Thursday, December 30, 2010

Limoncello Pasta

My husband and I spent a wonderful week in Rome about a month ago and I'm still dreaming about the incredible Lemon Pasta we had at La Sacarestia near the Pantheon (twice). Yesterday, I was thumbing through a fun Trader Joe's cookbook I received for Christmas from my sister and was intrigued by one of the recipes. It was pasta topped with a lemon-vodka sauce, which sounded like it might be similar. The only problem was that it called for an entire container of mascarpone cheese as a base for the sauce! Knowing it would be too high in saturated fat, I began thinking of a way to lighten the dish. I happen to have a bottle of limoncello liqueur in the fridge and thought it might boost the lemon flavor, as well. To make a long story short, let me just say that I may have found the perfect combination of ingredients and portion size that will allow me to feast on my Roman Lemon Pasta more often! It goes very well with simple, grilled chicken breasts or tenders. A side of sauted spinach completed this healthy, quick and delicious meal.

Limoncello Pasta
(Makes 4 side-dish servings)

4 oz. dry angel hair pasta (I used Dreamfield's)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
2/3 cup chicken stock, warmed in microwave
Zest from one lemon
Juice from one lemon
1½ tablespoons limoncello liqueur
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour, whisk and cook for about 45 seconds. Slowly add the warmed chicken stock while whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened. Add the lemon zest, juice, limoncello, mascarpone cheese, basil, salt and pepper. Stir until cheese has melted and mixture is smooth.

3. Drain pasta and toss with lemon sauce. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 203.2 calories, 25 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g total fat, 5.2 g saturated fat, 77.4 mg sodium, 2.7 g fiber, 4.9 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Added 1/10/11:
I wanted to make this dish for an Italian Potluck reunion of my Rome traveling friends. To make this dish for a crowd and more portable, I first chose to use penne pasta instead of angel hair. I tripled the recipe, boiled the pasta for only 5 minutes, combined it with the sauce and poured it into a 13"x9" casserole dish. I topped it with a mixture of ½ cup breadcrumbs mixed with lemon pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil. I baked it in a 400-degree oven for about 25 minutes. This variation makes 12 side dish portions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Easy Pear & Cranberry Cobbler

At this time of year when sweets are abundant, arriving in gift boxes every day and threatening my food plan, I try to have something on hand that I can enjoy without guilt. This fruit cobbler is an easy dessert that is delicious and good for me! It utilizes the wonderful Comice pears available in the stores right now (they are the sweetest and juiciest of the pear varieties), plus the warm spices give it a holiday twist. Apples can be substituted and are just as delicious. I used Quaker Oatmeal Pancake mix, but you can use any whole grain mix you may already have in your pantry. This cobbler is quick, very simple to prepare and just as tempting as anything my friends and relatives have given us this holiday season. Like me, you may find it a lot easier to leave the high-carb, sugary treats to others if you have an alternative to satisfy your sweet tooth. Best wishes for a happy, healthy holiday!

Easy Pear & Cranberry Cobbler
Makes 8 servings

½ cup whole grain or oatmeal pancake mix
½ cup almond flour
1½ teaspoons cinnamon, divided
¾ teaspoon ground ginger, divided
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons Splenda granular
1 egg
½ cup skim or almond milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 pears, cored, peeled and cut into 1" chunks (apples can be substituted)
½ tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon flour

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Spray an 8" square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the pancake mix, almond flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ginger, nutmeg, cloves and Splenda. Mix together with a fork to break up any lumps. Set aside dry ingredients and prepare pears.

2. Core and peel each pear, then cut into large chunks. Place the pears into a medium mixing bowl, add lemon juice and toss to coat. Add the dried cranberries, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ginger and 1 tablespoon flour; stir to combine. Spoon pears into the prepared baking dish; set aside.

3. To the dry ingredients, add the egg, milk and canola oil. Stir vigorously with a fork until batter is well combined. Pour over pears and spread to cover fruit. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Also, it can be served at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per serving: 162.5 calories, 25.4 g carbohydrate, 6.4 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 91.8 mg sodium, 4.6 g fiber, 3.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this recipe compare to traditional cobbler? This recipe is much lower is calories, carbs and fat, plus it has 4x the fiber and double the protein! For comparison, a ½ cup serving of traditional fruit cobbler is 360 calories, 67 g carbohydrate, 10 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peppermint Bark Cake

On Christmas Eve, it is a tradition in our family to have a simple meal of soup, salad and rolls. The idea is to make things easy and restful before the big day and allow us to attend evening church services without the hassle of preparing a large meal. With that simple fare, I always like to prepare a very special and memorable dessert, since it is usually the highlight of the meal. This year, I was inspired by the Chocolate-Peppermint Bark candy that is a holiday favorite of many and transformed it into a cake that sparkles with peppermint crystals!

If you're making this ahead, sprinkle the candy on top just before serving to preserve it's sparkle and freshness. To create the peppermint crystals, I broke four ½-ounce candy canes into a plastic bag and gently hammered them with the smooth side of my meat mallet (or use the side of a rolling pin) until they were the size I wanted. I removed 2 tablespoons and reserve it for the topping, then continued hammering until the candy was finely crushed (this I used in the batter).

This beautiful dessert not only makes a festive centerpiece, it is rich and decadent. The dark chocolate cake is fudge-like with the slightest hint of peppermint, the filling is creamy and the white chocolate topping is smooth and delicious. The grand finale is the sweet, minty crunch from the crushed candy canes. I already know it will be a hit with my family this year. (From sampling my "test cake," my non-diabetic husband has declared this the best recipe I've created so far!) I hope it will be enjoyed by your family, as well. Merry Christmas!

Peppermint Bark Cake
(Makes 12 servings)

Cake Ingredients:
¾ cup almond milk
1 oz. unsweetened or bittersweet baking chocolate (1 square), chopped
¾ teaspoon instant coffee granules (decaf or regular)
1¼ cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons finely crushed peppermint candies
6 tablespoons butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
3 large eggs
One 2.5 oz. container of baby food prune puree (about 3 tablespoons)
1 cup Splenda granular
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Cream 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 fudge instant pudding mix (dry powder)

Topping Ingredients:
1½ tablespoons almond milk (or fat-free ½ & ½ can be substituted)
½ cup white chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons crushed peppermint candies

1. Prepare an 8" springform cake pan by placing a circle cut from parchment or wax paper in the bottom of the pan and spray sides 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. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before proceeding; meanwhile preheat oven to 350-degrees and assemble the remaining cake ingredients.

2. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flours, ½ cup cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and 3 tablespoons finely crushed peppermint candies; set aside. In a large mixing bowl and using a handheld or standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the prune puree, Splenda and extracts. 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 cooled milk and chocolate mixture until well combined, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally.

3. Spoon into prepared cake pan and bake for 38-42 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully remove cake from pan and move to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile make chocolate 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. With a serrated knife, cut cake into two layers. Stir chocolate pudding mixture before spreading onto lower half of cake. Top with top layer; set aside.

5. To make white chocolate topping, heat 1½ tablespoons milk and morsels in microwave for 15 seconds on high. Repeat if necessary. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. Stir until morsels are 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 a very thick, but pourable glaze, stirring occasionally.

6. Pour white chocolate topping onto the center of the top layer of cake and spread to edges if it doesn't spread out to cover top of cake and allow it to drip over the sides. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons crushed peppermint candies. Allow topping to cool completely and set. Store in refrigerator, but allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving (1/12th of cake): 325 calories, 31.3 g carbohydrate, 21 g total fat, 9.2 g saturated fat, 3.5 g fiber, 6.8 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this cake recipe compare with a traditionally prepared cake? I've substituted almond flour for a large portion of the white flour and eliminated most of the high-carb sugar. These substitutions alone make a huge difference! For comparison, the same size serving of a similar cake made with traditional ingredients is 489.5 calories, 78.7 g carbohydrate, 24 g total fat, 14 g saturated fat, 2.2 g fiber and 4.8 g protein.

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 a certain type of sweetener is necessary to achieve the crispy coating. I used a erythritol-based sweetener 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 erythritol sweetener (I used LaKanto Monkfruit sweetener)
½ teaspoon stevia powder (I used Sweet Leaf brand) 
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 30-35 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: 201 calories, 4.4 g carbohydrate, 2.8 g fiber,  21.1 g total fat, 2.2 g saturated fat, 42.5 mg sodium, 2.8 g protein. Net carbs: 1.6 grams

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Apple Honey Balls

The air is cool, the trees are bright with autumn colors, apples are still abundant and pumpkins are on the doorstep, all of which makes me crave the earthy, rich flavors of the season and are the inspiration behind this soft, flavorful, nutritious cookie. The flaxseed meal provides a good dose of omega 3 fatty acids, as much as 170 mg per cookie! It also gives it a nutty flavor which pairs so well with the grated apple. The light coating of pumpkin pie spiced sugar really makes this the perfect cookie for an autumn day, but the real treat is that it's only about 7 carbs each!

Apple Honey Balls
(Makes 28 cookies)

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¼ cup flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/3 cup zero trans-fat buttery spread (I use Smart Balance)
¾ cup Splenda granular
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup grated Granny Smith apple (peeled and cored)
1½ teaspoons lemon juice

Topping Ingredients:
2 tablespoons 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, cinnamon and mace. Stir with a fork to break up any clumps in the almond flour; set aside. Grate the apple into a small bowl and toss with the lemon juice; set aside.

3. Prepare the topping by placing the sugar in a small bowl with the 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, stir to combine; set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the buttery spread, Splenda and honey with a handheld or standing mixer. Add egg and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes. With a wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients all at once and stir until well combined. Fold in the grated apple. 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. (Tip: If dough is too soft, place in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes and it will be easier to handle.)

5. Bake for 12-13 minutes until bottom begins to brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Nutritional Information per cookie: 70 calories, 6.9 g carbohydrate, 4.2 g total fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 42.5 mg sodium, 0.8 g fiber, 1.6 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Glazed Chicken with Pear

I know that grilled chicken is an excellent, lean protein choice but it can be boring, especially when it's on the menu a couple of times a week. When I was thinking about how I could prepare it tonight, I looked around my kitchen and saw a beautiful, ripe pear sitting in my fruit bowl and remembered how the sweet and savory combination of fruit with meat can be so satisfying. Pears and apples are abundant in stores right now and they are at their peak. I especially like a Bartlett pear for this recipe because it cooks and softens quickly, but if you prefer a crisper fruit, try Bosc or Red Pear. The mixture of nutmeg, apple juice with the broth reduces into a nice, light glaze. This quick recipe takes only about 15 minutes to prepare and makes a beautiful and delicious autumn meal.

Glazed Chicken with Pear
(Makes 2 servings)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz. each)
Poultry seasoning
Lemon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large, ripe Bartlett pear (cored, peeled and sliced)
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup apple juice or cider
Dash of nutmeg
½ teaspoon cornstarch (omit for gluten free recipe)

1. Butterfly or pound chicken breasts until about ½" thick. Season both sides with a dusting of poultry seasoning, lemon pepper and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the chicken broth, apple juice and nutmeg. Measure the cornstarch in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the liquid. Stir cornstarch until dissolved; set aside.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and add chicken breasts. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turn and continue cooking for another 3 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

3. Add pear slices to the pan and cook for 1 minute, turn each slice and continue cooking for another minute. Add the broth-juice mixture and simmer until liquid has been reduced by half and pear slices are soft. Return chicken breasts to pan to reheat. Add cornstarch mixture and stir liquid until thickened slightly. Turn chicken to coat with glaze.

4. Divide chicken and pear slices equally between two serving plates and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 320.5 calories, 24.7 g carbohydrate, 6.3 g total fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 312.5 mg sodium, 3.3 g fiber, 40.1 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pumpkin Whip

One of the cooking classes I taught last spring was how to incorporate more vegetables into one's diet. This recipe is a great example of how I hoped to turn a vegetable hater into a vegetable lover! You won't believe how jam-packed this simple dessert is with nutrition. One serving provides 148% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A, 110 mg of calcium, 8% vitamin D, 16% vitamin E, 2% vitamin C and almost 5% iron. It's a good source of beta carotene, low in carbs and, as if all of this isn't enough, it tastes like pumpkin pie and is delicious, especially on a cool autumn day. Your kids will love this soft, creamy pudding and never know they're eating vegetables. Take a few minutes to whip some up today. Your body will thank you tomorrow!

Pumpkin Whip
(Makes 6 servings)

15 oz. canned pumpkin (1¾ cups)
2 cups cold almond milk (skim or soy milk can be substituted)
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 pkg. fat-free, sugar-free vanilla pudding mix

1. In a blender or using a wire whisk, blend the pumpkin, almond milk, vanilla, Splenda, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined. Add pudding mix and whisk for 2 minutes. Pour into individual serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold.

Nutritional Information per serving: 65.3 calories, 13.3 g carbohydrate, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 250 mg sodium, 2.4 g fiber, 1 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tomato and Vegetable Cobbler

When you think of cobbler, you probably think of fruit, right? Well, the tomato is a savory fruit rich in lycopene, other antioxidants and Vitamin C. The tomatoes at my local farm stand are at their peak right now and this recipe highlights them beautifully. I've already made it a couple of times and plan to bring it to a pot luck supper at my church this Friday, it's that good! The cornstarch thickens the liquid drawn from the vegetables during cooking to create a light glaze. The vegetables glisten like the jewels that they are and taste divine. I used a variety of tomatoes, including plum, beefsteak, and some heirloom varieties in yellow and orange to add color and an assortment of subtle flavors. The crunchy, cornbread topping just adds to the fun!

If you're not a huge tomato fan, you can cut back on them and fill in with other vegetables that have a high water content, such as summer squash, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms, also add an additional ¼ cup liquid or stock to the vegetables along with the cornstarch to create the glaze. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator and make an excellent, simple lunch the next day. I top mine with cheese and reheat for about 20 minutes in an individual baking dish until hot. Yum!

Tomato and Vegetable Cobbler
(Makes 6 servings)

4 large tomatoes
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow summer squash
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ cup almond flour/meal
1/4 cup cornmeal
1-1/2 tablespoons coconut flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup kefir or buttermilk (or ½ milk mixed with ½ tablespoon lemon juice and allowed to sit for 5 minutes)
Additional water, if needed, to reach desired consistency

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Core and cut each tomato into 8 sections, then cut each section into bite-size pieces and place into a large bowl. Slice each squash lengthwise, then cut into ¾” chunks and add to the tomatoes. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Add cornstarch and toss to coat. Allow to sit while you prepare the pan and topping.

2. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside. Measure the almond flour, cornmeal, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a food processor or medium mixing bowl. Add butter and pulse until butter is distributed or cut into dry ingredients with two knives or pastry cutter until mixture is the texture of wet sand. Add egg and kefir or buttermilk and pulse (or blend with a fork) until a batter is formed. If needed, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to the batter to reach the desired consistency.

3. Toss the vegetables one more time before transferring them into the prepared baking pan. Drop batter in spoonfuls over vegetables then spread batter with a knife to cover, leaving spots without batter so steam can escape during cooking. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until bubbly and cornmeal topping is golden. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving: 166 calories, 14.6 g carbohydrate (3.9 g dietary fiber, 4.9 g sugars), 10.4 g total fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 42 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, 58.4 mg calcium, 497 mg potassium, 5.7 g protein.  Net carbs per serving: 10.7 grams

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010, revised 2016
All rights reserved. Please do not duplicate without author's permission.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

White Peach Panna Cotta

I recently learned of a new type of cheese becoming more available in the US which is low fat, low carb, a good source of protein and calcium and low calorie! It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? It's called quark and is a European-style soft, fresh cheese similar to cream cheese but softer and not as tangy. It is available at Whole Foods in the cheese refrigerated section and comes in an 8 ounce tub. Also, you can make it at home by cooking buttermilk in a low oven overnight and then straining the resulting solids with a cheese cloth. It's delicious as a topping for potatoes with chives or even as a spread on toast with jam or apple butter.

In this recipe, I've used it to make the light Italian dessert called Panna Cotta, which is a cooked cream thickened with gelatin. Unflavored gelatin comes in a dry powder and is available in the traditional variety (which is a meat product), but also kosher and vegetarian varieties, as well. Instead of heavy cream, I used low-fat milk, quark and pureed peaches for the creaminess that is the hallmark of this dessert. Any pureed fruit will do. I just happened to have some delicious, local white peaches on hand, but this would be equally good with nectarines, yellow peaches (even no-sugar added canned), strawberries, ripe pears or plums. Just peel, seed and give them a whirl in your food processor or blender to create the puree. (Wash but do not peel strawberries.) Another benefit of this simple dessert is that its an excellent source of calcium containing 155 mg per serving! It can be made ahead for dinner guests or will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator to provide a wholesome snack to grab when you need a lift in the afternoon.

White Peach Panna Cotta
(Makes 4 servings)

¼ cup cold water
1 envelope unflavored, dry gelatin powder
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
½ cup Splenda, granular (plus more, if needed)
1½ cups peach puree (about 4 medium peaches)
8 oz. quark
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Sprinkle powdered gelatin over the cold water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until water is absorbed and granules have softened. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add gelatin and whisk until granules are dissolved, about 4 minutes. If mixture begins to boil, remove from heat and continue whisking.

2. Add Splenda, fruit puree, quark and cardamom. Whisk to combine. Taste to determine sweetness. If more sweetness is desired, add 1 tablespoon of Splenda at a time and whisk until desired sweetness has been reached.

3. Pour ¾ cup of the mixture into each dessert dish and place in the refrigerator until chilled and set, at least 3 hours. (For convenience when entertaining, this dessert can be made the day ahead.) Optional: Garnish with two thin slices of peach and a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Nutritional Information per serving (not including garnish): 162.7 calories, 18 g carbohydrate, 6.7 g total fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 113.7 mg sodium, 1.4 g fiber, 9.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Caramel Dip with Apples

It's football season again...and a danger for mindless snacking while my attention is focused on the game is a very real threat to my commitment to healthy eating. I'm surrounded by an array of pretzels, chips, pizza and beer. I must be vigilant, or my hand will stray to a bad place and make its way to my mouth! The key to success is to plan ahead and have nutritious snacks within my reach, preferably some with protein, which will be more filling and keep my BG from spiking and crashing later. If you need some good ideas, check out the appetizers in my blog archive, along with the recipe below.

I want to tell you about a product I use often for flavoring my morning smoothies that has many other uses, as well. I'm talking about the wonderful selection of sugar-free flavored syrups available. I use DaVinci Sugar Free Syrups, which are available online and in some stores. They are great for flavoring plain yogurt, to spice up a mug of coffee or to use in the many recipes posted on the company's website. I recently purchased the Dulce de Leche flavor and used it to add the taste of creamy caramel to peanut butter, which is excellent as a dip for sliced apples. It satisfies my craving for caramel apples that I strangely only get this time of year. So, enjoy the game AND take care of your health at the same time!

Peanut Butter Caramel Dip with Apples
(Makes 2 servings)

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar-free caramel flavored syrup
1 large apple, cored and sliced

1. Measure the peanut butter and caramel syrup in a small microwavable bowl or custard cup. Microwave for about 12 seconds on high and stir until combined. Use as a dip for the sliced apples.

Nutritional Information per serving: 148 calories, 18.4 g carbohydrate, 8.2 g total fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 81 mg sodium, 3.7 g fiber, 3.8 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

BLT Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

I made another batch of my delicious Blueberry Muffins the other day and have plenty of buttermilk leftover. I'm not one to throw anything away, so I came up with this creamy homemade buttermilk dressing. I also happened to have a variety of tomatoes in my vegetable basket gathered from the local farm stand and a generous neighbor's garden, so it made sense to star them in this recipe. If you can, use different colors and types of tomato to create a beautiful salad that will dazzle the eye, as well as the palette. Tomatoes come in many colors besides the classic red, such as yellow, purple and orange and each has it's own flavor. They are also a rich source of lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants, along with Vitamins C and A. This salad is the perfect venue for the delicious, ripe tomatoes so abundant in gardens and farmer's markets right now. It makes a wonderful side dish or main dish salad for a light meal. Enjoy the harvest!

BLT Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Dressing
(Makes 4 servings)

½ head iceberg lettuce
6 tomatoes, cored and cubed (about 1½-2 cups)
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons chives or scallions, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup fat-free buttermilk

1. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and refrigerate. The dressing can be made ahead. Cook bacon until crispy, drain on paper towels and crumble into a small bowl; set aside.

2. Core the iceberg lettuce, cut in half and reserve half for another time. Take the remaining half and cut into ¼ inch strips, give the lettuce a rough chop to create bite-size pieces and place into a large bowl.

3. Core and slice tomatoes, then cut into cubes. Add to the lettuce and toss with the dressing and ½ of the bacon. Divide evenly among four serving plates and sprinkle the remaining bacon evenly over the top of each serving. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 153 calories, 12 g carbohydrate, 11.7 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 383.5 mg sodium, 1.2 g fiber, 3.6 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Huevos Rancheros with Vegetables and Beans

Egg dishes tend to be inexpensive and are appropriate for any time of day, from breakfast to dinner. Often I'll make a vegetable omelet for lunch or dinner because it's quick, easy and a good source of protein. The classic way of making Huevos Rancheros is to fry eggs, top with salsa and serve over warm tortillas. I took this classic dish and added a variety of vegetables and beans to increase the nutrition density and fiber. The combination of flavors is wonderful and makes a simple, but satisfying meal.

If you're like me with an empty-nest and don't need four servings, go ahead and make the entire vegetable-bean mixture and store half. It makes a delicious filling for a Mexican-style omelet or eat it as a side dish later in the week.

Huevos Rancheros with Vegetables and Beans
(Makes 4 servings)

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 yellow corn tortillas
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup frozen corn
One 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed or microwave for 4 minutes
1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped
½ zucchini, shredded
½ cup canned black beans or pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
1½ tablespoons fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1¼ cups salsa, divided
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large non-stick skillet, heat olive oil until hot and add corn tortillas. Cook, turning once, until hot and beginning to bubble and become crisp on the surface. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels; keep warm.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the onion and corn, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent and corn is beginning to brown around the edges. Add spinach and cook for 4 minutes (if not previously microwaved), stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, zucchini, beans, herbs and ¼ cup salsa. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

3. Create four circles in the vegetable-bean mixture and crack one egg into each. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Cover skillet until eggs are cooked to your liking, about 2-3 minutes. If a hard yolk is desired, turn eggs half way through cooking time.

4. Place one corn tortilla on each serving plate. Divide eggs and vegetable mixture evenly among the corn tortillas and top each with additional salsa, up to ¼ cup per serving. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 230 calories, 28.2 g carbohydrate, 6.9 g total fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 341.8 mg sodium, 5.5 g fiber, 11.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Peaches with Ginger Cream

I wait anxiously all year for peach season and I'm happy to announce: they are here once again! Peaches are my favorite fruit and eating them fresh and unadorned is my usual way. Although, I must admit, peaches do pair well with ginger and I sometime crush a couple of gingersnaps and sprinkle them over the top for a quick snack or dessert. Sometimes simple is the very best. You've heard of peaches and cream? This recipe is a twist on that classic combination. It's quick, simple to prepare and turns an ordinary peach into a heavenly, elegant dessert -- one you would be proud to serve to company!

Peaches with Ginger Cream
(Makes 6 servings)

6 ripe medium peaches
½ cup mascarpone cheese (plain)
1/3 cup skim, soy or almond milk (original flavor)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or ½ teas. dried)
1/8 teaspoon mace
3 tablespoons Splenda granular
Sprinkle of nutmeg as a garnish

1. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the mascarpone cheese, milk, ginger, mace and Splenda. With a handheld or standing mixer, beat on high until light and fluffy; set aside.

2. Peel and slice one peach into each serving dish and arrange in a spiral. Dollop 2 tablespoons of the ginger cream into the center of each serving and sprinkle lightly with grated nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 121 calories, 10.2 g carbohydrate, 8.2 g total fat, 4.6 g saturated fat, 15 mg sodium, 1.4 g fiber, 2.2 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

Sometimes when I cook, things don't always turn out as I hoped, as with this recipe. When I turned it out of the pan, it didn't release properly from my old baking tin so that it ended up a broken jumble on the plate (the reason why there's no pretty picture). But the taste was terrific and this dessert was a real hit with my family, so I wanted to share it anyway. Next time when I make this, I'll be sure to coat the pan liberally with the cooking spray or just plan to eat it like a cobbler.

The benefit of substituting almond and coconut alternative flours for most of the white flour not only adds more nutrients to the finished product, but also fiber (something we all need more of in our diet). It is most notably the coconut flour that brings fiber to this recipe. If you've never tried using coconut flour to make pastries, cookies or pancakes, I highly recommend it. I love the creamy, rich texture it brings to my baked goods. It's best for sweet recipes, as it adds a hint of natural coconutty sweetness to the mix.

Blueberry Upside Down Cake
(Makes 8 servings)

1½ cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained (or frozen can be substituted)
2 tablespoons blueberry, grape jelly or seedless blackberry jam
1 teaspoon Splenda granular or 1 packet
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

2/3 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons zero trans-fat buttery spread (I use Smart Balance)
2/3 cup Splenda granular
1 egg
Zest of 1 lemon (about 1½ teaspoons)
2/3 cups skim or almond milk (original flavor)

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a small microwaveable bowl, mix together the water and jelly. Microwave for a few seconds until jelly melts. Add the blueberries, 1 teaspoon Splenda and lemon juice. Stir to coat berries with jelly mixture. Pour into the prepared cake pan and spread into an even layer; set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl and using a handheld or standing mixer, cream together the buttery spread and 2/3 cup Splenda. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add egg and lemon zest and beat well. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. The batter should be thick, but pourable. Spoon batter over berries in pan and spread gently to cover berry mixture while being careful not to stir the berry juice into the batter.

4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and the surface is golden. Cool pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Place large plate over the pan and invert cake so blueberries are on top. Let cool another 10-15 minutes until no longer steaming hot. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream, if desired (optional).

Nutritional Information per serving: 219.5 calories, 23.5 g carbohydrate, 12.7 g total fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 254 mg sodium, 4.8 g fiber, 4.7 g protein
Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Summer Garden Pasta Alfredo

Prior to my diagnosis of T2 diabetes, my meal of choice at my favorite Italian restaurant would most often be Fettuccine Alfredo. I love that creamy, cheesy sauce over the soft noodles. But, if you look at the nutritional information per serving of the traditional recipe (see below), it's no wonder I ended up with a digestive medical illness! That doesn't change the fact that I love Pasta Alfredo and have cravings for it occasionally.

This recipe makeover really satisfies my longing for noodles and creamy cheese sauce. It includes lots of high-fiber, nutritious vegetables that are abundant in backyard gardens and farmer's markets right now. If you've run out of ways to serve zucchini and tomatoes, try this recipe! Here's my daughter's comment at the dinner table last night that says it all: "If I was served this at Olive Garden, I would think it was great! It tastes like the real thing to me."

Summer Garden Pasta Alfredo
(Makes 5 servings)

1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 yellow summer squash, quarter and sliced
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 package frozen broccoli florets or 3 cups fresh
1 tablespoon flour
6.5 oz. soft cheese spread, garlic and herb flavor (I used Alouette)
1-2/3 cups skim milk or Hood Calorie Countdown Dairy Beverage
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon torn fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. dried carb-friendly spaghetti pasta (I used Dreamfields)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. In a large non-stick skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, saute the first four ingredients until tender-crisp. Add flour and cook for 30 seconds. Add cheese spread and stir until melted. Add milk and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until bubbly and thickened. Add Parmesan cheese, herbs, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until heated through.

3. Place drained spaghetti into a large serving bowl. Pour sauce and vegetables over the top and toss until noodles are coated. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 303.2 calories, 37.8 g carbohydrate, 10.9 g total fat, 7.2 g saturated fat, 386 mg sodium, 5.8 g fiber, 16.4 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this recipe compare with traditional Pasta Alfredo? Traditional Alfredo is made with loads of butter and heavy cream and doesn't have the benefit of added vegetables. This healthier recipe is seriously lower in calories, carbohydrate and saturated fat. For comparison, the nutritional information for a lunch-size portion of Fettuccine Alfredo at a favorite Italian restaurant chain is an astonishing 800 calories, 69 g carbohydrate, 48 g total fat, 30 g saturated fat, 810 g sodium, 4 g fiber, 23 g protein.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Best Reduced-Carb Blueberry Muffin EVER!

The wild Maine blueberries are in and I can't get enough of them. I wanted to make fresh blueberry muffins, but my past attempts have been less than satisfactory because either they didn't have enough blueberry flavor or, if I tried to add more, the blueberries would sink to the bottom in a soggy layer that would fall apart. I saw a recipe demonstrated on America's Test Kitchen television show on PBS that suggested swirling blueberry jam into the batter, which made sense. So, starting with their recipe, I made changes and substitutions to create a seriously reduced-carb version and the result is spectacular! Before mixing the batter, cook up a small amount of low-sugar, fresh blueberry jam to be swirled into each muffin for a burst of intense blueberry flavor. It's a extra step in the process, but well worth the effort. (Note: You may use frozen blueberries for the jam, but fresh blueberries will hold up better in the batter. Also, use real sugar for the topping because sugar substitute will not melt and crystallized into the crunchy, yummy topping that makes these muffins so delicious.)

I served these this morning to a house guest staying for the week (someone who had never experienced my low-carb baking before) and he "ooohhh-ed and aaawww-ed" while eating three in a row. When I told him they were low sugar and reduced carb, he couldn't believe it...and neither will you!

Best Reduced-Carb Blueberry Muffin EVER!
(Makes 12 muffins)

Muffin Batter:
2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over
1 teaspoon sugar
1½ cups sifted almond flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
2 large eggs
¼ cup Smart Balance buttery spread, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup fat-free buttermilk (or ¾ cup plain low-fat milk)
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup sugar
Zest of one large lemon, finely grated (about 1½ teaspoons)

1. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to a boil over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with the back of a spoon and stirring frequently until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 425-degrees. Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Prepare the topping by mixing together ¼ cup sugar and lemon zest; set aside.

3. Whisk flours, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk Splenda and eggs together until thick and well blended, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in melted butter spread and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining 1 cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be lumpy with a few spots of dry flour; do not over mix.)

4. Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among the muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups). Spoon a teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into the center of each mound of batter. Using a chopstick or skewer, gently swirl filling into batter using a figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar topping evenly over muffins.

5. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17-19 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking time. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per muffin: 222 calories, 21.8 g carbohydrate, 13 g total fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 179.5 mg sodium, 2.3 g fiber, 5.8 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this recipe compare to the original blueberry muffin recipe from America's Test Kitchen? This recipe is lower in calories, sodium and has only half the carbohydrate and saturated fat, plus it has more protein and fiber. For comparison, the nutritional information for a muffin made with the traditional recipe is 290 calories, 47.5 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g total fat, 3.1 g saturated fat, 292 mg sodium, 1.2 g fiber, 4.4 g protein.

Added 8/7/10
If you don't want to bother with a muffin tin, this can be baked in an 8" square baking pan instead. Bake for about 22 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. It makes a wonderful coffeecake or dessert!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dilled Salmon with Low-fat Hollandaise Sauce

It seems my creativity can only flow in one direction at a time. For the past several weeks, I've been very busy preparing four new sewing patterns for publication, so I apologize for the infrequent postings lately. But don't worry, I'm still cooking! It's been fun going into the archives and rediscovering some of my old favorite recipes.

My daughter is home from college for the summer and this recipe was partly her creation. She made her seared dill salmon for me one evening and I just happened to have some of my low-fat hollandaise sauce leftover in the fridge. The sauce was the perfect finishing touch to her delightful recipe.

Real hollandaise sauce is made from 2-3 eggs, 2 sticks of butter and lemon juice, which is so loaded with saturated fat I might have a heart attack just thinking about it! My mock hollandaise sauce starts with a convenient dry mix and is less than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving. The packaged dry hollandaise mix, when made according to the directions, can be a bit gravy-like and too dull for me, so I spiced it up with a pinch of cayenne and more lemon. It makes ten low-fat servings, so you'll have plenty leftover for eggs benedict, asparagus or another fish dish later in the week.

Dilled Salmon with Low-fat Hollandaise Sauce
(Makes 2 servings)

1 packet of Hollandaise sauce mix (I use Knorr brand)
1 cup skim milk or Fat-free Hood Calorie Countdown Dairy Beverage
2 tablespoons Smart Balance buttery spread
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 center-cut salmon fillets (5 oz. each, no skin)
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Fresh chopped dill or dried
1 tablespoon Canola oil or Grapeseed Oil (for high temp cooking, not olive oil)

1. Mix the milk and sauce mix in a small saucepan until well blended. Heat the hollandaise sauce over medium-low heat according to package directions, except only add 2 tablespoons of buttery spread (instead of ¼ cup butter as the package recommends). After it boils for 1 minute, remove from heat and add cayenne pepper and lemon juice; set aside.

2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium to high heat (I use a cast-iron skillet). Season salmon fillets with salt & pepper on both sides, and season liberally with dill only on one side. Rub the oil on each side. When skillet is very hot, place the oiled salmon in the pan, dill side down 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.) Remove to serving plate and top each serving with 2 tablespoons hollandaise sauce. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving: 274.5 calories, 2.75 g carbohydrate, 9.35 g total fat, 3.8 g saturated fat, 196.5 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 31.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Maralee and Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Pudding Infused with Natural Mint

It's been too hot and humid to cook lately, so we've been getting by with cooler foods. (One of our favorite summer meals is BLT sandwiches made with turkey bacon.) Although we don't have much of a desire to eat, the weather has been ideal for my herb garden to go wild! Here is a dessert or snack recipe that I've already made several times this summer, or whenever it's necessary to thin out the mint patch. The mint flavor is subtle and refreshing, not overpowering like when a liquid extract is used. After you boil the milk and mint, just allow it to sit and steep until the mixture reaches room temperature, then strain and refrigerate. The mascarpone cheese adds to the creamy texture and helps to thicken the pudding. If you want a thick, mousse-like consistency, use 1¾ cups of milk. If you want a normal pudding consistency, use 2 cups. Either way, it's a delicious and COOL snack!

Chocolate Fudge Pudding Infused with Natural Mint
(Makes 4 servings)

1¾ to 2 cups skim, almond or light soy milk (original flavor)
1 cup fresh mint (leaves & stems), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
1 package fat-free, sugar free instant Chocolate Fudge pudding mix
Whipped topping and mint leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Measure the milk into a medium sauce pan and add the chopped mint. Bring to a bubbly boil, and then remove from heat. Allow mixture to steep until mixture returns to room temperature (at least 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Strain milk mixture and discard mint leaves. Add cocoa powder and Splenda to milk; stir until cocoa dissolves. Place milk mixture in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to cool.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the mascarpone cheese and cooled milk mixture until cheese is completely incorporated. (For a smoother mixture, beat on medium-high with a handheld or standing mixer for 1-2 minutes.) Add pudding mix and whisk for 2 minutes. Refrigerate pudding for about 10 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving: 127.2 calories, 12.1 g carbohydrate, 6.6 g total fat, 3.7 g saturated fat, 360 mg sodium, 1.4 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Don't forget Kabobs!

Already, on several occasions this summer, my husband and I have cooked shish kabobs on the grill. They are so much fun to make and eat...and talk about EASY! Simply marinate chicken, shrimp or scallops for an hour. Another method for adding flavor is to apply a dry rub on beef, chicken or scallops. Then pick and choose your favorite vegetables, toss them in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper and start lining them up on soaked bamboo skewers. Grill them directly over hot coals for about 3-4 minutes per side and you'll be ready to eat in no time!

Some of our favorite combinations are teriyaki chicken with fresh pineapple, peppers and onions. Sirloin chunks that have been tossed in a seasoned dry rub are excellent paired with zucchini, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Also, jumbo shrimp and scallop kabobs would be a fun and delicious way to introduce more fish into your diet. For a meatless meal, skewer and grill a variety of your favorite vegetables. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination!

Nutritional Information: The nutritional information per kabob will vary, depending on the type of meat, vegetables and marinades used. But whatever the combination, shish kabobs are typically low in calories, carbohydrate and fat because they are mostly grilled vegetables with a small amount of meat or fish. You can feel good about eating this meal, so enjoy and don't worry about the numbers.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fresh Cherry Crumble

This is THE season for sweet cherries and my husband and I look forward to it every summer! Right now they're readily available in the stores, usually at the lowest price of the year. It always has been a tradition that every year at this time I make a sugar-free fresh cherry pie for my family. (If you've never had a cherry pie made from scratch with fresh cherries, then you've missed out. ) I love the taste but, even though it's sugar-free, it still must remain a once-a-summer treat because the carb and calorie count is too high. The culprit is in the crust. In this recipe, I've eliminated the high carb crust while keeping the best part - the yummy, sweet, gooey cherry filling! With only 18.5 net carbs per serving, it is a dessert I can have more often. It's very easy to prepare and, I guarantee, will be a huge hit at your family's 4th of July gathering.

Sugar-free Fresh Cherry Crumble
(Serves 8)

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca (dry)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest or ¼ teaspoon almond extract

Crumble Topping:
¼ cup almond flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup Splenda granular
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Place the pitted cherries into a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons Splenda, tapioca, nutmeg, lemon zest or extract. (Do not add the zest, if using almond extract.) Stir to combine. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, place all of the dry topping ingredients into a large bowl. Add cubed butter and cut in using a pastry blender or two knives until butter has been incorporated and the mixture resembles small pebbles (do not overwork the mixture or it will turn to dough).

3. Pour cherry mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Distribute cherries into an even layer and sprinkle the crumble topping over the top. Bake in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 40 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving: 134.8 calories, 20 g carbohydrate, 6 g total fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 20 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber, 1.1 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this recipe compare to a traditional two-crust cherry pie? The difference will blow you away! If you thought that a fresh fruit pie is a good dessert choice, think again. For comparison, the nutritional information for 1/8th of a 9" cherry pie is 486 calories, 69.3 g carbohydrate, 22 g total fat, 5.4 g saturated fat, 344 mg sodium, 1.4 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Crispy Chicken Asparagus Bundles

I have made this dish a couple of times and really enjoy it. Not only do the flavors go together well, but it also looks so fancy on the plate! When you cut into it, the spiraling layers gives it an elegant appearance, even though it is extremely easy to prepare. The trick to a really crispy coating is the panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs). It comes in regular or whole wheat so, if you want the addition of a little fiber, go with the whole wheat variety. I used minced fresh herbs from my little herb garden but, if you don't have fresh, dried will work just fine.

The recipe calls for the chicken breasts to be "butterflied." It's a simple cutting technique in which you slice into the thickest side and stop just before cutting completely through. When it is opened and flattened, it turns a small piece of meat into what looks like a large portion. Click on this link if you would like to see a short slideshow about How to Butterfly a Chicken Breast.

Crispy Chicken Asparagus Bundles
(Makes 2 servings)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 oz. each)
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 thin slices deli ham
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
8 spears asparagus, woody ends removed
¼ cup whole wheat panko Japanese-style breadcrumbs (or regular)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of salt
4 teaspoons pub-style Dijon mustard
Drizzle of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon)

1. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Spray a shallow baking pan with non-stick spray or spread 1 teaspoon of olive oil to prevent chicken from sticking; set aside.

2. Butterfly the chicken breasts and cover with plastic wrap. Pound with a mallet until about ¼ to ½-inch thick. Sprinkle one side with onion powder, garlic salt, and pepper. Place a ham slice on each and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Lay 4 asparagus spears in the center of each and roll chicken around the vegetables; set aside.

3. In a shallow plate, combine the panko breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic powder, pepper and salt. Spread each chicken bundle with mustard and roll in the breadcrumb mixture. Place in the prepared baking dish (seam side down). Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top of each bundle and bake for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving: 239 calories, 10 g carbohydrate, 5.3 g total fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 540 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 38.1 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Harvest Tuna or Chicken Salad

I like tuna and try to eat it often to include more fish and Omega 3 in my diet, but something seems to happen to my creativity when I open that can so I end up making the same boring tuna fish salad with mayo, mustard and pickle relish. Today I challenged myself to come up with a different twist on my ordinary tuna salad and the end result was bursting with flavor! The idea of adding dried fruit came from a harvest salad I was recently served at a local restaurant (Rudy's in Cape Elizabeth). It adds texture and a hint of sweetness that blends perfectly with the homemade cherry-balsamic dressing. If you want variety, keep in mind that this recipe would be excellent with cooked chicken, as well. With warmer weather coming, I'll be glad to have another cool, main dish salad in my recipe box and this one is definitely worth repeating!

Harvest Tuna or Chicken Salad
(Makes 2 servings)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cherry preserves or jam
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons dried cherries, chopped
¼ cup dried apples, chopped
2 tablespoons almonds, chopped (or use slivered)
2/3 cup broccoli florets
½ cup cucumber or celery, quartered and sliced
5 ounces solid white tuna, drained & broken into small pieces (or ¾ cup chicken)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, cherry preserves, pepper and olive oil until well blended and emulsified.

2. To the bowl, add the remaining ingredients and toss until combined and well coated with the dressing. Equally divide among two serving plates and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 382.5 calories, 33.4 g carbohydrate, 19 g total fat, 2.4 g saturated fat, 272.5 mg sodium, 5.4 g fiber, 19.2 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Loaded Chocolate Cherry Brownie Bites

These delicious, little cookies pack a serious chocolate punch and are loaded with good-for-you ingredients. When I planned out the recipe for these cookies, I was thinking about the chocolate-cherry flavors of a Black Forest Cake. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The combination of almond flour, oatmeal, flaxseed meal, cocoa powder (with only a small amount of white flour) gives them the taste and texture of chewy, deep chocolate brownies. The flaxseed meal is a good source of fiber and Omega 3's and each cookie provides 133 mg of Omega 3! Honestly, if you like the taste of brownies, you'll love these cookies. With only 5 net carbs each, you don't need to feel guilty about eating chocolate anymore.

Loaded Chocolate Cherry Brownie Bites
(Makes 36 cookies)

½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cups almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1/3 cup uncooked oatmeal
¼ cup flaxseed meal
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons zero trans fat buttery spread (I use Smart Balance)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
¾ cup Splenda granular (not baking blend)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup skim, almond or light soy milk (original flavor)
½ cup dried cherries, chopped
2 tablespoons mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, measure flours, oatmeal, flaxseed meal, cocoa powder, baking soda 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 buttery spread 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 milk and continue beating with the mixer until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, stir until incorporated. Fold in the dried cherries and chocolate chips.

4. Using a small cookie scoop or drop by rounded teaspoonful onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes (do not over bake). Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Nutritional Information per cookie: 48.1 calories, 5.9 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 45 mg sodium, 0.8 g fiber, 1 g protein. (Also, each cookie contains 133.3 mg Omega 3.)

Original Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this cookie compare to a brownie made from a mix? This recipe is significantly lower in calories, carbohydrate, fat and sodium. For comparison, the nutritional information for one brownie (1/20th of a batch made from a mix) is 170 calories, 23 g carbohydrate, 9 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 95 mg sodium, 0.5 g fiber and 2 g protein.

Added 6/15/10: After several days, when my leftover cookies were turning a bit stale, I used them to make a Fresh Cherry Chocolate Crisp and it was unbelievably delicious! Pit 4 cups of cherries and place into an 8-inch square baking dish. Toss cherries with 1-2 tablespoons of Splenda and 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Crumble about 6-8 cookies into a large bowl. Add 2-3 tablespoons of cold butter and blend with a pastry blender or cut in with two knives until mixture is the size of small peas. Spoon over cherries and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for 50 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Seasoned Lentils with Vegetables

Tonight I found myself alone for dinner, without much motivation to cook. So, I looked in the refrigerator and started pulling out ingredients. The result was this flavorful side dish that can easily be the whole meal. It is complete with protein, vegetables and complex carbs. Lentils are high in fiber and are a good source of iron, vitamin B1 and folate. I simply added a piece of fruit for dessert and the meal was complete. (If you want a meatless meal, omit the bacon.)

The lentils I used were already fully cooked. This cut the preparation time in half! These convenient, prepackaged cooked lentils can sometimes be found in the produce section of your supermarket or at Trader Joe's. If you can't find cooked lentils, you can use canned that have been drained and rinsed or cook your own. They only take about 20 minutes to prepare, so you can still get dinner on the table in under an hour.

Seasoned Lentils with Vegetables
(Makes four ¾-cup servings)

2 cups cooked lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices of ready-cook bacon, diced (or cooked turkey bacon, crumbled)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
1½ cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives) or 2 teaspoons dried
1/3 cup beef or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon worcestershire or steak sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook lentils according to package directions, except substitute low-sodium beef or vegetable broth in place of water for more flavor; set side.

2. Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic, bacon and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Add zucchini, broccoli and herbs and continue cooking for another 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp.

3. Add cooked lentils, broth, worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook only until lentils are heated through. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving: 204.5 calories, 27.5 g carbohydrate, 4.7 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 9.6 g fiber, 11.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Peas & Carrots with Mint

It's time again to welcome the vegetables of early summer. Even though it is more convenient to reach for frozen, I can't resist the fun of shelling peas at least once a year. It's an annual ritual that really brings home the fact that summer is finally here! This is a great activity for kids, so get them involved, too. You'll want to cut the carrots into pea-size pieces so they'll cook in the same amount of time. Of course, if you want to get dinner on the table even faster, go ahead and use the frozen pea and carrot combination in your grocer's freezer for this recipe.

The mint in my little herb garden is already taking over (mint will do that, if you let it have it's way), so I had to think of a way to use it. The combined flavors of mint and peas are well known, so I gave it a try. The sprinkle of Splenda is optional, but I discovered that it enhanced and blended the mint with the vegetables even more to my liking. This was a beautiful and tasty side dish that I will be sure to repeat in the coming weeks.

Peas & Carrots with Mint
(Makes four ½-cup servings)

1 cup water, salted
3 medium carrots, quartered and sliced into small pieces
1½ cups fresh peas, shelled (or frozen)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1½ teaspoon zero trans fat buttery spread (I used Smart Balance)
¼ teaspoon lemon pepper (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons fresh mint, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
½ packet of Splenda (optional, or to taste)

1. Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan and add salt. Add carrots and boil for 3-4 minutes. Add peas and return to a boil. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Drain vegetables and discard water.

2. Return saucepan to medium heat and add olive oil and buttery spread. Add drained vegetables to pan and saute in oil for 2 minutes. Add lemon pepper, salt, mint, lemon juice and Splenda. Continue cooking until vegetables are cooked through. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving: 84.7 calories, 10.4 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 102.5 mg sodium, 2.6 g fiber, 2.9 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recently, my daughter asked if I could send a "care package" from home with some of my healthy chocolate chip cookies. Looking over my collection of recipes, I discovered I didn't have one for plain chocolate chip cookies -- so I went to work creating one. These cookies are delicious, with a satisfying burst of chocolate, but only 6 carbs each! The substitution of almond flour in place of most of the high-carb, low nutrition density white flour makes them a healthier choice than traditional cookies while retaining the texture and flavor of the original. My daughter (who is not diabetic and can eat any cookie she wants) was very pleased and I think you will be, too.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 30 cookies)

1¼ cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
¾ cup Splenda, granular (not baking blend)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons zero trans fat buttery spread (such as Smart Balance)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate

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

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, and salt. Use a fork to break up any lumps in the almond flour; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, buttery spread, brown sugar and Splenda together with a handheld or standing mixer until sugars are well combined with the butter and the mixture is creamy and light. Add egg and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes until well incorporated.

4. Gradually add the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon and stir until flour is well incorporated and a soft dough forms. Fold in chocolate chips.

5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or level small cookie scoop) about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Bake until set and beginning to brown around the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Cookies will not brown much, so watch carefully and do not overbake. Remove immediately to wire rack and cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per cookie: 82 calories, 6.4 g carbohydrates, 5.7 g total fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 72.5 mg sodium, 0.5 g fiber, 1.6 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this compare to a homemade Chocolate Chip cookie made from a traditional recipe? My recipe is much lower in calories, carbohydrates, fats and sodium. For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size cookie made from a traditional recipe is 160 calories, 21 g carbohydrates, 8 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 90 mg sodium, 0.5 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cheesecake-filled Strawberries

Currently available in my local supermarket are extra large strawberries from California. As big and beautiful as they appear, their taste lacks the sweetness that you get from the smaller berries. The reason is because the outside of the large berries turn red and ripen long before the inside is fit to eat. Still, I couldn't resist because I love strawberries and crave them at this time of year. For me, the strawberry season is too short to overlook any of them! Although these larger strawberries are not the best choice for shortcake where the berry needs to shine forth, they are excellent for this quick and easy recipe. I hollowed out their white, tasteless insides to create a strawberry "cone" that is filled with a delicious, creamy cheesecake-like filling. Great for snacking, dessert or as an appetizer, these fruit cones are fun to eat and kids will love them, too! For a frozen treat on a hot day, place them upright in the freezer for about an hour before serving.

The recipe suggests using light cream cheese because it is readily available in any grocery store, but an alternative is White Stilton with Apricots, which is a wonderful snacking cheese that can sometimes be found in the speciality cheese section or Trader Joe's. If you choose the Stilton, only use 3 ounces and eliminate the dried apricots because they are already mixed into the cheese. The nutritional information per berry is only slightly higher but, in my opinion, worth the extra calorie or two.

Cheesecake-filled Strawberries
(Makes between 18- 24 strawberries, depending on size)

3½ ounces low-fat cream cheese, room temperature (see Variation below*)
8 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt
3 dried apricots (finely chopped)
1½ teaspoons crystallized ginger (finely chopped)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 or 3 packets Splenda (or to your taste)
18 to 24 large strawberries

1. In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese and yogurt until well blended. (If necessary, use a fork to break up the cheese and aid in blending.) Add the chopped apricots, ginger, vanilla and Splenda; stir to combine. (This mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated until time to serve.)

2. Wash and dry the strawberries. Cut the tops off the strawberries and, with a small paring knife, hollow out and discard the white, fleshy center to create a cone; set strawberries aside.

3. Fill each strawberry cone with approximately 1 to 1¼ teaspoons of the cream cheese mixture and serve.

Nutritional Information per filled strawberry: 27.6 calories, 3.6 g carbohydrate, 0.7 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 22.4 mg sodium, 0.4 g fiber, 1.2 g protein.

*Variation: If using 3 ounces of White Stilton with Apricots in place of the cream cheese and dried apricots, add an additional 1.3 calories, 0.04 g carbohydrate, 0.1 g total fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, 5.7 mg sodium, 0.02 g fiber and 0.3 g protein per filled strawberry.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010