Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No-knead bread

My relationship with bread-making has been rocky at best. Any bread attempts were hit or miss, more often misses. For the longest time I was convinced that my biologocal make up was somehow detrimetal to bread rising, I could not make dough rise to save my life. Then, with the assistance of a bread machine and some strong encouragement from the boyfriend and instruction from his mother, I successfully made bread. Woo hoo! Full of new confidence, I have begun to experiment with bread made the old-fashioned way, and found success with that too. Who knew?! Like succeeding at anything, it has taken patience and persistence and flexibility. A life lesson in bread.

I found this recipe just yesterday and wanted to try it immediately. It uses science to make the best bread ever! You see, bread dough develops a good texture when the gluten molecules are aligned. You can make that happen by kneading it to develop the gluten, or you can - this is where it gets technical - you can let it sit for a long time. The trick is to make a very wet dough, as the molecules need wetness to move around in more easily and align themselves, like good little soldiers all in rows. The dough rises for 18 hours to start with, then another 3 after you shape the loaf. And it's cooked in an enclosed dish, something about needing the steam to make it crust over well. More science. I am not totally sure about WHY it works, but wow did it ever make an awesome loaf!! Science rocks!

The taste is excellent, likely because the dough has so much time to develop, and the texture is much like a professional artisan loaf. Now just to figure out how to store it without it either drying up or getting soggy....and how to stop eating at one slice!
No-knead Bread
adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
2 C multigrain bread flour
1 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 5/8 C water
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water and stir until blended; dough will be sticky and shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 18 hours at room temperature (I did mine before bed then came back to it the next day after work).
Dough is ready when surface is dotted with bubbles. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and fold it over on itself a few times. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, gently shape into a ball. Mine was way to soft and sticky to form a ball, it was more like The Blob. Shift it onto a floured peice of parchment paper, seam side down, and cover with a floured tea towl. Let it rise for another 3 hours; it might double in size or it might not. Mine didn't but it was closing time in Sherylyn's Kitchen so I turned on the oven to 450 and moved things along anyway.
Put a large covered pot in the oven (cast iron, pyrex, enamel, or ceramic, whatever you've got that's oven safe) ad let it heat up with the oven. Carefully remove hot pot fropm the oven. Do not forget that the lid heats up too; remove the hot lid, preferably with pot holders or some other protective gear. Turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up, and shake it a bit to distribute evenly. It might look a mess but that's ok. Cover with the lid and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until loaf is nicely browned.
Now, as much as it might pain you, do not cut into loaf immediately. Let it rest for a bit and allow it to de-steamify before slicing with a bread knife...I can never wait too long before sampling!
Nutritional info: Because there's no sugar or fat on the recipe, it's lower in calories per gram than most breads. Per 50g slice (about 1/15 of loaf), it's 80 calories, 0g fat, 3g protein, 17g carbs, 2g fibre, and 194g sodium.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caesar salad

Hail Caesar! Forger that, hail Sherylyn for inventing the most awesomest Caesar salad ever, and low-cal to boot! Actually I have Astro to thank for making such amazing, versatile Biobest yogurt. That yogurt makes me feel like a kitchen goddess!

Sherylyn's Awesome Caesar Salad

1/4C Astro Biobest 1% yogurt (or some other not as good thickener-free yogurt, but you will be sorry)
1T low-fat mayo (I like Hellman's half-fat olive oil mayo)
2T red wine vinegar
2 tsp worchestershire
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, pressed
cracked pepper

Put all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

"Bacon" bits:
Finely chop 100g of low-fat ham (about 2 slices). Put the bits in a frying pan coated with cooking spray, and sautee on medium heat until browned and they start to pop like popcorn. You might need to cover if they start popping before they are fully browned.

Cube 2 slices of multigrain bread (or gluten-free bread for you GF people). Spray cubes with cooking spray, toss with some italian herbs and cayenne pepper, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350F until crisp and brown, about 15 minutes - WATCH them, they burn suddenly!

Assemble: In a large bowl, toss a washed and torn head of romaine, dressing, ham bits, croutons, and about 1/4C of grated parmesan cheese until lettuce is well-coated. Done!

This makes a large salad that serves 4 people as a side-salad or two large dinner-salads.

Nutritional values for 1/4 of recipe: 116 calories, 4g fat, 10g protein, 9g carbs, 1.3g fibre, 550mg sodium.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Solyanka: Ukranian Soup

Who knew there was another Ukranian soup besides borscht? I have been Ukranian all my life and just found out about this soup last Friday. A visit to a Ukranian restaurant and an adventurous boyfriend yielded this new treasure - I never would have ordered this myself (pickles in soup?!) but it was a revelation. It's richly flavoured, hearty stick-to-your ribs kind of fare yet only 87 calories per cup (after some Sherylyn-ifying). Perfect comfort food in this gray, drizzly weather! I used a combination of red and yellow beets, but next time I would just use yellow. The one red beet in there coloured everything bright red. Show off.


250g low-fat ham, 1/2" cubes
150g turkey kolbassa, 1/2" cubes
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium potato, 1/2" cubes
3 medium beets, preferably yellow, 1/2" cubes
1C chopped onion
4C shredded cabbage
1L low-sodium chicken broth
1L water
1 can crushed tomatoes
4 medium-sized dill pickles, halved and sliced, plus 1/4C brine
1T capers
1T dried dill or 2T fresh

Put a large pot over high heat and add chicken broth, water, tomatoes, pickles, brine, capers, potato and beets. Heat to boiling, then turn heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, heat oil in a large skillet and sautee onion, ham, and kolbassa until lightly browned. Add the ham mixture, dill and the shredded cabbage to the broth and comtinue to simmer for another 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft.

Serve with a dollop of low-fat plain yogurt and chopped fresh dill. Easy peasy, and so satisfying!

Nutritional info per cup: 87 calories, 1.6g of fat, 7g protein, 12g carbs, 2.3g fibre, 636mg sodium.

Sherylyn's tip of the day: How to remove beets stains from clothing: Roll item in question into a tight ball. Shove angrily into a garbage bag and toss. Heh just kidding, my mom is really good at removing stains so I'd just give it to her. The rest of you are on your own.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oaty Banana Blueberry Muffins

It was really hard to pick which ingredients were the most compelling for the title of this muffin recipe. They all seem equally important and exciting to me, but Oatmeal-Whole Wheat Flour-Bran-Flax meal-Applesauce-Blueberry-Banana Muffins seemed a bit unwieldy. My awesome boyfriend's mom (or is that "boyfriend's awesome mom"? Hmm both) shared this recipe with me, and I only changed it a little, as I am wont to do. Best muffins EVER. I declared them Heaven Muffins when she served them to us. I would have just called them that, but I really like the word Oaty (sounds like goaty, heh) and Oaty Heaven Muffins just sounds wrong. Anyway, they are filled with all things good for you, and are a fraction of the calories of a regular muffin. Enjoy!

Oaty Banana Blueberry Muffins

1 1/4C whole wheat flour
1C wild oats
1C wheat bran
2T flax meal
1/2C Demerara sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1C blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Combine all that stuff in a big bowl. Then in another bowl, mix together:

1C applesauce (no sugar added)
1/2C skim milk
1T olive oil
1T corn syrup
1 large egg
1 large banana, mashed

Once it is well-combined, add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix until just incorprated. DO NOT OVERMIX. Every time you overmix a kitten dies.

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper muffin cups (or if you are fancy like me, line with silicone muffin liners). Divide the batter amongst the 12 cups, they will be heaping full. You can also make 24 smaller mini-muffins. Or one big loaf. Or eat the batter straight from the bowl while watching reruns of Friends, whatever.

Cook in a 375F oven for 18 minutes or until they spring back when you touch them lightly.

Nutritional values per muffin: 169 calories, 3g fat, 5g protein, 34g carbs, 5g fibre,

Mini-quiches: the perfect breakfast

I LOVE these mini-quiches. The recipe is adapted from one in Cooking Light magazine; often I find their recipes don't go far enough to make something low-cal (though I do appreciate that they don't go the fake-sugar route). But this recipe was an epiphany! Using low-fat cottage cheese in the quiche gives it a creamy, cheesy taste and texture without adding a ton of high-fat cheese. It's brilliant. And I don't often say that in reference to something I didn't myself come up with ;).

Ham, Swiss and Spinach Mini-Quiches

200g cubed low-fat ham (about 1.5C)
1/2C chopped onion
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
75g reduced-fat swiss cheese, shredded (scant 3/4C)
1C fresh baby spinach leaves
1C low-fat cottage cheese (1%m.f.)
1/2C 1% milk
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/4C flour (any flour, but ideally garbonzo bean flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1T finely grated parmesan cheese

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray and add ham, onions, and pepper. Saute until ham and onions are slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray and sprinkle a bit of the grated swiss cheese in each cup, using 1/4C in total. Divide ham mixture between cups. Top with spinach leaves.

Combine remaining swiss cheese, cottage cheese, milk, eggs, flour, and baking powder in a large bowl and whisk until your arm is sore. Unless you have guns like Sheila, in which case just beat for a minute or so. Divide mixture amongst cups. The spinach leaves will not want to let the mixture underneath; do not oblige them. Poke them down as you go, be firm with them as they like to misbehave and if you have too much spinach sticking out of the egg mixture it will dry up in the oven and get all crunchy. This seems like an unnecessarily laborious step but trust me, the results are way better than if you just chop the spinach up small and mix it in. Once you have poked all the spinach and mixture into submission, top with a sprinkling of parmesan and cook in a 350F oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top.

One of these little beauties is just 86 calories, 3g fat, 11g protein, 4g carbs and 325mg sodium. No fibre of note but hey you can't have everything. Eat a banana or better yet, a kiwi with the skin on. That's right!
Sherylyn's tip of the day is kiwi skin has loads of excellent fibre so wash your kiwi thoroughly, slice thin and eat it down. It's actually really yummy!

Vegetarian Option: Replace the ham with some chopped mushrooms and/ or bell peppers and sauté with the onions. Sauté well to get the moisture out, otherwise you will risk a soggy quiche!