Jun 19, 2010

Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

Sometimes I think everything is just better in its old-fashioned form. Old-fashioned phones didn't cause car accidents or stunt teenagers' vocabulary to three-letter words. Old-fashioned clothes actually clothed people. (Ever been to Miami Beach?) And old-fashioned recipes weren't made of chemicals. They were made of food. Tasty, nutritious, real food.

So what exactly makes this recipe old-fashioned? The made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits that thankfully replace those sticky, preservative-packed, nuclear war-surviving Twinkie-like “shortcakes” you’ll find disgracing the mere existence of strawberries these days.

No prepackaged shortcuts here. For this dessert, you'll actually have to get your hands in some dough. Knead it. Form biscuits. Slice and smash strawberries... But in the end, every buttery, flaky, sweet berry-cream bite will be well worth the trouble.

You start by making the sauce, a perfect mingling of strawberries and sugar, fancied up with the flavors of orange juice and vanilla. A definite win with the taste buds.

While the strawberry mixture is chilling, you can make the old-fashioned biscuits. If those words paint horrid images of lard, shortening and three-pound bags of sugar, have no fear. This is a Cooking Light-inspired blog, after all, so this treat will give you old-fashioned flavor without an old-fashioned gut. 

Low fat buttermilk and just a tidbit of butter do the trick and make biscuits truly worthy of strawberries. (And sausage gravy if you make a double batch.)

Once the biscuits are baked, cooled and sliced, you can start assembling your homemade creation. You can get all fancy with artistic saucy drizzles and perfectly balanced berries, or just throw it all in a bowl, pass it to your husband's happy hands and call it a day.

A tip: if that middle biscuit layer (the crown) is too rounded to stack, just slice off the edge and you'll have a flat surface to keep building. And hey, a snack!

The end result? Fantastic. I actually had initial doubts about replacing angel food or pound cake with a biscuit. (I prefer my biscuits layered with egg, sausage and cheese.) But these had a wonderful crumbly crunch on the outside and a soft fluffiness on the inside. A perfect compliment to the sweet, flavorful sauce.

Now if only I'd made my own old-fashioned whipped cream instead of using Cool Whip’s whipped oil. (Did you know that? Ridiculous.) But that’s for another day and another post.

Overall, it was the perfect summer treat. And let me tell you, we definitely ate it the old-fashioned way…

...we didn't waste a crumb.

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake
Cooking Light, June 1998
Yield: 6 servings

3 1/2  cups  halved strawberries, divided
1/3  cup  sugar
1/3  cup  orange juice
2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
1  teaspoon  lemon juice
1 1/4  cups  all-purpose flour
3  tablespoons  sugar
1  teaspoon  baking powder
1/4  teaspoon  baking soda
1/8  teaspoon  salt
3  tablespoons  chilled stick margarine or butter, cut into small pieces
1/2  cup  low-fat buttermilk
Cooking spray
6  tablespoons  frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed
Whole strawberries (optional)

Combine 1 cup strawberry halves, 1/3 cup sugar, orange juice, vanilla, and lemon juice in a bowl, and mash with a potato masher. Stir in 2 1/2 cups strawberry halves. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; cut in margarine with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk, stirring just until moist (dough will be sticky).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 4 times with floured hands. Pat dough into a 6 x 4-inch rectangle. Cut dough into 6 squares. Place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Split shortcakes in half horizontally using a serrated knife; place each bottom half on a dessert plate. Spoon 1/4 cup strawberry mixture over each bottom half. Top with shortcake tops; spoon 1/4 cup strawberry mixture over each top. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon whipped topping; garnish with whole strawberries, if desired.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 270 (24% from fat), Fat: 7.2g (sat 1.9g,mono 2.7g,poly 2.1g), Protein: 4.3g, Carbohydrate: 47.3g, Fiber: 3g, Cholesterol: 0.0mg, Iron: 1.7mg, Sodium: 183mg, Calcium: 93mg.

Jun 11, 2010

Rosemary Chicken Salad

While some kids grew up fearing dusty, cobweb-laden attics filled with looming shadows and stinky mothballs, the attic that I remember paints quite a different image. Aside from being keeper of the infamous toy trunk, it was a haven for my mother's beautiful, sweet smelling flowers and herbs, delicately hung from the ceiling to dry and preserve.

Thyme, lavender, statice, sweet Annie, sunflowers, rosemary...

All hovering high above our heads, filling that small space with the most wonderful smells. Who wouldn't love spending time in a place like that? (Although, I'm sure the three-dozen Barbies are truly what made me a regular.)

But even now, 14 years after moving out of my childhood home, I’m instantly taken back to my days in LaPorte, Indiana with the simple act of chopping fresh rosemary for this delicious chicken salad.

And what an awesome chicken salad it makes! Flavor-packed smoked almonds, chopped green onion, Dijon mustard and fragrant rosemary compliment each other perfectly, creating a delicate, earthy taste in quite possibly...no, most assuredly...the best sandwich I've ever made.*

*Unless you count that one sandwich with bacon, cheese and uh, fried chicken.

To start, I roasted the skinless, boneless chicken breasts by brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling with S&P, and baking at 350-degrees until done. (30-45 minutes - the perfect amount of time to chop the rest of the ingredients, and heck, even take a nap if so inclined.)

Then everything comes together beautifully with a little light mayo and fat free yogurt. Yogurt? Yep, surprised me, too, but wonderfully so. A little lettuce and fresh rosemary sourdough bakery bread and I was in business.

What a great sandwich. So thick and creamy, and bursting with flavor. I'm sure you could add all kinds of things to suit your taste buds, too. Next time I may try sliced grapes or small chunks of peeled apple.

The husband agreed with the awesomeness of this meal. He said it tasted like something you'd find at some fancy bakery. (Or, thankfully, in your very own kitchen.)

And so with every bite, every creamy, rosemary-infused bite, I was brought back to a simpler place and time. A place full of cascading flowers and herbs. And a time where the only thing on the agenda was making sure Barbie's golden hair was braided just right before Ken picked her up for the ball.

Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Brandy Long, Cooking Light, April 2005
Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 1 sandwich)

3  cups  chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 3/4 pound)
1/3  cup  chopped green onions
1/4  cup  chopped smoked almonds
1/4  cup  plain fat-free yogurt
1/4  cup  light mayonnaise
1  teaspoon  chopped fresh rosemary
1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
1/8  teaspoon  salt
1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
10  slices whole-grain bread

Combine first 9 ingredients, stirring well. Spread about 2/3 cup of chicken mixture over each of 5 bread slices, and top with remaining bread slices. Cut sandwiches diagonally in half.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 360 (29% from fat), Fat: 11.6g (sat 2.1g,mono 3.5g,poly 1.8g), Protein: 33.6g, Carbohydrate: 29.9g, Fiber: 4.4g, Cholesterol: 76mg, Iron: 2.9mg, Sodium: 529mg, Calcium: 104mg.

Jun 1, 2010

Crunchy-Chewy Sesame Cookies

If I were allergic to peanuts...

(And just let me take this time to thank God that I am in fact not allergic, because a life without Reese's peanut butter cups, chocolate-peanut butter ice cream and Thai peanut curry sauce is no life at all.)

...I would at least find comfort in the fact that peanut butter cookies, those sugar-coated, fork-pressed crave-able confections that are inhaled instead of eaten, could in fact still find their way to my mouth. How, you ask? With these little guys.

It's tahini to the rescue! The same miracle ingredient that makes hummus possible is now bringing peanut butter-like cookies to the allergy-inflicted masses! Along with a little dark sesame oil, brown sugar and the usual baking suspects, you too can have peanut-free, yet equally tasty cookie dough balls ready to be rolled into a bath of sweet sugar crystals. Just try to resist popping them in your mouth. They make great cookies, but lousy truffles.

Lightly smash them with a cup, skip the forking all together and throw them into the oven. I rescued mine a bit early as I usually do, and they came out perfectly crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and absolutely delicious all over.

The sesame flavor is a bit odd in a cookie, I'll admit, but in a good way I assure you. Very tasty. Alongside a cold glass of milk, these little wonders really do taste similar to their peanut butter counterparts. In fact, I think I could have fooled my husband had I not been singing the praises of tahini all morning. (It makes hummus and cookies!!)

So go make these. Your peanut allergy suffering friends and children will thank you. As for me, it's about time I go hunt down a spoonful of peanut butter. All this talk about tahini has surely made him jealous.

Crunchy Sesame Cookies
Cooking Light, December 2007
Yield: 3 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)

Cookbook Note: Roasted sesame-seed paste and dark sesame oil deliver a deep, nutty flavor. A touch of corn syrup and cornstarch ensure crispness.

1 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
1 1/2  tablespoons  cornstarch
1  teaspoon  baking powder
1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1  cup  packed brown sugar
1/3  cup  tahini (roasted sesame-seed paste)
2  tablespoons  dark sesame oil
1  tablespoon  light-colored corn syrup
2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
1  large egg
Cooking spray
2  tablespoons  granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk; set mixture aside.

Place brown sugar, tahini, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add syrup, vanilla, and egg; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating at low speed just until combined.

Lightly coat hands with cooking spray. Shape dough into 36 balls (about 1 inch each). Place granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll dough balls in granulated sugar; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten balls slightly with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.

Nutritional Information: Calories:71 (27% from fat), Fat: 2.1g (sat 0.3g,mono 0.8g,poly 0.9g), Protein: 1.1g, Carbohydrate: 11.9g, Fiber: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Iron: 0.5mg, Sodium: 53mg, Calcium: 17mg.
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