Showing posts with label Snacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Snacks. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

{8th day of christmas: egg nog}

If you were watching the news yesterday, you may have seen that there was a shooting near Portland, OR: a lone gunman opened fire in a crowded, holiday-shopper-filled mall, killed two people and injured one before killing himself.

Occurrences like this are senseless, scary, and a dose of bitter, terrible reality at a time when we're supposed to be loving, kind and warm toward one another. This instance, in particular, hits particularly close to home (emotionally and in actuality) and is an unfortunate follow-up to a post where I exuded the sheer wonder and delight I feel every time I go into a holiday mall this time of year. Instead of giggling over the extravagant decorations and the plump, smiling Santas, last night there was Christmas music playing in quiet and empty mall hallways while SWAT teams checked on employees and customers alike. To dampen such wonder with something so cruel is just beyond all reason. My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved in such a tragedy.

As such, I've been watching the news since 4 pm yesterday, and though I had been working diligently on my shop all morning, all that was forsaken to watch the unraveling of events. As afternoon turned towards evening, I decided to make a batch of egg nog, to hold very carefully to holiday normalcy before it, too, cracked.

{egg nog}

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract

I have never made egg nog before, nor even whipped egg whites before (I know, I'm terribly cooking naive) so this was a learning opportunity for me. As far as I could tell, there are two ways to make egg nog: cooked and uncooked. The cooked version didn't seem to take heavy cream as an ingredient, which I assumed would make the egg nog too milky, but I wasn't in favor of making a drink from raw eggs, so I spliced two recipes together and came up with my own concoction.

1. Separate egg whites and yolks into two separate bowls. With the yolks, whip in 1/2 cup sugar until blended.
2. With an electric mixer, whip the bowl of egg whites until stiff peaks form. (It takes probably 10 minutes, but it's like magic. I used this site for some good tips on how to beat egg whites, since I was dubious that I could make it happen just by guessing at it)
3. Mix in 1/2 cup sugar bit by bit into the egg whites until blended.
4. Add the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites and then add in 2 1/2 cups milk. Mix until blended.
5. Pour mixture into a pan and heat over medium for about 5 minutes, until it thickens. I cooked mine slightly longer (my blend was already pretty thick, so I did a poor job judging when to stop heating it) and ended up with a more "eggy" smelling nog.
6. Remove egg nog from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add in 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream.
7. In a separate bowl, beat 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream until stiff and then fold into egg nog.
8. Mix in nutmeg and vanilla extract and cool in fridge for 1-2 hours.

This makes a large pitcher's-worth of egg nog.

Mine turned out pretty tasty (and very "eggy"), but then again, I don't have a good reference for what good egg nog is really supposed to taste like. My guess is it's supposed to be a little thicker and perhaps a little sweeter (or maybe that's just the overprocessed store bought kind?)

Unfortunately, I don't have many photos of the process because, as it turns out, taking pictures of lots of white-and-yellow frothy ingredients just isn't that interesting. I'm sparing you the pain of mediocrity on this one, trust me.

Stay safe, drink your egg nog and give hugs to your loved ones tonight.

Monday, December 10, 2012

{7th day of christmas: hot cocoa}

I love the holiday season. And I'm not talking "love" like the cliche "Christmas is my favorite holiday" drivel. No, I'm talking love like everything-about-the-holidays-makes-me-mushy-inside love. As in, I love the things that most people just hate about the holidays.

- I love the gaudy, ostentatious holiday decorations that show up in the big department stores every year (it makes me feel like I live in a Christmas movie set in New York)
- I love the cheesy Christmas songs on the radio that start the day after Thanksgiving (yes, I'm that person)
- I love watching holiday movies over and over (I never get tired of The Santa Clause and While You Were Sleeping)
- I love seeing Santa Claus at the mall in his giant North Pole house with a huge line of kids all waiting to start screaming the second they sit in his lap.
- I love untangling Christmas lights and dragging out the boxes of Christmas decorations and I love leaving my tree up until mid-January... or late January... or March.
- I love the cold dump of snow and everyone bundled up running around doing their Christmas shopping last-minute.
- I love driving around town looking at the overblown Christmas lights and those horrific lawn decorations that seem to show up in every neighborhood.
- I love Christmas carolers and hand bell choirs.
- I love that jittery, excited feeling that has been with me since I was very small and still thought that a big jolly man in a red suit was going to magically leave me presents on Christmas Eve. Sometimes I still believe that.
- I love the overstuffed church pews on Christmas Eve.
- I love the foods that are somehow only acceptable once a year. Pumpkin pie, peppermint ice cream, cranberry sauce, baked yams, egg nog, gingerbread.
- and I love hot cocoa, even if every, every, every time I drink it, it scorches my tongue and I can't taste anything after the first sip.

After spending a long weekend at the mall people-watching (like a crazy person... who goes to the mall on purpose this time of year not to shop, except me?) I decided I needed to round-out my dose of Christmas cheer with a warm, chocolaty beverage.

{hot cocoa}

1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon, to taste

Mix the cocoa powder and sugar together in a small pot. Add milk and chocolate chips and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate chips have melted and consistency thickens slightly. Add vanilla and serve. I sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top of mine.
Makes three-four servings.

True to form, I burnt my tongue the first sip I took, but somehow managed to enjoy the rich, chocolate taste to the last drop. Delicious.

Monday, October 8, 2012

{dutch oven bread}

I'm not the greatest cook (read: worst cook everrrrr) but I do love baking. One of my very favorite things to bake is bread. Homemade bread has been around in my family for as long as I can remember. I barely knew what pre-packaged white bread was until high school. Both my mom and my dad enjoyed making it every week, and I loved eating it.

These days, I enjoy making my own. The gentle rhythm of kneading dough is so cathartic, and is there anything more delicious than the smell of bread straight out of the oven? Heaven. I could live on bread alone, people, I'm telling you. I would be fat and happy and smell faintly of flour. Mmmmm.

Despite my skill at making a mean loaf of homemade bread, I had never before heard of making bread in a dutch oven. I mean, WHAT? Bread is made in bread pans! How the hell does a dutch oven come into play, here?

I was so intrigued with the idea, that I ran out and bought me a $50 dutch oven from IKEA and immediately googled a recipe (yes, I buy $50 worth of cookware on a whim. This is how much I love bread, people.) Turns out, this tactic is like MAGIC. I'm serious. I was completely skeptical the entire time. After all, I have years of bread baking experience in my pocket and this just threw it all out the window. AND, it's probably the easiest recipe in the world. Prepare to be amazed.

{dutch oven bread}

3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups water
5 qt dutch oven with lid

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.

At this point, you can keep going to make regular yeast bread, or you can add some fun ingredients and make the bread kick-ass. I put in cranberries and lemon zest, since that's what I had on hand at the time. (In case you are curious, this is a brilliant combination. I think orange zest would also be awesome.)

Add water and mix until dough becomes sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours. I let mine sit overnight. It will rise by morning:

The next day, heat oven to 450 degrees. Place your dutch oven (or cast iron pot of some kind, with a lid) into the preheated oven and heat up the pot for 30 minutes. While it is heating, knead dough on a floured surface and form into a ball. It will be crazy sticky, so make sure you have enough flour on the counter/ your hands. Let the dough-ball sit under the plastic wrap until the dutch oven is finished heating.

Remove your cast iron pot from oven (carefully) and drop in your dough ball. Cover the cast iron pot with lid and return it to the oven for 30 minutes. (My oven is crazy hot, so I lowered the temp a bit and only baked it for 20 minutes). After 20-30 minutes, remove dutch oven lid and bake an additional 15 minutes or so.

After you drop your bread dough into the pot and wait for it to bake, you're totally going to be thinking: there's no way in hell this will be bread. I mean, I know dough forms bread in a bread pan in 30 minutes, but usually it has spent all night rising to an appropriate bread shape and size, and when it bakes, it forms a nice, rounded golden crust on top. Plus, you can watch its progress through your oven door.

With the dutch oven, you can't see crap. You drop this tiny, sticky bundle of unrisen dough into a giant pot, cover it up, and scoff a little that it will create anything close to resembling bread in that time.

And then you pull the lid off.... and BAM! MAGIC DOUGH! It became BREAD! I mean, I bake a lot, but I still couldn't get over this one. I figured if there was any way to ruin the simplest recipe in the world, I would have found a way to do it. But I didn't! It made a perfect, round, artisan crispy loaf, and it was amazing.

Best $50 loaf of bread I ever made. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

{candied yam muffins}

Thanksgiving is right around the bend, and with it comes the joys of those tasty autumn treats... pumpkin, winter squash, cranberries, chard, apples, sweet potatoes... yum yum yum! Though I love the summer harvest with its delightful fruits and brightly colored vegetables, there's something earthy and comforting about fall and winter produce.

My CSA food drop this month brought me a medley of autumn delights, including yams! They were mixed in with the potatoes and I almost missed them, but once found, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to whip up something delightful after work. Not only that, but I came up with a recipe that is both healthy and sweet... the perfect combo to get you in the autumn mood!

This photo is take two. Take one involved me trying to take "one bite" of the muffin, devouring the whole thing in three seconds flat, and sheepishly going for another. I got three bites into the second muffin before I remembered I still had to take a photo...

{candied yam muffins}

3-4 yams, peeled
4 eggs (I used two whole eggs and two egg whites)
1 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
extra sugar and cinnamon for the topping

Peel the yams and boil in a pot of water. Depending on the size of the yams, and whether or not you cube them, they could take anywhere from 10-30 minutes to cook. I used three large yams and they boiled for 30 minutes or so. Test with a fork -- when you can easily push the fork through the yam, it's finished.

Let the yams cool a little and then puree them in a food processor or with a blender until creamy. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place eggs, applesauce, sugar, vanilla, and pureed yams into a large bowl. Beat until light and fluffy.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a small bowl. Stir dry ingredients into the yam mixture until just combined. It should thicken to a heavy paste.

At this point your recipe will smell a lot like pumpkin pie, and if you have a weakness for the stuff like I do, you're going to find it very hard to resist licking the bowl clean...

Get a hold of yourself and grease a muffin tin. Pour the delicious-smelling yam mixture into each cup, about 2/3 of the way full.

Cook muffins 17-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. I left them a little on the underdone side, and this made them pumpkin-pie creamy on the inside. Mmmmmmm.

Let muffins cool ten minutes. Butter the tops of the muffins and sprinkle a cinnamon-sugar mixture on top for sweetness. Enjoy!

Mmmm. What is it about baked goods that make them such a good photo subject? :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

{chocolate fruit smoothie}

I've been making smoothies a lot lately. First, because they're delicious. Second, because I have lots of fresh fruit in the house due to my CSA food drops, and third, because Tanner will drink them, too.

This one is simple and yet delicious... don't be distracted by the strange color. Just imagine: it tastes like chocolate dipped strawberries. Promise.

{strawberry/ blueberry chocolate smoothie}

1 cup fresh frozen strawberries
1/2 cup fresh frozen blueberries
1 ripe banana
Lite chocolate soy milk (to desired consistency)
(Note: if you didn't freeze your fruit, you'll want to add ice cubes to make the smoothie cold)

Place everything in a blender and blend until creamy. The amount of soy milk you put in determines how watery/thick it will be. Feel free to add different fruits (blackberries are delicious, and yesterday I made one with overripe pluots, orange juice, and vanilla soy milk... yum.) Also, you can add a small amount of veggies to this without destroying the fruity taste, if you'd like more leafy greens in your diet.

I also highly recommend purchasing reusable smoothie cups with straws. These two were gifts (thanks, Mama Goodson!) and they always make smoothie time way more awesome. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

{roasted green beans}

I was super excited to get green beans in my CSA drop this week because I have a delicious recipe for them. It's very simple and the result is a healthy snack that tastes just like french fries... especially if you dip them in ketchup. Yum!

{roasted green beans}

Toss green beans in a drizzle of olive oil until they are coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay them out on a baking sheet.

Bake green beans at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes. The crispier they are, the more they taste like french fries, but be careful not to burn them!

I tested these out on Tanner who decided that they "taste nothing like french fries", but then again, he's bias against anything green and bean-like. Try them for yourself and see what you think. Personally, I think they're delish!

Friday, July 29, 2011

{organic veggie wraps and fresh fruit salad}

I started something fun and new this week: CSA food drops!
If there's anything I dislike more, it's the chore of going to the local generic grocery store. Especially when I'm hungry. I end up buying random, pointless things... like ice cream sundae flavored pop tarts.

But my irrational food purchases aside, the worst part of going to the store is trying to pick out an assortment of vegetables from the "fresh" aisle, while wondering where exactly they came from -- or what has been put on them to make the colors so bright and the texture so perfect?
I adore farmer's markets, but unfortunately, I work a job that doesn't always allow me weekends off, so my trips there are inconsistent (at best) or nonexistent (at worst). And even when I do visit the market, I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number of vegetable choices, paired with my inability to cook with them.
Thus, I have happily signed up for a CSA! (that actually stands for "Community Supported Agriculture", just in case you were worried I had joined the Casting Society of America.)

Not only is it surprisingly affordable, it's also home grown, supports local farms, and it gets delivered right to my doorstep. My first drop came this week and I was a bit surprised by the weight of it. Apparently a "small bin" translates to a small ton of food. Here is the gorgeousness inside:

The contents?

1/2 lb Cherries
1 Cantaloupe
1 lb Apricots
3-4 Plums
1/2 lb Sugar Snap Peas
1 bunch Collard Greens
1 Cucumber
1 lb Zucchini
1 Lettuce Head
1-2 Green Peppers
1 lb Fava Beans
1 bunch Green Onions
1.5 lb Potatoes
2 Spring Onions

Not only does that equate to a large amount of food (especially considering Tanner's distaste for anything the color green, leafy, healthy, or rhyming with the word "fegetables") but a lot of the stuff I simply had no idea what the hell it was. Fortunately the CSA's website had a handy print-out list that classified all my food stuffs, so I didn't have to sit staring at a pile of fava beans and wondering if they were some kind of mutant green bean.

The other thing is, I would never willingly buy fava beans at a grocery store. Much less collard greens, or apricots, or even a cucumber on Wednesdays. (Plus, am I the only one who mistakes those for zucchinis? I always have to look twice.) Having them in my house now forces me to look up new recipes and try out a fun assortment of meals I've never attempted before. It's pretty exciting.

And this doesn't even include the lettuce, collards, or green onions!

However, I will note that the preparation for fava beans doesn't look too promising. Something about de-podding the beans and then blanching the shells and then still having to struggle with the little suckers to make them edible. I'm not sure I have one pound's worth of patience for that, but we'll see. You may be able to convince me otherwise with a compelling recipe.

To start with, I chopped up all the fruit and made myself a pleasant, surprisingly orange-hued fruit salad. It's worth noting that a lot of the cherries did not make it to the bowl (yummm) and the same goes for the cantaloupe. It was so juicy it practically fell off the rind. Is there anything better?

At this point it was quite late in the evening, and if I didn't make something for dinner quick I would be on the verge of diving into that box o' pop tarts. Rather than do anything fancy with the veggies, I simply divvied up a couple of my favorites and created myself an impromptu veggie wrap.

Here's how to make it:
Sliced and diced green pepper, spring onion, and zucchini. I pureed a can of Great Northern beans and used it as a spread on a tortilla (I'm not a fan of the texture of beans, so you don't have to puree them if you like it), added a chopped up slide of smoked Gouda (my favorite) and sprinkled the veggies on top. I warmed the whole thing up on the stove and topped it with crushed red pepper and parmesan.

I would share photos of the final creation, but it got devoured as quickly as the fruit salad.

I will note that the spring onion was the most amazing thing I have tasted in a long time. Crisp, flavorful, and just a tiny bit sweet. The combination of that and the smoked Gouda was a veggie wrap well concocted.

More recipes to come!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

{homemade strawberry jam}

Every May my family goes strawberry picking. We head out cheerfully with baskets in tow, expecting to fill our tote, stain our fingers, and return home to spend the afternoon making and canning fresh strawberry jam. Every year we think we'll stop at one basket, but the ripe strawberries beg us to keep picking, and inevitably we return with thirty pounds or more and the slightly guilty feeling that perhaps we didn't need quite that much fruit.

At any rate, there's hardly anything better than strawberry jam, and with thirty pounds of fruit, you can even use the leftovers to make breads, pies, dessert toppings, pancakes, and cakes if you happen to run out of jars. (Heaven forbid!)
Then again, perhaps you have stronger will power than us, and you'll stop before you hit the weight capacity of a small pony.

Here's the recipe for a simple no-heat strawberry jam. It turns out somewhat runny, but still delicious. If you'd rather have a more jelled jam, boiling pectin works well, but it tends to be a much messier process, so beware.

{homemade strawberry jam}

4 cups crushed strawberries 
1 1/2 cups sugar 
1 1.59 oz pkg Ball Freezer Jam Pectin 
1 16 oz Ball Freezer Jam jar (I recommend buying a pack of 12)

Put strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth.
In a medium bowl, stir together sugar and package of pectin until well mixed. Add the strawberries and stir for 3 minutes. Transfer mixture into clean freezer jar. (Leave a little space at the top since it will expand when frozen.) Twist on lid and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to thicken. Freeze until ready to use.

This is for one 16 oz jar of jam. If you're like us and pick 30 pounds of strawberries... you may want to 30-tuple the recipe and buy pectin and jars in bulk. Just sayin.

Best of all, you get to enjoy a day in the fields with the sun and the strawberries!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

{baked french fries}

Tanner and I each have our own food vices. Mine is french fries and Tanner's is oreo milkshakes. (And vice versa, I might add.)
I think we discovered these horrible food cravings on one of our first dates, in which he picked up dinner at McDonalds and brought back some french fries to share.
What a good boyfriend I am, he thought. Bringing my girlfriend some fries.
Little did he know that fries should not be shared with me, and if they are, don't expect to get any.

It's a race to the finish any time either of us buys fries anymore. Oh, we pretend to eat all the other things-- burger for him, salad and parfait for me-- but really, we've got one eye on that fry carton the whole time. If one person tucks in, the other has to quickly grab a handful just so they don't disappear.
I think life would be easier if we each had our own batch of fries, but somehow this has yet to occur to us.
(By the way, everything I've just written can be substituted for the words "oreo milkshake" in the place of fries, and it is still the same outcome.)

We happened to be at Urban Outfitters one afternoon and I came across a spiral notebook that had written on the front: "I love you more than French Fries." I showed it to Tanner, and the phrase quickly found its way into our lives.
"Goodbye," I say to him before work. "I love you more than French Fries."
"I love you more than oreo milkshakes," he says in reply.

In honor of the deliciousness of French Fries (don't judge... you have your food vices too, I know) I whipped up a homemade batch last night that is considerably more healthy for you than the fast food kind. It's a simple recipe that uses extra-virgin olive oil and cornmeal to substitute for the fried texture and flavor. After my batch was gone in five minutes, I would call it a winner.

{baked french fries}

4 russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 egg whites
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornmeal (I was out of cornmeal and used breadcrumbs, instead, which worked well)
Spice mixture: 1/4 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cayenne (I was out of cayenne, too, and substituted chipotle chili powder. Yumm.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with oil.

Cut each potato into wedges or thin sticks. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the egg whites, olive oil and salt, coating evenly. Dust the potatoes with the cornmeal and spice mixture. Spread the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with ketchup!

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