In The Pantry — Coconut Flour

I made a recent visit to Wegmans to refill the (seemingly millions) of Pop containers I have with all sorts of whole grains and flours.  When my shopping reminder for Coconut Flour came up I figured I should find some way to use up what I had.  I love coconut.  Not that I’m hoping for this, but if I ever get stuck on a desert island, I’ll be ok as long as there are a few coconut trees around.  I checked the package information and it said you can substitute Coconut Flour for up to 1/3 of the flour in any recipe. So, morning muffins seemed like a perfect place to test it out.

To my surprise, the muffins didn’t taste overwhelmingly of coconut, but they had a great light texture.  They also didn’t brown up as much as muffins usually do, so I had to check on them with the cake tester (toothpick) to see that there was a crumb clinging to it before I took it out.

 

Blueberry-Orange Muffins (Makes 12 muffins)

Blueberry Muffins

 

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour or whole grain pastry flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup light flavored oil (safflower, grapeseed, etc)
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel (NOTE: Wait until the liquid ingredients are mixed and grate the orange peel over the liquid ingredients)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Add paper liners to a 12 cup muffin pan or spray the cups with an oil spray.
2. Stir together flour, coconut flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl. Make a well in the center of flour mixture.
3. Whisk eggs until fluffy.  (The volume will increase and there will be fine bubbles on top.)  Slowly pour in the oil while whisking the eggs again.  Add milk while continuing to whisk.  Grate the orange peel over the liquid ingredients to try and capture any extra orange oil.
4. Pour liquid ingredients into the well you made in the flour mixture.  Fold the dry ingredients over onto the liquid ingredients.  Stir just until moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in blueberries.
5. Use a large cookie scoop to get the  batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each almost full. If desired, sprinkle tops with coarse sugar.
6. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes.
7. Cool in muffin cups on wire rack 5 minutes.
8. Remove from muffin cups.

Fill the Freezer — Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

After wading through too many posts and news stories about all the recalls, hidden additives and preservatives in foods lately, I’ve embarked on an effort that I’m calling my Fill the Freezer campaign.  I decided to fill my large standing freezer with lots of food that is homemade, but can easily be heated up or cooked in the time it takes us to get delivery or drive out to grab takeout.  As part of the effort I decided that I also need to resume making my own ice cream.  I used to make my own ice cream, but there was a texture component that I just was not a fan of.  There were just too many ice crystals that got in the way of transferring the flavors.  I’m not a huge ice cream fan, but I love pudding.  There’s something about the way the flavors of a pudding develop on your taste buds in layers and leave a warming vanilla aftertaste.  I’ve read every ice cream recipe book (sometimes cover to cover) I could get my hands on to figure out how to get the right texture.  Then I found Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and mystery solved, the texture was perfect.  All the creamy yummy texture of pudding that allowed my preference for big bold flavors to transfer perfectly.

Then, I had to ask The Hubs (my in-house ice cream expert) for ideas for flavors.  He turned to me and said, “You know what flavor you can never find in the store? Blueberry!”  I was stumped.  I’ve wandered freezer aisles everywhere and don’t remember ever seeing just a plain Blueberry Ice Cream.  There were lots of strawberry ice creams, but no blueberry.  So, I made a few changes to Jeni’s Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream and voila!  After 24 hours in the freezer, I asked The Hubs to try it out.  I took a spoonful and it was a gorgeous true blueberry flavor with a creamy vanilla finish that just tasted like summer.  The Hubs loved it  and gave me the “Now, when I ask you to make this again two months from now, don’t you tell me you forgot the recipe” look so I figured documentation was in order:

Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

BlueberryIceCream

 

Blueberries:

1 quart blueberries

1 ½ cup sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Ice Cream Base:

4 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour

3 cups whole milk (reserve 4 tablespoons)

2 ½ cups heavy cream

1 ⅓ cup sugar

4 tablespoons tapioca syrup

½ cup buttermilk

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ tsp fine sea salt

1 tbsp vanilla

 

  • Cook down blueberries in stock pot until temp reaches 220F.  Set aside to cool.

  • Make a slurry of 4 tablespoons of milk & 4 tablespoons tapioca starch.  Set aside. 

  • Add the milk, heavy cream, sugar, tapioca syrup & buttermilk to the stock pot.  Pour about ½ cup of blueberry syrup into the pot.

    NOTE: Use the same stock pot that you used to cook the blueberries (there should still be some blueberry syrup still sticking to the inside of the pot so use a wooden spoon and the warm milk to get the rest of it off the sides & bottom of the pan.)

  • Set the pot over medium-high heat and let it come to a boil.

  • In a 2 quart glass measuring cup, whisk sea salt into the softened cream cheese.

  • When the milk mixture starts boiling, set your timer for 4 minutes.

  • At the end of the 4 minutes, remove the stock pot from the heat and slowly whisk in the tapioca starch slurry.

  • Return the pot to the heat and stir with a wooden spoon while it boils for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

  • Ladle about 1 cup of the milk mixture into the cream cheese and whisk.  Add more ladles and whisk until no cream cheese lumps appear.

  • Add the rest of the milk mixture to the cream cream cheese mixture and whisk.

  • Set aside to cool.

  • When the steam subsides, add the vanilla, cover the measuring cup and refrigerate for 24 hours

  • Insert the frozen base into a 2 quart ice cream machine.

  • Whisk the ice cream base THOROUGHLY to homogenize it.  There will be some parts that are thicker than others.

  • Add the ice cream base to the ice cream machine.

  • Set two alarms: one for 30 minutes and one for 25 minutes.

  • At 25 minutes, Drain the blueberries and add them to the ice cream base.  If you have syrup left over you can add up to ¼ cup.

  • At 30 minutes move the ice cream to a 2 quart container and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

 

 

Homemade Granola kind of morning

I’m on a granola kick now. This of course goes back to my yogurt making. I’ve stretched the yogurt making time from 12 hours to 15 so now its tart. Which I love, but it screams for granola. I considered buying some in the store. But the kid was sleeping, Hubs was running the Broad Street Run and so I rummaged.

Granola

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Preheat oven to 250F

In a large bowl:
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup sweetened coconut or shredded unsweetened
3 Tablespoons Maca Powder
1 cup raw hazelnuts
3/4 tsp salt

In another bowl/measuring cup:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup honey

In a separate bowl:
1 cup roasted & salted pistachios
1/2 cup tart cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

Add oil & honey mixture to oat mixture. Mix with your hands. Spread out on a sheet pan. And put in the oven.

Set a timer to go off every 15 minutes. You will need to turn the mixture so it bakes evenly.

Let it bake for an hour and a half. As soon as its done, take it out of the oven and pour the contents of the remaining bowl on top of the hot oats and turn with a spatula to mix it all together while its still warm.

Let cool completely on the sheet pan. Use spatula to loosen from the sheet pan (this is crumbly granola not bars) Store in an airtight container.

Serve with tart Greek-style yogurt & fruit.

Freekeh-ing out before the storm

I feel the need to try any and every new grain that I hear about. I wish I could say it is because grains are healthy, but it really is just that I like trying to cook something new. And because I’m addicted to rice and know I need to diversify. Which was why when I saw a box of Freekeh in Whole Foods, I bought it before I had any idea what it was. I put it in a container in the pantry and waited for inspiration to strike. It took the odd but true combination of House Hunters International and Hurricane Sandy.

Now most people think, “A storm is coming, gotta get French Toast supplies.” I think, “A storm is coming, gotta roast a chicken.” For me, a roast chicken is always the start of an easy fall into a rabbit hole of recipe ideas. As part of the requisite storm war chest, I had already baked some multigrain bread to go with my slow baked apple butter so chicken sandwiches sounded like a good idea too.

The chicken was butterflied and roasting in the oven and for some reason a recent episode of House Hunters International came to mind. A grandmother was sitting at the head of a table with her family and watching them all eat the meal she made. One of the things on the table was Freekeh. The house hunter said they ate it just like rice. So I reached into the cabinet and pulled out the Freekeh. The box said to use 5 cups of water for 1 cup of Freekeh. I scoffed and decided to try my “Foolproof rice method” and was surprised to find that it worked.

The “sad” moment of the evening was when the Freekeh was on the stove, the bread was cooling, the kale was in the container ready to be moved to the fridge and I heard the oven timer beep.  I was looking around the kitchen completely confused.  What else could I possibly have made that would be beeping?  Ah yes…. the chicken.

Freekeh

Freekeh

1 T olive oil
1-1/2 c Freekeh
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
3-1/2 c chicken/vegetable stock or water

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, test the heat in the pan by dropping a few drops of water into the pan. When the water curls up into balls and dances over the surface of the pan, add the oil. Swirl pan to distribute the oil over the bottom of the pan. Add the Freekeh. Stir to coat with oil and toast the Freekeh. The freekeh will brown a bit. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Add garlic purée and stir to coat the Freekeh. Add salt and pepper and smoked paprika. Stir to coat. Add stock or water. Leave to cook until the liquid level is about 1/4″ below the top of the grains. Cover sauce pan and turn off the heat under the pot but leave it on the burner. Leave to cook for at least 20 minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed.

 

 

 

 

Breakfast of Champions (…who like spices)

I have not been able to prove it yet, but I am sure there is a little man pushing fast-forward on all the clocks around me. Sometimes I just don’t know where the time goes. So, lately most of the cooking I’ve been doing is the multi-tasking variety. The food kind of cooks itself while I do everything else and when I come back, I push a button (of sorts) and it’s all done. That’s how I got to this morning’s breakfast. Thanks to The Bestie, I fell in love with horchata recently. She has been a huge fan for years, but for some (completely ridiculous reason) I refused to try it. Then I made it and after one sip, I was done for. Completely, utterly in love! Which led me to another thought… I could “horchata” any grain not just rice.

This was the winter that wasn’t which I suspect is going to be good and bad. Plants are going to get a head start and look awesome, but allergies are going to be monster, so I’ve been putting local honey in something for everyone in the house on almost a daily basis. Even though I’m excited for all the seasonal spring foods my usual winter craving of oatmeal has suffered. There is something about winter that makes me crave oatmeal, but I just can’t eat it when it’s warm outside. Maybe it’s a mental block, but I just can’t. I used to do a lot of baking so the oatmeal could go into oatmeal-raisin cookies during the summer. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you spin the coin), The Kid doesn’t like sweets so I haven’t baked in what feels like forever.

 

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Then last night, I figured I’d try something out…. Cinnamon-Cherry Oatmeal Horchata…. sounds reasonable… I can make a cookie without making a cookie… So, I filled the blender with

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups water
1 tablespoon local honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup tart dried cherries

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and let it sit overnight. Then this morning, I just pureed, poured over ice and ran out the house. I took a sip in the driveway just as I was about to hit reverse and… Hold the Phone! This is GOOD. I actually paused to take another sip. The plan was to drink it at my desk, but before I got to work it was all gone.  I blame the traffic lights. Alas, I will endeavor to try again tomorrow. Oh the possibilities… I think I’m adding about an ounce of raw cashews tomorrow.

I also grabbed a Ginger-Vanilla Yogurt with Apple Pie Spice on the way out too. I have developed a bit of a yogurt obsession and I think I’m going to have to make a page dedicated to my yogurt experiments. There was a Bananas-Foster Coconut Yogurt trial that was surprisingly good. So I know I’ll need to remember that one for the future. But back to the yogurt at hand. I have tons of preserves and jams that I picked up when I was making cookies, but have been

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sadly ignored lately. Now that I’m making yogurt, this seems like the best opportunity to use them all up and make more room in the pantry since I want to start trying to make my own preserves with whatever fruits look good this summer. When I saw the container of ginger preserves in the cupboard, I instantly thought of a Ginger-Apple Pie. So, I figured I’d run with it. I spooned 1 heaping tablespoon ginger preserves in each of the yogurt maker’s 7 glass containers, heated up 1 quart of whole milk to 180F, and left it to cool down on the stove until it was under 100F (okay, yes, I’ll admit that I forgot about it on the back of the stove for a bit), then I mixed in 1 packet of freeze dried yogurt starter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon apple pie spice. Then left it for 11 hours until the machine beeped. I added 1 tablespoon local honey to each of the yogurt maker’s 7 glass containers, sealed them all up and refrigerated until cold.

I’ve been eating this Ginger-Vanilla Yogurt with Apple Pie Spice for the past few days and it is phenomenal. Ok… I should start by saying that I love ginger. LOVE!! I have no idea where I got the ginger preserves that I used, but now I’m determined to figure out how to make ginger preserves. I must make this again!

 

Roasted Garlic “Mayo”

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I have a garlic problem. Whenever I go to the produce spot I buy a big bag of garlic. I always think I just ran out. Then I get home and realize I still have the six heads of garlic from last week sitting in the onion basket. So now I have 15 heads of garlic and then I go back next week and buy more garlic since I’m sure I finished all the garlic from last week and then I have 20-something heads of garlic!! I need an intervention.

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All this garlic led me to a semi-genius idea — Roasted Garlic “Mayo.” I love roasted garlic. I think it adds a great warm flavor to a lot of dishes. Although, I will admit that the idea of roasting garlic heads in foil just annoys me. I hate squeezing the garlic out at the end and knowing that there is some left behind in the garlic skins. Yes, I’m greedy. So the other day I peeled seven or nine heads of garlic (Yep, I zoned out and lost count after six) and put them in a small saucepan on the stove. I added a couple tablespoons of olive oil, covered the pot and turned the heat to Low and walked away.

It took a couple hours, but as soon as I smelled something I checked on it. It was pure yummy roasted garlic. I dumped all the contents of the pot into the mini food processor and puréed. I tasted it and added the juice of a lemon. If I thought it would last I would have added a bit of salt for the sake of preservation, but one taste and I knew better. This would be great spread like mayo on a sandwich or mixed into mashed potatoes. Yum. So just so I remember next time:

GarlicMayo.jpg

Roasted Garlic “Mayo”
Cloves from 6-9 heads of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Put all the garlic cloves in a small saucepan. Add olive oil. Stir garlic cloves to coat in oil. Turn heat to Low. Leave covered until you smell roasted garlic (about 2 hours). Purée garlic with juice of 1 lemon. Put in a glass container & refrigerate.

What’s In The Fridge?

My dear husband is great at many things. I wouldn’t say finding things is his forte. We came to an impasse a few weeks ago when he ordered lunch while he was home alone instead of digging into the plethora of leftovers we had in the fridge. The Hubs (unlike me) does not have a problem eating leftovers, but finding them is another story. So, to meet everyone’s needs I instituted the “In The Fridge” list.

Every time I make something, I put it on the list. Then every time the empty dish goes in the dishwasher, he crosses it off. It was working like a dream and The Hubs was actually eating leftovers when I realized that the true beauty of the list didn’t have anything to do with The Hubs at all. With the list of leftovers laid out, I had a new source of inspiration. I could just look through the list of leftovers and come up with new ideas for soups or lunch or even remix dinners.

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So, there I was on pizza night. Pizza for me is just a good way to use up any last bits of leftovers. I picked the taco meat, mushrooms, eggplant and I wanted ricotta, but didn’t have any. I had butter beans left over from making oxtail soup. I think it was the butter in the title that got me since I was already thinking dairy. I figured if they didn’t taste good, we’d just pluck them off. But, the skins got a little crispy and the inside stayed creamy. Who knew?!  It was fantastic.  I guess you just never know unless you try it.  And yes, the taco meat and eggplant were good too…

 

 

Ultra-Change – UPDATE

Okay, so I have been converted… by milk. I have been drinking skim milk forever and thought it was okay… for milk. I used to drink non-organic, then I read all the articles telling you that there are unending reasons to get organic milk that are good for you and good for the environment. So, I switched. I noticed a modicum of flavor improvement, but quite frankly, it was still… milk. Better, but kind of flavorless. It was supposedly good for calcium and what not, but I could live without it. As a side note, I tried soy milk and realized there were worse things out there than bland milk and had something of a boost in my appreciation. As is expected with me, I eventually lost the appreciation when once again I tasted… milk. Maybe it just wasn’t for me. I guess I could accept that. Maybe I’d just find some other way to get the whole calcium thing. The Hubs on the other hand loves milk. He came along on the skim milk ride — begrudgingly, but since he didn’t have to do any grocery shopping he let it go.

Okay, so I was drinking organic milk and getting through when I read something that said, if you don’t like milk, it’s probably because it’s been ultra-pasteurized. Supposedly, the pasteurized method doesn’t destroy the flavor the way ultra-pasteurizing does. Really….?! So I looked it up. They have to heat the raw milk to make it safe for drinking, but the method of heating makes a big difference. Either they do the super high heat for a few seconds (Ultra-Pasteurization) or they go for a longer period and get it to the right temp (Pasteurization). So let me get this straight…. either you sit in a tanning bed cranked up to a million for a few minutes or you go to the beach for a few hours and relax to get a tan. I know which one I’d prefer. The milk I found also happened to be from grass-fed, not corn-fed cow’s milk and switched again. So, I switched again to see if it made a difference. Surprise, surprise…. definite flavor improvement. But honestly, there was still something missing.

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Now, as I was doing all this I was waging a war of sorts against anything low fat. I swore off all versions of sour cream, cream cheese and any other cheese that claimed to be low fat because they just didn’t taste right. They always tasted kind of bland to me and when you flip over to the nutritional panel on the packaging it always had way too much sodium to balance the fact that sucking out the fat makes it taste well…. bland. Then we were blessed with The Kid who around a year started drinking milk. We were instructed to get him whole milk. So, we dutifully cut into our premium refrigerator space and started having two huge gallon jugs of milk in the fridge. Skim for us, whole for The Kid. Then, recently, I started making my own yogurt with homemade preserves. Since it was what I had, I tried yogurt with the skim milk. It was good, and definitely cheaper than store-bought organic yogurt and it was crazy easy. I just heated the milk to 180F, cooled it down to 140F, added the freeze dried yogurt starter and poured it over the preserves in the jars on the yogurt maker. I turned on the machine and in 10-12 hours… organic yogurt. Then, last week we ran out of skim and I was out of yogurt again and tried it with the whole milk. Epiphany…. Amazing!

Then I took the final step… I told The Hubs that I’m not buying skim milk anymore. I still hear the cartoon double take sound effect when I remember telling him about this. I had a bowl of cereal with whole milk. When I used to make cereal with the skim milk, I would put in a massive amount of milk with not that much cereal. Since I didn’t want to cut into the kid’s supply I put half as much whole milk in and it was fantastic. Great texture, great level of satisfaction. Why would I bother to drink a lot of skim when I could drink a little whole. The house is converted. We’re a whole family now!

UPDATE: If you are considering making your own yogurt, I added links to the products I actually use.  I worked it out and even though it’s an up front investment it will pay itself off in the end.

It is dramatically cheaper  to just make your own and understand that this rational is included in the fact that I use expensive organic, pasteurized, grass-fed milk at $6.99/gallon.  I used a quart per batch and I get 7 6oz. yogurts per batch.  Now compared to the $1.00 (or more) price tag of the greek organic yogurts in the supermarket and of course the Story of Stuff‘s recommendation to reduce using plastic.  I could save more by using some of a previous batch to make the new one instead of the freeze dried powder, but I just can’t be bothered.  But seriously… try this it’s a great way to use up leftover fruit too since you can just add your own homemade compotes or just some of your favorite jams/jellies.

In The Pantry — Fish Sauce

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This started out as a response to a comment on the Garbanzo & Potato in Red Curry Sauce recipe and when I filled up the comment window, I figured it made more sense to just make it a post. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to give a simple answer (sorry)…

So the other ingredient I should have expounded on in the recipe was Fish Sauce. I love fish sauce. It is made from fermenting fish over a period of several months and it is near the color of soy sauce. It has a very complex flavor that I just can’t describe, but it is in the same wheelhouse as soy sauce and mushrooms (Umami-esque). You should be able to find it in some supermarkets in the aisle with the usual lineup of Asian ingredients. But if your supermarkets doesn’t keep it stocked you may have to find an Asian supermarket or specialty store (or just order it online). Before you consider turning up your nose at fermented fish, keep in mind that if not for fermented crushed grapes, some dishes just wouldn’t be the same either. Now that I said that, I have to warn you, raw fish sauce straight out of the bottle stinks. It really does smell like fermented fish. HOWEVER… just a tiny amount cooked into a recipe can fill in all the flavor gaps you didn’t quite know were there and couldn’t have really described.

Forgive me for this explanation, because it’s just the way I think about food: Sometimes when you put all the ingredients together for a dish (I find this is true sometimes with curries), it feels like it all just kind of floats high over your tongue. Almost as though it was a flavor bubble that stays with the roof of your mouth but never really makes that true connection with your taste buds. Fish sauce is the pin that bursts the bubble and sends all that flavor crashing down on your tongue. It fills in all the cracks that are missing in some curry sauces. I think it does a masterful job of balancing coconut milk and red curry paste and giving you a full rounded out flavor. The key is not to use too much. Start with a teaspoon, stir it in and let it cook for a few minutes and taste. If you think you need more then add it. If you think you may have taken a curry dish too far with the fish sauce the best thing to do is to serve lime wedges with the dinner so people can squeeze it into the dish just before they eat it or you can just squeeze it on right before you serve it.

I highly recommend fish sauce if you’re willing to give a new ingredient a try.