Thursday, October 27, 2005

Spinach Dip... With A Different Twist

Party Line with Dan & Steve quickly became a new favorite show to catch on The Food Network. On a recent show entitled: DVD Night - episode DS101, they made a wonderful Spinach, Artichoke and Bacon Dip.

We were invited to play cards that upcoming weekend and I thought what a perfect excuse, like I needed one, to give this a try. Personally, I loved it. Because it contains artichoke hearts, I think some people shyed away from it. But the lemon zest does give it a nice fresh flavor. However, next time I think I will use a little less as it can be so strong.

I doubled the recipe as I wanted some left over since it is very low-carb! Although it pairs very well with a good dipping chip, cracker and even torn bread, I wanted to keep within the low-carb range and took one of my carb chopper tortillia's and made it into a wrap. I like to cut them into slices, as shown in the picture on the right. It makes them easier to eat and it also makes a great appeitzer for guests.

And like any good dip, it thought it got better after 2 days in the refrigerator.

There recipe follows, and here is the link which also contains a recipe for crispy pitas, which for some reason they didn't do in the show. I guess they ran out of time. Enjoy!

Spinach, Artichoke and Bacon Dip
from Party Line with Dan & Steve

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
10 bacon strips, fried until crisp and crumbled
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Crispy Pitas, recipe follows
Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot softens and the garlic begins to brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Put the spinach in a colander and squeeze out all of the excess water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the artichoke hearts, crumbled bacon, cooked garlic and shallot, lemon zest, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix well with a rubber spatula, and transfer to a decorative bowl. Allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving so the flavors can blend. Serve with crispy pitas.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

If you like peanut butter and jelly then you will probably love these. I made these last weekend and they were so delicious. The recipe comes from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network, another one of my TIVO favorites. My only advice is not to be tempted to cut them early as they will totally fall apart. (Take it from experience). I let them cool about 3 hours and then I put them in refrigerator. They condense the longer you let them sit and cool. Oh, and I use 1 1/3 cups of sugar. You can probably get away with using even less or substituting some splenda. Enjoy!

Click Here for the link to the recipe:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter (recommended: Skippy)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) raspberry jam or other jam
2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.

Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don't worry if all the jam isn't covered; it will spread in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and cut into squares.

Yield: 24 bars.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mini Low-Carb Pizza

I thought I would share this recipe that uses low-carb wraps as your pizza dough. It's great with a salad or even as a snack. There are several pictures at the end of this entry.

Notes on the recipe:

Once you start prepping, it's very easy to make a few of these at a time, I just use the regular oven instead of the toaster oven.

Chopped fresh Basil and other fresh herbs work well if available.

Rule of Thumb For This Recipe: Any ingredient that contains a lot of moisture will soak into the wrap causing it to become very soggy and limp.

The picture shown above was made with cheddar and monterey jack cheeses.

Mini Low-Carb Pizza

1 Low-Carb Tortilla
1/4 cup of grated cheese, mozzarella, cheddar and monterey jack work best.
1 plum/roma tomato sliced (Roasted Peppers work well too)

First, bake/broil the tortilla wrap on a piece of aluminum foil as to remove a fair amount of the moisture until it starts to turn lightly brown. The ends will begin to curl up. My method is 5 mins. on one side and then I flip it and 5 mins. on the second side. If you skip this step, the pizza will turn out very soft and limp.

While the wrap is baking, I slice the tomato, lay them out on paper towel and sprinkle them lightly with kosher salt to draw out excess water. This will prevent the pizza from becoming soggy.

Next, if I grate the cheese(s) if necessary. Buying pre-shredded cheese saves time but it's not as fresh.

When the wrap is finished baking, remove it from the oven and I spread the cheese on top and then the tomato slices, sprinkle it with any of the following: oregano, italian seasoning, garlic powder or fresh herbs. It then gets put it back in the oven for about 3-5 mins until the cheese is melted and the ends of the wrap start to turn golden brown.

Remove from oven, let stand 1 minute and enjoy! I usually get the pizza cutter out and cut it into 8 slices.

Sliced Roma Tomatoes Tomatoes sliced, salted and on two paper towels. After they've sat for a few minutes, I take a third paper towel and press down on them from the top. It's amazing how much water tomatoes contain. I tend to use plum or roma tomatoes as they contain less water and are meatier. I leave them on top when I put them on the pizza as it lets the water evaporate instead of being trapped under the cheese.

Monteray Jack and Chedder cheese freshly grated and ready to go! It's amazing how expensive cheese can be. I usually try and buy it whole and grate it myself. You just can't compare to it being freshly grated. I generally use a combination of either these two and/or mozzerella. I've even used regular American, Swiss, Asiago or Fontina. I've even grated parmesian reggiano or locatelli when I have them.

In these next two pictures, the one on the left is before it was cooked and the one on the right, obviously is after.

These are my favorite wraps. I found this 20 count package at Sam's Club. The price was $4.26. Such a deal as they are a regular part of my diet.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A Magazine Favorite: Cook's Illustrated

The companion magazine to the televison show, America's Test Kitchen, is published bi-monthly and I always look forward to every issue. It's one of those magazines that I take the time to actually sit down to read AND enjoy.

First and foremost... there are NO advertisements!! Can't say enough about that! Ok.. one more time... NO ADVERTISEMENTS!

Christpher Kimball's editorial usually brings a warm smile to my face as he shares the current happenings of the season.

The next couple of pages are filled with Notes From Readers and Quick Tips. Can I tell you how much I learn from these pages? Ok I will... the facts, tips, advice, experiences that are published are practical ideas that one can incorporate into every day kitchen life.

The remaing pages are filled with recipes, recipe make-overs, improvements and tests, equipment testing results, step-by-step instructions as well techniques and "Cook's extra" which allows you to key in codes that are valid for a certain period of time. An expiration date is listed.

A smile always appears on my face when it arrives in the mail. I know it's going to bring me together with a delicious cup of coffee or tea. Maybe I should do that more often... guess it's time to subscribe to it's sister magazine... Cook's Country....

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Flaxseed-Peanut Butter-Low Carb

While picking up a few items in Sam's Club yesterday, I came across a new product from The Peanut Snack Co.: Naturally More; What Peanut Butter Should Be. As I picked up the jar and started reading the label, a very nice employee of Sam's asked me if I would like to try a sample. It was delicious. Great flavor and I loved the texture. I was sold!

What had initially caught my eye that it is a "natural" peanut butter. Since we've moved to Tampa I have been unable to find Crazy Richard's Peanut Butter which only ingredient is Peanuts. There are similar products out on the market, but the texture and taste just isn't the same. I do have a jar of "low-carb" peanut butter that serves in a pinch, but it isn't my favorite.

The second item that grabbed my attention is that it is fortified with Flaxseed and Flaxseed oil.

This is the first product on the market that I've seen, without going into a health food store, that contains Flaxseed! Three Cheers to The Peanut Snack Company for this wonderful and healthy product.

It came in two-pack of one pound jars each and it cost $4.64, which I thought was a great price!

Here's the breakdown and check their website out for additional information:

Serving Size: about 2 tbsp (35g/1.23oz)
Serving Per container: about 13
Calories: 169
Fat Calories: 98
Total Fat: 11 G 19%
Sat. Fat 2g 9%
Omega-3 4.1g 8%
Omega-6 1.2g 1%
Cholest. 0 mg
Sodium 130mg
Total Carbs: 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber: 4g 16%
Sugars: 2g
Protein: 10g 26%
Iron: 4%
Folic Acid: 58%
Riboflavin: 1%
Niacin: 11%
Vitamin E: 5%

Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, Egg Whites, Wheat Germ, Flaxseed, Flax Oil, Honey, Salt

All Ingredients Proudly Grown in the U.S.A.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

New Discovery: Ancient Flaxseed

Some interesting facts that I did not know about Flaxseed:

It's fiber is used to produce Linen.

It's oil is often called Linseed Oil.

It's origins go as far back to ancient Egypt as flax seeds and cloth have been found in tombs.

Homer mentions it in the Odyssey.

I first found found flaxseed meal in a local natural food store. I purchased it because it is low in carbs. Check out my entry on Low Carb Pizza Dough.

From UC Berkley Wellness Center / Wellness Guide to Dietary Supplements

Claims, Benefits: Prevents heart disease and cancer.

Bottom Line: Flaxseed oil is heart-healthy because it contains alpha-linolenic acid. Flaxseed itself (ground or whole) also contains lignans, which may have antioxidant actions and may help protect against certain cancers, though this is
far from certain. Skip flaxseed supplements, though.

The following comes from Shirley's Wellness Cafe:

"The human body cannot function properly without two polyunsaturated fats - linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid. These fatty acids, which are found in Flaxseed Oil are truly to normal cell structure and body function."

Flax Council of Canada -

Both brown and golden flax seeds have plenty of lignans and dietary fibre, and both contain more than 50 per cent alpha-linolenic acid. This is an omega-3 fat which offers you health and heart fitness.

Kookie Kutter

Its high content of alpha linolenic acids has made the ancient flax seed become our modern miracle food. Alpha linolenic acid is a type of omega 3 fatty acid, similar to those found in fish such as salmon. Benefits of flax seed as shown in many studies include lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the Bad cholesterol) levels. Other benefits show that flax seed may also help lower blood triglyceride (Also Read: How to lower Triglycerides?) and blood pressure. It may also keep platelets from becoming sticky therefore reducing the chance of a heart attack.