespoons light vanilla yogurt, 1 packet Splenda or Stevia and 1/8 teaspoon banana extract. Stir to combine.
Add the following nutritional information to cooked oatmeal: 46 calories, 11.2 g carbohydrate, 0.1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 7 mg sodium, 1.1 g fiber, 0.9 g protein.

Cherry Cheesecake Oatmeal: Mix together 1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 packet of Splenda or Stevia and spoon onto cooked oatmeal. Top with 1 tablespoon chopped dried cherries and a pinch of nutmeg.
Add the following nutritional information to cooked oatmeal: 55 calories, 7 g carbohydrate, 1.8 g total fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 30 mg sodium, 0.3 g fiber, 1.5 g protein.

Recipes by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stout Stew Topped with Cheese Toast

I have recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Rome! Every meal was a culinary delight and I happily gained two pounds, in spite of the many miles of walking every day. Of course, it was nearly impossible to eat anything but marvelous Italian food, but I was fortunate to discover an unassuming family-run place called Tattoria Antonio near the Patheon that offered Italian favorites with beans, instead of pasta, which ended up being my favorite restaurant of the trip. On the flight home, my husband said he wanted a big steak for dinner the next day because he was all "pasta-ed out" and I couldn't have agreed more!

Instead of the traditional steak and potatoes, I wanted to quickly resume my diet of healthful eating, so I made this incredible, thick stew which was just as satisfying. It's based on a traditional Irish stew, but has a lot more vegetables, fiber from the beans and considerably less fat because I chose a lean cut of beef. The house was filled with the delicious aroma of the cooking stew all afternoon and the lean meat ended up being melt-in-your-mouth tender! I served it like a French Onion Soup with the cheese toast in the stew to soak up the flavor. If you're looking for an alternative to the turkey we'll all be stuffed with come next Thursday, try this recipe. I guarantee it will make any cold, rainy November day worthwhile!

Stout Stew Topped with Cheese Toast
(Makes 8 servings)

1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 red onions, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1½ pounds lean stewing beef, cut into ¾" pieces
16 oz. (2 cups) dark beer, such as Guinness (not lager)
2 tablespoons flour mixed with cold water
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1½ cups frozen peas
1½ cups canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Eight ½" thick slices of hearty bread
1 cup shredded 2% reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. In a large Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot, heat ½ tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and saute for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Do not color onions too much. Add carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms and rosemary and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Transfer cooked vegetables to a bowl and increase heat to medium-high.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot and add beef. Quickly sear beef on all sides, and then remove pot from heat. Return cooked vegetables to pot, add pepper and salt and stir to combine. Slowly add the dark beer, trying not to cause too much foaming. Add the flour dissolved in water, plus just enough extra water to cover beef and vegetables and slowly stir. (If beer has foamed too much, allow to settle before placing in oven.) Cover pot and place in the preheated oven for 1½ hours.

3. Stir stew, check liquid level and add a small amount water if necessary. Cover pot and return to oven for another 30 minutes until meat is tender. Once again, stir stew and return to oven uncovered for 20 minutes to allow the stew to thicken. Add frozen peas and drained beans and return to over for another 10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. Remove from oven and allow stew to rest while you prepare the cheese toast.

4. Top each slice of bread with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese. Toast bread in the oven until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. To serve, spoon about 1¼ cups of stew into each serving bowl and place a cheese toast directly in the middle of each, allowing the bread to soak up some of the liquid. (Alternative: If you own sturdy, oven-proof serving bowls, spoon stew into bowls, top with a slice of hearty bread and sprinkle with cheese. Heat under a broiler at least 4-6 inches away from coils until cheese is melted.)

Nutritional Information per serving: 479.3 calories, 45 g carbohydrate, 10 g total fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 639 mg sodium, 7.1 g fiber, 41.5 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010