2/28/13

How much sugar are you eating without knowing it?


Are you watching how much sugar you are eating?  Whether it's natural or not, you might be surprised at the amount of sugar in foods.  When I saw these photos on the Sugar Stacks website, I thought it was a great, easy way to get a general idea of the sugar in foods.  They look at the total sugar content and because they want to keep it as simple to understand as possible, they don't differentiate between all the various kinds of sugars;  they just want you to start thinking about the sugar content of foods and how much sugar you might be eating all day without realizing it.   I love this!  And if you are avoiding sugar due to health reasons or follow a low carb, sugar free way of eating, you already know there are certain fruits and vegetables that are better choices than others.  You can visit their site to see even more food choices.



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2/25/13

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions


A recipe that is hardly a recipe, but more of a 'throw it together' kind of side dish.  Except, I often have this for lunch.  Given the choice between sweets or vegetables, it would be a strange and odd day if I were to choose sweets!  Instead, when I find myself alone for lunch or dinner and I don't have to take any other family members opinions into consideration, I will whip up something like this.  I normally add fresh, minced or chopped garlic to this but on this particular day I did not.  So quick and easy and delicious.

Green Beans - frozen or fresh
1/4 large onion, sliced, per person
olive oil
butter - real
salt and pepper

There are many ways to make this dish - you can caramelize the onions first and add them to the cooked beans.  You can cook it all together in a pan and not let the onions get to a caramelized stage if you prefer translucent.  You can add more or less oil or butter.  I make these a number of ways. If you are using fresh green beans you can blanch them or pre-cook them in boiling water for a few minutes if you wish them to be very tender and not still hold their shape.  Frozen does not need any pre-cooking.  In a pinch, you could also use canned beans, drained well, if you needed to.  On this day I used frozen green beans and caramelized the onions on the first layer while the beans were steaming on top of them.

In a pan over medium high heat, add a bit of olive oil to cover the bottom and a 'dollop' of butter.  Add your onion, spreading out in a single layer.  Place beans on top and let it cook without stirring for a few minutes.  You will notice the onions you can see start to turn golden brown on the edges.  This is the caramelization process.  When they start to get dark brown and the aroma from your pan is 'sweeter' then you can start to turn the onions over.  Cook the beans and onions, flipping onion pieces over and gently making sure the bigger pieces are on the bottoms.  As the onions finish cooking, so do the beans.  Season with salt and butter to your own tastes.  Sometimes I add fresh garlic to this and brown the garlic during the last 4-5 minutes of cooking.  I've also often added sliced mushrooms at the same time as the onions and once in a while, added toasted sliced almonds.



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2/21/13

A new twist on the traditional Snickerdoodle; Snickerdoodle Swirl Cookies




My post yesterday about old fashioned sugar cookies made me even more determined to bake that afternoon.  However, while I thought I was going into the kitchen to make a sugar cookie - and even thought I'd probably use Xylitol or Erythritol to make a sugar free version - in the end I made a full sugar version and it wasn't a sugar cookie.

My daughter had an extra package of a sugar cookie mix in the pantry, leftover from last week when she made Valentine Cookies to take to school.  I saw the store bought cookie mix and then thought about making the dough into a Snickerdoodle, a favorite of our family's.  The thing is;  I hate making little balls and rolling them in cinnamon and sugar.  I know it's easy.  I didn't say it was hard.  I said I don't like it.  I find it monotonous and boring and it's just one those things I don't like doing when it comes to baking.

That's when I decided to do a cinnamon swirl through the cookie instead of rolling them.  And then, my mind went one step further.  Instead of just plain boring cinnamon and sugar, why not use a streusel filling to swirl in the center? And that is how this cookie was born.  It's probably more work than rolling little round balls would be, but I don't care since it was more interesting to do than mindlessly rolling little balls.

First I'd like to offer a sugar free version of snickerdoodles for those who have been following my blog for the last 2 months we've been doing our regular 'sugar free detox' -  SUGAR FREE VERSION HERE
Here is a regular snickerdoodle cookie starting with a cake mix - CAKE MIX SNICKERDOODLE HERE
And another one starting with a cake mix - for those that don't mind rolling the little balls in sugar and cinnamon: HERE
Lastly;  I got my idea to make a streusel filling instead of cinnamon/sugar from my favorite coffee cake here.


Snickerdoodle Swirl Cookies

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) sugar cookie mix
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 T butter, softened or melted
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 egg


Streusel
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 t ground cinnamon
5 T butter, melted

In large bowl, stir cookie mix, flour, butter, vanilla and egg until dough forms.  Chill while you make the streusel.  Mix the streusel ingredients together with your fingers or a wooden spoon until blended.  Roll out dough to a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, between sheets of parchment paper.  Sprinkle as much of the streusel mix as you wish to use on 3/4 of the cookie dough, leaving about an inch at the top.  Starting at the bottom, use the bottom parchment paper to roll the cookie up into a log shape.  This is just like rolling homemade cinnamon rolls.  The top edge of the dough without filling is to press into your dough to seal the 'log' of cookie dough.  At this point it's best to refrigerate the dough to make it easier to cut into rounds.  Slice the dough into equal pieces, about 1/3" wide.  Carefully lay them down on an ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet.  Use your hands to form them into a circle if they've lost their shape while slicing and transferring.  Now use your flat hand to press them down a little bit (flatten them) so the gaps in the streusel are filled in and the cookie is a nice round circle of dough.  Bake about 12 minutes or until the centers are set. Cool 2 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely.



Adding the streusel.  I brought the crumb mixture all the way to the bottom after I snapped the photo

Use the parchment to roll the dough up tightly into a log

I didn't chill my dough - I didn't want to wait! So they lost shape a bit in slicing

Form them into a nice circle and gently press with a flat palm to form

Freshly baked Snickerdoodle Swirls - straight from the oven!







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2/20/13

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies




This morning I decided today's post would be a recipe from the 200 I have in 'draft' mode over the years.  Sometimes I don't recall why I saved that particular recipe and other times I know exactly why I saved it.  This is one I remember, and although there isn't a long, drawn out, funny story behind it - there is a small story of why I wanted it.

Before we relocated to our current home due to a promotion my husband received, I worked at a beautiful historical museum in the Midwest.  When you work in an arts and culture type business and it's non-profit to boot, you typically have a small staff and you wear a lot of hats.  No matter the event, concert, class, etc. most of the staff had some part of it due to the small staff that ran the museum and gift shop.   It was during an educational class we were giving to elementary school children that our Education Director decided to have one of the break out sessions make cookies as they might have made back in the 1930's.  It was a basic sugar cookie of its day, with an egg sized addition of butter and dollop of this and pinch of that.  The cookie was a simple 'drop' sugar cookie and of course it had just a hint of nutmeg.  The cookies were so simple, yet so good.  It was that week, in 2010, that I went on an 'old fashioned sugar cookie' kick and found a few to put in my files from old grandmotherly type  recipes to make.

This one was a little different in that it wasn't the typical 'drop on a cookie sheet' cookie - but added a little more flour so you could roll and cut them into shapes.  That is why it reads;  up to 6 cups of flour.  Depending on the temperature and humidity level, etc. you use just enough to make the dough workable in your home. 

And now, without further adieu, a simple, rolled cookie... with the addition of nutmeg to give it that good old fashioned flavor of days gone by.

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

up to 6 c flour
1 T baking powder
1 t ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
2 1/2 c white sugar
1 1/2 c shortening
1 t baking soda
1 c sour milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, stir together 4 cups flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and sugar. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in baking soda, sour milk, beaten eggs, and vanilla. Stir as little as possible, and add the remaining flour as necessary to make dough thick enough to roll out.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.   Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Cool on baking sheets.









You might be interested in some cute cutters;

        









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2/19/13

Ciabatta Bread - Artisan Bread

4 ingredients. No fuss.  No kneading.


Rustic.  Chewy.  Dense. Hot from the oven spread with a bit of butter  and then later, drizzled with Italian dressing, topped with turkey, ham, salami, provolone, fresh spinach leaves, tomatoes...  and it's dinner.  I've made a batch of these twice this week by request from my 17 year old daughter and my husband.

I found this recipe online last year, but the book that features the recipe if you need or want more details or love it so much that you want to purchase the cookbook is; (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking).

I LOVE this recipe.  Only 4 main ingredients and you can mix it up with a wooden spoon in a bowl or bucket.  No kneading.  No fuss. 


 



Artisan Bread

1 ½ T yeast
1 ½ T salt
3 c water, lukewarm
6 ½ c flour

cornmeal
flour
Baking/Pizza Stone


Dump yeast, salt and water into a large bowl, bucket or container.
Add flour.
Mix with a wooden spoon just until the flour is incorporated. No dry flour, no lumps.
Put a loose lid on or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Not air tight.  Let set at room temperature about 2 hours.
Sprinkle bit of flour so your fingers don’t stick. Cut off grapefruit sized piece with serrated knife.
Work in your hands to make a ball, pulling top layer to bottom.  Round and smooth.
Place on cornmeal sprinkled board.
Let set 40 minutes.
Sprinkle with flour, slash the loaf with a few slices.
Bake at 375 preheated oven with an empty pan in the bottom.
Slide on middle shelf baking stone.
Pour a cup of water in the hot empty pan and close door quickly to steam the bread.
Baked till top is golden brown - about 20-25 minutes.
Hard crust and moist, soft bread!











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2/18/13

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears


Something I haven't had nearly enough to time to do is one of the reasons I originally started this blog back around 2006.  It was/is to save a collection of recipes I've found to make, or found interesting and of course the ones I've made.  Unfortunately when life gets too busy I don't 'get around' to finding new recipes to save and try, nor do I get enough time to browse through some of the recipes I've seen and saved to try later.

This is one of those.  It caught my eye for two reasons.  The first, being I love (love, love, love) Brussels sprouts.  The second being;  I would never, ever think to pair Brussels sprouts with... pears.   I think originally this recipe probably caught my eye because I would have thought it was tiny quartered potatoes with them in the photo.  It was years ago, so I don't remember.  But no, those aren't potatoes.  Those are pears.  Roasted.  With Brussels sprouts.    I'm a little apprehensive about this one.  I don't like sweet things and I'm not sure how sweet the pears would make the sprouts.  Have you tried it?



Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears

2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 red Bartlett pears, cored and cut into wedges
6 shallots, quartered
10 fresh thyme sprigs
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper
2 T fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On two large rimmed baking sheets, toss Brussels sprouts, pears, shallots, thyme, and oil; season with salt and pepper.

Roast until Brussels sprouts are tender and browned, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Toss with lemon juice and serve warm.




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2/16/13

Lenten Meal Ideas: Salmon Loaf







Lent is the season of penance and prayer before Easter.  This year, Lent began on Wednesday, February 13 and ends on Saturday, March 30.   

I was born on a Tuesday, Baptized on Sunday and raised Catholic.  One of the things we do to observe Lent is to abstain from eating meat or heavy meals on Fridays.  I hadn't thought about that today, but I guess my brain and body already knew subconsciously because without any conscious thought, I chose to have Garlic and Herb Tilapia for lunch and when I planned out tonight's dinner I automatically grabbed a package of large shrimp from the freezer as well as 2 cans of Salmon to make a Salmon Loaf!

Subconsciously I guess my body knew today was the first Friday in Lent!   I've already posted an entry for today (Friday) so I'm going to post this one for tomorrow.  Put in your list of menu idea's not just because it's a great idea for a Friday night dinner, but mostly because it's a frugal and delicious meal idea!   You can make it with leftover salmon you've grilled or broiled or baked from another meal, but it's easily made with canned salmon, which is really affordable and can be found everywhere from the obvious grocery stores even down to your local dollar stores!



Salmon Loaf

1/4 c fresh onion, chopped fine
1 t dried dill weed
1 T butter
1 slightly beaten egg
1/4 - 1/3 c milk or cream
1 c soft bread crumbs
Leftover salmon to equal about 2 cups  (*can use 2 cans of salmon - clean the skin and bones off and discard)

In a microwaveable bowl place the onion, dill and pepper with the pat of butter. Microwave about 2-3 minutes until the onion is tender. Combine the egg, bread crumbs, milk and butter/onion mixture. Add the salmon, breaking it apart as you add it. Mix with your hands for best blending. Shape into a loaf and place in a bread loaf pan (6X3") that has been greased or sprayed. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Broil for a few minutes to crisp up the top if you prefer a slight crust on your salmon loaf.

OPTIONAL:  Top with a white sauce to which you've added a peas and/or some cheese.

Simple White Sauce

2 T butter
1 T flour
1/2 t salt
1/8 t white pepper
1/8 t paprika
3/4 c milk
1 T lemon juice
1/2 c frozen pea's - thawed

Microwave the butter until melted; add the flour and seasonings, then the milk and lemon juice. Microwave 4-5 minutes, stirring after each minute. Add 1/2 cup peas. Stir and serve over salmon.
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2/15/13

French Dip Sandwich or Roast Beef Sandwich Au Jus



Although we Americans call it a French Dip - it's actually not a French dish, and it's not served in France.  It's an American sandwich that is served on a 'French' roll or bun.  A French dip sandwich, also known as a beef dip, or roast beef sandwiches au jus (with juice), is a hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef on a "French roll" or baguette.

This is a favorite of our family and if I don't make it every 2 months or so, it's requested and I'm 'reminded' I haven't made it in a while! If you have recently bought 'half a cow' and have a lot of roasts in the freezer, this is a good way to use them! 

French Dip Sandwich or Roast Beef Sandwich Au Jus

1 T chopped or minced garlic
1 beef bouillon cube
1 T rosemary
3 bay leaves
3/4 c - 1 cup soy sauce  (I use approximately 1 cup, give or take)
about 6 cups water
1 beef roast (chuck is affordable and tastes the best)
buns
provolone cheese

Put all ingredients in a Crock-pot or slow cooker.  The size of your roast can be anything from 3 pounds to about 4 or 5 but 3-4 is best for the amount of juice left for dipping.   Cook on high 6-8 hours until tender and falls apart easily when you pull with a fork.

Remove roast from slow cooker and shred with two forks, pulling all the pieces apart.  Remove the bay leaves from the juices in the slow cooker.   Place the shredded beef back in the crock pot and keep on 'warm' setting until needed.  Open a roll, spoon meat on and cover with a slice of cheese.   Broil in the oven just until the cheese is melted.  Spoon liquid into small cups on the side for dipping.


Products related to this post available through Amazon;
 
      
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2/14/13

Birthday Brownies - Sugar Free Cake Mix Brownies by Pillsbury


One of the problems you face when you bake all the time, is deciding what to make for birthdays.  Especially when you've been doing a detox of sugar and have been trying all sorts of 'fun' recipes.   Our freezer is currently hosting a nice variety of protein chocolate brownies, cheesecake, half a chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting, cookies and 2 slices of Italian Cream Cake with Lemon Filling.  All low carb, no flour and sugar free.  We have all the baked goods we could want, right?  But yesterday was my husbands birthday and I wanted to make something different.

It just so happens I had a box of Pillsbury Moist Supreme Sugar Free Devil's Food Cake Mix in the cupboard.  Now this mix is not low carb as it does have flour in it.  However, I saw it at my local grocery store a couple weeks ago and picked it up to give it a try in the future.  It's hit or miss whether your local stores want to carry these;  I've seen them one shopping trip but then they are gone the next.  I've heard some Walmarts carried them, although my local store did not.  I found mine at Publix and had to pay $3.49 for the box.  Not something I would normally purchase or keep on hand since I love to bake from scratch, but it was fun to try a new product.

In the end, we loved it.  Some people have gas and bloating issues because of the sugar alcohols.  My husband, our 17 year old daughter and I had no issues at all.   Pillsbury has a sugar free yellow cake mix, chocolate cake mix and a sugar free brownie mix.  I had bought the cake mix, but I used it in my regular recipe for brownies made from a cake mix and adapted it.

You can find my true, Sugar Free, Low Carb, No Flour Brownie here.

Here is the original recipe for brownies starting with a cake mix that I adapted to make sugar free for my husbands birthday.


Homemade Caramel Brownies 

1 chocolate cake mix of your choice
1 c chopped nuts (optional - I love them, my son and husband hate them)
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted
1 c Evaporated Milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
35 caramels - unwrap
2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips, milk chocolate, etc. (up to you)

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the cake mix with the nuts, butter and 2/3 c evaporated milk in a bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon - the batter will be very thick. Spread half the batter into a 13X9 inch ungreased pan. Bake 15 minutes. In the meantime, unwrap the caramels and add the remaining evaporated milk. (Sometimes I add all the milk to the chocolate batter and just use a few teaspoons of water to thin the caramels instead).   Drizzle the caramel mixture over the brownies and drop the remaining batter over the caramel by heaping teaspoons.

Bake for 25 minutes more. Cool in the pan before cutting into bars.



ADAPTED:

Use a sugar free cake mix, dry
Nuts are optional
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c original, unsweetened almond milk
1/2 c half and half or heavy cream
sugar free chocolate chips (like Hersheys) are optional
sugar free caramels are optional - I did not use

Mix the melted butter, cake mix, almond milk and half and half in a bowl with a wooden spoon until blended.  Pour into a greased 9X13" pan and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the center is set and the brownies start to just pull away from the edge of the pan.  Let cool in the pan.  Cut into squares.  Serve with sugar free whipped cream (sweetened with your favorite sweetener) or use a spray can of sugar free whipped cream.  (I also have some awesome sugar free frosting recipes posted!  Just use the search bar on the right side of the page and search for sugar free frosting.  I'd suggest the 7 minute version or buttercreme!). 




Pillsbury Devils Food Chocolate Cake Mix Facts;

Nutrition Facts
Serv Size 1/12 package (38g mix)
Servings Per Container 12
Amount Per Serving
Calories 120 Calories from Fat 30
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.5g 5%
Saturated Fat 1.5g 8%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 260mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 28g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Sugars 0g
SugarAlcohol 14g
Protein 2g
Calcium 4%
Iron 10%
Not a significant source of vitamin A and vitamin C.
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000
calorie diet.










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