Saturday, August 7, 2010

Whole Wheat Griddle Scones

This is a minor variation on a Scottish griddle scones recipe that I came across via Tastespotting. The result is rather interesting because these are halfway between a pancake and a scone. I liked them and if you're in the mood for scones and don't want to use your oven or if you're in the mood for pancakes but don't have any syrup, these are really quite nice and they can be whipped up very fast.

Whole Wheat Griddle Scones
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of butter or margarine (I used reduced fat spread)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 packets Splenda (or use 1 tbsp. sugar)
  • cinnamon (about 1/4-12 tsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of milk with 1 tbsp. vinegar added
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and Splenda (or sugar) until fully blended. Cut the margarine or butter into the  four mixture with a fork until it is rather crumbly. Add the vanilla to the milk that has been curdled with vinegar a little at a time until the dough comes together. You may not need to use all of the milk. Pat into a circle about 1/2 inch thick (about 1 cm.) and cut into 4 scones.

Cook the scones in a buttered skillet over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. You should flip them when they appear a bit dry about halfway up the sides.

I wasn't such a great fan of these when fresh (likely because of the whole wheat flour which improves in texture overnight after the moisture balances out), but I froze the remaining ones and then wrapped them in foil and heated them in the toaster oven over the next few days. Having one split open with yogurt and apricot fruit spread was delicious. I don't know why, but the yogurt really did something for them which margarine and jam alone did not.

by Shari (Orchid64)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lasagna Roll-ups

I think it's impossible to take a really good picture of least for me.

Life is just full of unwelcome curve balls when you least expect or want them. When I set up to make lasagna rolls instead of a traditional lasagna, I made one choice which set off a chain of hassles which doubled my time in a kitchen that was over 90 degrees (abour 32 degrees C.) and increased my dish washing load (all washed by hand) by a third. The mistake I made was buying a different type of lasagna noodles than usual.

I'll start over and say that lasagna noodles are not easy to find in just any Tokyo supermarket, and they're very expensive to boot. I usually buy them at one particular place, but this time I didn't feel like tromping around in the heat to a second store so I was happy to find some noodles on offer at the same shop as I purchased all of the other necessary ingredients. This particular place is a cheap green grocer-style place. A package of 12 noodles cost 598 yen ($7.08), and I needed 6 of them so I thought this would be a good size.

I went home and started preparing all of the things I need to do for this particular task  - making cottage cheese by boiling milk and adding vinegar, frying up onions and pepper and ground chicken, and boiling the noodles. When all of the work was done, I made my basic filling for the roll-ups and got out a noodle to spread it on. When I picked up the noodle, I knew something was seriously different. It had ballooned up to about 1.5 times the size of the noodles I usually buy and all of that extra space meant I only had enough filling to spread 2 of the 6 noodles. Since they're so expensive, and I don't think you can save cooked noodles (can you?), I had to scramble to boil another liter of milk with vinegar and prepare more cottage cheese and other ingredients to make a conventional lasagna (which I could use 4 full noodles with) instead of more roll-ups.

On the bright side, if I attempt this recipe again, I'll only need two noodles for 4 servings. On the less bright side, I thought I would die in the heat and the kitchen is still a gigantic mess from all of the dishes. I'm just too damn hot to go out and clean it up right now. So, dear readers, if you make this recipe, I caution you that this may not be the right amount of filling for your noodles depending on whether or not you buy the "giant expanding noodle" brand or something more akin to what I usually use. Two noodles will probably do you, but you may need three.

Here is what the roll-ups ended up being composed of:


2 cups cottage cheese (dry curd)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. oregano
pepper (to taste)
3 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 tbsp. parmesan cheese

2 (or possibly 3) lasagna noodles

8 oz. ground chicken or turkey
1/4 large yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups pasta sauce (marinara)

Grease or spray a loaf pan or small baking dish. 

To prepare the sauce:
Fry the onion and bell pepper in a scant amount of oil in a non-stick skillet until wilted and lightly browned. Add the ground meat and fry until browned. Drain any remaining oil or juices (I didn't have any because the meat was lean). Pour in the pasta sauce and stir. There is no need to heat the pasta sauce through since it'll be baked in the oven.

 Boil the lasagna noodles to desired tenderness level (according to the package instructions). Drain, rinse with cold water if necessary to cool the noodles to a temperature at which they can be handled (or simply allow to cool naturally).

To prepare the filling:
Break the egg into a medium size bowl and lightly beat with a fork. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley and beat until mixed in. Stir in the cottage cheese until completely mixed. Gently stir in the mozzarella. This should make a paste which is easy to handle.

Lay a cooked noodle on a flat surface. With your hands, spread the filling evenly over the surface of the noodle. Roll up like a cinnamon roll. Cut the noodle in half. Place the halves in the prepared baking dish or loaf pan cut-side up. Spoon the meat and sauce over the ends of roll-ups.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 400 degrees F./200 degrees C. for 35-40 minutes.

by Shari (Orchid64)

Yogurt Cheese "Cheesecake"

That's a teaspoon of  apricot fruit spread on top of it.

Yogurt is one of those things that is rather more versatile than most people imagine. As a breakfast food, it rather leaves me cold, not to mention hungry. However, as an ingredient in various dishes, particularly as a partial substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise. It also works wonders in the lemon yogurt soufflé I make.

Cheesecake is one of those things which I love, but the problems with it are two-fold. The first is that Japanese cheesecake doesn't really do it for me. It's more of a sponge cake and it often tastes like Gouda instead of cream cheese. The second is that it is, undeniably, calorific.

So, when I've got the urge for cheesecake, I have limited options so I decided to attempt a yogurt-based version. I found this recipe online, and figured it was a very good starting point. I figured that it couldn't possibly taste bad because it contains the same basic ingredients as the lemon soufflé, and the batter from that always tastes so good that I'm more than happy to eat a bit of raw egg to sample it. This cheesecake has the virtue of being far less fussy than the soufflé.

This makes a very small "cheesecake" for a 17 cm./6.7 in. pie plate. If you use a regular pie plate, you'll want to double this. I wanted to keep the size down for my first attempt. Also, I don't expect my husband to have any of this and having a lot of it around probably would take so long to eat that it'd go bad before I reached the end of it all.

Yogurt Cheese "Cheesecake"
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 packets of Splenda (or use about 3 tbsp. of sugar)
  • juice of half a lemon (I didn't squeeze it dry)
  • 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 cup strained yogurt*/yogurt cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F./160 degrees C. Spray your pie pan with cooking spray or lightly grease it. 

Whisk the egg, vanilla, Splenda, and juice until well mixed and slightly frothy. Add the yogurt cheese and whisk until all the lumps are gone. Whisk in the cornstarch until smooth and thoroughly incorporated. Add the mixture to the prepared pie pan and bake for between 20-25 minutes until set. Cool completely and refrigerate uncovered before eating.

Determining the calories for this is tricky because straining the yogurt changes the volume. The original recipe uses sugar and is 100 calories per serving. For this, I'd say it is 4 servings and my best guess is that it is 65 calories per serving. That's likely on the high side as I'm counting the calories in an entire 400 gram (14 oz.) container of plain low-fat yogurt and I don't think I used the entire thing, but can't know how many calories are drained off in the whey and don't know what proportion produced 1 cup of yogurt cheese. Note that I used a "mild" yogurt which I can get here in Japan. I don't know if such types exist in other countries, but I think this makes for a mellower result.

As for how it was, it was surprisingly good. It wasn't really "cheesecake", but it did have a nice texture and tangy flavor. It is, however, missing all of the richness of cheesecake and has a bit of a "too set" feeling. I also think I also whisked too much air into it (hence the air bubbles in the cut view). Rather than whisking, one might be better off stirring, but I can't say I'm too fussed about it. The only thing I can say is that it might be better at double the volume in the same size pan. I think it's a bit too flat to get a good sense of the texture. It strikes me that this would make an excellent breakfast treat for people who want something high protein, but sweet.

*Strained yogurt or yogurt cheese is plain, unsweetened yogurt which has been suspended in cheese cloth or a coffee filter above a container overnight and the whey has been allowed to drain off. The result is a much thicker, less watery version of yogurt.

by Shari (Orchid64)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Muffins (Sugar-free)

The Orange Yogurt muffins I made were such a hit with my husband that I wanted to modify the recipe to make a cinnamon version. This was slightly tricky because I didn't want to use yogurt and there would be no juice involved. To make up for the loss of these other liquids, I decided to use milk soured with vinegar (essentially, a buttermilk substitute). I was concerned that this might make the batter too moist, but here was the recipe I tried:

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Muffins (sugar-free):
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 medium egg
  • 3/4 cup plus one tbsp. low-fat milk
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup granular Splenda (or use sugar)
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon (yes, lots!)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat bread flour)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
Add the vinegar to the milk and stir. Set aside and allow to rest for several minutes. Whisk the applesauce, egg, oil vanilla, cinnamon, Splenda, milk and vinegar mixture (or use buttermilk), and salt together. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and gently stir until all of the flour is moistened. Allow the batter to rest for 15-30 minutes. This allows the larger grains of whole wheat flour to absorb the moisture and creates a lighter muffin. 

Grease the bottoms and lower sides of 6 muffin tins while the batter rests. Just before you are ready to spoon the batter into the tins, add the baking powder and stir until well-blended (and no more). If you stir too much, you will overwork the gluten in the flour and have tough muffins. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F./190 degrees C. Spoon the batter into the tins and sprinkle the tops with a little more cinnamon if desired. They should be about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes and then finish cooling them on a rack. If necessary, run a butter knife around the edges to loosen them.

These turned out quite well in terms of texture. Though they were a bit sweet for my tastes, my husband likes things sweeter than I and these were made with him in mind more so than me. I had mine plain, but I think they'd be super with butter as a substitute for a slice or two of whole wheat toast at breakfast.

I'm not sure what, if anything, I'd change on a repeat making. Even though I put a lot of cinnamon in them, I thought it could have been stronger, and I'm thinking perhaps a few pinches of other spices might add more depth to the flavor (nutmeg, allspice, or clove). I left the extras out this time because I wanted to give both the vanilla and cinnamon a chance to shine. They were fine, of course, but I think I'll at least add nutmeg next time. I think that probably the quantity of liquid is fine as is, but they may benefit a little from a bit less.

Each muffin is 167 calories.

by Shari (Orchid64)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Whole Wheat Orange Yogurt Muffins (sugar-free)

I picked up 9 oranges for a bargain price of 498 yen ($5.62)... well, a "bargain" by Tokyo standards and thought some orange muffins might hit the spot as well as use an orange up before some of them start to spoil. Since I'm still interested in "healthifying" or at least "decalorating" my baked goods, I figured I'd create the orange muffins based on the existing banana and blueberry bread recipes that I've been using. The result was surprisingly good. In fact, I'm thinking I may modify the banana bread recipe after my experience with these muffins.

Note that the texture of these muffins is not going to be like those made with white flour, lots of sugar or fat, but it really is quite good. They're a bit denser than a conventional muffin, but not in any way like the dense hockey pucks you sometimes get when using whole wheat flour and skimping on the oil. I did not sample one fresh but rather had one for breakfast the next morning. With whole wheat baked goods, the next day is often better because the moisture tends to settle, though I recommend tightly wrapping them so no air gets in and freezing any that you won't be eating soon immediately.

Whole Wheat Orange Yogurt Muffins:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt (low-fat is fine)
  • the juice and finely grated zest of one medium orange (I used a Sunkist navel)
  • 1 tbsp. Canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat bread flour)
  • 1 cup Splenda granular (or use white sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 6 walnut halves for garnish (optional)
Whisk the applesauce, egg, yogurt, juice, zest, oil, vanilla, Splenda, and salt until well-blended. Add the flour and mix until just moistened. Allow the flour to rest in the wet ingredients for 15-30 minutes. This allows large grain whole wheat flour to absorb more moisture. If you're worried about the egg, put the bowl in the refrigerator. Grease the bottom and lower sides of 6 muffin cups or a 6-cup tin. After the batter has rested, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F./190 degrees C. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. They should be between 2/3 and 3/4 full. Gently push half a walnut into the batter so that it is half-submerged. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. 

Each muffin is about 190 calories (not counting the walnuts).

I really liked these and will definitely be making them again. Originally, I planned to put dates in them, but the ones I had on hand were too old. I think they'd be great with some chocolate chips as well, though that would wreck the "sugar-free" angle. If you're a fan of nuts in your quick breads, some chopped walnuts would be a healthy add-in. Frankly though, I enjoyed mine as it was with some butter. (As an addendum: I had one a few days later wrapped in foil and warmed in the toaster oven and it was soft, fluffy and delicious - I recommend having them that way!)

As a point of comparison to my other quick breads, the batter for these was much wetter. I think that helped them to rise better, although that could also have been the fact that they were muffins. This time, I chose muffins over a loaf because of the summer heat. The breads take up to an hour to bake and the muffins take less than half that time. The only problem is that they are fussier and therefore there is more clean-up, but it was worth it.

by Shari (Orchid64)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Burrito Pie

I can't claim that this is some major culinary achievement. It's actually just a different way of presenting all of the main ingredients of a burrito as I tend to prepare one. The main appeal of this is that it makes 4 servings at once without all of the spooning and folding and that it is much higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. It's also good for making a meal when you're nearly out of tortillas. ;-)

  • 1 large flour tortilla (as big as a pie plate)
  • 1 can refried beans (I used Rosarita)
  • 4-8 oz. leftover taco meat (seasoned ground meat)
  • Pace Picante sauce or salsa (to taste, I used about 8 tbsp.)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped green onions (I used more)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into 8 slices
  • 4 oz. Colby Jack or cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
Spray a 9" pie plate with oil or cooking spray. Center the flour tortilla in the pie pan and press it into the corners. Evenly spread the can of refried beans over the tortilla. Evenly sprinkle the cooked ground meat over the beans. Gently press the meat down into the beans. Spoon the Picante sauce or salsa over the meat and sprinkle with the green onions. Top with cheese, then arrange the tomato slices on the cheese. Salt and pepper the tomato slices as desired.

Bake at 350 degrees F. or 180 degrees C. for about 40 minutes or until the cheese has bubbled up and the tomatoes are wrinkled and slightly wilted looking. Allow to rest in the pan for about 15 minutes before cutting.

Depending on how much meat you use, this is between 325 (4 oz.) and 375 calories (8 oz.) per serving.

by Shari (Orchid64)

Friday, June 18, 2010

100% Whole Wheat Bread (smaller loaf)

One thing that really gets my goat is recipes that people advertise as "whole wheat" and then you find out that they include a mix of whole wheat flour and white flour. If it has white flour in it, it's just dirty white bread. It's not "whole wheat"! My poor old goat probably would be gotten a lot less if 90% of the recipes I check didn't contain this lie.

I've been making my regular whole wheat bread for quite some time, but there were always problems handling it because it was so huge. It wasn't just that it was hard to cut (especially thin slices), but it was also difficult to find space in my freezer to store such a large amount of bread. It also took ages to eat it all.

I tried to scale back the other recipe, but just cutting things in half doesn't always work properly. This is the recipe which I experimented and came up with for a small loaf. It works quite well and I make it about once a week for both my husband and I.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread (for ABM):
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 tbsp. Canola oil
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
  • 2 cups (regular) whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. yeast
Place the liquid ingredients in your bread machine and then the remaining dry ones (add the yeast last, making sure it doesn't touch any wet ingredients). Set the crust color to light and choose the whole wheat setting on your bread machine. Press start.

whole loaf: 1182 calories
14 slices - 85 calories per slice 

by Shari (Orchid64)

There's an excellent general guideline to bread making here for anyone who is interested.