Sunday, April 25, 2010

When a Friend in Need Needs Candy

It's been a bad week for my healthy eating resolve anyway. The Wedding of the Year was yesterday -- the bride and groom glowed. As for that toast -- I remembered my lines and didn't knock over any furniture. The mic was a little faulty and I think some of what I said was lost. Still, I got my point across-- this was a joyous occasion.

If good wishes carry with them fate, the new Mr. & Mrs. Vito are destined for a lifetime of happiness. The caterer
delivered a superb dinner with three stations ... French, Mediterranean and New England cuisine. All yummy. And we danced and sang and danced some more.

It was a big friend week around here. For another of our favorite people, the surgery was reportedly a success and there's nothing like a homemade sugary treat to sweeten recovery time. Capping off all the candy and toast making, I'm back on the Flat Belly Diet! I've lost just nine pounds not the fifteen I was hoping for but I'm so far down this road there's no reason to quit now. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, go ahead. Make some cashew brittle.

CASHEW BRITTLE
2 cups raw sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of salt
1/2 cup water
2 cups cashew halves
2 teaspoons baking soda

Using butter flavored cooking spray, grease a large baking sheet and set aside. In a medium heavy bottom, stainless saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, salt and water. Cook over medium heat-high until it reaches a boil. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches soft crack stage, 280 degrees F. Stir in nuts.

Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 12 to 14 minutes. Stir frequently until mixture reaches hard crack stage, 300 degrees F. Remove from heat and quickly mix in baking soda. The addition of the baking soda adds air pockets to make the candy light yet crunchy. Spread the hot mixture on the baking sheet, using a spatula to spread as thinly as reasonably possible.

When the candy is cool enough to handle but still hot, butter your hands and pull at each corner to stretch it even thinner. Don't worry about cracks as you pull. when the brittle cools you will break it into pieces anyway. Stores well in an airtight container such as a candy tin for up to two weeks. Makes about two pounds of carmelized cashew brittle.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

All Kinds of Nuts

Part of the encouragement boost in following Flat Belly Diet! are the success stories scattered throughout the book. On page 312 you'll meet Evelyn Gomer who, by her own admission, loves all kinds of nuts. Me, too. But I suspect she was referring only to the food kind. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc... all great MUFAs.

Evelyn and I have other things in common. Neither of us had a clue what a MUFA was until we started reading the book. On page 30 there is a section titled Good Fats versus Bad Fats. Pretty similar to the good (HDL) versus bad (LDL) cholesterol. Bottom line is that healthy fats remain liquid at room temperature while the bad ones are solid or semi-solid at room temperature.

There are three kinds of good fats: Monosaturated Fat (MUFA), Polyunsaturated Fat and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. And two kinds of bad fats: Saturated Fats and Trans Fats. It's important to note that dietary fat is actually an important energy source for our bodies. But eating the bad kind is pretty hard on your body and your health. It's worth investing some time reading up on fat so that you understand those nutrition labels at the grocery store.

Meanwhile here's a great main dish recipe with a MUFA boost for good taste and good health. This one has a little spicy bite. Yummy.

CHICKEN FLORENTINE
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 - 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry)
4 thin-sliced chicken breast cutlets (about 1 pound total weight)
2 tablespoons minced sun-dried tomato (dry packed)
1/2 cup low sodium fat free chicken broth
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Using a medium skillet over medium low heat, saute garlic, dried tomato and pepper flakes in one teaspoon of oil for about two minutes. Remove from heat, cool ten minutes then toss garlic mixture in a small bowl with cheese and well drained spinach. Set aside.

Lay chicken pieces flat on a work surface (an acrylic chopping board is a safe bet). Evenly divide the spinach mixture on each chicken piece and spread to about 1/2 inch of the outside of the meat. Roll each stuffed cutlet, ending with the narrower tip. Secure each roll with a toothpick.

Add remaining oil to the skillet. Add chicken rolls and brown the meat on all sides over medium heat (about 10 minutes). Add broth the cover and cook another 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer rolls to a platter, cover to keep warm. Dissolve 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 1 teaspoon white wine and add slowly to broth in the skillet. Let boil to slightly thickened. Whisk in lemon juice toward the end. Cut rolls into diagonal slices. Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with pine nuts. Feeds four. 320 calories per serving.

With 400 calories per meal as a target, that leaves room for a cup of steamed baby carrots as a side plus half a cup of fresh raspberries for dessert!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies to Diet For!

Oh yeah -- sweet treats from Flat Belly Diet! I played with the recipe just a tad to lower the calorie count so I could have more of them!

Page 232 says to make it a meal with 1 cup of nonfat cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of pineapple tidbits or mandarin oranges for an under 400 calorie meal, great for breakfast. Try a snack pack with 2 cookies and 1 cup of cold skim milk poured into an ice cold frosted glass ... super yummy!

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup oat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup olive or canola oil
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, oil, vanilla and egg whites until smooth. Fold in cranberries, walnuts and chocolate chips. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until well blended.

Let sit about three minutes before dropping batter by rounded tablespoons onto a large baking sheet (prepared in advance with a nonstick cooking spray). Slightly flatten each mound of dough, then bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden in color.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes 20-24 cookies at approximately 140 calories each. By reducing the amount of walnuts called for in the original recipe and substituting sunflower seeds the calorie count goes down but the MUFA (monounsaturated fat) value remains. Check in next week to learn why MUFAs are so important to your Flat Belly Diet! regimen.