Smarter Than Pancakes

Saturday, January 30, 2010

School Yeast Rolls

Filed under: breads,School Yeast Rolls — shaye3 @ 11:39 am

If you went to public school in my town in the Seventies and Eighties, you know that these yeast rolls are the stuff of legend.  The school cafeteria only served them on Chicken & Noodle day, and you could smell them from the minute you got to school in the morning.  By the time you got to lunch, you were completely starving for them.  They were like lunchroom gold—you could trade a yeast roll for almost anything—even chocolate milk!  (And let me tell you, Chocolate milk was a hot commodity for trading at my alma mater!)

This is not the best representation of these rolls.  I took this picture on a particularly harried day. I had a house full of family, and was trying to get the rolls to the table quickly.  I didn’t let them rise quite enough, and I didn’t bake them quite long enough. When you look at the picture, try to envision them higher, more rounded, and slightly darker–ok?

About thirteen years ago, one of the schools did a cookbook fundraiser.  I snapped one up JUST for the yeast roll recipe.  I’ve been making them for holidays ever since.  In the past few months, I’ve made them for Thanksgiving, December Bunco, Christmas day dinner, and another family gathering after Christmas.  There are rarely leftovers.

The original recipe makes 28 rolls.  I used to try to cut the recipe in half, but yeast breads don’t like it when you try to tamper with them.  I finally realized that I can make the full batch of dough, make all of the balls for rolls, then freeze them like Rhodes rolls.  Then I just pull out the number of frozen rolls I need, and defrost and bake them just like you would Rhodes rolls—only these are so much better!

School Yeast Rolls
Yield 28 rolls
WW Points 4 each  (Points are calculated without the extra butter brushed on top. Why do you think I only have them on holidays?)

1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup sugar  (6 Tbs. if that’s easier.)

4 Tbs dry milk

1 Tbs salt

675 grams all-purpose flour (Approx. 5 cups, but I make no promises for your results if you don’t weigh.)

1 3/4 cup warm water, divided (About 110°)

1 egg, beaten

1/2 lb. plus 1/2 Tbs. butter (No idea why it calls for 2 sticks and another 1/2 Tbs, but I do it.)

2 pkgs. dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp. if you use bulk yeast like I do)

  1. Combine the sugar, dry milk, salt and flour.
  2. Dissolve the yeast into 3/4 cup warm water.
  3. Add the egg and butter to the 1 cup water; mix well then mix that with the yeasty water.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed until the dough clears the bowl.  (I do this in my stand mixer.)
  5. Place the whole mess into a greased bowl and leave in a warm (80°) place about 20 minutes for the first rise.  (The dough will be a little sticky, but not bad. That’s where measuring the flour comes into play.  If you try to scoop, you really don’t know how much you’re really getting, and there’s no way of guessing how stiff or sticky your dough will be.)
  6. Pinch into rolls, and place in a greased baking pan.  (I should probably just admit that I am anal enough that I actually weigh the entire ball of dough, divide that by 28, then weigh each dough ball to make sure they’re all the same size.  Trust me when I say that you don’t have to–they’ll be just fine.)
  7. Let rise in a warm place until double in size.  (I usually brush melted butter on them before I leave them for the second rise.  It isn’t called for in the recipe, but man is it good that way.)
  8. Bake at 350° or 375° for 30-40 minutes, or until they’re golden brown on top. (That’s one thing I like about this recipe.  You can throw them in the oven with other things that are baking, and you won’t have to worry about the temp not being right.  When I bake them alone, I use 350°.)
  9. If you don’t want to bake all of the rolls that day, follow the directions through step six where you pinch the dough into rolls.  Instead of putting them in a greased pan, put them on a sheet of wax paper in the freezer, not touching each other, until they’re frozen solid.  (Try to remember to go back and put them in a freezer container or bag as soon as they’re frozen.  They’ll freezer burn pretty quickly if you leave them exposed in the freezer.)
  10. To bake from frozen, put them in a greased pan and cover with sprayed plastic wrap.  Let them rise in a warm place for 3-4 hours, or until doubled in size.  (My cousin Jana puts the pan on a heating pad set on low, and they rise considerably faster.) After they’ve risen, bake like normal.

So the rolls and the cake are the two recipes that people have been *reminding* me to post.  Now that they’re out of the way, I should let you know that I started doing Weight Watchers again earlier this month.  January 9th, to be exact.  That was my half birthday–which means I have exactly six months until I hit a milestone birthday.  If you’ve ever needed motivation to stick to a diet, a looming milestone birthday is a good one.  It’s been twenty days, and I haven’t cheated even once!  We also got a Wii Fit for Christmas, so I’ve been trying really hard to exercise, too.  So far, I’ve dropped ten pounds; but I’m not going to post “before” and “after” pictures until I look a lot less like the “befores.”

I’ve been trying all kinds of really good recipes over the past few weeks.  They all happen to be healthy and low calorie, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fabulous.

I’ve also been making a lot more vegan recipes.  I never knew that vegan recipes could be so delicious and surprisingly filling!  I’ve taken pictures of all of the good ones, and I’ll be posting them in the very near future.  And I really mean it, this time!  I’m typing several of them out right now, and then I’ll just publish them every few days for a while.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Famed Marble Cake

Filed under: Desserts,Red Velvet and White Marble Cake — shaye3 @ 10:18 pm

This was only my second attempt at marbling. I'm still no expert.

Ok, so I made this cake a few times over the holidays, and I’ve gotten a lot of requests for the recipe.  It’s only taken me a month, and I’m just now getting around to blogging it.  (Sorry, but I’ve already admitted to being a blog slacker.)

Not only am I a blog slacker, but this cake actually uses ::gasp:: CAKE MIXES!!  Yup, I said it.  I used mixes.  I swear I never use them normally, but I really liked the look of this cake, and I was too busy/lazy to figure out how to make it from scratch before I hosted Bunco.   Then, it was so good that I made it again for my sister-in-law from Seattle.  Eventually, I hope to figure out how to make it from scratch—but not until my birthday at the earliest.  (I’ve sworn off everything that packs this many calories until then.)

I obviously took the picture during the holidays, and the whole peppermint thing really screams Christmas.  I was thinking about it, though; and you could totally change the extract to almond or maybe even raspberry and change the taste completely.  The peppermint flavor is only in the frosting, so I really think that some almond extract and a few drops of red food coloring in the frosting would scream Valentine’s Day.

White part:
1  (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix

3  egg whites

1 1/3  cups  buttermilk

2  tablespoons  vegetable oil

Red part:
1  (9-ounce) package Jiffy yellow cake mix (or 1 ¾ c. of any other yellow cake mix)

1/2  cup  buttermilk

1  large egg

1 1/2  tablespoons  cocoa

1/2  teaspoon  baking soda

2  tablespoons  liquid red food coloring (That’s almost an entire bottle of McCormick’s Red.)

1  teaspoon  cider vinegar

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting:

1  (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1  cup  butter, softened

1  (2-pound) package powdered sugar

2  teaspoons  peppermint extract (Or vanilla, or almond, or raspberry, or whatever you want.)

(Just so you know, you’re going to need two bowls so you can make the two different colored batters before you marble them together.  I used my stand mixer to make the white part, because there’s a lot more of the white batter.  I used a small-ish mixing bowl and my hand mixer for the red part, and it worked beautifully.)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°.
  2. Grease and flour three 9-inch, round cake pans.  (I used the baking spray that is especially for cakes—the kind with flour in it.)
  3. In your large mixing bowl; dump in the white cake mix, egg whites, buttermilk, and veggie oil.  Beat it for at least as long as the package says.  (Longer is even better.)
  4. While that’s whirring away in your stand mixer, take a smaller bowl and dump in the yellow cake mix, buttermilk, egg, cocoa, baking soda, red, and vinegar; then beat that for as long as the yellow cake mix package says.  (Again, longer is always better for cakes.)
  5. Spoon the batters into your three cake pans, alternating the red and white, then swirl them together a little with a knife or a toothpick.
  6. Put them in the oven, but make sure that each pan is at least a couple of inches away from the other pans or the side of the oven.
  7. (While the cakes are baking, wash your stand mixer bowl and beater so they’ll be ready to make the frosting.)
  8. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes; then remove from pans and cool on wire racks.
  10. While the cakes are cooling, make your frosting by beating the cream cheese and butter together until they’re creamy.  Add the extract; then lower the speed and add the powdered sugar.  (Trust me, if you don’t lower the speed, you’ll have a powdered sugar cloud that is not pretty.)
  11. When the cakes are cool, spread the frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.  (Know that if your cake is lopsided, you do not have enough frosting to pile a bunch extra in the middle to level it out.  Don’t ask how I know.)
  12. If you made the frosting peppermint, you can garnish with crushed candy canes.  (It doesn’t really need garnish.)
  13. Serve within 2 hours, and keep leftovers refrigerated.

Trust me when I say this cake isn’t as hard as it looks,  is really impressive looking, and absolutely delicious.   Several of my Bunco friends mentioned how dense and moist it is.

If you happen to make it and sub in a different extract in the frosting, do me a favor and leave a comment letting me know how it turns out.   Thanks!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Slow But Sure Post–Now with FRUIT SMOOTHIE!

Filed under: Alton's Smoothie (tweaked),Healthy Junk Food,WW Points — shaye3 @ 3:31 pm

For those of you who are here looking for the marble cake or the rolls, I swear I’m working on them!  Long recipes take longer to type out.  I have to type a paraphrased version of each recipe for copyright reasons, and both of those recipes are kind of long.  I’ve been working on them, but I’m also homeschooling and just started a new job.  I’m starting with a super-easy recipe, and I’ll try to get to the other two very soon!

Sooo, you already know about how good intentions pave roads–no need to expound on that one.  My grand scheme was to start the big diet on January first, except we were still in full holiday mode and had all kinds of company that first week.  Not to mention that Steve’s work decided that they should let everyone wait an extra week between pay periods the first of the year because there were too many weeks in the year or something.  I don’t know, but the budget got tighter that first week in January.  It actually worked out well because we ate out of our pantry for a while, and got rid of a lot of fattening foods that I didn’t want to have around anyway.   When we finally hit the grocery, we came out with lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.  I guess that should cushion the blow that we came out almost $300 lighter.  (In all fairness, we were out everything.  It does cost a little more to stock up on staples when you’re completely starting over with only healthy versions of everything.)

Steve finally got paid on the eighth, and the ninth is my half birthday–which means I have exactly six months to take off this weight before it becomes permanently glued to the body on my fortieth birthday.  (At least I’ve heard that it’s impossible to lose weight after you turn forty.  Hopefully it’s an exaggeration since I’ll still have a little more weight to lose after this initial fifty pounds I’m hoping to drop by mid-July.)

It seems that all the cool people are dropping weight now-a-days.  I just watched an extremely gaunt-looking Alton Brown do a show on that very topic.  (Somebody please tell me when I get too thin. I don’t want to look unhealthy like Alton.)

Anyway, one of Alton’s recipes from his show “Live and Let Diet” was a fruit smoothie that he has for breakfast each and every day.   (I’m not the type who could stand having the same thing every day for breakfast, but I say more power to him!)  His recipe makes 24 ounces of smoothie, which seems like way too much for a normal person to drink.  I made a whole batch and split it with my son for a mid-morning snack.  It was pretty good, but it needed some vanilla in my opinion.  All smoothies need vanilla in my opinion.

Alton’s Buff Smoothie

Alton’s Buff SmoothieMakes 24 oz–which serves two in our house. 3 WW points per 12 oz. / 6 WW points for the whole thing

(Know that Alton is a little strange, so he weighs the whole thing.  I did it like he did and just put the tank of my VitaMix right on my food scale and then zeroed out each time I added a new ingredient.  It worked easily enough.)

4 oz low-fat plain soy milk (I used unsweetened Silk, but the vanilla would be really tasty.)

4 oz Concord grape juice (Grape is cheapest, but according to him you can also use pomegranate or acai juice.)

4 oz frozen strawberries (All fruit is unsweetened–naturally.)

4 oz frozen bananas (I didn’t have any bananas in the freezer, so I just peeled one straight off the counter.)

4 oz frozen blueberries (You can use blackberries, but I don’t like that many seeds.)

4 oz frozen peaches or mangoes (I calculated the points using peaches.  Mango is tasty, but it has more calories and less fiber.)

A splash of vanilla extract (Alton doesn’t call for this, but it needs it.  I added maybe 1/4 tsp. to my half of the finished smoothie, and it was a big improvement since I like everything to taste like ice cream.)

  1. Alton measures the ingredients into blender the night before and blends the next morning.  I didn’t, and it was a pain to mix because my fruit was really frozen.  I used a Vita-Mix, which has a power-boat motor.  I don’t know if it would have worked otherwise.  That fruit was rock hard.
  2. If you want to know the exact nuance of how he mixed it, check the food network site.  I figure it’s a smoothie–you can’t really do it wrong if it comes out smooth in the end.

Ok, I’m off to nag my son to get his math done, and to work on that stupid marble cake post. 😉

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What does your grocery list look like when you’re eating healthy?

Filed under: Healthy Junk Food,Meal Plans,Menu Planning,Opinions,WW Points — shaye3 @ 10:12 am

I’m on Weight Watchers again, and I’m working on my grocery list.  I was talking to a couple of Facebook friends earlier about the types of healthy foods we try to keep on hand when trying to eat healthy.  I shared a few things that I’ve come up with, but I’d love to hear other people’s suggestions!

Here are some of mine:

I hate to admit it, because I seriously do try to avoid processed foods when I can, but it’s a lot harder when you’re dieting or doing Weight Watchers.  I tend to keep a few Lean Cuisines or Lean Pockets in the freezer for emergencies or when I’m just feeling extremely lazy–they’re easy and don’t have a lot of points.  I also tend to keep a can of milk chocolate Slimfast powder in the cupboard for the same reason.  While I’m doing true confessions, I also use butter sprinkles or butter spray when I’m doing Weight Watchers.  Yes I know it’s like one molecule away from being plastic, but I still do it.  (There, I admitted it.)

Other than those seriously processed things…

I try to buy a lot of produce, then wash and chop it the next day so it’s easy to grab at a moment’s notice.  (Grocery shopping can be exhausting, so I usually never do it right when I get home from the store.)

I buy romaine & other lettuces, spinach, radishes, carrots, sprouts, and any other salad-bar things that would be low or no points.  I also get some slightly higher cal/higher protein items  like sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans, olives,  and 2% cheese–but I try to make sure to weigh those things before putting on my salad because they can rack up points quickly.  I keep all of it–chopped, washed and ready to eat–in small containers in the fridge.  (My own little instant salad bar!) I also keep low cal salad dressing, which I also try to remember to measure when I use it when I’m counting points.  I try to make my own salad dressings because it’s hard to find dressings that don’t have HFCS.  The Annie’s dressings don’t, but I’m just not crazy about bottled dressings to begin with.

I also try to get stuff like zucchini, summer squash, fresh mushrooms, onions, eggplant, red peppers, and other similar veggies that I’ll chop up and saute in a small amount of olive oil while I’m prepping all my produce. (I usually saute them one at a time, then throw it all in together.  I just keep a big container of cooked veggies in the fridge so I can warm some in the microwave to go into my Egg Beaters omlet in the morning with a couple of Tbs. of 2% cheese.  It’s a fast, healthy, and fairly quick breakfast.

The other day, I figured out that I can peel and chop up an apple, throw it together with a little sweetener, pinch of salt, butter spray, cinnamon and nutmeg; and then nuke it until it’s soft.  It’s awesome on a toasted whole grain English Muffin when I’m craving a pastry.

When I buy any bread product, I check the label to make sure there’s no HFCS, then I check to make sure it says “Whole Wheat” or “Whole Grain”.  After that, I check the nutrition label to figure out which one has the most fiber and the fewest calories.  If there’s more than one that fits that criteria, I get the one that feels softer. 😉

In the summer, we love frozen grapes.  I’ll buy a bunch of grapes, wash them really well and cut the stems so that when you grab them you’ll get a proper serving size.  Then I just throw them in the freezer.  They work really well when you want something cold and sweet like a Popsicle.  (They don’t satisfy a chocolate craving though.  I’ve been known to keep the fat free Fudgesicles on hand for that purpose.  Only one point each!)

My doctor suggested another one to me.  He’s completely against all sweeteners.  (He prefers sugar or honey to HFCS, but would prefer we avoid all of them with the history of diabetes in our family.) He suggested that a calorie free, yet refreshing drink is flavored water.  He told me to take a pitcher of water and put in sliced lemons, limes, even cucumber.  Throw it in the fridge overnight, and it makes a really good drink.  I’ve tried cucumber water at a spa, but I keep meaning to do this at home.  I love to put water in the fridge anyway.  It’s handy to have cold water, and I swear it tastes better after the chlorine has had a chance to evaporate away.

We also love to make 5-minute tomato soup.  I’m pretty sure I’ve posted it on here before, but all you do is put a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan, warm it a little and then throw in a little fresh garlic.  (Roasted garlic is even better!) Then you let that sizzle for less than a minute before you add a can of crushed tomatoes and a little dried basil.  You let that simmer for about 5 minutes, then either take a stick blender to it, throw it in your regular blender, or leave it slightly chunky.  We love it, and it’s almost point free!

Ok, there are a few of my healthy food tricks.  Now it’s your turn to comment and share some of yours!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My all time favorite salad

Filed under: 7-layer salad,Side Dishes,WW Points — shaye3 @ 10:09 am
Tags: , , ,

Every Easter, I make a 7-Layer Salad for dinner.  It’s one of a few traditional dishes that we always have to have for Easter, but it is one that I’ve been known to serve several times in the weeks before Easter too.  For some reason, this salad is the epitome of spring for me.   Steve and I LOVE it.  Simon doesn’t really care for anything that has the word “salad” anywhere near it–which is strange because it’s one of the few things I craved when I was pregnant for him.

Anyway, it started as a recipe from a cookbook called  Mealtimes & Memories, but I’ve changed it quite a bit.  I’ve eliminated iceburg lettuce in favor of the greener and more nutritious Romaine, and added green onions.  I’ve also replaced the quite tasty but HFCS full combo of Miracle Whip and mayo in the dressing for a lightly sweetened mayo that is much healthier–and we can’t taste the difference.

7-layer-salad

Seven Layer Salad
Servings 12
WW Points 6 (Points determined using Hellmanns canola mayo and real bacon.  Using 4 Tbs soy bacon would make it 5 points.)

10 oz bag baby spinach (You can absolutely use non-bagged and just wash it really well, but bagged spinach is the one bagged green I do use.)

1/2 lbs bacon–cooked & crumbled OR 1 cup soy bacon pieces (Since my family believes that bacon is a vegetable, I usually cut the raw bacon into small strips, cook the whole package, and about half makes it onto the salad.)

10 oz bag package frozen baby peas (I’m serious about the baby part. Get the ones that say “baby” or “petite”.)

3 green onions—chopped (We like green onion so I use the whole bunch.)

1 head Romaine lettuce—cut into bite sized pieces and washed (Sub at will for any lettuce you like.)

6 hard-boiled eggs—sliced (This amount totally depends on the size container you’re using. You need enough slices to completely cover the top, so if you’re using a wide container you’ll need more.)

1 cup mayonnaise (This amount also depends on your dish. You need enough to cover the top of the eggs completely by about 1/8-1/4 inch.)

1/2 tsp sugar—optional (The original recipe calls for 1/2 mayo and 1/2 Miracle Whip. Since MW is chock full of HFCS, I don’t use it. I did like the sweetness it gave the dressing, so I add a little sugar to the mayo for the same taste.)

1 cup shredded cheese (I usually use cheddar or colby jack, but the original recipe called for Swiss)

  1. Layer each item through eggs in order in a trifle dish. (Or any dish you want.  My aunt makes it in a 9×13.)
  2. Combine mayo & sugar and frost over egg layer.
  3. Can be covered tightly and stored in the fridge up to overnight.
  4. Just before serving sprinkle cheese on the top.

This is one of my default pitch-in dishes, so if you invite me to come over and ask me to bring a salad, this is probably the one you’ll get.  It looks impressive, is easy to put together, and tastes amazing!

…And just because I haven’t mentioned any small appliances lately–here is my beloved egg steamer.  I realize that it’s completely senseless for me to have an appliance that  has the sole purpose of cooking eggs, but it is SOOO much easier to just throw some eggs and water into this thing, turn it on, and in a few minutes have perfectly cooked eggs.  It does boiled, scrambled, and poached.  What more could you ask for??    (And in case you’re wondering, this is another one I got from my mom.  I don’t actually spend good money on all of my senseless appliances.) 😉

egg-steamer

Monday, February 23, 2009

Homemade Ding-Dongs

Filed under: Desserts,homemade ding dongs — shaye3 @ 10:35 am
Tags: , ,

So we had my friend Laura’s family over a few weeks ago, and I know she likes to cook so I asked her to bring a few dishes.  For dessert, she brought a homemade version of Hostess Ding-Dongs.  They were irresistible!  I couldn’t keep myself from going back and eating more and more!  I think I consumed four or five by the time the night was over.  It was shameful!  (Not to mention the beginning of the end of my progress with Weight Watchers for a time.) 😉

I took a picture of them for you:
lauras-ding-dongs

So shortly after we had them over, I had surgery.  All I wanted to eat when I got home was one of those stupid Ding-Dongs.  My beloved husband went out and bought me a box of Hostess Ding-Dongs, and let me tell you–they were pathetic in comparison!

So I found out how Laura made them, and immediately set out to make them for myself, everyone at the Super Bowl party we went to, and then again for Simon’s class Valentine party.

Here’s how it goes:

heart-ding-dongs

(Laura used normal cupcake pans and I used my fancy, new heart shaped Wilton cupcake pans that I found at Target.  The pictured cupcakes were the ones that went to Simon’s school for their Valentine party.)

Homemade Ding Dongs

For the Cake
(Laura told me to use the Hershey’s Chocolate Cake recipe from the back of the cocoa box, so I did.)

2 cups sugar

1-3/4 cups AP flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour two or three cupcake pans. (You can do it in shifts if you don’t have enough pans.)
    Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. (Don’t fill the cups more than halfway. You don’t want them to crown.)
    Bake 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (I started checking at 15.)
  5. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to towel lined rack. Cool completely. (Don’t leave them to cool too long—overnight is too long. The cake still needs to be a little soft so the filling doesn’t explode out the sides. Trust me on this one.)

While they’re cooling, make your filling.

For the Filling
(
Laura told me that she uses a 7-Minute Frosting, so I found a recipe. This one isn’t the best, but it worked just fine since it’s really more about the cake. If you have another version that’s better, PLEASE feel free to post it in comments and I’ll give it a try. My friend Jen has a recipe for marshmallow fluff that I’m wondering about, too…)

1 c granulated sugar

1/3 c water

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 dash salt

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Combine all ingredients but vanilla in the top of a double boiler or a metal bowl above a pan with an inch or two of simmering water. (I’m told not to let the water come to a full boil, but I’m not sure why. I think mine might have at some point.)
  2. Using your hand mixer, beat it over the heat until definite peaks form.
  3. Remove from heat and continue beating until the frosting is cool to the touch.
  4. Beat in the vanilla. (Use real vanilla, you’d really be able to taste the fake stuff in this.)

When the cupcakes are cool, stick some frosting in a piping bag with a medium tip. (I used a medium star, but I don’t think it really matters.)

Stick the tip right into the middle of the top of the cupcake, and squeeze until the cupcake starts to puff up a little. (That’s a tricky process, too. You have to get enough in there, but if you put in too much the frosting can explode/squirt out the bottom, sides, or top. It took me a couple of tries to figure out how much to squeeze in before it starts to explode.)

After you’ve filled all of them, you can start working on the coating.

For the coating, Laura highly recommends Plymouth Pantry brand chocolate almond bark melted with shortening. At first I kept thinking that there has to be an alternative that would be more natural and have fewer chemicals, but there’s something about the exact combination of all of it that makes it perfect.  So if you want to use a ganache or melted chocolate with some shortening, I’m not going to try to stop you, but just know that the Plymouth Pantry Chocolate Bark and the shortening makes a softer chocolate that has a texture almost exactly like real Ding Dongs–without the waxy flavor that real Ding Dongs tend to have.

So to use the bark, you just break up the squares and put the whole package worth into a microwave safe bowl along with about two generous tbs. of Crisco. (I found that my one quart PC batter bowl works really well.) Melt it for 90 seconds on high, stir, then continue nuking and stirring until it’s melted.  (Don’t let it go too far or it’ll scorch.)

You then take the cupcakes, one at a time, and dip them in the chocolate.

Put them on waxed paper with the bottom of the cupcake up, and the part with the filling hole on the bottom.  (Laura actually has a fancy, Wilton candy dipper thingy to make the whole process much easier, but I just used two forks.  They were far from perfect looking, but I figure they can look rustic since they’re homemade.)

After that, they’re pretty much ready to eat.  The ones I made for the Super Bowl party still had the messy drips of chocolate around the bottoms, but I took a small knife and trimmed up the ones I sent to school for Valentine’s Day. (I have to say the chocolate drips around the bottom might be my favorite part, so I don’t know that I’d trim them in the future.)

I’m warning you now, line up friends to help you eat them or you won’t be able to resist their siren song!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Whole-Wheat Pita Experiment

Filed under: Uncategorized — shaye3 @ 6:07 pm

First, let me state for the record that PITA in internet parlance has its very own meaning.   That meaning of PITA does NOT apply to pita bread.  They are actually very easy to make!

So, with that out of the way, on with the show…

Today, my part of central Indiana has yet to reach temps above zero.  Right now, it’s the warmest it’s been all day at 0;  but we still have a wind chill of  -16.  I think that would make it the perfect day to warm the oven up to 400°, and then keep opening and closing the oven door every three minutes.  Am I right?

I’ve never made pita before, but I’ve seen it done on the net.  I found several recipes that looked good, but none were whole wheat.  I took it upon myself to try to convert one to whole wheat since I’m trying really hard to avoid white flour.  (This recipe is loosely based on one I found on The Fresh Loaf.)

The original recipe said to roll them 1/4″ thick.  They were ok, but seemed too bready.  The next few, I rolled much thinner.  The last two I forgot about, and they wound up quite crispy.  Oops.

The first few I rolled kind of thick.  A few of them had the one big puff that you fill in store-bought pita.  Even the puffy ones seemed too bready.

The first few I rolled kind of thick. A few of them had the one big puff that you fill in store-bought pita. Even the puffy ones seemed too bready.

This was the first batch of thinner ones.  They turned out puffy, but not one big puff that you can fill.

This was the first batch of thinner ones. They turned out puffy, but not one big puff that you can fill.

This is how they turn out when you roll them thin, then forget to set the timer.  I wasn't too worried, they'll be perfect pita chips to use with hummous.

This is how they turn out when you roll them thin, then forget to set the timer. I wasn't too worried, they'll be perfect pita chips to use with hummous.

So here’s how it goes…

Whole-Wheat Pita Bread
Makes 8 – 4 points each

2 tsp. active dry yeast  (I buy in bulk so I just measure.  It’s a little less than a packet, if that’s what you use.)

1-1/2 c. water (Approx 110° F.)

1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1-1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 Tbs. vital wheat gluten (Or you could just use 3 c. bread or AP flour and skip the gluten.)

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. sugar or honey (I used sugar because it s easier to measure.  Might try honey next to compare taste.)

2 Tbs. olive oil (You don’t need anything fancy like evoo, but it works fine.)

  1. Put the warm water in the bowl to your mixer, add the yeast, and stir to dissolve.  Let it sit while you measure everything else. (Use a regular bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer.)
  2. Measure the flours, gluten, salt & sugar into a medium sized mixing bowl, and stir well to combine.
  3. Add the oil to the water/yeast mixture, then add the flour mixture.
  4. Stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball.  (If you have flour that won’t incorporate into the dough, add a little more water.)
  5. Put the dough hook attachment onto your stand mixer, and let it go to town on the dough for about 10 minutes on low.  (If it wraps itself around the hook and makes an unmoving blob– stop the mixer, take it off the hook, and start it up again.)
  6. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can knead it by hand; but don’t complain to me about your arms hurting.  I’m just going to tell you to buy a stand mixer.)
  7. In the meantime, wipe the flour out of your medium sized mixing bowl and either oil it or spray it; put the dough in; then either turn the dough over in the oil or spray the top.
  8. Put a damp towel over the top of the bowl, and put in a warm place for an hour until the dough doubles.
  9. When it’s done rising, take it out and divide it into eight equal pieces.  (I just used a knife.  It cuts really easily.) Roll the eight pieces into balls, then put your damp towel over the little balls and let it rest for 20 more minutes.
  10. Preheat your oven to 400° F at some point during this process, and throw in a baking stone or an upside down baking sheet so it will be nice and warm when you get to it.  (If it’s 0° outside, like it is here, you can start the preheating process when you first get up in the morning.)
  11. Roll each piece out very thinly–maybe 1/8″ to 1/4″, depending on what you like.  (I tried both and liked thinner better with this recipe.)
  12. Throw as many pieces that will fit onto your hot stone or sheet in the oven. (I did two at a time.)
  13. Let them bake for 3 minutes, then take them out and throw more in.  (If you want them crispy–like to eat with hummous, leave them in for a few minutes more.)
  14. Take them out and enjoy.  (I’m planning hummous, falafel, and gyros–but my son tried them dipped in Cherry 7-up and said that’s good, too.)
  15. If you don’t immediately enjoy, keep them in an air-tight container.  They’ll stay fresh for a little while.

Yum!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Filed under: Desserts,jelled pineapple rings,WW Points — shaye3 @ 9:10 am

jello

This, my friends, is what happens when you know you won’t have many points left after dinner, but you’ve been craving sweets all day.

Gross, huh?  Yet surprisingly not that bad.

Take a tall can of pineapple rings in juice and drain the juice.  Then you dissolve a package of sugar free gelatin with once cup of boiling water, let it cool just a little, pour it back into the can with the pineapple, and throw the whole mess back into the fridge.

After it sets up, you just eject it from the can (warm water around the outside of the can helps), and then slice it between the pineapple slices.

Depending on how much you eat, a serving is just a point or two.  (Plus it has the cool can-line thing going on–like the canned cranberry sauce that people seem to insist on for Thanksgiving.)

Yum.  (Ok, not quite yum, but at least we enjoyed it.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

White Bean Chicken Chili for a chilly day!

Filed under: crock pot,Soups,White Bean Chicken Chili,WW Points — shaye3 @ 7:15 pm

Look ma!  I’m posting!!!  Can you believe it?!  Me neither.   First my internet went out, then I got internet back and lost my camera.  I tell you what, I was not destined to post any new recipes until today.  (And today is actually the 2 year anniversary of my non-food blog that turned into a food blog on Vox.  Maybe I should make a post to it, too…)

Anyway, it’s chilly here in central Indiana.  Not as cold as it could be, and I need to lodge a complaint that we did NOT get the snow they promised us, so I’m just sitting here being cold without the snow.

Everyone knows that when you’re chilly you have to eat soup–and what better soup than chili?!  Steve and I have really been hitting the Weight Watchers, so I tried to find a recipe that was point friendly.  This one started out point friendly, but then I had a whole pound of chicken defrosted instead of the 3/4 lb. that it originally called for.  Then, when you add the “optional toppings”, it bumps up even more.  THEN, the amount they consider a serving really isn’t a serving around here, so that effectively doubled the points.  All that to say that if you can get six servings out of it, you can include the extra 1/4 lb. chicken and all of the optional toppings for a thrifty eight points per serving.

white-bean-chicken-chili-c

White Bean Chicken Chili

(The person I got this from said it originally came from a Prevention cookbook, but of course I tweaked at will.)

20 min prep

6 hours or 30 minutes cooking time–depending

SERVES 3 – 16 points per serving  (Or 8 points per serving if you make it serve 6.)


Chili

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces (I used scissors.)

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry white wine or chicken broth

2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt (Add more salt if you’re using wine instead of broth.)

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Optional Toppings

3 oz. baked tortilla chips

2 Tbs. shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese (2 tsp per bowl)

3 Tbs. reduced fat sour cream

  1. Spray a large skillet with Pam-like spray, then sauté chicken over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Remove and set aside.
  2. Lower the heat a little, add a little more spray to the pan, and cook the onions until softened.
  3. After the onions are soft, add the garlic and cook for about a minute. (Don’t let the garlic burn. Burnt garlic is nasty.)
  4. Place all of the ingredients into your crockpot and cook on low 5-6 hours. (Or, if you’re impatient like me, you can throw it in a pot on the stove and cook for half an hour or so.)
  5. Serve with optional toppings. (I used baked Scoops and ate it like bean dip.)

Yum–and warm!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What to do with ALL OF THE TOMATOES!!

Ok, so we bought four tomato plants, two of them actually lived, and of course neither living plant was the Roma or the cherry.  (Romas are my favorite, and I have an awesome recipe for stuffed cherry tomatoes that I wanted to make.)  That means that I now have tons and tons of tomatoes that fall into the “other” category.  For some reason, a lot of the tomatoes on one of the plants have turned black on the top and started cracking.  I think it’s because of all the rain we’ve gotten recently.  Fortunately, the other plant seems to be fine.  More than fine.  Prolific.  Exuberant.  Crazy!

So here’s what I did.  I decided to oven dry them.  I dried two huge trays of them, and then proceeded to eat all of them like candy.  I guess it could have been worse, they could have been actual candy.  I swear, I can’t resist them!  They’re really sweet, and kind of chewy.  They have this amazing concentrated tomato flavor, and I just sit and eat them like popcorn or something.  I probably ate a dozen tomatoes worth before they were even off the tray.  It’s probably shameful, but if it’s wrong I don’t wanna be right!  (And the best part is, they pretty much count as 0 ww points!)

Here’s how you do it-

Wash your tomatoes, cut them into 8ths, run your finger through the sides of the slices to get rid of the liquid and seeds, and cut off the bits of core stuck to the top of the wedges.

Put them on a foil-lined baking sheet that you’ve oiled with about two tablespoons of olive oil.  Lightly sprinkle with salt.  (You can also throw some dried basil on them if you’d like.  I didn’t this time.)

Put the trays in a 275 oven, and leave them for an hour.  After the hour, come back and shake them to loosen any that are sticking.  Put them back in the oven and let them continue to dry.  Eventually, you can flip them over if you’d like.

I’d say it takes at least two hours, depending on how big and juicy your tomatoes were to begin with.  They dehydrate down to little bite sized pieces that you won’t be able to resist.

tomatoes (before)

tomatoes (before)

tomatoes (during)

tomatoes (during)

tomatoes (after)

tomatoes (after)

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