Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recipe Slimdown #2: Pumpkin Bread

One of my fabulous readers sent me a challenge to diet-up her family’s legendary pumpkin bread recipe. Family recipes are like the holy grail of cooking. I’ve tried my best to do Peggy’s family proud!

Q: “I've been making Pumpkin Bread every Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past 32 years. My whole family LOVES it. Every year someone asks for the recipe to pass along to a friend. When I typed it up this year I stopped to think about the ingredients and thought, wow, a lot of sugar and fat, oh well, only 2x a year. If you could find a way for me to make it with less sugar and fat I would be forever grateful. Thanks, Peggy.”

A: Well Peggy, bravo to you for noticing the extra fat and calories! Just paying attention to what goes into your favorite recipes is such a huge feat. Sometimes, I go on auto pilot and start dumping ingredients into the bowl without even noticing it. I’m a traditionalist at heart and I say, if you’re only making this once or twice a year for a special occasion, go for the gusto and give your family what they’re really craving. Just send the leftovers home with your guests so you don’t overindulge.

But, I happen to LOVE pumpkin bread. Two times a year just isn’t enough for me! I would like to be able to swap out my tired scrambled eggs in the morning for a fall-flavored breakfast. You inspired me to dig through my recipe books and come up with my own alternative.

My first complaint about pumpkin bread recipes is that they always make more than one loaf. What the heck am I going to do with three loaves of bread? My husband and I would be eating it until the 4th of July! I knew I wanted a recipe that only makes one loaf at a time. This way, I can enjoy it for a week and then move on to something else. By changing up my breakfasts and snacks, I stay interested in the healthy choices and can resist the urge to bust open a bag of candy corn.

I guarantee that Peggy’s original recipe is delicious. How can bread made with rich shortening, tons of white sugar and white flour be anything but amazing? All things “white” generally spell trouble for the blood sugar conscious. I remembered making Ellie Krieger’s pumpkin muffins last year and loving them. I made a few alterations and transformed the muffins into delicious pumpkin bread, minus the “white.”

THIS RECIPE uses half white flour and half whole wheat flour. The whole wheat adds a little fiber to the bread without making it heavy or weighed down. White sugar is completely absent from the recipe. Instead, brown sugar and molasses are used as sweeteners. Both are thought to have a more minimal affect on blood sugar spikes than regular white table sugar.

I couldn’t believe how moist this came out and there really isn’t much fat at all. There’s only 1/4 cup of canola oil in the entire recipe. The rest of the moisture comes from low fat buttermilk. Move over shortening, we don’t need you here!

I use a few different spices that aren’t quite typical in pumpkin bread. On top of the cinnamon and nutmeg, I also added clove and ginger. I really love the result. It was still pumpkin bread, but the taste was teetering on the edge of spice cake. If you prefer a more typical spice mixture, by all means, stick with you favorite.

I was thrilled with how this turned out; a solid alternative to the original fan favorite. I would even be brave enough to serve this right alongside the gobble.

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

Pumpkin on Foodista

Friday, October 1, 2010

“Last Hoorah” Greek Cookout

Fall is quickly closing in on us in New York, but this past weekend we were graced with enough lingering warmth to squeeze in one final cookout. Sadly, I've been knocked out of the FoodBuzz competetion. Boo! But, I happen to think the challenges are pretty cool and I'm going to write about some of them anyway. Take that! The next round was to host a luxury dinner party that introduces guests to new and exciting culinary phenomenon.

My numero uno, most important entertaining tip is to host a party that fits the occasion. You certainly wouldn’t invite people over for a luxurious four course, wine-paired meal for your German Shepherd’s third birthday. My husband and I are big-time football fans (go Jets!) and our friends were joining us for the game. Why not officially close out summer with one last BBQ? It might be hard to attach the word “luxurious” to a laid back Sunday cookout, but tossing some meat on the grill seemed like the perfect game plan.

In order to understand this post, you need to understand my friends. Diana and Marc are absolute sweethearts and I love them both dearly, but this adventurous eating craze is brand new to them. Their top two favorite foods are still holding steady at ketchup and Cadbury Cream Eggs. You get the picture. I tried to come up with a menu that was adventurous enough for my company, but wouldn’t completely freak them out.

By the time September rolls around, I don’t want to see one more hamburger, hot dog or dish of potato salad, so I went with the following Greek-inspired menu:

The MARINATED LAMB KEBABS are killer. I use non-fat plain Greek yogurt for the base and mix in a whole bunch of lemon and thyme. The yogurt helps to tenderize the meat and gives the lamb a tangy zip. Definitely grill the kebabs to medium rare. That will help the little cubes of meat stay nice and juicy.

The yogurt that didn’t make it into the marinade went towards a quick tzatziki sauce. Some Greek yogurt sauces use mint, but I happen to love dill. Up until a few weeks ago, it never occurred to me that dill pickles get their taste from the dill herb. Super, major DUH moment on my part. I love pickles. Now I love dill too! The cucumber in the sauce adds the perfect little crunch on top of the tender meat.

Also joining the kebab party are mixed veggie skewers. Maybe I’m just a sucker for grilled things, but some simple olive oil, salt and pepper was all they needed. To finish it off, I went with one of my favorite go-to salad recipes, TABBOULEH. The dressing on the tabbouleh ties together the lemon in the marinade with the cucumber in the sauce. It was the perfect co-star.

In comparison to the hamburger and hotdog counterpart to this grill-fest, my Greek themed menu is extremely healthy. The marinade/grill combo is one of my favorite ways to add huge bursts of flavor without needing to cover something in a heavy traditional barbeque sauce or globs of ketchup (sorry Diana!).

After sitting through a quick photo shoot, I finally let my friends dig in. Even my lamb skeptics were impressed. I made some chicken skewers as a back-up plan, and to my surprise and excitement, didn’t need to resort to Plan B! Sweet! We ended the meal with Diana’s amazingly decadent Caramel Chunk Brownies. I’ll just tell you how good they were because photo evidence would be too damn tempting!

Hosts put a lot of stress into throwing the perfect dinner party. But really, what’s a party anyway? Spending time with some of my closest friends, enjoying delicious food and sipping a favorite wine? Sign me up. As the cook, a successful party means knowing that I served my pals an awesome plate of food with a side order of my awesome personality (sarcasm often included)!

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