Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cuban Bread

Well this sure isn't good for my low carb diet. I don't know what got into me, but when i saw this recipe in the Chicago Tribune, I couldn't resist. And fair warning, not only did I make this bread, but I made three loaves. My kids gobbled down the first loaf, so I decided to make a double recipe. I have a neighbor who takes his snow blower and clears the sidewalks around the entire block - I thought he was deserving of a fresh loaf. The last loaf was for my husband and kids, again. And I ate some too. :)

The best thing about this bread was the crispy crust. The inside was dense and really tasty - the kind of bread that you want to dip in olive oil or smear with butter. I think the next time I make this recipe, I'm going to add some rosemary to the dough.

I'm still trucking along on the low carb diet. I gained a few pounds this past weekend after taking the kids out for fried fish at Del Rhea, making tortelini to go with some almond meal-coated shrimp (recipe coming) and a few glasses of wine. But I've gotten to the gym every day this week and I'm drinking lots of water. I've given myself plenty of time to lose the next 10. I'm headed to New Orleans in two weeks, so before then I'm going to try and be really dedicated. Because what you eat in New Orleans, doesn't stay in New Orleans. It stays on my butt :)

Cuban bread

CUBAN BREAD from the Chicago Tribune

This recipe doubles easily. The extra loaf freezes well; thaw it at room temperature for several hours. Wrap in thick foil and warm in a hot oven for 10 minutes before serving.

2 envelopes active dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour (I used three)


Dissolve the yeast, sugar and salt in 1/2 cup of the warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until bubbly.

Mix the remaining 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup of the flour in large bowl until smooth. Stir in the yeast mixture until smooth. Stir in 2 cups of the remaining flour until soft dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed to form a slightly stiff dough, about 10 minutes.

Put dough into a large oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto the board. Punch down slightly; form into a round loaf. Lightly oil a baking sheet; sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaf on sheet. Score an X into the top of the loaf. Cover; let rise about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a kettle of water to a boil. Place bread in cold oven. Place a large baking pan on the shelf below the bread. Pour the boiling water into the pan. Close the oven; heat to 400 degrees. Bake until golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Nutrition information: Per serving: 205 calories, 3 percent of calories from fat, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 43 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 584 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Traditional New Orleans King Cake

I know today is Mardi Gras and I should have posted this last week, but I wanted to get it up before it was completely out of season! The King Cake is a Mardi Gras delicacy! Officially you can start buying and serving them on the day after Twelfth Night (January 6) through Mardi Gras day, but you can pretty much order them online all year 'round, but that just wouldn't be right. :)

Buying them in New Orleans is cheap ($6 - $15), but getting them delivered around the country gets expensive (upwards of $50). I get one delivered every year (thanks, mom!) for my Mardi Gras party, which this year was actually a Saints' superbowl party. But I was having a big crowd this year so thought I'd try making my own to have another on hand.

This recipe (adapted from here) is what I would consider an old-fashioned king cake (like the old McKenzie's if you know what I'm talking about), not like the Randazzo's filled danish-like King Cake that I love so much.

1/2 cup warm water (100-115 F)
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
3 1/2 - 4 cup flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I didn't use this)
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter (softened)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used about 4 or 5, mixed with a a Tbls of sugar)

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

Sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar over warm water in a small, shallow bowl. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes, then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm, draft-free place until yeast starts to bubble up and mixture almost doubles in volume, about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, mix 3 1/2 C flour, 1/2 cup sugar, nutmeg, lemon zest and salt. In mixing bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer or food processor, combine yeast , milk and egg yolks. Gradually add dry ingredients, and softened butter, adding additional flour, as necessary to achieve a medium-soft ball. Knead dough, again adding flour if necessary, until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Place dough in a covered, buttered bowl , in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. In the meantime, butter a large baking sheet and set aside. When dough has risen, remove and punch down. Sprinkle with cinnamon and form into a cylinder, then twist this cylinder into a circle. Pinch the ends together to complete the circle. Once again, cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 375° F. Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack completely before hiding baby doll inside or icing and decorating. Cover with icing (below) and then sprinkle with purple, green and gold sugar.

ICING (My own recipe)
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 block cream cheese, melted
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, cream cheese and vanilla together. Add water slowly until desired consistency is achieved. Should be fairly thick and not runny.

Muffuletta Crisps - A Low Carb Mardi Gras

The title of this post is complete sacrilege - a low-carb Mardi Gras. Whaaaa? If you've ever been to New Orleans, you know that the day (and the week before) is filled with Popeye's Fried Chicken, New Orleans Original Daiquiris and King Cake. Good thing I'm not in New Orleans this year - that's how I blew my low-carb start to last year. And I didn't have my Mardi Gras party this year because I had a Saints Superbowl party instead. So all is good in my little low-carb world.

Have you had a Muffuletta? You'll usually hear it pronounced "muff-uh-LOT-uh," but some people (like my mom) say "moo-foo-LET-ta." Either way, it is a giant sandwich, more than capable of feeding 2-4 people. Arguably the most crucial part of the sandwich is the bread, a dense, large, flat sesame seed bun about 10 inches across. It is split and then filled with Capicola, Genoa Salami, Mortadella, and Emmentaler and Provolone cheeses. It is all topped with salty, oily olive salad.

My Muffuletta Crisps are an easy, low carb way to bring a little New Orleans to your diet. You can prepare the salami a day in advance in you'd like.

1 lb. Salami, sliced(about 30 slices) (Genoa optional)
1 jar Olive Salad or Giardiniera, drained
1/2 cup finely shredded Provolone.

Place salami slices on baking sheet and bake in 375 oven for 8-10 minutes. (Salami will crisp like bacon and shrink in to small "bowls." Edges will be darker. Remove from baking sheet and drain on paper towels. After cooling, place salami on serving platter and fill each bowl with olive salad. Sprinkle all with provolone cheese.

Optional: Before baking you can top each piece of salami with a small slice of Capicola ham for an extra layer of meat.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Almond Meal Bread

O . . . M . . . G. It's me. I can't believe it has been so long since I've blogged. I have a ton of photos I've taken of the food I've made over the past few months, but just haven't sat down long enough to write anything.

Despite the last few blog posts you see for cupcakes and frosting, I have been sticking pretty well to my low-carb diet. And that's part of the problem. Chicken and vegetables is not an exciting thing to blog about. But what IS exciting to blog about is that I've lost 34 pounds (since June 2009)!!! And if you count the last 8 pounds that I've lost over and over since Thanksgiving, I've probably lost 237! :) Just this past Thursday I hit my goal weight and I've decided to lose ten more. I went from a size 14 to a size 8, and I'm even wearing a pair of size 6 jeans. In addition to the low-carb diet, I'm doing at least 30 minutes of cardio just about every day, plus some simple hand-weight lifting.

I'm still staying away from bread, pasta, rice, sugar, and potatoes. But I saw a few recipes lately using Almond Meal or Almond Flour. Almond Meal is finely ground almonds and Almond Flour is the same but with the oil removed. I've read that they are pretty much interchangeable. I picked up a bag at Trader Joe's and I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it, until I saw this recipe.


-3 1/2 cups Almond Flour (I used Almond Meal)
-3 eggs
-1/4 cup melted butter
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1 cup yogurt
-1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients together. Bake in 350 F oven for about 45 min. (I think I went closer to an hour). Let cool almost completely in pan to ensure it stays together.

I served it with this:
4 Tbls. Butter (softened)
1 Tbls. Honey

Mix together well. Serve on bread or vegetables.

Well I don't have a carb count for either of these, but I know that the bread has WAY fewer carbs than regular bread, and the honey is the butter is all carbs. So unlike some of those ways that I've tried to replace carbs with look-a-like carbs (like spaghetti squash for spaghetti), this was REALLY good. The bread was moist and nutty. I used almond meal that included the almond husk, which you can see in the bread. If you can find it, shelled and unblanched almond meal will make a lighter colored bread.

I've got a couple more low-carb posts coming your way. But then I'll have no choice but to blog about king cake and brownies. :)

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