Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Colors of Spring!

Do you look forward to seeing rhubarb in the market each spring?  I always knew it was a sign that spring had sprung, but it never really excited me to see those red stalks of rhubarb in the produce department.  At some point years ago I realized the love my husband has for rhubarb.  From that time on, I began to open my mind to rhubarb possibilities.


If you don't feel the love for rhubarb, just substitute some cut up strawberries.  You will still be enjoying the colors and flavors of spring in your muffins.

Rhubarb Zucchini Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unpacked brown sugar
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
3 tablespoons fat free egg substitute
1 1/2 stalks fresh rhubarb (about 6 ounces), diced (1 1/2 cups)
1 small (2 1/2-ounce) zucchini, grated (3/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place paper liners in 12-cup muffin tin or coat with nonstick spray; set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, buttermilk, and egg substitute.  Stir in rhubarb and zucchini.  Add flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Fill muffin cups evenly with batter, each about three-quarters full.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until tops spring back when lightly touched and toothpick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.  Makes one dozen muffins, 2 points plus each.

Note:  If you like muffins pretty sweet, add 1/4 cup Splenda when you add the brown sugar, though my testers thought they were sweet enough without.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Springtime Chicken Baskets

Ok, I know it doesn't really look like a basket.  There's no handle and it's not woven.  I thought of calling it a bun, but that lacked the seasonal feeling I wanted from the name.  These were a hit for Easter lunch, and they would be great for any spring occasion.

My version of this normally high-fat recipe is light and simple to make.  I like how cute it looks on the plate and how tasty it is on the palate!

Springtime Chicken Baskets

8 ounces Neufchatel (light) cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound cooked chicken breast, shredded
16 reduced fat crescent rolls, unbaked (2 8-ounce cans)
4 teaspoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons panko or other dry breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, foil, or Silpat silicone liner; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine Neufchatel, parsley, chives, salt, and pepper.  Add chicken and mix well.  Open crescent roll cans, unroll dough, and separate into 8 rectangles of two crescents each, pinching perforated lines together.

Place about 1/3 cup filling in center of one rectangle.  Bring four corners up and twist at top to form "basket."   Press sides together so filling does not leak out during baking.  Place on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining rectangles.

Brush each basket with melted butter and sprinkle evenly with crumbs.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned; serve immediately.  Makes 8 servings, 9 points plus each.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spicy pasta!

Here's a quick pasta dish to spice up a week night:

I used Field Roast Chipotle vegetarian sausage but any meat-based sausage is fine.  Roasted butternut squash paired nicely with the pasta, but a salad would work, too.

Mexican Rigatoni

6 ounces cooked chipotle-flavored or other spicy sausage, sliced 1/4-inch thick
8 ounces whole wheat rigatoni, cooked according to package directions
2 cups pasta sauce, fat free if possible
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
4 ounces shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a nonstick skillet with olive oil spray.  Saute sausage slices over medium heat until browned.  Add cooked pasta, pasta sauce, chilies, cumin, oregano, half the cheese, and cilantro and mix well.  Spread mixture in 7 by 11-inch baking dish. 

Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and place in oven for 25 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle remaining cheese on top, and bake 5 more minutes.  Makes 8 servings,  5 points plus each (adjust points plus amount for sausage used).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Salad Sandwich

Sometimes a picture doesn't say it all.  I wish you could see the walnuts and cranberries embedded inside this sandwich.  Take my word for it, they are there and they are yummy!  One of my favorite salads is sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy - and has all the same ingredients as the sandwich.

Pear, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad Sandwich

1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 large pear, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
8 slices light whole grain bread, such as Sara Lee Delightful
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 ounces soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons toasted finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1/2 cup spinach leaves

Melt butter over low heat in large skillet and stir in brown sugar.  Cook, stirring, until sugar is almost melted.  Toss in pear slices and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pear is golden, about five minutes; set aside.

Lay bread out and spread four slices with one teaspoon mustard each.  Spread one fourth goat cheese on each of remaining four slices. Sprinkle each cheese-covered slice with one fourth walnuts and one fourth cranberries.  Place one fourth pear slices and one fourth spinach leaves evenly on top of cranberries.  Place mustard-covered bread on top to make sandwiches.

Wipe out skillet and spray with olive oil spray, then place over medium heat.  Cook sandwiches until golden on one side, then flip and cook until golden on other side.  Cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately.  Makes 4 sandwiches, 5 points plus each.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Almond Butter Bread

Somehow, I ended up with several jars of almond butter in my kitchen.  I had to find a way to use more than the little bit I put on toast for breakfast.  This not-too-sweet bread is great for breakfast or a snack.  Smear it with light butter or jam for variety.  If you don't have extra almond butter, certainly peanut butter would fill in just fine.  And if you aren't a fan of almond extract, use vanilla.

Almond Butter Bread

1/3 cup almond butter, crunchy or smooth
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce 
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cups nonfat milk
1 cup unbleached flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat standard loaf pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

Measure into mixing bowl almond butter, applesauce, sugar, and almond extract.  Beat with electric mixer until smooth, then beat in milk.  In a separate bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, and salt.  Beat into almond butter mixture just until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle almonds evenly over top.  Bake for about 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes in pan, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 14 slices, 3 points plus each.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Guacamole Sings the Blues

Nigella Lawson, a favorite food writer of mine,  has a yummy recipe for a Mexican dip called "Roquamole."  It's guacamole made with Roquefort cheese.  I have been craving it forever and finally decided to make a version I can eat with no guilt.  Mine even has a surprise ingredient you won't even know is there!

Please give this a try.  You will be surprised how simple it is to make this rich-tasting and unique dip.

Blue Cheese Guacamole

1 15-ounce can sweet peas, drained
1/2 cup reduced fat blue cheese, such as Treasure Cave brand
1 medium-sized ripe avocado, mashed (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup fresh salsa, store-bought or homemade
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Place peas and blue cheese in small food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Scrape with spatula into small bowl.  Add avocado, sour cream, salsa, and lime juice; mix well.  Makes about 2 cups, 8 1/4-cup servings at 2 points plus each.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Monte is on a diet Cristo

Monte Cristo is my all-time favorite sandwich.  This love goes way back to lunches with my grandmother in Los Angeles.  As the years passed, I could hardly wait to visit Disneyland for a chance to eat a Monte Cristo in the Blue Bayou restaurant there.  Recently, I returned to the Blue Bayou, only to discover they removed my 'favorite' from their menu.  What a disappointment!

I love Monte Cristos for their gooiness inside, their crunchiness outside, and the combination of savory and sweet.  So many flavors and textures all in one sandwich!  It dawned on me that I could achieve the same qualities I love with much less fat and calories, and so this recipe was born.

Sometimes only real butter will do.  I tried using light butter to "fry" up the sandwiches and all I achieved was sogginess.  A tiny bit of butter for each sandwich made all the difference.  Using otherwise light ingredients gave me a Monte Cristo close to the ones I remember - and a new favorite sandwich.

Favorite Monte Cristo

3/4 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup nonfat egg substitute
8 slices light whole grain bread, such as SaraLee Delightful
4 teaspoons dijon mustard, optional 
4 (3/4-ounce) slices light Jarlsberg Swiss cheese
4 ounces thinly sliced cooked turkey breast
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon unbleached flour
4 teaspoons strawberry preserves
2 teaspoons powdered sugar

In flat bowl such as glass pie plate, combine milk and egg substitute; set aside.  Make sandwiches by spreading mustard, if using, on each of four pieces bread, topping with one slice cheese and one fourth turkey, then with second piece of bread.

On flat skillet, melt butter over medium heat; spread it out to cover entire skillet.  Dip each sandwich, top and bottom, into milk mixture, just like making French toast.  Sprinkle a tiny bit of flour over top and bottom of each sandwich.  Place all four sandwiches on skillet and cook until first side is golden brown.  Flip sandwiches and cook until other side is also golden brown.

Cut sandwiches diagonally and place on plates.  Serve each with a dollop of strawberry preserves and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Makes 4 servings, 6 points plus each.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Blueberry Cannoli Parfaits

Since my Tiramisu Parfait post inspired several readers to acquire parfait glasses, I have to share another parfait recipe.  We all need to put our parfait glasses to good use!

I look forward to July and August each year because I LOVE fresh blueberries in season.  Recently, Trader Joe's had the loveliest organic blueberries for sale.  Seeing them sparked some fun ideas to create in my kitchen - creamy smoothies, blueberry crisp, and now this blueberry parfait.

Ricotta cheese is a significant ingredient in the popular Italian dessert called cannolis.  Wouldn't you know?  Trader Joe's has come through again with a new product - fat free ricotta cheese - which  I've put to good use in these light springtime parfaits.

Blueberry Cannoli Parfaits

1 cup fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or 2 tablespoons orange juice if you prefer no
1 1/2 cups thawed fat free frozen whipped topping
1/2 cup fat free ricotta cheese
2 ounces angel food cake, torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon butterscotch or white chocolate chips

In small bowl, combine blueberries with orange liqueur or juice and set aside.  Place whipped topping and ricotta cheese in another bowl and fold gently together.

Place 1/8 angel food cake pieces in bottom of each of four parfait glasses.  Top with 1/8 blueberry mixture, then 1/8 ricotta mixture.  Repeat all three layers.  Sprinkle tops evenly with butterscotch or white chocolate chips.

Makes 4 servings, 4 points plus each with liqueur or 3 with juice.