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Savory Cheese Bread Pudding

Whilst cleaning out my freezer to make room for the many containers of winter soups I am planning, I discovered half a loaf of sliced organic honey whole wheat bread. It was that nice firm, dense sort of bread, although I expect any whole wheat or multi grain bread would work for this recipe.  This bread had 0 fat grams/slice, but if your bread has 1 gram of fat/slice, it would only increase the overall number of fat grams/serving slightly. Since I didn’t wan to try to use all of it for morning toast, but I did want to get it out of the freezer where it was taking up precious space, I decided to make bread pudding.

Now I am a great fan of bread pudding of the cinnamon-sweet kind, with raisins and perhaps bourbon, but this bread seemed to suggest a more savory treatment that could be used as a side dish (or even a main dish with a nice salad on the side) and taken for lunch. The original recipe came from Cooking Light, but I changed it quite a bit, because I wanted more cheese and I didn’t want ham in it. I also wanted to cook it in a single pan, instead of in individual ramekins.

Savory Cheese Bread Pudding

8 ounces of multigrain or whole wheat bread
Cooking spray
4 ounces of reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded, divided (see note)
¼ cup chopped green onions, divided
¾ cup fat-free milk
¼ cup fat-free lower sodium chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup egg substitute

Preheat oven to 375. Cut the bread into ¾ inch cubes. Place bread cubes on a cookie sheet; coat with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted, turning once. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine bread, 3 ounces of the cheese, 3 tablespoons of the onions, milk, chicken broth, pepper and egg substitute. Spoon mixture into an 8 inch square pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese and onions evenly over the mixture. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned and firm. Makes 4 servings at 4 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: I use Kerrigold Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese which has terrific flavor, and only 4 grams of fat/ounce. I typically buy a few chunks, and shred them, freezing them in 1 ounce packages to be ready when I am.  That way they are as convenient as pre-shredded cheddar, which often has up to 6 grams of fat/ounce

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Slow-Cooker Buffalo Pot Roast with Wine and Vegetables

This recipe, originally from Cooking Light, was supposed to be a pot roast with turnip greens.  But I became ill in July (the reason for no posts for a while), and the turnip greens grew old and tough.  Besides, the one dish I made with turnip greens made me conclude that I did not really like them.  So I eliminated them from the recipe and made this delicious dish which is more like a stew.  This dish is so hearty that I didn’t even serve it with rice or noodles, although I think it would be good with a brown and wild rice mix. It also froze well for reheating on later chilly fall days.

This is a slow-cooker recipe, so cut your vegetables in reasonably even pieces.  These are the parsnips:

Also, use a decent red wine. This is the red wine I usually use for cooking, unless the recipe calls for something more specific. It is reasonably priced and has a hearty flavor that is good with meats.

Slow-Cooker Buffalo Pot Roast with Wine and Vegetables

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 (3-pound) boneless buffalo chuck roast, trimmed of all fat (I had to use two smaller roasts)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups (2-inch) diagonally cut parsnips (about 1 pound)
3 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
2 cups cipollini onions, peeled and quartered (my grocery never heard of cipollini onions. I used a bag of frozen pearl onions)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley

The vegetables

Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle buffalo evenly with salt and pepper; dredge in flour.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add buffalo; sauté 10 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

Place parsnips, potatoes, and onions in a slow cooker. Transfer buffalo to slow cooker. Add tomato paste to skillet; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in wine and broth; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour broth mixture into slow cooker.

Place peppercorns and next 4 ingredients (through parsley) on a double layer of cheesecloth.

Gather edges of cheesecloth together; secure with twine. Add cheesecloth bundle to slow cooker.

Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until buffalo and vegetables are tender. Discard cheesecloth bundle. Remove roast from slow cooker; slice. Serve with vegetable mixture and cooking liquid.  Makes 6 generous servings at about 7 grams of fat/serving.

Tomato and Coriander Soup

Is it possible to have too many tomatoes? Some people say it is. I am still eating cherry tomatoes right off the bushes, but I had some bigger  farmers’ market tomatoes to use. This soup, from my favorite low fat Indian cookbook by Husain and Kanani, has a little heat to it because of the black pepper. If you want it milder, use less.  Also, when I make it again, I think I will cut the oil down to 1 teaspoon. It would bring the fat grams down to about 1/serving, and I actually found it a bit oily. And, it says to puree it in a food processor, which did not make a completely smooth soup. I rather like the slight texture, but I think if you pureed it in 2 batches in a blender it would be smoother.  This was almost too much liquid for the food processor, and began seeping out and made a mess.

Tomato and Coriander Soup

1 ½ lbs tomatoes, peeled and chopped (see Note)
1Tablespoon oil
1 bay leaf
4 spring onions, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro)
3 cups water
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Non-fat sour cream or yogurt to garnish

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and fry the tomatoes, bay leaf, and spring onion for a few minutes until soft. Gradually add the salt, garlic, pepper, coriander, and water. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in a little cold water to form a creamy paste. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool a bit. Puree in a food processor.

Return the soup to the pan and add the cornstarch mixture. Stir over medium low heat for about 3 minutes until slightly thickened. Makes 4 servings  at about 3.5 grams of fat/serving

NOTE: To peel tomatoes, plunge them in very hot water for a few minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly. The skin will peel off easily.

Courgettes (Zucchini) and Buffalo Curry

I needed something to bring to the office for a surprise “man shower” we were having for a soon-to-be new dad. I wanted to make something from my garden, but it was between the spring veggies (snow peas, etc.,) and the onslaught of zucchini and tomatoes that was surely soon to come.  I managed to pick a handful of baby zucchini and yellow squash and cut them up for this nice curry from my favorite low fat Indian cookbook by Husain and Kanani.

One of the quickest ways to lower the fat in many recipes (besides substituting buffalo for the beef) is to eliminate the fat or oil. If the oil is only being used as a vehicle to soften veggies and is not a critical component of the flavor, you don’t need it.  You can steam fry the veggies. Don’t remember how to steam fry? Spray a large frying pan (or wok in my case) with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat. Add your onions, celery or whatever the recipe calls for. Cook, stirring frequently. As the veggies start to turn golden, add a little water and stir. It will soon evaporate. You can do this several times until the veggies are softened or you reach the shade of golden brown you are looking for.

You lose 14 grams of unneeded fat for each tablespoon of oil you eliminate, and you still get the good flavor of sautéed onions, garlic, and the like.  So in a dish that serves 4, you eliminate 3.5 grams of fat/tablespoon of oil eliminated.

This recipe would have made nice leftovers, but there weren’t any. It is not a particularly incendiary curry, and thus suitable for friends who don’t like “hot” foods.

Courgettes (Zucchini) and Buffalo Curry

Cooking spray
2 medium onions, chopped
8 oz buffalo, trimmed and cut into small strips
½ cup non-fat yogurt (I used Greek, but regular is ok)
1 teaspoon garam masala (see NOTE)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 zucchini, sliced
1 Tablespoon cilantro to garnish

Either broil the zucchini slices in a preheated broiler for 3 minutes, turning once, or cook them in a frying pan or griddle pan coated with cooking spray until they are lightly browned (this is what I did).  Set aside.

Steam fry onion until golden brown. Add buffalo and stir fry for 1 minute. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, garam masala, chili powder, garlic, ginger, and ground coriander. Pour yogurt mixture over the buffalo and stir fry for 2 minutes. Cook over medium to low heat for 12-15 minutes.

Check to see that the buffalo is cooked and the sauce is quite thick.  Then gently add zucchini. Cook for about 5 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro.  I served it with couscous for convenience, but I think it would be better with rice. Makes 4 servings at about 2 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: Garam masala is a Hindi term meaning hot (garam) spice (masala). The word garam refers to intensity of the spices;  masala is pungent, but not hot in the same way as a chili pepper. The actual mixture of spices used in garam masala differs regionally, and even from family to family, with a wide variety across India. You can buy an acceptable bottle garam masala from a number of companies, or you can find a recipe in an Indian cookbook and make your own.

A Platter of Pickles

I have been having an urge to make pickles. Not the kind of pickles that you put up in big jars using a canner – I used to make those pickles when I was doing more earth mother sorts of things. I even still have the canner and tools.  I have been thinking about quick pickles, the kind you mix up an hour and after sitting in their brine for an hour or overnight, they’re ready to go. I found several recipes for quick pickles in a recent Sunset magazine.  I made these to take to an office barbecue – a change from the usual potato salad and cole slaw.

The cucumber pickles were gone by the tie the barbecue was over – none left to take home.  I had carrot pickles left, and they kept surprisingly well for a week or so. When a friend came to dinner and I brought them out to snack on, they still had a lot of crunch.

Mustard and Ginger Pickled Carrots

10 to 12 medium carrots (about 2 lbs.)
2 cups distilled white vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons kosher salt
3 quarter-size thin slices fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 Tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes

Peel carrots and cut into 1/4-in. matchsticks.

Bring 3 cups water and all ingredients except carrots to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 minute. Add carrots and simmer until almost tender, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer carrots and liquid to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Chill, covered, overnight to let flavors develop. Serve cold. Keeps, chilled, up to 1 week. Makes 6 cups with 0 grams of fat.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber and Red Onion Pickles

1 pound Persian or English cucumbers, ends trimmed
1/2 medium red onion, halved lengthwise
1 stalk fresh lemongrass (I used I Tablespoon lemon grass paste)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup Champagne vinegar (I used Zinfandel vinegar, which was all I had)

Slice cucumbers and onion very thinly on a mandoline or with a knife. Put both in a medium bowl. Peel tough outer layers from lemongrass and smash core with a meat mallet or back of a small heavy saucepan until flattened. Mince core and add to bowl (or use the paste that comes in a tube).

Whisk sugar, salt, coriander, pepper, and vinegar together. Pour over cucumber mixture and chill at least 1 hour, stirring gently a couple of times. Serve cold. Keeps, chilled, up to 1 day. Makes 3 ¼ cups at 0 grams of fat.

Sweet Cherry Bundt Cake

My cherry tree has gone crazy.  Every branch is covered with beautiful cherries. The tree was labeled “semi-dwarf”, but apparently it couldn’t read, because it is at least 20 feet tall – maybe more.


I picked 8 gallons of them, and the tree is not yet completely picked.

The first thing that people ask me when I bring in a big bowl of cherries is “don’t they get worms?” No, they don’t. The next question is “What do you do keep them away?”  Well, I grow organic, so really nothing. I sometimes have discussions with my fruit trees about their responsibilities to me: Give me lots of fruit – and mine to them: don’t chop them down, chase the magpies away occasionally, and if it doesn’t rain for a week or so, give them some water. I often go out and smile at them and thank them for their spring blooms and their generosity.

I had to call a halt to the picking, because I ran out of space to store cherries.  Fortunately, I just discovered that you can freeze cherries.  It’s really simple. You wash them, let them dry a bit, and then freeze them in a single layer so that they each freeze separately. Then your frozen cherries don’t stick together in a big clumps and you can take out as many as you need.

You pour the hard little cherries into a freezer bag.  I didn’t even pit them. I figured they would be mostly for cooking when they defrosted, rather than being beautiful specimens to eat out of hand – so the pitting can come when I defrost them.

By the way, if you are going to deal with cherries, you need some form of cherry pitter.

Mine is just a small hand pitter that works for a few cups at a time. If you are doing a large number of cherries, you might need to get the kind that you feed the cherries into in bunches.

The other thing you can do when life give you an overabundance of cherries is hunt up cherry recipes. This cake, originally from Eating Well, was already pretty low fat – 8 grams/serving – but I made it a bit lower by reducing the amount of oil. I left all the butter, because I thought it was necessary for the flavor. I also used egg substitute because I didn’t have eggs in the house. I didn’t have kirsch, so I used Cointreau, an orange liquor. If you use frozen cherries measure them while they are still frozen. The texture of the cake is a bit dry – like coffee cake, which worked well with the cherry filling. It was a huge hit at the picnic I took it to. There was barely a piece to take home to have with my afternoon tea.

Sweet Cherry Bundt Cake

Cherry filling
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) dark sweet cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons kirsch (clear cherry brandy), or orange juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Cake
1 2/3 cups cake flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons butter, slightly softened
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 cups nonfat vanilla, or lemon yogurt
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F. Very generously coat a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with cooking spray. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.

To prepare cherry filling: Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Stir in cherries, kirsch (or other liquor or orange juice), lemon zest and almond extract. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture looks like very thick jam and has reduced to about 1 cup, 5 to 7 minutes.

To prepare cake: Sift cake flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter and oil in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low, then medium speed, until very light and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes, scraping the sides as needed. Add the applesauce, half the yogurt and beat until very smooth. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half the dry ingredients until incorporated. Beat in the remaining yogurt, egg substitute, vanilla and almond extract until combined, scraping the sides as needed. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients just until incorporated. Do not overbeat.

Spoon a generous half of the batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the edges. Spoon the cherry mixture over the batter.

Top with the remaining batter. Grease a butter knife and swirl it vertically through the batter and cherries.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part comes out with no crumbs clinging to it and the top springs back when lightly pressed, 50 to 65 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand in the pan until the cake is completely cooled, about 1 1/2 hours. Very carefully run a knife around the edges and center tube to loosen the cake from sides and bottom. Rap the pan sharply against the counter several times to loosen completely. Invert the pan onto a serving plate and slide the cake out. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar before serving. Makes 12 servings at about 6 grams of fat/serving.

Cake on improvised platter to take to a picnic.

My last piece of cake, cut into tea-sized slices for my afternoon enjoyment.

Mango and Cucumber Salad

I have a new cooking toy – a mandoline.

Don’t ask me why a person who is constantly and lovingly cooking never purchased one of these extremely useful tools. With a mandoline, slices are uniform, and can be made very thin, much thinner than you can make them with a knife. The reason I bought one at this time, besides a buy one get one free gadget sale, is to do this:

And the reason I wanted very thin cucumbers (and red onions) was to make a mango and cucumber salad that came from Dash recipes in one of those newspaper inserts.  The original recipe called for a little bit of lemon-flavored olive oil, but I didn’t have that, so I left it out. It also called for finely chopped Serrano chile. I left that out because I was taking it to a “celebration of life” for a recently deceased neighbor. I knew most of the attendees would be elderly and probably not like the extra heat. I think it would be even better with the chile.  The leftovers were very nice with lunch for a day or two.

Mango and Cucumber Salad

3 mangoes, peeled and diced into one inch pieces
1 seedless (English) cucumber, unpeeled and sliced very thin
1 small red onion, cut in half and sliced very thin (about ¾ cup)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped Serrano chile pepper (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl, mixing well. Chill at least one hour. Makes 8 servings at 0 grams of fat/serving.

The cilantro is from my garden. It makes me happy.


ABOUT KAREN

I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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