Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Naturally Sweet Ketchup

Let me start by saying I have mixed thoughts on making my own ketchup and if you think I have gone too far now, so be it.  I have heard of others making it from scratch and thought it was crazy to go to that extreme.  At this point in life, we really do not use much ketchup any more.  But with the BBQ season starting, it has become the base for some BBQ sauces I am attempting as well as some tomato sauces I am trying.  And given there is a LOT of sugar in just a little bit of ketchup (like almost 1 tsp of sugar in just 3 tsps of ketchup), I figured trying my own recipe was worth it .  AND to my surprise, and that of my many guinea pigs who have tried it, it is really good and really simple.  It actually tastes like a tomato-based condiment rather than just a sweet red sauce.  So I would encourage you to give it a try and taste and see what a difference homemade makes (Jenn's ketchup is on the right in the picture above).

Jenn's Naturally Sweet Ketchup

1-5.5 oz can of tomato paste*
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or apple butter*
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
* = see cook's notes

Mix all the ingredients together and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. Yields 1 3/4 cups of ketchup.

Cook's notes:
Make sure your tomato paste does not have added sugar in it.  READ the ingredient list, don't just look at the calorie label as tomatoes themselves offer natural sugar. 
If using maple syrup, please only pure maple syrup.  It will still raise your blood sugar so if that is a concern, you may prefer to use the apple butter (wellesley brand).  I don't have specifics on the glycemic index (GI) of the syrup vs apple butter but I know when doing the 8 week challenge, maple syrup was not allowed and apple butter was so I am assuming from that, the GI of apple butter is lower and therefore better for your body.  Your choice.  I have made both ketchup options and they don't really taste much different.
I don't know exactly how long this ketchup will last in your fridge because I usually have used mine up in a week or two.  Assuming it does not get contaminated from food/germs, it should last fairly long as the Heinz version does not have any preservatives either (other than a lot of sugar) and it lasts forever!

If you would like to know more about glycemic index, check out the link below.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fast, Simple and Beautiful

Here is another recipe I have made frequently for my family and for many guests.  A friend Val served me a similar meal years ago and since then I have been adjusting it and now the final change was the sugar-free dressing choice. Thanks Val for that first meal!  This is seriously one of our favorites due to the beauty of colors, the taste and then the simplicity of making something spectacular!  Just look at that color - it certainly inspires me and I hope it will you too. 

Sundried-Tomato Chicken 
Pasta with Feta
3 cups uncooked Brown Rice Penne Pasta*
3 - 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts *
1/2 red onion - diced
1 zucchini - diced
1 yellow pepper (or color of your choice) - diced
1 1/2 cups carrots -peeled and diced
1/4 - 1/3 cup Sundried Tomatoes* - cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup Sundried Tomato dressing - Renee's brand *
1/2 cup Feta Cheese - crumbled
* = see Cook's notes below

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to directions.

Using a large skillet, heat the skillet and add 2 tbsp of  dressing and the diced chicken pieces.  Cook until the chicken is no longer pink and remove the meat from the skillet to cook the veggies.  Add another 2 - 3 Tbsp of the dressing and add the onions, peppers, zucchini and carrots and cook for another 5 - 7 minutes or until tender. 
Add the sundried tomato pieces, olives (if using) and return the meat to the pan.  Add more dressing if needed but it should not be dripping in the sauce.  Stir and cook until heated through. 
To serve, layer the pasta with the veggies and chicken and top with crumbled feta.

Cook's Notes:
Pasta: My preference for pasta is brown rice pasta.  I only cook mine for 7 minutes once the water boils and the pasta is added.  If you overcook your rice pasta, it will go mushy and tastes terrible.  Please check your brand directions and always use a timer! is not worth ruined pasta.

Chicken: You have other options for chicken here.  It really tastes delicious and fancy to marinate the chicken breasts in the dressing (just enough to coat them) for an hour or more and then BBQ the chicken.  Slice the breasts and lay over the plate.  The other thing we do is buy sundried tomato chicken sausage and use that with this meal.  So take your pick.

Dressing:Renee's Gourmet Sundried Tomato and Black Olive dressing is one that contains no added sugars so it is all I buy.  You can find this in the cooler section of the produce department of larger grocery stores.  One could use other Sundried Tomato dressings or even Italian dressing in a pinch, but know it will likely contain sugars of some sort.  Read the ingredient list and remember dextrose is a sugar.  

Sundried Tomatoes: These can be purchased dry or in oil.  For obvious reasons, the dry ones are the healthier option and even in oil, some brands will add sugar as well.  If using the dry ones, they suggest soaking them in hot water for a few minutes before using.  I have done this water soaking but in a pinch, I have also used them without soaking them first.  Makes for a faster supper.  And for cutting up the tomatoes, don't forget you can use a scissor instead of a knife if you prefer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Apple Walnut Spelt Bread

This recipe was first discovered thanks to the purchase of my Sunbeam breadmaker.  The recipe was in the recipe section of the manual - and then modified of course.  I love it because it is nice to dump into a machine and get this marvelous loaf along with the best-smelling house ever! I have no doubt it would also work the old-fashioned way if you don't have a breadmaker.  It does make a heavier bread but it is the best toasted with butter.  Great tea-time snack or breakfast!

Apple Walnut Spelt Bread

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp unsweetened apple juice
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter - melted
1 egg
1/4 cup applebutter
4 cups spelt flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Add the applesauce, juice, salt, butter, egg and applebutter into the bread pan.  In a separate bowl, measure and add the flour, xanthan gum, cinnamon, baking bsoda and stir to combine thoroughly.  Pour this onto the liquids in the bread pan.  Sprinkle the yeast on top of the flour mixture.
Twist the bread pan into the breadmaker, close the lid and select the sweet bread setting (on my machine it is about 2 1/2 hours).  Select your crust color and press start.  When the dough is formed into a ball during the kneading cycle, raise the lid and sprinkle the nuts in (about 5 minutes into the cycle).  This does make a delicious 2lb loaf of bread.

Cook's Notes:
The recipe book does say this should not be made using the timer (ie placing it all in the pan and having it set to go on at a later time).  I have no idea why this would not work for a timer but I have not tried it yet.  I think I may have to though. Waking up to this bread would be a delight!
I would definitely consider adding raisins in and perhaps omit the nuts then.  Another option I have wanted to try is to add small pieces of apple in as well. Yum!