Monday, August 16, 2010

Delicious Iced Coffee, No Green Apron Required

I don’t actually like regular Starbucks coffee. For my standard morning cup of joe, it’s a little too dark and bitter for my taste. I prefer Dunkin Donuts. I have a wacky recipe for preparing my coffee that includes just the right splash of milk with ¾ of a packet of splenda and sometimes a sprinkle of cinnamon. Imagine asking the poor guy behind the counter at Dunkin D to replicate this? “Excuse me maam, but you’re clearly crazy.” So, I save a few bucks a week and perk mine at home.

Once the morning has come and gone, I’m a sucker for fancy dessert coffee. Starbucks seems to do it best. Flavored lattes in the winter or cold Frappuccinos in the summer are the perfect on-the-go after dinner treats. Dessert through a straw can’t possibly be that bad for you. It’s not like eating a brownie or a slice of pie.

On the contrary! After further investigation, a Grande Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks will pack-on almost 400 calories, 15 grams of fat and 54 grams of sugar if you stick with old fashioned whole milk and whipped cream. You can lighten-it-up a bit by subbing nonfat milk and saying “no thanks” to the whip. Either way, I was inspired to come up with my own fabulous version at home.

First off, I think the Starbucks portions are a little out of hand. Even if you opt for a tall drink, it’s still a pretty decent sized portion. For my MOCHA JAVA CHILLER, I cut back on the portion size and used ingredients that I happened to have in the house. By using light versions of the soy milk and chocolate syrup you can cut back on some of the fat and sugar. Soy milk is a little thicker than cow’s milk so it’s a great option if you’re trying to achieve a shake-like consistency.

I found the drink to be completely satisfying. It’s a sweet, refreshing summer dessert. It feels rich and creamy without really being very rich at all. There’s nothing worse than getting an ice-blended drink and all the syrup settles to the bottom and you’re left with coffee flavored ice chips. For the most part, this stayed nicely mixed. The best part is, you can whip this up in about 5 minutes at home. For us suburbanites without a Starbucks on every corner, it’s much quicker than getting in the car and driving to the store.

* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Coffee on Foodista

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Woman, No Fry

I know I’ve been writing a lot lately about the concept of baking instead of frying. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I have one more point to make on the subject. Let’s discuss the ultimate classic Italian comfort food, parmigiana. In this case, eggplant parmigiana.

I never quite understood why the eggplant in eggplant parm needs to be fried at all. The purpose of frying anything is to develop a nice crispy crust so the food crunches when you bite into it. You take the time to bread all of these little rounds of eggplant, fry them in hot oil, only to turn around and kill the crisp coating with soggy tomato sauce and globs of melted mozzarella cheese? What gives?

There’s certainly a time and a place for frying. This isn’t it. It just isn’t necessary. I’ve tried those diet cookbook attempts to make a parmigiana without the breading at all. That’s taking it a bit too far. Just cut one large eggplant into rounds. Coat them lightly in egg, then seasoned breadcrumbs and bake the slices at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes on a cookie sheet. Flip them half way through cooking so both sides brown.

I’m sure everyone’s Italian grandma has their own take on this dish. Here’s my spin. For the sauce, I mix an 8 oz. can of plain tomato sauce with 2 cups of my favorite pasta sauce. My favorite pasta sauce happens to be my own. Humble, I know. It’s the typical “Sunday gravy” type of red sauce cooked for hours with meatballs, sausage…the works. The little can of plain tomato helps thin it out a bit and disperse some of the meaty flavors.

I layer the eggplant slices with the sauce mixture in a 1-1/2 quart CorningWare baking dish and top with 1 cup of reduced fat mozzarella and 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbling.

You’ll end up with a delicious Italian feast with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. Serve the meal with a side salad instead of greasy garlic bread and you’ll have a stick-to-your-ribs dinner people will want you to make again and again.

* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Eggplant on Foodista