Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spinach Fettuccine with Lowfat Smoked Salmon Alfredo Sauce - Really!

I'm SO FULL!  After all the food (i.e. LATKES) I ate over Chanukah, you can literally roll me from one room to another.  Thank G-d, we also had a family Simcha over Chanukah and ate more food (i.e. cake)!  I really should go running outside or something except for the fact that it’s really cold outside and I don’t run.  Maybe I could do an exercise video. That would be a really healthy thing to do…except I really don’t want to.  Maybe I’ll walk on the treadmill for a while…that seems pretty reasonable!  Now, what to do about the food portion of the day?  In the interest of a healthy family we’re going to do a reset…no more fried food or cake every night.  Low fat, higher fiber, low sugar…it has to taste better than cardboard though.  The kids have to eat it, so the food has to be a little fun, possibly with a little kick to it.

In next week’s Torah portion, Shemot, a new Pharoh arose over Egypt that didn’t recognize Joseph.  It’s safe to say that he made the Jew’s lives miserable after that.  After the seven years of plenty under Josephs’ direction, things were pretty wretched for the Jewish people.  I understand that life here is definitely not like slavery in Egypt, but after the eight days of plenty here, there’s a new “Pharoh” and direction in our house!  The outlook certainly has the potential to look very bleak.

This past Chanukah my family gave me a really unexpected, but really appreciated gift – a pasta maker!!  So exciting!!  The question is: how to incorporate this gift into our new healthy eating lifestyle.  Pasta and something healthy…spinach pasta!  It’s healthy because of the spinach, low fat (because you make it that way), and fun because – it’s GREEN!  Fresh pasta also tastes much better than the dry, boxed kind you buy in the store.  The spinach pasta that I make is pretty mild, it doesn’t taste too spinachy, and the kids like it because depending upon how you look at it, it’s either really cool or really gross!  This recipe is also pretty easy to make, and only requires a few simple ingredients.  You can also make it even if you don’t have a pasta making machine.

My Daughter Adina's Dinner Plate
("Mom!  Why are you taking pictures
of my dinner!")
Although it’s really tempting to just serve noodles on a plate for dinner (been there, done that!) in order to encourage the whole healthy eating thing I feel the need to make the meals more enticing.  Serve the green noodles with a really good sauce…it’s a concept!  Most sauces are really high in fat, sodium, and calories.  A remarkably delicious sauce that is great with fettuccine is creamy alfredo sauce – A.K.A Heart Attack on a Plate!  Great sauce, not great for the plan.  Introducing (fanfare please) the Lowfat Smoked Salmon Alfredo Sauce With A Kick!  What makes normal alfredo sauce so high in fat and calories are the sticks of butter and cups of whole milk cream that are normally used to make it.  Delicious- but really, really, really bad for you!  The trick to making the sauce light is to use a small amount of butter for flavor, lowfat cream cheese, and skim milk.  The sauce is thickened by the cream cheese and a small amount of flour.  By adding fragrant spices and smoked salmon you get a lot of flavor punch with fewer calories.  It fits the plan – hooray!  Now if only the exercising part of the plan were so easy!!!

Fresh Spinach Noodles with
Lowfat Smoked Salmon Alfredo


½         cup                   onion, finely diced (1 small)      
1          tablespoon        butter
1          teaspoon          crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
8          ounces              reduced fat cream cheese
1          tablespoon        fresh parsley, chopped
¼         teaspoon          nutmeg
¼         teaspoon          black pepper (optional)
3          ounces              smoked salmon, chopped
1          tablespoon        all-purpose flour
1          cup                   skim milk

In a medium 2 ½ quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Increase heat to medium, add onion, and sauté until clear, around 2 minutes.  Add crushed red pepper and sauté for another minute to bring out the flavor of the pepper.  Reduce heat to medium-low and blend in cream cheese and stir until mixture is smooth.  Stir in salmon, parsley, black pepper and nutmeg until combined.  Whisk in flour until completely absorbed.  Slowly add milk and whisk over medium heat until the sauce thickens, 3-5 minutes.

 Melted butter (This is when you need smell-o-vision!)
 Cream cheese and diced onion.

 Saute'd onion and spices...mmmm....
 Add the cream cheese brick.
 Chopped parsley and smoked salmon - ready to go!
 Mix it all together until smooth - it's so pretty!


16        ounces frozen spinach, defrosted
2          large                 eggs
1          tablespoon        canola oil
½         teaspoon          salt
2          cups                 all-purpose flour

4 ½      quarts               water
1          tablespoon        salt      
2          tablespoons      olive oil

Squeeze spinach until no liquid remains.  There should be approximately 8 ounces of dry spinach remaining.  In a food processor, combine spinach, eggs, and oil.  Process spinach mixture until completely smooth, around 30 seconds.  Add flour and salt and process until a rough dough ball is formed.  Remove dough from processor bowl to a lightly floured surface.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic, approximately 5 minutes.  Let dough stand for 10 minutes. 

Divide dough into 4 parts.  If using a rolling pin, roll dough until very thin – approximately ⅛th of an inch thick.  Cut into ¼ inch strips using a sharp knife, fluted cutter, or pizza cutter.  If using a pasta machine, roll dough according to machine instructions.  Cut into fettuccine using the pasta machine or by hand.

Dry fettuccini noodles on a towel for approximately 30 minutes.

Bring the 4 ½ quarts of water, salt, and olive oil to a rolling boil.  Add noodles and stir to separate.  Cook 5 minutes until pasta is tender.  Drain.  Serve hot with alfredo sauce and garnish with additional parsley sprigs! Enjoy!

Chopped frozen spinach, defrosted, and anxious to become spinach fettuccine!
Spinach, salt and eggs waiting to be pulverized.

 Add the's almost dough time!
 Spinach dough ball on floured surface waiting to be kneaded.
 This is the dough you "kneaded".
 Spinach dough cut into 4th's...ready to roll!

Roll the dough really thin by hand or with a pasta machine.  You can cut it with the pasta machine too (next photo).
 Dough cut by hand with a fluted dough cutter.

 Dried pasta waiting to be cooked.

Hooray! The Pasta's go get that sauce you made!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rainbow Challah - Challah Braiding Blog!

I am in love with an inanimate object (one of many).  The one I speak of today is my bread machine.  Thanks to the dough making workhorse I am able to make amazing Challah for my family every week… with about 5-10 minutes of effort!  I place all the ingredients in the work bowl, turn on the machine and walk away.  The bread machine is nice enough to let me know when its time to add additional ingredients, like raisins, and then lets me know when it’s done doing all the work for me!  It’s truly a match made in heaven!  Unfortunately, there are some flaws with the object of my affection.  It only makes two pounds of dough at a time.  When I need to make a lot of Challah I have to run the machine through multiple cycles in order to get the volume of Challah that I need.  Think of a three day Yom Tov and you get the picture.  The other downside is that I don’t get to do the mitzvah of taking Challah with a bracha.  It’s a pretty big mitzvah that we get to do, so I will periodically make a large batch of Water Challah by hand in order to make the L’hafrish Challah Bracha.

What makes a good Challah? Basically it can be narrowed down to texture, taste and presentation.  A good Challah should not be heavy or dense.  Everyone has their personal preference for taste.  Our family likes a slightly sweet Challah or a good Water Challah.  Presentation is also key.  I have seen Challahs braided using 3, 4, or 6 ropes of dough. Pull apart Challahs are basically Challah rolls baked together in a round or oval pan to make up a Challah that is “pulled apart” after Hamotzi.  Challahs can be baked in a pan or on a cookie sheet.  However you make your Challah, there are few moments as fulfilling as when the Challah cover is pulled off the Challahs, the beautiful Challahs appear as if by magic, and everyone gasps with appreciation! 

There is a certain skill to properly braiding a Challah.  It’s an important element of the presentation of a great Challah.  Once you know how to braid though, it’s like riding a bicycle.  I was trying to figure out the best way to describe Challah braiding.  I could put little numbers on the braids (like runners get during a marathon), but that seemed a little complicated (and the safety pins taste lousy).  Then, I thought about color coding the dough ropes for clarity.  Hmmm…  It has merit – and even better, when cut open you would get a rainbow Challah!  How cool is that?! So I present the Rainbow Challah Challah Braiding Blog color coded demonstration with lots of pictures!  Have fun following along!


5          pounds             bread flour
4          teaspoons         salt      
1 ½      cups                 sugar
1          cup                   canola oil
6          tablespoons      dry yeast
5 ½      cups                 warm water

Dissolve yeast with water and a teaspoon of the sugar.  Allow to sit 5 minutes until foamy.  Combine remaining ingredients and dissolved in an extra large mixing bowl*.  Knead until smooth and elastic, around 5 minutes.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for one hour until doubled in bulk. 

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Take a small portion of dough for the mitzvah of taking Challah**.  Divide dough into six one-pound Challahs, or 3 two pound Challahs.  You can also divide the dough into smaller portions for rolls or ½ pound Challahs as well.  Braid into loaves and let rise another 45 minutes. 

Bake Challahs for approximately 20-30 minutes depending upon the size of the Challahs. 

If making “Rainbow Challah” when a soft dough is formed, divide the dough into multiple sections and add food coloring to each at this time.  Gloves are recommended for the initial kneading of the coloring into the dough.

** See for more information of the mitzvah of taking Challah.


Tra-La!! A 4 braid Challah!!


Tra-La!! A 6 braid Challah!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pizza To The Rescue!

One of my family’s most favorite meals is pizza.  That’s fine by me…it’s a pretty well balanced, semi-nutritious food.  Although it’s way easier to pick up the phone and order in, it’s not always economically feasible.  When your family loves pizza, one pie is never enough and they always want some sort of topping.  It starts to add up.

Now, my son’s birthday is coming up shortly and we offered to make him a surprise birthday party.  He just has to let his friends know the date and time and we’ll take care of the rest…surprise!  What to serve teenage boys?  They are the equivalent of human vacuum cleaners (in a nice way of course).   There has to be a lot of food, but on the other hand we still would like to be able to buy food the rest of the month!

Pizza!  Lots, and lots of pizza!  Everyone loves pizza, and there can be different types of pizza to accommodate everyone’s tastes.   The little voice in my head (or is it my husband?) keeps reminding me of the budget…remember the budget it nags (over and over)!  The only way to resolve this dilemma is to actually make the pizza myself.  No problem…here’s why:

Many years ago, when I was pregnant with my first son, I came across a pizza recipe that used whole wheat flour in order to make it healthier.  It also used apple juice, instead of water to add sweetness and a little nutrition.  I’ve been making pizza using those concepts ever since.  I have changed and tweaked the recipe over time but it’s a tried and true one.  The key is using white whole wheat flour and rapid rise yeast (if you’re in a hurry).  The white whole wheat flour is my sneaky way of adding a little nutritious fiber into the crust.  I have found that white whole wheat flour also has a lighter weight than regular whole wheat flour and a much milder taste – it doesn’t taste “whole wheaty”.  When I’m out of the white whole wheat flour I will use regular whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, or when serving those with a particularly refined palate I have used regular all purpose flour (or bread flour).  This recipe is also a fast one.  A few ingredients in the mixer with a dough hook (or even by hand), let the dough rise covered in a warm place for just 5 minutes and the dough’s ready!  I have been known to leave the dough in the bowl rising for longer and it still comes out great.  I also bought an inexpensive pizza stone (it’s a big round stone) by Oneida and the crust comes out pretty crispy.  On the days when you don’t want to heat up your oven you can divide the dough into eight balls, roll them into small circles, and make individual pizzas in the toaster oven.    What’s also nice about this is that each kid/adult can make their own personal pizza.  Make mine with everything please!

2          cups     white whole wheat flour
1          cup       apple juice (or warm water)
1          envelope rapid rise yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
1 ½      tbsp      olive oil
½         tsp        salt
8          oz         pizza sauce
8          oz         shredded part skim mozzarella or pizza cheese

1          8 oz      can stewed tomatoes, drained
8          oz         sliced mushrooms        
1          med      red pepper, diced
4                      vegetarian sausages, crumbled
4          oz         vegetarian pepperoni, sliced
8          oz         broccoli florets
1          small     onion, diced
4          oz         sliced olives

Preheat oven to 375* F.  Microwave the apple juice for 30-45 seconds, untilwarm.  Add yeast to juice and mix well.  Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add oil and yeast mixture to flour.  Mix until smooth using a dough hook, around 5 minutes-until dough is smooth and elastic, adding additional apple juice if necessary.  If kneading by hand, knead until smooth and elastic.  Remove dough from bowl, spray with non-stick vegetable spray and return to bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm placed for at least 5 minutes.  If making two thin 12” round pizzas divide dough into two.  If making one 16” pizza, do not divide dough.  Roll/stretch dough onto pizza stone or pan sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray.  Cover with sauce, then additional toppings, then cheese.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes, cut into 8 slices.  Enjoy!


For non whole wheat crust pizza, substitute 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour for the whole wheat flour.

Preheat toaster oven to 400* F.  Divide risen dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a circle.  Cut 8 pieces of foil the size of the toaster oven rack.  Spray each piece of aluminum foil with non-stick spray.  Place each mini crust on the foil and follow remaining pizza directions.  Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted, around 10 minutes.

For stuffed crust pizza roll the dough around 2-3 inches larger than the size of your pan.  Using either part skim mozzarella cheese sticks or shredded part skim mozzarella/pizza cheese, evenly distribute the cheese approximately 1 inch in from the edge of the dough.  Fold crust over the cheese and gently press to seal around the cheese.  Add sauce and toppings and bake as directed above.

Follow crust recipe as directed above.  Allow to rise at least 5 minutes.  Roll one entire recipe of dough into a 12” circle.  Place in a 12”x2” cake/pizza pan.  Cover and allow to rise for and additional 5-10 minutes (or longer).  Add sauce and toppings and bake for 25-30 minutes.

WHAT IS WHITE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR? To quote the King Arthur description of white whole wheat flour: “White whole wheat flour is milled from hard white spring wheat, rather than traditional red wheat.  It makes lighter-colored, milder-tasting baked goods and you can use it as you would traditional whole wheat flour.”  

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White whole wheat flour.

Yeast dissolved in apple juice.

Dry ingredients with olive oil.

Dry ingredients with apple juice and yeast mixture.

Dough mixing with dough hook.

Dough is finished mixing.

Dough is finished rising!

Getting ready to roll the crust...

Dough cut into 8ths for personal pizzas!

A personal pizza crust waiting to become a pizza...
All sauced up!

Now the toppings...

Lots of cheese!

The finished personal pizza! HOORAY!!