Friday, March 18, 2005

SHF #6: Stuck on You - Gingerbread Caramel Corn

I've been quietly blogging over here about various cooking adventures, and I've been spending way too much time reading (and sometimes drooling over) other food bloggers. After seeing the announcement for Sugar High Friday #6 on Debbie's blog (who's dark chocolate pudding has become a staple in my house), I promised myself I'd participate.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I poured through my cookbooks -- I found Payard Patisserie Caramel Ice Cream that sounded decadent, but little else jumped out at me. I was struggling to find something that fit the theme (caramel), but also was something I could eat (Weight-Watchers friendly). One of the essential items in my WW "survival kit" is microwave popcorn (along with Trader Joe's fake Peanut Butter and sugar-free Jello), so the idea of caramel corn seemed like it might fit within the limitations, but also be a delicious experiment. I love the science of candy-making and any chance to use my candy thermometer (though this recipe doesn't require one).

I perused recipes online, looking for low-fat caramel popcorn with a twist. I refused to use commercial microwave popcorn, so I popped several batched of plain popcorn in a paper bag in my microwave (while regretting the decision to donate my air popper to the Salvation Army several weeks ago) (Martha Stewart has directions, which work just as well with loose popcorn as with her fancy popping corn on the cob). This Gingerbread Caramel Popcorn was created by merging several different recipes, and it created a luxurious texture and complex flavor that even adults will find irresistable.

Gingerbread Caramel Corn

12 C popcorn
1 C light brown sugar
1/2 C light corn syrup
1/3 C butter (5 T plus 1 t)
1 T robust molasses
1 t vanilla
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 T ground ginger
1 t cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 250. Prepare your popcorn, using no additional salt or fat. (Air popped or microwave in batches. (My microwave recipe: 3 T of kernels in a brown paper bag, fold over the end and cook on high for about 2 minutes.) Place popcorn in a large bowl.
2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and molasses in a large saucepan. Heat over medium until butter is melted, stirring to combine. Allow it to come to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring just once.
3. Remove saucepan from heat, and stir in vanilla, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.
4. Pour mixture slowly over popcorn, stirring well to cover as much as possible.
5. Spread popcorn in a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
6. Once baked, stir popcorn as it cools to break up large chunks. It's delicious warm or at room temperature. Store in an air-tight container (will store for about a week -- if you're that self-depriving).
Weight Watchers: 2 points per 1/2 cup

Monday, March 14, 2005

Weekend Breakfast

Most days on WW, I have some high-fiber cereal and skim milk for breakfast -- not very exciting, but it means I've got plenty of points for later in the day. On the weekends, I like to indulge a bit, but still make healthy choices (especially because I am inclined to use all my extra points on margaritas on Girls' Night or some other mishbehaving).

These Multigrain Pancakes have become one of my favorite WW-friendly recipes, because they satisfy my desire for indulgent breakfast food, but also allow me to have a decent sized serving. (Sure, one scoop of vanilla ice cream satisfies, but one pancake? no way.) Anyway, they're easy to make, and even if Dan and I eat the entire batch ourselves, it's just 5 points each (including some maple syrup and bananas). (If I want to be more point-conservative, I use egg substitute and apple sauce and it's just 4 points for the batch of pancakes.)

Multigrain Pancakes
adapted from Cooking Light

1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole-wheat flour
1/4 C quick-cooking oats
2 T yellow cornmeal
2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 C 2% milk
1/4 C plain fat-free yogurt
1 T vegetable oil (I sometimes use applesauce)
1 egg (I use egg substitute sometimes)

1. Mix dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl with whisk.
2. Combine wet ingredients and mix well with whisk.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until well combined.
4. Heat non-stick pan to medium, spray pan with Pam and drop 1/4 C of batter to make each pancake.
5. Keep the pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven while preparing the remaining batter.
6. Top pancakes with 1/2 a banana and 1 T of warmed maple syrup. (You can use twice as much of the fake stuff, but why would you?)