Sunday, May 1, 2011

Coffee Stout Ice Cream

I love dark roasted coffee. I love a deep, rich stout. And I love ice cream.

So what could be bad about a combination of all of those things?

Inspired by an article in this month's Saveur magazine, I adopted a recipe for Guiness Stout ice cream and made it a lot healthier, without losing any of its potent stout flavor or sophistication.

The original recipe, from an ice cream shop in Kingston, Jamaica, calls for 3/4 of a cup of sugar and 2 cups of heavy whipping cream. Yum. But I was aiming to make a Fitfoodiegirl version with less fat and less (or no) sugar.

Since I try to buy locally whenever possible, I replaced the whipping cream with half and half from Calder's Dairy (from Lincoln Park, Michigan). At 20% butterfat, however, Calder's is a little richer than most half and half, but you really need a little extra fat for mouthfeel.

Local beer was next on the list; instead of a regular stout, I opted for Bell's (Kalamazoo, Michigan) coffee stout. This is a lovely, rich, beer with plenty of roasty espresso notes and a distinctive stout flavor throughout. At $16 a six-pack, it was definitely a bit of a splurge. Fortunately I only needed one bottle for the recipe and the other five are resting comfortably in my fridge, a perfect treat after a busy work day.

If you're not concerned about sugar, go ahead and use it. I substituted about 1/3 cup of Splenda for the 3/4 cup sugar in the original recipe. That's less sweetness than the 3/4 cup sugar would have imparted, but I really wanted the slightly bitter flavor of the beer to come through and I'm glad I cut back on it.

3/4 cup sugar (or desired amount of sugar substitute to taste)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
6 egg yolks (save those whites for your omelet tomorrow)
2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups coffee stout (about one 11-12 oz. bottle) or any stout of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk together sugar, salt and egg yolks in a 4 qt. saucepan until smooth.

Stir in cream and cook stirring constantly, over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes.

Pour mixture through a fine strainer into a medium bowl and whick in stout and vanilla. Refrigerate until chilled.

Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a resealable plastic container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

(Note: home-made ice cream can get quite hard after a few days in the freezer. Be sure to take it out about 20 minutes before you want to serve it.)

This would be a great dessert after a beer-themed dinner...or hell, really anytime. After all, it's 5 o'clock somewhere.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good-for-You Mango Frozen Yogurt

If you are diabetic or have insulin resistance, as I do, you know the importance of limiting sugars in your diet. They're everywhere, sometimes out in the open as sugar, corn syrup or (ugh) high-fructose corn syrup, and sometimes hiding behind aliases like maltodextrine, dextrose, sucrose, malt syrup and cane juice. Sugar by any other name is, well, sugar.

It's a sign of the times that the number of products labeled "no sugar added" has grown exponentially over the last few years. But no sugar added doesn't mean unsweetened, and smart foodiegirls need to read labels carefully. For example, many of the NSA (no sugar added) products on the market, particularly frozen treats, are sweetened with sugar alcohols. No, they're not sugar and they're not alcohol. (Wiki told me so.) They are virtually calorie free and allegedly do not cause spikes in blood glucose levels. Sounds great, right? Not so fast, Virginia.

Sugar alcohols are easy to spot in an ingredient list; they always end with "ol", as in sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol and erythritol. Although they are all naturally derived they bring with them a rather unfortunate side effect. They cause gastrointestinal distress in a large portion of the population, yours truly included. Gastrointestinal distress. I'm talking about massive amounts of gas, bloating and even diarrhea. If you're going to eat any of these sweeteners in any quantity, make sure you clear your calendar first.

A few weeks ago I was craving ice cream, and couldn't find a single commercial brand that didn't contain one of the sugar alcohols. (By the way, of all the ones listed above, erythritol is allegedly least likely to cause "distress", i.e. embarrassing flatulence.) Even those labeled "sweetened with Splenda" also contained either maltitol or sorbitol.

So...what's an ice-cream-craving Fitfoodiegirl to do? Fire up the ice cream maker and make my own!

This weekend when I cleaned out the refrigerator, I uncovered (along with a few things that would have made Alexander Fleming proud) 2 unopened containers of Trader Joe's 0% Greek yogurt that were a day past their expiration. Perfect for frozen yogurt, but what to put in it? An archeological dig through my freezer unearthed a full bag of Trader Joe's frozen mango chunks (a staple in my kitchen). And here's how it went:

- One bag Trader Joe's frozen mango chunks
- One 16 oz. container Trader Joe's 0% Greek Yogurt
- One 6 oz. container Fage Total (full fat) yogurt OR 6 oz. (by volume) of Trader Joe's full fat greek yogurt (you'll want the fat to prevent iciness in the finished product)
- Stevia, agave nectar, splenda or the sweetener of your choice.

Set aside about 1/3 of the mango chunks.

In a blender puree the remaining chunks until smooth. Add both yogurts to the blender and process until well mixed. Taste and add sweetener to taste. (If using sugar, you'll want to keep aside a little of the puree and warm it in the microwave and add the sugar to that before adding it to the mixture.)

Cut the remaining mango chunks into pieces about half their original size and place in a small bowl.

Chill the yogurt mixture and the mango chunks for about an hour.

Processing in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Add the mango chunks in the last few minutes of processing or they will break down. (Another option is to leave these chunks frozen to keep them intact during processing.) When finished processing, remove the frozen yogurt to an airtight container and place in the freezer for an hour before serving.

I haven't figured out the nutritional information on this yet, but I know it's a powerhouse. Greek yogurt is loaded with protein and other than the natural sugar in the yogurt and the mangos, there are no carbs to speak of.

I served it alongside a lovely Coconut Lime sorbet that I whipped up right after the yogurt, made with a partial can of light coconut milk that I had to use up. But that's for another blog.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Springtime Dinner

Today was spectacular; warm, breezy and sunny. A perfect day for a long run followed by a great meal.

Stumbled upon two beautiful boneless duck breasts in my freezer yesterday and put them in the fridge to thaw over night. I spent most of my run today thinking about how I was going to prepare them. They're really so simple; seared on both sides in a smoking hot cast-iron skillet then finished in the oven, they are a wonderful canvas for any manner of sauce; sweet, savory, Asian, French...your imagination is the only limit when it comes to this versatile meat.

I was in an Asian mood, so I decided on a plum sauce made with fresh plums, plum wine and plum puree (made from canned plums) and shallots. Super simple. I added a few gratings of fresh horseradish right before I served it; it was a surprising flavor, but it worked.

For a side, I wanted a puree of root veggies, but was bored of parsnips and the usual suspects. I'm also bored of sweet potatoes. They are a staple of my diet but they can get a little dull on their own. So I did a combination of carrots and sweet potatoes, pureed in the food processor with a little light coconut milk and seasoned with Chinese five spice powder. I sometimes forget how much I adore this combination of spices and it was really well-suited to the puree. Definitely doing THAT again!

I roasted the asparagus with a little sesame oil and soy sauce. After I seared the duck breasts, I moved them to the oven and drained most of the duck fat from the pan (if I was really decadent, I'd fry tomorrow's breakfast potatoes in the reserved fat) and sauteed some shallots for a few minutes, then deglazed the pan with an ample amount of plum wine and the remaining syrup from the canned plums. I let this reduce and added just a touch of soy at the end. It was a nice drizzle over the duck.

Asian flavors can be challenging pairings for wine, but I've found that I love the Alsacian whites with this type of meal. The slightly sweeter flavors with just the right acidity make them a great balance for the sweet and salty Asian seasonings. One of my favorites is Alsace One by Pierre Sparr. It's a blend of Riesling, Gewurstraminer, pinot blanc, pinot gris and muscat. It was perfect!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Grrrrrr....Quaker "Weight Control" Oatmeal...Grrrrr.

Pardon me, but I'm about to go off on a rant here.

Today on Facebook I found myself chatting on someone's page about, of all things, oatmeal.

This individual was lamenting that he didn't like oatmeal. I suggested that it was because he was eating processed instant oatmeal at which point he said it was "Quaker Weight Control" oatmeal in cinnamon flavor.

Sounds yummy. NOT.

Curious as to what was "weight control" about instant oatmeal, I did a little research.



Ouch. I can't even pronounce half this shit.

Ok, and in case you're wondering about what makes it "weight control...they added whey protein to up the protein content.

Here's the nutritional breakdown for all those chemicals, in case you're interested:

At 45 grams for the whole packet (which includes all the sugar and additives) you're probalby consuming about 1/3 of a cup of actual oats here. If that. So, 7 g's of protein and 6 grams of fiber? That's what makes this "weight control"?

What if you made 1/3 cup of REAL OATS with 8 oz. skim milk and added a little stevia and cinnamon? How about 12 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber??? And 182 calories that will fill you up and stay with you for hours. And it takes about 3 minutes in the microwave.

Need a little more fiber? Eat a piece of fruit.

The choice seems pretty simple to me.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spaghetti Squash - The Breakfast of Champions

Squash for breakfast?

Isn't it strange that we associate certain foods with specific times of day? Grilled cheese for lunch, eggs, bacon and pancakes for breakfast. Isn't it a treat when you get to have breakfast for dinner?

But I've always believed that rules are meant to be broken, especially when it comes to cooking, so I threw this healthy breakfast together this morning after my Spinning class, and it was tasty and filling and really low in calories.

If you've never made spaghetti squash, you absolutely need to try it! It's low in calories (and zero WW points) and cooks in the microwave in about 10 minutes. The squash is a pretty yellow with a smooth skin and an oblong shape. Once cooked, the flesh pulls apart into strands that look just like spaghetti - but without all those refined carbs. To cook, simply cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Nuke on high until you can pull the strands apart with a fork. Let the squash cool a bit before trying to pull the strands apart...I've burnt my hands on steam a few times in my impatience to get to those tasty little golden threads of yumminess!

Breakfast Squash

3 cups cooked spaghetti squash strands
1 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 tsp (or more to taste) cinnamon
splenda or other non-caloric sweetener, or agave nectar, to taste
a few pinches of salt
1 Tbs. butter (optional...but it adds really nice flavor)

Toss all ingredients except the butter in a medium sized bowl. Mix well. Heat in microwave until heated through. Add butter and mix again.

Makes two servings but I ate the whole thing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

High protein, Low Fat and Low Carb....DESSERT!

Soft, silken tofu is one of my favorite ways to lend creaminess and mouthfeel to low-fat foods. It's a great substitute for cream in sauces and mayo in dressings. Its silky texture whips up creamy smooth in the blender. Last week's vodka sauce was a great example of how it can be used to replace cream in sauces, and tonight I made a luscious, creamy cool pudding that's going to become a staple in my diet.

I used frozen mango chunks but any frozen fruit would work. You can also play with adding spices (I like cardamom with the mangos) and extracts (vanilla is great with berries and I love almond extract with cherries). You can do this without the fruit but it won't be as cool and thick. I've flavored the non-fruit mixes with everything from cocoa powder to instant espresso powder and cinnamon.

This recipe makes two servings, and can easily be doubled or tripled.

1/2 cup non-fat (0%) Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup frozen fruit
sweetener (agave, splenda or Truvia) to taste

Process the tofu,fruit and yogurt in the blender until smooth. (If it's too thick to blend, add some skim milk or plain Kefir.) Add the sweetener of your choice and process again. Makes 2 servings, 1 WW point per serving unless you use Agave.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Yes, Virginia, the folks who brought you the 740 calorie, 42 grams of fat, "Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese" are attempting to woo the health conscious with salads, yogurt parfaits and yes, even oatmeal. Starbucks, too, has added an oatmeal cup to their menu (previously made up almost entirely of pastries made of refined white flour and sugar.)

Oatmeal is a great breakfast choice for those who are trying to “eat clean” and its complex carbohydrates stay with you for a long time, making it a healthy, filling option for the first meal of the day.

But beware…not all oats are created equal, and what you put in your oatmeal can make the difference between a healthy start and a fat loaded, sugar-laden bowl of carbs that isn’t much better than a glazed donut.

Types of Oats
There are several types of oats available at your supermarket and choosing the right one might seem confusing at first, but it’s actually quite simple. While steel-cut oats are the tastiest and chewiest, they take a long time to cook. I love them, but tend to eat them only on the weekend when I have a half an hour to cook them. My favorite way to prepare it is with chunks of peeled apple added to the oats while they’re cooking.
Rolled oats, quick oats and instant oats cook faster, and while there has been much debate about their nutritional value compared to steel-cut, the fact is that all oats are pretty similar nutritionally. In fact, even instant oatmeal has about the same nutritional profile as rolled oats and steel-cut (Scottish) oats. Be careful to choose the “plain” or “original” versions of instant oats, as the flavored versions are loaded with sugar.

Unsweetened, instant oatmeal has a glycemic load of 17 versus 13 for regular oats. The scale goes from 1-50 — with pure glucose having a glycemic load of 50. To provide some perspective, brown rice — that staple of clean eating — has a GL of 18 and whole sweet potatoes (another bodybuilding favorite) have a GL of 17: In other words, on par with instant oatmeal. So even with its slightly higher GL, it’s still a good option for a healthy breakfast and way better than reaching for a bagel or a muffin.

But rolled oats have a better texture and flavor than instant, in my opinion, and they take just 4 minutes in the microwave. That’s less time than it takes to boil water for instant oats.

Power Up Your Oats
All oats contain about 27 grams of carbs, about 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. And although the glycemic load of all forms of oats is relatively low, many diabetics find it causes a spike in their blood sugar. When I was monitoring my blood glucose levels during my last pregnancy, I found oats often raised my glucose levels significantly.

The solution is simple, and this trick works with ALL carbs. Just add a protein, or a “good fat” (mono-saturated) to your carbs. That’s often as simple as snacking on a cheese stick with your apple or crackers. The addition of protein and fat slows the conversion of carbs to glucose, lowering the glycemic load of the carbohydrate. Protein also means your oatmeal will keep you feeling satisfied longer.

So instead of making your oats with water, make them with skim milk. You’ll add a little naturally occurring milk sugar, but you’ll also up the protein and the calcium significantly. Another strategy is to add an egg or an egg white to the milk for even more protein. Some chopped nuts will add some more “good fat” (and a few calories). Flax seed meal is also tasty sprinkled on top of oatmeal, adding Omega 3 fats and some fiber.

How Sweet it Isn’t
Now you have this highly nutritious, protein-packed bowl of oats…but it tastes, well, like wallpaper paste. So unless you can manage to choke it down unsweetened, you’re going to have to add something for sweetness.

First, remember to add a pinch of salt to your oatmeal when you’re cooking it. The presence of the salt will actually boost the effect of any sweetener you add, by rounding out the flavor profile. As a chef once told me, “It’s not ‘salt to taste’, it’s ‘salt to taste everything else.’” (Note that some instant oats are already salted so please read the label.)

Fruit (berries, bananas) mixed in while cooking is one way to add fiber and sweetness to your oats. Even in the dead of winter, frozen berries are a great oatmeal addition.
Agave nectar, a natural sweetener with a glycemic load that is significantly lower than nearly every other type of sugar, has a great flavor and a small amount adds a lot of sweetness. And although I know many of you avoid artificial sweeteners, there is no scientifically-valid evidence that Splenda (sucralose) is harmful in any way, and I use it in moderation. A teaspoon in your oatmeal should suffice. Stevia, a naturally-derived herbal sweetener is also a great option, although some people find the after-taste unpleasant.

Finally, don’t forget the cinnamon. A sprinkling of good quality cinnamon not only adds flavor, it can actually help lower your blood sugar. I love the cinnamons from Penzey’s Spices (; they sell several varieties and all are exceptionally fresh and fragrant.

Sara’s Power Oatmeal (1 very large serving or 2 medium servings)

½ cup rolled oats (not instant)
8 oz. milk
Pinch of kosher salt or sea salt
1 egg, beaten or 1 egg white (or the equivalent in liquid eggs such as eggbeaters or liquid egg whites)
1 tsp. cinnamon
Sweetener of choice or ½ cup fresh fruit or frozen fruit (thawed)

•Place oats, salt and 6 oz of the milk in a large, shallow bowl (large enough that when the oatmeal bubbles in the microwave it won’t boil over). Microwave on high for about 2 minutes or until the mixture begins to expand and bubble up.
•Stir the egg into the remaining milk, add to the oatmeal, stir well. Sweeten as desired and if you’re adding fruit, add it now.
•Microwave on high for another minute and a half or so. Stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
•According to the package, ½ cup uncooked oats makes one serving. I find that when I cook it this way, it’s actually enough for two, especially if you’ve added fruit.
•Finally, a few chopped nuts or a couple teaspoons of flaxseed meal on top, and you have a powerhouse breakfast in under 5 minutes.

Back to the Drive-Thru…
So what about that oatmeal at McDonald’s? It’s served with fresh fruit…fantastic. But the second ingredient on list is brown sugar. No, they don’t give you the option of leaving out the sugar, it’s already mixed in with the oats. So it starts at 14 grams of sugar, and if you add the cranberry raisin blend to it, you add another 15 grams. Pouring on the light cream adds 20 calories (15 from fat).

So your total “healthy” oatmeal breakfast delivers a whopping 290 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and a frightening 42 grams of sugar! That’s not breakfast, that’s dessert.

If I’m going to splurge on that kind of sugary breakfast, I’ll take a hot Krispy Kreme glazed donut, right off the line, for 200 calories and 10 grams of sugar.

Ok, not really…but you get the point.

* * *

Nutrition Info for Sara's Power Oats
(per serving - serving size 1/2 the recipe, using Splenda or Stevia, without fruit)

Calories 126.4; Total Fat 1.5 g; Cholesterol 2.5 mg; Sodium 152.0 mg; Total Carbohydrate 31.9 g ; Dietary Fiber 4.1 g; Sugars 0.0 g; Protein 9.2 g

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vodka Sauce (without the guilt)

Healthy Vodka Sauce

I love the rich, creaminess of a traditional Italian vodka sauce. But with upwards of 14 grams of fat per serving, it’s definitely not health food!

So I used silken tofu as a substitute for cream to lighten (and add a boatload or protein!) to to this classic sauce. With just over 5 grams of fat (most of it health mono-saturated) and nearly 4 grams of protein, this rich-tasting sauce will fool even a discerning foodie, and you won’t feel the least bit guilty!

2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tabplespoons EVOO (use a nice fruity one)
1.5 oz vodka
1 jar good quality marinara sauce (I used Dei Fratelli)
7 oz soft tofu (silken or soft)

Sauté shallots in one tablespoon of the EVOO until translucent.

Turn off the heat. Add 1.5 oz of vodka and stir to deglaze pan.

Pour the entire jar of marinara sauce into a blender and add the shallots and vodka from the pan. Add the tofu and a tablespoon of good quality EVOO and process until smooth and creamy.

Pour into a sauce pan and bring to a low simmer for about 5 minutes, just to cook off a little of the alcohol and warm through. Adjust seasoning as needed.