Monday, December 17, 2012

Perfectly Easy Last Minute Gift from the Kitchen.

WOO HOO! The kitchen at Cancer Wellness was the site of a chocolate festival this afternoon, led by yours truly. Carolyn, Director of Cancer Wellness, and I decided that our favorite docs needed a little pick -me-up before the holidays.

Far from the usual boxes of cookies or candy, full of fat, sugar and preservatives, our chocolate gifts were packed to the rim with 70% Chocolate Ginger Bark. Dark and rich and absolutely irresistible, our boxes allowed for a chocolate treat with lots of luscious flavor AND antioxidants.

You can easily create this gift at the last minute - making sure that no one on your holiday list is left behind because of time.From start to finish the bark only took 2.5 hours. And when I say finish - I mean in the tin with tissue paper and a bow. Carolyn wrote out the cards, and I handled the rest.

Not all chocolate is the same! Make sure you are a "label detective" before you buy chocolate to make the bark. Three things  you should look for when you buy chocolate, to make sure it is full of antioxidants and it is a better-for-you choice:

  1. The Cacao or Chocolate Content should be above 60%
  2. The first ingredient should be Chocolate, Cocoa or Cocoa Solids NOT Sugar
  3. You should NOT see the words "Dutch Processed" or "Processed with Alkali". The Dutch Process uses Alkali, so these two phrases are the same. In the past, when the public did not like bitter chocolate, the dutch process made the chocolate softer and less bitter. Today, we are used to a more bitter flavor, so it is not as big an issue. When the chocolate is processed with alkali it strips a great deal of the antioxidants out of the chocolate. Unfortunatley, many of the chocolates that are extremely popular are dutch processed. But its not hard to find good chocolate. Try the Lindt, Ghiradelli or Scharfenberger chocolate brands. Also - Trader Joes has a 72% dark chocolate bar that tastes great!

We used Crystallized Ginger in the Bark today - Here it is, broken into pieces, 
before I put it in the Holiday Tins!

Luscious and EASY and Better-For-You Chocolate Bark

4 (3.5 OZ) 70 – 90% Dark Chocolate Bars (I like Lindt Chocolate)
½ Cup Toasted Nuts OR ½ Cup Dried Fruit (Cherries, Blueberries, Cranberries) OR Crystallized Ginger

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, or in the microwave. Pour the melted chocolate on a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle the nuts and dried fruit over the chocolate and place in the fridge until the chocolate hardens. Break the bark into pieces and serve.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Famous Fig Cake

This was my mother's recipe. Well, at least the name. Her recipe was full of fig jam, lots of sugar, eggs and butter. Of course it was good - but all that jam and sugar made it so sweet - my teeth hurt! As a Healthy Chef Partyologist my goal is always to make food better-for-us, so I decided that this delicious and moist cake was certainly worth a try.

My first plan of attack was the butter - I replaced it with oil and applesauce. The applesauce replaced one-third of the original butter, and the oil the rest. Her recipe also called for 3 eggs - I replaced one-third of the eggs with egg whites, substituting 2 large egg whites for 1 large egg. I replaced the all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour. If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, use one-third whole wheat flour and two-thirds all purpose flour.(This one-third thing is starting to sound like a theme!)

I had to lighten up the sugar load as well - so instead of Mother's Fig Jam, I thought of dried figs. Their sweetness and texture became perfect when I boiled them in orange juice, and the citrus brightened the taste and the texture became very jammy. Without all the sugar!

When I reduce the fat, sugar and calories in a recipe, I also ramp up the spices. Remember that herbs and spices have no fat, no salt, no sugar and no calories. (Okay, maybe a few calories.) Instead of just the cinnamon and nutmeg called for in Mom's cake, I added Cardamom and Mace to the Cinnamon. The Mace is the outer covering of Nutmeg and it's especially pungent and flavorful. The Cardamom adds an earthy warm citrus aroma and taste.

I love my "remodeled" recipe, cause you can make it into mini muffins for breakfast, bake in a 9x12" pan and just dust it with powdered sugar, or go all the way like we did - by frosting it with the optional cream cheese frosting.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Orange Fig Cake

1 Cup Orange Juice
1 Cup Dried Figs, chopped finely
2 Large Eggs
2 Large Egg Whites
1 Cup Raw Sugar
1 Cup Canola Oil
1/2 Cup Light Buttermilk
1 Tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Whole Wheat Pasty Flour
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Fine Sea Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Ground Cardamom
1/2 Tsp Mace
1/2 Cup No Sugar Added Applesauce
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, toasted plus more for garnish
       OPTIONAL: Cream Cheese Frosting (made with 2 Cups powdered sugar, 
8 oz light cream cheese,
 I TB orange zest and 1 tsp vanilla extract.)

Step One Reconstitute the dried figs by bringing 
the orange juice to a boil. 
Add the figs and let sit until the figs are very soft.

Step Two Beat the next 4 ingredients at medium speed 
in the bowl of a standing mixer. 
Add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until combined.

Step Three Whisk together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, 
cardamom and mace.
Gradually add it to the buttermilk mixture, 
beating until blended.
 Fold in figs, applesauce, and toasted pecans. 
(Batter will be thin.) 
Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 
8-inch round cake pans, 
cupcake liners or a 9” x 12” pan.

Step Four Bake at 350° for 45 – 60  minutes 
or until a 
toothpick inserted in center 
comes out clean. Cool on wire racks 
10 minutes 
then remove from pans, and cool 
completely on wire racks. 
Dust with powdered sugar, 
or frost with optional 
cream cheese frosting.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Afternoon in the Country with NO Wines

If you read the Friday Four, or the Facebook page you are familiar with NO Wines. Not only are they delicious, the NO stands for NO oak, NO cork and NO malactic fermentation. All those "NO"s add up to a crisp clean Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that are incredibly food friendly. (And you know that I LOVE that!) The other reason to love NO is that Kathy and Hank Bremer partner with Muss and Turner, Local Three and  Concentrics Restaurants to provide a portion of the sale of NO wines to a breast cancer charity. This year, Cancer Wellness at Piedmont is the recipient. Yey!

Kathy Bremer, with her husband Hank are the winemakers of NO, and Kathy asked me to come out to Serenbe, and idyllic farm, south of Atlanta to help her pour wines for a La Dames d'Escoffier fundraiser. Besides their incredibly helpful and charming, daughter Taylor and friend Emma, Heather Richardson joined us behind the table. Heather is not only a creative stylist, our table was beautiful. But also a surgeon - in fact Heather is the partner of my much loved breast surgeon, Bill Barber. What a treat to be with such wonderful company!

Since I believe that wine should always be served with food, I offered to make a couple of appetizers to pair with the wine. Kathy had brought no only the NO wines, but a Morgan Pinot Noir, a Cigar Box Malbec and Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon. Yum! I decided on Romesco, the Spanish Roasted-Pepper-Toasted-Almond Spread tucked inside a sweet red pepper and topped with a sprinkle of Manchego Cheese, And a crostini topped with wild mushroom pate made with goat cheese. Both were delicious, (she said modestly:) and good, good pairs for the wines.

As we were close to the start of the 1600 person event, the first hour and a half was fast and furious. Not just because there were so many participants, but many of the wine drinkers circled back around to have a second taste of the wine. What fun! Lots of laughter and meeting the guests. My favorite was the number of hugs exchanged as friends and acquaintances recognized each other - I got to see so many Friday Four subscribers and cooking students and friends.

I promised to post the recipes for the appetizers to many of the folks who stopped at the table, so here they are. You can feel good about making and serving both of these treats. They are veggie, lighter and delicious fare to pair with a good glass of wine or holiday cheer!

Romesco is a sauce from Spain that is thickened with bread. Easy AND delicious, a real crowd pleaser! It’s a great make-ahead condiment that can be used in myriad ways! Use it for a bruschetta that is topped with Manchego and Green Onions; try it as a sauce on whole wheat pasta; instead of mayo on a sandwich; enjoy it instead of cocktail sauce for shrimp or plop a spoonful right on a piece of grilled fish or chicken. It also freezes great!

from TASTE and SAVOR, Delicious Healthy Recipes and Tasty Wine Tips!
1 Cup Slivered Almonds
2 (1”) Slices Rustic Country Bread
1/2 Cup Sherry Vinegar
2 Roasted Red Peppers
2 TB Tomato Paste
1 TB Fresh Lemon Juice
1 TB Sweet Smoked Paprika
1/2 Tsp each Sea Salt and Black Pepper
3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Step One 
On a baking sheet, toast the almonds in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Step Two 
Cube the bread, and place in a bowl with the vinegar for 30 minutes.
Step Three 
In a food processor, grind the almonds; add the vinegar and bread, the peppers, tomato paste, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Wild Mushroom CROSTINI

3 TB EVOO, divided
4 Green Onions, Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, Chopped
24 oz Wild Mushrooms, Divided
3 TB Worcestershire Sauce
10 OZ Goat Cheese Log, Room Temp
2 TB Light Soy Sauce
1 TB Balsamic Vinegar
2 TB Poultry Seasoning
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Loaf of Whole Grain Bread, Sliced

Step One
Sauté the green onions in one TB of the oil until wilted - add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.  Add one TB oil to the sauté pan.  Chop two-thirds of the mushrooms and add to the pan. Sauté over medium high heat until mushrooms release their juices. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl to cool.
Step Two
Slice the remaining mushrooms, and add to the sauté pan along with the remaining one TB of oil. Add the Worcestershire sauce and sauté over medium high heat until browned.
Step Three
Using the bowl of a food processor puree the onions, garlic, goat cheese, soy sauce, vinegar and seasoning. Process until smooth.
Step Four
Remove the goat cheese mixture from the food processor and add to the chopped sautéed mushrooms, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spread on the crostini and top with a mushroom slice.