February 14th, 2011

Coffee Cake Muffins

Filed under: The Monday Muffin — Miss Macchiato @ 9:31 am

After subjecting my household to an uber-healthy muffin, I decided to go in the opposite direction with dessert-style treat: The coffee cake muffin.

This soft and sweet muffin was also meant to have a drizzle of sugar icing over the top, but when they came out of the oven they looked and smelled so amazing that we didn’t wait to add that step. I’m sure it would have been great.

Coffee Cake Muffins
Adapted slightly from ATK: Baking Illustrated

1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and softened
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup light sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon until the nuts are the size of sesame seeds, about ten 1-second pulses.

Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and set aside.

Return the bowl and metal blade to the food processor, add the flour, granulated sugar, and salt and process until combined, about five 1-second pulses. Sprinkle the butter evenly over the flour mixture and process until the butter is the size of oats, about eight 1- second pulses.

Remove 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and stir it with a fork into the reserved brown sugar mixture until combined. This will be the streusel. Set aside 3/4 cup of the streusel for the muffin batter and the remaining portion for topping the muffins.

Add the baking powder and baking soda to the remaining flour mixture in the food processor bowl and process until combined, about five 1-second pulses.

Whisk together the sour cream, egg and vanilla in a 1-cup glass measuring cup and add to the flour mixture. Process until the batter is just moistened, about five 1-second pulses. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of the streusel to the flour mixture and process until the streusel is just distributed throughout the batter and the batter looks crumbly, about five 1-second pulses.

Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle a scant tablespoon of streusel on each muffin, pressing lightly so that the streusel sinks slightly into the batter.

Bake the muffins until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with several crumbs clinging to it, about 18 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Avoid over baking. Place the muffin tin on a wire rack and allow the muffins to cool in the tin for 2 minutes. Using the tip of a paring knife, loosen the muffins and gently transfer from the tin to the wire rack. Cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

• • •

February 11th, 2011

Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach

Filed under: Recipes — Miss Macchiato @ 9:54 am

Continuing our discussion of best potluck main dishes, I’ve got another one that I like to break out when I want to impress.

Okay, who am I kidding — I always want to impress at a potluck. I want everyone to look from afar and say, “Who is that girl? She’s captivating!”

“And her layers of cheese and meat are enchanting!”

This is my absolute favorite lasagna ever(!) and it comes to us from Gourmet (RIP!). It combines everything that I love in a single bite: A flavor packed, vegetable-laden bolognese, a creamy sauce, melted cheese, tender pasta, and a very flavorful ground beef. All of the best aspects of pasta, layered together a single dish.

You’ve got a little drool on the corner of your mouth. Yeah. Right there.

I’m going to post the original version of the recipe with the caveat that I change some of the ingredients into the lower fat versions (1% milk, lean ground beef). The issue that I run into with using the lower fat versions of things is that the lasagna ends up a little drier than the “fat version” might be. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like cardboard or anything. It’s still moist and the noodles are tender and the cheese is fantastic. The taste is really incredible. But by substituting the whole milk ricotta, whole milk and ground beef chuck, you do lose a little bit when you translate with healthier products. I personally don’t care because the taste is amazing and I don’t feel like I’ve dumped heavy lead in my gut after eating a slice, but that’s me. What you prefer is up to you.

Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach
Adapted from Gourmet

1/4 cup olive oil
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds ground beef chuck (not lean)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 (15-ounce) containers whole-milk ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup whole milk, divided

For assembling lasagne:
12 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Prepare the sauce: Heat oil in a 12- to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden and softened, 12 to 15 minutes.

Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes.

Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, 1/4 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.

Ricotta filling:Put spinach in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Note: I used my wire strainer for this, and pressed down on the spinach with dry paper towels. I’ve tried both methods now and like using the strainer better.

Whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, 1 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Transfer 1 1/2 cups ricotta mixture to another bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup milk; set aside. Whisk spinach into remaining filling with remaining 1/2 cup milk.

Assemble and bake lasagne: Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Soak noodles in a bowl of very warm water until pliable but not softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Place on a kitchen towel (it’s not necessary to pat noodles dry). Spread 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce in baking pan and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp parmesan. Cover with 3 noodles, leaving space in between.

Note: I cut this recipe in half and baked it in an 8×8 pan, so my layers look a little different.

Spread half of spinach filling on top, then 1 cup bolognese sauce, and top with 1 Tbsp parmesan and 3 noodles; repeat.

Top with remaining bolognese sauce, 1 Tbsp parmesan, and remaining 3 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.

Cover pan tightly with buttered foil and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.


• • •

February 9th, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie with Savory Crumble Topping

Filed under: Recipes — Miss Macchiato @ 10:49 am

My schedule ended up being a little off this week since my evenings have been hectic, which is why the Monday/Thursday update was interrupted. Next week we will be returning to our regularly scheduled program. I promise.

In the meantime, I wanted to revisit the potluck discussion we touched on last week. Best potluck main dishes — what are they?

When my mom and I were discussing potluck dishes, the chili wasn’t the only one that sprang to mind. I also thought of this Chicken Pot Pie recipe that was recently published from, of course, Cook’s Illustrated.

I’ve cooked a few pot pies in my life and eaten even more, and I’m convinced this is the definitive recipe. Yes, the sauce is magnificent and the veggies are amazing. But most importantly: It has the most amazing crumbled crust on top. Yep, I said crumbled.

Bye bye, rolling pin.

For starters, the crust can be made entirely in a food processor. To ensure that it stays super crispy, it’s baked twice. Mmm…

Chicken Pot Pie With Savory Crumble Topping
Courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated

Crumble Topping
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 1 cup)
2 small celery ribs, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
Table salt and ground black pepper
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps wiped clean and sliced thin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup 1% lowfat milk
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 cup frozen baby peas

Now before we dive into this, I need to tell you — this recipe is a time commitment. It’s something you make on a weekend only when you’ve got a couple of hours to burn.

But it’s so very, very worth it.

1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Bring chicken and broth to simmer in covered Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until chicken is just done, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer cooked chicken to large bowl. Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer into liquid measuring cup and reserve. Do not wash Dutch oven. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.

So here’s my set up for the broth. I strained it out into a mesh strainer and caught little bits of fat:

So there’s a very good reason to strain the broth, and it’s not just to eliminate more fat. Texturally, that stuff sucks, especially when you’re trying to make a silky sauce.

2. FOR THE TOPPING: Combine flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in large bowl. Sprinkle butter pieces over top of flour.

I did this all in the food processor, which made the whole thing painless. Pulse butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in Parmesan. Add cream and pulse until just combined.

My topping was still looking like a fine powder (because of the processor) so I stuck my fingers in there and pinched spots, just to make sure it was damp and “clump-able”.

Crumble/clump mixture into irregularly shaped pieces ranging from 1/2 to ¾ inch each onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until fragrant and starting to brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Set aside.

Couple shots of the finished product, so you can see that it’s still pale but slightly crisp in the middle, and the edges are just a little browned.

Do NOT bake this until it’s entirely crispy, because it’s going to bake again. This initial baking will keep the crust from soaking up all of the sauce and getting mushy, and will allow it to all crisp up nicely in the final baking. If you bake it all the way in this step, it’s going to be an inedible, burned waste in the end.

3. FOR THE FILLING: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrots, celery, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. While vegetables are cooking, shred chicken into small bite-size pieces. Transfer cooked vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.

4. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes.

Remove cover and stir in soy sauce and tomato paste.

I know — the soy sauce and tomato paste seems a little out of place for a pot pie but trust me. Do it.

Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, mushrooms are well browned, and dark fond begins to form on surface of pan, about 5 minutes.

So you can see that there’s a difference between this picture and the one above it. In this final mushroom shot, there’s a really nice, thick broth that’s formed. Don’t stop cooking the mushrooms until you start to get that nice, thick broth.

Transfer mushrooms to bowl with chicken and vegetables. Set aside.

5. Now for the roux, which will turn into a delicious, velvety sauce. Of course it’s a montage shot! You’re surprised?

Heat butter in empty Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to simmer, scraping pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

6. Combine! Stir chicken-vegetable mixture and peas into sauce.

Pour mixture into 13 by 9-inch baking dish or casserole dish of similar size. Scatter crumble topping evenly over filling.

Bake on rimmed baking sheet until filling is bubbling and topping is well browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Dig in.

• • •

February 3rd, 2011

Turkey & Vegetable Chili – A Potluck Hit

Filed under: General — Miss Macchiato @ 9:54 am

My mom called over the weekend and said she had a potluck coming up. She typically brings side dishes, but this time around she wanted to bring a main. Both of us own ATK’s Light & Healthy 2010 book that I’ve been covering over the last month, so it just made sense for me to find something in there.

Right away I spotted “Vegetarian Chili” and promised I’d feature it on the site this week. After we got off the phone, our web admin politely reminded me that I had already made that recipe and we disliked it. A lot.

Huh. Really? This delicious pot of goodness?

It took me a few minutes to remember why, but I finally did. To turn it into a vegetarian chili, the meat was taken out and replaced with a funny little soy product called “tempeh“.

I had no idea what that even was, and had to look it up. As it turns out, tempeh is made up of soybeans fermented into a hard cake. To cook, it’s crumbled with a little oil in a pan — the same way any ground beef product is cooked. It’s a little lighter than meat, but I thought the texture and weight of it to be very similar to ground turkey. There’s just one problem: The smell.

As I said, it’s fermented, and that makes a weird odor. It was so strong that it influenced my sense of taste. I just couldn’t get past it. So this time around, I swapped it out for ground turkey, and I was really pleased with the results.

Now, there are lots of chilis. And there are certain parts of the United States where chili is a huge deal and people claim definitive chili recipes. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. I believe it’s nice to have a few different kinds in one’s repertoire. This one is loaded with vegetables, and I don’t think it can be compared on the same level with the strict meat and bean chilis. But that’s just me.

Looking at the ingredient list, right away we know it’s Southwestern: Red bell pepper, tons of garlic, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, cumin seeds and lime.

Unfortunately, I omitted a very important first step — the diced tomatoes are supposed to be pulsed in a food processor or blender for about ten 1-second pulses. That’s very important because, when your chili is simmering, the liquid reduces down to a lovely tomato sauce that lightly coats the chili the way a chili sauce should. I didn’t pulse my tomatoes, so my sauce couldn’t really reduce enough, and what I ended up with was more like a very hearty Southwestern stew. But the flavors were awesome, so I didn’t mind.

Our web admin might have expressed some displeasure, but I couldn’t understand over the sounds of his rabid scarfing.

After the sauce reduces and the spicy and savory flavors are built up, diced zucchini, frozen corn and a splash of fresh lime are added in at the end, along with the ground turkey. Now, if you’re a spice wimp like me and you feel that there’s too much chipotle in this, add more of the corn. The sweetness of the corn will help balance that out. Don’t use canned! Use frozen.

Top with cilantro (or, if you don’t care for the kick-in-the-face-brightness of cilantro, use Italian Parsley like I did) and dig in. My favorite part of the chili has to be the mouthful of vegetables in every bite. There’s the right amount of crunch and the flavors are simply delicious. This chili was an absolute pleaser and has been added to my regular dinner rotation. Mom: This is a winning potluck dish!

• • •

January 31st, 2011

Whole Wheat Bran Muffins with Figs and Pecans

Filed under: The Monday Muffin — Miss Macchiato @ 12:38 pm

This weekend I was in the mood for a healthier muffin, so I pulled this mouthful from Bon Appetit: Whole Wheat Bran Muffins with Figs and Pecans.

And I liked that it gave me a reason to use the wheat flour and oat bran I have sitting in my pantry.

I liked these muffins and I’m sure you’ll like them too — provided you don’t mind the distinct flavor of oat bran. And I have to say that the most ironic thing about them is that these very healthy muffins are best served warm with butter.

Yep. Bake up something that’s healthy for your bod, then slather it all in tasty, tasty butter.

What, you have a problem with that?

Whole Wheat Bran Muffins with Figs and Pecans
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) diced dried Black Mission figs (about 6 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups reduced-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

What took the most prep was chopping the figs.

I cut off the little hard nubs on the ends, quartered them and sliced them small. I love figs, so I wish I hadn’t chopped them so tiny — I made them a little smaller than raisins. While I baked up the muffins, I polished off whatever was in the bag. Figs are delicious! They’re very soft and incredibly sweet. If you don’t care for figs, I won’t talk about you behind your back. (Maybe.) Golden raisins would also be a great substitute if you happen to have those on hand.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a nonstick 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray. Whisk next 7 ingredients in bowl. Stir in figs and pecans. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl. Whisk in eggs, then buttermilk and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Using a 1/4 measuring cup, divide batter among cups.

Bake muffins until browned on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool on rack.

After these have cooled to room temperature (or if you’re eating them the next day), they’ll seem dry and much less exciting than when they were warm. I recommend popping them in the microwave for about 15 – 20 seconds.

And then go for some butter.

• • •

January 27th, 2011

Tortellini & Vegetable Soup

Filed under: General,Weeknight Cooking — Miss Macchiato @ 9:48 am

To say that I love soup wouldn’t quite be enough. I heart it. I have a box with all of my soup keepsakes under my bed and at night I practice writing my name with soup’s last name.

Too much information?

Anyway, ATK’s Light & Tasty has a version of soup that elevates a delicious vegetable soup by combining it with a tortellini soup.

A regular tortellini soup is mostly just a garlic broth with cheese tortellini and wilted spinach leaves tossed into it. That’s a very tasty combination, but the texture always leaves me wanting. It’s light, it’s mushy, and I suppose it will do on a cold night when you want pasta and a hot soup and can’t decide which you prefer.

A vegetable soup is usually a barbaric concoction of kitchen sink vegetables and beans with a broth, and I end up with more vegetables that I don’t care for than ones that I do.

Now we have the perfect hybrid — the cheese tortellini goodness and the favored vegetables together, at last, they way they were always meant to be.

Or maybe I’m just a sucker for anything with zucchini and pasta.

Whatever the case is, this soup is incredible and I definitely recommend it. It’s also a quick and easy recipe with very little mess, which is why I added the “Weeknight Cooking” label above. When I described the dish to Citizen Chef, he commented that it sounded too light. If this is your concern, fear not — there’s a lot going on in this soup. The vegetables are very hearty and, to top it off, there’s a cheese pasta in the mix. I served this with garlic bread and, when my household had finished off our meals, we were stuffed and happy.

Tortellini & Vegetable Soup
Adapted from ATK’s Light and Healthy 2010
Serves 8

6 garlic cloves, minced
1 zucchini, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion minced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 (9-ounce) package fresh cheese tortellini
2 1/2 cups baby spinach
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Measure out and reserve 1 teaspoon of the minced garlic. Combine the zucchini, 1 teaspoon of the oil, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini releases its juice, 3 – 5 minutes.

As a reminder, when the recipe calls for a small, specific amount of oil or salt, I know a lot of people don’t measure that. They just “eyeball” the amount. I typically do that as well however, because this book shows the “light and healthy” versions of food, I measure. There’s no point in calling it light and healthy if we’re not being careful to cut back where we can.

Uncover, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is golden brown and just tender, 2 – 3 minutes longer. Transfer the zucchini to a plate.

Combine the onion, garlic (minus the reserved teaspoon), the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the pot. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 – 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 4 – 6 minutes longer.

Stir in the thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer, add the tortellini, and cook, stirring often, until just tender, 3 – 6 minutes.

I got lucky – my grocery store carries fresh whole wheat tortellini, so I scored some of that for the soup. I thought the whole wheat version was delicious, so if you can get that, do it.

Off the heat, stir in the zucchini, spinach and peas, cover and let sit until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the reserved 1 teaspoon garlic and basil. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste, ladle into bowls and sprinkle each portion with some of the cheese before serving.

Eat up. Yum.

• • •

January 24th, 2011

Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins

Filed under: The Monday Muffin — Miss Macchiato @ 9:21 am

Welcome back to The Monday Muffin! I’m pretty excited to share this one, since I’ve not been so excited about a muffin since we discovered Mizz Nezz’s Banana Muffins. This one throws its hat into the ring for the title of Greatest Muffin Ever and has a shot at taking it home.

There’s no sugar or streusel topping for this muffin and you won’t miss it. The cake has the perfect amount of sweetness and the blueberries bring a delectable burst of freshness. The cinnamon goes very well with the blueberries — not to mention your house will smell incredible while the muffins are baking.

The process is also everything I believe a muffin should be: simple. Mix the wet ingredients, mix the dry. Combine. Add blueberries. Bake. I whipped these up with ease on Saturday morning and the results were amazing. I should have doubled the batch because they were gone by Sunday night.

Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes 12

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup 1% lowfat milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups blueberries (7 1/2 oz)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a nonstick 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray. Whisk together butter, brown sugar, milk, and egg in a bowl until combined well.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries gently.

Distribute batter into a nonstick 12-cup (1/2 cup) muffin tin. I used a 1/4 cup to scoop and divide (somewhat) evenly. Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Stuff face. Be happy. Feel alive.

• • •

January 21st, 2011

Light & Healthy Cheese & Spinach Lasagna

Filed under: General — Miss Macchiato @ 10:29 am

I suppose the best way of starting this out wouldn’t be by admitting that I’m not a huge fan of spinach and cheese lasagna. Most of the time, it comes across as a mushy mess in my mouth, and I’m put off by the texture. I typically crave lasagnas with a little more stability to their structure. And in the case of my new cooking project, exploring the entirety of ATK’s Light and Healthy book… Well, I found the same thing to be true. However, I really enjoyed the taste and, put on a plate next to a cool, crisp salad and some crunchy garlic bread, I liked it.

Spinach & Cheese Lasagna

What brought this dish to the home plate was the addition of shredded Fontina. Even though I couldn’t get a decent Fontina (I could only find a local brand – no Italian), the taste was still there. And to be honest, I’m not a big fan of pungent cheeses so maybe that’s why I liked it so much.

The other reason I liked it was because of something ATK is very conscientious of: texture.

You probably already guessed that making a lasagna light and healthy involves cottage cheese and, I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like a mouthful of curd in my lasagna. Even if it’s small curd, it doesn’t matter. I feel like I’m eating diet food and the thrill of indulgence is gone. You may as well take that away and stick a bowl of dry lettuce in front of me.

ATK curbs this nicely by blending the cottage cheese with the eggs in a food processor, producing a creamy sauce:

Everything else about the recipe was actually pretty predictable in terms of how to lower the fat content: using lowfat cottage cheese, lowfat milk, etc. But all of those little things together brought the nutrition numbers down to something I was actually pretty happy about. I also did my own part in a few different ways, such as not adding as much Parmesan as the recipe called for. I cut it in half and was still happy about the result.

Putting the whole dish together was also a fairly standard process. Here’s your food montage, a la Eye of the Tiger:

Risin' up to the challenge of our rival! And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night

And what that all boils down to (rather, bakes up to) is a delicious and creamy spinach and cheese lasagna. It’s pretty rich, so I suggest small pieces to be served with a little salad and bread.

Next week, join me for Vegetable and Tortellini Soup!

• • •

January 11th, 2011

Light & Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara

Filed under: Weeknight Cooking — Miss Macchiato @ 9:53 am

Yesterday, I announced that I was doing a cookbook challenge — ATK’s Light & Healthy 2010, cover to cover. And I meant every word.

Let’s dig into the cover recipe, Spaghetti Carbonara!

Carbonara is a rich and heavy dish. No question. The essential players that make up the dish are spaghetti and bacon smothered in a cream and grated Parmesan sauce, then beaten eggs are poured into it for a rich and creamy decadence that leaves you feeling happy but sluggish afterward. On their own and in mass quantities, the ingredients aren’t the best for you, let alone poured together. Typically, Carbonara recipes hover around 600 calories and 28 grams of fat per serving. And don’t even get me started on the cholesterol — around 150mg. Yikes.

Now these are the numbers provided in the book by the Test Kitchen. So whatever recipe they were basing these off of, I don’t know. They might be a little inflated, though I doubt it. I’ve had a few different Carbonara recipes before, some of them from well known chefs (Zuni cafe comes to mind) and I would guess this is a fairly accurate number across the board. The book provides a much lighter solution that is delicious, definitely lighter and I didn’t miss the old, heavier versions at all.

Light & Healthy nutrition information:
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 410
Carbs: 58g
Protein 16g
Fiber 3g
Sodium 420mg
Fat: 11g
Sat. Fat: 3.5g
Cholesterol: 55mg

So right off the bat you can see why I said yesterday that this is not a diet book. This is merely a way of making your favorite, decadent foods lighter and healthier. At 11g of fat it’s still hefty, but you’ve at least taken the gun out of its hands and stilled the crazy look in its eye before it comes charging at your gut like a crazed rhino. In the past, I only dared to cook this dish once a year. Now I can cook it more often.

Light & Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves 6
Adapted from Light & Healthy 2010

2/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (can substitute Parmesan)
1/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 ounces Canadian Bacon, chopped coarse
2 slices bacon, chopped coarse
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Process the cheese, evaporated milk, 1/2 tablespoon of the mayonnaise, egg, and egg white in a food processor until smooth, about 15 seconds. Leave the mixture in the food processor.

Cook the Canadian Bacon and bacon together in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon is browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

When I stuck the bacon into the frying pan, my cat came over to check it out, hoping I might drop something for her. I never did, but something better happened — the Canadian bacon was getting so hot it was “popping” out of the pan and flying out — at my cat. She was so startled by the sudden bacon attack that she went running from the kitchen.

In Soviet Russia, food hunt you.

(Overused meme win!)

Add the garlic and pepper to the fat left in the pan, and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the wine, bring to a simmer and cook until thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. If you’re a good multi-tasker, you can put the water on during the bacon step. Add the pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti since it’s better for you and, I think, more hearty) and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, until al dente. The spaghetti box will tell you how long. Reserve 1/2 cup of the spaghetti water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise until coated.

Add the wine & garlic reduction, with 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, to the food processor mixture. Process until smooth and frothy, about 1 minute. Immediately pour the egg mixture over the pasta and toss to combine. If it’s too dry for your liking, add a little more of the reserved pasta water. Stir in the bacon. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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January 10th, 2011

New Year, New Food Challenge

Filed under: General — Miss Macchiato @ 11:04 am

Did you miss us?

After a long hiatus, we’re back and badder than ever. Our knives are sharpened and kitchens ready to go. Really. I reorganized it this weekend.

Long time AwK readers will know of our undying love for America’s Test Kitchen and its Cook’s Illustrated brand. So, it should come as no surprise to you that we’re bringing the site back with an ATK cookbook challenge:

ATK’s Light & Healthy 2010: We’re cooking our way through, one recipe per week.

I’ve cooked a few recipes out of this book and so far I’ve been happy with every single one — enough to make them staples in my kitchen. The only thing that should be pointed out is that this book is not a diet book. It’s a collection of ATK’s recipes lightened. For example, I’ve eaten a lot of different takes on pasta carbonara. The dish is simple, but thick: spaghetti smothered in cream and bacon and cheese and eggs. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a plate of awesomeness. Unfortunately, most of us can only eat so much of it because it’s just so rich. Light & Healthy 2010 stuck pasta carbonara right on the cover, having successfully turned it into a light and delicious dish. I made it this weekend and didn’t miss the original recipe at all. It was indulgent without making me feel as if I had clogged my arteries.

I’m very excited about this new challenge, as it will break me away from my current list of recipes and introduce me to something new. If anyone would like to join me in this endeavor, let me know. Each week I’ll include a link or photo to your blog. I don’t plan on going through the recipes in order; we’ll be skipping around and I’ll let you know in advance what we’ll be doing the following week.

Now here’s the caveat. (There’s always one, isn’t there?) America’s Test Kitchen does not rely on advertising for their revenue. They rely on paid subscriptions and book sales to keep their 30-year business afloat, and very few of their recipes are free. Posting every single recipe on this site would not be fair to them and, since I am a big fan, I want to support their business model. That said, I will not be posting all of the recipes. I will be posting a few here and there, but not all of them. Hopefully the pictures will sway you to buy a book so you can cook the recipes along with us!

Tomorrow: Light & Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara!

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