Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Making A Day Of It: Food Camp 2013

Describing making homemade limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur).
A couple weeks ago I went to an educational event called Food Camp.  I think it was the second annual event and I was glad I found it.  I registered early and it was only $10 for the whole day.  You sign up to attend but you don't know what any of the sessions are going to be until later.  The presenters are supposedly made up from other attendees, so it's a community concept.

The schedule was posted a few days before the event and when you arrive they have the room assignments figured out so you know where you're going for each session. The presentations are varied, there were sessions foraging for wild mushrooms, to preserving vegetables, making yogurt, making bacon, backyard chickens and honeybees, etc.

Tasting limoncello at 10 a.m.!

Session 1: Limoncello 

The original class I had picked (making spring rolls) was replaced with this one.  It wouldn't have been my first choice, but none of the other sessions interested me much, so I decided this was good as any.  The instructor talked about filtering cheap vodka through a Brita pitcher to make good vodka, using organic lemons, letting it steep, etc. It didn't take long, so the next thing we did was taste his homemade limoncello.  Nice! It was smooth and not as harsh as the store-bought limoncello I've had.  It was inspiring, but I don't know if I want to go through all the steps to make my own.  It think I'll stick with trying to make my own vanilla extract and maybe cherry bounce (cherries soaked in brandy).

Explaining the process for making short-term
sourdough that doesn't come from a starter.

Class 2: Eastern Sourdough Traditions

The instructors of this class are hard-core sourdough enthusiasts.  They have been maintaining and perfecting their sourdough starter for eight years.  They explained some methods and options for quicker sourdough options of Indian dosas and Ethiopian injeera.  Both of these are flatter than what we think of as normal bread, more like crepes.  They cooked up some Indian dosas without fillings and we all sampled it.  These options are naturally gluten-free.  Dosas are made from rice and lentils.

Explanation of fermented cabbage

Class 3: Sauerkraut & Kimchi

I found out that making sauerkraut is much quicker than I had thought.  I thought it was a huge long process, filled with months of babysitting a crazy container of fermenting chopped cabbage, but this session showed me that it's shorter.  I think you can have some good results in only a week or two.  And it's simple!  Chop up some cabbage, add some salt.  Make sure the cabbage stays under the natural water that leaches out from the chopped veggie pieces.  And the naturally fermented and unprocessed cabbage is good for you, it gives you the same sort of probiotics you might get from yogurt. 

We tasted homemade feta cheese

Class 4: Cheese Making

Making pear-chardonnay jelly.
This class was perfect for the dairy state.  The ingredients (lypase, rennet) and process seem pretty scientific but I think it's not really that complicated.  If you buy a cheesemaking kit, follow the instructions and you should end up with something pretty tasty.  I was reminded that it takes a LOT of milk to make a small amount of cheese.  But if you're playing around to make some cheese for your family, you should have enough.  The feta we tasted at the end of the presentation was salty and tangy.

Class 5: Jellies and Jams

The overall topic was jellies and jams, but the teacher likes to particularly focus on making these products with wine as a main ingredient. He wanted to get us involved, so we all washed up and did a part of the recipe.  He even went so far as to can the jars of jelly.  I loved the spiced zinfandel jelly he made some I'm going to look into making that.  But canning scares me, so I want to only make small batches that you can use up in a month and share them with people, that way you avoid canning. 

Verdict

When is the next one??

I loved the whole event and can't wait until next year's food camp.  It was fun hanging out with people who are as interested in food topics as I am.  It was an inspiring day, exciting me to try new food things that I haven't done before.  

There will be a mini version of food camp at the REAP Food for Thought Festival on September 21. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of April 29

  • Monday - sesame-ginger chicken made in the slow cooker.  We might have it with rice or put the chicken on top of greens for Asian salads.  This was based on a recipe I found in the Cooking Light Slow Cooker Tonight cookbook my best friend gave me for my birthday.  When I went to pull the dish together this morning, I realized I was missing a key ingredient, hoisin sauce.  I proceeded to throw other random ingredients such as ketchup and sesame-ginger salad dressing in the slow cooker in hopes that it will all work out.   I normally would be against ketchup, but I've got an Asian shrimp recipe that uses ketchup and it's great! I'm usually not too great at improvising with Asian food, so cross your fingers! 
  • Tuesday - We'll probably have some breakfast items (French toast, waffles, pancakes) from the freezer.  I might go to a drop-in Zumba class, so I shouldn't eat much.
  • Wednesday - Husband Jeff and I have exercise class together, so something small and light.
  • Thursday - I need to use the head of cauliflower I bought, but I'm not sure what to do with it.   Maybe creamy mac 'n cheese?  Faux alfredo sauce? Buffalo bites? 
  • Friday - I want to go on the monthly tour at Sassy Cow Creamery, that's all I've decided so far. Maybe out for pizza since Salvatore's Tomato Pies in Sun Prairie is getting good reviews. 
  • Saturday - we're visiting friends for the evening, so we're going out to dinner with them.
  • Sunday - We'll throw something easy together from the freezer or pantry.  Maybe the classic "can of soup plus whatever" sort of dinner. 

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Greek Egg Bake

Blurry cross-section.  I'm always in a hurry!
I was planning on making an egg dish for dinner  and I had leftover spinach-cheese filling from the dinner party crescent rolls, so I used that to my advantage and made a Greek egg bake. 

Inspiration

Hungry Girl Greek-Style Egg Bake

To make this vegetarian, leave out the meatballs.  I only threw them in on a whim anyway. 

Ingredients in the bowl, added two more eggs later

Ingredients


  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 oz fat-free feta
  • couple handfuls of spinach 
  • 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes, well drained
  • shredded mozzarella
  • 7-8 turkey meatballs, cut into quarters
  • 7 eggs
  • 8 leaves fresh oregano, minced (I only used fresh because I had it)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • Black pepper

Ready to go in the oven!

Directions

Preheat  oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8" X 8" baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together and pour into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle some additional mozzarella on top so it browns up nicely.

Bake for one hour.

Verdict

A busy Greek breakfast.  

I loved finding the big chunks of feta, but I feel like this might have had too much going on.  Certainly good enough to repeat but maybe cut back on some of the ingredients, like the meatballs weren't really needed.

Wanna Chat?

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

5 Tips For Making Rice

Cooking rice is simple, the ratio is 1:2, rice to water. So for every cup (or other measurement) of rice, use two times that amount of water.    Keep in mind that the amount of water you use is the amount of cooked rice you will have in the end, so it will always be double.

Cooking Methods

There are a few ways to cook rice.
  • On the stove.  I've heard this is incredibly temperamental and is easy to screw up.
  • Baked in the oven.  I haven't tried this method, but I hear it's pretty fool-proof.
  • In the microwave.  Growing up, I used to make rice in the microwave in a large/deep glass casserole dish with a glass lid, that turned out really well, but would sometimes overflow the container and spill starchy water all over the glass turntable.  Ugg, a total pain to clean up. Here's my recent experience making rice in the microwave, what a failure!
  •  In a rice cooker. Ever since I got a rice cooker (small generic one, then upgraded to large Zojirushi).  I love the rice cooker, all you need to do is press the button and it takes care of everything else.

5 Tips When Making Rice

  1. Rinse It. 
    Start out by rinsing the rice off a couple times before you add the proper amount of water.  Rinse it until the water is pretty much clear.  The first few rinses where the water is cloudy is all the starch and impurities washing off.  This helps ensure you will have soft, fluffy rice in the end and not a heavy clod. 
  2. Make Extra.
    Since regular white rice takes about 30 minutes to cook (50 minutes for brown), make a bigger batch than you normally make.  You can have a couple different rice dishes during the week like a fried rice, rice-crusted quiche, curry, jambalaya, etc.  If you don't have any plans for rice in the next few days, see #5 about freezing the leftovers.
  3. Add Seasonings.
    Season the rice if you know you're going to use it for something specific.  Using chicken stock instead of water is a good move for any regular savory recipe, but also think about herbs or seasonings that will complement your other dishes. 
  4. Let It Be.
    After the rice is done cooking, let it stand a bit, maybe 7-10 minutes.  Usually I'm too impatient for that, I open the rice and let all the steam out and then it ends up sticky.  Be patient.
  5. Freeze Any Leftovers.
    I've heard that refrigerated changes the rice to a crystalline structure, which is why it turns out weird and not very good when you put it in the fridge. My Korean friend WooJin taught me to put rice in the freezer for better leftovers. To reheat it, add a splash of water and cook it for a few minutes in the microwave.   Even freeze extra rice when you get Chinese food and plan to eat it again the next day. The rice will taste better frozen and then reheated rather than left in the fridge and reheated.

Question

How do you cook your rice?  Do you have a favorite rice dish?  I love plain rice with soy sauce. 

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Dinner Party: Lemon Basil Chickpea Salad

Beautiful finished salad.
This is another recipe I tried out for the dinner party with our friend Steve and his parents.  Yep, I'm totally ok with using an untested recipe for guests, I like to fly by the seat of my pants.

I wanted something that I could throw together and the serving temperature didn't matter so I could focus on other dishes that needed attention at the last minute.  I thought I wasn't going to find anything, but I searched through my bookmarked recipes and finally found this chickpea salad.  I love a lemon juice and olive oil dressing that I've used for some other salads, so I at least knew what I was aiming for.

Browning onions.

Inspiration

Sel et Sucre Lemon Basil Chickpea Salad

The original recipe used hearty greens like kale, but I didn't want to scare anyone so I used a bag of salad greens instead.  I also cut back on the onion.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/3 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bag salad greens (approximately 6.5 ounces, but more or less is fine)
  • 28 – 32 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

lemon basil dressing
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil (I used one of those larger plastic herb "clamshell" packages from the grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Dressing

Directions

Saute the onion over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it starts to brown and get nice and soft.

After that 10 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Tip: Be careful when cooking garlic, it has a lot of sugars in it (that's why it's so sticky) and it can burn really quickly.   

Meanwhile, put the chickpeas in a large bowl.  (I put mine in my big serving bowl).

Dressing
Put all the ingredients together in an immersion blender cup and whiz it up until it's smooth. 

I was worried that it might be difficult to dress the salad so I put only a little bit of the greens in with the chickpeas and added about a third of the dressing and tossed.  Added more greens and more dressing, and tossed again.  Then the final bunch of greens and dressing. 
I know it looks like Nickelodeon's
green slime, but that's the lemon-basil dressing!

Verdict

Pleasant, but needed more bite.  

I'm more familiar with an equal mixture of lemon juice and olive oil but this was only half lemon juice to the amount of oil.  So to me it didn't feel tart enough and later I added more lemon juice to try to aim for that 50:50 ratio.    

The salad part was easy and I like that you could throw this together ahead of time.  If you're going to use delicate greens like I did, I would suggest mixing the greens in at the last minute so they don't get wilted.  Would be good for a summer potluck.

Wanna Chat?

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dinner Party: Feta-Spinach Rollups

Toasty-warm stuffed crescent rolls
Let me start this off by saying I'm no holier-than-thou food purist.  I my aim for healthy food, shop at the local co-op occasionally, and I might sound like a total hippie when I mention my steel-cut oats with wheat germ and hemp seed, but I also like to take shortcuts when needed.  So this recipe uses reduced-fat crescent rolls from a tube because I'm WAY too lazy to figure out a healthier substitute and I'm sure it's a difficult recipe to make completely from scratch.  And I don't have time for all that when I'm planning a dinner for a friend and his parents, after work, with no time to prep the night before since we went out for dinner, and I've got a toddler running around as well. Plus this just sounded like an easy recipe and I wanted to try it. 

Ingredients lineup

Inspiration 

Claire Bidwell Smith Windy City Crescent Rolls

I skipped the beaten egg white brushed on top since that's just to give it a pretty, glossy sheen.  I also skipped the red pepper flakes since I didn't want to upset anybody's digestive tracts (older people, toddler, and someone with Crohn's disease). 

Ingredients

makes 16 rolls
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese (I used tomato-basil flavor)
  • 4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 oz fresh baby spinach (about half of a pre-washed bag), chopped
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 2 tubes reduced-fat refrigerator crescent rolls, 8 ct

Spinach, feta, and mozzarella mingling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the first four ingredients together and place down the center of the crescent triangle.  Roll up tight so the filling doesn't escape. 

Bake for 15 minutes.

Ready to roll!

Verdict

Good enough, but not impressive.

There were only two or three left out of the 16 I made, so I think they were pretty popular.

The filling was drier than I wanted since there was only cheese and spinach.  Maybe that's because I used the reduced-fat crescent rolls.  For the future wilt the spinach a bit and add some moisture, maybe with a bit of cottage cheese or plain Greek yogurt with some spices.  

Decently tasty and easy enough to make up ahead of time.  I think you could probably put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer and once they're frozen-solid, put them in a bag to pull out later. 

Ready for the hot oven.
I read comments about this recipe and others like it and you could add garlic and onion to the original recipe.

Some other variations


  • leave out feta and make them spinach-artichoke
  • bacon, chopped tomato, jarred roasted red pepper
  • pesto and cheese
  • chicken or ham with broccoli and cheese
  • bacon, spinach, and tomato with cheddar

Wanna Chat?

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dinner Party: Balsamic Roasted Asparagus


Roasted asparagus.
This was a recipe from the night we had our friend Steve and his parents over for dinner.  Spring fever has really hit me and I want loads of fresh fruits and veggies all the time.  Since asparagus is starting to come into season, I thought this would be perfect.  Plus asparagus was on sale for $2/pound at the grocery store.  I'm excited for local asparagus though at the farmers' market. 

Inspiration

Our Best Bites Garlic Balsamic Asparagus

Asparagus in a gallon bag.
I doubled this recipe since we were serving five adults and I wanted to make sure we had enough.  I didn't double the oil though.  I ended up baking them a little longer too since I prefer my asparagus a little more done. 

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. asparagus
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. minced or pressed garlic

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Asparagus getting toasty warm.
Rinse and snap off the asparagus "root" end.  I also snapped each stalk in half so they were a manageable size.  Put the asparagus in a gallon zipper bag and add the rest of the ingredients.  Shake it around so all of the pieces are evenly coated.  Pour the contents out onto a rimmed baking sheet and try to make sure it's a single layer with no overlap.  Bake in the oven for 5 minutes.  Stir them around to make sure they're all getting cooked evenly. Bake for another 5-10 minutes. 


Verdict

Spring on your plate.

Good enough to serve for company, but I think the balsamic was overpowering. The next time I make it I'll use fresh lemon juice instead, which would make it more spring-y.  But it was definitely nice to try something different, usually we grill asparagus or make asparagus risotto. 

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rice in the microwave

I recently pulled out my instruction manual for my microwave and saw that it had a 'sensor-cook' option for rice.  I figured I would try it out to see how the rice came out.  Can't believe I never saw that button on the microwave before this.  I guess the only special button I use is the "hot water" button, which makes water the perfect drinkable temperature if you want to make instant coffee, tea, etc.  I love it.  Wish I had a hot water dispenser in my kitchen, but this is good enough. 
Rice and water

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water

Directions

Push the button for 'rice'.  Wait.

I watched the time and it ended up cooking for 25 minutes.

Verdict

So bad!  Was it trying to make soup?! 

Ugg!  this was terrible!  There was tons of leftover water and the rice was slightly underdone.  Completely not recommended.  The instructions didn't mention the type of rice to be used.  I used brown rice, so I'm guessing this is only for white rice.



Wanna Chat?

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of April 22

  • Monday - I'm going to make tacos for Husband Jeff and I, but Sonny D doesn't like Mexican food so he'll get broiled fish with Korean sauce.  We'll all have some form of rice and beans. 
  • Tuesday - This is Husband Jeff's birthday, so we're going over to his parents' house for dinner.
  • Wednesday - We've got exercise class so it'll be something quick like a sandwich and fruit.
  • Thursday - Two-timin' pasta (marinara and Alfredo mixed) with a veggie and garlic bread.
  • Friday - leftover frozen 16-bean and ham soup
  • Saturday - tofu fried rice.  Sonny D loves when I dry-fry tofu so I figure this will be a hit. He'll probably pick around all the vegetables, but hey, he's a kid. 
  • Sunday - I'm hosting a brunch party this morning, so I'm sure I'll be too tired later to make anything for dinner so we'll have leftovers from the party or heat up some leftover frozen breakfast stuff like waffles or pancakes.

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Followup: Aldi Product Reviews

A while back I went shopping at Aldi, the discount grocery store. (Read about my shopping experience.) I bought a few things to see what we thought of them before buying more.
Roasted-chicken noodle soup
Sausage, peppers, & onions pasta entree
  • marinated mushrooms (these are normally really expensive, these were only $2) Verdict - tastyI love having a couple with my lunches for a little something extra to snack on. 

  • canned pumpkin (this is like the brand-name version, pumpkin only, maybe $.59 each)
    Verdict - I made iced pumpkin cookies with it and had some remaining that I used in a couple bowls of my morning oatmeal. Excellent, wouldn't know the difference from the regular brand, but how different could it really be?

  • blackberry spreadable fruit
    Verdict - haven't opened this yet

  • artichoke hearts
    Verdict - I don't remember using them, either they're still in the pantry or they were just like any other artichoke hearts I buy.  I love artichoke hearts, which are really expensive, so finding them for less is a total score. 

  • sweet potato tortilla chips
    Verdict - these are still in the pantry.

  • mandarin oranges
    Verdict - I bought them particularly for the recipe for orange fluff. They seemed perfectly fine but I don't buy canned mandarin oranges often (this might have been the second time ever?) to know how they compare.

  • Hormel turkey pepperoni
    Verdict - I buy these all the time, they were the same as what I get at my usual grocery store.

  • light whipped topping
    Verdict - used this for the orange fluff recipe along with the canned mandarins, it tasted like any light whipped topping, no weird aftertaste or anything.

  • sausage & peppers frozen pasta entree
    Verdict - I only had a quick taste of them when it was first made, but it seemed good and a little spicy.  When I finally tasted the leftovers, they were slightly spicy, but generally bland.  It was only ok, wouldn't really recommend it.  Not that it was bad, but more that there wasn't much good to say about it.

  • frozen chicken noodle soup
    Verdict - really quite nice.  The noodles were thick, the chicken was all white meat and no gross bits, and the veggies were fresh. 

  • shrimp (I figured shrimp is shrimp, plus it was really cheap!)
    Verdict - I should have looked closer, I thought they were shelled and deveined, but the shrimp was only deveined, there was a shell and tail I had to remove.  So more work than I usually want to fuss with, but still an awesome price. 

  • yogurt covered raisins
    Verdict - Sonny D likes these, we use them as his treats for going potty.  The raisins seem bigger than normal, almost like they're double-dipped, so there's lots of tasty "yogurt" coating.

  • gummy bears
    Verdict - Husband Jeff devoured them.  The flavors are great, tastes like they're made with real juice for flavoring.  I thought they were actually better than the standard Haribo gummy products.

  • twisted elbow pasta
    Verdict - These have a serving of veggies in a 2 oz serving, so it's nice to get that extra little bit of nutrition.  I bought these specifically for Italian Wedding soup and they were great.  They're a good shape (bigger than a regular elbow mac) for a toddler to eat with silverware rather than resorting to his hands.

  • 2 bags of mixed salad (I think butter lettuce and a spring mix)
    Verdict - excellent.  Cheap, the quality was good, like any nice bagged salad.

  • bag of spinach
    Verdict - excellent

  • Chianti wine for Husband Jeff
    Verdict - he liked it and said I could buy it again. 

  • Cutie brand clementines
    Verdict - excellent, just like the ones I buy anywhere.

  • avocados
    Verdict - amazing price at $.59 each and they were great. 

  • whole raw mushrooms
    Verdict - excellent, just like what I get at the store, and much cheaper at $.59.

  • spray canola oil
    Verdict - I like it.  I love the Trader Joe's version, which doesn't spray much at a time, letting you get only a tiny bit. This sprays more at a time, but it's great for using on popcorn instead of butter. 
  •  

Verdict 

I was pleasantly surprised by the selection and quality of products at Aldi, particularly the fresh produce.  Not all of the produce was awesome, but the items I bought were.  They've definitely done an excellent job of sprucing up the place.   

Wanna Chat?

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Attempting Something Completely New: Masa Dumplings

Enchilada "stew", with masa dumplings under that cheese.
I love masa, it's one of my favorite things about Mexican food.  If I get a choice, I want tamales, hurraches, corn tortillas, etc.  When I found a recipe for masa dumplings, I thought they would be a great experiment that might quench my desire for a masa food product.  I had never heard of masa dumplings before, apparently they're called chochoyotes.

Inspiration

Cate's World Kitchen Smoky Black Beans with Spinach and Masa Dumplings

I was only making the dumplings part and skipped the rest of the recipe since I had already come up with the rest of the dish.  I put a couple cans of enchilada sauce, a package of chicken thighs, and some frozen veggies in the slow cooker and the dumplings were going to go with it. 

I selected this recipe because it was based on a recipe from Rick Bayless, whom I trust for Mexican cooking.  The only change I made was to add a sprinkle of salt since I was going to boil them in plain water rather than cook them in the enchilada "stew" concoction I had come up with.  I figured this was going to be more plain tasting, but at least I wasn't risking the whole meal if it didn't work out. 
Two balls of masa dough.

Ingredients


  • 1 cup dried corn masa
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp hot water

Directions

Start up a pot of water to boil to cook your dumplings in.

Mix the dry ingredients and then add the water.  The dough should be like Play-doh.  I shaped them in the palm of my hand where they were rounded against my palm but flat on the top.  They were pretty small, but the smaller they are, the quicker they'll cook.

Drop them into the simmering water and wait until they float, that's how you know they're done.  Scoop them out with something that will let you drain off the water, I use a pasta fork. 
Shaping the dumplings

Verdict


Blurry, cooked dumplings
Easy, but disappointing.  

They weren't tricky to make, no special tips or steps, definitely straightforward, which is good.  And the texture was nice, not mushy or slimy, but the flavor wasn't very good.  I don't know how to describe it, maybe they tasted... raw?  But they were fully cooked.  Husband Jeff said they were good, but I think he was being nice.  Sonny D didn't eat any at all, as usual he focused on the chicken in his bowl.

Mixed in with our enchilada chicken
Does anybody know what I did wrong?  Maybe I needed a different masa?  I used Maseca brand, which is the one everybody talks about in Mexican recipes using masa.  Maybe I needed to let it hydrate longer?  Knead it more?  Add lard?  That was one thing my inspiration recipe didn't have, but some others did. 

Luckily the rest of the recipe was tasty, so it wasn't a complete loss.  I can't bear to throw food away unless it's completely horrible, so I divided up the leftover dumplings and "stew" into two containers and Husband Jeff and I will eat them for lunch.



Wanna Chat?

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Inspiration from the Flavor Bible

Terese Allen, a local food celebrity here in Madison, was interviewed in the Sunday paper about her top three culinary books she recommends.  I immediately requested all three books from the public library but found that everybody else in Madison was interested in them as well, so I'm on the waiting list.  But I also discovered that the authors of one of the books have another book that looked good, Flavor Bible, which I was able to get pretty quickly.  Of course after I got it, I started reading about it on various other blogs. 

Flavor Bible is a compendium of information about what flavors go together and some innovative combos. Some flavors go better together, so they've got a visual key that indicates which pairings are the best. 

At first I was a little bored looking through it, just kind of flipping through it and nothing really interested me.  Meh.  Later I picked it up again and decided that it would be good to aim for something specific, like what to put in my morning oatmeal or smoothie.  My interest in the book started to pick up once I came up with an ingredient and an intention, all sorts of things started popping out at me.  That night I frantically made notes on a subscription card I tore out of a magazine.  I arranged them in order of things that I've got fresh and need to eat, and this is what I came up with.

I was mainly coming up with ideas for my oatmeal, but some also seemed appropriate for smoothies as well, so I marked those with an asterisk *.

Fresh ingredients

This first group are the ingredients I've got fresh and need to use up first.

Strawberry
  • Strawberry, rum extract*
  • Strawberry, chopped almonds (nice, I wish I hadn't used all my almond syrup (for coffee) the previous morning.)
  • Strawberry, 2 tsp fruit balsamic vinegar, and black pepper*

Grape
  • grapes, chopped almonds, hazelnut syrup (I didn't have high expectations, but this was surprisingly good!)

Apple
  • Apple, dried apricots, cinnamon (fine, but the apricots didn't have much flavor.)
  • Apple, cinnamon, raisins, rum extract (decent, but I don't think I like the taste of rum.  Or it could be that I don't like it as an extract.)
  • Apple, raisin, rum, orange, cinnamon, honey apple butter

Orange
  • orange, cinnamon, honey apple butter (this was a lot of work and created a lot of dirty dishes!  rasp to zest the orange, a knife to cut the orange, a spoon for apple butter, etc.  My orange fell apart as I was cutting it, that didn't happen the last time I added orange.  Maybe this was a different variety?  The flavor was ok, a little bitter from the zest so I don't think I'll go to this much trouble again.) 
  • orange, dried apricot

Sweet Potato
  • sweet potato, honey apple butter
  • sweet potato, orange extract

Non-Fresh Ingredients

 The rest of these are other ingredients we either already have (frozen or dried) or I buy fairly often.

Banana
  • blackberry* (the flavor was fine but the texture of my smoothie was terrible.  Blackberries have HUGE seeds that are easy to ignore when you eat them as whole fruit, but when they are whizzed up as a puree, the seeds are really gross.  Each mouthful ended up with me spitting out a bunch of seeds into the kitchen sink.  About halfway through I gave up trying to drink it and chugged it so I wouldn't encounter so many seeds.)
  • Banana, date*

Blackberry (I had originally marked these as possible smoothies, but after my experience with the blackberry-banana smoothie, I won'ts!)

  • Blackberry, peach
  • Blackberry, lemon

Cherry
  • Cherry, almond
  • Cherry, honey vinegar

Prunes
  • Prunes, orange extract, honey apple butter
  • Prunes, rum, raisins

Dates
  • Dates and almonds
  • Dates and chocolate

Pumpkin
  • Gingersnap cookies crumbled
  • Molasses
  • Orange
  • Raisins
  • Rum
  • Honey vinegar (nice, but not worth repeating)
  • Hazelnut+raisins

Pear
  • Almond
  • Dried apricot
  • Chocolate
  • Dates
  • Honey vinegar & raisins (tasty! quite surprising how nice this was.  I liked the texture of the pear granules in the oatmeal. This is my new favorite oatmeal.)
  • Lemon

Pineapple
  •  Lemon, vanilla
  •  Rum
  •  Chile-mango

Coffee
  • Cherries
  • Dates
  • Coconut
  • Coffee-infused oats (make coffee and then use it to make oats)

Other
  • Raisin, orange extract, rum
  • Mango, Ginger, rum, coconut
  • Chocolate, hazelnut, chile-mango

I highly recommend checking out this book, it's a great inspiration for thinking of flavors in a new way. I don't know if I'll ever actually buy it, but I think it would be a great reference to have on hand when you get stuck in a food rut and need something to give you fresh ideas. 


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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Sure Thing: Korean Sauce for Fish

Sonny D is Korean and loves fish a lot.  Typically it's if I make fish, he's guaranteed to eat it.  I decided to make it a for-sure thing by making a Korean sauce to go on top.

Inspiration


Aeri's Kitchen Tilapia with a Korean Style Sauce

The original recipe called for pan frying the fish, but broiled mine instead.  I'm sure pan-frying would have been delicious, but I wanted it to be healthier.  I also didn't have tilapia but instead used swai, a similar white fish.  I doubled the sauce recipe since I wasn't sure how much sauce it would really make, the only thing I didn't double was the hot pepper powder and the sugar. 

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Water
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tsp Hot Pepper Powder (Korean gochut garu, not the same as anything in America, barely spicy)
  • 2 tsp Garlic, Minced
  • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 Pinches Sugar

Directions

My fish was not completely defrosted, so I broiled it for an extra minute per side.  I ended up broiling it for 4 minutes and then flipped, 4 minutes and flipped again, then 3 minutes.  I checked and the fish flaked, so it was done.  I added sauce on top and spread it around with a knife.  

This covered 3 fish filets plus there was extra so we drizzled it on our rice and edamame.  

Verdict

Balanced -- and popular!  Ensures dinner gets eaten.

This sauce was a total hit with our family.  Sonny D totally loved it and wanted a third helping of fish.  I made only three filets (one per person) but now I know for the future that I need to make at least four, if not the whole package of five.

It was so simple to whip up while the rest of the meal cooked.  I liked how it was everything I already had in the cupboard.  I really appreciate the balance of the recipe -- it's salty, sweet, oily, savory, but nicely balanced so nothing overwhelms.  I will definitely make this again because it's so easy to pull together.  I thought it would go nicely with shrimp as well, maybe as a marinade and then cook it with the shrimp to make a sauce. 

I was afraid of how hot the hot pepper powder might be since I've only cooked with it a couple times, but I had no reason to worry, it's so mild that I could have doubled it like I did the rest of the ingredients.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of April 15

  • Monday - leftover Greek egg bake from Sunday, salads, veggie of some sort (frozen or canned)
  • Tuesday - curry shrimp with veggies and rice, salads
  • Wednesday - exercise class so something small and light, usually a sandwich and piece of fruit
  • Thursday - Italian sausage soup, maybe with a quick Bisquick biscuit.  
  • Friday - Sonny D & Husband Jeff will be on their own because I'm working my volunteer shift for the Half-Pint Resale event.  Maybe they can pull something for the freezer and have it ready by the time I get home, but this always takes longer than expected, so they should probably eat without me.
  • Saturday - We've got an event in the morning/mid-day, so we're kind of busy that day but I could definitely make something.  Right now I'm leaning towards leftovers.
  • Sunday - I'm going out with some gals for an all-you-can-eat sushi night at Muramoto, so Sonny D and Husband Jeff will on their own again.  I suggest hot dogs and oven-baked french fries.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dense, Chewy, and Satisfying: Iced Pumpkin Cookies

Yes, another pumpkin recipe that is out of season.  Pumpkin is so good and available canned that it should be a year-round ingredient.  These cookies definitely shouldn't wait until the fall.

Inspiration

Eat Yourself Skinny! Iced Pumpkin Cookies

I typically change a lot of things about recipes, so it's surprising that I only made a few changes on this one.  I know that baking can be pretty specific, so you don't want to mess around with too much.

Due to my dislike of the taste of cloves (Chai-Spiced Polenta), I used pumpkin pie spice instead of nutmeg and cloves.  And she used Stevia in the Raw while I used regular white sugar.  I also made only half the amount of glaze and it was more than enough. I skipped the butter in the glaze, I figured it wasn't really needed, but I had no idea what I was doing since I've never made a glaze before. I typically go frosting-free on my baked goods, I tend to like them unadulterated.

Ingredients


Cookie
  •  1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  •  tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Glaze
  • 1 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1.5 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • sprinkle of baking spice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-size bowl mix all of the dry ingredients, flour through salt.  In a larger bowl, mix the wet cookie dough ingredients together, yogurt through vanilla extract.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until combined.

Tip: always add the dry ingredients to the wet, if you do it the other way around, you can end up with pockets of flour in the bottom that you have trouble incorporating. 

I used a medium cookie scoop and dropped the dough on to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  The recipe didn't indicate if the cookie sheet should be sprayed, plain, etc, so I figured parchment paper would be a good choice.

My dough was rather wet and slightly stick, so I didn't think it was necessary to flatten the dough out as indicated.


I baked the first tray for 15 minutes and of course you have to taste them as soon as they cool enough not too burn.  They seemed perfect and moist, but as they cooled I was afraid that they might get too dried out, so I only baked the rest of them for 14 minutes.

The cookies puffed up but didn't spread, so you can get them pretty close on the cookie sheet. 

When the cookies are done, put them on a cooling rack.

While the cookies are baking, you can mix up the powdered sugar icing. Mix all of the ingredients, but be a little reserved with the liquid since it doesn't take much to make an icing.

When I got to the last little bit of batter, I added a teaspoon of cocoa powder to try a chocolate version.  It didn't have a lot of chocolate flavor though, maybe the cocoa powder didn't have enough time to hydrate or maybe it wasn't enough to flavor the thick batter.

Glazing the cookies was kind of a mess, the icing was rather thin and it ran off the sides onto the counter.  The glaze looked a little anemic, so I double-glazed all of the cookies.  The icing eventually hardened on the cookies enough that I could stack them in a storage container. 

Since the icing had ran off the cookies, the counter under the cooling rack was a sticky mess when I got done.

I wasn't sure if it was ok to leave these out since they've got yogurt in them, so I put them in the fridge.


This recipe made about 66 cookies, which came out to 45 calories.

Verdict

Not too sweet and a little spice, my perfect cookie.

Drippy with spice glaze
I love them, they're a little dense but soft.  They remind me of the Snackwell's Devil's Food cookies that I used to eat in high school.  I'm glad these are low in calorie because I find myself eating several at a time.  Luckily our friend Chuck came over one evening to lend my husband a tool and I sent a bag of cookies home with him, otherwise I would be eating them all the time! 

Nothing gets Sonny D into his chair at the table faster than the question "Do you want a cookie for dessert?"  He loves eating these and I love that they've got whole wheat flour and other healthy ingredients.

After a couple days of eating them, Husband Jeff declared that these are essentially cake doughnuts.  I would agree with that, the texture is thick and almost chewy.  Good call!  I love cake doughnuts, my favorite is a plain cake doughnut with nothing on it, I want to taste the yummy doughnut rather than a load of icing or whatever topping. 

Pumpkin is so neutral that I think you could use this as a base to incorporate other flavors.  I would love to try them with mini chocolate chips in the batter, skip the pumpkin pie spice, and flavor the glaze with orange extract and orange zest.  You could also make a chocolate glaze with either melted chocolate or cocoa powder.  You could also try other flavors of Greek yogurt to enhance them, vanilla and honey would be great to keep it neutral without introducing anything else.  Lemon and orange could take it to a more citrus flavor.   There's even a cafe latte yogurt that might be really good. 

I can't wait to make them again so I can experiment with flavors, but next time I would only make half of the batter since it made a lot of cookies for our little and it's too tempting to keep that many cookies in the house.  Then I would only make a quarter of the glaze.  Or I could make a full batch and take them to work as doughnut cookies, I'm sure they would go fast.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

All Oatmeal Restaurant in NYC


I was looking around online for a recipe for oatmeal bars and found an article about restaurant called OatMeals where the main focus is oatmeal.  Such an awesome concept, I love that the owner came up with some pre-made combos (sweet and savory) but also lets you build a bowl with your choice of toppings.  Plus the prices seem reasonable to me -- $4 for a small, $5 for a medium, and $6 for a large. 

And they also offer other oat-based items, like oatmeal cookies, oatmeal+yogurt parfaits, and oat-bread sandwiches. I need to get to New York to try this out! 

My oatmeal is always of the sweet variety, so a savory bowl of oatmeal seems really weird to me.  That might be my next oatmeal flavor experiment.  How can you go wrong with bacon and cheese? 

Question For You

Would you go to a restaurant specifically to eat oatmeal?  Have you ever ordered oatmeal at a restaurant?  I've only ordered it out once, when I was on a business trip in a fancy hotel. That ended up being a expensive bowl of oats, I think it was $14. 

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Favorite Equipment: West Bend Slow Cooker

Not my actual slow cooker, but
a beautiful photo of the same model.
Source: WestBend.com
I own a West Bend 5-quart oblong slow cooker.  I bought this to replace an older model of the same style that I got at a second-hand store several years ago.  My original one was a total beauty, it was '70s goldenrod-colored and so thoroughly dated.  I picked it up because I was having a party and needed a way to to keep food warm.  I grew up with a West Bend bottom-heat slow cooker, so I knew it would be perfect.

Eventually the glass lid on my old one got a big chip in it and I thought I might be able to buy a replacement lid, but I couldn't find a similar slow cooker at the resale shops even though I swear I've seen them there tons of times.  And anything I found on eBay was prohibitively expensive because of the weight of shipping, so I ended up buying a whole new slow cooker to replace it.

The heating base is billed as a mini griddle, but it's so absurdly small that only if you were cooking the smallest amount of food, such as 1-2 eggs would it actually be useful.  Anything more than that and it's going to either fall off the sides.  I guess only if you didn't have a stove (dorm room?) would this feature be useful. 

Why It's Awesome

  • It heats from the bottom rather than the sides like a traditional slow cooker. This is awesome for small amounts of food, like smaller roasts, a 1-pound package of chicken breasts, banana bread quinoa, etc.  If I tried to make the same dishes in a larger slow cooker, it's possible the dish could either end up not cooked enough if it didn't reach at least halfway up the sides (where the heating element is in a traditional slow cooker) or possibly overcooked or even burned from being such a small amount at too high of heat.
  • Wisconsin pride.  Made in West Bend, Wisconsin. 
  • The non-stick coating ensures you don't have to scrub at it for hours. 

Drawback

See those short little handles in the picture?  The handles are formed out of the body of the slow cooker and aren't a separate material screwed on.  They're useless if you've recently been heating things in your slow cooker (which is the whole point!).  Say your dish is done and you want to serve it or you want to transfer the leftovers to a container.  If the slow cooker was heating anything higher than low, those handles are HOT!  Plus they're stubby and short and slippery from the non-stick coating that it's difficult to get a grip, whether you're using a hotpad or even bare hands.  This is a serious design flaw.  It seems that the designer thought it would look cool to flare out the sides of the pan to make the handles, but it's obvious it was never tested by people who used it to actually cook anything.

The handles actually bug me so much, I keep considering contacting West Bend to tell them how disappointed I am.  I don't know if it would make me feel any better other than to get it off my chest.  I don't think I'd want them to do anything about it, other than fix the design for the future. 

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Believe In... Multiples

I believe in multiples in the kitchen.  It's good to have more than one of an item, like when you're making things in batches such as cookies, because then you can always rotate out your cookie sheets to ensure the cookies don't overbake on a hot cookie sheet.  Or sometimes I'll use a measuring spoon for something liquid, and then find out I need to measure out the same amount of a dry ingredient later in the same dish.  I'm too lazy to wash the measuring spoon, so it's nice to be able to grab another one of the same size spoon from the drawer.  Same with cutting boards, Husband Jeff can use one for raw meat and I can use another for veggies. 

Aside from the standard items that you would typically have more than one of (dishes, glasses, silverware, etc.) I've got more than one of the following items.

Two

  • 8x8 baking pans with rubber lids
  • 9x13 baking pans with rubber lids
  • cookie sheets
  • cooling racks
  • cookie scoops (different sizes though)
  • batter bowls with rubber lids
  • tongs (great when you used the first pair to put the raw meat on the grill and would rather wash them in the dishwasher to ensure you don't give your family salmonella poisoning.  use the second clean pair to take the cooked meat off the grill.)
  • can openers (a traditional swing-open style and a new-fangled "no sharp edges" style.  It's easier to drain a can of beans with the traditional can opener.)
  • types of foil (heavy-duty and large-size)
  • freezers (one as part of the refrigerator and a chest freezer in the basement)
  • refrigerators (the one in the kitchen and a mini "dorm room" fridge in the basement for beer)
  • plastic cake storage (I rarely use these for cake, I mainly use them to hold a batch of popcorn made with the air popper.)
  • kitchen shears (another good one for when you've cut open a package on something raw and are too lazy to wash them to use them again in the same day.)

Three

  • liquid measuring cups (glass 2-cup, glass 4-cup, and a 1-cup "various measurements" one that has milliliters, ounces, tablespoons, etc.  The glass ones can go in the microwave, which is awesome for making a caramel sauce.  I also use them to make pesto with my immersion blender since it's heatproof and can hold the blanched basil and the blender stick fits inside.)
  • sets of dry measuring cups
  • cutting boards (one large, two medium)
  • slow cookers - a small dip one, a medium one, and a large one that is perfect for big batches of soup 
  • potholder/oven mitts (um, at least one has a burn hole in it.  I could use more small-hand mitts)
 

Four +

  • a random assortment of measuring spoons (probably at least six in the 1 Tablespoon size)
  • glass storage containers with rubber lids (it seems they're always in the freezer, so I keep buying more)
  • sizes of plastic bags (snack, sandwich, quart freezer, and gallon freezer)
  • trivets (cork ones from Ikea and the silicone ones that can also be used as potholders, but I think they're too slippery to risk picking up a hot dish of food)
  • various utensils like silicone spatulas, flippers, spoons, etc.  Yep, more than three of each of those types.
  • kitchen towels (I know, I'm sure you've also got more than three of these as well, but with a toddler, we've found we go through about one per day!)
  • covered casserole dishes
  • sets of nested mixing bowls (my favorite is the set of about 10 bowls ranging from tiny to huge.  The largest one is perfect for mixing up a batch of Rice Krispie Treats since it holds a lot.) 
This is all off the top of my head, so I'm sure there are even a few things I'm missing.

I'm not saying you need a lot of equipment, it's all about having a good set of tools and what works for you based on what you need in the kitchen.  If you've looked at what I've described, you can see I do a moderate amount of baking and cooking in the oven and on the stovetop.  I also like to store a lot of food.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Got extra parsley? Make pesto di prezzemolo

I had a bunch of flat-leaf parsley leftover so I looked around on the internet to see what I could make with it and   I found this pesto recipe.  Standard basil pesto is popular in our house, but this isn't a standard pesto, so I was uncertain what the reaction would be.  It has anchovies and there's no cheese or nuts.

Inspiration 

Saveur Pesto di Prezzemolo (parsley pesto with anchovies)

I trimmed the olive oil down to only a couple tablespoons and added some pasta water to keep things loose.  I skipped the white wine vinegar and red chile flakes; I figured the caper brine would add enough tang so I wouldn't need the vinegar and I wanted to try a non-spicy version.  Sonny D will eat a decent amount of spice, maybe I should have tried it that way?   The original ingredients list also had salt, but with the anchovies and capers, I figured we'd have enough sodium.

Put this on rice noodles or other gluten-free pasta to keep it gluten-free.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup hot pasta water
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
  • 1Tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1 Tablespoon packed oregano leaves
  • 2 anchovy filets in oil, drained (I have anchovies in a tube, so I squeezed out what looked like the equivalent of 2 filets)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Covers about 6 ounces (dry) of pasta.

Directions

Put all the ingredients together into an immersion blender cup and blend until smooth. 

Verdict

Green, green, green.  Is this what chlorophyll tastes like?

Husband Jeff wouldn't touch this other than to give it a taste to confirm it wasn't something he wanted.  He thought it was "too green" (in flavor, the color didn't bug him) so he had butter and salt on his pasta instead.  He even admitted that sitting at the table with it kind of turned his stomach.

But Sonny D and I enjoyed it.  I thought Sonny D might like it because of the anchovies, he likes fish.  He also likes my basil pesto, so maybe he was confused and thought this was that?  I thought this was a total win since lately he's been not eating green foods (like vegetables, except for avocado).

We had a little bit left over, so I pulled it out for lunch the other day.  I added a sprinkle of cayenne to see what the original recipe might have been like, and it was fine, but it mainly just made it spicy parsley, rather than actually changing how it tasted.  Nice, but not important.

When I make basil pesto and I find myself without enough basil, I stretch it by adding some spinach, so maybe parsley would work as well? I might try it this summer if I get bored.  We're considering growing basil this year, so I might get a lot of opportunities to make basil pesto to try out some variations. 

I would recommend this recipe if you have a lot of extra parsley lying around, mainly because I don't know what else to suggest for parsley, but I wouldn't exactly tell you to go buy parsley so you could make this sauce.  But if you've tried tabbouleh and didn't like it or have nibbled on pretty much any sort of parsley and found it revolting, I would suggest you skip this recipe.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Alternative Breakfast Bowl: Banana Bread Quinoa Porridge

When I've got bananas that have gone too far ripe to eat, I throw them in the freezer to save for later.  I end up stockpiling the over-ripe bananas to make recipes, my current favorite is banana pancakes.  We can only eat so many banana pancakes, so when this breakfast quinoa recipe came along that uses ripe bananas, I went for it.

Inspiration

Ingredients lineup
The Realistic Nutritionist Crock Pot Banana Bread Quinoa

Since over-ripe bananas are pretty sweet and I was adding non-dairy creamer, I ended up skipping the brown sugar.  I also skipped the nuts since I don't like nuts in my banana bread.

Typically I would refrain from using non-dairy creamer in a recipe like this and probably substitute water, but we had a nice big container and I wanted to see how it would turn out.

The original poster made this into 6 servings, but I thought that looked small, so I went with 4 instead. 

Ingredients

  • 2 over-ripe bananas
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup French Vanilla non-dairy creamer
  • 1 cup water
  • dash vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
Before cooking

Directions

I put all the ingredients in my medium-sized slow cooker.

After cooking
You're supposed to mash the bananas and add all the other ingredients, but my bananas were frozen, so I cut them in half at the equator and then sliced each half the long way so I could peel the skin off.  I kind of cut them into bits as I put them in the slow cooker and figured I'd mash them up a bit with the spatula once they defrosted.

This was supposed to cook for 4-6 hours on low, but my slow cooker is a style that sits directly on the heating base rather than heating on the sides so my batch was done in three hours. 

Verdict

Banana goodness, but not amazing. 

I liked this, but didn't love it.  The banana flavor was nice and it was a good change to have it mashed in from the beginning rather than added to the bowl after cooking like I would do with oatmeal.  But all of that said, it didn't really seem a whole lot different than a bowl of oats with banana slices.  I would make it again, but I've got several other oatmeal experiments I would rather make first.  Plus I felt like I was starving only a couple hours after eating it, so it seems like the quinoa didn't tide me over like oats do. 

The creamer was nice, but I don't know if it was really necessary.  If I try this again, I might try 1 cup of water and 1 cup of almond milk for the liquid.

The "quinoa as breakfast cereal" concept was nice.  If you are interested in quinoa but have never tried it, definitely try this out.  And if you want a new recipe to add to your quinoa collection, this is worth a shot. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of April 8

  • Monday - baked/broiled fish with Korean sauce, rice, frozen veggie, and salads
  • Tuesday - Enchilada chicken in the slow cooker with masa dumplings
  • Wednesday - something quick and light before exercise class, Sonny D will probably eat with grandma and grandpa
  • Thursday - I'm going out for a happy hour with my coworkers at Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar (totally different than a cheap brick of ramen) and Husband Jeff and Sonny D are going to join me and we'll have dinner there. 
  • Friday - our friend Steve will be in town, we'll either go out with him somewhere or invite him and his parents over for dinner since they've hosted us several times.  No idea what I'll make for that, probably something in the slow cooker or a casserole. 
  • Saturday - I'm going to busy at an all-day food conference here in town, so I want to make something that doesn't take a lot of time.  I'm aiming for a baked egg dish, probably one of these two variations:
    • Greek flavors of feta, peppers, onion, tomatoes, spinach and olives 
    • Polenta bottom, sausage, and veggies.
  • Sunday - soup and sandwich



Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Out of Season: Pumpkin Fluff for Easter

I bought the ingredients for this recipe a while ago, but never really had the occasion to make it, so it waited a while.  I finally decided it would work well as a dish to bring for a family Easter event. Even though Easter is usually loaded with light and lemony desserts, I figured I would go with a Fall flavor, mainly because it was easy to throw together on a busy weekend when you've got a toddler.  Plus it seemed like all the other dishes that came to mind were too difficult to serve at the right temperature.

Inspiration

Recipe Diaries Pumpkin Fluff

Pudding mix plus pumpkin
This is a Weight Watchers dessert, but I skip the sugar-free pudding mix.  Somehow it's ok in my mind to use light Cool Whip but not light pudding mix.  Go figure.

Ingredients

  • 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tub light Cool Whip

 

Directions

Mix the first three ingredients together really well.  At this point you can mix it pretty heartily, but when you add the Cool Whip you need to be a little more delicate so you don't deflate it.  

It might help to mix a little bit of the Cool Whip in to lighten up the mixture and then add the rest.  You're supposed to let it sit for at least a couple hours, probably to hydrate the pudding mix. 

Finished fluff

Verdict

Creamy, lush, and not too sweet. 

If you close your eyes, you would probably say it's a bite of pumpkin pie with Cool Whip on top.  When you mix only four ingredients like this it's obvious it's not going to transform into something else, but sometimes it's nice to know exactly what you're getting.

By itself, the fluff is fine, but nothing impressive.  Itt is much better when scooped onto spicy, crunchy gingersnap cookies -- they're an excellent counterpart to the soft texture and creamy coolness.

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!