Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wing Talk

The best part of the chicken is its wings. There, I've said it. A friend recently put forth the idea that there isn't much meat on chicken wings. She was quickly disabused. There is meat and it has lots of flavor. Witness the popularity of buffalo wings. However, restaurants tend to deep-fry wings, which I prefer to avoid. (I do confess to a certain weakness for onion rings, which I give in to once or twice a year.) I like my wings roasted in a hot oven with a little seasoning. Strong men and women have swooned over them. Here's how I make them.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Season whole wings (I use the whole wing, tip and all) with seasoning of choice. I use Blue Star all purpose seasoning, which contains salt, garlic, onion and natural flavorings. Place wings on a cooling rack in a sheet pan. This allows rendered fat to run off. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning over half way through. You want your wings nice and golden brown with crisp skin. If you have a convection oven, use it; you won't even have to turn them. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ztrim - Hot New Ingredients - Part 3

Butter is wonderful. It has a incomparably rich flavor. It also feels good in your mouth; that is, it has a wonderful mouthfeel. Butter is about 85% fat, much of it saturated. It has oodles of calories and can really help us pack on the pounds. What can we do?

There is a product out there called Ztrim Fat Replacement, which has no flavor, but has the mouthfeel of butter. It has no calories, no fat, and little fiber. It is derived from insoluble fiber and is available in gel form as well as powder. Currently I'm using the gel form packed in squeeze bottles.

You can't saute with it but baking works well. I do wish it had the butter effect that we prize in our biscuits, crusts, croissants and other flaky doughs. Cold butter makes steam in these doughs while in the oven, puffing them up and putting the flakiness on. So far I haven't had great luck with that, but I'll be investigating further.

I like egg salad sandwiches, as well as tuna and chicken salad. I was already using light mayonnaise sparingly; now I get a much more luxurious effect by adding Ztrim into the mix.

So far I'm liking Ztrim in pan sauces. Pan sauces are made with the carmelized bits of protein that stick to the pan after a nice saute. Generally broth or wine are added and stirred to dissolve the delicious bits. The magic ingredient is butter, and plenty of it. For my chicken marsala, I whisked in a little butter and more Ztrim. It came out really nice.

You can read up on Ztrim at their site,, as well as place an order. When I ordered I was lured by the 30 day return guarantee. I ordered several bottles so that the shipping costs made sense. I won't be returning them. Ever.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Resistant Starch - Hot New Ingredients, Part 2

A few months ago I read about resistant starch in the Environmental Nutrition journal, so-called because it resists digestion in the small intestine. Why is that good, you might ask. It's good because the small intestine is most of your digestion takes place. It's where carbohydrates are turned into glucose. If you are consuming large amounts of refined carbs your small intestine is dumping a lot of glucose into your blood, which of course jacks up your blood glucose level. This is turn jacks up your insulin level, which makes you hungry for more carbs and also triggers the packing on of belly fat and probably, untimately obesity. A combination of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle leads to insulin resistance, which means excess glucose damaging your organs, and then diabetes if the cycle isn't broken. Read The New Glucose Revolution for a more indepth discussion.

Back to resistant starch - when you substitute part of the flour in baked goods with resistant starch you effectively slow down the digestion of those carbohydrates. Go to http://www.resistantstarch.com/ResistantStarch/ for wealth of information on what it means to your health. There is evidence that it may help you burn fat, regulate blood glucose levels, feed the good bacteria in your gut, and more.

Resistant starch occurs naturally in foods such as beans and grains. It is available for cooking and baking as Natural HiMaize, a cornstarch which is low in calories and extremely high in fiber. I personally have substituted up to 30% of the flour in my bread recipes with excellent results. I buy if from Honeyville
in 5 lb. bags because I bake a lot and it's more cost effective. It's also available from King
Arthur Flour
in 10 oz. bags so you can just stick your toe in.
Here's my Potato Gnocchi recipe to get you started. I substituted in 1/3 Hi-Maize with great results. Absolutely delicious!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Agave Nectar - Hot New Ingredients - Part 1

I got interested in the glycemic index last summer, when I realized I needed to eat lots of carbs to feel good; that is, the preferred carbs that digest more slowly. I found a book called The New Glucose Revolution, by Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller, et al. I highly recommend it, as it explains the role carbohydrates play in our health as well as what the glycemic index is. Briefly, it is a measure of how quickly carbs are turned into glucose and dumped into our bloodstream. Eating high GI foods triggers large amounts of insulin, which in triggers hunger and belly fat and someday, possibly diabetes. You can go to www.glycemicindex.com/ to look up the GI for many foods.
This leads me to agave nectar, a nonrefined sweetener. The nectar comes from the agave plant, yes, where tequila comes from! It's about 25% sweeter than sugar and the taste ranges from neutral to honeylike, depending on its color - clear to amber. It is runnier than honey and doesn't crystallize; it can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. I've been using it on my oatmeal, and in baked goods, like my Skinny Pizzelles.
I've seen it for sale in stores, it's getting more available. However, apparently all agave nectar is not equal. Supposedly some brands may have high fructose corn syrup added, which is an extreme no-no! I have found one brand online which has had it tested and certified with a GI of 27, which is excellent. They claim it is from the blue agave plant. The nectar is amber colored and has a mild honey taste. I have been using it and am very happy with the results. Go to Volcanic Nectar and read their information and order if you desire.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Skinny Meatballs

I'm here to talk about food. Yes, food. Real food that you make yourself; you know what's in it because you put it there. I don't like to settle for packaged foods with all those additives and sodium, so either we have a really simple meal like a roasted yam, veggies and some protein or I really cook a meal.
I came up with Skinny Meatballs after being inspired by the Barefoot Contessa's full fat, delicious, highly indulgent meatballs. She really is my hero because she is so creative, and I love her show, but I'm determined to get rid of my excess weight. So I started by using the lowest fat beef I could get, 96% lean. Very lean meat gets dry, and dry, hard meatballs would be unsatisfying. Therefore, gelatin that has been bloomed (soaked in water) is added, which gives a moister texture.
If you use canned tomatoes for the sauce, be sure to check the label for sodium and get the lowest amount possible. In fact, always check the label. The sodium levels are usually extremely high; you can add more salt - but you can't take it out. Adding the diced carrots is a nice touch; it adds nutrition and sweetens the sauce. And it's molto Italiano! This recipe, as are all recipes, is a guideline. It can be doubled, but taste for seasoning to suit yourself. Enjoy!