Saturday, February 25, 2012

Berry and Cucumber Smoothie

Doesn't this smoothie look good?

After reading Jamie's post on smoothies, I was intrigued to try Joy the Baker's strawberry cucumber smoothie. I had to tweak it slightly as I had a frozen berry mix rather than just frozen strawberries.

In the blender, blend:

- 1 cup of almond milk (regular milk would probably work fine too)
- 1 1/2 cups of frozen berries
- half an English (or hothouse) cucumber, seeded and chopped into chunks
- a spoonful of honey

You can probably also use a regular cucumber if you peel that waxy peel off first.  You'll still want to remove the seeds and chop it.

I was a bit nervous trying a smoothie with a vegetable in it but I found this smoothie tasty, pretty refreshing, and very berry-licious.  My 12 year-old daughter was less impressed and swore she couldn't help but taste all that cucumber.  Sigh, this mom still says, it's a keeper!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bourbon and Spicy Ginger Soda

For Paul's birthday, I knew I wanted to make a cocktail that featured his favorite bourbon--Woodford Reserve. So I found an intriguing recipe in Hugh Acheson's "A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen": Maker's Mark and Spicy Ginger Soda. I didn't have the fresh ripe peaches or the drink's eponymous bourbon. But I knew Paul would love the ginger so I went ahead with what I had:

1/2 pound of fresh ginger
1 cup turbinado sugar
6 oz of bourbon
4 oz of soda water/seltzer

Prep the ginger by peeling it and ideally finely grating it. Man, this is a lot of work.  As someone who doesn't work with ginger in such large quantities often, this was a LOT of work.  I ended up mincing it as much as I could because grating it seemed to just make a weird stringy mess where I was losing the juice.

Bring 1 cup of water, the minced or grated ginger, and the turbinado sugar to boil.  Don't be surprised-it's going to be a lot of ginger in the pot.  Turn off heat and let it steep for an hour. Strain off the ginger pieces and save the syrup.

Fill two glasses with ice. Add 3 oz of bourbon and 1 fat spoonful of ginger syrup and stir. Add 2 oz of soda water. Stir gently, find a place to get comfortable, and enjoy.  Ideally outside with friends and family.

The remaining ginger syrup will last in the fridge for 2 weeks--my daughter loved making fresh ginger soda with the syrup and seltzer.  So much tastier than the canned variety.

Friday, February 10, 2012

French Toast for Mom

The last meal I cooked for my mom before I left yesterday was Mom-friendly French toast. It was geared towards being low cholesterol, low carb, low sugar, and low sodium. Interested?

I mixed about 1/4 cup of "Better 'n Eggs" egg substitute, with a dash of vanilla, dash of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of Splenda. I find a little sweetener brings out the vanilla and cinnamon. One can also add a tablespoon or two of milk but for some reason, I feel like one can forgo it with the egg substitute:

I soaked two pieces of Wonder "SmartWheat" bread (this bread is lower-calorie, lower in sodium, and higher in fiber than other sliced breads) in this mix and then grabbed a few almonds and walnuts:

I chopped up the nuts coarsely and toasted them in a dry frypan until toasty and fragrant:

I removed the nuts and then sprayed the same pan with nonstick spray (no biggie if nut dust still in pan) and cooked the soaked bread on each side until golden brown.  Top with a bit of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter", sugar-free pancake syrup, and toasted nuts and ta-da!

Mom-approved French toast.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Healthier Microwave Popcorn

My mom was craving a snack and specifically mentioned microwave popcorn, but the stuff available hardly fit her low-sodium needs.  So I did a little research online and decided to try to make a healthier version of microwave popcorn.  The results were impressively healthy, easy, and cheap.  And tasty enough to satisfy my mom's popcorn craving.  Interested?

You'll need some popcorn kernels and brown lunch bags.  For the light butter-ish flavor my mom was craving, I also got some buttery topping/spray.

For a decent 4 cup snacking portion, put 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernels in the brown lunch bag. You could definitely put 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) in a lunch bag for a larger portion. Some versions online also added 1 tsp of olive oil and some salt to the 1/4 cup of kernels in the bag as well to add flavor, but I stuck with the no-oil version to keep it healthier for my mom:

Fold the top over twice and stand up in the microwave.  In my mom's new 1100 watt microwave, I set it to 2 minutes on HIGH.  The timing varies--it could be done in 80 seconds or a minute and 45 seconds--you'll want to stop it when the popping slows down to about 2 seconds between single pops. Definitely hit stop when you start to smell burned popcorn.

It kind of didn't look like much in the bag:

But when I poured it out, I only had a few unpopped kernels.  I was pleased at how crisp the popcorn was--as crunchy as regular microwave popcorn and I'd say it's crisper than air-popped corn.  Here you could top it with real melted butter and salt, but again, to keep it lighter for my mom, I sprayed the popcorn with some buttery topping/spray and tossed it to kind of spread it evenly. By then, my mom was ready to grab the bowl:

Nutrition-wise (from what I gathered from the label), this 4 cup serving of popcorn was 60 calories, 13 grams of carbs, 0 sugar, less than 1 gram of fat, almost 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 0 cholesterol, and about 20-35 grams of sodium (5 for the popcorn, 15 for 5 "sprays" of buttery topping--though I think I did about 10 squirts).

And bonus! This was much, much cheaper than buying packaged microwave popcorn. That 2 pound sack of popcorn kernels pictured was $2 and will yield over 50 four-cup servings, at about 4 cents each. And that 100 pack of lunch bags was also $2, so at most it's 2 cents at a time (though, since I didn't use any oil, I could see reusing a bag if I was going to pop more than one serving).

So a easy and healthy snack at less than 10 cents a serving. Another keeper!