ah! there’s the (spicy chicken) rub

New Yorkers who were in the direct path of Superstorm Sandy are now picking up what she left behind, counting their losses and their blessings. During the storm, I had wished for the support of family, but I never got to test the kindness of strangers. I’m indeed humbled and so thankful that we survived with very little loss. We lost a week of work but we have our lives and the warm little apartment that is beginning to feel like a home away from our home in Bangkok. Whether I am in Bangkok or New York, I like to fill my home with the smells of cooking (and baking) and here is a really spicy chicken rub that can be mixed up in a hurry, sprinkled on chicken, and grilled in my George Foreman indoors. I don’t need an outdoor barbecue to enjoy this, and neither will you.

Spicy Chicken Rub for Grilling (adapted from allrecipes.com)
3 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix all together. Sprinkle generously on one side of the chicken and grill 3-5 minutes per side.

plantain tartelettes

I’m on a mission. A mission to make morsels of dessert that satisfy a sweet tooth without causing serious  overindulgence! After getting a plantain tart recipe at Easter from my cousins Peter and Karen, I was anxious to try it out. I had an idea to make tartelettes, mini-tarts filled with plantain. So I patiently waited for a plantain to ripen. Diana says they ripen on Jamaica time–it takes 7-10 days in a paper bag. My patience paid off and I finally got a ripe one.

Traditionally, the filling for plantain tarts is bright red. Unfortunately, the recipe  did not say how much red food coloring to use, so I decided to be conservative and try for a “dusty rose” shade. I merely succeeded in making it brown. Still, if it tastes like a plantain, then it must be a plantain. I did leave out the raisins–to me it’s sacrilegious to add any to a plantain tart.  The pastry, I must say,  is exquisite. It came out tender and flaky. However, I think  this filling could be more flavorful to go head to head with this pastry.

Plantain Tartelettes

Pastry
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
2-4 tablespoons iced water

Filling
1 cup ripe plantain, peeled and cut up
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon chopped raisins, optional
Red food coloring, optional

To make the filling:

  1. In a saucepan combine plantain, sugar, and water
  2. Cook over low heat until plantain is cooked through, about 5 minutes. The plantains will change from pinkish-orange when raw to deep yellow when cooked.
  3. Remove from heat and mash lightly. Add nutmeg, vanilla, butter, raisins if using, and red food coloring, if using. After adding 12 drops red and 4 drops blue, the plantain mixture turned dark brown.
  4. Allow filling to cool before filling tartelettes.

To make the pastry:

  1. Combine flour and salt with shortening and cut into pastry until flaky. Add iced water to bind together. [I used 2 tablespoons iced water.] Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate, about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 450˚F.
  3. Roll out chilled dough on a lightly floured board to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 40 two-inch rounds. Cake Baker’s Tip: If the dough warms it may become difficult to handle. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 15 minutes. Use a flat blade spatula to lift each round off the cutting board.
  4. Spoon about 1/2  tablespoon cooled filling in the center of each round. Top with another pastry round and gently press the edges together. Crimp one side with the tines of a fork.
  5. Place tartelettes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Brush tops of tartelettes  with a little milk.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 450˚F. Reduce heat to 350˚F and bake for 15-20 minutes. Pastry should be delicately brown.  Makes 20 tartelettes.

decadent dessert on a diet: lemon pudding cake

This was not a bad recipe! In texture it is a cross between a soufflé and a cake.  In taste, it was tangy and not too sweet but I could have done without the frustration during the baking. The directions were terse at best. Allrecipes.com didn’t say whether or not to grease the pan, nor how long and on what speed to beat the egg yolks. I had a lot of trouble getting the butter to blend with the batter so I recommend melting it first. I also recommend adding a pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites.

Have at room temperature
INGREDIENTS:
4 eggs, separated when cold
1 teaspoon lemon zest (about half of one small lemon)
1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of two small lemons)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
pinch of cream of tartar

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish.

The Cake Baker’s Note: I used an ungreased non-stick 8 inch pan.

In a large bowl on medium-high speed, beat together egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter or margarine until combined. Beat on high speed until thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes. In another large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt. Add flour-sugar mixture alternately with milk to the yolk mixture, beating well after each addition, starting and ending with the flour-sugar mixture.

The Cake Baker’s Note: Add one-third of the flour mixture  followed by half of the milk. Continue alternating flour and milk until well combined.

2. Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites. Using a whisk or whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter. To do this, first lighten the batter. This means to add a cup of whipped whites to the batter and whisk vigorously until blended. Then add the remaining whites all at once. Fold gently using a cut, through, turn motion. Continue folding until streaks of egg white remain. Pour into prepared baking dish.

The Cake Baker’s Note: For a demonstration of folding egg whites into batter, see the link below to a YouTube video.

3. Place a pan of hot water in the oven, and set the baking dish into the pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully take the baking dish out of the water. Cool in the pan on a wire rack about 10-20 minutes. After 10 minutes I found that the cooling cake had started to pull away from the sides of the non-stick pan. So an ungreased non-stick pan is the pan of choice for me! Slice with a thin blade into 12 pieces.

The Cake Baker’s Note: This cake is best served warm. It will have a pudding on the bottom. I recommend serving the cake with fresh berries and low-fat low sugar whipped topping for a delicious low calorie treat. Without the berries and cream 1/12 of the cake is approximately 165 calories.

the 500-calorie dinner: hoppin’ john, summer squash soup, and watermelon yogurt ice

Tired of dieting but must eat! These recipes came from Eating Well’s dinner menus which offer a main dish, a side, and a dessert, all for 500 calories. What a bargain! Now I’m starting the sequence with dessert, a cool delicious ice, because dessert takes the longest time to make, in fact! The second recipe is a light soup. The third one is a variation on the southern dish Hoppin’ John, and it is made with lean pork chops rather than with bacon or salt pork.

Watermelon-Yogurt Ice
This is so refreshing! Especially on a warm night in the Teeny Tiny Apartment.

Ingredients
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups diced seedless watermelon, (about 3 pounds with the rind)
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preparation
1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan.Cook,stirring,over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a glass measuring cup and let cool slightly.
2. Puree watermelon in a food processor or blender,in 2 batches,pulsing until smooth.Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled sugar syrup, yogurt and lime juice until combined. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another large bowl, whisking to release all juice. Discard pulp.
3. Pour the extracted juices into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturerʼs directions. As an alternative, pour into a shallow metal pan and freeze until solid, about 6 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer to defrost slightly, 5 minutes. Break into small chunks and process in a food processor, in batches, until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately or transfer to a storage container and freeze for up to 2 hours.

For one 1/2 cup serving: 74 Calories; 1 g Fat; 0 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 2 mg Cholesterol; 16 g Carbohydrates; 2 g Protein; 0 g Fiber; 21 mg Sodium; 155 mg Potassium

Golden Summer Squash and Corn Soup
This soup reminds me of the classic Chinese corn soup. It was rather bland so I suggest adding salt and pepper to taste. And a dash or two of hot sauce like Sriracha! Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), diced
3 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme or oregano, divided
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup fresh corn kernels, (tinned is okay)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash or two of hot chili sauce, optional but recommended
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese

Preparation
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook,stirring,1 minute.Add squash and 1 teaspoon herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash starts to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the squash is soft and mostly translucent, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)If you have an immersion or wand blender, then puree the soup in the pot.
3. Return the soup to the pan and stir in corn. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add hot sauce, if using. Serve garnished with the remaining 2 teaspoons herbs and feta or goat cheese.

For a scant 1 cup serving: 111 Calories; 6 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 6 mg Cholesterol; 13 g Carbohydrates; 5 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 462 mg Sodium; 497 mg Potassium

Blackeyed Peas with Pork and Greens
This one was quite tasty. I added 2 extra cloves of garlic; you can never have too much garlic. Remember not to overcook the pork or it will get tough.

Ingredients
1 pound boneless pork chops, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup instant brown rice
8 cups roughly chopped kale leaves, (about 1 small bunch), tough stems removed
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, preferably hot
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Preparation
1. Toss pork with salt and pepper.Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.Add the pork and cook, stirring, until just cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
2. Add onion,tomato paste and rice to the pan and cook until the onion softens,about 4 minutes. Add kale and garlic and cook until the kale begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in broth, vinegar, paprika. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until the rice is done, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved pork and black-eyed peas and heat for 1 minute.

For one serving (1 1/3 cups): 281 Calories; 8 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 45 mg Cholesterol; 32 g Carbohydrates; 22 g Protein; 5 g Fiber; 405 mg Sodium; 740 mg Potassium

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

A pavlova is a cake with a baked meringue base. If you’re looking for a flourless chocolate cake with fresh fruit, this simple recipe from nigella.com  is the answer. It’s a recipe with some quirky British-isms (e.g. “squidginess”) but the rest, like “sieved,”  you can figure out.  For ease of use, I converted the measurements from grams to ounces. I made one mistake and that was I used liquid egg whites instead of fresh egg whites. The reason why liquid egg whites is a bad idea is because they have impurities in them that prevent them from whipping up into a meringue. It still came out all right though the meringue wasn’t as light and as fluffy as it should have been. Nevertheless, the cake turned out slightly sweet and refreshing.  Like eating a giant macaroon, a pavlova is the perfect summer dessert!

Chopping Chocolate

Ingredients

FOR THE CHOCOLATE MERINGUE BASE:

  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (300g) caster sugar (superfine)
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved (sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 2 oz (50g) dark chocolate, finely chopped

FOR THE TOPPING:

  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream (at least 36% milk fat)
  • 2 cups (500g) raspberries
  • 2-3 tablespoons coarsely grated dark chocolate
Chocolate Meringue Disk

 Method

  1. Prepare to bake. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180°C/gas mark 4) and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. You want to use a large tray in case the meringue spreads as it bakes.  Gently rinse the raspberries and spread them to dry on paper towels. To chop the chocolate, I cut a big sheet of waxed paper and put the chocolate in the middle of it. Start with a corner and use a serrated knife to whittle the chocolate into pieces. After several cuts, turn the chocolate to another corner and repeat. The waxed paper makes it easier to tip the chocolate shavings into the bowl.
  1. Prepare the egg whites. [The Cake Baker’s Note: Make sure the bowl and beaters are free of grease and there is no yolk in the egg whites.] In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar one tablespoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle on top of the beaten egg whites the cocoa, vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Using a rubber spatula,  gently fold in the additions until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound the meringue on the prepared baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 9 inches (23cm) in diameter, smoothing the sides and top.
  1. Bake the meringue. Place the meringue in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300˚F (150°C/gas mark 2) and bake for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Nigella says, “When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess  beneath your fingers.” Thanks to Encarta, I learned squidgy means “soft, damp, and yielding.”  Turn off the oven and open the door slightly to allow the meringue to thoroughly cool.
  1. Decorate the cake. Just before serving, invert the cooled meringue on to a big serving plate. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form and spread it on top of the meringue. Scatter or place the raspberries on top. Nigella writes, “Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble, as you don’t want the raspberries’ luscious colour and form to be obscured, and sprinkle haphazardly over the top, letting some fall, as it will, on the plate’s rim.”
Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

The meringue base is supposed to crack like this, showing just a hint of the rich chocolate inside. Next time I would use a darker chocolate, perhaps 70-80% cacao. As you can see that thin meringue base wasn’t able to hold up its half of the cake. Tip: Cut the cake with a serrated knife and use a sawing motion. Don’t press down.

Pavlova Cutaway

Maple-Almond Flan

I made a New Year’s resolution to diet and eat healthy, so I have taken up the South Beach Diet. I downloaded two books onto my Kindle for Mac, South Beach Diet for Beginners and South Beach Diet Supercharged. Phase One, which lasts two weeks, is very strict about carbs, sugar, and fat. But it’s not all serious. I find the recipes fun to make and delicious too. Desserts are allowed in Phase One so that no one should feel deprived. Instead of going through the menu, I’ll just skip ahead to the dessert!

This flan recipe comes from the Supercharged book. It needs a water bath (bain marie) to set the custard. However, there were some problems with this recipe.  It did not state the oven temperature needed to set the custard. I guessed a moderate oven, 350˚F, would do. I also found that the custard set in 50 minutes rather than in 25 minutes at ? temperature. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have a roasting pan big enough to give the custard room to set. Instead, I used a 9 inch square glass baking dish. Though it took a while, the result is delicious and well worth it!

Ingredients for the flan:
1 tin (12 oz) fat free evaporated milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons nonfat milk
1/2 cup egg substitute (2 large eggs)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar substitute

Ingredients for flan topping:
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted (I used sliced almonds–it’s a preference!)
4 tablespoons sugar free maple syrup

Prepare the ingredients. Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a saucepan, combine evaporated milk and nonfat milk. In a small bowl, combine egg, vanilla, almond extract, and sugar substitute. Add to milk mixture. Heat until the milk is scalded; that is, little bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Do not boil. Ladle the milk-egg mixture into 4 ramekins. My teeny tiny kitchen didn’t have ramekins so I used ceramic coffee cups.

Bake the flan. Place ramekins (or coffee cups)  in a roasting pan and fill with hot water until the level of water comes half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in the preheated oven 50 minutes or until the tops turn golden brown. Remove from the water bath and cool slightly. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Serve. Toast the slivered/slice almonds in an ungreased skillet. You can also do it in a slow (275˚F) oven. To serve, drizzle a tablespoon of the maple syrup over the top of the flan then sprinkle the almonds on top. It’s so-oo good! You don’t feel you are on a diet.

Cake Baker’s Note: I used whole eggs to make this dessert, otherwise the calories per serving would have been 108.