Sunday, December 23, 2007

You don't have to Challah!

Or do you? After last week's adventure with yeast (Soft Pretzels), I was game for the next yeasty challenge.

Did you know that the term challah isn't actually the loaf of bread that we associate it with? The word challah actually refers to a small piece of dough (about one-tenth of the total amount of diuhg) that is removed prior to shaping your loaf. A blessing is said over the dough and that small ball of dough is then discarded or burnt in the oven that the bread will bake in. In biblical times, the small ball of dough was given as a tac to the Jewish priesthood. (Thank you WIki, for clarifying all this for me!)

I found this recipe in The New York Times Jewish Cookbook. This cookbook has several challah recipes, I settled on a rather unconventional one: Bejma (Tunisian Triangular Challah). It wasn't my first choice, but one recipe needed 8 hours to rise (who has that kind of time?), the other called for way too much sugar, and the third one's instructions were 2 whole pages long. So I opted for the Bejma,which really didn't seem much different from the others. Flour, eggs, yeast, salt, sugar, oil..... they all had the same ingredients.

Final result: a little dense. Challah should be light and airy...and slightly sweet. I halved this recipe and made two loaves out of the dough. One as a traditional bejma, and the 2nd a traditional Jewish braided loaf. The bejma was actually denser than the braid, probably because the balls are thicker than the strands in the braid. Next tme I'll try one of the other recipes my cookbook ahs to offer, but this bread certainly won't go to waste. French toast, anyone?

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
7 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoons of the sugar in 1 cup of the water in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Stir into the yeast mixture 3 of the eggs, oil, salt, and the remaining water and sugar. Slowly knead in enough flour to make a soft, tacky dough. Using your hands or a dough hook on the mixer, knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. Turn the dough out onto a floured board, place in a greased bowl, and let rise, covered, for 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and divide into 9 rounds about the size of tennis balls. Place 3 rounds together on a greased cookie sheet, touching, to form a triangle. Repeat with remaining dough. Let rise, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beat the remaining egg with a little water and brush the dough. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and loaves sound hollow.

Yields 3 loaves (8 servings per loaf)

WW info: 3 points per slice.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Burgers

A lot of people in my blog circles have been posting about such burgers recently, but I swear that I was thinking about doing this before I saw these other recipes. I had an unusual abundance of dried cranberries and fresh sage for some reason, and all I can think of when I think of those 2 ingredients is Thanksgiving.

The one ingredient I was hesitant to use was the store-bought gravy. As far as I'm concerned, its sacrilegious. Its faux gravy. But it did smell and taste like real gravy. Not my gravy, but like gravy. I would never use it on real turkey meat as gravy should be used, but I'd recommend it for adding flavor when flavor is needed.

This burger is different. Its definitely not your typical "summer BBQ" burger. It is savory, juicy, and everything else a burger should be. Its the new and updated Thanksgiving sandwich. Its the new "IT" burger. I've decided.

1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 egg white
1/4 cup Heinz Fat-Free Turkey gravy
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs*
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dried cranberries**
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped and loosely packed
1 tsp onion powder
20 ounces lean ground turkey

*To make a core, recipe substitute with ground oatmeal.
** Dried cranberries are not a Core item, but once mixed through all the meat, the amount of cranberries per serving is negligible.

Heat oil in a small saute pan. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Mix all ingredients including the sauteed onions (except the ground turkey) in a large bowl until well blended. Add the meat and fold in with a wooden spoon until blended. Be careful to not overmix the meat or else you will end up with tough burgers.

Form into 6 patties. Grill or broil until coked through.

Serve on wheat bun with a drizzle of turkey gravy and 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce (jellied, homemade, whatever!)

Yields 6 burgers.

WW info:
core - included
flex - 3 point each (not including bun or cranberry sauce)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tilapia Oreganato

I have to confess that I kind of licked my plate a little. This came out better than I thought it might. The breadcrumbs were perfectly crunchy and the fish was light and flaky. Its pretty basic. You can definitely substitute the butter spray for real butter, just make sure you count for that if you are on Weight Watchers!

non-stick cooking spray
4 (4 ounce) tilapia fillets
salt and pepper to season
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, divided
imitation butter spray
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp plain breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Place tilapia fillets on foil covered sheet and season with salt and pepper. Reserve 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and drizzle the other tablespoon over the fillets. Give each fillet one spray of butter and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs, remaining lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, garlic powder, and 5 sprays of butter. Mix until well blended. Spoon a quarter of the mixture onto each fillet, covering the top surface completely and evenly. Give each a light spray of cooking spray. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until fish flakes with a fork and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Yields 4 servings.

WW info:
core - 2.5 points
flex - 4.5 points

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Double Chocolate Cookies

I'm sad. I have been on a baking kick and I finally found the cookie that I really wanted to make in the Technicolor Kitchen. It's the same Martha Stewart recipe that several bloggers have been making and everyone seems to have pulled it off without fail. But alas, not I. Don't get me wrong....the end result was very, very tasty. Just not what I had a hankering for when I set out to make them.

Now of course, its my own fault for slightly altering the ingredients to accommodate my Weight Watchers lifestyle. But I really didn't think I changed it enough to completely alter the final product. I subbed Egg Beaters for egg, half the sugar for Splenda, and the white flour for wheat flour. And since it was an impulse baking event for me, I had to sub Nestle mini chocolate chips for the chocolate. I also didn't have parchment paper or a Silpat, but was advised that as long as my cookie sheets were greased properly, I'd be fine. Maybe that was where I went wrong. Or maybe I made them too small. Who knows.

The end story is that my cookies didn't really spread. The final result was very cake-y. Almost like brownie bites. Yummy, but not what I set out to make. My altered recipe is below. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a chewy, cakey cookie.

(half the original recipe)
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
100 grams (about 2 ounces) semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
1/4 cup Egg Beaters
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Melt half the chocolate chips with the butter in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; let cool slightly.

Put chocolate mixture, sugar, Splenda, egg, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Fold in remaining chocolate chips.

Using a rounded teaspoon, drop dough onto greased baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes cookies. Let cool on wire racks.

Makes about 30 cookies.

WW info:
1 point per cookie

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Taste of NYC: Soft Pretzels

I did it.....I faced one of my biggest baking fears: yeast. How silly was I to be afraid of such a tiny little packet of powder? There has been a huge boom of soft pretzels in the blog circles I travel in and I picked I Shot the Chef's to follow. My dough didn't come out sticky or as smooth as she describes (I probably would follow her advice next time and not add the last 1/4 cup of flour)and I forgot to let the dough rise after dividing it up into balls AND after I shaped them into pretzels, but they came out great! I divided the dough up into 2 different size portions: 1 and 2 ounce balls for small and large pretzels. Of course, the end, I was sick of forming the pretzels so I starting making knots (like garlic knots) which I kind of like better.

WW info:
1 point per small pretzel/knot (one ounce of dough)
2 points per large pretzel (2 ounces of dough)

Chewy Chocolate Mint Bites

I recently had the pleasure of indulging in Dancing Deer's Chocolate Peppermint Cookies. Oh my. I'm not a big mint person, but these cookies took the cake. Or took the cookie. Whatev. So I set out to try to replicate it as best as possible.

These little bites are inspired by a recipe from are close, but I guess since I'm not a baker, I can't expect myself to be able to replicate a professionally made cookie. Nonetheless, these came out nice a cris outside and chewy inside. The addition of the mint (which was part of my altering the original recipe) is really refreshing. I ate 2 bites about 30 minutes ago and my breath still feels minty fresh.

What kills me is that this is a "Weight Watchers" recipe. They are 1 point per BALL. They are only 1 inch each in diameter, which means you have to eat at least 3-4 for a real snack. Which means its really 3-4 points per serving, which defeats the WW purpose. At any rate, I've added the WW tag to this entry, but WW readers be advised that I wouldn't recommend it as a really great WW choice.

non-stick cooking spray
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup margarine, softened
3/4 cup Splenda
4 oz unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp table salt
2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat two nonstick cookie sheets with cooking spray. Place cocoa, margarine and sugar in a medium bowl; beat with an electric mixer. Add applesauce, vanilla and peppermint; beat to blend. In another small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into cocoa batter with a wooden spoon. (Mixture will be on the dry side.) Shape batter into 48 marble-sized balls. Arrange balls 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Bake until set, about 8 minutes. (Note: cookies will cook in marble-shapes. They won't spread.)Remove from oven and allow cookies to stand for 1 minute. Remove to wire rack and cool; sprinkle with powdered sugar. (Note: Store extra cookies in freezer-safe containers or plastic bags to maintain their freshness.)

Yields 1 cookie per serving.

WW info: 1 point per cookie

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cajun Cornmeal Crusted Catfish

I don't know if catfish is my preference, but I will definitely be making this recipe again. The crust was incredibly crispy for not being fried. Probably better than if it had been pan-fried in oil. This would be great on any flakey fish fillet. Snapper, tilapia, cod ... whatever your fancy.

non-stick cooking spray
1/4 cup coarse cornmeal
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1/8 cup egg substitute
4 (6 ounce) catfish fillets

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray.

Mix cornmeal and Cajun seasoning in a shallow bowl. Pour egg into a second shallow bowl. Dip each fillet in the egg and then dredge through seasoned cornmeal. Place on baking sheet and spray tops with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes, or until fish is flaky.

Yields 4 servings.

WW info:
core: all included
flex: 5 points

Sunday, December 9, 2007

WC Recipe Exchange Challenge: Oatmeal Cake!

This is my first time participating in any kind of "blog" event. A cooking chat board that I frequent decided to do an exchange of dessert recipes. The rules were simple: submit a recipe, and get a recipe that you have to cook and post in your blog. I was extremely nervous about this given that I am NOT a baker, so I did make one teeny, tiny request when submitting mine: that I don't get assigned a recipe that requires a Kitchen Aid mixer. Granted, you could technically make anything without one of these highly coveted small appliances, but I was hoping for something that might not involve a terribly complicated dough (since like I said, I am not a baker).

I was psyched for this recipe since I LOVE LOVE LOVE oatmeal. And pecans. And brown sugar. When I first read the recipe, for some reason it sounded like an ideal cake for a bundt. I don't know why, but it did. It was a little denser than your typical bundt cake (it didn't rise very much and kinf of jsut hung out in the bottom half of the bundt pan, but it worked (because you could drizzle all the topping gooey-ness over the outside AND inside edges). I had to increase the cooking time ALOT, but it was worth it.

I've posted the original recipe with my changes red. I did make a significant number of changes to accommodate the Weight Watchers fans out there.

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup quick or old fashioned oats (I used quick for a finer texture)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
(I used light butter since thats what I always have on hand)
1 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
1 cup brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup Splenda brown sugar use 1/2 cup to every cup of brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
(I used white whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix boiling water and oats together and set aside. Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs to creamed mixture. Add oatmeal mixture and mix well.

Stir flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together and add slowly to wet mixture. Pour into a 13" x 9" pan sprayed with non-stck cooking spray and bake for 30-40 minutes till toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out dry. (To bake in bundt pan, increae cooking time to 65-75 minutes.)

1 cup brown sugar (I only used 1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar blend
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) (I used only 1/4 cup light butter)
2 tbsp evaporated milk (I used 3 to compensate for the left out butter)

1 c coconut
(I didn't use this...I hate coconut!)
1/2 c diced pecans

Melt brown sugar, butter and evaporated milk on medium heat in sauce pot until bubbly. Add coconut and pecans and pour over baked cake.

Put back in oven under the broiler until golden brown & bubbly. Cool and serve.
(I didn't return the cake to the oven ... it was just fine at room temperature.)

Yields 24 slices.

WW info: 3 points per slice.

Baked Pasta with Tons of Vegetables

In an effort to "sneak" some vegetables onto my husband's plate, I thought I might try this. My plan was both a success and failure. A success because he LOVED it! A failure because he exact words were, "Wow, I like this so much better than your other baked ziti." Turns out he has always hated my plain baked ziti (sans veggies) but never had the heart to tell me. Oh well... at least he really like this. And I don't have to force the veggies down his throat. Amen to that.

2 1/2 cups uncooked penne or ziti (regular or whole wheat)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup onion, chopped
1 cup red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper chopped
1/2 cup orange pepper chopped
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
1 cup crimini mushrooms, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fat-free shredded mozzarella cheese
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and peppers and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, mushrooms, and garlic. Continue to cook another 5-7 minutes. Stir in basil, oregano, pepper, tomatoes, marinara sauce and spinach. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir cooked pasta and half the ricotta cheese into the sauce. Transfer the pasta mixture into a 9x13 glass baking dish. Dollop the remaining ricotta cheese on top of the pasta and cover. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese oand spry lightly with cooking spray. Return to oven and cook until the cheese has melted.

Yields 6 servings.

WW info:
flex: 5 points per serving
core: all included if using whole wheat pasta

Semi-Homemade Breadsticks

Let's face it ... sometimes you have to play the Sandra Lee card. I am no baker. I've never attempted to make anything that involves yeast. Frankly, working with yeast scares the bejeezus out of me. But I find that preseasoned breadsticks are always waaaay too salty (if you are a fan of my blog, you will rarely see salt as an ingredient), so I figured I'd give this a go. Score! I know most people use crescent roll dough for this sort of item, but I like the slightly denser dough of pizza dough versus the flakiness of crescents.

1 tube Pillsbury refrigerated pizza crust dough
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Open dough tube and spread evenly over a large non-stick baking sheet. Brush about 3/4 of the oil over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and the shredded cheese over oil.

Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough in half down the long length of the baking sheet, and then into 12 strips the other direction, creating a total of 24 breadsticks. Grab the end of each stick and twist each end in the opposite direction of each other, turning the underside of each end up. Firmly press the ends onto the baking sheet and then brush the undersides of the ends with the remaining olive oil.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Yields 24 breadsticks.

WW info: 1 point each

Monday, December 3, 2007

Latke vs. Latke

Some are fried; some are roasted .... can you tell which are which?

Latkes don't have to be unhealthy, you know. The ingredients aren't bad, its the frying that will do you in. I prepared the mixture (per weight watchers core so I could indulge myself as much as possible) but fried half and roasted half (again, so I could partake in the Hanukkah deliciousness without the fat and calories). The roasted ones were just OK. Nothing takes the place of a fried potato latke.

1 medium onion, grated
3 large all-purpose potatoes, grated
1/4 cup matzoh meal*
1/4 cup egg substitute
cooking spray

*If following WW Core, substitute matzoh meal with oats (quick or old-fashioned), ground in food processor to flour-like texture.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Grate onion and potatoes and squeeze as much moisture out of them as possible. Mix in a large bowl with ground oats and egg. Add more egg if the 1/4 cup doesn't seem to coat and bind the potatoes.

Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray and create 12 pancakes, each made up of 1/3 cup of the mixture. Spray tops of each pancake ightly with cooking spray and place sheets on center rack in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Yields 12 latkes.

WW info:
flex - 1 point per latke
core - all included (if oatmeal is used)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Beef Brisket

What people don't know is that the eleventh commandment is "Thou shalt eat brisket." You can't really screw this recipe up, unless you undercook the meat. The longer it cooks, the softer it gets, which is the opposite of how cooking meat usually works. I've incorporated a combination of a few different recipes to make my own creation. Its a little my mom's, a little my mother-in-law's, and a little my mom's best friend's. It's the best. I promise.

24 ounces tomato juice
1 (12 ounce) jar of Heinz chili sauce
1 Tbsp white horseradish
1 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (3 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
3 large carrots, chopped
1 1/2 - 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the first 7 ingredients (save for half the chili sauce) together in a large bowl. Place half the onions and garlic in a large roasting pan (like this one, with a tight lid). Pour about 1/2 the liquid over the onions and garlic. Place the brisket over this and the remaining onions and garlic on top. Pour the rest of the liquid over the brisket and cover tightly. Place in oven and cook for one hour.

After one hour, turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Add the carrots and return to oven. Cook for an additional hour. After the second hour, quarter potatoes and add to roasting pan. If there isn't enough liquid to cover all the contents of the roasting pan now, add water to the remaining chili sauce in the jar and shake vigorously. Add as needed to make sure all contents are covered in liquid. Cook for an additional hour (time based on a 3 pound brisket; approximate 1 hour cooking time per pound of meat)

Remove from oven and let stand to come to room temperature before slicing. Best if made one or two days ahead of time.

Yields 8-10 servings (2 slices of brisket and 1 1/2 cups of potatoes and carrots)

WW info:
7 points per serving.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

This was a hard recipe to type up since chicken soup os one of those things that you can use anything and everything. A few weeks ago, chicken breast halves were on sale at my local grocery store, so I bought a few pounds. I cooked a few breast right away, but removed the rib portions and froze them with the remaining breasts. I figured those little pieces could come in handy for something, like soup.

Last night I decided to make soup today, but I wanted to cook my chicken breast first. I rubbed them with a paste of olive oil, fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme and roasted them. Rather then throw the raw chicken into the soup, I roasted them ahead of time for 2 reasons: a) i'm still not quite there on the whole making soup 100% from scratch, and b) it gives the opportunity to add that extra flavor of the fresh herbs that cook into the chicken. It also makes the recipe easier to lend to using leftovers when they are available.

1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 parsnip, finely chopped
1/2 pound leftover chicken rib sections (removed from previously cooked chicken breasts)
cold water (about 2 cups)
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1 Tbsp dried parsely
2 bay leaves
4 cups reduced sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped or shredded
3/4 cup wild rice
1/4 cup long grain white rice*

*Substitute 1/4 cup wild rice to make this recipe 100% WW core.

Add chopped vegetables and raw chicken pieces to a large stock pot. Add cold water to the pot, just enough to cover the vegetables and chicken. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, parsely, and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for about 45 minutes.

Remove chicken pieces. Add chicken broth, chopped chicken, and rice. Cover tightly and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for about an hour. Add more broth to reach desired consistency (recipe as is will make a thick soup).

Yields 10 servings (about 1 cup each).

WW info:
core - included (if not using white rice)
flex - 3 points.