Buttermilk Bread–Updated–>Buttermilk Wheat Bread!

So we really loved the Buttermilk Bread!! This is without a doubt the easiest and best bread for toast or sandwiches! It holds up well as thin slices for sandwiches and nice thick ones for toast!  But I wanted to play with it a bit to add a bit more ‘health’ to it–and it worked!

#Smart Choices Healthy Living Buttermilk Wheat Bread

Buttermilk Wheat Bread–just as good as the Original!

Take a look at the original recipe for instructions but switch the flour to

3 cups white bread flour

3 cups white whole wheat flour

Use all the same proportions and directions for the original one.

#smartchoiceshealthyliving.com#buttermilk wheat breadEven with the wheat flour it still rises really nicely!

I used a big loaf pan with a springform so I could make it higher for sandwiches. It really rose well–almost too well! I baked this one just a little less (375*F for 30 minutes) since it was a longer loaf.

#Smart Choices Healthy Living Buttermilk Wheat Bread
Buttermilk Wheat Bread–just as good as the Original!
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Smart Choice, Healthy Living– Recipe: Homemade Mac and Cheese, Updated

#mac and cheese, light
All the creaminess of homemade but without all the guilt!

I have been in such a mood for homemade “mac and cheese” but I knew I really did not want our old version; while it was thick and creamy it was also loaded with fat and heavy. I wanted to retain the feel and richness but without the guilt. I think I’m there! I’ve tried finding an alternative to the Velveeta but it does add enough to the taste and feel that I’ve left it in place. Some of the changes: browning the butter, reducing the cheese, adding skim milk, adding Melba toast topping.

Smart Choice, Healthy Living “Mac” and Cheese

2 Tbs butter

4 Tbs flour

4 cups milk (I used 2 c skim, 2 cup 1% but you could use all of one kind)

freshly ground pepper to taste (about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp)

4 oz Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar, freshly shredded

4 oz part skim Mozzarella cheese, freshly shredded

4 oz 2% (or light) Velveeta, cubed

1 lb pasta, I prefer cavaptelli  over elbow or shells but either works.

Garlic Melba toasts, crushed (about 1/4 -1/2 cup), optional

Preheat oven to 400*F, spray a large pan (9×13 is good) with non-stick.

Cook pasta according to box instructions. Drain when cooked to preferred firmness ( al dente is good).

In a heavy bottom sauce pan melt the butter and allow it to brown just a bit, being careful that it does not burn. With a whisk make a roux by sprinkling the flour on the butter and whisking until it appears dry. Slowly whisk in milk until the flour is fully incorporated. Add pepper and stir occasionally until it starts to thicken. Add in cheddar until melted and then Velvetta and mozzarella cheeses. Add drained pasta to the pan and stir well to combine. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle on the crushed Melba toasts if using.

Place in pre-heated oven and heat until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Smart Choice Recipe: Buttermilk Bread

#smartchoiceshealthyliving.com#buttermilk bread
Homemade Buttermilk Bread

Homemade bread–there  really is nothing better! I love to make bread–the smell of the yeast, the feel of the dough–its just very soothing.  My newest love–Buttermilk Bread. Honestly I had only really used the buttermilk in biscuits or in Irish soda bread. I saw this recipe on a post from Fullbellies. I became intrigued enough to try it.It is essentially their recipe with just a couple minor changes.

Buttermilk Bread

1 cup water

3 Tbs butter

1/2 cup water

1 package active dry yeast ( or a shy Tbs if from a jar)

1 cup buttermilk

2 Tbs honey

1 Tbs sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

6 cups bread flour

1-In a small sauce pan heat water and butter and allow butter to melt. Set aside and cool.

2-In a small bowl dissolve yeast in water, set aside.

3-I use a Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle blade but just use a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer. In bowl add buttermilk, honey, sugar, salt and vinegar, mix on low to combine. Add butter water and yeast water to mix.

4- Start adding flour 1 cup at a time until combined. At 5 cups it will be stiff, switch to the dough hook if using the Kitchenaid mixer,or start kneading in the remaining cup of flour by hand by putting the dough on a floured surface.

5-Knead for about 5 minutes (either by hand or with dough hook)–it should be smooth and elastic at this point.

6-Placed in a large bowl (glass works best) coated with nonstick or butter and allow to rise in a draft free spot for about 45 minutes. Cover with a dish towel.

#smartchoiceshealthyliving.com#buttermilk bread

It is ready to work with when it is doubled in size.

7-Punch down and turn onto a floured surface. Divide in two and roll out/stretch with your hands to get out extra air bubbles.

Starting at the end closest to you and roll up, tucking ends underneath. Place in a bread pan coated with nonstick or butter. Cover and allow to rise another 30-45 minutes. Halfway through rise time preheat the oven to 375*F.

#smartchoiceshealthyliving.com#buttermilk bread

8-Melt 1 tbs butter–optional but it gives it a nice crust- and brush on tops of breads. Bake  in preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in pans 10 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

9-Slice using a serrated knife and enjoy!!

#smartchoiceshealthyliving.com#buttermilk bread

Homemade Buttermilk Bread

 

Smart Choice Recipe: White Chicken Chili

#smartchoicehealthyliving.com,#White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili is a great alternative to a beef  based one yet it still bursts with flavor and heat.  My husband recently tried this chili at Ruby Tuesday and it became his new favorite. The only problem is when it is not made at home you can’t control what goes into it. ( The nutritional information says its only 300 calories but over 1900 mg of sodium per portion!) If you do an internet search for  the “WCC” you will get tons of recipes but none of them were exactly what I wanted….so here is our version.

Smart Choice White Chicken Chili

1 lb boneless chicken breast, diced (bite size pieces)

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs garlic, minced (about 2 large cloves)

3-4 cups chicken stock (or broth if that is what you have), homemade or low sodium is preferred but…use what you have on hand. (use 3 if you like it more thick)

3 cans (15 oz) white northern beans (cannelloni), undrained

1-2 cans (4 oz) of chopped green chilies (optional)

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 Tbs cumin

1 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup salsa (I used medium)

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)

Grated cheddar or Jack if desired for topping

1-In a large pot ( a heavy bottom one works best) heat the olive oil on medium heat then added the chicken and onion, stirring frequently until chicken is cooked and onion is soft and golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.

2-Add beans, spices, broth, spices, salsa and green chilies ( everything except half and half and sour cream.  Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. If you like a thicker chili only add 3 cups broth.

3-Remove from heat. Stir in half and half and sour cream.

4- After served add optional cheeses but it really is good without it.

#smartchoicehealthyliving.com,#White Chicken Chili

We also served it with freshly made Buttermilk Bread.

Homemade Buttermilk Bread

Buttermilk Bread

Smart Choices Recipe: Dad’s Chili, updated

Fall is the perfect time to pull out those comfort food recipes and “healthify” them. One of my favorites is Chili. There are so many versions of chili out there: green, white, red, beans/no beans, vegetarian, chicken, turkey, beef…..the list goes on and on–but this one has to be my hands down favorite. It is full of seasoning with just a touch of ‘back heat’ that lingers rather than an “in your face, give me a glass of water” hotness that is actually hard to eat.

When I make chili I always think of my Dad, he always made the best chili when I was growing up; full of flavor and chunks of meat and veges. Unfortunately I could never get him to write the recipe down before he passed away so I’ve had to improvise to make my own version.  I originally found this recipe in Yankee Magazine titled “Booma’s Revenge Chili” and have changed it around a bit to make it mine. I cut back on the meat, added more veges, eliminated the serrano chilis, tweaked the broth and added more beans….but otherwise its pretty much the same, okay so its not really the same at all.

Dad’s Chili, updated

2 lbs lean ground beef

1 Tbs olive oil

1 medium green pepper, diced

1 medium red pepper, diced

1 medium onion, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 cups low sodium beef broth

6 TBS chili powder

3 TBS cumin

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 cans 15 oz diced tomatoes (I used low sodium and fire roasted)

1 can 6 oz tomato paste

2 cans 15.5 oz kidney beans, rinsed and drained,(I used 1 light and 1 dark)

1- If you have time brown the meat ahead of time and allow to drain over a colander to get out the fat other wise just brown the meat in a large pot and remove as much of the fat as you can. I like smaller pieces of meat but break it up to your preference.

2-Either set meat aside and re-use the pot or in a second pot heat the oil

and then saute the peppers, onions and garlic for about 5 minutes or until softened.

3-Combine the meat, veges, beef stock, spices and tomatoes

(pretty much everything except the paste and beans) in a pot and

allow to simmer on low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

4-Add the tomato paste and cook for another 20 minutes

then add in the beans and cook for another 10 minutes.

Of course, recipes are just a starting point and are meant to be personalized. I like more “juice” in my chili so I used more broth but feel free to use less (or add more tomato paste) if you like it thicker. I love using the veges and beans but add less or eliminate if its not something you like. Initially I also questioned the amount of chili powder and cumin but it really makes it nice and flavorful, not overwhelming.

If you give it a try, please let me know how you like it. If you have a recipe you love, please share it! I love trying new recipes to see what I can add to our healthy repertoire

Enjoy~~Janice

A Smart Choice: Rustic Baked Potato soup

I love soup in the Fall!!  There are so many choices and flavor options that some times it is hard for me  to decide which one to make.  Baked potato soup has always been a great choice  and this one has developed over the years to be my ‘go to’ soup.  It originated from a Weight Watcher magazine recipe that has been tweaked and adapted to fit my tastes and improve on its nutritional values.   Even if you are not an experienced chef you can put this one together quickly and have a healthy lunch or dinner ready when you need one. Granted its not a ‘clean eating recipe’  in the true sense but its much better than anything you’ll find in a can!

One of the nicest things is its adaptability; I’ve shared its original basic recipe and seen many variations on a ‘loaded’ baked potato and with chopped broccoli, petite shrimp or as a ‘faux New England Clam chowder’.

My favorite is the Rustic Baked potato version.

                            Rustic Baked Potato soup

4 Medium baking potatoes (I use Russets)

1/3 cup all purpose flour (King Arthur)

4 cups 1 % milk

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

4 ounces Velveeta cheese (I use 2%)

1/2 cup light or fat free sour cream

The easiest way to do this is to bake the potatoes in foil while you are using the oven for other things and then let them cool in a zipper bag.  I usually bake them in a 400*F oven for an hour depending on size (they should “give” when you give them a gentle squeeze). You can make them the same day as the soup but it means more prep time since you need to let them cool a little before the next step.

If you have baked the potatoes ahead of time quarter them and add them with the skins on into a food processor (I have a Ninja Kitchen system 1100) and use the blade with pulses to chop them to fine chunks. If you don’t like potato skins you can remove the skins before this point; if you cooled them in the zippper bag they will slide off fairly easy.

In a large sauce pan add the flour and whisk the milk into it until smooth. Add the chopped baked potato, and pepper. Cook over medium heat until it is thickened, about 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently.

Add the Velveeta and stir until melted, it’ll change into a nice light golden color.

Remove from heat and and stir in the sour cream.

This makes about  six  1 1/2 cup servings. Serve as is or top with your favorite “loaded baked potato” topping like green onions, bacon, finely chopped broccoli or whatever strikes you fancy.

I normally store leftover in a jar so they easily transport for work–you can reheat them right in the jar using a microwave, just make sure to remove the metal ring and cover to avoid splatter.

Smart Choices Review: Crockpot Oatmeal

I Love Oatmeal! Yes it is weird but I really do–hot, cold, cookies, breads or whatever, it just has the power to draw me in.

Imagine when I saw this recipe from The Yummy Life!!   It combines Oatmeal and Pumpkin and its pretty much a leave it alone recipe, perfect!

I did make some minor changes, just for preferences, and I used the double boiler method since I had originally planned to do this overnight so I wanted to see how long it should actually cook to avoid drying it out.

Crockpot Oatmeal and Pumpkin Bake

1 3/4 cup 1% milk ( or milk of your choice)

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup steel cut oats (NOT old fashioned or quick)

1/4 cup maple syrup (or honey or sweetener of choice)

1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix, unsweetened)

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce (I used my homemade kind)

1 tsp pure Vanilla extract

2 Tbs pumpkin pie spice (it seems like a lot but it isn’t)

1 Tbs chia seeds

1 Tbs ground flax meal (seeds)

 My suggestion is to combine all dry ingredients together first then add the moist ones–I think the pumpkin pie spice would blend in easier this way–mine took a bit of whisking to get it off the top of the milk/water. If you are using the  Crockpot/slow cooker directly spray with non-stick spray just for easier clean up–my bowl  cleaned up really easy.* I put my recipe into a Corningware oval bowl and put it inside the Crockpot. I had put in water before I started mixing the ingredients to start heating it on high. When I put the bowl in I had to add just a bit more water to get it to come  halfway up the side of the Corningware one. Cover and walk away after you turn it back to low heat. Mine was done in about 4 hours , it might take less if you don’t use the chia seeds (they are really good absorbers). Cooked through but still moist.

You can top it with many options at this point–I added just a drizzle of maple syrup and some chopped walnuts but I could see adding brown sugar or honey as a sweetener or almonds for a bit of crunch.

Yes its THAT good!

And it warms up great the next day! I had put it in my Mason jars and it the fridge overnight. I warmed it for about 45 seconds , added just a touch of milk, stirred and heated for another 30 seconds (this was for about a 1 cup portion). I added a drizzle of maple syrup…..delicious second round.

Review: Definitely worth making again! If I did it overnight I would probably use a ‘delay timer’  so it turned on it the night rather than get up early. I also work night shifts so it would actually be perfect to set up when I get home and have ready to go when I get up. Hey–that’s a great idea!

*for easy clean-up–if you use the double boiler method, and you put the oatmeal away in portions, use the hot water in the crockpot to clean up–just dump it in the second bowl and it cleans up super easy!

Apple “Custard” — Pie

Did you ever see a recipe and just have an epiphany on how you can take it a step further? I saw this recipe for a Crockpot apple sauce and just imagined it being transformed into a dessert. Making it was extremely easy!!

I did tweak the recipe a bit since I knew I was taking it a step further.

The Basics:

1 peck (or small bag) of apples, cored but not peeled(I chose Cortlands but use your favorite pie apple)

1 lemon, squeeze out juice and discard the lemon

2T pure Vanilla extract

1tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

(I DID have pictures showing how much it reduces but my camera seems to have hidden them  from me.)

Place these all in the Crockpot/slow cooker and allow to cook for about 2 hours on high then 2 hours on low.

They will reduce dramatically! I went from a very full crock to about 6 cups of apple sauce. If you left the skins on you will have a deep caramel color instead of the tan but it adds a different dimension to the sauce. Most of the peel should have dissolved but you can run a fork through the sauce to pick out any skins that are left. Its purely aesthetics whether you leave them in or not.

OK–so you can stop here and just enjoy the sauce or take it to a dessert level.

Apple “Custard” Pie

Pie crust–you can use a favorite crust recipe if you have one or use a Pillsbury ready to go one. Roll it out to the size of your pan and prebake for about 5 minutes at 400*F just to keep it from getting soggy.

Custard–

2 cups of the apple sauce (3 if using a deep dish pan)

1/2 cup evaporated milk (I used 2%), add just a little more if increasing apple sauce

2 large eggs

1 tsp apple pie spice (or combination of cinnamon/nutmeg) if desired.

Optional–taste your apple sauce first to see how sweet it is-I added 2 T Maple syrup just for a bit of flavor and sweetness but you can omit, add honey or sweetener of choice to taste.

Pour into pie shell. Bake at 400*F for about 15 minutes and then reduce it to 350*F for another 45-55 minutes. This will be a ‘soft set’ (not the consistency of pumpkin pie). Remove from oven, allow to cool and then refrigerate until totally cool.

Although it is pale don’t let the color fool you–there is a lot of flavor packed in it!

My next batch of apple sauce will be transformed into more of a souffle in individual ramekins or mini pies in graham cracker crusts…..we’ll see where it goes from there!

Chia Jam– the Smart Choice version

I love jam and preserves–love all the bits and pieces of fruit….but I really dislike how sweet it normally is and how the sweetness can overpower what it is served with. I may have found a solution to my dilemma!

I originally found the ‘recipe’ on one of the health/fitness pages on Facebook (I can’t remember which one) but then started experimenting with flavors and amounts.  I think the key to a great Chia jam is making sure what you are using has enough juice for the chia seeds to absorb and do their job.

I’ve tried plain blueberry, plain strawberry and a mix of berries. So far this one is the winner!

Triple Berry Vanilla Chia Jam

2 16 oz containers blueberries, rinsed and stems removed

1 16 oz contained strawberries, hulled and diced

1 8 oz container blackberries, rinsed

3-4 Tbs chia seeds

3-4 Tbs pure maple syrup

1 Tbs pure Vanilla extract.

Once you have all the berries cleaned you can put into a large pot, preferably nonstick, and heat on medium heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After about 5 minutes some of the blueberries should be releasing their juices, continue heating another minute or two and then remove from heat. I like to mashed some of the berries at this time but you can leave them in bigger pieces if desired.

 

 

 

 

 

At this point add in the chia seeds and return to low heat for another 5 minutes or until liquid is starting to absorb. Remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup and vanilla. Allow to cool in pot slightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chia seeds absorb the liquid and appear like berry seeds. The mixture will be a medium thickness at this point.

                          Using a wide mouth canning funnel keeps the jars cleaner while allowing you to see what is going on.

Viola– a nice Jam without all the sweetness. I love it on English Muffins but it can go pretty much on anything.  I’m still experimenting with other flavors and combinations–looking forward to trying them out and sharing.  Oh–these last a long time in the fridge  and I have not tried actually canning them for storage but follow manufacturers advice for specific jars/bottles. (You can actually store in clean former jelly jars as well, no special jars needed!)