Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A healthier version of your typical Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, plus chocolate November 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:23 AM
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MY FRIEND MANDY is sweet and giving and super smart.

She is also a two-time cancer survivor, an avid gardener and a bit of a health food nut. Her enthusiasm for eating healthy is contagious, although contagious is not really the correct word to correlate with healthy.

Let’s just say she is convincing. And she does not simply talk the talk. This 36-year-old nurse practitioner by profession and parish nurse via volunteerism eats healthy and is leading healthy living workshops, offering food samples and recipes, striving to drive home her message.

She cans and freezes all that produce goodness grown on the rural acreage she shares with her husband, Jeff, east of Faribault.

And then she gives it away. Not everything. But plenty.

Just a few days ago, while attending bible study at Mandy and Jeff’s house, I left with two 16-ounce pouches of frozen pumpkin and another packet of green beans. Only two days earlier she had handed me two sealed pouches of still-warm-from-the-oven pumpkin.

My friend insisted that none of us should buy canned pumpkin and I had to confess that I had two cans in the cupboard. Mandy said she would forgive me this time.

And just to prove that healthy eating can be as tasty as she claims, Mandy served our bible study group two pies. Not until afterward, however, did she reveal that both include tofu. I knew, though, as Mandy had informed me ahead of time and I’ve actually made the chocolate pie several times.

So, if you are looking for a healthier alternative to the typical pies you may be baking for Thanksgiving, here are two recipes that will fool those tofu naysayers. I’m making these. But not until after my brother-in-law and a few other family members have finished off their slices of pie will I reveal the ingredients. Or, perhaps I should remain silent.

Pumpkin and other pies, not the healthy variety that includes tofu, at an event I attended last year.

Tofu Pumpkin Pie

1 can (16 ounces) 100% pumpkin puree
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 package (12 or 12 ½ ounces) soft tofu, processed in blender until smooth
9-inch unbaked, whole wheat pie shell (or you can use a regular unbaked crust in a deep dish pie pan, but this is not quite as healthy)

Preparation: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream together pumpkin and sugar. Add salt, spices and tofu; mix thoroughly until smooth. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40 – 50 minutes. Chill and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Source: The Anti-Cancer Cookbook via Mandy

You could choose to make this calorie and fat-laden (but super delicous) chocolate cheesecake or try the healthier chocoloate pie recipe below. Cheesecake is my favorite dessert and I will never give it up, FYI.

Chocolate Cream Pie

10 -12 oz. soft silken tofu
10 oz. dark chocolate chips
1 – 2 teaspoons vanilla
9-inch graham cracker crust

Blend the soft silken tofu in a blender until smooth. Add vanilla. Blend again. Melt chocolate. Add chocolate to tofu in blender and blend until thoroughly mixed. Pour into pie crust. Refrigerate 1 – 2 hours. May top with sliced strawberries and chopped walnuts if desired.

Source: from Mandy and her source, unknown by me

I HAVE MADE the chocolate pie several times to rave reviews from guests and the husband and teenage son, who likely would not have tried this had they heard the word “tofu.” This pie is super simple to make and delicious.

Make certain you purchase soft silken tofu, not firm, if you make these recipes. I have not made the pumpkin pie, but can vouch that it tastes just like regular pumpkin pie and was especially delicious with pumpkin from Mandy’s garden.

Note that I shopped at two different grocery stores here in Faribault during the last several days for soft silken tofu without success. The one Faribault grocery store where I’ve purchased tofu in the past was out of the soft variety. The other store never carries it, nor do two other grocery stores in town. My point: Plan ahead.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Fancy pheasant at the BBQ contest June 2, 2011

Members of The Q Crew from Waldorf set up their tent and competed recently at the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault. It is the first time the event has been held here.

HERE’S HOW MUCH LITTLE I know about fancy food. Once while dining out with my 23-year-old daughter, I mistook balsamic vinegar for chocolate. I wondered why chocolate had been drizzled across a plate and served to us with bread.

So when I saw bacon-wrapped pheasant fancily-plated at the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest in Faribault recently, I was beyond impressed. This could have been on any upscale restaurant menu. But this appetizer had been prepared on the grill by an Appleton, Wisconsin, team and sent to the judges in the open class competition.

The artfully displayed bacon-wrapped pheasant prepared by a team from eastern Wisconsin.

This crisscross of raspberry chipotle sauce, bacon-wrapped pheasant and several sprigs of whatever artfully arranged on a square white plate would have wowed even Chef Gordon Ramsay. I was wowed, by the presentation and the taste—love that raspberry chipotle.

My husband and I sampled several meats as we wandered the Rice County Fairgrounds competition site. Chicken. Pork. Ribs. Brisket. And then an apple-topped cheesecake.

Another Wisconsin team handed me a fork and told my husband and me to eat whatever we wanted. They had prepared 60 pounds of meat for the competition, were tired of eating it and didn't want to take any home. So we didn't hesitate to taste some mighty fine BBQ and dug right in.

I wanted to try the apple dumplings tended by Tom Mcintosh of the fancy pheasant team, but those were going to the judges.

Tempting apple dumplings.

All in all, even though I arrived too late to watch competitors grill (due to pouring rain) and prepare their entries, I saw enough to realize you can do a lot with a grill, knowledge, creativity and a love of cooking.

Left-over grilled meat prepared by a team from western Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Chocolate cake for breakfast March 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:50 AM
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“MOM, CAN I HAVE some hot fudge pudding cake for breakfast?” my 17-year-old asks.

“Sure, go ahead,” I reply. “There’s some whipped cream in the fridge too.”

Am I a bad mom for letting my teen consume a chocolate dessert before 8 a.m.?

 

Hot fudge pudding cake slathered with real whipped cream and topped with sprinkles.

When his sisters were that age—they’re 23 and 25 now—I never would have allowed them to eat cake for breakfast. But I’ve become a little much more relaxed in my parenting now that I’m older and tired.

Besides, I didn’t tell my boy this, but I was considering dipping into the chocolate pudding cake for breakfast too. I didn’t.

I wondered, though, as I poured cereal into a bowl, whether the cinnamon and sugar-laden squares I was about to eat were any more healthy than the homemade chocolate dessert?

 

The sugary cereal I ate for breakfast.

Just to clarify here, before you give me your opinion, you should know that my lanky son is over six feet tall, skinny as a toothpick, slim as a rail, etc. He can eat any amount of anything and not gain an ounce. Last night he ate a half a piece of pizza at 10:30. He does not like fruits (except for bananas and raspberries) or vegetables (except for potatoes). I did not raise him to dislike either as I could live on fruits and vegetables, OK, and chocolate.

If you would like to try hot fudge pudding cake for breakfast, or any time, here’s the recipe. It’s one of my favorite desserts, which my mom made when I was growing up, and is incredibly simple to prepare. Enjoy.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cocoa

½ cup milk

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa. Stir in milk and vegetable oil. Spread in a 9-inch square pan.

Sprinkle with 1 cup of brown sugar and ¼ cup of cocoa that have been mixed together.

Pour 1 ¾ cups of hot water over the entire batter and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes. During baking, the cake mixture rises to the top and the chocolate sauce settles to the bottom. Serve warm, with whipped cream if desired.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling