Friday, January 28, 2011

Castagnaccio.. Or Chestnut... Ok..really Almond Bread

This recipe I found in the memoir A Thousand Days in Tuscany written by Marlena de Blasi. It struck me with it's simplicity and the way she described eating it as if eating a perfect cloud of soft tenderness and tastes delicious with a light sweet white wine. I was sold. I actually wrote the recipe in my journal and had to extricate the recipe a few days ago from the depths of my journal madness!
This recipe was originally a war time dessert meant to be inexpensive and easy to make in the Northern region of Tuscany. I really want to live there, but this is as close as I can get on the quiet and cold Montana morning.
The original main ingredient is chestnut flour. But you try to find chestnut flour in northwest Montana.. the grocer looked at me like I had two heads! So I have substituted almond flour drastically changing this recipe so much that I shouldn't even still be calling it Castagnaccio, but well, I really want to. So, I'm calling it that anyway.

And it's fun to say, just say it "Casta-gnoo-chioooo" Really fun right?!
Also, because the almond flour changed the flavor so much, I added a little bit of Parmesan cheese to make this a savory bread rather than a sweet bread. This is in my typical 'Hot Mess' fashion. I am planning to serve it with soft blue cheese and brie with a delicious white wine from the trip to Napa-Sonoma Valley.
Maybe in the future I will be able to find some Chestnut flour and do it right. If you can find the right ingredients, please make the adjustments and use the same amount of chestnut flour that I did with the almond flour and omit the Parmesan cheese.
This is also a great gluten free and low carbohydrate recipe for those who may be making dietary switches this new year. It isn't exactly low in fat or calories, but the low carbohydrate and gluten count help my dad keep even blood sugar levels so I am willing to sacrifice the fat for him. And it's loaded with fiber and protein from all the nuts and it's the good kind of fat so I feel less guilty!

1 pound of almond flour (use Chestnut if you can find it)
1 tsp. fine sea salt
cold water (I used about a cup and a half)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts; chopped
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. rosemary leaves, minced to a powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (omit this for the traditional recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Lightly oil a 10 inch cake tin.
3. Pour flour and sea salt into a large bowl and in a thin stream begin adding cold water, beating with a fork or a wooden spoon until the batter takes on the consistency of heavy cream.
4. Add the pine nuts, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and oil. Beat for 30 seconds.
5. Mince the rosemary into a fine powder and add to the batter. 
6. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm in wedges with your favorite cheese and light white wine!

Servings: 12

Nutritional Skinny:

263 calories / 23.4 g fat / 9 g carbohydrates / 4.6 g fiber / 9 g protein

 Mental Health Benefit: This recipe is slightly unconventional which always seems to give me a boost. Trying something new and exposing myself to something different. The other important thing to note is that it's okay to try 'operational workarounds' when the original idea isn't working. I made a few changes to this recipe because of the limitations of my grocery store and turned out with a brand new recipe that was delicious! It also gave me a little confidence to be more creative with other recipes! Stay tuned!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just Monkeying Around... Updated Monkey Bread

At the risk of sounding slightly like a dork (oops I may have already blown that in other entries), I really think Monkeying Around it quite delightful. Especially when we live on Flathead Lake and all of our neighbors have gone somewhere warm for the winter. We have to do something to entertain ourselves.

That is the inspiration for this Banana Monkey Bread. I was getting tired of using our old banana's purely for muffins and breads, so I decided to take an old favorite and give it a little twist of banana and brandy! Sounds pretty good right? Well, it is! And my favorite part is that it's finger food. You can just pull apart the individual pieces and tear it all up. It makes breakfast (or any meal for that matter) a little more fun.

Plus we don't use ANY fat in the recipe and it still manages to taste sinful. I know some of you may doubt that 'healthy' can be delicious. For those non-believers I challange you to make this Monkeying around bread and see for yourself.

This bread has only 110 calories and 1.2 grams of fat. The original Monkey Bread has 418 calories and 17.7 grams of fat. I am saving you nearly 300 calories and 16 grams of fat and sacrificing none of the flavor. I actually enhanced the flavor with notes of banana and brandy! Now that doesn't suck does it? And there is more than 3 grams of protein and over 2 grams of fiber! And this is a decadent breakfast treat... Are you changing your tune yet?

Eat this along side a fried egg and some Canadian bacon for a complete breakfast or serve this to your family for snack time warm right out of the oven. You will have a blast pulling the bread apart. And don't worry the brandy cooks out so this is kid friendly.

Now let's get monkeying around, shall we?

Banana Monkey Bread
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup Splenda
1/4 cup milled flax seed
2 mashed bananas (3/4 cup banana)
2/3 cup low fat milk

For the filling:
2 large ripe banana; mashed
1/4 cup Splenda
1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla

For the topping:

1/4 cup sugar free maple syrup
1/4 cup brandy

1. Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, splenda, and milled flax seed in a large bowl with a wire whisk.

2. Add the mashed banana and combine with your fingers until the dough forms a crumbly dough. Then add the milk and continue mixing until a soft dough forms.

3. Kneed dough lightly until it is less sticky. It will still be slightly sticky, however use extra whole wheat flour to prevent it from sticking to your  hands. Roll into an 8 X 8 square and cut into 16 equal squares.

4. In a separate bowl combine the filling ingredients (the banana, splenda, cinnamon, and vanilla) and mix using a whisk. Place a 1/2 tsp. of filling in the middle of each square of dough and roll up around the filling sealing it into a ball with the banana mixture inside. (I wish I had a picture of this, but my hands were a mess!) Place each ball in a greased cake pan or spring release pan (the kind you use for cheesecake). Keep layering and adding the balls to pile them so they make layers.

5. Mix the maple syrup and brandy together and add if there is any remaining banana mixture add that to the sugar free syrup and brandy. Pour over the top of the banana balls.

6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. It will come out moist and delicious!
Servings: 12

Nutritional Skinny:

110 calories / 1.2 g fat / 20 g carbohydrates / 2.4 g fiber / 3.3 g protein 

Mental Health Benefit: One of the best things about this recipe is that instead of using butter, we are using mashed banana. So instead of adding fat, we add flavor and get an even better result that you can really feel good about. And by using Splenda and sugar free maple syrup you are cutting down on nearly 300 empty calories. And since splenda is made from real sugar you don't have to worry about eating less than natural foods. Here is your health and wellness in this new year!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

All American Classic Tuna Casserole

After the holidays and all my birthday travels I feel it's appropriate to return to an American Classic (at least in my house) the Tuna Casserole

This is a time tested, mother approved recipe that has withstood years of change and growth. And the great news is that it takes less than 15 minutes to pull together and only 20 minutes in the oven! Plus the ingredients are cost effective. All we are talking about is some tuna, noodles, milk, cheese, and a few veggies.  All in all only 10 ingredients!
If you are anything like me you are looking at your credit card statements and bank account wanting to know.. 

Gurl! Who the hell decided that you could spend all of your money? I have no answers for that question other than I will have to plea temporary insanity and make some delicious Tuna Casserole and share the recipe with you as a way of paying it forward.

This recipe includes a brand new product called Philadelphia Cooking Creme. I have had the opportunity to make How To videos for this product and I can't believe how easy it makes doing just about EVERYTHING! With the exception of making your spouse or children do house work (sorry about that!) Go to the store and find this product you won't regret it! You can also check out the website for Real Women of Philadelphia and join the conversation!

Feel free to check out my video for this recipe on my YouTube channel.
The other great thing about this recipe is that it doesn't matter if you don't have spagetti noodles you can use any kind. You can also substitute the brocoli for corn, or add edemame or green beans. This is a classic that uses whatever you have on hand. No need to rush to the store to pick up additional annoying ingredients like Hungarian Paprika. 

Nope. Just use what you have and keep it simple and delicious! Not to mention it's packed with 22 grams of protein which is sure to keep you and your family going!

***Note: If you want to further reduce the fat I would use fat free milk instead of half and half, you could also substitute 4 eggs whites or egg substitute in place of the eggs, and you can always use low fat cheese!
Bon Appetite!

Classic Tuna Casserole
1/2 box thin spaghetti noodles (or your favorite noodle)
1 cup celery; diced
1 cup onion; diced
4 cloves garlic
2 cups frozen broccoli; diced
10 ounces Philadelphia Original Cooking creme
1/2 cup fat free half and half
2 eggs 
1 (16 ounce) can chunk light tuna packed in water
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Cook half of a box of spaghetti according to the package directions. Then drain and set aside.
2. In a large skillet saute the celery, onion, garlic, and broccoli using a little dab of olive oil to coat the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until onions become translucent. Then remove from heat.

3. Then in a medium size bowl combine the Philadelphia original cooking creme, half and half, and two eggs. Stir together with a whisk until combined and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Next in a large bowl combine the sauted vegetables and the drained chunk tuna with the cooked noodles and toss together to combine. Then pour the veggie and noodle mixture into a sprayed 9 X 12 baking dish.

5. Pour the cooking creme mixture over the top of the noodles and press the noodles down into the cooking creme. Top with the shredded cheddar cheese. Then bake it for 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

6. Then serve immediately with some fresh bread or (as my grandmother would have) some saltine crackers. Am I the only one who pretty much grew up on saltines?Except now (I kid you not) we have Wheatines!

Servings: 6

Nutritional Skinny:

283 calories / 9.6 g fat / 28 g carbohydrates / 4.7 g fiber / 22 g protein
Mental Health Benefit: Tuna packs a powerful protein punch and as we have been hearing over and over again, lean protein is key to keeping us moving. We need protein to keep our energy up and stop it from spiking up and down leaving us feeling drained. Tuna is the perfect solution offering 13 grams or protein with every serving and only a half a gram of fat. Not to mention it makes this casserole delicious! And life is way to short to spend it tired! Let's enjoy these long winter months filled with short cloudy days. We can nestle into a nice helping of soothing Tuna Casserole and remember where we came from!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chicken with a Vodka Cream Sauce

Heellooooo Vodka! It's Mommie!

Sorry... I just had too!

So, let me state here for the record. I know it's hard to see how yummy this is because the sauce is so creamy and delicious. But did you just hear me?
The sauce is so damn creamy and delicious! So, sorry the photo isn't great. That doesn't mean that it isn't totally delicious.

I've been gone on a road trip for the last few weeks (hence the absence from the blog) and this recipe and the memories of making this chicken still make my mouth water. It was that yummy!

Chicken with a Mushroom Vodka Cream Sauce 
(AKA -- Drunken Chicken)
12 large chicken breasts
2 tbsp. chicken rub
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
1 (16 ounce) can sliced mushrooms (you can also use fresh if you have them)
1. First we are going to prepare the chicken breasts. We use bone in because it adds so much flavor, but you can do boneless if you want to cut out these few steps. For bone in: SImply take the skin off and all the fat using a sharp pairing knife and then cut each breast in half. You will end up with beautiful baby bald like chicken halves! Then we want to sprinkle those bald beauties with the chicken rub and saute each breast in a skillet (or our magic crock pot) for 3-5 minutes, or just until the chicken breasts are slightly browned.
2. Then we want to set those chicken breasts in a crock pot along with the garlic. Then it's time to mix the cream of mushroom soup, half and half, and sour cream together. Yes, it will be a yummy creamy mixture you will want to dive into, but please resist.
3. Then the star ingredient... The vodka gets added! Yes, just dump it right into the creamy pool of yumminess that is your mushroom soup mixture.

4. Then we add the herbs. Into the pool of yumminess and vodka, add the salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence. Stir it all together. And then comes the magic..
5. Pour the creamy vodka concoction over the chicken breast in the the crock pot and smooth over the chicken. Then... all you do is turn the heat to high and cook for 3 hours or you can cook over low for 6 hours. That's it! Then dip and devour!
***Plus if you use our Technique crock pot you can saute the chicken and then slow cook it all in the same vessel. I'm telling you it's seriously brilliant!

Servings: 12

Nutritional Skinny:

150 calories / 3.6 g fat / 4.8 g carbohydrates / 1 g fiber / 25.4 g protein 

Mental Health Tip:  When life brings you lemons, make lemonade. Becuase let's face it there are tons of lemons out there. I'm stuck in a hotel room waiting for our van to be fixed before I can get home. So we found a brewery. And you know what else lemons are good for? Drinking with vodka! Cheers!