Posts Tagged 'hint'

Caramelized Sweet Onion Dip

Last Friday the snow had mostly melted, although it was still in the mid-30’s. I went out to see what will need to be done to clean up the garden for spring planting in April. To my amazement, things were growing under the snow. There was arugula and lettuce, and some scrawny green onions. But the biggest surprise was a whole row of carrots!
onion dip carrots
Mind you, it was mid-February. it has been down to 4 degrees at night, and is still regularly in the 20’s. How did these things survive! I made quick work of the carrots – they were amazingly sweet, crunchy and delicious. After I scarfed down a couple of them, I made myself a plate of veggies and dip to snack on.
onion dip with veggies
I have been looking for a non-fat onion dip. Mind you, you can make regular onion dip with non-fat sour cream and onion soup. But that is a bit salty, and it contains MSG, which I am trying to avoid. So I have been experimenting to come up with a tasty dip.  This dip is easy to make, and I expect you could add herbs and such to it. It is better if you refrigerate it for a day so the flavors mellow.  Now I have something to pack with my lunch veggies.

Caramelized Sweet Onion Dip

Cooking spray
1 large sweet onion (Walla Walla, Vidalia, or other kind)
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon onion powder
16 oz (2 cups) non-fat sour cream
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon soy sauce.

One big beautiful onion

One big beautiful onion

Coarsely slice the onion. Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray. Over medium heal, caramelize the onion by “steam “frying” (See HINT).
onion dip onions cooking
When the onions are golden brown, put them in the food processor and pulse a few times.

onions almost caramelized

onions almost caramelized

Add the salt, pepper, onion powder, and sour cream and process everything until well blended. Add the lemon juice and soy sauce. Process again for a bit. The texture will be a bit lumpy. Put in a container and refrigerate overnight. This has 0 grams of fat, and makes at least 8 quarter cup servings, although I usually just spoon it into a bowl and dip away. Its good with lower fat chips and crackers, too – but be sure to count those grams in your daily fat gram count.
onion dip

HINT: Often, the only reason you need a tablespoon of oil (14 grams of fat) in a recipe, is to brown onions.  But you really don’t need the oil. Spray a pan with cooking spray, heat over medium heat, and add onions or other vegetables. Stir frequently. Every little while, add  about 2 tablespoons of water and stir. Each time the pan gets dry, add a little more water, until the onions are the shade of golden brown you want. The trick is not to let them burn, and to be patient stirring and adding water.

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Cheese

This recipe originally called for the asparagus to be wrapped in prosciutto before being wrapped in phyllo. But I was taking it to a Chanukah party, and prosciutto just won’t work for Jews. So I used a bit of Gruyere cheese in each one instead (I know, not anything like prosciutto, but it worked.)

The asparagus gets cooked, but stays crispy. I recommend not using very thick asparagus, since it might not cook enough. Also, once I snapped off the tough bottoms of the asparagus, some of them were kind of short, and didn’t stick out of the phyllo rolls very far. I suppose you could cut the sheets in quarters instead of thirds to remedy this, but I think they were quite nice as is.

This looks like much more work than it is, and has the well-known Wow factor for potlucks. It would be a great appetizer for New Years Eve or any other festive occasion. 60 of these disappeared in less than ½ hour to rave reviews.

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Cheese

3 ounces grated gruyere cheese
30 asparagus spears, trimmed (be sure to snap off tough ends)
10 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a work surface (cover remaining phyllo to prevent drying); [See Note]. Coat phyllo with cooking spray. Cut crosswise into thirds to form 3 (4 1/2 x 9–inch) rectangles.

Put a large pinch of cheese near the bottom of each phyllo strip. Put it primarily in the middle, so that it won’t ooze out when it is rolled. Note that I put it a little way up and not at the very bottom because I wanted to avoid cheese leakage.

Arrange 1 asparagus spear across short end of each rectangle on top of the cheese.

Roll up phyllo dough jelly-roll fashion. Arrange rolls on baking sheet; coat rolls with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining phyllo, cheese, asparagus, and cooking spray.

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until phyllo is golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 30 rolls, at about 1 gram of fat/roll.

NOTE: My secret technique for working with phyllo: Recipes always tell you to cover the remaining dough with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. I haven’t had much luck with this. My remaining dough gets soggy and tears. So I unroll the phyllo sheets completely and, when I take the first sheet off, I spray the next one down with cooking spray. Then I spray the first sheet I am working with. Repeat each time you remove a sheet of dough – it will stay moist enough, and you won’t have to spray it again when you are working with it.

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.

African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans

Whilst cleaning out my potato storage drawer (note the “whilst” of procrastination) this is what I discovered:

Yams Gone Wild

Sweet Potatoes (not actually yams, which are grown in Africa, but rarely here) make lovely plants.  Once, I put sprouting sweet potatoes out on the kitchen counter where they grew into pretty little trees. I cut out the sprouting section and planted it in a pot, where, much to my then child’s delight, it grew and grew and grew.

But admiring the random growth of sweet potatoes does not put food on the table – or in a bowl to take to a potluck.  I rescued the remaining sweet potatoes, and went in pursuit of an idea to use them that 1) could be cooked in advance in a crock pot, and 2) could be hauled in said crock pot container to a picnic potluck.

This recipe originally came from Cooking Light, with some fat lowering alterations.  I had great plans to take home the leftovers to bring for lunch, but there was nothing left. The crock pot had literally been scraped clean. So be forewarned.

African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups  (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups cooked small red beans (I used a 14 ounce can of red beans, drained)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
3 Tablespoons peanut butter (I used chunky, but either would work)
6 lime wedges (or ¼ cup lime juice)

Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes, adding water to “steam-fry” the onions as needed, until tender.

Place onion mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Add sweet potato and next 10 ingredients (through chiles). Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until vegetables are tender.

Spoon 1 cup cooking liquid into a small bowl. Add peanut butter; stir well with a whisk. Stir peanut butter mixture into stew. Serve with lime wedges or sprinkle with lime juice if you are taking it to a buffet. Makes 6 servings, at about 5 grams of fat/serving.

HINT: Serving sizes are usually a dinner size portion if the recipe is a main dish or side dish. But at a potluck or buffet, people usually take a scoop of each of the dishes offered, meaning that the number of servings you bring usually at least doubles. So don’t necessarily double or triple the recipe to bring it to a buffet unless you anticipate a large number of people.  Oh, and the fat grams per serving are proportionately lower, although most people at a potluck aren’t counting fat grams – they just want to eat good food.

Caribbean Pork and Plantain Stew

This was my Christmas Eve dinner – it has a nice tropical taste to offset the frigid outdoor temperatures we are experiencing.  This stew also packs quite a bit of heat – I mean sinus-clearing, eye-watering heat, which was fine with me tonight. It really warmed me up. But if you want less of a punch, reduce the amount of pepper. It was also very quick to make, so that I could finish baking cookies and wrapping presents, since I am rather behind on my holiday tasks (at least I got the cards out before Christmas this year.)

The  recipe for this dish came from Cooking Light. It was originally a bit high in fat for me, since, as usual, I want to freeze the leftovers and take them for lunch.  One of my principles for low fat cooking is to eliminate the oil, especially if all it is doing is being used to brown onions or other ingredients (I steam fry them instead).  But in this case, I thought that the peanut oil probably was going to add to the complexity of flavors in the stew, so I just reduced the amount.

This is one of those dishes that comes together fast, so I prepared all the ingredients in advance in order to be able to add them in rapid sequence:

That’s the cut up pork and plantains, the green onion sliced, the ginger and peppers in the bowl, and the liquids combined in the measuring cup.

In this stew, the plantains take the place of a starch like potatoes.  I didn’t serve it over rice. Rather, I sopped up the juices with some slightly sweet rolls.

Caribbean Pork and Plantain Stew

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of all fat and membrane
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
3/4 cup sliced green onions
2 Tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon  Szechuan or pink peppercorns, crushed (I was out of Szechuan pepper so I used 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper)
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced (I used jalapeno)
3 plantains, quartered lengthwise and sliced into 1-inch-thick pieces (about 3 cups) My plantains were yellow with brown spots, not fully ripe and black.
1 cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup rum
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Cut pork into 2 x 1/4-inch-wide strips. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add onions, ginger, peppercorns, and chile; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add pork; stir-fry 1 minute. Add plantains; stir-fry 30 seconds. Stir in broth, soy sauce, rum, and sugar; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, or until plantains soften.

Combine water and cornstarch, stirring well with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to pork mixture, stirring well; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until somewhat thick, stirring constantly.  This makes 6 tummy-warming servings at about 7 grams of fat/serving.

HINT: Plantains, unlike bananas, are rather difficult to peel unless they are dead ripe and black. To peel them, I cut off the ends, and then run the tip of a sharp knife down the side twice, about an inch apart. Pull this thin strip off. You should now be able to use your fingers to lift the remaining skin off the plantain.

Mushroom and Caramelized Shallot Strudel

This delicious, flaky pastry was originally described in Cooking Light as a main dish, perhaps a vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving.  I have been making it for years, taking it to friends’ houses as a Thanksgiving appetizer. It was always popular, and every year my friends would ask “you’re going to bring the mushroom thing, aren’t you?” Now the friends go south every year before Thanksgiving, and I fly across country to my daughter’s home for the annual feast. But the grocery had packaged mushrooms on sale for an unbelievable price, and I thought this would be a good main dish for a wintry day.  Whether you slice it thin for an appetizer or thick for a main dish, this is one of the best vegetarian low-fat dishes I have ever made. It requires just a little fussing, but it never fails.  It also has a pretty decent “wow” factor to bring to a potluck or a friend’s dinner table.

Mushroom and Caramelized Shallot Strudel

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2  cups thinly sliced shallots (about 8 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon water
4 (8-ounce) packages presliced mushrooms (or you could thinly slice  2 pounds of mushrooms)
2  Tablespoons Marsala or Madeira wine
2/3 cup non-fat sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8  sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Cooking spray
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs, divided
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sugar; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

cut shallot

Thinly sliced shallots.

Sprinkle with water; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until shallots are soft.

sauteed shallot

Caramelized shallots

Add mushrooms; cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat 20 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring frequently. Add Marsala; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, and cool. Stir in sour cream, parsley, salt, thyme, and pepper.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board or work surface (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), and lightly coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons breadcrumbs. Repeat the layers with 3 phyllo sheets, cooking spray, and breadcrumbs, ending with the phyllo. Spoon 1 3/4 cups mushroom mixture along 1 long edge of phyllo, leaving a 1-inch border.
filling on phyllo

Starting at the long edge with the 1-inch border, roll up jelly roll fashion. Place strudel, seam side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Tuck ends under. Repeat the procedure with the remaining phyllo sheets, cooking spray, breadcrumbs, and mushroom mixture. Brush strudels with butter. Bake strudels at 400° for 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes.
phyllo log

Cut each strudel into 4 slices. This makes 8 main dish servings at 5 grams of fat/serving.  When I used this as an appetizer I cut each strudel into 6-8 pieces, so the appetizer was a little over 2 grams of fat/serving – which was light enough to precede a Thanksgiving meal.

phyllo slice

One main dish serving

I actually halved the recipe and made one strudel. I find that food made with phyllo doesn’t keep several days without getting soggy – and it doesn’t always reheat well.

Hint: I often have a problem finding the time to fuss over food preparation when I get home. This is one of those dishes where you can make the filling ahead and then fill and bake the strudel when you want to eat it.

Grandma Cake (Sour Cream Coffee Cake)

I am going to a potluck tonight where we have been asked to bring a dish that was traditional in our family. This is the cake that was at every occasion. It was at holiday dinners (okay, not Passover) and at casual family gatherings. There was usually some left over to be eaten later for “coffee with a little something”.

My Grandma Fredyl, being from the “old country”, never used a recipe when she cooked. She threw in a handful of this and a pinch of that until it felt right. Whatever she made always turned out fabulous, especially the baked goods. My memory of my grandmother’s little apartment is that it was full of long taffeta gowns (she was a seamstress) and always smelled cozily of baking butter and cinnamon.  Family legend has it that Aunt Gladys, fearing that the formula for her mother’s wonderful cakes and cookies would vanish when Grandma passed on, shadowed Grandma around the kitchen as she baked. (My image of this is rather funny, Gladys being a large woman about 6 feet tall, and Grandma a diminutive white-haired lady, barely 4’10”.) Each time Grandma threw a handful or a pinch into the bowl, Gladys stuck out a measuring cup so she could codify the ingredients.  This cake is one of the results of her efforts.

I was surprised when I dug out the recipe that it wasn’t all that high  in fat. It doesn’t have as much butter as some cakes, and all I did to lighten it up was to use egg substitute and non-fat sour cream. I also used fewer nuts, although my memory of the cake is that it only had a sprinkling of nuts. I toasted the nuts to bring out their flavor.  It also makes a lot of servings without the slices having to be paper thin. Given that this was a dish to take to a gathering, I didn’t try to bring the fat down to 2-3 grams/serving by substituting applesauce for some of the butter, but it is still reasonably low fat/serving.  And when I baked it the whole house smelled like a memory of home,

Grandma Cake (Sour Cream Coffee Cake)

Cooking spray
1/4 pound butter (1 stick) softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour (plus a little for the pan)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup non-fat sour cream
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (my mother used walnuts, but I knew that someone at the gathering tonight was allergic to them)
cinnamon sugar mix (see hint)

Preheat oven to 325. Spray a tube pan (the standard size) with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour. Be sure to tap the pan so that excess flour comes out.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until smooth and well blended. Add egg substitute and vanilla and beat until well blended.  Add flour and sour cream alternately, starting and ending with flour. (I usually add the flour 3 times and the sour cream twice. I used to think that this alternate adding was the result of Aunt Gladys’s recipe recording technique, but I’ve actually seen it in other recipes.) Beat on low speed after each addition until combined. Don’t over beat.

Put I/2 of batter in tube pan and spread more or less evenly. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar mix and then sprinkle nuts evenly over cinnamon and sugar.

cake batter

Spoon remaining batter over cinnamon-sugar-nut layer, spreading gently so the batter more or less covers that layer. Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes or until a wood pick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. If you have the kind of tube pan with a removable center, loosen the cake around the sides with a knife, and cool for 20 more minutes otherwise cool in pan for 30 minutes.  Remove from cake from pan and sprinkle  top with cinnamon-sugar mix (my mother sprinkled the top with more chopped nuts, but that would have added another gram or so of fat, and besides, it’s my recall that most of them fell off when you cut the cake. Cool completely on a wire rack.

cake on rack

This makes  20 servings at about 6 grams of fat/serving.

cake on grandma plate

Grandma cake on Grandma’s glass serving plate.

cake on my plate

Grandma cake on my plate. Ooops, it didn’t make it to the potluck. And it tasted just like my mom’s.

Hint: If you don’t keep cinnamon-sugar mix handy, you should mix some up.  It’s useful for sprinkling on so many things – oatmeal, toast, bananas, whatever.  There’s no recipe – just add enough cinnamon to the sugar to make it as cinnamony as you like.  I keep mine in a shaker right on the table.

cake cinnamon


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.

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