FAT-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – Easy As Pie…or Muffins!

blueberry muffin nonfat text2Being the loving husband his is, my friend, George, was whipping up a batch of fat-free blueberry muffins for his wife, Kathy, while we were visiting. I was curious about his recipe and what was used instead of the fat.

Turns out he uses a boxed mix. Sigh!!!  Besides being costly, boxed mixes contain 12-letter ingredients that can only be pronounced by a chemist. I knew I could do better! All I had to do was come up with an easy, tasty, and fat-free muffin. Piece of cake….or muffin!

After several batches, I had a winner. I’m not going to lie and tell you this Fat-Free Blueberry Muffin is the same a the full-fat kind. It’s not. It has a spongy texture – which isn’t a bad thing…just different than the crumbly texture of regular muffins. But if you’re watching your cholesterol and calories, this works great.

NOTE:  The calorie count per muffin is between 125 – 140, depending on how much sugar you sprinkle on top.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  When I’m making something that only calls for an egg yolk (custards, cookies, etc), I always freeze the unused egg whites.  This is a perfect recipe to use them up. Conversely, I believe you can freeze unused egg yolks, but I’ve never actually tried it.

FAT-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – makes 12 muffins

  • 2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1¼ nonfat milk
  • 1 T lemon zest, packed into spoon
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup small blueberries (I use frozen)

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit.

Grease well a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil.

In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. blueberry muffin nonfat5In a larger bowl combine whites, milk, zest, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer on low, a hand-crank egg beater, or whisk until bubbles form on top – it takes about 30 seconds. blueberry muffin nonfat3Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and gently combine, until most of the flour is incorporated. Don’t overmix or you’ll get tough muffins. blueberry muffin nonfat6Add in the blueberries and fold in, just to combine. (Frozen blueberries – which I use – tend to bleed.)blueberry muffin nonfat7 Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing batter equally. (An ice cream scooper is perfect for this.) Sprinkle about 1 tsp of sugar onto each. blueberry muffin nonfat9Bake in preheated 400º F oven for about 16 minutes, rotating them halfway through to cook evenly. They should be firm with slightly browned edges.blueberry muffin nonfat8 Remove from oven and let set in tin about 2 minutes. To remove, run a rounded knife around sides, then start pushing in around the bottom with the knife to help release the muffin. blueberry muffin nonfat4 Set muffins on a wire rack to cool a bit before eating.

 

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MASHED SWEET POTATOES WITH PISTACHIOS – A Tasty Combination!

mashed sweet potato text

The popularity of sweet potato fries has reminded people that this root vegetable is not just a Thanksgiving side dish. They can be eaten and enjoyed year-round.

The last time I made this quick and easy dish, it occurred to me that pistachio nuts would be an excellent addition. It was! Just make sure you sprinkle them on each serving rather than blending them into the mash – you want the nuts to retain their crispness.

MASHED SWEET POTATOES – makes about 3 cups

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  •  1/2 tsp salt
  • optional topping: chives, chopped toasted pistachio nuts

Peel sweet potatoes, then cut into 3/4″ cubes. mashed sweet potato2In a saucepan over low heat, melt together the cream, butter, sugar, and salt. mashed sweet potato3Add in the sweet potatoes and stir to coat cubes. mashed sweet potato4Cover pot and cook over low heat until easily pierced with a fork, stirring now and then. This should take about 17-25 minutes, depending on the type of sweet potato. If the liquid is almost absorbed but the sweet potatoes are still not completely cooked, turn off flame and leave covered to complete cooking.

Mash sweet potatoes until they’re the consistency you like.mashed sweet potato5 Adjust for seasoning – I usually add another 1/8 tsp salt. If desired (and I do desire!), top with chives and toasted pistachio nuts.

POTATO ONION FRITTATA: A Cast Iron Skillet Made All The Difference!

frittata potato onion textI had given up on frittata making. They stuck to the skillet and were rubbery. Although they looked enticing in photos, mine never came out right. I was done! That is, until I discovered the joys of cooking with a cast iron skillet.

So I decided to give frittatas one more try – this time using a cast iron skillet. Eureka! Frittatas are now one of my favorite go-to dinners.

POTATO ONION FRITTATA

  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups (about 1 large) onions
  • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 oz medium cheddar, shredded
  • 1/2 cups peas

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Slice onions into 1″ strips. frittata3Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each of those halves in half lengthwise. Slice each quarter widthwise into 1/8″ thin pieces.frittata2 In a mixing bowl combine onions, potatoes, olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and pepper.frittata4 Heat 10″ cast iron skillet over medium/high heat. Pour in potato/onion mixture and pat down with a spatula. Cover and cook for a total of 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. (Set a timer for the 15 minutes, and another for the 5 minutes!)frittata5 Into the now-empty mixing bowl (no need to clean it), beat the eggs with a whisk or fork. Beat in the sour cream, feta, cheddar, peas, and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt. frittata7When potato/onions are cooked, pour into the egg mixture and stir together.frittata8 Then pour this immediately back into the skillet. Turn heat to medium/high and heat for 15 seconds, running a spatula around edges. frittata6Cover and cook undisturbed at medium/high heat for 5 minutes. Remove lid and place skillet, uncovered, in the 350º F preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes. (Don’t overcook or it will yield a tough frittata.) Remove from oven and let set for 20 minutes before slicing.frittata9

MACARONI SALAD: A Summer Side!

mac salad textPicnics and potlucks nearly always have a macaroni salad or two. Often it’s store-bought and kind of a watery mush. People eat it because it’s there.

But I believe if you’re going to eat something, you should really enjoy it. Here’s a flavorful macaroni salad that’s easy to prepare.

MACARONI SALAD – makes about 6½ cups

  • 1 lb small elbow macaroni with ridges (the ridges hold the dressing)mac salad5
  • 1/2 cup shallots, minced
  • 2/3 cup celery (1 good-sized stalk), chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1½ cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to full boil. Add in 1 T salt and the pasta. Cook for about 5 minutes – until al dente. Drain and cool by running cold water over it.mac salad3 Pour into a large bowl.

Stir in the shallots, celery, parsley, lemon juice, Dijon, garlic powder, and cayenne. Let sit for 3 minutes to absorb flavors.

Mix in the mayonnaise, cover, and refrigerate until mayo is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper, adjusting as necessary.mac salad1

SUBWAY ROLLS: Homemade Bread Is So Worth It!

subway rolls textI admit that I may be a little obsessive about making things from scratch. I make my own tortillas, pasta, yogurt, desserts, and most breads. The reason? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a firm believer in “you are what you eat”.

Take a look at the ingredients list of any prepared food and you’ll notice all kinds of unpronounceable words that would seem right at home in a chemistry lab. I don’t want that stuff in my or my family’s body. So I cook.

Learning to do anything new takes time. But the more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes, especially if you have the right tools. You also have to plan. Time needs to be allowed for hands-off cooking such as the 12 hours it takes for yogurt to develop, the simmering time for a stew, or the rise-time for yeast doughs.

Preparing a yeast dough only takes a few minutes – which includes the knead time…IF you have a food processor. If you don’t, it takes about 10 minutes (and more work). (New food processors can be expensive. Check out thrift stores – they’re a bargain there!) I know you can buy a package of 6 subway rolls in the supermarket for cheap, but there’s something very satisfying, as well as healthy, about baking your own bread. Give it a try!

SUBWAY ROLLS – makes 6

  • 1½ cups water
  • 2¼ tsp dry yeast (any kind)
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • about 2 T milk (any kind)
  • about 1/4 cup topping blend of your choice (dried minced onion, hard cheese such as Parmesan, garlic powder, poppy seed, sesame seeds)

Heat 1½ cups water between 100º F – 104º F. Stir in the yeast and let proof for 5 minutes.

Into the workbowl of your food processor, put 3 cups flour, the sugar, and the salt. Turn on machine, the slowly drizzle in the proofed water through the pour tube. Add extra flour 1 T at a time, as needed, to get the dough to pull away from the sides but not be a hard ball. When you’re happy with the look of the dough, run the processor another 30-45 seconds more to knead.moo shu10 Empty dough into a greased bowl, flipping dough to grease both sides. subway rolls4Cover and place in a warm area to rise – about 1 hour. subway rolls5Pour dough onto floured board and cut into 6 pieces. Shape into a 2″ x 5″ rectangle and place on a parchment lined (or greased) cookie sheet. Cover with tea towel and let rise while you preheat the oven to 425º Fahrenheit – this will take about 1/2 hour. (If you have a portable oven thermometer, use it! Internal oven thermometers are often wrong.) subway rolls6While dough is rising, mix together your topping blend. (I like to use 2 T Parmesan, 2 T dried minced onion flakes, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp salt.) subway rolls7When oven is hot, one by one, gently brush milk onto top of dough then sprinkle on topping. Lightly press down on topping to make it stick. subway rolls1Bake at 425º F about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. You’ll notice significant rise to the rolls after a few minutes. When golden brown, remove from oven to a wire rack. subway rolls2Let cool before slicing.

 

LEMON BUNDT CAKE – Bursting With Flavor!

lemon cake1 TEXTWhen it comes to lemon desserts, I want to know I’m eating lemon! No faint hint of flavor for me – bring it on!!!

This LEMON BUNDT CAKE gets raves from everyone who eats it. It’s has a tender crumb, which is unusual for lemon cakes. Where bakers go wrong is they tend to add more lemon juice to increase the bang for their buck. But all that does to cakes and quick breads is make them mushy. Yuck! Yes, one needs some lemon juice for the liquid and flavor, but the biggest lemony taste comes from the zest (the very outer skin).

NOTE:  As Queen of Freeze, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t point out that zest can be frozen. So if you’re only using the juice from a lemon (or any citrus), go ahead and zest it (do this before juicing), then freeze those little flavor jewels for future use.

ADDITIONAL QUEEN OF FREEZE NOTE:  Cake freezes extremely well, so don’t be daunted by the size of a bundt cake. If it’s too much to finish off in a few days, simply cut it into hunks and freeze.

LEMON BUNDT CAKE

  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 3 T lemon zest
  • 3 T + 2 T lemon juice, divided
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 18 T butter, soft
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 yolk
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 T milk or buttermilk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit. 

To prepare the bundt pan, melt 1 T butter and mix in 1 T flour to make a paste.lemon cake11 Using a pastry brush, paint the interior of the pan, getting deep into the crevasses. (I’m going to be buying a new bundt pan soon!)lemon cake12In a small bowl, combine the zest with 3 T lemon juice. Let set 15 minutes.lemon cake10 Combine the 3 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. bundt2In an electric mixer, cream together the 18 T butter and granulated sugar. Beat on medium/high for 3 minutes. (Don’t short-change this.)lemon cake14 In a small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs and yolk.lemon cake13 Pour approximately half of the eggs into the butter/sugar, and beat until just incorporated. Pour in the rest of the eggs and beat in. lemon cake6Combine the buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon zest/lemon juice. lemon cake5On low speed, beat approximately 1/3 of the flour mixture into the batter just until incorporated. Add in 1/2 of the liquid mixture and beat in. Beat in 1/2 of the flour mixture, then the remaining liquid. Finally, beat in the last of the flour mix. Don’t overmix – beat until flour has been incorporated and no loose flour shows. lemon cake7Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. (I cover the hole to prevent spillage – just be sure to remove it before baking – I speak from experience.) Smooth batter.lemon cake8Bake about 45 minutes at 350º F. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from oven and let set in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. lemon cake9While cake is still in the pan, make the glaze. To make glaze, sift powdered sugar to remove lumps. Stir the sugar with 1 T milk or buttermilk, and 2 T lemon juice. You want the glaze to pour, but not so thin it runs off the cake. Adjust thickness of glaze by adding more sugar to thicken or more lemon juice to thin out.

Run a rounded knife around edge of cake and flip onto a rack. Flip again so it’s right side up. Pour half of the glaze on hot cake. Let set for 1 hour. Pour on remaining glaze. You can see in the photo that the first glaze is clearer than the second due to the heat of the cake. Let set at least another hour before serving.lemon cake 4

 

EASY ONE-POT MACARONI & CHEESE: Hack The Mac!!!

mac & cheese hack textSadly, when we think Mac & Cheese, we often think of Kraft Mac & Cheese. While children seem to love it, one wonders what exactly is that suspicious orange “cheese” and multitude of ingredients that hearken one back to high school chemistry.

Macaroni and cheese is a kid favorite, but I refused to buy the boxed-kind, laden with excess salt and orange stuff that’s supposed to be cheese. Instead, I only served them homemade MAC & CHEESE.  Of course, the best laid plans went by the wayside when they started eating at their friends’ houses and noticed the difference. They still ate mine, but wouldn’t hesitate to inhale the other, given a chance.

Well, we moms have to be sneaky sometimes (it’s for their own good…they’ll thank us later). I found a Macaroni & Cheese recipe from America’s Test Kitchen that is very similar to the boxed kind. If you leave off the bread crumb topping, you may be able to pass it off – just keep an empty box around as a decoy to sit on the counter when you’re serving it.

NOTE:  Don’t buy pre-sliced American cheese unless you absolutely have to. Many stores have a working deli section where they make sandwiches. They’ll probably have a large block of American cheese – both the orange and yellow kind taste fine. Don’t let them slice it, since you’ll want to shred it – tell them to cut about a 3/4 ” block (3¼ oz).

ONE-POT MAC & CHEESE

  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 lb small elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup (3¼ oz) deli cut American cheese (either yellow or orange), shredded
  • 1 cup (2½ oz) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • optional topping: 1/3 cup panko crumbs
  •                                 1 T olive oil
  •                                 1/8 tsp salt
  •                                 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  •                                 2 T Parmesan cheese, grated

In a saucepot, bring water and milk to the boil. mac & cheese hack2Add in pasta and bring to a simmer. mac & cheese hack3Maintaining the simmer, cook uncovered until pasta is just past the al dente stage – about 6 minutes. mac & cheese hack4While pot is still on low heat, stir in American cheese, Dijon and cayenne. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar. Cover pot and let melt together. Taste for seasoning.mac & cheese hack5 If you want to make the bread crumb topping, toast the panko, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small skillet until browned. (Keep an eye on it – it only takes a couple of minutes.) Remove from heat and mix in the Parmesan.