Tuesday, August 30, 2011

All Season Peach Squares (or Apricot or Cherry)

My peach squares got eaten before I took a pic so this was
borrowed from the Cook's Country website. My apricot squares
were also eaten before I got a photo. These things are GOOD.

All Season Peach Squares

Makes 24
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 3/4 cups sliced almonds

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon

  •   Table salt

  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen peaches, partially thawed

  • 1/2 cup peach preserves

  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Peaches thawing

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 13 by 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing excess to overhang pan edges. Spray pan with cooking spray. Process flour, 11/4 cups almonds, granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in food processor until combined, about 5 seconds. Add butter and pulse mixture until it resembles coarse meal (some pea-sized pieces of butter will remain), about twenty 1-second pulses.
2. Transfer 1/2 cup flour mixture to small bowl and set aside. Press remaining flour mixture firmly and evenly into bottom of prepared baking pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toss remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar with reserved flour mixture. Set aside.

Pressed in crust
3. While crust is baking, remove blade from food processor and wipe out work bowl. Pulse peaches and preserves in food processor until mixture has 1/4-inch chunks, about five 1-second pulses (if larger chunks remain, scrape down sides and pulse 2 more times). Cook peach mixture in large nonstick skillet over high heat until thickened and jam-like, about 10 minutes. Off heat, add pinch salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Pour mixture over hot crust.
4. Using fingers, pinch reserved flour mixture to create dime-sized clumps and sprinkle over peaches.

5. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup almonds over top and bake until almonds are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Using foil overhang, lift from pan and cut into 24 squares. Squares are best served on day they are baked because the crust can become soggy with time. (See below for reheating instructions.)
TO REHEAT: Place leftover squares side by side (with no spaces in between the squares) on a baking sheet and heat in a 350-degree oven until the bottoms are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool back to room temperature before eating.

    The cherry version! 

    A Better Biscuit

    Last week I was chatting with the director at my daughters' day care, KDA, about joining them for a local parade and the conversation worked it's way around to food (Doesn't it always?). Specifically about how they were making changes - healthy good ones - to the menu at the center. In particular though, she was struggling to find a healthy and whole grain biscuit that fit in the budget and that the kids would love the taste of. Well, come to think of it me too. I LOVE biscuits, but they pack a punch to the tune of 300+ calories and 15+ grams fat. I didn't actually know this until I started looking at recipes. Almost made me want to take back all those plates of biscuits & gravy I ate in college. The search was on for a whole wheat biscuit that tastes good. The problem with that is it's like a spinach smoothie. I've never tasted one I liked. I decided then to go for a middle of the road approach: find a recipe that still had a little of that good tasting but maybe not so good for you stuff - yep, butter.
    I found a recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook for Whole Wheat Biscuits that seemed to strike a good balance by subbing light cream cheese for some of the butter. And I can't say I loved it. It lacked flavor and although they were more tender than other recipes, it still tasted slightly cardboard-like. Testing that on another's taste buds, I asked E to try it and she told me "Mom, this is something for you to like but not me." Wow, talk about blunt. She hardly gets straight to the point that way. Back to square one. Instead I flipped the page forward and saw Sweet Potato Biscuits. Intriguing. It had part whole wheat, part all purpose flour, sweet potato that is cooked and pureed, AND fewer calories and fat than the whole wheat biscuits on the previous page.
    I whipped up a batch on Saturday before the parade, and served them for breakfast. They were a hit. H ate two! Without any jam or honey added! Several other kids tasted them at the parade later that day and loved them. We found our better biscuit. If only there were a tasty no calorie gravy........
    SWEET POTATO BISCUITS Makes 14 to 16 biscuits

    To chill the butter pieces, place on a plate and freeze until solid, about 10 to 15 minutes. A fresh sweet potato is preferred in this recipe (by the cookbook authors), but I substituted diced frozen sweet potatoes. The plus on that, is it's already peeled and cut. This is the kind I get: 

    • 1 (12‑ounce) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2‑inch pieces, about 2 cups
    • 1 1/2 cups (71/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup (23/4 ounces) whole-wheat flour
    • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • Pinch ground allspice
    • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2‑inch pieces and chilled, plus 1 tablespoon, melted (for brushing)
    • 3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled
    1. Microwave the sweet potato in a covered bowl on high power, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes; set aside to cool.
    2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
    3. Pulse the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and allspice together in a food processor to combine, about 3 pulses. Scatter the 4 tablespoons chilled butter evenly over the top and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 pulses.
    4. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and wipe out the food processor. Pulse the cooled sweet potato and buttermilk in the food processor until smooth, 10 to 15 pulses.
    Smooth puree
    5. Stir the sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy, 8 to 10 times. Pat the dough into a 9‑inch circle, about 3/4 inch thick.
    Shaggy dough prior to kneading
    I'm a nerd - I measured 
    6. Using a floured 21/4‑inch biscuit cutter, stamp out 14 biscuits, gently patting the dough scraps back into a uniform 3/4‑inch piece as needed. Pat the small piece of remaining dough into 2 more biscuits with your hands. Arrange the biscuits, upside down, on the prepared baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart.
    Those perfectly round ones were done by sous chef H. I'm jealous.
    7. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the 1 tablespoon melted butter and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

    Yummy goodness!
    Per Biscuit: Cal 110; Fat 3.5g; Sat Fat 2.5g; Chol 10mg; Carb 18g; Protein 2g; Fiber 1g; Sodium 310mg

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Chocolate does conquer all

    I've been working on a granola bar recipe for a while. The problem though is that E has not really liked any of the ones we've tried. Until now. The key is chocolate chips. More than I'd like to be in there. But at least she's eating them and they're way better than what you would find in a box. I adapted this recipe from No Whine with Dinner. As long as you stick with the rolled oats and dried fruit in the base, I think you can pretty much substitute any healthy no sugar cereal, any nut or seed, and any syrup style sweetener. 

    Makes a great morning snack to take to work too.

    Grab-and-Go Granola Bars
    Makes 12 Bars

    *1 cup quick cooking or old fashioned oats
    *1½ cups dried fruit (choose one or more of the following: raisins, cherries, apricots, cranberries prunes)
    *1 cup spoon-size shredded wheat cereal (I used Alpen Cereal, No Sugar Added)
    *1 cup walnuts (I've also subbed pumpkin seeds)
    *1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    *1/2 teaspoon salt
    *2 large eggs
    *1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup or agave nectar)
    *1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    *1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used regular size and about 1/2 cup)

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking
    spray and set aside.
    2. Place the oats, shredded wheat, walnuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food
    processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped (the fruit should be the size of a dried pea or
    3. Whisk together the eggs, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add the oat mixture
    and chocolate chips and stir to combine.
    4. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan, and flatten gently with the back of a spoon or rubber
    5. Bake about 18 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. Let cool completely in pan before
    slicing into twelve 2 x 2½- inch bars.

    I store mine in the fridge since it helps firm up the bars a little. 
    TIP: These bars freeze really well. So, if you have leftovers, wrap individual portions in plastic baggies or
    aluminum foil and freeze.
    Nutrition Information per Serving: 200 calories, 9g fat (1.5g saturated, 0.9g omega-3), 115mg sodium, 30g
    carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 4g protein

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Baja Fresh versus Taco Hell

    Last week at E's summer camp, her teacher excitedly told me she ate a bean burrito (Taco Bell style) at lunch. I was excited too. Lately, E has really hit a stride with trying new things, not just food, but activities, life, pushing herself just that little bit extra. It has been a pleasure to see her do it. And even if she doesn't like the new food, it has not stopped her effort to try a new one the next time she is offered. So today on my way home from work, I decided to get some Baja Fresh for dinner. I got two bean and cheese burritos and a cheese quesadilla for us to share. The portions are quite large and the price is just right. 
    Hard to see, but this baby had real beans, not some canned mush 
    Well, I was promptly informed that the burrito was not a proper bean & cheese burrito. The beans were not mushed up. I argued that beans should not be mushy. It didn't matter. I got sulky silence and watched her fill up on tortilla chips and strawberries (from home). And so while I was excited that she ate a bean burrito, I was also disappointed that the junk burrito won out. Then I looked up the nutrition stats. Maybe E was onto something. A Taco Bell bean burrito weighs in at 198 g per serving, and a whole Baja burrito weighs in at a whopping 392 g. If you standardize the nutrition numbers to the same size, you get similar numbers, but a whole lot more calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol in the Baja Fresh one. 

    Table comparing nutrition of Taco Bell & Baja Fresh Beans & Cheese Burritos
    So they're both junky. And I will be making a homemade bean burrito soon and seeing how that goes down.

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