Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas with Maple-Glazed Pumpkin-Walnut Muffins

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a great Christmas and were able to stay warm and dry.

When I was in college, I thought it would be nice if I made breakfast for everyone on Christmas morning. I ordered a special pancake mix, had real maple syrup, purchased sausages and tried to find a special coffee. During those days, none of us thought much about calories, carbohydrates, fats, or...well...much of anything else. Still, the family liked it...sort of.

I still haven't given up on making breakfast for the family for Christmas morning and this year was no different.  This year, though, I decided to make muffins. Maple-glazed pumpkin-walnut muffins. I've made them before and people who love pumpkin tend to love these muffins. These muffins are incredibly easy to make and quite rich in flavor. I highly recommend them. The recipe is from the American Diabetes Association's The Big Book of Diabetic Desserts:

1/3c chopped walnuts
3/4c all-purpose flour
3/4c whole wheat flour
1/2c light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1c solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/3c plain low-fat yogurt
1/4c canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup (REAL maple syrup preferred, NOT a low-sugar substitute or a maple-flavored syrup)

Preheat the oven to 350F (176.7C). Line muffin tin with liners and coat the liners with cooking spray, set aside. Place walnuts on baking pan, single layer, and bake until lightly toasted, about 5-8 minutes. Set aside to cool and keep oven at same temperature.

Combine the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk until well-blended. My aunt sent some organic graham flour with our Christmas presents, which I used instead of the normal whole wheat flour. It's a wonderful substitute and I highly recommend using graham flour in place of the standard whole wheat flour.

Next, combine pumpkin, yogurt, oil, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl, whisking the ingredients until smooth. Carefully add flour mixture and walnuts to the mixture and stir with wooden spoon (my preference) until just moistened. This last instruction is the key to making tender muffins. If you over-stir muffin batter, muffins will become tough.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, dividing the batter equally between each muffin and bake for 15-17 minutes or until the tops of the muffins are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean.
Immediately brush the tops of the muffins with the maple syrup and allow the muffins to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely on the rack. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature. These muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for 2 months. Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini-muffins. If making mini muffins, bake for 8-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes clean. Watch mini muffins closely, as they can burn quickly.
Each muffin has 174 calories, 8g fat, 24g carbohydrates, and 3g protein. Because of the whole wheat flour, these muffins aren't as bright orange as most pumpkin muffins are. While the maple is brushed on the top and not baked in, it's not an overwhelming flavor. Adding extra pumpkin pie spice makes for a spicier muffin, more like a pumpkin pie, and doesn't add any calories. There are lots of ways to make these muffins your own, so don't be afraid to experiment!
Until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chicken Delicious and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my favorite dinners when I was growing up was a roasted chicken meal my mother called "Chicken Delicious". Back then, it was made with skin-on chicken (fat), Italian pork sausage (meaning high fat), garlic salt and salt (meaning high sodium), and loads of oil (adding more fat). Chicken may be one of the "good meats", but the way this was made "back in the day" certainly leaves a lot to be desired in this day and age of limiting salt and fat intake!

So, how to make an old favorite but with less of today's "no-nos"? I made a newer version of chicken delicious tonight that reduces the fat and salt but still maintains the taste. Preheat oven to 425F (218.3C). Start with about 1.5 lbs of frozen or 1.25 lbs of fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts and 1 lb low fat Italian turkey sausage. Defrost the frozen chicken and pat dry. Peel and slice 6 medium russet potatoes and place in roasting pan or casserole dish. Mix 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle half mix over potatoes. Slice turkey sausage into small pieces and place sausage and chicken on top of potatoes. Sprinkle the rest of the spices over the top of the chicken and then pour 1/4 cup of canola (or olive) oil over the chicken and sausage. Cover with either foil or lid, place in oven and cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove foil or lid and reduce heat to 375F (190.55C), cooking for 30 minutes or until potatoes are browned. Serve with a green salad and looks like this:

When done right, this is very good. If you overdo the oil or fail to defrost the chicken fully, the potatoes will turn to mush and it's not as good. On the other hand, if you overcook this dish, which is also easy to do, it can be dry and tasteless. When done right, the chicken is moist while the potatoes have a crisp edge. It's not the easiest to do, so I encourage people to not give up if the first try does not come out perfect.

I also found a recipe for Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies that I decided to try from Diabetic Cooking magazine. It looked good and we finished the Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies I made last week, so I figured I'd give it a try. It calls for:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa or dark cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons skim milk
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 375F (190.55C). Beat margarine, sugar and sugar substitute with electric mixer on medium speed. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to the margarine-sugar mix and beat until well-blended. Stir in chocolate chips and drop by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, baking for 7-9 minutes, until just set. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

I found that if you use an actual teaspoon measure and scoop the batter out by a level teaspoon, you can make nearly 6 dozen cookies as opposed to the 3 dozen the recipe says it makes. That means 4 cookies would constitute a serving and have 107 calories, 6g fat, 25mg cholesterol, 11g carbohydrate, 1g dietary fiber, 2g protein, and 57mg sodium. After baking, if you don't flatten them out, they look like this:

This batch had a light texture that I like -- kind of like a meringue cookie, though they are definitely a drop cookie. I had barely gotten the cookies out of the oven when my brother started eating them, so I would say they are definitely going to stay on my list of cookies to make.

Hope everyone out there is enjoying their holidays and, if you're in the path of some nasty winter weather, staying warm and dry!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday Baking

Twenty years ago was my first year with diabetes, and it was my first Christmas with diabetes. Like most people in their first year of diagnosis, I was finding the holidays very difficult, since I felt as if I couldn't have any of the traditional favorites, including cookies. It was in that frame of mind that I went to a holiday open house/holiday party at a local hospital for people with diabetes. Three things happened: (1) I was able to sample some delicious desserts that were appropriate for people with diabetes and get the recipes for them, (2) I won a copy of The Art of Cooking for the Diabetic, and (3) I bought the ADA's Holiday Cookbook. That helped me to believe that, yes indeed, I could have holiday treats and still manage my diabetes.

So, here we are, once again in the holiday season and on the only decent day this weekend, and I decided to make cookies. Specifically, I made Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies -- a double batch. This recipe was originally published in the November/December 2008 issue of Diabetes Cooking. The ingredients are as follows:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
4 squares (1 oz each) semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons molasses
1 egg
Prepared icing (optional)

It's a fairly standard cut-out cookie recipe. Essentially, you combine the dry ingredients: flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, ginger, baking soda, ground cinnamon, salt, and ground black pepper in a bowl and sift together, resulting in this:

Next, beat the butter, both sugars, and shortening in a large bowl with mixer set on a medium speed until creamy. Add the chocolate and beat again until blended, then add the molasses and egg, beat a third time until this is well blended.

I made several substitutions in this recipe, some more radical than others. For instance, I substituted margarine for the butter (usually not a big deal, except for those who like the true butter flavor). I also substituted margarine for the shortening, since we do not have shortening in the house. I also found out that we did not have any semisweet chocolate squares in the house, so instead of the squares, I used semisweet mini chocolate chips:

FYI: I melt chocolate on the stove, not in the microwave. I've found that melting chocolate in the microwave gives it a funny consistency, and as long as you stir the chocolate consistently while it's melting, I find I like chocolate that's been melted on the stove better.

I also didn't have any molasses and that is a much bigger problem. It's a liquid, which is needed to be able to form the cookies. It has a specific flavor, so you can't just use any old substitute. What I did was substitute brown sugar and water for the molasses. Brown sugar has its color and flavor from (get this) molasses, so it makes sense to use it. It also has the same number of calories and carbohydrates per tablespoon. So, I used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (per batch) and 1 1/2 tablespoons water to create a syrup. I've done this before and it works quite well.

After mixing the dry and wet ingredients together thoroughly, divide the dough in half and make each half into a disc shape. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

When ready, preheat the oven to 350F and roll out 1 of the discs between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4" thickness. Cut into shapes, place on ungreased cookie sheet and then refrigerate once again for at least 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes and then place on rack to cool completely. Decorate with icing if desired.

I found that a double batch made 5 1/4 dozen (63) cookies -- a LOT of cookies! These cookies are neighbor-approved: My friend and neighbor, Pam (who is not diabetic, but whose mother is diabetic), taste tested these cookies this evening and she thought they were quite good, though not as sweet as she usually makes. That's fine, since I do not have as big a sweet tooth as I did before I developed diabetes. Here's the final result:

Very tasty cookies, even without icing! If you're stuck at home because of the weather and want something to do, these cookies are fairly easy to make and I enjoy them. Merry Christmas!