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: