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