all sugared up.

Contrary to what you see in this blog, I really am a health-conscious person. I know what you're thinking: Liar! All you ever make are hoards of cookies and frostings with enough sugar to make a person go into diabetic shock! Now now, dear reader, there's no need for the hostility. I assure you I am more than capable of piecing together a solid meal that meets the necessary requirements to be called "healthy." And actually, sometimes I even do this on purpose. Radical, I know! I am trying to curb this teensy-weensy problem of taking preference to baking over cooking, because surely we cannot live on chocolate alone (that's debatable). Often times I find myself snapping green beans at record speeds because I see the butter softening on the counter top and the anxiety to get to it is unbearable.

I was able to pace myself last night during the dinner festivities, but this was no small task. Thankfully, I managed to pull together a menu of roasted asparagus with lemon, Parmesan crusted chicken, and rosemary potatoes to feed the fam. But don't applaud my efforts just yet, oh no, because I planned with a purpose. All of the above involve minimal prep and maximum wait time, allowing me to bake in between the token healthy stuff. *evil laugh*

It's all too easy to prep the chicken cutlets ahead of time and let them snooze in the fridge until you're ready to sizzle away. Or at least use it as an excuse to get on with your sugared pear cake, that's why you're doing this anyway.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken
From Real Simple

1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets, rinsed and dried
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese

Using two pie plates, scramble the eggs with the Dijon in one and toss together the Panko, salt and parmesan cheese in the other. Coat both sides of the cutlets in the Dijon scramble and then press into the crumb coating. It's easiest to do all of the cutlets at once, then fry them all at once, it will all happen rather quickly so you won't have time to go back and continue dipping and coating.

Once all the cutlets are prepped, get a good glug of olive oil going over medium heat in the bottom of a heavy bottomed frying pan. Now's not the time to be terribly concerned over calories, skimping on the oil will mean your cutlets will stick to the pan and the crusty coating will peel right off. Put the cutlets into the pan, about 3 at a time and cook on each side for 2-3 minutes. Some brown bits might collect in the pan as you go, just scrape them into the sink before you start round 2 or 3 or 76 (hey, you could have guests). Add more olive oil to the pan as you go-the house might get a bit smoky and if your Dad is a firefighter, as mine so happens to be, he'll make repeated, loud announcements about the level of haze floating above the stove. Pay him no mind.

Now that we've got all of that foolishness out of the way, let's get down to business. There's been five green, dotted pears sitting all hob-knob on the window sill above my kitchen sink for days now, and my embarrassment over not peeling, dicing and coring them into a confection of some sort was forcing me to avoid looking at them while scrubbing pots and pans. My convictions finally got the best of me, and I decided a pear-something-or-other would be the finale of my dinner last night. So then, in keeping with our "healthy" menu, I managed to track down a recipe for Fresh Pear Cake that had no egg yolks, no butter and no frosting. Now to me, this was enough to throw in the towel, but then I had a flashback (cue hazy screen and dreamy music) to the 45 minutes I spent on the treadmill yesterday morning and decided that a lower-cal cake couldn't hurt. The deciding factor came with the instructions to mix the sugar and diced pears together and let them macerate for an hour before combining with the rest of the ingredients. So knowing this, I was forced to cook and not bake for at least an hour before returning to my sugared-pear soup.

Fresh Pear Cake

4 cups peeled, cored and chopped pears
2 cups white sugar
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 egg whites
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine the sugar and the pears and let stand for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. What you'll have at the end of the hour is more of a sugary soup, I used a potato smasher to break them up a bit more after they've softened.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees; grease a 10 inch Bundt pan with butter or cooking spray.

Lightly whisk the egg whites then combine them with the canola oil and the pecans and mix into the pear soup. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Fold the pear soup into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into the pan and bake for one hour and ten minutes.

What I ended up with was the answer to the circular question of Why can't low-fat treats taste good? When you don't have butter, egg yolks, or anything else to fill out your cake, you get something without depth of flavor; a nancypants version of what could've been a glorious endeavor. I was disappointed to say the least, despite the powdered sugar cap I dusted over the top after it cooled, it lacked flavor, it was borderline dry, and quite frankly-I don't believe the hype.

But thankfully, all was not lost. After a 12 hour sleep under the glass cake dome, the formerly unimpressive cake took on a life of it's own, a transformation worthy of Disney films and teeny-bopper flicks. It became dense and heavy, flecked through with sandy bits of pears and hot with cloves. It still lacked the hyper-sweetness most of us prefer to categorize as "dessert," but I'd say this ought to be re-catalogued under the Breakfast Breads page and just call it a day. I think the lesson learned here is simply: good things do not always come to those who wait.

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