Friday, April 27, 2012

At Last...............

Those of you who've been following The Food of Love for a while might recall my ardent quest for a recipe that would produce a creamy rice pudding. I've dumped a fair share of  trials over the bank, but finally I have a recipe that produces a very creamy, rich rice pudding that will leave you feeling like the cat that lapped up the cream. I have my friend and hairdresser Donna to thank for the recipe, which came to her by way of her sister. So here's a big shout out to Donna's sister:  thank you for the perfect recipe for rice pudding.

I've made rice pudding on top of the stove, in the oven--with or without a bain Marie, in a crockpot. I've used short grain rice, long grain rice, instant rice, brown rice, and Arborio rice. I've used whole milk, condensed milk, half and half, and cream. So what separates this rice pudding from all the rest? I believe it is the cooking method, which is a long simmer in a double boiler. The recipe I received didn't give any "time," so I checked the rice for doneness every 15 minutes and it took 1 1/2 hours. First I brought the water in the bottom half of the double boiler to a boil. Then I added the insert with the mixture in it to the double boiler and I cooked the mixture on medium high until it was hot. Finally, I lowered the heat to a simmer. Following this method, the rice was cooked perfectly and the custard was thick. I repeat these directions below because it was on the second try that I achieved "Nirvana."

1/2 cup long grain rice (I used Carolina)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 pint whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Optional:  cinnamon

Bring the water in the bottom half of a double boiler to a rolling boil. Place the rice, sugar, salt, milk, and cream in the top of a double boiler and check periodically until it becomes hot. When it does, turn the heat to low so that the water is simmering. It's important to leave the heat on high until the mixture is hot so that it will thicken (my first batch I didn't do this and the mixture was a bit thin). Stir every 15-20 minutes, cooking until the rice is done, about 1 1/2 hours.   Beat the egg, then add a little of the hot liquid and mix together. Slowly pour this egg mixture into the pudding, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Add 1 tsp vanilla. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Chill.
I've made this twice now and it is just incredibly delicious. I've never seen another recipe for rice pudding that calls for a double boiler, but I'm convinced that this cooking method accounts for the absolutely perfect consistency. I defy you to eat this without making "yummy noises."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Raspberry-chocolate Shortbread Bars

It's a fact that I eat more dessert when I am on program (Weight Watcher' talk for following a sensible eating plan). That might seem counter-intuitive, but the fact is when I know I can have an indulgence without wrecking my eating plan, it makes the plan more of a lifestyle than a diet. This slimmed down version of a bakery treat is not low calorie by any means. One small bar has 171 calories (5g fat, 29 g carb, 1 g fiber, 3 g prot); but that small bar is so satisfying, you won't feel deprived or driven to overindulge. This recipe makes 30 bars; enjoy some now and freeze the rest.

2 c lowfat buttermilk baking mix
1/3 c packed brown sugar
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbs fat free milk
1 (14 oz) can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tbs chopped pecans
1/3 c seedless raspberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13 inch baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

Whisk baking mix, brown sugar, and butter in a large bowl. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture to use for topping. To the rest of the mixture, drizzle in the milk and stir until evenly moistened. Pat this mixture into the prepared pan, pressing evenly to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake until edges are browned, 15 minutes.

For filling, microwave condensed milk and 1 cup of the chips in a large, microwaveable bowl on high for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes. Stir until chips are melted. Spread evenly over hot crust. Stir pecans into reserved 1/4 cup of topping and sprinkle over chocolate mixture. Add preserves by 1/2 teaspoonful over topping, spacing 2 inches apart. Srpinkle remaining 1/4 cup of chips on top. Bake until filling is set, 25 minutes. Cool.

Lift from pan using the foil. Cool completely before cutting into 30 bars. (5 PP per bar)
As soon as I saw this recipe in WW Magazine, I had visions of a grown up version of the magic cookie bars we used to bake at Christmas. I had all the ingredients on hand and it took less than 20 minutes to get these in the oven. One bite of the crumbly shortbread cookie topped with rich, sweet chocolate tempered with tart flavor of raspberry jam and I was in heaven. With a glass of cold milk, I remembered why milk and cookies remain such a fond childhood memory.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

TAST Week 16: French Knots

There was a time when I despaired of ever being able to produce a French knot, much less produce many of uniform size and shape. But, as with most things, practice makes perfect--or at least much better. In the photo above, I used a double strand of floss to produce clusters of grapes. In the photo below, I used several strands of a metallic floss to produce the large knots in between the feather stitch and the starfish.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chicken with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans

I started eating broccoli rabe a few years ago and it's now one of my favorite vegetables. I don't find it as bitter as some describe it and enjoy the stalks far more than those on regular broccoli. Pairing broccoli rabe with cannellini beans is always the start of something good to eat, so when I saw this recipe at a weekly Weight Watcher meeting, I decided to make it to serve over pasta.

Adapted from WW Weekly, March 11-17, 2012
Servings 4 (6 PP)
1 1/2 tbs all purpose flour
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 oz uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in large chunks
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tbs minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
8 oz uncooked broccoli rabe or broccoli, coarsely chopped (about 6 cups)
15 oz canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/8 tsp salt

On a plate, combine flour, salt, and pepper; add chicken and turn to coat. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning as needed, until browned (about 6 minutes). Remove to plate. Add broth, garlic, and red pepper flakes to same skillet and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add broccoli rabe, cover, and cook over medium high heat until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans; cover, and cook about 2 minutes more. Uncover and mash some beans to thicken sauce slightly. Stir in chicken and cook until heated through. Season with lemon juice, zest, and salt. Yields 4 one-cup servings.
This would be a fine dinner just as described above, but I served it over a cup of pasta and it was Sunday dinner worthy. Don't leave out the lemon because it really makes the broccoli rabe pop. Leaving the chicken in large chunks ensures that it won't dry out. My only misstep was that I determined to try whole wheat pasta (again) for health reasons. I've tried just about all that are on the market and the verdict is always the same: yuck! I'd rather eat half a cup of regular pasta than a pound of whole wheat.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Spring Vegetables

I'm sorry that there's no photo of this dish--my camera was sick--which is a shame since it was so colorful.

Pork tenderloins are not only economical, they are delicious and virtually fat free. It's one of the staples that I am rarely without. This preparation is from WW's Points Plus Cookbook, but you don't have to tell anyone that it's part of a healthy approach to eating.

Serves 4
nonstick spray
1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 tbs chopped fresh chives
3/4 tsp salt
1 (9 oz) pkg frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 lb small red potatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed
1 cup baby carrots
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Spray a large, shallow roasting pan with nonstick spray. Press chives into both sides of pork. Spray large skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium high heat. Add pork and cook until browned on both sides.

Transfer pork to roasting pan. Combine artichokes, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat, then spread around the pork. Roast 25 minutes (until pork is cooked to 160 degrees). Let pork stand 5 minutes before slicing it into 12 portions. Serve with vegetables.

N.I. per serving:  293 cal, 6g fat, 31 g carb, 7 g fiber, 28 g protein; 7 points plus
This was a delicious and filling dinner with relatively low points. I've never used frozen artichoke hearts before and they were wonderful! I used the entire bunch of asparagus and the combination of  roasted vegetables with the potatoes and pork was quite satisfying. Even "Mr. Gravy" didn't seem to mind that there was no sauce. The pork was moist and flavorful--loved the chives--and I look forward to making this again soon.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Individual Chocolate Souffles

I didn't grow up in a house where dessert was served after dinner. That is not to say that cookies and milk or some other sweet wasn't available for evening snacking. Of course, as we age, we are wise to rethink what we eat, particularly in the evening hours, but I do look forward to a cup of tea or a glass of fat free milk and a small snack each evening. While a Fiber One brownie often fills the bill--they actually taste pretty good--nothing beats something homemade. These individual chocolate souffles fit very nicely into a balanced eating plan and are very easy to whip up just before you eat them. The recipe can be doubled or tripled to serve guests and they make a lovely presentation.

Servings - 2 (3PP)
(from WW Weekly, March 4-10, 2012)
2 sprays cooking spray
1 tbs unsweetened cocoa
1 tbs all purpose flour
3 tbs granulated sugar, divided
3 tbs low-fat chocolate milk
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 6 oz ramekins with cooking spray.  In a small saucepan, whisk together the cocoa, flour, and 2 tbs granulated sugar. Set over medium heat and add chocolate milk, stirring constantly until smooth (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white until soft peaks start to form. Slowly add remaining tablespoon of granulated sugar and continue beating until soft peaks are formed. Fold cooled chocolate mixture into egg whites a little at a time until no white streaks appear. Pour batter into prepared ramekins and bake until set and top looks slightly dry, 14-16 minutes. Do NOT open oven until souffles are done or the cold air will cause them to sink. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.
I've made souffles before, some of which have fallen after I took them out of the oven. Not so with these. They were quite impressive for being so quick and easy and very chocolatey and satisfying. I wished I had some raspberries as I would have made a quick puree to serve alongside. I will be keeping this recipe on "speed dial."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

TAST Week 15: Stem Stitch

I'm the first to admit that my spacial relations are horrendous. I'm used to doing things differently as an ambidextrous lefty, but embroidery really tests my mettle. I've used stem stitch before, but have never felt confident about the results. I revisited Sharon's explanation, consulted Montano's stitch tool, which has special directions for lefties, but still was not pleased with the results. I then turned to my copy of Yvette Stanton's The Left-handed Embroiderer's Companion and realized I had not looked at her directions before. Instead of the slanted stitch that most instructions call for, Stanton has you bring the needle out on the line, then insert the needle a short distance to the left and pull it through except for a little "loop" sitting above the line. She then directs you to bring the needle out on the line below this "loop" and halfway along the space. Finally, you pull the needle through and tighten the thread and voila! I finally produced a very good looking stem stitch.  I used a very thick cotton yarn, added some detached chain leaves, then used a 7 mm silk ribbon to make a 5-petaled flower. Stanton even has directions for how to turn a corner with this method. Now I have to practice my curved line stem stitch. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

When I saw these in the weekly WW flyer, I made a note to try them after I'd been back on program a few weeks. I bought the ingredients and promptly forgot about them with the result that the reduced fat cream cheese I'd bought went bad. I'm mentioning this because I substituted all fat free cream cheese which resulted in a different texture (note  the somewhat messy cheesecake in the forefront). Nevertheless, this was a successful recipe and one that I will make again with the correct ingredients.

12 servings (3 points plus each)
3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tbs light butter, melted
2/3 cup lowfat cream cheese (12 tbs)
6 tbs fat free cream cheese
2 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup Comstack lite cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place 12 cupcake liners in pan.
Melt butter, then mix with graham cracker crumbs. Spoon 1 tbs of mixture into each liner and press down with back of spoon. Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheeses, egg whites, vanilla, lemon juice and sugar until completely smooth. Pour evenly into 12 liners (the mixture will be thin) and bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely, then divide cherry pie filling evenly over the mini cheesecakes. Refrigerate.
Despite my substitution, these were really good. Be forewarned that the texture will not be the same as regular cheesecake (nor will your hips grow as they would with regular cheesecake). I enjoyed one of these treats with a glass of milk or a cup of tea (DSO enjoyed them two at a time) and, as I noted, I will be making them again.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

TAST: The Lost Weeks

Although I've been busy trying to finish a year-long crazy quilting project, I have been keeping up with each week's TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) challenge. Unfortunately, my digital camera broke a few weeks ago and I just replaced it last weekend and now feel confident enough to actually use it. Since I last posted my work on TAST, we've had 4 new stitches and a catch up week. Week 10 was running stitch, one I haven't really used extensively in my crazy quilting. Week 11 was whipped wheel. It took a few false starts and stops, but I finally "got" this one and used it as filler for my bottom of the sea blocks. Week 12 was barred chain and alternating barred chain and I confess I had to do a major online search until I found a really good tutorial. Being left-handed is challenging and despite having several embroidery books designed for left-handers, I found the explanations tricky. I do like the barred chain stitch, though, and can see myself using it for any number of motifs in the future. Week 13, Sharon kindly offered a catch up week (she's very receptive to her students). That brings us up-to-date with week 14's stitch, the satin stitch. I've used this one before, but will readily admit that I need lots more practice. I decided to use satin stitch to make a spider for my beaded web.  It's far from perfect (the eyes and antenna make my spider seem a bit deformed), but I hope to find more opportunities to use this stitch in the future. So, there you have it. Ready for the next challenge. The examples of each stitch detailed above follow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Cups

Most weekdays breakfast consists of a Greek yogurt and fruit or a very quick saute of vegetables to which I add an egg and an egg white for a frittata lite. On the weekends, I like to glam it up a bit, so I decided to make these simple bacon, egg, and cheese cups. They're quick and easy and reheat well.

Servings: 4 (3 PP each)
4 slices Canadian bacon
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fat free croutons, crumbled
2 tbs shredded reduced fat cheese
1 sprig parsley or chervil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place 1 slice Canadian bacon in each of four 8-10 ounce custard cups. Pour eggs evenly into cups. Top evenly with chopped tomatoes, croutons, and cheese.

Place cups on a baking sheet and bake until eggs are just set, about 20 minutes. Garnish and serve.
These egg cups were not rocket science, but they were delicious and would be lovely at a brunch. I ate leftovers (a quick heat in the microwave) and enjoyed them just as much. While the slice of bacon makes a nice cup, when I make these again for "everyday" consumption, I'll chop the bacon just to make it easier to eat.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Five Spice Pork Stir-fry

It's hard to believe that there was a time when five spice powder did not grace my spice drawer. It was one of those tastes that I had to grow up to appreciate. This healthy, one-dish meal comes from my Points Plus Cookbook, which has been getting quite a workout lately.

Serves 4
2 tbs reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbs honey
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/4 X 1-inch-thick strips
3/4 tsp five spice powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp canola oil (I used peanut oil)
1/4 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tbs peeled, grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 lb baby spinach
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (I left this out)

Stir together the soy sauce, honey, and cornstarch until smooth; set aside.

Sprinkle pork with 1/2 tsp five spice powder and the salt. Heat large nonstick skillet or wok over medium high heat and add 2 tsp of the oil. Add the pork in one layer and cook until browned on both sides (about 2 minutes per side). Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining tsp oil and add peas, pepper, ginger, garlic, and remaining 1/4 tsp five spice powder (and jalapeno, if you so desire). Stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp tender, about 2-4 minutes.

Add reserved pork and soy sauce mixture and stir-fry until sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Add spinach and stir-fry until it begins to wilt, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve over brown rice, if desired.

N.I. (without the rice) per serving:  212 calories, 6 g fat, 20 g carb, 6 g fiber, 21 g prot; 5 points plus
First of all, I found the toasted sesame seeds in the microwave after we finished eating, so they don't appear in the photo. This stir-fry was as tasty as it was photogenic. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that I am making it again next week. The 1-cup serving was very filling with 2/3 cup brown rice. This is a fragrant dish, mostly due to the five spice powder. If you've never used this spice before, I predict it will become a favorite very quickly.