White Chocolate Pastry Cream Tart

Tiptoeing across the fine line of moderate indulgence often requires balance, a tad bit of willpower and quality ingredients. Hodgson Mill came along at the perfect time with an offer to use some of their whole grain products for a post.

Hodgson Mill has also generously offered a coupon for a dollar off any 5 pound package of flour or cornmeal as part of their Have a Grain Holiday campaign. Wait there’s more! In addition, you may enter to win a Holiday Gift Package featuring whole grains and baking mixes. US residents only and winners will be notified on December 10, 2012. Hold on to your hats here it truly is the season for giving. At the end of this post there’s another giveaway for a $25.00 prize pack of Hodgson Mill products.

This hybrid dessert satisfied my sweet tooth and a small serving was plenty for one setting. The crust is made with Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, ground walnuts and baked in a tart pan with removable bottom. I filled it with a white chocolate pastry cream; everybody say ‘yum”, and garnished it with candied pistachios. OK, so I kind of nullified most of the healthy part but you could easily leave them out. There’s lots of nuttiness going on in this one, just trust me, it’s good.

Nutty Tart Dough
2 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
¼ cup ground walnuts
1/3 cup superfine sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch cubes
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 TBS cold water
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
White Chocolate Pastry Cream
Candied Pistachios

Place the flour, walnuts, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. PULSE 3 to 4 times to blend. Distribute the butter around the bowl and PULSE 7-8 times, then process for 8 to 10 seconds. The crumbs should be about the size of coarse meal. Making any type of dough in a food processor gives me the heebie jeebies but I do it anyway.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg, egg yolk, water, and vanilla with a fork. Pour the egg mixture into the crumbs and PULSE 5-6 times, then process for 8-10 seconds or until mixture just begins to form a ball. Empty on to a lightly floured surface and knead 6-8 times or until the dough is just smooth and malleable. Shape into a disk and cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 20 minutes or longer. If desired, this dough may be frozen for up to 1 month.

Spray 9 inch tart pan with nonstick spray and preheat oven to 350°. Roll chilled dough on lightly floured surface to ¼” thickness and a little larger than the diameter of the tart pan. Carefully fit the rolled out dough inside the pan. It’s very forgiving and any tears are easily patched up. Place foil or parchment paper on top of dough and then place pie weights or beans on top to keep it from puffing up.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crust looks slightly dry. Due to the color of the flour you won’t necessarily be able to tell by the color when it’s done. Let cool completely and them add the filling.

White Chocolate Pastry Cream – adapted from Wilde in the Kitchen
1 ¼ cups whole milk
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract
3 large egg yolks
¼ granulated sugar
1/8 cup flour
3 tbsp corn starch
½ cup white chocolate

In a medium bowl mix together the sugar and eggs. Sift flour and cornstarch into the bowl and mix until you have a paste. Set this aside. Place white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat on half power until melted, set aside. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat milk to boiling. Slowly add hot milk to the egg mixture. Pour it down the side of the bowl and whisk continuously. Once all the milk is added, pour the whole mixture into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk continuously until it is very thick (like pudding), this should only take 30-60 seconds once it starts to boil. Finally, add white chocolate and vanilla, almond extract and stir.

Pour into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the top of the pastry cream. This will prevent a skin from forming on the surface. Place this in the fridge until it is cooled.

Candied Pistachios
½ cup whole pistachios
1/8 cup of water
¼ cup of brown sugar
½ tsp cardamom

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Add pistachios and cook stirring often until nuts are covered in a syrupy liquid. Add cardamom and stir until well coated. Pour onto silpat or parchment lined sheet to cool.

Assembly: Spoon then spread white chocolate pastry cream into cooled crust. Chop or leave nuts whole and sprinkle on top. I left mine whole and also found out it’s best to sprinkle with nuts at serving time. They slightly discolored the top. Did that stop us from eating it? Not a chance!!!

Disclosure: I received a variety of Hodgson Mill products courtesy of the company, but the opinions stated in this post are my own. I was not compensated in any way for writing this post.

Now for the giveaway. Follow along with raffle copter. The contest ends on Wednesday December 5, 2012 and the winner will be notified by Thursday the 6th.

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The Feeding Frenzy is Upon Us

It’s that time of year again, On your mark, get set, EAT!!!
According to research, the average American gobbles down between 2,000 and 4,000 calories during his or her Thanksgiving Day meal! That doesn’t include seconds either.

This is the time of year when caution is thrown to the wind in regards to dietary choices. Our Thanksgiving meal is already planned and we‘re on to what kind of cookies we’ll bake for Christmas. You can make it through the feeding festivities without gaining weight. Truth is, you could actually drop a pound or two if you make wise decisions. I’m not going to suggest that you eat a bunch of low-fat, sorry substitutions for your holiday favorites, but keep in mind that there are ways to scale down most traditional recipes and make healthier, tasty versions of them.

What I do suggest is that you have small portions of your favorites and load up on the foods that really kick-start your metabolism. Now I know the term small portions is relative. But we all know that a small portion of sweet potato pie is not ¼ of the pie.

Let’s get back to the feast. The big meal will be whatever your traditional family meal is for that day. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and lest I forget, desserts. If you choose not to modify the recipes, fix them as usual and watch your portion sizes. Include lots of fibrous fruits and vegetables, the more colorful the better. Lose the “one more little bite won’t hurt mantra“. Little bites add up to pounds and inches gained. Practice mindful eating. Remember the old school rules about putting your fork down between bites? It really does slow down the eating process. Here’s a few more survival tips:

Is it worth the guilt and bloat that will come later if you eat all of the desserts on the buffet? Pick one, or two at most and call it a day. If Aunt Thelma only makes her triple chocolate cheesecake once a year and it’s your fave, have it.

Don’t arrive at the big dinner, starving. Stoke your metabolism and fend off the feeding frenzy with a mini meal. Low-fat yogurt with fruit and a scant handful of almonds, or a piece of fruit with string cheese. Banking calories for later often backfires.

Try to get in some cardio activity, if only for 10-15 minutes. It helps to keep you in the fitness mindset.

Holidays don’t always bring out the best in us and when families gather there’s always the possibility of stress, tension, and old wounds being opened. These conditions can be triggers for emotional eating. Accept that these people no matter how kooky they may seem are your family and the holiday doesn’t last forever. If someone is being exceptionally rude and critical, realize that it’s them with the problem not you. And this too shall pass.

This brings me to the point about alcohol. Sometimes you feel you need a drink or two to deal with those crazy relatives. Alcohol relaxes your body and your judgment. With a couple of stiff drinks under your belt it’s easy to sit down in front of Aunt Thelma’s cheesecake and forget just how much you’ve eaten. One glass of heart healthy red wine won’t hurt though.

Remember what the day is all about, being thankful. Count your blessings, express gratitude for the wonderful meal and being able to come together with your family. Give yourself permission to relax and enjoy the day. Take care be well and have a peaceful holiday.

Here’s a Little Extra Food for Thought
It only takes 100 extra calories per day to gain ten pounds in a year… That’s thirty pounds in only three years.

Just wanted you wanted to hear the day before the holiday, right?

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.