A couple weeks ago I bought some of the wonderful purple potatoes that 2 R’s Farm sells at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, but I never got around to using them that week. The following week I had some left over chicken sausage, and that sparked a memory of one of my favorite childhood dishes, Polish (Sausage) Potato Salad. I knew I wanted to make a healthy version, so I elected to use something more akin to tzatziki sauce, since I could do that with non-fat Greek yogurt. I didn’t have any cucumbers, so I just used yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, dill and salt for the sauce. The other main difference in terms of calories and fat is that I used chicken sausage instead of Polish sausage. So that was a big savings.

Initially after I mixed everything up, I was thinking that I should have used less sauce for the amount of potatoes and sausage that I had, but after finishing a plate of it for dinner, and not feeling the least bit overwhelmed by the tzatziki, I decided that it was the appropriate amount. Unfortunately, the way the tzatziki blankets everything, it’s not the most attractive looking salad. But it more than makes up for that with its taste!

(Most of the) Ingredients for Tzatziki Potato Salad

(Most of the) Ingredients for Tzatziki Potato-Sausage Salad

Tzatziki Potato-Sausage Salad
serves 4

1+1/2 lbs new potatoes (I used purple ones)
1 red onion, diced
3 spicy chicken sausages – pre-cooked (I used Andouille)
1 tsp olive oil

(Cucumberless Tzatziki Ingredients)
1 c plain Greek yogurt
1 T olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 T fresh minced dill
1+1/2 tsp minced garlic

Make the tzatziki sauce first by combining all ingredients from the Greek yogurt to the garlic. Refrigerate.

Cut the new potatoes into about 3/4 inch pieces, and cook in boiling water until tender, either on the stove top or in the microwave. Cut the pre-cooked sausages in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces.

Sauté the onion in the tsp of olive oil over medium heat, until tender. Add the sausage and continue to cook for a few more minutes. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onion and sausage. Add the tzatziki sauce and mix to distribute all of the sauce. Refrigerate to cool before serving.

Tzatziki Potato Salad

Tzatziki Potato-Sausage Salad

I had been wanting to make some crackers for a while, since I haven’t done so for years and years, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Then last week, while I was chopping fresh rosemary for a fish rub during a cooking class at the Boulder Sur la Table, the fragrant smell overtook me and I thought ‘I need to bake bread. No – crackers!’ So I went out, bought some rosemary, and set about making some.

I love to make crackers with some kind of cheese for extra flavor, so I took a look at our cheese supplies, and determined that the pecorino romano would probably go best with rosemary. I decided to use a bit of olive oil, and to use milk instead of water for a richer taste. I really wasn’t sure how much rosemary to use, since it can be somewhat overwhelming, especially in dried form, but I threw in a tablespoon of minced leaves, and it worked just fine.

This was a bit of an unusual result for my making up a recipe for baked goods. Normally I have to tweak whatever it is I’ve done several times before I’m really happy with it. But these actually turned out great the first time! I think crackers, being so simple, are pretty forgiving. All you have to do to make these is mix the ingredients together, roll the dough out and cut it into pieces, and bake it with one break in the middle to brush with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. So simple! Which is fortunate, because they’re so delicious, they end up disappearing in just a few days. On to the next batch!

I used some gorgeous Black Lava Hawaii Kai’s Palm Island Sea Salt from the Savory Spice Shop for the top of these, but you could use any coarse salt.

A bunch of white ingredients that don't photograph well

A bunch of white ingredients that don’t photograph well

Rosemary Pecorino-Romano Crackers
makes about 25 crackers

1+1/2 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/2 oz finely grated pecorino romano (or parmesan**)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/3 + 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp olive oil for brushing
coarse salt for sprinkling

*I bake with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour, since it has more fiber than regular white flour. You should be able to use all white flour or a combination of white and wheat without any problems.

** Really any strong-flavored hard cheese will do. Omit the rosemary or use a different herb that goes well with whatever flavor you choose.

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients as well as 1/3 cup milk, and mix well. Add the additional 1/4 cup milk as needed, one Tbsp at a time, to form a very stiff dough (I used all 4 Tbsp).

Stiff Cracker Dough

Stiff Cracker Dough

Roll out the dough on a very floured surface (flipping the dough over a few times as you roll it, so that you can re-flour the surface as needed), to about 1/8 inch thickness (or a bit thinner if you’d like). Cut into squares 2 to 3 inches on a side. Place on two baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray.

Crackers ready for baking

Crackers ready for baking

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then take the pans out, brush lightly with the 1 tsp of olive oil (more if you need it), and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt. Return to the oven, and bake until crispy, about 15 more minutes (but check every 5 minutes!). Remove the crackers and cool on a rack.

Finished Crackers - YUM!

Finished Crackers – YUM!

Nutritional Information
(per cracker, 25 crackers per recipe, and made with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour): 41 cals, 1.6 g fat, 0.7 g fiber

For other great baking recipes, check out the Love to Bake Global Carnival on The Family Feed!

The section on low-sugar desserts in Bon Appétit caught my eye last month, so I decided to make the Cocoa-Date Truffles and see how they measured up. I have long felt somewhat needlessly guilty while eating dates, since it almost feels like eating pure honey. So it made perfect sense to me that truffles made with dates as the sweet component would work. And, dates being extremely sticky, they would serve to bind the dry ingredients together.

I made the recipe twice – the first time was not too bad, but I felt compelled to explain that they were really low-fat and made with dates to anyone I had sample them. I tweaked several things for second batch, and that one required no such disclaimer – they were delicious! Chocolatey, with a nice coconut undertone.

For the first batch, since I’m always striving for low-fat (and because I had no coconut), I went with the oat option instead of the coconut option. The first change for batch two was to procure some reduced fat shredded coconut from Alfalfa’s (made by Let’s Do…Organic, ‘Fat reduction achieved by steam extraction’ — okay by me!). The second change was to swap out Ghiradelli Unsweetened Cocoa, and instead use Dagoba Organic Cocoa Powder. Honestly – they smelled equally inviting when I took a big whiff of both canisters to compare, but the Dagoba has fewer calories, less fat, and more fiber, and the second round tasted better, so that’s what I’m going with!  The third change was to bump up the amount of cocoa and coconut by 1/3. And my last change was to throw in a bit of almond extract.

Ingredients for Cocoa-Date Truffles

Ingredients for Cocoa-Date Truffles

There was also a change on the mechanical front. For the first batch I used my small food processor, and for whatever reason chose to ignore the fact that it was really struggling to churn its little blade around. I kept on pushing the pulse and chop buttons, trying for ultimate smoothness. At some point, the tiny tendril of white smoke curling out of the back of the processor was enough to get me to cease and desist processing. The second time I sagely used the full-sized food processor, which was fortunately fully-qualified for the task.

As a side note, I would be fascinated to know just how they were able to get the truffles evenly, gorgeously coated with large pieces of chopped pistachios for the Bon Appétit photo. Mine ended up lightly coated with pistachio dust, but in order to get any amount of chopped nut meat on the truffles, I pretty much had to hand-apply it.

Cocoa-Date Truffles
adapted from a recipe in the June 2012 issue of Bon Appétit
makes 16 truffles

8 oz pitted dates (I used California dates)
4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsp reduced-fat shredded coconut (or regular)
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 to 1 oz crushed pistachios for coating (salted or unsalted – your choice. I ground 1 oz, only 1/2 stuck)
sesame (or peanut) oil to grease your hands to avoid stickage

Put the first 3 ingredients into a food processor, and process until the dates are somewhat chopped up. Then add the espresso powder and the almond extract, and process until the mixture forms into a single moist, unattractive ball thrust to the side of the processor (some literary license taken here for dramatic affect).

Cocoa-Date Truffle Raw Material After Processing

Cocoa-Date Truffle Raw Material After Processing

Take the cocoa-date ball out of the processor, then coat your fingers and palms with a very light layer of sesame oil. Divide the ball into 16 equal pieces, then roll them into balls. Roll in the crushed pistachios to ‘coat’ (see above comment).

Cocoa-Date Truffles

Cocoa-Date Truffles

Nutritional Information
(made with reduced-fat coconut, and 1/2 oz pistachios)

1 truffle: 52 cals, 1 g fat, 1.7 g fiber

Why is it that stuffed (suitable vegetable here) always sounds like a great idea, but then turns out to be a huge, laborious production with merely adequate results? I can think of two reasons, now that I’ve done a couple round of ‘pretty, but not a repeat’ stuffed vegetable dishes.

First, for whatever reason, it always seems to involve about 4 pans/pots/baking sheets. For this dish I used a pot to boil the squash, a pot to simmer the rice, a sauté pan to cook the mushrooms, leeks, garlic, and peppers, and a baking sheet to bake the stuffed squash. And then I did a lot of dishes.

Ingredients for Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Ingredients for Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

The second reason is because the vegetable receptacle often seems to be somewhat bland on its own, and since it’s serving as a shell, there’s quite a bit of it in a large continuous piece. I didn’t actually buy the pattypan squash at the farmers market with the intention of stuffing it, but when I was coming up with a menu plan, I thought that might be a good way to use them. Unfortunately, since they aren’t really huge, they didn’t hold too much rice, and they had such thick walls we found we had to add quite a bit of salt to ‘flavor them up’.

Hollowed Out Pattypan Squash

Hollowed Out Pattypan Squash

The rice component (made with ruby red Jasmine rice, mushrooms, leeks, and pepper) was pretty good though. Since I had quite a bit left over after this meal, I ended up extending the remainder later in the week with a couple of andouille chicken sausage, some more mushrooms, and some chicken stock.

So, what did I learn with this dish? If you’re going to do a complex stuffed meal, try to find a shell vegetable that’s really tasty on its own. Pattypan squash probably doesn’t quite fit that bill. And maybe it really isn’t worth all the hassle – for me at least. But I must say, it was a pretty dinner!

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash (should you choose to embark upon the laborious path)
serves up to 6 (with bonus rice leftovers if you use less than 6 squash!)

up to 6 pattypan squash (or other suitable squash)
1 cup ruby red jasmine rice (or brown, white, etc)
3-4 leeks, chopped
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms (or your choice), sliced and then cut again into 1/2 inch pieces (if necessary)
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 + 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
2 tsp olive oil, divided
thyme (or your choice)
salt

Cook the rice according to package directions, but use the chicken or vegetable stock instead of water. (Mine called for 2+1/2 cups, but adjust as necessary for whatever type you are using).

Meanwhile, boil the pattypan squash until they are tender (but not too tender), about 20 minutes. When they are done, remove and let cool a bit.

While the rice and squash are cooking, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, then cook the mushrooms until they release their juice. Keep cooking until most of the juice evaporates, then remove from the pan and set aside.

(Carefully) wipe out any mushroom detrius, then heat another 1 tsp in the sauté pan over medium heat. Add the peppers, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they just start to get tender. Then add the leeks and garlic, and continue to cook until the leeks are tender, roughly 5-8 minutes.

About this time you’ll want to pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Turn off the heat under the vegetables if the rice isn’t done yet. Otherwise, add the rice, then add 1/4 cup of stock. Add the thyme (or other herbs) and salt to your taste, then stir well, and cook a minute or two until the stock cooks off. Turn the heat off.

Cut the top of each pattypan squash off, then using a spoon, hollow out the squash, being careful that you don’t go through the sides or bottom (although it’s not a disaster if you do). I had to empty the squash of juice a few times as I was doing this.

Once you have the squash hollowed out, fill each cavity with the rice and vegetable mixture. Place the squash on a cookie sheet covered in foil and sprayed with cooking spray. If the squash and rice/vegetables are still pretty warm,you can just put the filled squash in the oven for 5-10 minutes until everything is hot.

The remainder of the rice/vegetables will be used as a bed for the squash. If it has gotten coolish before you serve the dish, just reheat it right before you take the squash out of the oven.

Put a bit of rice on each plate, flatten it out, then put the squash on top.

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