Square One

So here I am again, pretty much where I’ve been since the end of July. I have re-injured my torn tendon and I’m back on crutches and wearing the boot. I was doing so well darn it! Wasn’t doing any aerobics, minimized my trips up and down the stairs and didn’t standing for too long without taking a break. The pain was minimal and the swelling was waaaay down. I still had a slight limp but knew eventually my normal gait would return.

Last weekend I went to a shower and decided that since everything was going so well I would wear some boots. The heel on the boot was modest (so I thought) and I felt really good walking around in them. On my way home from the shower I stopped at the store to pick up a few things I’d forgotten the day before. While in line it hit me, literally and figuratively. The type of pain I was beginning to feel meant I was headed back to the couch and my orthopedic accessories. I hobbled out of the store and managed to get myself home without breaking any speed laws.

During the course of this injury you’ve heard me talk about looking for the lesson in all of this. Well obviously I haven’t learned it. Last Monday I cancelled my classes for the day which is something I rarely do. My hope was that two days of chilling out would allow me to get back in the groove again. Ha, was I wrong! On Wednesday I went back to school, with the Mr.‘s assistance of course, I still can’t drive. My student s were just as supportive as they were in the beginning and probably didn‘t mind the extra day off. I also decided early on that I would give this more time before I went back to the doctor. After so many visits this summer I knew what his recommendation would be. Stay off it, apply ice and take the medication he had prescribed. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

This is beginning to feel like a way of life and that is not the mindset I want to be in or one that will help me in the healing process. Honestly, I think it’s my independence that keeps getting the best of me. It’s kind of like give me an inch and I’ll take a half mile because I know a full one is out of the question. Before the re-injury I had become very adept at making modifications. When going downstairs I’d make sure I had everything I needed so I didn’t have to make repeated trips up and down. Driving was limited to only what was necessary, and meals were nothing fancy or complicated.

Obviously even that was too much. Right now of course I’m having a small pity party thinking about all the things I wanted to have done by now. By now I had planned to have at least two other tables done; one pink themed for BCA and one Halloween table that Gabbi and I were going to collaborate on. Since I’ve had so much time on my hands I’ve pinned and bookmarked a cazillion things I want to make. But alas, it’s just not going to happen. Neither is that gut busting sweat inducing aerobic workout that I’ve been missing since the end of July.

Moving forward I’m going to mind my manners and do my best to tune into the voice in my head that says “be still”. The absolute last thing I want is surgery. However, I really feel that given what I do for a living, and doing what I’m passionate about, there is bound to be some downtime with this tendon. I hope that doesn’t sound defeatist because that’s not the intention. It’s more about acknowledging that there may be some limitations.

In a couple of months all the kids will be home for the holidays and I want to be ready. Between now and then I intend to get better and do only a little at a time. Typically during the holiday season I’d have a couple of all day sessions in the kitchen. Not so much this year. My kids would gladly have takeout food and I know it, but the mommy in me won’t allow that. Patience is a virtue and whoever coined that phrase surely had me in mind.

There are a few obligatory things that I will do and will have to ask for help with. And that is the hard part. Not the things I will do; the asking for help. Here comes the Ms. Independent streak again! I just wanted you to know why I haven’t been posting regularly. There are a few things that I’ve done and haven’t posted so that will help keep me in the loop. In order to make Sweet Sensations what I want it to be I have to take care of myself a little bit better and if that means slowing down, that’s what I have to do. Thank you so much for your support and don’t give up on me.

Apple Crisp Re-do

A while back I made a couple of apple desserts and never got around to posting them. This one is a do over. Not that I thought the first time wasn’t great. I just made it again because it’s one of Charisse’s favorites. Aren’t I a sweet mommy? It’s a Weight Wathcers recipe and for sure lower in calories.

There are so many apple choices out there and although most recipes give suggestions for which one to use here’s a couple of ideas to get you started.

Jonagolds – These are more of a Jonathan/Golden Delicious hybrid. They have a firm flesh and a sweet yet tart taste. These beauties are great in pies.

Honeycrisps – The name implies that this apple is sweet, and it is. It’s also an all around good pick for anything from snacking to baking. Another great characteristic is that it retains most of its firmness. The downside is that they’re only available for a few months in the fall. Honeycrisps also play well with others, meaning you can combine them with other varieties.

Granny Smith – If there is an all-star in the apple lineup this variety is it. Granny Smith’s are one of the most popular and I have to admit my least favorite. They are used in more apple pies than any other. Maybe it’s their tart and tanginess that I don’t particularly care for. To get around all that tartness try pairing this one with a Golden Delicious or a Honeycrisp.

My two top apple faves for eating and baking are Fuji and Braeburn. The Fuji apple is a late-season apple so you can look for them to be around for a while. Just perfect for Thanksgiving baking. Fuji’s are most often used for snacking, salads and are totally terrific for sauces. Due to their natural sweetness they require little additional sugar. When I bake with them I do very little pre-cooking because they aren’t one of the firmest varieties. On the other hand, the Braeburn is a firm apple. I love it‘s dual taste of spicy and sweet. No worries about it losing it‘s shape either, it holds up well.

So there’s my take on the best of apples and here’s the link to the recipe I posted a couple of years ago. Stay tuned for an apple cake recipe that was off the hook!!

Smoked Sausage and Gouda Mini Frittata

I had a chance to sample some Old Amsterdam precut gouda cheese. When it came I wasn’t sure what to do with it. This may have been only the second time I tried it and only the first time cooking with it. Yes, I’ve led a sheltered cheese life. When I first tasted Gouda I thought it was very similar to a sharp cheddar with smoky overtones. It’s one that’s often used on dessert trays and with wine pairings. It also melts like a dream.

My initial intention was to use it in macaroni and cheese but we’d just had it so out went that idea. What came to mind was slightly scaled down version of a frittata I used to make for one of my clients. In my original frittata recipe I used sweet potatoes but omitted them this time and made individual servings by baking them in a muffin tin.

This is a great low carb meal in itself. However, combine this with some pancakes or French toast and you have the makings of a brunch bonanza. Yumola!!

Smoked Sausage and Gouda Mini Fritattas
1 tsp canola oil
1 small onion chopped
½ small green and red pepper, chopped
2 tsp minced jalapeno pepper
1 lb lite or lean smoked turkey or kielbasa sliced thin
1 cup Old Amsterdam Gouda, crumbled
6 whole eggs
3 egg whites
4 TBS skim milk
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat the canola oil in pan over medium heat and add the onion, chopped peppers and jalapeno. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook for 2 minutes. Set the mixture aside. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non stick spray. Then fill a third of each cup with the sausage and veggie mixture and then top with a generous half TBS of cheese. In a blender mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Using a blender creates a better egg mixture that pours more smoothly. Pour egg mixture over sausage and cheese mixture and bake until eggs are set and cheese is melted. You may want to omit the salt in this recipe due to the fact that the sausage and cheese are slightly salty. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you don’t like reheated eggs it may be best to make only a half batch.

Chocolate Avocado Zucchini Bread

Last Tuesday when I set out for my morning walk I noticed a twinge in my heels. This happens from time to time so I didn’t pay much attention to it. I also thought it may be time for some new workout shoes. The next day the twinge moved into an annoying pain. However, I still managed to make it downstairs for my workout. By afternoon I cancelled personal training sessions for the night and took up residence on the corner of the couch. When Thursday morning rolled around I knew that working out in any form wasn’t an option.

I’ve had the heel pain before and was told it was plantar fasciitis. Rest with periodic icing of my heels is about the only thing that helps. This was different. I used some OTC meds and iced it enough where I could get to and from the kitchen. The little voice in my head kept telling me to sit and catch up on my friend’s blogs. The other little voice in my head told me to bake. I had my mind and stomach set on making zucchini bread with avocado. The idea came to being when I had an avocado and banana smoothie the day before. I found the recipe at Cooking on the Weekends. The picture that accompanied the recipe is one of the best I’ve seen and I knew I had to give it a shot. I promised myself that vegging out would be the order for the rest of the day. Since I’d made Chocolate Zucchini Bread before I thought I’d add chocolate to this recipe. It’s also ironic that it was one of my first Foodbuzz posts. Now it’s my last.

There’s much more to come at DailyBuzz Food and I’m all for it. Except for one thing. The heel/twinge/pain situation has gotten much worse. On Friday I knew something was terribly wrong and made an appointment to see my doctor. Unfortunately she’s on vacation but I did get to see someone else in her office. She took one look at my swollen and discolored ankle and told me to get some crutches and she would give me pain meds. I also had x-rays, and blood work to see if I have gout. Stand in doctor says I could have a hairline fracture in my ankle or a partially torn tendon. Oh joy. I’m still waiting on the results of the tests, have ditched the crutches and the pain is still there. Thankfully not as bad as it was but it still hurts like the dickens. Reading food blogs and watching foodie TV only fuels my desire to get up and get back in my kitchen but I know it wouldn’t be wise. My classes start back up in less then a month and I have to be ready. So here I sit and here’s my Chocolate Avocado Zucchini Bread.

Chocolate Avocado Zucchini Bread – Adapted from Cooking on the Weekends
¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
2/3 cup very ripe, puréed California avocados
2 eggs
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 TBS cocoa (my addition)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp all spice

Preheat the oven to 350° F, and prepare 2 (approximately 7-inch) loaf pans by brushing them with a thin coat of olive oil. I used one 9-inch. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, sugar, vanilla, and puréed avocado. Use a whisk or a fork to mix it until it’s very smooth. Then add the eggs and mix until they are fully incorporated. Fold in the grated zucchini and combine. Now sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices, and stir just until everything is evenly blended. (Do not over mix!)

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown, and beginning to crack, about 30 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Use a dull knife to go around the edges of the bread to ensure it’s loose, and then cool the bread for at least another 20 minutes on a cooling rack. Mine took and hour to bake and I wish I had given it another 10 minutes.

I made a glaze of powdered sugar and water and drizzled over the bread which tastes more like cake. Thumbs up all the way around!!

Apricot Pound Cake

To me the most sinful and decadent desserts are also high in cholesterol. Also, butter trumps any other type of fat when it comes to flavor and texture in baked goods. However, butter is super high in cholesterol. So in order to have my cake and eat it too, occasionally I have to make substitutions. Most of the time I sub with olive or canola oil. For this cake I used coconut oil.

The recipe I’ve chosen is one I’ve had and made in several versions before. Unfortunately I’m unable to give the origin. This recipe is one that I printed off before I started blogging and realized the importance of giving credit to my source.

Apricot Pound Cake
¼ cup apricot fruit spread
1 cup Coconut Oil
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond flavor
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
3 drops orange food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°. Prepare a 9×5 in loaf pan with non-stick spray and set aside. Sift together the flour, salt and soda and set aside. In bowl of mixer combine the oil and sugar and beat for 3 minutes. In another bowl mix together the buttermilk, eggs and flavorings just until combined. Stir into the oil and sugar mixture.

Add flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture, alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Divide batter into three portions. Pour first portion into prepared pan. Stir ¼ cup apricot fruit spread and, if desired, 3 drops orange liquid food coloring into second portion; spread gently over first layer. Then spoon remaining batter over top.

Bake at 325º for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on wire rack. Dust with ½ cup sifted powder sugar or brush with a glaze. I combined ¼ cup of melted apricot fruit spread to 1 ½ cup of powdered sugar and applied it to the cake. The result was shiny, fruity and the perfect complement to the cake

The texture was a bit heavy and I don’t know if it was due to using oil or not, the next time I will reduce the amount to ¾ cup. Texture aside, we loved this cake and knowing I was reducing the amount of cholesterol was a relief. This cake also went fast, so fast I didn’t get any pictures of it sliced. Sorry about that, guess I’ll have to make it again.

Lowfat Granola

I’ve been trying to forgo the sweets since I forgot the meaning of moderation over the holidays. My birthday is coming up very soon also, and you know there will be a dessert table. To somewhat satisfy my sweet tooth I decided to make some granola. Not the healthiest thing in the world but at least if I make it I’m in control of what goes in it. HA! By the time I was finished with tweaking, modifying and adding in everything except the kitchen sink, I could’ve had some cake. This recipe has been in my stash for a while and I don’t remember where I found it. And in all likelihood the original author probably would cringe if they seen how I trampled all over their healthier version. Sorry about that. I’m sharing the original recipe and including by modifications in parentheses. It’s good as a snack and also yummy warmed with some vanilla soy milk.

One word of caution; this granola talks. Each time you pass by it, it whispers your name. If you try to ignore the whisper, it yells. Your options are to wear ear plugs whenever you’re in it’s vicinity, or just have a nibble or two to shut it up. My neighbor made pear preserves and shared some with us and asked me to save the jar. I will return her jar filled with granola. I’ll be sure and tell her about the whole talking granola thing. Hope she likes it!

Lowfat Almond Granola
2 cups rolled oats
¼ cup sliced almonds (¾ cup chopped walnuts)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup dark corn syrup (½ cup)
2 TBS water
1 ½ TBS vegetable oil (olive oil)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup golden raisins (regular raisins)
(½ cup dates)
(¼ cup coconut)

Heat the oven to 300 °. Combine the oats and nuts in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan combine the honey, syrup, water, vegetable oil and cinnamon and heat through, stirring for about one minute. Pour over the oat mixture and stir to blend. Spread the granola onto a baking sheet and toast, stirring every 10 minutes until golden-crisp, about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on this, it will burn very quickly. Remove from the oven and add the raisins ( dates and coconut). Cool completely before serving. You can’t help but nibble a little bit, but not too much. Nibbling can end up being a full serving. Makes 8 ½ cup servings at 223 calories each (before any tweaking)

This recipe can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for up to three weeks in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Good luck with keeping it around that long!

Chicken Parmesan

Sweet Sensations is primarily a dessert blog, but the Sweet Sensations family doesn’t live by sugar alone. Thankfully we have an affinity for veggies and protein as well. As a part of the Foodbuzz Taste Maker Program I received a sample of Birdseye Voila Chicken Parmesan. This was so simple to prepare. I heated the entire bag in the microwave for about 10 minutes and my kitchen smelled like an Italian restaurant.

Nutrition wise, it was pretty good for a pre-made meal. According to the label a serving is 1 2/3 cup which is 360 calories. I was really pleased to find out that of the 11grams of fat only 2 were saturated fat. Plus, only 15 mg of cholesterol. We enjoyed out Birdseye Voila Chicken Parmesan with a salad and some yummy sourdough bread. Gabrielle even ate it, and for her that’s an big thing. In addition, I sprinkled shredded pepper jack cheese on mine, and the Mr. opted for a Parmesan/Romano cheese to top his. One other thing that I really like about it is that it eliminates the question, ”what side dish are we having?” I wouldn’t hesitate for one minute to serve this at a dinner party, it’s that good and we’re looking forward to having this again.

Ore-Ida Sweet Potato Fries

A while back I told you about the sweet potato kick I was on a couple of years ago. I would make a sweet potato pound cake at least once a week. It was one of the first pound cakes that I perfected. From there I made sweet potato waffles, biscuits, pies of course, crusted and without. At least once a day I’d have a sweet potato and stir fry veggies for one of my meals. My family was all in but not me. Eventually the “I’ve got to have a sweet potato” everyday passion waned. Every once in a while I’ll jump on the bandwagon again, but not like before. I couldn’t understand why everyone else didn’t love them as much as I did. What’s not to love about a veggie that:

Provides over 8,800 IU of vitamin A or about twice the recommended daily allowance. Contains only 141 calories (3 ½ oz) and provides 42 %t of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, 6 % of the RDA for calcium, 10 % of the RDA for iron, and 8 % of the RDA for thiamine for healthy adults. Is low in sodium and is a good source of fiber. They are a complex carbohydrate but has a lower GI than a white potato.

Imagine my delight when recently I got a chance to try Ore-Ida Sweet Potato Fries through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program. When I was eating them regularly I never made fries, don’t know how that escaped me. It also blows my mind that for a while I was stymied as to how to use them. I knew that I wanted to use them as a sweet and savory dish. For the savory dish I finally decided on Taco Cheese Fries, which is like Chilli Cheese Fries without the chilli sauce. The pepper jack cheese I used has a bit of a kick, so if spicy isn’t your thing, just use all shredded cheddar cheese or cheddar and plain jack cheese. Trust me on this one, it’s good, and it takes hardly any time to pull together. I baked the entire bag of Ore-Ida Sweet Potato Fries at one time because I decided to do the sweet and savory dish the same day. I was in Sweet Potato heaven!!! Here’s the savory dish.

Sweet Potato Taco Cheese Fries
½ lb ground beef or turkey
1 pkg taco seasoning
2 oz shredded pepper jack cheese
2 oz shredded cheddar cheese
½ medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 4oz can chopped green chilies

Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the ground meat, seasoning , veggies and chilies to the pan and cook until brown, about 6-7 minutes, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks with a wooden spoon or large fork. Drain well. To serve, divide the fries between two plates and top each one with the seasoned meat and half of each of the cheeses.

Now to add a little more sweet to the sweet potato fries. The fries are so good on their own I didn’t want to doll them up too much. Hmmm, let’s see….how about a dip! Nothing wimpy and drippy, I envisioned something that was full bodied and not over the top sweet. Cream cheese to the rescue!!! Softened cream cheese with caramel ice cream topping and a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar, sprinkled with finely chopped milk chocolate. BAM!!!!

Caramel Cream Dip
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3 TBS powdered sugar
4 TBS caramel ice creamed topping, room temperature
2 oz finely chopped milk chocolate
Mint leaves (optional)

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese and powdered sugar with a whisk or use an electric mixer on low until smooth. Add caramel topping and mix until completely smooth. Place in small serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped milk chocolate. Garnish with mint leaves if desired. Serve with baked sweet potato fries.

Lavender Cordial Lemon Pound Cake

File this one under something new and different. A while back I was checking out a post on the Frugal Antics of a Harried Housewife. She referenced the East India Company in her recipe for Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry & Pepper Jam. Her recipe was drool worthy and my interest in the East India Company was piqued. Naturally I took a look see and liked what I saw. And in the interest of brevity I’ll get to the point and tell you that they sent me a bottle of their Lavender Cordial to try in one of my recipes. Hmmm, whatever shall I make? I tossed around lots of ideas and not surprisingly came back to my cake baking comfort zone. No surprise there huh? Ok, now that I’ve decided to use it in a cake, what kind and do I use it in the batter, or the frosting? What the heck, all of the above!

The East India Company is located in London and they sent the cordial out to me lickety split. I was expecting a 2-3 week wait, instead it was four days. I was also expecting a tiny sample size bottle, but received a 250 ml which is about 8 oz, or if I’m being exact
(the Mr. says there is no such thing as about when you’re measuring) 8.45 oz. I had to taste it right away but had enough sense to take a small taste. The first thing that hit me was the aroma, pure lavender. Heady but not overwhelming, it took me straight back to my aromatherapy days. A tiny sip revealed what I’d anticipated, it was sweet, very, very sweet. I knew I had to tread lightly with this in a recipe. The Mr. is not into sweet drinks at all so I knew he wouldn’t be thrilled. Charisse always sniffs everything first and her first comment was, “it smells like air freshner. Next time I’ll keep my goodies to myself.

Back to square one, what kind of cake to bake with it. For the last couple of months I’ve seen my fair share of lavender baked goods but they all contained the lavender flowers. A web search for lavender cordial didn’t turn up much other than recipes for making it. Looks like I was about to go where no man baker has gone before. Cover me foodies, I’m going in.

Lemon Lavender Cordial Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup Splenda for Baking
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup + 2 TBS canola oil
4 eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup milk
¼ cup Lavender Cordial
Glaze
1 cup of Lavender Cordial

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt or tube cake pan. In large bowl, beat the sugar, Splenda and canola oil with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. If using a stand mixer this typically takes approximately 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed in and stir in lemon peel and vanilla.

With the mixer still on low speed, beat in flours, baking powder, salt, baking soda and milk and lavender cordial until smooth, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter into pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes. Turn cake out onto a serving plate. While the cake is still warm, prick top and sides of cake with a fork. Brush warm cake with lavender cordial and allow the glaze to soak into cake. Cool completely, preferably overnight before serving. Garnish with lavender flowers, if desired.

After the first bite I realized that I could’ve easily used more of the cordial in the batter and a wee bit of lemon juice in the glaze. The cordial taste came through loud and clear in the glaze, but not in a bad way. It was just bold enough to call attention to it and make you wonder what it was. The crumb was a bit coarser than the typical pound cake, but that’s what I expected. And in this context coarse and dry aren’t synonymous. I enjoyed it, left out a couple of slices for the fam and happily packed up the rest for Charisse to take to work. End of story.