Tag Archives: Cooking Light

Molasses Crinkles

Molasses Crinkle

I had a nice surprise yesterday in the mail! When a resident receives a package, a little tags is hung in that resident’s mailbox door as a signal to go and see the concierge to pick up the delivery. I’m usually expecting something in particular when one of those appears in my mailbox. Yesterday, I noticed the shiny little tag and started trying to remember: Had I ordered a new stockpile of  Vitamuffins? Did I place an order with Sephora for lip products that taste like s’mores? Was Amazon supposed to be sending me… anything? The answer was no. A bit excited, I went to the desk to see what was waiting for me, and I found a birthday/Valentine’s day package sent by my aunt.

Inside the box, I found some fun things for the kitchen as well as some adorable little sachet boxes. At the bottom of the box, there was a cookbook: Light Desserts by Beatrice Ojakangas. A new cookbook! Well well well… something to play with over a long weekend! I also think it might be the most fragrant cookbook I’ve ever owned thanks to its journey alongside the sachets.

My aunt bought this cookbook some time ago and decided it needed a new home. I’m usually happy to take in stray cookbooks, and I find that even some of the weirder ones on my shelf have provided inspiration. Before introducing this cookbook to the rest of the “pack” (I think cookbooks travel in packs…), I decided to look through it. As I was flipping through the book, I started getting in the mood to bake. More specifically, it put me in the mood to bake molasses cookies.

Molasses Crinkle

My papaw had quite a sweet tooth (but never a weight problem…), and my memaw was in the habit of making something sweet for him to enjoy at the end of a meal. Lemon ice box pie, fresh coconut cake, pecan pie, molasses or peanut butter cookies… there was almost always something awesome for dessert. If, for some reason, there weren’t any homemade treats available, my papaw kept an emergency jar of vanilla wafers on the cabinet. That jar now sits on my cabinet and usually has low point cookies or biscotti in it. Hmm… is having a sweet tooth hereditary? Anyway, molasses cookies made a frequent appearance, and I always loved them. I loved the melt-in-your-mouth texture… and I loved sneaking them out of the cookie jar when no one was looking.

Molasses, (or “sawghum” as my papaw called it) is one of those foods that I seem to forget about unless I’m on the hunt for a cookie or making gingerbread. I used to love mixing up a big puddle of butter and molasses and using it as a dip for rolls or biscuits. That type of eating isn’t an everyday occurrence anymore, but I could definitely put molasses in my oatmeal without derailing any weight loss efforts. For that matter, I should use it as a sweetener more often given that, unlike sugar, it has actual nutrients (including calcium!!) in it. I’m making a note to try that tomorrow! When I came across a molasses cookie recipe in this “new to me” cookbook, I decided to make some. Of course, I couldn’t help but tweak the recipe. Here’s my version:

Molasses Crinkles

Recipe adapted from Light Desserts by Beatrice Ojakangas copyright 1989

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg white

2 Tbsp. molasses

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 Tbsp. sugar

Directions:

Cream butter and brown sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Add egg white, beating until smooth. Stir in molasses.

Combine flours and next five ingredients in a medium sized bowl; add to butter mixture and beat well. Cover dough and chill at least 8 hours.

Divide the dough into 13 portions (I weighed the dough in grams, divided by 13, and then used my scale to get them all the same size.) Roll each portion into a ball and dip the tops of the balls in the 1/2 Tbsp. of sugar. Place balls of dough 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray or lined with a Silpat. Bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes. The tops will crack or “crinkle.” Cool on wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Makes 13 unofficial 2 point cookies (why 13? Read more below… Trust me…)

Since the cookbook is from 1989, back before margarine and its trans-fats were characterized as unhealthy, it called for margarine. For my money, baking with butter is almost always better anyway as far as results go, plus, you aren’t eating any weird chemicals or things that can’t be pronounced using less than four syllables. I immediately started out by changing the margarine to butter. I haven’t bought margarine in years. I wasn’t going to start now!

Butter and Sugar... Always A Good Start

When measuring the molasses, I sprayed my measuring spoons with a little cooking spray first. The molasses should then slide right out of the spoon with no problem!

Mixing in the Molasses

I thought that the spicy dry ingredients were so pretty! I changed the original recipe to include some whole wheat flour because I like the nutty and chewy texture it lends to cookies. It also helps the nutrition profile a little bit. As a bonus, it adds another color to this mound of dry ingredients:

Spicy Dry Ingredients

As you can see, this makes a very small amount of dough. Small is what I’m all about! This was perfect!!! I put it in a smaller bowl before I stuck it in the fridge to chill.

Little Bit of Batter

In addition to changing the margarine to butter and working in some whole wheat flour, I changed the number of servings. That is, in my opinion, the most exciting change I made to this recipe!! If you flip through a big all purpose cookbook, like the old school Betty Crocker cookbook, you will probably find that most recipes make between 4 and 12 servings. Some might make slightly more, and others might make slightly less. Generally, each recipe makes a pretty reasonable number of servings– UNTIL you get to the cookie section. I know that, in part, it can be hard to break recipes for baked goods down into smaller quantities. Still, I don’t need 8 dozen cookies unless I have a party to attend or some hungry colleagues at work. What I really wanted was to be able to make a dozen cookies. Period.

I got pretty close. I cut the recipe in the cookbook in half to begin with. Then, I plugged my ingredients into the magic gadget on the WW site. I’ve been enjoying some 2 point Kashi cookies this week, and I know that I don’t mind spending 2 points on a cookie– especially if I savor it with a big cup of tea. That makes it last longer. I decided to see how many 2 point cookies I could make, and the answer was 13. This is known as a “baker’s dozen,” and that’s just fine with me! As I mentioned above, I weighed my batch of dough, divided by 13 and then used the scale to measure out the proper amount for each ball of dough which got rolled up and coated with sugar.

Ready to BakeWeighing my dough on the scale may seem like a bit much, but I don’t know of an easier way to get all of my cookies to be the same size (and, consequently, to get an accurate points count per cookie). Plus, I watch too much “Unwrapped” on the food channel, and I often see them use a scale for things like this. Who says that television is a waste of time?!

The Whole Shebang

My final opinion on these cookies is that they are good, but not as large as I would have liked. They are pretty close in size to the Kashi cookies, but slightly smaller. That’s my only complaint. I’m so excited to have figured out how to make such a tiny batch! The next time I’m in the mood to bake, but not in the mood to pawn cookies off on people, I’ll be making these. I like the texture and the flavor, although I might actually add an extra pinch of each of the spices next time, and I really enjoyed the one I tried with a cup of Sweet Thai Delight tea from Yogi Tea. That is one of my absolute favorite teas ever!! It has a bit of exotic spice and a hint of coconut that went well with this cookie. When I grow up, I think I’d like to specialize in cookie and tea pairings (similar to wine and food pairings.)  That seems like it would be a pretty sweet gig!

Teatime

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Mmmushroom Casserole

On the Chopping Block

I love reading about food, which is why my blog contains lists of links to some of my favorite sites. Some of my favorites aren’t very weight watcher friendly, but they do contain gorgeous photos of cupcakes and exotic destinations. Others, like 101 Cookbooks, pack a double punch with gorgeous photos plus recipes that use real wholesome foods and can often be easily adapted to work well on weight watchers. While looking around on 101 Cookbooks the other day, I came across Heidi’s recipe for a mushroom casserole and knew that I just had to try it.

I didn’t really grow up eating mushrooms, although there are two exceptions to that statement. We often had casseroles that involved canned cream of mushroom soup with teeny tiny little bits of mushroom in it. This soup would sometimes masquerade as gravy on mashed potatoes or rice too. I remember that I loved that particular combination, and that could be why this casserole sounded so good.

The other exception involved the tiny little cans of sliced mushrooms. I loved spending Saturdays at my grandparents’ house. My memaw would often buy a Chef Boyardee pizza kit, and my brother and I would hang out on Saturday and make our own pizza. You know the kit, right? It’s the one with dried little package of cheese, the tiny can of pizza sauce and the crust mix? Are they still available? I haven’t looked for one in years. We always embellished the pizza by adding the little canned mushrooms, ground beef, lots of extra cheese, and, if we were feeling particularly fancy, we might even add black olives. I looked forward to pizza Saturdays, and, just like now, I was always so excited when the finished product came out of the oven looking all golden and bubbly.

When I started incorporating more veggies in my diet, I came to really love mushrooms– grilled, sauted, stuffed, roasted… devoured! When I saw this recipe, I knew what my “big batch” food needed to be this week. Heidi had a couple of suggestions to lighten the casserole up, and I changed a couple of other things as well. If you want to see the original recipe (and if you’ve never checked out 101 Cookbooks you totally should), please click on the link in the paragraph above. I’m going to put my version below as it is the one I used to calculate points using the magic gadget.

Crispy and Golden

Mushroom Casserole adapted from the recipe on 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients:

2 tsp. olive oil

1/2 pound (8 ounces) mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

1 large red onion, chopped well

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp. fines herbes

3 cups cooked brown rice at room temperature

1/2 cup egg beaters

1 cup 1% low fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Extra fines herbes for sprinkling on the top

 

 

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large skillet over medium-high heat saute the mushrooms in the olive oil sprinkled with a couple of pinches of salt. Stir every minute or so until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have browned a bit. Add the onions and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes or until they are translucent. Stir in the garlic and the fines herbes, cook for another minute and remove from heat. Add the rice to the skillet and stir until combined.

In a large bowl whisk together the egg beaters, cottage cheese, sour cream, and salt.

Combine the rice mixture and cottage cheese mixture in the large bowl, stir until well combined and then turn out into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with 2/3 of the Parmesan cheese, cover with foil and place in oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 or 30 minutes more or until hot throughout and golden along the edges. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and fines herbes if you wish.

This makes 6 unofficial 4 point servings

I used a red onion in honor of Valentine’s Day, and also because that was the only kind of onion in my onion drawer. I never run out of onions! I don’t know how that happened, but I will be heading to the store this evening. That rates as an emergency in my book! If you have a yellow onion or, even better, a vidalia, that would be good too. Although, I will say that I like the color and sweetness of the red in this dish. I will probably use a red onion “on purpose” the next time I make this dish because I liked it so much.

Red Onion and Friends

Heidi’s recipe called for a sprinkling of fresh tarragon over the top of the finished casserole. I forgot to pick up tarragon at the store, but felt like I needed to give this a little punch. Since I lightened the casserole ingredients, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to infuse the rice mixture with a little extra flavor so I added some fines herbes, which is one of my favorite blends of herbs. It gives a little French flair to almost anything. It is typically a mixture of tarragon, parsley, chives and chervil. Chervil is such a funny word! Anyway, I think that fines herbes is pretty widely available, but if you can’t find it, you could toss in some thyme or rosemary, use the fresh tarragon on top, or just leave it plain. It would be good that way too. If you want to know more about fines herbes, click this link: link. It could be your fun fact of the day. Hey, you never know when you might find yourself on Jeopardy. I can see it now: This herb blend typically includes parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil. BUZZ: Alex, what is fines herbes? If you win big, don’t forget about me!

Fines Herbes

Sauteeing the Veggies

Rice and Veg

The Glue

Altogether Now

Ready for the Oven

The smell of the casserole baking in the oven was amazing. This is a stick to your ribs kind of dish, and I decided to stick some to my ribs last night along with a salad made of romaine, a few pickled beets, some carrots, a few quartered grapes, a few roasted and salted pumpkin seeds and a bit of goat cheese topped with my favorite zero point salad dressing: some coarse mustard mixed with a little vinegar, salt and pepper. This casserole is going to be a great addition to my lunches this week! I’m so glad that I came across the recipe! Thanks, Heidi!

Dinner!

One more thing: Beadie over at What I Ate Yesterday is hosting a contest. The winner gets to try some Country Bob’s All-Purpose Sauce. I don’t think you can go wrong with something called “Country Bob’s.” I’ll bet Bob knows what he’s doing. If you are interested in entering, please click this link to visit Beadie’s site and enter. The contest ends Tuesday.

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Cooking Light Curried Cauliflower

 

Cooking Light Curried Cauliflower

Today was Merry Produce Wednesday, and I asked for extra cauliflower this week because I had a certain little curry recipe in mind. I love this recipe, and it has been awhile since I’ve whipped up a batch. I love eating curries at restaurants, but I know that they are often laden with an abundance of fat and calories. This dish is a good way to get a curry fix with a minimal investment of points.

This Week's Merry Produce Wednesday Box

Curried Cauliflower from Cooking Light 

This recipe originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Cooking Light magazine, and is available in Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2004. 

Ingredients:

  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 2  cups  thinly sliced onion
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 2  tablespoons  mild curry powder (The original recipe provided a recipe for making your own curry powder. I let the store take care of that step for me and just used some muchi curry powder from Whole Foods. Muchi is pretty hot, but that’s ok with me. Any curry powder should be fine!)
  • 1  tablespoon  minced garlic
  • 10  cup  cauliflower florets (2 medium heads)
  • 1  cup  chopped seeded peeled tomato
  • 1  cup  fat free Greek yogurt (The original recipe called for 1 cup of whole milk yogurt. I had nonfat Greek yogurt in the fridge so I used that instead. If you have some nonfat plain yogurt, I suspect it would work just fine and the points should come out the same. I’ve made it with whole milk yogurt, and it was certainly good, but it does increase the points a bit so keep that in mind. )
  • 1/2  cup  finely chopped cilantro stems (I used mostly stems, but some leaves snuck in there as well. It’s fine if that happens!)
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 8  lemon wedges (optional)
  • Cilantro sprigs (optional)

 

Directions:

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and ginger; cover and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium. Add curry powder and garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add cauliflower and next 4 ingredients (cauliflower through salt), stirring well to combine. Bring to a boil (yogurt will curdle); cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Serve with lemon wedges and cilantro sprigs, if desired.

This makes 8 unofficial 1 point servings or 6 unofficial 2 point servings.

The first time I made this recipe, I was skeptical. I didn’t think that such a huge mound of cauliflower would be able to cook in such a small amount of “liquid” (the yogurt). It does look strange when it is all in the pot together:

Everybody's In the Pool

Don’t worry. I know it looks impossible. Just make sure to stir it up very thoroughly and the magic will happen. Also, I think it is better to cook it for around 25 minutes over low heat rather than trying to cook it faster over a higher heat. This will ensure that you won’t end up with a burned layer in the bottom of the pot and uncooked cauliflower. The yogurt and the juice that comes out of the tomato will create enough steam to slowly cook the cauliflower to perfection.

I love the way the fresh ginger really plays up this dish. It tastes more complicated than it is thanks to the fragrant and flavorful ingredients. If you like curry, this might be a great way to get more veggies into your day along with a curry fix. I’m planning to eat mine for lunch tomorrow with some couscous and a little extra dollop of Greek yogurt on top. Yummy!

That’s all I have for tonight. Do you have a favorite light curry recipe? I’d love to hear about it if you do!!

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Sunshiny Blueberry Muffins

The Muffinaire

Oh how I wish you could smell my apartment right now. I’m in blueberry muffin heaven. I’m also very amused with the old pan that used to belong to my grandmother: The Muffinaire. According to the seal on the top, it was made by the United Aircraft Products Company in Dayton, Ohio. I love the WWII era flavor of this pan, and I would love to know about all of the things that have been baked in it over its long life. Pardon me for my sentimental reminiscing. I love old kitchen things.

 As I mentioned yesterday, I bought a large container of blueberries this weekend. While writing yesterday’s post, I remembered a muffin recipe from Cooking Light that I used to make all the time. Cooking Light recipes were perfect for me back when I was only concerned with counting fat grams. Now that I’ve switched to Weight Watchers, some of their recipes can be a bit higher in points than I would like. No worries! I still love Cooking Light, but now I use my recipe builder to play around with the recipes a bit and make them fit what I’m looking for as far as points go. Sometimes, this just means dividing the dish into smaller servings. Other times, like today, it also involves tweaking the ingredients a bit.

Cooking Light Blueberry-Yogurt Muffin

The original recipe is certainly not unhealthy as it is. I love muffins, but they don’t typically keep me full for very long. For that reason, I’m not usually willing to spend more than about 2 points on a muffin. I decided to see what I could do with the recipe to make it fit my criteria, and it was pretty easy to get them down to 2 points each with only a few changes. I’m going to provide the recipe below and add my substitutions in parentheses. If you follow the original, you can make 12 for 3 points each or 16 for 2 points each. If you use all of my substitutions, you can make 12 for 3 points each  or 14 for 2 points each. The difference is small, but I’d rather have 14 slightly bigger muffins than 16 slightly smaller ones for my valuable points. This is all unofficial, of course.

Cooking Light Blueberry-Yogurt Muffins

From the Complete Cooking Light Cookbook, p. 67

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour (I substituted 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (8 ounce) carton vanilla low-fat yogurt (I substituted one 6 ounce container of Weight Watchers nonfat vanilla yogurt)

1 large egg, lightly beaten (I substituted 1/4 cup egg beaters)

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

Cooking spray

1 Tbsp. sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine orange juice, oil, vanilla, yogurt and egg; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moist. Gently fold in blueberries.

3. Spoon batter into muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly over muffins. Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 18 minutes (it took about 15 minutes for my 14 muffin version) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pans immediately, and place muffins on a wire rack. Yield: 12 originally, but see the paragraph above… it is up to you! Serving size: 1 muffin

I love muffins when I’m in the mood to bake, but not in the mood to make anything fancy. Isn’t baking fun? I think it is one of my favorite things to do. Anyway, I’ve been making muffins and other quick breads forever, and I’ve learned a few things. First, it is important to mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl and the wet ingredients together in another before you allow them to meet. Otherwise, the results will not be pretty.

The Dry Team

The Dry Team

The Wet Team

The Wet Team

 

The dry and wet ingredients have been combined and I'm about to gently fold in the berries.

The dry and wet ingredients have been combined and I'm about to gently fold in the berries.

Second, you don’t want to overmix the batter so, when you add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, just mix it until everything is moistened. Too much stirring will result in a tough muffin. Third, when you fold berries into any sort of batter, it is really important to be gentle. If you break them with overly aggressive stirring, you will end up with a funky colored batter and less whole berries in your finished product. 

Altogether Now

Altogether Now

Sprinkled with Sugar and Ready for the Oven

Sprinkled with Sugar and Ready for the Oven

One new thing I did for this recipe was to divide my sprinkling sugar in half in order to do a more even job of distributing it. I sprinkled half of the uncooked muffins with half of the sugar and then did the other half. 

Finally, regardless of the cooking time given in a recipe, I always check my muffins when it is about five minutes from the time they are supposed to be done. Every oven is different. If you press lightly on the top and the muffin springs back, it is done. I’ve never been a believer in the toothpick test. 

The Finished Batch

The Finished Batch

 The berries are thick and jammy, the sugar on top is like a crispy little treat, the orange juice gives it a hint of sunshine, my apartment smells like a bakery, and I can have all of this indulgence for only two points! As you know, I like to have dessert every night. I think that one of these and a little glass of skim milk will be just the thing for my sweet tooth this evening. Don’t worry that I have too many. Muffins, individually wrapped in plastic wrap, freeze quite well so a few of these are probably destined to enjoy a little winter vacation before they actually make it to my plate. I don’t mind having a big batch of these muffins. I don’t mind one bit!

I’m always looking for low point muffin recipes since baked goods are really my weakness. Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear about it!!

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Cooking for the Week: Black Bean and Corn Salad

Beautiful Red Bell

I like to make a big batch of something on Sundays that I can have for lunch throughout the week. With the cold weather, I’ve been making a lot of soup. Yesterday, however, I was inspired by a pretty red bell pepper at Trader Joe’s. I decided that, instead of having soup in my lunch bag this week, I was in the mood for a salad that I haven’t made in quite some time.

Ingredients

The recipe for this Black Bean and Corn Salad is in the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2001 cookbook, but I can’t seem to find it on-line. Since I can’t provide a link, I have copied the recipe below:

Cooking Light Black Bean and Corn Salad

from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2001, p. 321

Ingredients:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp salt

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup fresh or frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

3/4 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Directions:

Bring first 7 ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Combine vinegar mixture, corn, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; cover and chill. Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup).

Unofficial Points info: I put all of the ingredients into the recipe builder and it gave me the following results: 8 servings are 1 point each, 6 servings are 1 point each, 4 servings are 2 points each. I’m probably going to divide mine into 6 servings for a point each. 

Black Bean and Corn Salad

I’ve heard it said many times that we should try to eat the rainbow, and this salad is definitely a colorful dish! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made this recipe, and that is a pretty good sign that, for me at least, it is a keeper. I’ve made it to take to potlucks and picnics since it is free of mayo and other ingredients that might become questionable in warmer weather. I like to take some for lunch with a chunk of cheddar cheese and some light tostitos or whole grain crackers. It is also great for dinner with grilled chicken, pork tenderloin or flanksteak. It is incredibly quick to make, with only a bit of chopping and a short simmer time on the stove, and I think the whole thing took me less than 15 minutes from start to finish. I should also tell you that I always use frozen corn, and find that it works quite well. I just put a cup of the frozen corn in a small colander and rinse it off under some cold water. Even if the corn isn’t completely thawed when it gets mixed in, it will continue to thaw out while the salad is chilling in the fridge.

I’m never really happy about the prospect of returning to work after the weekend, but knowing that I have something colorful and tasty waiting to go into my lunch bag on Monday helps a little. I hope you have a great week!

snacky salad

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Gotta Lotta Delicata?

Delicata Squash

Yesterday was Merry Produce Wednesday, and I got a new box of fun produce to play with. One food that has been introduced to me by my produce box is the lovely delicata squash. It behaves like an acorn squash and is very similar in shape, but the skin is a sunburst of beautiful colors. Truly, any kind of winter squash could be used in this recipe, and I doubt that anyone would know the difference.

I’ve grown to really like the sweet nutty flavor of winter squashes, and I enjoy putting them in soups and stews. Sometimes, however, I like to cook them up on their own and enjoy them as a side dish. My favorite thing to do with them is to roast them in the oven and give them a little curried twist. This recipe is a little bit spicy, so you might want to use 2 tsp of curry powder instead of 3 tsp if you don’t like your food to be slightly on the warm side. I like mine spicy! If curry isn’t your thing at all, you could always just use a good sprinkling of pumpkin pie type spices– cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves… that sort of thing. That would be good too. Here’s my recipe:

Just Sweet Enough Cozy Curried Delicata Squash

Ingredients:

2 pounds of delicata (or acorn… or butternut…) squash seeded, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ cubes. This was about 3 medium sized whole squash.

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

2-3 tsp curry powder

2 tsp olive oil

cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place chunks of squash in a bowl, and add the salt, cinnamon, curry powder and olive oil. Mix well coating the pieces of squash in the oil and spice mixture. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the squash on the baking sheet in a single layer making sure that each chunk of squash is touching the pan. Spritz the top of the squash with the cooking spray. Roast in the 450 degree oven for 35 minutes.

This makes 6 servings. Unofficial ww points: 1 point per serving

I usually attack a squash like this by cutting it in half so that I can scoop the seeds out first with a spoon.

Getting At the Seeds

I then cut the squash, still in its peel, into wedges along the ridges because this makes it much easier to peel with my vegetable peeler. 

dscn0223After I peel the wedges, I chop them into cubes about 1/2″ thick and add them to the bowl with the good stuff!

Bowl of Squashy GoodnessIt is important to make sure you spread the squash pieces out in a single layer on the baking sheet. The bits that are touching the sheet will be the ones that get the most browned and caramelized.

On the SheetAnd… this is the finished product!

Done!I had some for dinner with some turkey meatloaf and green beans, and I have plenty to enjoy over the next few days.

Ready to go in the Fridge

Sweetie Pie’s note about servings: Since I like to make big batches of soups and vegetables like this one, I’ve learned an easy way to measure servings. I used to try to eyeball the proper amount and divide the batch into a bunch of plastic containers. This was not the most accurate way to measure, and it left me with a cluttered up refrigerator full of little containers. Now when I make a big batch of something, I put the storage bowl on my food scale and weigh the whole batch. I keep a notepad on the side of my fridge where I record the total number of grams (I find grams the easiest) of the batch of whatever it is, and then I divide the total number of grams by the number of desired servings and make a note of the number of grams per serving. This way, I can put one big storage container in the refrigerator instead of a bunch of annoying little containers, and I can accurately measure out a serving at a time.

Now, just for fun, here is a picture of today’s cup of tea. I bought some fun holiday decaf teas, and I’m still enjoying them. My goal is to finish the Christmas teas before Valentine’s Day. Today I had a cup of Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride by Celestial Seasonings. The name reminds me of the “Santa’s Super Sleigh” song from About a Boy. What a great movie. Anyway, I hope you are cozy wherever you are.

Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride

 


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Spinach Queen?

Mini-Spanikopitas from Cooking Light

A couple of friends came over last night to watch Mamma Mia. The Swedish awesomeness of ABBA…. a singing Pierce Brosnan… the beauty of Greece… this was the perfect movie to cheer me up in the midst of the current deep freeze we are experiencing here in the DC area. It was also the perfect occasion for me to honor the Greek movie setting by dusting off my cookbooks and finding a lightened up version of a Greek favorite: Spanikopita– AKA “Spinach Queen” (I was trying to come up with an entertaining play on a song title from the movie, and this was the best I could do. If you think you can do better, I’d love to hear your suggestion! Spinach Trouper was also an option, but I thought it was even worse than Spinach Queen!) 

Cooking Light has been a very useful resource for me over the years, and when I’m looking for a lighter version of an old favorite, they often have just the recipe I need. Once again, Cooking Light came through for me. Last night I made “Mini-Spanikopitas (Greek Spinach Pies)” from Cooking Light, and I thought I could give you a little recipe review (Click HERE for the recipe from Cooking Light). I hope you don’t mind that I posted the link rather than the full recipe. I figure the folks at Cooking Light can make the recipe look much prettier than I can.

This recipe, although involving a few steps, didn’t really take that long to make. The first step is to make the filling. I had to sauté  both the spinach and the green onions, but the other ingredients involved no cooking at all. I will add that I sprayed my skillet with cooking spray before putting the spinach in although it was not called for in the recipe. The green onions are cooked in a bit of olive oil so nothing extra was needed for those.

The Cooked Spinach

The recipe directs you to drain the spinach in a colander. If you think your spinach looks pretty dry sitting there in the skillet, trust me when I tell you that more liquid will come out than you expect. I suspect that soggy spinach results in a soggy spanikopita, so I would definitely give this step a shot even if you think you don’t need to. You can see what mine looks like above, and I can tell you that I was able to squeeze plenty of liquid out.

Draining the spinachAfter I finished draining the spinach, I put it in the bowl and sort of pushed it over to one side so that I could break my egg whites into the empty bowl space and beat them with a fork rather than dirty up a new bowl. I hate dirty dishes!!

Spinach, Dill and Egg WhitesAfter I beat the egg whites a bit, the rest of the ingredients were a snap to incorporate. I had the green onions in the skillet on the stove, and I turned them off and let them sit to cool a bit while I put everything else together. I told y’all about the Cowgirl Creamery in my post about unexpected treats, and, in addition to the lovely cottage cheese, I picked up some very creamy, mild, yummy feta while I was there last week. By the way, I will be having cottage cheese and jam this week since I bought a big carton of 1% cottage cheese at Safeway to go into this dish. Yay!

Fancy FetaSo, this is what the finished filling looked like:

The Filling

After the filling was finished, it was time to break out the phyllo. I will admit that I haven’t had tons of experience working with phyllo dough, and it made me a little bit nervous. I know that it dries out quickly so keeping it wrapped up and away from the air is important. I also know that it tears very easily. I also know that it has potential to stress me out. It turns out that a few tears don’t matter a bit in this recipe. Here’s a picture of the phyllo spread out on my baking mat, cut into four strips, and brushed with the olive oil and egg white mixture:

PhylloMy hands were all covered in spinach and oil so I didn’t take any pictures as I was folding the filling inside the phyllo, but let me just tell you that there is lots of room for error. I had some tears in my phyllo. I used more than the tablespoon called for in the last few so that I didn’t have leftover filling, and it was fine. Even if the bundle looks more like a trapezoid than a triangle after the first couple of folds, it will probably look fine when you reach the last fold. In other words, my nervousness was not well founded. It does take some time to roll all 20 little triangles up, but it was actually pretty easy.

After they came out of the oven, I put them all on a serving platter:

Finished Spanikopita

I would absolutely make these again. An informal poll of my guests came out in favor of this recipe as well. The fresh dill gave it an unexpected punch of freshness that we liked, and the phyllo got nice and crispy even without being slathered in tons of melted butter. I was also impressed because they weren’t teeny tiny. I’m a fan of this recipe, and I was pretty happy to have a few leftovers!

Making lighter versions of old favorites is one strategy that I use when I’m having people over, and it helps me to enjoy myself and still stay “on track.” I have other strategies too like having lots of fresh veggies around so that I can fill up on them while enjoying smaller samples of “pointier” foods. Last night, in addition to the spanikopitas, I put out some grape tomatoes (yum), cucumber slices, hummus, pita, feta and olives, so I had some good choices to keep me entertained and to fill me up.

In addition to my little spread, my friends brought some exciting additions to the party.  One friend made some rich and tasty Swedish meatballs (in honor of ABBA, of course), and I had a couple. They were so good! I would have really missed out if I hadn’t tried them.  My other friend brought a Praline-Pumpkin Cake made from a recipe on the Weight Watchers website. The cake was delicious, and I’m so glad that she gave that recipe a try. I will know what to take the next time I go to a potluck brunch (or movie night, for that matter.) We had some coffee along with the cake, and I thought it was the perfect finish! I was able to have some of everything, eat a filling meal, treat my sweet tooth and stay on track. Win Win!

Movie night was so much fun! My cake baking friend brought over her ABBA Gold CD/DVD set, so, after the movie, we watched old videos of ABBA. Let’s just say that special effects have come pretty far over the years. The videos were so funny with cheesy mirror effects, a strange looking snowman, lots of choreographed head turning, and the clothing and hairdos… well, the word “awesome” doesn’t even begin to describe them. I also found it hard to sit still so I’m thinking that I need to add some ABBA to my running mix.

The evening was a great kick off to my long weekend, and I had just enough leftover mini-spanikopitas to have some for lunch today with vegetable soup and an open faced turkey sandwich. They reheated really well and crisped back up nicely. I put the spanikopitas on a baking sheet, spritzed them with cooking spray, and reheated them for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees. 

My Lunch

Notes about the points for this recipe: If you aren’t on WW and don’t give a flying fig about points, you might not want to keep reading, although you are certainly welcome to! You should just know that this is a pretty healthy recipe and it is really quite delicious too. If you are on Weight Watchers, here’s the scoop, unofficial, of course, on the points for the spanikopitas. When I plugged the nutritional information from the Cooking Light recipe into the points calculator, it told me that 1 mini-spanikopita was 1 point.  If you put the information into the recipe builder, however, you may find that these are one of those foods that… well… you know how sometimes 1 serving of a food will be 1 point, but 2 servings will be 1.5… this is one of those foods. If you are interested, I’d encourage you to plug the recipe into your recipe builder. I ate six of them last night for 5 points, according to my unofficial calculations.

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