Low-Fat Jumbo Maple-Walnut Muffins

Combing through my 4″ thick loose-leaf  binder of recipe favorites, I happened on these muffins I last made before the new millenium.  But even so, their chewy texture and rich maple flavor still resonated, and they became the perfect excuse to whip out my oversized muffin tin and the oversized parchment liners I found on sale last week.

I do have normal-sized muffin tins, but have used them recently simply for the individual portions of newish Jewish gefilte fish for Passover.  (Don’t cringe.  Those little babies are made with a combination of fresh salmon and cod and smoked trout, and they deserve a better name, like quenelles.)  When I bake muffins, I prefer to make them bodaciously big, and split one with my husband, as we do with the cobblestone cakes from Panera, or my knock-offs thereof.

These muffins are low fat, with only 1/4 cup vegetable oil… the rest of the moistness coming from unsweetened applesauce and chopped prunes (ok, dried plums if you must).

Of course they can be made to normal scale with adjusted baking temp and time – probably 25º cooler and 5 minutes shorter.  But go big if you can and share one with your sweetie.  As I write this I just realized I left out the ground cinnamon – not as disastrous as leaving out either of the leavening agents or the salt, but damn…I wonder how much I’ll miss that flavor note.

Jumbo Low-Fat Maple Walnut Muffins with Prunes

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup pitted prunes coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup buttermilk (Bob’s Red Milk buttermilk powder – use 2 tbsp and then add water to make 1 cup

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B, now known as Dark Robust)

1/2 cup light brown sugar (or 1/4 cup each dark brown and white sugar)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 tsp each vanilla and maple extract

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 375º.  Line 6 oversized muffin tins with parchment paper liners.  In large bowl combine first 8 ingredients.  Whisk remaining ingredients together in 4-cup Pyrex cup or medium mixing bowl.  Stir wet ingredients into dry until just combined.  Divide batter equally among muffin cups, all the way to the top.  I use a 1.3 cup measuring cup filled to overflowing and fill each muffin cup twice…keeps spills to a minimum.

Bake until tops are golden brown and tester comes out clean, about 33 minutes.  Ease the muffins out of their tins with a table knife – just enough to nudge them, as nothing is going to stick to the pan.  Let cool on a rack.

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Foolproof Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Canneloni

Several years ago an episode of America’s Test Kitchen gave me another of their superb cooking hacks – a way to make manicotti or canneloni without struggling to fill pasta shells that often cracked, sometimes just in the box from shipping, but more often from the pressure exerted in stuffing them.  The trick is to use no-cook lasagna noodles in lieu of manicotti shells, softening them in very hot water until pliable, and then doing rolls-ups with your stuffing of choice – in this case, a combination of fully-cooked Italian chicken sausages, a mix of shredded Italian cheeses, and ricotta.

This dish has much of the character of lasagna, but is far easier to serve in specific portions.   I have an obvious preference for ingredients from Trader Joe’s for this, but wherever I specifiy that, feel free to substitute your favorite brand.  But I do believe the TJ’s products used in this are superior in flavor and value to other supermarket brands.  The no-bake noodles from Italy develop a tender texture as they bake in the sauce.  the sauce is the best store-bought marinara I’ve ever cooked with, and the Quattro Formaggio obsoletes the task of purchasing and shredding multiple Italian cheeses.

 

Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Canneloni

(serves 6-8)

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INGREDIENTS:

16 sheets of Trader Joe’s No-Cook Lasagna noodles

2 28-ounce cans Trader Joe’s Low-Fat Tuscano Marinara

12-ounce package Trader Joe’s fully cooked Italian Chicken Sausages (either mild or spicy, as you prefer)

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth

2 tsp EVOO

15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta

1 cup Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese blend

2 tbsp + 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

PREPARATION:

Sauté the whole sausages and chopped onion in the olive oil over medium heat until onions begin to turn color. Turn sausages over, continue to cook another 3 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth and turn up the heat, stirring often until all the wine is absorbed and onions are golden. Remove to a plate to cool.

Combine the ricotta, shredded cheese mix, 2 tbsp romano, parsley and pepper in a medium bowl. Cut the cooled cooked sausages into 1/4″ dice and add, with the onions, to cheese mixture. Filling should weigh about 2 lbs. on a kitchen scale.

Fill a 13 x 9 x 2″ baking dish with 1″ very hot water, and immerse the uncooked noodles in the water, making sure to keep them separate. Allow to soak at least 10 minutes, until pliable enough to be rolled. Lay them out flat on a tea towel.

Lightly brush bottom of that baking dish with olive oil and spread about 1 cup of the sauce in it. Spread about 2 ounces (scant 1/3 cup) of the filling on lower two-thirds of each noodle, and roll up from the short side. Lay them in the baking dish seam side down. All 16 should fit perfectly in 2 rows of 8. Cover completely with most or all of the remaining sauce and sprinkle top with remaining 3/4 cup grated cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Uncover, raise oven temperature to 425, and bake just a few minutes longer until cheese on top is just golden. Let rest about 5 minutes and serve.

Note: The filling can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated.

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Served with lightly dressed green salad and Dutch-oven-baked Artisan rosemary bread.

 

 

 

In Praise of Parsley

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“Sprig of parsley on my plate, are you there to decorate?  Or is your meaning something more?  Is your purpose to be ate?”

This is a silly thing that went through my head decades ago as I stared at the pathetic little sprig of curly parsley adorning an otherwise colorless meal in an unremarkable setting.  Since then, my appreciation for and use of this oft-overlooked herb has grown exponentially and taken part, sometimes in center stage, in virtually ever meal I’ve prepared.

Not to be confused with that ridiculous curly impostor, my love affair with parsley is reserved only for the gorgeously verdant Italian variety shown above, whose leaves can be as tiny as a pinky fingernail or as large as the foliage of a weeping fig tree.

It seems to me now unfathomable that I didn’t buy my first bunch of fresh parsley probably until the age of 26 or 27 when, after 4 or 5 years as a married woman responsible for home-cooked meals, I relied heavily on dried parsley flakes and – for that matter – many other herbs in dried form that I couldn’t dream of using that way ever again.  Rosemary, cilantro, basil, to name a few.  but I digress.

Parsley not only elevates the taste and color spectrum of every dish where it remains in its bright, uncooked state, but is also the star of much ethnic cuisine – most notably tabbouleh.  Chop it and add it to your tuna salad, your potato salad, your pasta salad, or leave the leaves intact and add them to your mixed green salad.  You’ll surprise yourself how much of a flavor booster you have at your disposal, provided you treat your parsley with respect.

And by respect, I mean keep it cold and dry.  If your only option is to buy a bunch that’s been mercilessly sprayed by those relentless shower nozzles in the produce department, shake off the excess, bag it without a twist tie, and then blot it as soon as you get home in a cocoon of paper towels.  If you don’t, your beautiful bouquet of greenery will turn to a mushy mess before you’ve had a chance to use most of it.  Keep it in a ziploc bag, and place a paper towel blotter inside if there’s any moisture left.

Same goes for parsley’s cousin, cilantro, which I often use together in a chimmichurri or charmoula marinade.  But unlike cilantro, whose stems are tender and edible, parsley stems can be tough,  Save them to use with other aromatics when you’re making chicken soup, but not too much or your broth will take on a greenish hue.

If you find when you’re shopping that the only parsley remaining is wilted or puny, ask them to bring out more, or pass on it.  You’d never buy a bouquet of flowers that’s gone by, so even if it’s only $1.29 per bunch, make sure your parsley purchase is as deeply green and filled with promise as the one in the photo.

Hearty Multigrain Multiseed Bread

Yes, bread baking can be addictive.  Having stocked up on my favorite Bob’s Red Mill flours and having baked both a Sesame Semolina loaf and an Artisan crusty loaf in the past three days, I was inspired to harken back to my favorite, most toothsome loaf first created before I started this blog in the winter of 2015.

This is another loaf that employs the magic of Dutch oven baking, and, because I love the texture and seedfullness of this loaf for sandwiches, I make it a very large boule – a full 2-1/2 lbs.  Yes, it can be halved with minor adjustment to the baking time, but it also freezes beautifully if you want to cut half and store it.

Hearty Multigrain Multiseed Bread

 

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INGREDIENTS:

 

1/2 cup Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf

2 cups boiling water

1 tbsp SAF instant yeast or other quick-acting yeast

2 cups AP flour

1-2/3 cups whole wheat flour

2/3 cup semolina flour or rye flour

2 tbsp vital wheat gluten

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Seeds: mix together 2 tsp each sesame, poppy, flax and caraway and 1-1/2 tbsp sunflower

1 egg white lightly beaten

TOOLS:

Stand mixer with 5-quart bowl, paddle attachment, and dough hook

another 5-quart mixing bowl

7-quart cast iron Dutch oven

parchment paper

cooling rack

DIRECTIONS:

Place Kashi pilaf in stand mixer bowl and pour the boiling water over it.  let sit until lukewarm, about 18 minutes.  Meanwhile, in your other bowl combine all the flours, sugar, 1-1/2 tsp salt, and all but 1 tbsp of the seed mix.

Sprinkle 1 tbsp yeast over the cooled water/Kashi mix and add 1 cup of the flour mixture, stirring until smooth.  Using the paddle attachment on your mixture, gradually add the remaining flour on low speed to form your dough.  Cover with plastic wrap or cotton towel and let rest 15 minutes, then need with your dough hook at #2 speed for 10 minutes.

Lightly oil the 5 quart mixing bowl, add the dough, cover and let rise about one hour until doubled.  On a floured surface, punch the dough down and shape into a boule.  Place a large piece of parchment into your 5-quart bowl, move the boule onto the parchment-lined bowl, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining tbsp reserved seeds mixed with 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Cut three shallow slashes with a sharp knife across the top.  Cover again and let rest 30 minutes.

Place your Dutch oven in the center of your oven and preheat to 450.  After 30 minutes, very carefully move the loaf in its sling into your Dutch oven, place the lid back on, reduce oven temperature to 400 and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake another 25 minutes until crust is a deep golden brown.  Internal dough temperature should be 200-205.

Set loaf on a rack to cool and enjoy after about an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

Dutch Oven Artisan Bread

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The pain in my right thumb was well worth the minimal effort that went into baking this latest loaf of Dutch oven bread.  After heating my Le Creuset Dutch oven for 30 minutes  during the final rise of my loaf, I gently placed the dough in its parchment sling into the oven and then reached for the lid – without my mitt.  Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

But the rest of the process in turning out this loaf was a breeze.  Simply put – combined 3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour with 1/2 tsp SAF yeast, 2 tsp kosher salt, and 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl.  Stirred with a wooden spoon and covered with plastic wrap.  Went about my business for the next 10 hours.

Put my 6-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven with lid into the oven to preheat at 450.  Turned out the dough onto a generously floured sheet of parchment, floured my hands, and shaped it into a ball.  It flattened a bit as I released it and then covered it loosely with plastic wrap for another 30 minutes.

Final handling step – sprinkling some more flour over the top of the dough, moved it in its parchment sling into screaming hot Dutch oven, and lightly scored the top with a sharp knife.  Piut the lid back on – this time with my mitt – and baked, covered for 30 minutes.  then removed the lid and finished baking for 12 minutes.

Why buy when this is so easy and beautiful?  The key is placing your dough in a preheated Dutch oven where the steam that’s released creates this gorgeous final rise. The final 12 minutes give you a golden crisp crust.  Waiting a few minutes before slicing – can’t wait!

What I’ve learned about bread baking this winter

Echoing my thoughts on bread baking first posted Winter 2015

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As I have mentioned, this endless record-breaking winter has had us encased in snow and ice – picture the White Wall guarded by the Knight’s Watch on Game of  Thrones.  This has awakened my cocooning instincts big-time, with freshly baked loaves out of the oven every two or three days.

I’ve learned a few things that have made this easier, more economical, and more successful:

  1. Use SAF Instant Yeast and buy it in at least the 1 lb package from Amazon.  This is what the professionals use.  It produces a quick rise, removes the need to proof the yeast separately from your dry ingredients – just add it to the flour – and it will keep fresh indefinitely in a tightly sealed ziploc bag in your freezer. Just spoon out what you need and put the rest back in the freezer.  Way more economical than those ridiculous 3-packet envelopes at the supermarket…

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Pastel – Israeli Meat Pie in Puff Pastry

In my continuing search for uses for the superb French puff pastry from Trader Joe’s, I found another High Holiday-appropriate dish on the NYT Cooking site, an Israeli dish of seasoned ground beef encased in puff pastry.

Reading the comments and anticipating the flavors, I made so many changes that I honestly have to call this recipe my own.  We just partook and I am farklempt – delicious beyond all my expectations, and plenty of leftovers to ejoy during the week:

Pastel – Israeli Meat Pie in Puff Pastry

6-8 servings

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INGREDIENTS:

1 package Trader Joe’s puff pastry

2 T olive oil

1 lb each ground lamb and lean ground beef

2 large carrots, 2 medium sweet onions, and one small shallot chopped finely

1/3 cup pine nuts

Seasonings (suggested, but to taste): 1 T kosher salt; 1 t black pepper; 1 t smoked paprika; 1 t cumin; 1 t ras el hanout; 1 t ground sumac; 1 t Za’atar; 1-1/2 t cinnamon;    1 t allspice; 1/2 t ground ginger; 1 t dill weed

3 eggs

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

2 T toasted sesame seeds

PREPARATION:

Heat olive oil in large skillet (12″ cast iron) on medium heat and sauté carrots, onions and shallots until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the ground meats and all seasonings and sauté another 10 minutes or so until meats are browned.  Remove to a large bowl and allow to cool.

When meats are cool, add two lightly beraten eggs to the mixture.  Line the bottom and sides of a 2-quart oven-proof baking dish, about 8-9 x 11″, with one sheet of the puff pastry.  Using a slotted spoon, add the the meat mixture into the pastry-lined pan with just some but not all of the liquid in the mix.  Sprinkle the top with the chopped parsley and lay the second sheet of puff pasytry over it, pinching around the edges to seal it.  Chill 1-4 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400.  Beat the remaining egg and brush the top layer of pastry with it.  then sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting to serve.