Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Torsten and I were having dinner guests, so I decided to break away from the Weight Watchers thing for the night and bake an actually decadent dessert. Of course, I didn't decide this until we were actually at the grocery store, so I wound up making the recipe on the back of the cocoa can because that was the only way I could be sure to buy all the ingredients. Luckily, it turned out delicious. I don't know the Weight Watchers points, and I think that's really for the best. Also, my apologies for the small number of photos--my camera battery was on its last legs, and I only got a couple photos before it crapped out completely. But you get the idea.

New Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting Cake Ingredients
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk [I used 2%]
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
Cake Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.
  3. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
  5. Pour batter into pans. Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely
Frosting Ingredients
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Frosting Instructions
  1. Melt butter.
  2. Stir in cocoa.
  3. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency.
  4. Add more milk if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups.

There were no instructions on the assembly part, and I struggled a little bit with this because both cakes were sort of rounded on top, but by the time they had cooled completely they'd flattened out a little bit, so it wound up being okay. I just frosted one cake, then stuck the other one on top and frosted it too. It definitely didn't look professional, and I'm sorry I don't have a photo, but it worked.

The verdict: Oh my god delicious. I mean, I know it's pretty hard to go wrong with chocolate cake, but I've never been much of a baker so I was particularly proud of myself for making a cake from scratch. And it was easy, too--basically a bunch of mixing. I know, I always say my recipes are easy. Maybe I don't challenge myself enough or something, but most of what I cook DOES seem to be easy, and this was no exception. I had been a little worried about whether the cakes would stick to the pans, because I've never greased and floured a pan before, but the cakes slid right out after they had cooled for about ten minutes.

The cake went over very well. I try not to make unhealthy desserts often, so I don't know if I'll make this again, but I will definitely keep the recipe in mind for the next time we have company.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Recipe: Ground Beef Noodles

So, for awhile I had this modified beef stroganoff recipe that I was using, but the thing is that even though it sounds really good with the pasta and the beef and the sour cream and all, something about beef stroganoff just doesn't sit right with me. I think it's the combo of spices. So I was thrilled when I found this recipe that sounds a lot like beef stroganoff, but without the stuff I don't like.

Ground Beef Noodles: Makes 4 servings; 9 WW points per serving

  • 6 ounces whole wheat egg noodles, uncooked
  • 1 lb ground beef, 93% lean
  • 1 (6 ounce) can mushroom stems and pieces
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups V-8 vegetable juice (or tomato juice) [I used the low-sodium kind]
  • 2 teaspoons salt [I used onion powder instead of salt]
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt (optional) [I didn't use this, but I did add a dash of paprika]
  1. In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, saute the onions in butter until tender. [I don't have a Dutch oven and I didn't quite see how the noodles would all fit into the frying pan, so I used a pasta pot instead. Also, I added the mushrooms at this point instead of waiting until the end because I like cooked mushrooms.]
  2. Add meat and brown lightly.
  3. Place the noodles in a layer over meat.
  4. Combine the tomato juice with the seasonings, and pour over noodles.
  5. Bring to a boil, then cover.
  6. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes (or until the noodles are tender). [I was nervous that the noodles wouldn't all get cooked, because in the pasta pot they weren't all quite submerged in the liquid, so I went back a couple times during the 30 minutes and poked at them with a spoon to make sure they were covered with liquid.]
  7. Stir in the sour cream and mushrooms and bring to a boil.
  8. Serve hot.

The verdict: Wow, delicious! And even easier to make than most recipes, because there is almost no prep work--just chopping the onion. This is everything that I like about beef stroganoff without the stuff I don't like. We will definitely be making this again.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Recipe: Chicken Tetrazzini

I love chicken and Torsten isn't the biggest fan, so I'm always looking for ways to prepare it so that it will be moist and tender, preferably in a sauce that Torsten will enjoy. Chicken tetrazzini, with its thicker sauce than a lot of the broth-based sauces I like to make, seemed like it would fit the bill.

Chicken Tetrazzini: Makes 6 servings; 5 WW points per serving Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp reduced-calorie margarine [I used light butter instead.]
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped (about 5 scallions)
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fat-free skim milk
  • 1/2 pound chicken breast, cooked, skinless, cubed [I used more than 1/2 a pound, and I cooked it with the vegetables instead of doing it separately.]
  • 1/4 cup canned pimento, drained and sliced (about a 2 oz jar) [I didn't have pimentos, so I used red pepper flakes to add kick instead.]
  • 2 Tbsp sherry cooking wine
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz uncooked spaghetti, broken into thirds and cooked [I did not break up the spaghetti because I like it better in the long noodles.]
  1. Melt margarine in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add scallions and mushrooms; cook until tender, stirring, about 5 minutes. [I also cooked the chicken at this point.]
  3. Combine flour, garlic powder, pepper, broth and milk in a small bowl; mix until well blended.
  4. Add flour mixture to saucepan; cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. [It didn't take the full ten minutes for this to thicken for me.]
  5. Add chicken [mine was already in because I cooked it with the vegetables], pimentos and sherry; cook until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in cheese and add cooked spaghetti; toss gently. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

The verdict: This was delicious! Torsten loved it and so did I. The thicker sauce was a nice change of pace, and the vegetables gave it a nice flavor. I added a few extra spices and it definitely made a difference; without them, this dish might have run the risk of being bland. However, as it was, it was great, and really easy to make. I will definitely be making it again.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Recipe: German-Style Bratwurst

One of the dishes that we'll be serving at our wedding is bratwurst cooked in beer, and our caterer has requested that we provide them with the recipe to ensure that they cook it exactly to our specifications. So last night when we had a friend over for dinner, Torsten took the opportunity to make the dish and create the recipe. It's so easy that it hardly qualifies as a recipe. Also, bratwurst is definitely NOT Weight Watchers-friendly. I don't even want to know how many points are in one of those little sausages.

Torsten made a side dish of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, which I don't think we'll be serving at the wedding, but it was definitely yummy!

German-Style Bratwurst with Sauerkraut

  • 8 bratwurst links (or really, however many you want) [We get ours at Whole Foods, and it isn't even that expensive]
  • 1 bottle of beer (pale ale works best)
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups sauerkraut (again, this is totally approximate)
  • 1 baguette
  1. Boil water and add the potatoes. Cook them for 20 minutes or until soft.
  2. In the meantime, pour most of the bottle of beer into a frying pan and place over medium-high heat.
  3. Make three incisions on both sides of each sausage. Add them to the pan once the beer is hot. Cook for 20 minutes, turning them occasionally so that they cook evenly.
  4. While the sausage is cooking, add the small remaining amount of beer to a second frying pan and place over medium-high heat.
  5. When the beer is warm, add the sauerkraut and saute for a few minutes until heated through.
  6. Once the potatoes are done, add the cream and mash them in a bowl. [We used a plastic potato masher for this.]
  7. To serve, place a sausage inside a piece of baguette and put on a plate with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. Traditional Germans will mix the potatoes and sauerkraut together as they eat, but this is up to you. Many people also like to eat their bratwurst with ketchup or mustard.

The verdict: This was not healthy, but totally delicious. It's very simple to make, so much so that writing a recipe for it almost seems silly. The idea is just to cook the sausage in beer until it's done. It's a very drippy, informal thing to eat, and lots of fun, too. Plus it makes you feel authentically ethnic, because the recipe is coming straight from my resident German. We will definitely be making this one again, but not too often because it doesn't really fit in with my whole healthy living plan.

Friday, August 1, 2008

New Recipe: Moo Shu Beef

I LOVE moo shu beef, but I was skeptical about being able to make it at home. But it seemed like it was worth a shot. And my apologies in advance, but I forgot to take photos. Still, the recipe is worth sharing.

Moo Shu Beef: Makes 6 servings; 6 WW points per serving

  • 8 oz lean sirloin beef
  • 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium scallions, chopped
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp sherry cooking wine
  • 2 cup Chinese cabbage, or Napa cabbage, chopped [I used Napa.]
  • 1/3 cup canned bamboo shoots, drained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup canned straw mushrooms, drained and sliced
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • 12 medium tortilla, flour, fat-free, warmed [I used low-fat whole wheat tortillas, and we only used 8.]
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  1. Place beef in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and cornstarch; stir to coat.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet or wok [I used a skillet, since we don't own a wok]. Add scallions and garlic; sauté 1 minute.
  3. Add beef and cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Add remaining soy sauce and sherry; cook 1 minute more.
  4. Add cabbage, bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Sauté until vegetables are browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in egg white and cook 2 minutes more.
  5. To serve: Place a heated tortilla on a plate. Spread 2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce on tortilla and then place 3 tablespoons of beef filling on top of sauce. Roll up, folding in one end to seal in filling. Yields 2 filled tortillas per serving.
The verdict: DELICIOUS. Very similar to the moo shu I know and love in restaurants, but much healthier. The recipe is simple to make, and I didn't even alter it. I loved eating all those vegetables, too. It made me feel virtuous. We will definitely be making this one again.