Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Crispy Baked Beet Chips (that aren’t burnt)

You don't fix the problem until you define it. – John W. Snow

This recipe is posted in loving appreciation of our mothers, who tried their best to get us to eat things we didn't want to. Most times with a pinch of thanks and a pound of opposition. We love you.

My previous burnt beet chips.
And these were the "good" ones.
I’ve made beet chips before, about as successfully as most of the other home cooks that have posted comments online. In other words, very unsuccessfully. To contribute to the overall betterment of our species, I felt it fell upon my shoulders to fix the problem.

Most online recipes aver such confidence-inducing statements as “crispy, baked beets in XX minutes!” or “this recipe is so easy...”. Well, yes, it is easy, or at least slicing beets with a mandolin is easy. 

But 30 minutes at the most commonly listed temperature of 375°F? That is where things go downhill. Quickly. Have you ever tasted a burnt beet slice? I recommend that you don’t. They’re ugly.

Four medium beets is probably enough for 2 people.
375°F is just too high, especially when non-adjustable mandolins slice food paper thin. You know what I mean by paper thin: like potato chip thin. When one is touting a recipe as beet “chips” they should be “chips” as opposed to beet slabs. Slabs are the only way I can figure the beets in those recipes didn't burn.

The first time I made these—they’re very low calorie—I ate about half of the slices I put into the oven. The other half were burnt beyond consumption. I believe even my compost bin ejected them. I followed the recipe to a “T,” and carefully watched them. It took seconds to go from not-quite-dry-enough to charcoal.

So something had to be done, because the ones that weren’t burnt were pretty good. I hate to put in 100% effort on a 50% return.

But there's more to this post than just the satisfaction of making a recipe work. One medium beet (2” / 5 cm wide) has 35 calories. That’s the same as a slice of “calorie-wise” Kraft swiss cheese food. (“Food” – it’s that way on the packaging.) Plus beets have a significant amount of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory betalains. And don’t forget potassium, dietary fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

The red also colours whatever's in your stomach, so the
next morning don't be startled if things look unusual...
So as you can see, it’s a shame to waste them by burning the heck out of them. And before you say you don't like beets – no, they don’t taste like dirt. The sugars get concentrated. They taste like heaven.

I took a cue from the sweet potato chews I used to make for our Bouvier, Henry. They’re posted on this site if you want to look them up. They ended up not being so much chewy as crisp. They took a couple hours, being much thicker, but the magic was in the oven temperature. They were baked at a low temperature. No burning.

So that’s what I did, and if you follow the recipe below you will have success. I made two trays, one sprinkled with ground ginger and one with ground rosemary, plus salt.

If you like #stormchips but not so much the fat they’re fried in, give these a try. You’ll be surprised how delicious and guilt-free they are.

Crispy Baked Beet Chips
Time, including baking: 45 min
4 medium beets, washed well, stems removed
4 tsp olive oil
salt to taste
optional: ground ginger, sage, ground cumin, 5-spice powder, or orange zest

After 35 minutes at 265°F. They crisped up in about a minute after being
removed from the oven. And not one was burned.

Preheat the oven to 265°F.

Slice the beets, using a mandolin slicer. Divide the olive oil between two cookie sheets or jelly roll pans. Cover the entire surface.

Lay the beet slices in the pans without touching. Sprinkle with salt and then your favourite optional spice or herb topping.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, check the slices. They should be curled but still deep red. If you wish, bake for 5 minutes more, but watch them like a hawk.

Remove from the oven and let cool. They will crisp up as they cool.


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Monday, February 2, 2015

Tandoori Chicken, for the calorie-conscious

Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it's walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too. – Aldous Huxley

I had made myself (and you) a promise in the new year. I was going to post more often. I guess I am on my way to hell, unless I soon rectify it. 

I suppose, if I do have an excuse it would be that I have been on an extremely low-calorie diet. I’ve been experimenting a bit more than usual with trying to get maximum flavour into minimum food, sometimes with spectacular failure. 
The mixed marinade.

So there’s been recipes that were either uninspired or not fit to ever make again – let alone post. Hooray for memorably bad meals!! Not.

But every once in a while you dig up a gem. And if you're lucky you only have to swap out one ingredient. Like full fat for low fat yogurt. 

Chicken is the dieters friend once the skin and fat are removed, unlike beef and even pork. I’m learning, slowly, how to "low-cal interpret" the things I eat. I’m not starving, but I do watch my in-take, and evening snacks are definitely (definitely) O-U-T.

Seal and let the chicken marinate for
one day. There's enough marinade for
four breasts, if you would like.
Here's a little diet factoid for you. Two teaspoons of butter (70 cal) have fewer calories than grape seed oil (80 cal) and about the same number as olive oil (65 cal). 

So don't feel you have to ditch butter on a low calorie diet. Just everything in moderation. Oscar Wilde added "including moderation." I tend to concur.

For your edification, I have broken out the calories per ingredient in this dish. Knock on wood, but I have had success since starting my calorie death watch about a month ago. I have dropped slightly over 8 pounds. No time to quit now. 10-15 more to go!

The size of your chicken breast will determine the end calorie count. Eat a monster and you get monster calories... makes sense, right?

The accompaniment for this dish is a Raita, made with yogurt-marinated onion, tomato, cucumber, and cumin. Very fresh and delcious against the spiciness of the chicken. Keep in mind, you're not consuming all of the marinade, probably 1/4 of it per chicken breast.

And, just so you know, I have about 4 more recipes lined up. So heaven’s getting closer all the time.

Tandoori Chicken
Prep: overnight  |  Bake: 20 min  |  Serves 2
2 medium chicken breasts, skinless and boneless 6oz = 300 cal
1/2 cup low-fat greek style yogurt 125 cal
2 tbsp lemon juice 8 cal
1 tsp ground garlic 5 cal
1 tsp ground ginger 2 cal
1 tsp ground cumin 8 cal
1/2 tsp ground cardamom 3 cal
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper 3-6 cal
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper 8 cal
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 1.5 cal
6-8 drops each, red and yellow food colouring (optional, but a good addition)

Mix all the ingredients of the marinade in an electric blender or a food processor and process until thoroughly puréed. Pour the marinade over chicken, toss and rub, to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chicken in a single layer on foil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, turning once and basting with marinade juices  until cooked.

For a low calorie accompaniment for 2, serve Raita: mix 1/2 a sliced field cucumber, 1 sliced medium onion, and 1 diced plum tomato with 1/2 cup yogurt and 1 tsp cumin seed. Let sit for 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator, before serving.


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