Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cinnamon Baked French Toast...Lightened Up

I recently discovered The Pioneer Woman.  Her ranch-style recipes are food she makes for her cowboy husband and they are simple, hearty, and decadent all at the same time.  Her blog and cookbook are filled with fabulous photos detailing each step of the meal-making process.  She pretty much rocks.  But because I don't regularly burn the calories of a ranch hand, I simply can't justify the eating the calories her meals contain.  I do want to eat them though, so they must be lightened up!

I had a loaf of homemade oatmeal honey bread in the freezer and planned to use it for French toast for dinner (we like to have breakfast for dinner on occasion).  But then the idea came to me that we could have baked French toast instead and, needing a recipe, I found one.  From The Pioneer Woman, of course.

Enlightened Baked French Toast
1 loaf crusty sourdough or French bread (I used homemade honey oat bread)
2 cups liquid egg whites
2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. Splenda
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold light butter, cut into pieces

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Cut bread into cubes and evenly distribute in the pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine egg whites, almond milk, whole milk, sugar, Splenda and vanilla.  Pour over the bread cubes.

Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Add butter pieces and mix together with a fork until it resembles fine pebbles.  Cover and reserve in the refrigerator for baking time.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and sprinkle with the crumb mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes for a bread pudding-style result or for 60 minutes for a firmer, crispier texture.  Serves 8.

Top with light butter, light pancake syrup, and cinnamon sugar and enjoy!

Calories:  Depends on the variety of the bread used.  Approximately 375 calories per serving, plus syrup and any additional toppings.

Click here for a printable copy.

Next time I'd like to try adding some finely chopped apples to the butter blend.  A little crunch and some fruity sweetness would be excellent!  And while I've never tasted The Pioneer Woman's original recipe, I was thoroughly impressed with this one.  We'll definitely make it again.  And I'll definitely use The Pioneer Woman as inspiration again, too.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Opposite Of Gluten-Free" Pizza Dough

We love pizza.  We probably make it once a week and would eat it more if we had the time to earn the calories through workouts.  Evan has a particular fondness for stuffed crust pizza, a creation made popular by Pizza Hut and DiGiorno.  I mean, who can argue with cheese-stuffed bread?!  So as a treat this weekend, we thought we'd enhance our homemade pizza a bit.  We've made stuffed-crust pizza before, using mozzarella string cheese.  It was good, but seemed a little lacking.  So when I saw Sargento's Provolone-Mozzarella Cheese Snacks at the store, I thought that might be just the boost our home version needed!

I used a slightly different dough recipe for the stuffed crust than we use for our regular pizza -- an adaptation of the pizza dough recipe in Guy Fieri's Food: Cookin' It, Livin' It, Lovin' It.  I used Splenda instead of sugar, although the sugar only adds 15 calories (I'll chop out calories wherever I can).  The adaptation also has less oil, a different variety of flour (bread flour has more protein and should have a more vigorous rise), and includes vital wheat gluten, which lightens the texture and promotes a more active rise as well.

Pizza Dough for Stuffed-Crust Pizza

1 tsp. Splenda
1 cup warm (110 to 115 degrees) water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Kosher salt
4 tsp. Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Flour Unbleached Bread Flour, plus more for dusting

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the Splenda in the warm water.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy.  Add the olive oil, Kosher salt, vital wheat gluten and flour.  Using the dough hook attachment of your mixer or a Danish dough whisk or wooden spoon if mixing by hand, combine the ingredients until a dough begins to come together.  If using a mixer, mix for 2 to 3 minutes, otherwise, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth.  Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free location to allow the dough to rise.  Let stand for about 1 hour.  Again, turn the dough onto a floured surface and form into a smooth, round ball, using additional flour if the dough is too sticky.  Return to the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise an additional 30 minutes.

My dough didn't rise much at all, but it turned out that that wasn't a big deal.  Mike (who is our pizza forming expert) said it was really stretchy and great to work with.  He made the dough slightly larger than our wood paddle, then placed eight of the aforementioned cheese snacks around the edge of the dough, folding and sealing them into the crust.

We baked the pizza for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  It was so wonderfully cheesy.  Heavenly!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup and Hot Buttered Pretzels...Or, How I Spent My Snow Day

On Friday we had a big snow storm (6-plus inches, or some such ridiculousness).  Since it had been forcast earlier in the week, I was prepared.  I knew we'd be stuck at home and it would be cold.  What better to make for dinner that night than an old favorite, my mother-in-law's fabulous chicken noodle soup.  And since Evan tried Auntie Anne's Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Nuggets for the first time last weekend, I'd been itching to try making my own pretzels as well.

The soup was tasty as always, and although the pretzels weren't exactly pretty, despite a YouTube lesson on how to twist them, they tasted phenomenal.  And now the details on how I made both...

Judy's Chicken Noodle Soup

12 cups water
1 1/2 - 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
9 cubes chicken bouillon
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 cup barley
1 cup frozen corn
12 oz. bag Reames Homestyle Egg Noodles

In a large stockpot, place chicken in water along with peppercorns, bay leaf, and cloves.  Allow to slowly boil for 60-75 minutes.  Remove chicken from stock and place in the refrigerator to cool.  Remove bay leaf, cloves and peppercorns from stock with a spoon.  Discard.  Add bouillon cubes.  Add celery, carrots, and onion and allow to slowly boil for about 1 hour.  Cut up or shred cooled chicken and return to stock.  Add barley and corn.  Allow to cook for 1 hour.  Add egg noodles and allow soup to cook an additional 20 minutes before serving.  Makes 8-10 generous 2 cup servings.  Freeze leftovers in individual containers for a quick meal later on!

Calories:  Depends on weight of chicken used.  Approximately 240 calories per serving.

I found the recipe for Hot Buttered Pretzels at kingarthurflour.com (the lightly greased work surface really is key in rolling them, although I didn't employ that until I was almost finished).  The recipe makes eight pretzels, and I made four that were salted and four that were topped with Penzey's Cinnamon Sugar.  The Cinnamon Sugar pretzels were Evan's favorite!  To save a few calories on the pretzels, I used Land O' Lakes Light Butter instead of regular butter, which cuts the calories from butter in half.  Calories:  Approximately 160 per pretzel.
Salted Hot Buttered Pretzel

Cinnamon and Sugar Hot Buttered Pretzel
And since my dear hubby got his car stuck coming up our very short driveway, I went outside to help him shovel it out.  It was great to come in from the cold to the aromas of dinner and an excellent, hot meal!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cheerios...All Grown Up

If you haven't browsed the cereal aisle of the supermarket lately, you're missing big changes!  Some of the flavors that are currently available are mouth-watering!  Cheerios, once a gummy favorite of babies and toddlers, are now offered in some great varieties, including chocolate, cinnamon, and -- my personal favorite -- dulce de leche.  Using the oft-enjoyed Rice Krispies Treats as inspiration, I created these:

Not Only For Kids Cheerios Treats

3 Tbsp. light margarine or butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows
3 cups Dulce de Leche Cheerios
3 cups Multi-Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup Nestle Premier White morsels

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat margarine and marshmallows in a microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring once after 2 minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Add cereals.  Stir until well-coated.  Evenly press mixture into 9 x 13 pan coated with cooking spray.  Allow to cool.

Place chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup.  Heat in a microwave on high for 1 minute.  Stir until smooth, heating for additional 30 second intervals to melt completely if necessary.  Spoon melted chips into a Ziploc sandwich bag; seal.  Cut a small corner off the bag and squeeze melted chocolate onto bars in a zig-zag pattern.  Repeat procedure with white morsels.  Allow to cool completely.  Cut evenly into 18 bars.  Store in a covered container.

Serves 18
Calories Per Serving -137 (Note: Bars without melted morsel topping are 96 calories each)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What's For Dinner?

I realize this blog is supposed to be about lightened up food, drink, travel, entertainment, beauty, and more, and so far it's only been food and drink.  Travel, well, I actually have to get out of town to do that.  I am hopeful!  Spring break is coming (eventually), so until then, how about something "spring-y" for dinner?

I initially discovered this recipe on a package of chicken breasts.  The prep is really easy, and with a few tweaks, it's tastier and much lower in calories than the original!

Kickin' Pineapple Chicken

4 6-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, juice drained and reserved
1/2 cup Splenda (if using granulated sugar, add 360 calories to recipe total)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chicken breasts in a 9 x 13 baking dish coated with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, combine the reserved pineapple juice, Splenda, lemon juice and mustard.  Whisk together and stir in pineapple.  Spread the mixture over the chicken and sprinkle red pepper flakes and garlic powder over the top.  Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes.  Serve with steamed rice or couscous.

Serves 4
Entire Recipe - 880; Per Serving - 220

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Mixed Drink Under 100 Calories?! Believe It!

I do enjoy partaking in an adult beverage on occasion, but I don't enjoy drinking away the limited number of calories I have available.  And while I really love blended drinks, on occasion it's actually too cold for them!  So I created this recipe, which is in the spirit of Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien, author of Hungry Girl Happy Hour (which is full of reduced-calorie cocktails), who inspired me.

Dana's Cran-Tastic Low-Cal Margarita

4 oz. Jose Cuervo Light Margarita Mix
4 oz. Ocean Spray Light Cranberry Juice Drink
1 oz. tequila
1 cup ice, cubed

Place ice in a cocktail shaker.  Pour in margarita mix, juice, and tequila.  Cover and shake.  Strain beverage into a margarita glass, with or without additional ice, and enjoy.

Serves:  1
Calories:  94...yes!  That's it!

Note:  I personally do not recommend using this recipe to make a blended drink.  All that extra ice just eliminates the flavor.  You can try it, but don't say I didn't warn you!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another -- Perhaps Tastier -- Use for Artisan Dough

Tonight we made Pizza Blanca for dinner.  The pizza crust uses a quarter of the easy artisan dough from my January 6, 2012 post, which I had stored in the refrigerator in a non-sealing canister sprayed with cooking spray.  Although the bread is outstanding, this is my preferred use of the dough!

Pizza Blanca
Adapted from 200 Fast and Easy Artisan Breads by Judith Fertig

1/4 Recipe prepared artisan dough, about the size of a softball
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced garlic, or more to taste
2 cups hot water
Corn meal

Using either fresh or refrigerated dough, place on a floured surface and dust lightly with flour.  Flour your hands and stretch the dough into a 12-inch circle.  Lightly flour any sticky places on the dough as you stretch (you may want to stretch the dough by picking it up, like a pizzeria, or by using a floured rolling pin).  The dough should be smooth but not at all sticky.  Carefully transfer the dough to a wooden pizza paddle coated with corn meal.  Cover the pizza dough with a tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 40 minutes.  About 30 minutes prior to baking, place a broiler pan on the lowest shelf of the oven and a pizza stone on the middle shelf.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Just prior to baking, combine the olive oil and minced garlic in a small bowl.  Brush the mixture on the dough and then top with cheese.

Carefully transfer the pizza from the paddle to the hot stone using a jerking motion with your wrist.  The corn meal keeps the pizza from sticking to the paddle and allows it to slide onto the stone.  Pull the lower rack out, pour the hot water into the broiler pan and push back into the oven.  Close the oven door.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges of the crust and the cheese are browned.

Mike was so anxious to eat our creation, he took off with his serving before I could take my picture!
Serves 4 (2 slices per serving)
Entire Recipe - 1,235; Per Serving - 309

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bread, bread, beautiful bread

I have been baking bread here and there for a while and have a few recipes I like (and even more I want to try).  Most of the recipes I've attempted so far are for artisan "free-form" (or boule) loaves baked on a pizza stone, which look cool, but don't exactly make your prototypical sandwich-type bread.  And one of my artisan bread books discouraged me from using a metal pan, saying it wouldn't result in a crunchy crust, which is one of the things I love best about bread.  Still, I wanted to make an "actual" loaf of bread!  I had several bread pans for large 2-pound loaves, but I could tell that the amount of dough I was mixing would never be enough to fill one.  So I went out and bought a 1-pound loaf pan at Bed Bath & Beyond last weekend.  Last night I finally had the opportunity to use it, and I was THRILLED with how my latest loaf turned out!

It was hard to wait for it to cool down to taste!  Despite the warnings, the crust IS still crunchy, and the bread is chewy inside.  It will make a fantastic grilled-cheese sandwich, or, as Mike suggested, French toast!  Yum!

This is the recipe I used, adapted slightly from Judith Fertig's 200 Fast and East Artisan Breads.  I had been making a half recipe of dough and then using half of that for a loaf, but this time I just cut the recipe below in half and used all the dough for a single loaf:

Easy Artisan Dough and Bread

For Dough:
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour (King Arthur)
1 1/2 tbsp. instant or bread machine yeast
1 tbsp. fine table or kosher salt (the author used 1 1/2 tbsp.  I tried that in other loaves and it was too salty for our tastes)
3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F)

For Bread:
Half-recipe of prepared dough (above)
Cooking spray
2 cups hot water

For the dough:
Spoon the flour into a measuring cup, level, and place in mixing bowl.  Add the yeast and salt.  Stir together.  Pour in the water and stir until just moistened.  Beat 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature (72 degrees) in a draft-free place (my laundry room is the best!) for 2 hours or until the dough has risen nearly to the top of the bowl and has a sponge-like appearance.  The dough can be used immediately or refrigerated in a covered (not air-tight) container for up to 9 days.

For the bread:
Place the dough on a floured surface and dust lightly with flour.  Working the dough as little as possible, add flour as necessary and form the dough into a rectangular loaf.  The dough should feel soft and smooth but not at all sticky.  Spray a 1-pound metal loaf pan with cooking spray and place the dough in it.  Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 40 minutes at room temperature.  About 30 minutes before baking, place the broiler pan on the lower shelf of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  Just prior to baking, using a serrated knife, cut into the risen dough at an angle (about 3 evenly spaced slashes), approximately 1/2" deep (which is tricky when the loaf is in a metal pan!).  Place the dough pan into the pre-heated oven on the middle shelf and pour 2 cups of HOT water into the broiler pan below it.  Close the oven door right away so the steam will fill the oven.  Bake for 23-27 minutes or until the crust is a medium brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf registers at least 190 degrees.  Remove the loaf and allow to cool before cutting.

Entire Recipe - 2,860  (approximately 2.1 c/gram)

Another critical baking tool I picked up recently is an instant-read digital thermometer.  After a few loaves that looked done on the outside, but weren't so much on the inside, I purchased an inexpensive but sufficient model at WalMart.  Love it and now there is NO QUESTION if the bread is done on the inside!