Parve Baking

Hidden Benefits

Can you actually eat more, eat healthier and still lose weight? Does it sound too good to be true?

It’s not a “miracle” diet or a weight-loss pill.

It’s a matter of eating more vegetables and fruits. I often suggest starting a meal with a vegetable salad or soup. Research shows that this simple step curbs your appetite, so you end up eating fewer calories over all.

Earlier this year, a small but intriguing study found another way that vegetables can be used to reduce your total caloric intake.

Researchers added vegetable purees to main course casseroles and desserts. The purees added additional bulk to the food, while reducing the total amount of calories per serving.

Participants who ate the “manipulated” food ate 200 to 350 fewer calories per meal than those who ate the same food minus the vegetable puree. Their daily vegetable consumption also increased significantly. None of the research subjects were told about the added vegetables. They didn’t notice a significant difference in taste or satiation when they were finished eating.

Should you cut calories by adding pureed zucchini and cauliflower to your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe? It’s not a bad idea. It may even help get finicky youngsters (and adults!) to eat vegetables that they might otherwise spurn. (On the other hand, you’ll want to introduce whole “real” vegetables to your children so they’ll develop a liking for them at an early age.)

I suggest serving as many whole vegetables as possible, and adding vegetable purees when you think it might be helpful to your family’s diet. If you’re trying to lose weight, adding purees to casseroles, soups and desserts is certainly a good strategy.

It’s easiest to add vegetable purees that will either appear “hidden” or will enhance your favorite foods. Spicy dishes like chili and hearty pasta casseroles take well to added vegetable purees. Tomato puree adds a rosy touch to macaroni and cheese (see my recipe), while cauliflower puree blends in with the color of the cheese sauce. Pureed squash, pumpkin, applesauce, bananas, carrots, zucchini and pineapple all work well in baked goods, especially cakes, quick breads and muffins using cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other hearty spices.

Here’s a delicious cupcake recipe chock full of vegetables and fruit:

Carrot Cupcakes (Parve)

1 can (8 oz/227 gm) juice-packed crushed pineapple*
1 cup grated carrots
½ cup pitted prunes
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 whole egg
1 egg white
½ cup sugar
¼ cup canola or light olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325F/165C. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Drain the pineapple in a strainer and reserve ¼ cup of the juice. Heat this reserved juice until it’s hot.

Using a food processor, grate the carrots and measure 1 cup. Remove them from the processor and set aside. Put the prunes and the hot pineapple juice in the processor and process until smooth.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a small bowl and set aside.

Whisk together the egg, egg white, sugar and oil. Whisk in the prune puree. Add the dry ingredients and then the pineapple and carrots.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 20-30 minutes, until they spring back when lightly pressed. Let them sit in the pan for a few minutes, then cool completely on a cooling rack.

Makes 12

* I’ve never found crushed pineapple in Israel. (Even though Dole brand is sold here, they seem to just bring over slices and tidbits.) I use whatever is available, drain it and puree it in the food processor after I’ve grated the carrots.

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Passover Banana Coffee Cake (Parve)

This recipe is healthier than the original in several ways: I reduced the amount of sugar and fat by cutting the amount of streusel topping in half. I added walnuts for fiber and heart-healthy fats. Instead of margarine or butter, I substituted liquid oil (mild olive oil, canola or walnut oil) Given the sweetness of bananas, I used less sugar in the cake itself.
Streusel Topping
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup matzah meal
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons oil
Cake
6 large eggs, separated
½ cup white sugar, divided
4 large ripe bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 2 packages vanilla sugar)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup matzah meal
½ cup potato starch
13 x 9 inch (33 x 23 cm) baking pan
Preheat the oven to 325 F (165 C). Oil the baking pan or line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, stir together all of the topping ingredients.
Using a food processor, process the yolks with ¼ cup of sugar until they’re thick and pale. Slice the bananas and add them to the yolk mixture along with the vanilla, salt, matzah meal and potato starch. Blend until smooth and transfer to a mixing bowl.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, beating until the whites hold stiff peaks. Fold ¼ of the meringue into the banana mixture to lighten it. Gently fold the rest of the meringue into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and sprinkle with the streusel.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a cake rack. 
Chag Sameach V’Kasher to Everyone!
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Baking – How Much Can You Change a Recipe?

I’m often asked if it’s possible to substitute oil for margarine, honey for sugar, or whole-wheat flour for white flour in cakes and cookies. Of course it’s possible, but the results may not turn out to be very good!

So my answer is “it depends”. Solid fats like margarine and butter create a different texture than oil does in baked goods. Margarine contains water, whereas oil is 100% fat, so the measurements need to be adjusted. Honey is a liquid, so it doesn’t substitute for sugar without adjusting other ingredients in your recipe. Whole wheat flour gives a heartier taste to baked goods, so you might not want to use it when you’re looking for a delicate or subtle flavored product.

Here’s the recipe for a cake I baked last Shabbat. The original recipe called for white flour and 1 ¼ cups of sugar. It also called for a larger bundt pan (24cm/9 ½ “) than I had. So I divided the batter between my 20 cm (8″) pan and a mini pan that could go into the freezer later for another occasion. Did you know that if you serve a large cake, people are likely to eat more of it than if the cake is smaller to begin with?

The recipe contains flavorful spices and citrus zest, so I felt comfortable substituting whole-wheat flour for all of the white flour. And because most cakes are just too sweet for my taste, I cut back on the sugar by ¼ cup.

The results – excellent! Nobody even guessed that it was made from whole-wheat flour or that it wasn’t sweet enough. It’s also quick and easy. You’ll need an electric mixer, but otherwise this cake goes together in just a few minutes.

Orange Spice Cake (Parve)

3 eggs

1 ¼ cups sugar (white or demerrara)

2 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour

2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

(Or substitute one 350 gm package of self-rising whole-wheat flour for the flour and baking powder)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon grated orange zest (preferably organic)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (preferably organic)

¾ cup orange juice

¾ cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar (optional)

Heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Spray a bundt pan (see above for size information) with baking spray.

Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed, until they’ve significantly increased in volume and are light colored and thick.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, orange and lemon zest together in a separate bowl.

Measure the orange juice and oil in one measuring cup and add the vanilla extract to it.

When the eggs are ready, lower the speed of the mixer and add the flour and liquid ingredients to the eggs. Scrape the bowl occasionally and mix to get out any lumps.

Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 15-20 minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan and let it cool completely on the rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

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Pesach Cookies

Here are two of my favorite Passover cookie recipes. Gorgeous, delicious and full of healthy almonds.

Sienna Macaroons (Parve)

Plan ahead before you make these cookies, as they need to sit overnight (or 8-10 hours) before baking.

2 ¼ cups blanched almonds

¾ cup sugar, divided

2 egg whites

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons lemon zest

½ teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 packet vanilla sugar)

½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Powdered sugar

Put the almonds in the bowl of a food processor with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Process until finely ground. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until they are stiff and dry. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar.

Fold in the lemon zest, vanilla and almond extracts. Add the ground almonds and mix well. The mixture should be firm.

Put some powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Coat your hands with the sugar and shape the dough into small diamonds (about 1 x 1 ½ inches; 2.5 x 4 cm). Use the powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Place the cookies on parchment-lined baking trays. Let them sit at room temperature overnight, or about 8 to 10 hours.

Preheat the oven to 250 F (120 C). Bake the cookies for 20-30 minutes, until they are slightly golden and cracked. Cool them completely on a baking rack. Dust them with powdered sugar before serving.

Makes about 36 cookies

Faux Florentine Cookies (Parve)

2 ¾ cups sliced almonds

1 cup powdered sugar

2 egg whites

Finely grated zest of one orange

Parve chocolate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray the paper with non-stick baking spray.

In a medium size bowl, gently combine the almonds, sugar, egg whites and orange zest.

Drop scant tablespoons of the mixture on the baking sheets, leaving plenty of space between each one. Dip your fingers in water and flatten each cookie into a very thin disc. It should be as flat as possible, but still cohesive. Each cookie will be about 2 ½ inches (6 cm) wide.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before carefully removing each cookie with a spatula.

For chocolate coated cookies, gently melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Brush one side of each cooled cookie with the warm chocolate. Cool them on a rack, chocolate side up, until the chocolate hardens.

Store these cookies in an air-tight container.

Makes about 40 small cookies

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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