Category: Food

Broccoli Tots

I’ve seen a lot of recipes for broccoli tots, but really haven’t been impressed with the end result. I created two of my own recipes that we like a lot more – although neither approach is potato-free. The first ‘recipe’ is to take your favorite latke (potato pancake) recipe and add 8 ounces of shredded broccoli. I make a lot of ‘stuff’ (soups, stir fries) that uses the broccoli crowns, but I’ve never cared for slices of the stem in dishes. Shreds of broccoli stems, however, work wonderfully in cheddar broccoli soup and broccoli tots. Grate the left-over stems and steam them for a few minutes, allow to cool, then use or freeze. I squeeze them out before using – otherwise you get a lot of water.

The second recipe:

1 lb potatoes
8 oz shredded broccoli
3 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1/4 t cayanne pepper
1 T corn starch
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Shred half of the potatoes and set aside. Chop the remaining potatoes into small chunks and cook in boiling water (~10 minutes). Mash the potato chunks.

Sauté the shredded potatoes in oil (butter, olive oil, peanut oil) until they are crispy and golden.

Combine all of the ingredients except for the shredded potatoes. Mix well. Carefully stir in the sautéed shredded potatoes.

Line a half-sheet with a silicon baking mat. Scoop small amounts (1-2 teaspoons) of the mixture into your hand and roll into a ball. Place the balls onto the baking sheet and flatten a little bit.

Bake for ten minutes at 400 degrees. Turn tots over and continue baking for ten more minutes.

Ingredient Delivery Services

I keep getting promotions from companies that offer fresh meal ingredients delivered – Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, and Plated. Each provides recipes and ingredients that show up on your doorstep – some services offer a selection of meals, others give you what they give you. I’ve been curious to try one of these services, but it’s not something I want to pay to test. I finally got an offer of free. I’ve tried it  – and, honestly, if the other services offer up free food … I’ll take those offers too. But I wouldn’t pay for this service.

(1) Convenience – Their advertising is centered around how terrible grocery shopping is and how you can avoid such drudgery with their service. Problem is, there’s no plan that provides anything like the groceries you’d need for a week. Even if you got seven dinners (which may require purchasing multiple plans, quite a few of these services are the 3-4 meal a week type) … what are you eating for breakfast or lunch? Maybe for someone who eats out a LOT, these services eliminate grocery shopping (or more likely reduce it to a once-a-month trip). But for me to feed three people three meals a day … didn’t eliminate a thing.

(2) Cost – This is meant to be cheaper than grocery shopping because you aren’t overbuying. But I usually make enough food for dinner to allow leftovers for lunch the next day. Larger packages are cheaper – a savings that is only realized if the food isn’t allowed to spoil. I’m still learning to preserve everything we buy. I buy a large package of something, and break it into smaller portions and freeze most of it. I buy things to use in multiple meals. I am trying to cook food into something preservable before it spoils – turn bananas into banana bread, milk into yogurt, blanch and freeze veggies. I am certain that buying just the quantity you need for one meal is cheaper than overbuying for one meal, but their cost estimates don’t include *using* the rest of the stuff to make a second and third meal. If I pay 15$ for one meal or 18$ for three, there’s a big difference.

(3) Logistics – I don’t know why I expect companies who are shipping something perishable in unfriendly weather to have come up with some great solution to the problem. I’ve bought plants online and had them arrive dead because of this incorrect assumption. Had the same problem with fresh produce. It is Winter. It is WELL below freezing (lows around 0 degrees F kind of cold). My “fresh” veggies arrived frozen solid – and the ‘cold’ stuff was packed between two ice packs … during a week where the high’s were in the low 20’s, this seemed a bit wasteful. Freezing fresh produce is OK for some things (a lemon that is going to be juiced), but other veggies are only useful for making stock. I don’t want to have to track the long term weather forecast to decide if the weekly meal subscription should be put on hold or not. And it certainly isn’t convenient to be missing ingredients (back to #1, I had to go shopping to replace the things that froze).

(4) Effort – As I mentioned, I usually make a large dinner that is used for lunch the next day. Bonus if some portion of it can be used for breakfast too. Since they have single portion meals, that’s a no go. So I had to make dinner last night, then make something completely different for lunch today.

(5) Meal composition and portion – They quite simply didn’t provide enough food for two people. I’d have had hungry cranky people if I served JUST what was in the planned meal. I serve a lot more vegetables. I supplemented their meals with a salad course, or you can add an additional vegetable side dish … but you’re shopping again. And having to come up with something.

Meal ingredient delivery services are certainly not for me. There’s some convenience to allowing someone else to decide what we’re eating a few nights each week, and there were a few interesting recipes that I’d not seen before. Their promotional e-mails, random cooking blogs, Food TV’s page, cooking magazine web sites all provide new recipes that someone else has selected too.

I know a time when I could have used a service like this (couldn’t have afforded it, but eh): When I left University and lived on my own for the first time. I didn’t have any staples (and it’s expensive to stock a kitchen with spices, flours, and such). I didn’t really have any idea what to buy at the grocery store. Or what to make.

I have had a lot of friends who literally eat every meal from a restaurant – I could see someone like that who wanted to cook a few times a week using a service like this. Sure there are other ways to figure out a few meals and get the ingredients … but this requires you to put about as little effort into cooking as possible.

Stollen

Another entry in my “fruit cakes and breads do not suck” series – Christmas stollen. It’s coated in powdered vanilla sugar. We made a vanilla stout a few years ago — and I pulled out the vanilla husks, poured some white sugar into a container, and mixed the husks into it. Those vanilla husks are still making a vanilla flavored/scented sugar. To make castor sugar, you can just throw a cup or two of sugar into a blender (make sure it has a glass container, the sugar will scratch plastic) and blend for a minute or two. This is *not* a replacement for commercial powdered sugar – that’s a blend of corn starch and finely ground sugar.

Anya really enjoyed this bread (probably because of the sugar coating!)

Penguin Snacks

While looking for a healthy snack for Anya’s preschool Christmas party, I came across quite a few cute but not-for-bunches-of-kids snacks. One of them was penguins made of olives, cream cheese, and carrots. The not-kid-friendly part was the toothpick that holds the whole thing together. Well … turns out you can make them without toothpicks. Don’t move them afterward, walk softly … and there is a lot of intricacy that means I’m not making enough for a party tray. But Anya loved having half a dozen little penguin snacks to munch on today.

Use a small olive and a jumbo olive. Slice a section from the jumbo olive. Roll cream cheese into an oblong shape & stuff into the olive. Slice a carrot into circles, and cut a small triangle from each circle. Set the stuffed jumbo olive on the carrot circle. Put the carrot triangle into the small olive, smear a little cream cheese on the ‘neck’ part of the small olive, then stick it onto the jumbo olive. Voila, one penguin.

Fruity Cakes and Breads

It’s the time of year when Americans make fun of fruitcake … which, having seen the strange brick-shaped thing studded with something that claims to be candied fruit … yeah, that thing sucks. But real fruitcake and other breads with real candied fruit/peel are incredible. I’ve got a bunch of fruit and peel candied and have been making breads.

This panettone got scorched at the bottom – I think it was the tin on which I set the baking paper. I’ll use something else next time.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

We made some pumpkin pies yesterday – one of which is for Anya’s preschool “Feast”. I wanted a lightly sweetened, creamy, pumpkin pie. The recipe makes two *deep* dish pies (the Emile Henry ruffled pie plate)

Ingredients – Pie:

58 oz tinned pumpkin puree

36 oz whole milk, simmered down to half

4 oz cream

6 eggs

9 T Penzey’s pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

Incredients – Crust:

16 oz gingersnap cookies (make sure they are good gingersnaps)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

2 T flour

2 T sugar

Ingredients – Apple Caramel:

2 cups apple cider

Method: Preheat oven to 425.

Making the pie crust – run the ginger snaps through a food processor to make a sandy powder. Mix in the flour and sugar. Melt the butter and add to the crumbs. Make sure the mixture is moist enough to compress into a crust. If it isn’t add another tablespoon of butter. Press the mixture along the bottom and sides of the pie plates. Bake crust at 425 for five minutes, then set aside to cool while you mix the pumpkin filling.

Making the pie – Combine the milk, cream, and eggs and whip together. Whip in the spices and molasses. Fold this into the pumpkin puree. Gently transfer the pumpkin mixture into the cooled pie crusts. Bake for fifteen minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 and bake for 50 minutes. Remove pies from oven and allow to cool for several hours (if you pierce the pie to test it, it is apt to crack … I made two pies so I was able to test one and have an un-cracked pie for the party).

Making the Apple Caramel – Put apple cider into a pan on high heat. Boil, stirring constantly, until it is almost all evaporated and very foamy. Remove from burner and let it sit a few minutes to cool. It will thicken as it cools.

Ramen Noodles

I found a recipe for alkaline noodles — well, Scott had been craving ramen noodles. And I cannot say I know where to get them. The Styrofoam bowls with paper covers that you peel back and add water … it’s been a while since I’ve been to CAM (Cleveland Asia Market), but I totally know where to get those. But a cheap pack of ramen noodles — I looked around at the grocery store and didn’t find any. I thought they were fairly ubiquitous no-money/no-time/no-cooking-skill items.

So I googled how to make ramen noodles – and it turns out real ramen noodles are alkaline noodles. I found a really good sounding recipe that uses rye flour, and then found a simpler one that I went with (since I didn’t have rye flour on hand). I rolled them out too thickly, but it’s a cool way to make something like an egg noodle without needing eggs.

Halloween Planning – Healthy Snacks

Anya’s preschool has a sign-up for Halloween party volunteers — and no one took “healthy snack”! We have a couple of lot of Halloween parties this year for which I’m coming up with non-candy but still Halloween-y treats … what’s one more?

So my current Halloween snack list is:

Friends Parties: tangerine pumpkins and witches’ broom pretzel/cheese snacks

Friends Parties: Scarecrow veggie platter