Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stovetop Custard Sauce

This is one of my favorite comfort foods that goes back to my childhood. It's adapted from my grandmother's recipe that she called "My Float," which was most likely inspired by the "Floating Islands" dessert that was so popular many decades ago. It is a rich, vanilla egg custard (more like a sauce or eggnog) that my grandmother would make as a treat for my mother when she was sick as a little girl in the 1940's and 50's. This tradition was passed down, as I recall my mother making this same easy-to-swallow dessert for me and I later made it for my own daughter when she was sick. I can't taste it now without feeling surrounded by the love of these special women in my life.

Last week I developed a spring cold and, when my throat was dry and sore, I decided to remake this special recipe and sip it warm. It brought immediate comfort both physically and emotionally. I used a mixture of 1% milk, almond milk and a bit of mascarpone cheese to replace the whole milk called for in the original recipe, which reduced the calories and some fat. When I replaced the sugar with Splenda, the carb count was slashed by 75%. The taste is every bit as delicious as I remember. It can be eaten alone one soothing spoonful at a time, or serve it over fresh fruit. Orange slices are especially nice if you like the taste of creamsicles! Anyway you serve it, I'm sure it will bring you comfort and joy, too.

Stovetop Custard Sauce
Makes eight generous ½ cup servings

4 eggs, lightly beaten*
2 cups 1% milk
1 cup almond milk (Original)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons Splenda granular
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and add 2 cups milk. Beat with a wire whisk until well blended. Pour through a strainer to remove egg solids that did not incorporate and return mixture to bowl. Add almond milk, dash salt, Splenda and mascarpone cheese. Whip with a wire whisk until well blended. (Tiny specks of the mascarpone cheese may not blend completely, which is fine. They will melt into the mixture when heated.)

2. Boil only enough water in the bottom pan of a double boiler so that the top of the double boiler doesn't touch the water, but will hover above it. (If you don't own a double boiler, use two different size pans and nest them one inside the other, but be sure the top pan won't be sitting in the boiling water.)

3. Pour egg mixture into the top pan of a double boiler and place over the boiling water. Reduce heat until water is simmering and stir the egg mixture often for the first 5 minutes. Continue stirring constantly until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. This may take 10-20 minutes depending on the temperature of the water. NOTE: Do not overcook or boil mixture because the egg will separate and scramble! The temperature only needs to reach 160°F for eggs to be safely cooked.

4. Remove top pan from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vanilla and stir to combine. Refrigerate custard until serving time. If desired, the custard can be served warm, but it is usually served chilled either alone or over fruit. It is wonderful over fresh orange slices or any combination of fruit salad.

Nutritional Information per ½ cup serving (fruit not included): 96 calories, 6 g carbohydrate, 4.6 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 120.6 mg sodium, 0.1 g fiber, 5.2 g protein.

*To reduce the fat even further, you can replace 2 whole eggs with ½ cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters). This will change the nutritional information per serving slightly to 86.8 g calories, 5.8 g carbohydrate, 3.7 g total fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 130 mg sodium, 0.1 g fiber, 5.5 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011. Inspired by my grandmother Gaga's recipe taken from her handwritten recipe notebook from the 1940's.

How does this compare to my grandmother's recipe? This recipe contains significantly fewer calories and carbohydrate compared to the traditional recipe that calls for whole milk and sugar. For comparison, the nutritional information for the same size serving of the traditional recipe is 168.8 calories, 25.3 g carbohydrate, 5.2 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 106 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 5.9 g protein.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spiced Up Carrot Muffins

What bunny wouldn't love these? Made with a pound of sweet carrots, these Southwestern-style muffins are a good source of beta carotene and provide a half serving of vegetables in every muffin! They are partially sweetened with agave nectar, which is similar to a light cactus honey. (It's not as thick as regular honey, but almost as sweet.) You can find agave nectar in health food stores and many regular grocery stores due to its increasing popularity. Another benefit of these muffins is obtained by the tiny amount of cayenne, which is known to increase metabolism. By using almond flour for half of the wheat flour in a traditional muffin recipe, the carbs are cut by over 30%! They're not too sweet and they have a little spicy kick from the cayenne, which makes them an excellent side with grilled meat, chicken or fish. I also enjoy them as a snack in the afternoon. Recently, I served these at a pot luck dinner and they were well received by my guests, each wondering about the unusual combination of flavors. No one could believe they were a "diet" muffin, and neither will you!

Spiced Up Carrot Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup light agave nectar
¼ cup Splenda granular
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime (about 2-3 tablespoons)
1 pound grated carrots (about 3 cups)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (or less, if you don’t like too much heat)
6 tablespoons chopped pecans or pine nuts, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick vegetable spray or line with paper muffin cups; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.

3. Using an electric handheld or standing mixer on medium-high speed, mix together the canola oil, agave nectar, Splenda, and eggs until well blended. Add the zest and juice of one lime and mix well. Add the grated carrots and mix thoroughly.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients all at once. With a wooden spoon, stir until just moistened. Add ¼ cup of the nuts and stir. Divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon of the remaining nuts on the top of each muffin.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per muffin: 220.7 calories, 20.9 g carbohydrate, 14 g total fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 293.5 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber, 4.7 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011