Nutty Apple Crisp

My roommate and I had a housewarming party on Friday, and of course I wanted to make sure people had plenty to eat and snack on–with the caveat that it was healthy enough for me to eat too. So I made hummus to serve with veggies, roasted a whole chicken, and baked an apple crisp.

So this sounds basic enough, but I wanted to reinvent the already healthy and relatively low-calorie apple crisp to be low-glycemic and reduce the sugar content. So I grabbed my traditional Better Homes & Gardens Apple Crisp recipe and went to work on changing it.

First, I wanted to eliminate the 1/4 cup white flour in the topping so I replaced it with 1/4 cup almond flour. I also nixed the 1/2 cup brown sugar and replaced it with 1/4 cup agave nectar for sweetness and 1/3 cup wheat bran and 1/4 cup flax-seed meal for texture (and health!). I replaced 4 Tbsp. of butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil to reduce the overall fat and saturated fat and then added a pinch of kosher salt to make the flavors pop. I added 2 Tbsp. of unsweetened coconut and 1 oz. of chopped almonds for flavor and texture. I kept the rolled oats, even though they are medium-glycemic, because they are fundamental to the texture and taste of my apple crisp. I also added Ceylon Cinnamon to the topping.

For apples, I used half Pink Lady and half Braeburn. I rarely use Granny Smith apples for baking because they have an inconsistent texture depending on age and time of year. One time in college I made apple crisp with all Granny Smiths, and someone asked me if I used applesauce in my apple crisp. Ouch! Since then, I have used a mix of apples and ones that stay firmer during baking. To make the apple crisp faster to make, healthier, more toothsome, and colorful, I don’t peel my apples.  Then, instead of adding 2-4 Tbsp. sugar to the apples, I tossed them with 4 packets of Truvia (Splenda would also work) and some Vietnamese cinnamon.

With baking the crisp, I realized that this topping can burn a lot easier than the butter-based version, so the crisp should be checked at 15-20 minutes instead of the 30 minute mark. To help the apples bake in the right amount of time, I cut the apples thinner than I normally do, more of 1/8 inch thick than 1/4 inch like usual. Each 1/8 inch apple wedge was then sliced in half. If the topping is done before the apples are soft, cover with aluminum foil for the rest of the baking.

I loved this apple crisp. The topping had a nuttiness and chewiness to it that was very satisfying. The apples turned out perfectly. And I loved that this dessert was guilt-free!
 

Nutty Apple Crisp

Special Equipment: Knife, cutting board, casserole dish or pie plate; Time: 20 minutes prep, 20-30 minutes bake at 375°

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

For the apple filling:
3 Pink Lady apples, thinly sliced (~1/8 in.); do not peel
3 Braeburn apples, thinly sliced (~1/8 in.); do not peel
4 packets Truvia or Splenda, or to taste
1/2 tsp. Penzeys Vietnamese cinnamon

For the topping:
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup flax-seed meal
1/2 tsp. Penzeys Ceylon or Vietnamese Cinnamon
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 oz. almonds, coarsely chopped

1. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°.

2. Place the sliced apples in a large mixing bowl and lightly toss with Truvia and cinnamon.

3. Combine the first six topping ingredients together. Add the agave nectar and olive oil and mix til crumbly (you may need to use a fork or your hands for this). Add the coconut and almonds and toss lightly.

4. Place apples in a casserole dish. Add the topping and spread evenly over the apples.

5. Bake in the preheated oven until top is golden brown and apples are soft but not soggy, about 20-30 minutes. If topping is done but apples are not, cover with aluminum foil for the rest of the baking.

6. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Traditionally accompanied with ice cream or whipped cream, though I did not serve either to keep it healthy.)

Afternoon Iced Coffee

So as I just posted, I had a very yummy weekend brunch. One item didn’t quite make it to the table–the second pot of organic Guatemalan coffee. Oops!

Well, I certainly didn’t want to waste the coffee but with the beautiful spring weather I didn’t really feel like hot coffee. So I figured I’d try making Iced Coffee. Now I read last summer about how complicated it is to make Iced Coffee properly with enough coffee flavor. Thus, I was quite pleased with how delicious my Iced Coffee was with 1% organic milk, Truvia, ice, warm to cool coffee, and almond extract for flavoring as desired.

Now for the coffee, I always use a burr grinder to freshly grind the beans without burning them like a blade grinder can do. I use a 10-cup Capresso coffee maker, using 10 to 12 Tbsp./scoops of ground beans.

For the Iced Coffee, I took a 16 oz. glass, filled it with ice, then added 1% organic milk, coffee, Truvia, and 1/4 tsp. almond extract. The ratio of milk to coffee depends on your tastes–I think I used a 50/50 ratio. Be careful with Truvia because it doesn’t dissolve well in cold temperatures. You may want to use another sweetener.

Well, here’s to many more warm days and Iced Coffees ahead!

Lebanese-themed dinner party a hit!

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Okay, so I have a recipe for a Lamb and Bean Stew I really want to share with you all, but I don’t have the time to type it up yet. But I wanted to whet your appetites. 🙂

This past weekend I hosted a Lebanese-themed dinner party. Believe it or not, the entire meal was low glycemic (except the wine, of course)!

Mezze

For Mezze, I made hummus and tzatziki, served with a vegetable assortment and whole wheat pita that one of my guests brought. Another friend made tabbouleh salad that we served with lettuce leaves to eat almost like a taco during Mezze. I also had out a Greek olive assortment.

We then moved on to a beautiful, guest-created salad with a bed of mixed greens and spinach topped with oven-roasted veggies, including bell peppers and zucchini, and feta cheese. I topped my salad with some of the tzatziki rather than the lite balsamic vinaigrette. Delicious!

Main Course

Now for the main course: Lamb and Bean Stew. It was absolutely amazing–I really think it’s the best lamb I’ve ever tasted! The lamb melted in my mouth and had so much flavor. The beans and tomatoes had an intense yet satisfying flavor, resulting from the slow stove top cooking of the stew. A Lebanese “mixed-spice” blend added richness, complexity, and the “wow!” factor, all from spices I normally keep in my spice cupboard. Overall, the flavors, perfectly melded, surprised and excited the palate because they were not a standard American combination. Everyone loved it!

Wine pairings

During Mezze, we opened wine that people had brought, including a Zinfandel, a light white blend, a Chardonnay, and a Moscato D’Asti (I had to put some strawberries out to pair with that!). After I finished kitchen prep, I had time to find some excellent pairings.

Still during Mezze, I opened a 2008 Pinnacle Ridge Cabernet Franc from the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. I’ve found that Cabernet Franc tends to pair perfectly with vegetables. This particular Cab Franc is my favorite Pennsylvania wine right now and the primary reason I visited Pinnacle Ridge on a recent trip to PA. We also opened a gorgeous 2000 Spanish wine, a blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet, which a wine-loving friend brought. Complex yet smooth, this wine paired beautifully with Mezze and the main course.

To pair with the lamb stew, I opened a 2005 Holdridge Syrah from Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. I purchased this wine in 2006 and have cellared it since. The rich flavors of the Syrah held up to the intense, meaty flavors of the stew.

Dessert

For dessert, a guest brought low-fat, plain Cabot Creamery yogurt, which we topped with honey and toasted walnuts. I used agave nectar instead of honey due to its low glycemic index. Delicious!

Photos are courtesy of Emil Chuck.

Sweet potatoes for dinner

“Yum, yum, yum,” I think to myself as I eat my baked sweet potatoes, seasoned two ways.

I needed a quick, healthy dinner before heading to my friend’s birthday party. So I baked up 2 sweet potatoes at 425 degrees for 45 min to an hour. I decided just to eat one for now and save the other for later.

I wanted to see if I could enjoy sweet potatoes without the added olive oil, butter or sugar of my traditional toppings. So I topped each half with red Hawaiian sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. On the first half I sprinkled Penzeys Baking Spice. On the second half I sprinkled Penzeys Vietnamese Cinnamon. No added fat except the 1/2 tsp. olive oil I rubbed on the outside of each potato prior to cooking and wrapping in aluminum foil.

The verdict for which version I liked better–Baking Spice or Cinnamon: Baking Spice wins by just a hair. I love them both, and I don’t miss the butter and brown sugar or the extra olive oil. Hurray!

Here’s how to make such healthy yumminess at home:

Baked Sweet Potatoes


Special equipment: Aluminum foil, baking sheet (any size)
Time: 1 hr; Prep Time: 5 min; Baking time: 45 to 60 min

Ingredients for each Sweet Potato
1 Sweet Potato
1/2 tsp. olive oil
Dash of Kosher Salt
Black Pepper, freshly ground, to taste
Red Hawaiian Sea Salt, to taste
Penzeys Baking Spice, to taste
Penzeys Vietnamese Cinnamon, to taste

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425 °F.
2. Wash each potato and dry. Do not prick. Place potato on sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. olive oil on potato, rubbing with hands to completely coat. Sprinkle a dash of kosher salt on both top and bottom of potato. Wrap in aluminum foil.
3. Place potato on baking sheet (this prevents the leaking sweet juices from burning on the bottom of the oven and setting off the smoke alarm). Bake in oven for 45 to 60 min until potato is soft when squeezed with gentle pressure with pot holder.
4. Serve potato with last four ingredients, choosing Baking Spice for one side and Cinnamon for the other. Enjoy!

 

Delicious & Nutritious Dessert: Parfaits

So on my quest to eat low-glycemic index fruit, I purchased strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries from BJs. I also picked up non-fat, plain Greek yogurt for a lean protein, intending to use the yogurt like sour cream and mix it with Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning to make a veggie dip. But alas, the yogurt didn’t quite make it to veggie dip because it got diverted to… Parfaits!

This parfait recipe makes a great dessert or snack with no added sugar or fat but with plenty of flavor from the fruit and spices.

Easy Berry Parfait

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Special tools: Sundae dish or old-fashioned style glass

Ingredients
1/4 cup Blackberries
1/4 cup Blueberries
1/4 cup Strawberries
2/3 cup Non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
Penzey’s Baking Spice or Cinnamon
1 Tbsp. Flaxseed meal (optional)
1 packet Splenda (optional)

1. In the dish or glass, scoop a large spoonful of yogurt into class. Top with sprinkle of Baking Spice, 1 tsp. flaxseed meal (opt.), and 1/4 packet Splenda (opt.).
2. Add a small handful of fruit. Sprinkle with baking spice.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 two times to create a three-layer parfait.
4. Serve.