Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal "Muffins"

I mentioned in my post about the materials that I use that I own a silicone muffin "tin", but I rarely use it because I haven't had good results. My two main problems with it were that, if I sprayed it with oil or cooking spray first, the baked items didn't rise properly. If I didn't spray it and they rose properly, having to twist and manipulate the cups to get the muffins out caused them to be torn apart. Usually, the bottom "stumps" would get wrenched off or ripped up.

This recipe marks the first successful use of my silicone muffin "tin". I figured out one very important aspect which isn't exactly clearly explained on "how to" sites. That is that you have to allow whatever you bake in it to completely cool before removal or they are too fragile to survive the twisted or peeling of the silicone support structure. It's not enough to let them cool to the touch or reasonably well, they have to be nearly room temperature.

I usually make my baked oatmeal in a glass loaf pan and slice it into 6 slices, but I haven't been entirely happy with the uneven baking that sometimes comes along with this. The center tends to be rather moister than the two ends. This was what motivated me to try this particular recipe in muffin cups. I'm sure that it would work equally well in regular tins if you don't have silicone. Just make sure you spray the bottoms of the tins before you add the batter. I didn't use spray of any kind in the silicone "tin" that I used.

This is a recipe that I've been fine-tuning for awhile, and I was extremely pleased with the result. Though there are only 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour in these, they really do seem more cake-like than one would expect. I'm thinking that all of the fat from the peanut butter plays a significant role in the texture. They taste a lot like a peanut butter cookie to me and offer 8 grams of protein in a small package. I'm not sure why the sodium value is so high on this, but I imagine the Spark Recipes calculator uses a particular commercial peanut butter as its baseline for the sodium values. If you use natural or a reduced sodium brand, you can likely get something a lot better than the calculations show.

Peanut Butter baked oatmeal (sugar-free, reduced fat, whole grain):
1 medium egg
5 tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup granular Splenda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (not quick-cooking)
3 tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
  1. Prepare muffin cups by spraying the bottoms of metal cups. If using silicone cups, do not spray.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F./175 degrees C.
  3. Add the vinegar to the skim milk and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the egg and peanut butter to a large bowl and whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the milk mixture, vanilla, applesauce, Splenda and salt to the peanut butter mixture and whisk until smooth.
  6. Sprinkle the oatmeal over the liquid, sprinkle the whole wheat flour and baking powder over the oatmeal.
  7. Stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed.
  8. Spoon evenly into prepared muffin cups.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.

Nutrition information courtesy of the SparkRecipes calculator:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Broccoli Stem Soup

All fresh fruit and vegetables in Japan are on the expensive side, and I got to thinking about how I was tossing out half of my purchase every time I bought a head of broccoli. I had seen an American cooking show at one point in which a woman talked about how the stems can be cooked and eaten as well, and she showed how you can cut the stem at the bottom in order to steam the entire thing.

I like broccoli, but I like any kind of soup even better than whole vegetables, so I decided I'd rather put the stems to that use rather than eat it cut into pieces. The stems are rich in Calcium, Iron and B Vitamins. They are also milder in flavor so those who are not strong fans of broccoli can have this soup without feeling overwhelmed. Even haters of broccoli might like it if the florets are omitted and only the stem is used. In fact, my husband has said that he feels broccoli soup doesn't taste much like broccoli at all. If you're a fan of broccoli, you can ramp up the flavor by adding in more of the greener, more intensely flavored florets when you make the soup.

This makes a creamy soup which is a bit salty (though it depends on your consomme) and the potato aspect shines through despite using a very small amount of it. If you like your soup thinner, feel free to add in very hot water at the end during pureeing. If you like it thicker, you can add more potato flakes. It's quite a flexible recipe.

Broccoli Stem Soup:
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
1 large broccoli stem, cut into pieces
4 (or more) broccoli florets
1 packet or cube of chicken consomme or boullion
1/2 cup skim milk
2-3 cups water
1/3 cup of instant mashed potato buds (or one small potato, peeled and diced)
1 tsp. vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat a medium-sized pan with a fitted lid over medium-low heat.
  2. Add oil to the pan then stir in the onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are wilted and just starting to brown a bit.
  3. Add the broccoli stem pieces and florets. 
  4. Add the milk and as much water as it takes to cover most of the florets, though about 1/4 should peek out over the liquids. I usually require 2 1/2 cups of water, but it really depends on the size of your broccoli. 
  5. If you are using a real potato, add the potato pieces.
  6. Add pepper and chicken consomme.
  7. Stir and cook covered over medium-low heat. If it boils too vigorously, reduce the heat. Cook until the stem pieces are soft (or the potatoes are done).
  8. Remove from heat and add the mashed potato buds. 
  9. With an immersion blender, puree the soup. Taste and add salt if desired.

Please note that I buy and use small heads of broccoli so the nutrition information reflects the sizes that I'm cooking with. Your situation may vary if you have access to more substantial stalks and florets and if your chicken consomme is more than 9 calories per packet (which is the count on my standard consomme).

Nutrition information courtesy of the SparkRecipes calculator:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sweet Potato Scones

I've been toying with scone recipes for a long time and the truth is that it is difficult to get a good result without a lot of fat. And, because I don't sell my recipes as something that they are not, I will say that these are not like your fluffy, flaky butter-filled scones. They are more like the offspring of a biscuit and a scone. Actually, they are rather similar to the type of thing that I buy prepackaged at Starbucks in Japan, only moister, a bit lighter and, of course, less unhealthy.

In order to allow the whole wheat flour to absorb more moisture, I place the dough in the refrigerator and allow it to rest overnight. This also has the benefit of allowing me to eat a freshly baked scone for breakfast, but it does mean that I have to bake them early in the morning. I think that it would be enough to place the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours if you'd rather not wait all night. In the first experiment with these scones, I baked them immediately and used less liquid and it caused the scones to be rather dense. They were fine, but I didn't like the texture as much as these.

I used reduced fat margarine in order to reduce the calories, but if you have an aversion to these types of processed fats, you can just use butter, but it'll add about 15 calories per scone. The sweet potato is Japanese sweet potato in my case, but any type of sweet potato should work. The sweet potato adds moisture as well as flavor and helps substitute for the lack of sugar. An egg-white wash will make the tops crispy when they come fresh out of the oven, but they will get soft after being stored. If you want to revive the crispy external shell, wrap the scones in foil and heat them in a toaster oven for about 10 minutes before eating. You could also simply try toasting them without the foil, but I'd keep a solid eye on them (I did not try this).

The type of flour that you use will have a profound effect on the result of these scones, more so than some of my other recipes. I recommend reading my post on "working with whole wheat flour" and determining if your flour is less absorbent than mine (generally based on whole wheat flour type and grain size). If you're uncertain, add only half of the liquid initially and slowly add in more until your dough reaches the stated consistency.

 Sweet Potato Scones (sugar-free, whole wheat, reduced fat):
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. reduced fat (50%) spread (margarine)
100 grams/3.5 oz. sweet potato (cooked and cooled)
1/4 cup Splenda granular
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, separated into yolk and white
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp. vinegar
  1. Add the vinegar to the milk and allow to rest.
  2. Place the flour, salt, Splenda, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and fat spread in a bowl and work the spread into the flour with a fork.
  3. Roughly mash the sweet potato. There can be some small pieces, but not large ones.
  4. Add the mashed sweet potato (approximately 2/3 cup of roughly mashed potato) to the flour mixture. Mash the potatoes into the flour mixture with a fork.
  5. Whisk the egg yolk and half of the egg white (reserve the rest for the wash), vanilla, and skim milk and pour it into the center of the flour mixture.
  6. Use a fork to work in the moist ingredients but don't overwork it. The dough should be wet but be able hold its shape for a short time before spreading. If it is too wet, add in a tablespoon of flour until it firms up a bit.
  7. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and pat the dough into it. Refrigerate for 2-12 hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C./425 degrees C.  
  9. Pull the dough from the loaf pan using the plastic wrap. Carefully cut the block into thirds then cut each third diagonally in half to make triangles. If the dough seems too wet for cutting, you can just use a spoon to make drop scones.
  10. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet or silicone baking sheet.
  11. Roughly beat the egg white and brush the tops only of each scone with the egg white.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes. Place on a rack to cool if not eating immediately.

Serve with honey, butter, jam, or just enjoy them plain.

 Nutrition information courtesy of the SparkRecipes calculator:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Maple Oatmeal Muffins

The holidays didn't really slow down my efforts at "healthy baking", but they did put a big crimp in my ability to experiment with new recipes. Every year, I make peanut butter cookies for my husband's work associates and when I say that, I mean that I make hundreds of cookies as he likes to give quite a few of his compatriots 5 cookies each. With all of that baking, I fell off of the regular posting bandwagon for this blog. Hopefully, I'll have the time to play with more recipes again.

I'm starting with a favored variation on my basic oatmeal muffin. It gives you the flavor of maple without the sugar or calories. It's light and delicious and goes great with a cup of tea or a mug of coffee for breakfast. Though I garnished these with half a walnut, the nutrition information is for muffins made without the garnish. If you add a half walnut, you'll need to add about 13 calories to the total for each muffin.

Maple Oatmeal Muffins (low-fat, sugar-free, whole grain):
3/4 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 medium egg
3/4 cup skim milk
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup Splenda granular
1 tsp. maple extract (I use McCormick)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
  1. Spray the bottoms only of 6 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Add the vinegar to the skim milk and allow to rest.
  3. Grind the oats in a food processor until relatively finely ground. 
  4. Put the oats in a large bowl and add applesauce, egg, milk and vinegar, salt, Splenda, maple extract, and vanilla. Stir until well mixed.
  5. Sprinkle the whole wheat flour onto the oat mixture and gently stir to just moisten. Allow to rest for about 10-20 minutes.
  6. Add the baking powder and stir just until well mixed. Don't overwork the flour or the muffins will be tough.
  7. Spoon into the prepared tins and bake at 190 degrees for 35 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool for 15-30 minutes and run a butter knife around the edges of the tin to loosen the muffins. Gently tap the bottom if they stick.  
 Nutrition information courtesy of the SparkRecipes calculator:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

One of the great things about Costco is that you can buy huge bags of frozen unsweetened blueberries for a low price. The bad thing about this is that it takes quite awhile to get through a bag. Fortunately, blueberries pair well with a variety of baked goods, and one of my favorite presentations is this blueberry baked oatmeal. These bars smells heavenly and are a tasty snack or breakfast with a low calorie count.

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal (sugar-free, whole grain, low-fat):
1 medium egg
1/2 C. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C. skim milk
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 C. granular Splenda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 C. rolled oats
3 tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 C. frozen unsweetened blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F./175 degrees C.  
  2. Grease and flour a loaf pan or spray with cooking spray. 
  3. Whisk the egg, applesauce, milk, Splenda, vegetable oil, salt, and lemon juice together until thoroughly mixed. 
  4. Add the oats, sprinkle the flour and baking powder on top and mix with a spoon until the flour and baking powder are mixed in and the oats are thoroughly moistened. 
  5. Stir in the frozen blueberries. 
  6. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until set (check with a toothpick or tester). 
  7. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes, remove from the loaf pan and allow to cool completely before cutting. 
Nutrition information courtesy of the SparkRecipes calculator:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lemon Anise Cake

I've been experimenting with cake recipes, which may seem like a strange thing to say considering that I've made a lot of muffins and they are probably just another type of cake to most people. To me, "cake" has more moisture and is meant to be lighter. For the first time, I considered using white flour instead of whole wheat, but the truth is that I'm concerned that applesauce as a substitute for sugar and fat won't work quite as well with white flour. I'm afraid it'll drag the cake down, and since whole wheat is better for you, I just went with what I knew.

This cake is not the same as a normal white flour, sugar, and full fat cake. I want that to be clear up front. It is spongier in texture, but it's still good, moist and pleasant. You can see the detail of the texture in the detailed picture below. The flavor is fabulous and this is definitely one of the best results I've had with a particular flavor combination. It's really delicious, at least to my taste buds! My husband also really liked it.

Lemon Anise Cake (sugar-free, whole wheat, reduced fat):
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup granular Splenda
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (half a small lemon)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. anise extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
  1. Spray a round cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk milk, applesauce, egg and egg yolk, oil, Splenda, lemon juice, vanilla, anise extract, almond extract, and salt together until well-blended.
  3. Sprinkle the whole wheat flour into the liquid ingredients and stir until just moistened. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  4. While the batter rests, preheat oven to Bake at 350 degrees F./175 degrees C.
  5. Stir in the baking powder until thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs).
Nutrition information courtesy of the SparkRecipes calculator:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Persimmon Bread

Back home in Pennsylvania, each fall brought my family large bags of zucchini. In Japan, zucchini is expensive, but this time of year brings us somewhat lesser-sized bags of free persimmons. Even if our acquaintances here don't have trees of their own, relatives who live further afield send them boxes of the fruit and they can't possibly eat it all themselves so they share with us. This is always a very delightful experience for me since I love persimmons, but I often cannot eat them fast enough before they go bad.

The answer to the problem is persimmon bread, which I have made before but never in a sugar-free whole wheat version. Fortunately, persimmons can substitute very well for unsweetened applesauce so it was easy to formulate a recipe that worked on the first attempt. The result is a lightly sweet, surprisingly moist bread with a quite mild persimmon taste. In fact, I'd guess that even people who aren't fond of persimmons would enjoy this bread much as people who don't love zucchini can find eating a quick bread made with that vegetable enjoyable.

I found that one persimmon of relatively "average" size yielded about 3/4 cup of puree, though your results may vary if you have smaller or larger fruit. To prepare the puree, you just peel and de-seed the persimmon (if yours have seeds, mine did not) and run them in a food processor until liquefied. I will be freezing a lot of puree as my persimmons start to go soft. In fact, I may try subbing persimmons for applesauce in some recipes if I have the time to experiment and any ideas for complimentary flavors.

In this recipe, I used walnuts, but you can leave them out if you don't like nuts in your quick breads. It will also save you 50 calories per slice if you omit the walnuts. That being said, walnuts carry some good nutritional benefits and the small amount of calories is worth adding in the consumption of a bit of healthy fat.

Note that I did not eat this bread when fresh, but after it had sat overnight. It was incredibly moist and I think no one would know it was sugar-free or reduced fat from the texture, though the fact that it is whole wheat and a little heavier is pretty clear. You can make this into 6 or 8 servings, but I prefer 6 because this is a small loaf. One slice with margarine or butter makes a lovely breakfast with coffee or tea.

Persimmon bread (sugar-free, low-fat, whole wheat):
3/4 cup persimmon puree
1 medium egg
1/3 cup skim milk + 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar (or any mild-flavored vinegar)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup Splenda granular
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1.6 oz./45 grams walnuts (about 22 halves), roughly chopped
  1. Add the vinegar to the milk, stir, and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk the persimmon puree, egg, milk with vinegar, oil, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Splenda together until smooth.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the liquid mixture and stir just to moisten. Allow the batter to rest for about 15 minutes.
  4. While the batter is resting, grease and flour (or use cooking spray on) a loaf pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F./180 degrees C.
  5. Sprinkle the baking powder over the batter and add the chopped walnuts. Stir until the baking powder is well-blended but do not overmix or the bread will be tough.
  6. Spread the batter evenly into the loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes. The bread is done when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. 
Nutrition information courtesy of the SparkRecipes calculator:

With walnuts:

Without walnuts: