Month: July 2012

Gluten Free Chocolate Bread Pudding

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I attempted to make gluten free bread from scratch and it was absolutely disastrous. Either this  kind of bread naturally tastes awful or I screwed up. Or both. I was merely following the baking instructions on the package and it clearly didn’t work. I ate rolls made from potato starch and it wasn’t nearly as bad so I won’t be publishing that particular recipe. The texture was very dry and the starchiness was too overwhelming. I’ll leave that to the culinary experts on gluten free bread which is obviously not me. If you find such recipe that works, please do share. I made four loaves of this bread and one bite was more than enough for both me and hubby. The problem is I had 3.75 loaves of bread and I didn’t want it all to go to waste. At first, I contemplated on making French Toast but immediately negated that idea. Then a light bulb lit up in my head and I decided on a sweet bread pudding.  Since hubby doesn’t care much for fruit, I opted for chocolate. This recipe is dairy but if you want to go for a dairy-free option, you can use soy or almond milk instead. This bread pudding tastes so incredible that you will forget you were using gluten free bread. It can be eaten hot or cold.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 lbs of gluten free bread cut into cubes (2-3 medium loaves)
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 2  1/2 cups of low fat or skim milk
  4. 1 cup of cream with the lowest fat content you can find
  5.  1/2 cup of brown sugar
  6. 1/3 cup of white sugar
  7. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  8. 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  10. 1 cup of bitter/semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except the  bread in order to get a nice smooth mixture. Add the bread cubes and sit to make sure its coated in the custard, let it sit for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Transfer bread custard mixture into a large greased casserole and bake for an hour or until puffed,golden,and set in the center.

Yields 8 servings

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Baked Ziti

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Baked ziti is one of my favorite comfort foods. There is nothing like coming home from a long day at the grind to a dinner of piping hot baked ziti. Whats even more comforting is that there are healthier ways you can make this dish.  In this recipe, I include a low sodium pasta sauce rather than using store bought Marinara sauce. This simple baked pasta makes a perfect family meal. Its only takes minutes to prepare and it is plentiful.  Some  recipes include ground beef or sausage. Others like to use spinach or other vegetables. For kashruth reasons, I’m prohibited from mixing dairy ingredients with meat ingredients so I can only choose between 2 types of baked ziti. I can always add soy ground beef or just simply leave out the cheese. You can use a chili pepper if you want to add a little heat to this dish. There is always the veggie option as well. This baked pasta serves well with a garden salad. For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 16 oz. box of whole wheat or whole grain penne/rigatoni pasta
  2. 28 oz can of low sodium crushed tomatoes
  3. 1 medium onion dices
  4. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  5.  5 or more  fresh basil leaves
  6. fresh ground pepper for taste
  7.  1 15oz container of low fat or skim ricotta cheese
  8. Low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  9. Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Place pasta in a pot of boiling salted water and deduct at least 2 minutes from the cooking instructions. Rinse and drain. Grease a large skillet with cooking spray or with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute onions over medium high flame until caramelized. Add minced garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Pour in crushed tomatoes and basil leaves. Bring to a boil and season with a dash of ground pepper.  Whisk ricotta cheese in a bowl. Add the pasta. Pour in the tomato sauce and mix well till combined. Transfer to an 13×9-inch  oven proof baking dish.  Sprinkle Parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top. Bake at 350°F covered for the first 45 minutes and uncovered for the remaining 15 minutes. Serve hot. Leftovers can be stored covered in a fridge up to 2 days.

Yields 8 servings

Carrot Bisque

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People commonly ask about the difference between a soup and a bisque. A bisque is a certain type of soup of French origin.It  has a creamy and smooth texture whereas soup tends to be more watery. Bisque is normally made from lobster,crab,shrimp,or crayfish. Creamy soups made from roasted and pureed vegetables can also be called bisques as well.  Common varieties include squash, tomato, mushroom, and red pepper. In this case, I used carrots and a sweet potato as a starch ingredient to thicken the soup. This bisque is a heartwarming winter soup, especially made for cold rainy days but if you are a freak like me, I prefer this soup cold as I do hot. The flavors imbedded in the soup are seemingly stronger when the soup is cold. Leftovers can be used as a sauce. You can even use leftovers of this carrot bisque as a filling for a pie or a quiche! Give it a try and let me know what you think 😉

If hot, this soup serves well with a piece of toasted bread or croutons. For this recipe, you will need :

  1. 1 lbs of carrots (4-5 large carrots)
  2. 1 large onion chopped
  3. 1 sweet potato peeled and diced
  4. 2 tablespoons of peanut or vegetable oil
  5. 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  6. 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  7. 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon
  8. 5 cups of vegetable broth
  9. 1 tablespoon of maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
  10. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

In a stockpot over low-medium heat, cook the carrots, sweet potatoes and onions in the peanut oil for 7 to 10 minutes; cover and stir occasionally until onions are brown. Add the ginger, curry, tarragon, salt, and pepper; saute for 1 more minute. Add the 5 cups of broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the carrots and sweet potatoes are tender. Turn the heat off. Use a handheld blender  or a blender to puree half of the soup. Add the maple syrup and stir. Garnish with chopped fresh tarragon (optional). Serve hot.

Yields 8 servings

 

Cheese Danishes

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Cheese danishes is one of my favorite desserts. They were a special treat for a special occasion growing up. The cheese filling enhances these warm puffy buttery delights with its creaminess and richness. As delicious as they are, the calories, fat, and sugar content exceed beyond my health expectations. That’s why I make them occasionally. I used puff pastry because I was feeling lazy and too impatient to make my very own from scratch. Normally, I would look for something to challenge my culinary skills but I was fasting when preparing these danishes. Puff pastry isn’t exactly nutritious but I seldom use it. Fortunately, I was able to monitor the sugar and fat content on the cheese filling. I used low fat cream cheese and only a couple tablespoons full of sugar as opposed to a full cup. I am sometime wary about using low fat cream cheese because it tends to be more watery and not as rich as regular cream cheese but with my creativity and imagination combined, I managed to pull it off. Cheese danish is not a healthy dessert but part of the fun and challenge is looking for healthier alternatives without  entirely forfeiting your guilty pleasures.  The advantage of  homemade dishes is that you have full control over the ingredients and quantities you decide to use. Making these cheese danishes is not as complicated as it looks. The ingredients are very basic. Besides, once you try these homemade danishes, you may think twice about buying them from a bakery because you are not there to supervise the ingredients bakers use. Even health nuts could use some palate pampering 🙂

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 8  oz of reduced fat cream cheese at room temperature
  2.  4 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
  3. 2 egg yolks
  4.  2 1/2 tablespoon of reduced fat sour cream
  5. 2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  6. 2 teaspoon of lemon zest
  7. 2 sheets of puff pastry thawed
  8. 1 egg whisked with water for egg wash

Instructions

n a bowl combine the first 6 ingredients together and whisk until creamy and combined. Sprinkle your counter with some flour and unfold the puff pastry. With a floured rolling pin, roll the pastry out to about 10 by 10 inch. Cut into quarters and evenly divide the filling placing it in the center of each square. Brush the boarder of the squares with the egg wash and pinch together the 2 opposite corners. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash. Pop them in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and bake them for about 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Set aside and cool. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar (optional).

Yields 8 cheese danishes

Mushroom Quiche

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Quiche is one of my favorite dairy side dishes. It comes in many varieties. I chose mushrooms because I invariably use mushrooms in most of my dishes except for desserts.  A quiche consists of a savory pie crust and a vegetable/cheese filling. Quiches comes in many varieties with many ingredients. There are non dairy quiche recipes and  crust-less quiche recipes as well. I tried each on separate occasions and they were very delicious. Certain crustless quiche recipes may require a water bath. Meaning, you place the prepared quiche in a large roasting pan, fill the pan half way with boiling water and bake it that way. A lot of people use this technique with cheese cakes and flans. This method prevents curdling and crackling of the pie. For a non dairy version, you can replace milk and cream with soy/rice milk or non dairy creamer. Some use mayonnaise depending on what the recipe requires for. As I mentioned before, you don’t have to limit yourself with mushrooms. You can use any vegetable of your choice in the market. You can even use a little of each. If you want to make a quiche with mushrooms,onions,broccoli,and spinach, you can do that. While most quiches require a lot of heavy cream and cheese, I tried searching for viable healthy lighter  alternatives and my version worked just as well. Generally, quiches are served as breakfasts but they can be eaten as a side dish for lunch or dinner.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 9 inch pie crust
  2. 1 large onion diced
  3. 2 cartons of mushrooms washed and sliced
  4. 2 large eggs beaten
  5. 1 1/2 cup of low fat or skim milk
  6. 1/2 cup of plan low fat Leban
  7. 2 tablespoons of flour
  8. 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  9. Reduced fat cheddar or mozzarella cheese
  10. Salt and freshly ground pepper for taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or cooking spray over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes or until they brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute for another2-3 minutes until no longer watery. Turn off the stove and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs,milk,leban,flour,salt,pepper,and nutmeg. Fold in the mushroom onion mixture. Pour mixture into a prepared pie shell. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. bake for 45 minutes or until firm in the center.

Yields 6-8 servings

Pasta Salad

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Pasta salad is a perfect dish for versatility; it’s easily portable and can be served either hot or cold. There are many different ways and ideas on how to prepare pasta salad. Depending on the recipe you use, some require a certain type of pasta. Other recipes allow you to add protein such as cheese,meat,poultry, or fish. Others include vegetables,grains,and sometimes fruit. The recipe I’m about to share with you is more traditional,simple,but yet flavorful. Although I did not include any protein or grains, I fail to see why it wouldn’t be worth trying.  The original recipe called for a red bell pepper. Since I only had access to a yellow bell pepper (as seen above) I had to grab whatever I had available. It didn’t make much of a difference in flavor and texture but a lot of people use red bell peppers. If you rather use a different vegetable, then by all means do so but I wouldn’t recommend anything starchy because you need something to balance with the pasta. In my opinion, this salad tastes better served cold. Chilling this particular pasta salad allows the flavors to blend. I’ve always enjoyed pasta salad and was so ever curious about the preparations.  When is comes to cooking pasta or any grain, especially if you are going to serve it as a salad, its extremely important that you do not overcook the pasta. Please note that the pasta must be cool and dry prior to dressing it. Otherwise the dressing will run and not blend well. This dish makes a great barbeque salad as well. You can serve this salad at brunches or social events and I guarantee that there will not be any leftovers 🙂

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 box of tri-colored fusilli pasta
  2. 1 large red bell pepper (you can use any other pepper) chopped
  3. 1 small red onion diced
  4. 2 tablespoons of  light mayonnaise
  5. 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  6. 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  7. 1/3 teaspoon of dried thyme
  8. Dash of salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Carefully follow the cooking instructions on the box of the fusilli. Drain and let it come to a complete cool. Once it cooled down, transfer to a salad bowl. Toss in pepper and onions. In a separate small bowl, whisk mayonnaise,mustard, and lemon juice. Pour dressing into the pasta and lightly toss. Season with thyme, salt, and freshly ground pepper and combine well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 hours before serving. Serve chilled.

Yields 6 servings

 

 

Whole Grain Blueberry Pancakes

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I haven’t gotten around to publishing a recipe that featured blueberries as a highlight ingredient. I had various ideas but it was a matter of looking for a dish that would compliment them (which there many of). Fresh blueberries are hard to come across in my neck of the woods so I bought  a bag of frozen blueberries. I may seem like a compulsive shopper but my husband can vouch that whatever I buy invariably gets put into use (with the exception of jewelery which I mainly have for keepsake purposes). Blueberries are grown in clusters and are popular among the Northern American region.  Blueberries offer many noteworthy nutritional benefits such as vitamin C which aids the formation of collagen and helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries. It also promotes iron absorption and a healthy immune system. Moreover, blueberries are packed with dietary fiber which helps keep your heart and cholesterol level in check. They are also an are an excellent source of manganese which plays an important role in bone development and in converting the proteins, carbohydrates and fats in food into to energy. Lastly, blueberries contain substances that have antioxidant properties that work to unstable molecules linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Substances in blueberries called polyphenols, specifically the anthocyanins that give the fruit its blue hue, are the major contributors to antioxidant activity. You can guess where I am going with this. This entry is about a blueberry pancake recipe. Pancakes come in many varieties. I made chocolate chip pancakes for hubby because he wasn’t too keen on fruit. If you prefer to use other fruit instead of blueberries, then by all means do so.

Rather than using regular flour, I used whole grain flour. My father in-law co-owns a health food store. When my husband and I came to visit the US last year, my father in-law gave us some non perishable food that was no longer in stock to take back including a bag of whole grain flour. If you can’t find whole grain flour at your local grocery store, you can use whole wheat or spelt flour. For a gluten free version, you can try oat flour.  The difference between whole grain flour and whole wheat flour is a commonly asked question. Whole grain has the entire kernel of the grain from the bran to the endosperm to the germ. Whole wheat has the bran and germ removed during the refining process and is left containing only the endosperm. Unfortunately, the majority of vitamins and fiber that  are contained in the wheat bran and wheat germ is shed during the refining process. Whole wheat flour also goes through a refining process that removes some of the nutritional values. In fact, whole wheat flour has half of the nutrients stripped away during the refining process. Whole grain flour is not refined and therefor maintains its full nutritional value. Whole grain bread is a good source of B vitamins and fiber and is lower in fat than whole wheat bread. Whole grain has a richer taste than whole wheat does. Whole grain has a more dense texture than whole wheat does as well. Additionally, whole grain is a better choice for diabetics because it cause less of a “sugar spike” than whole wheat does. Refined grains have been linked not only to weight gain but also and increased risk of insulin resistance. In fact, whole grains have been shown to lower your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes otherwise known as adult onset Diabetes.  I occasionally make pancakes for breakfast when my mood and schedule allows.  I made these last week. For those of you who are wondering, I made a special treat for hubby too 🙂

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1  cup of whole grain flour
  2. 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  3. 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  4. 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  5. 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  6. 1 large egg lightly beaten
  7. 1 cup of low fat or skim milk
  8. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar
  9. 3 tablespoons of corn oil + extra for greasing the frying pan
  10. Handful of fresh or frozen blueberries thawed

Instructions

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, add milk and lemon juice and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Whisk in egg and oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and then pour in the egg mixture, all at once, and stir (with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon) just until combined. Do not over-mix the batter or the pancakes will come out tough. If you don’t plan on making pancakes right way, cover and store the pancake batter in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat until a few sprinkles of water dropped on the pan splatter. Using a pastry brush or paper tower, lightly grease the pan with oil (or use a cooking spray). Using a ladle, pour about 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto the hot pan, spacing the pancakes a few inches apart. Evenly sprinkle the uncooked tops of the pancakes with fresh or unthawed frozen blueberries. When the edges of the pancakes are golden brown and bubbles start to appear on the uncooked top surfaces of the pancakes (2-3 minutes), turn over. Cook until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes) and cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing the pan with oil or greasing the pan with cooking spray between batches. Serve immediately with maple syrup or your favorite jam.

Yields  8 -10 4 inch pancakes