Category: Food

Sauteed Hop Shoots

Our salad course for Easter was a sauteed hop salad. We have both cascade and centennial hops, and the ones that are in the ground have grown incredibly in the past week or so. Before the snow, we had little sprouts barely nudging through soil. Now some of our vines are two feet long!

So I missed the really tender early sprouts. I sauteed the thicker stems in a little olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. Then garnished with fresh hop leaves. It was really good – and I only used about half of the trimmings.

Homemade Ice Cream Take 1

During the Christmas-time sales, I bought an ice cream attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer. The bowl has been stashed in the freezer portion of a refrigerator/freezer for several months. I decided to make a maple ice cream for our first batch. I combined the maple syrup, cream, and egg yolks in a large metal bowl. That bowl was used as the top of a double-boiler. Whisked it constantly over a medium low heat until it congealed into custard. Placed my custard in a glass container and stored it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, I set up our ice cream attachment. Slowly poured the custard into the container … the instructions say ice cream should be formed in 10-15 minutes. It didn’t. Let it run a little over twenty minutes and … nothing even close to ice cream. I put my custard back into its container in the refrigerator, washed the bowl, and asked Google what I’ve done wrong. Turns out the ice cream bowl needs to be frozen absolutely solid – shake it as you remove it from the freezer, it shouldn’t be even a little bit sloshy. Oops. Mine was mostly frozen, but that’s not good enough. So I put the bowl into a dedicated freezer and left it there for 12 hours. Completely solid. I put the bowl back into the freezer and moved the custard into the freezer for an hour too – the colder the custard is, the less it will heat the bowl materials.

So, do this all over again. Get custard and bowl, set up mixer, mix … and it started to harden. I could see the liquid along the side of the bowl freeze and get scraped off. Twelve minutes later, we had a fairly thick frozen base. I transferred the proto-ice cream into a low pyrex bowl, closed it up, and put the bowl into our freezer. About eight hours later, it was Survivor premier / ice cream time. First bite and … what’s that strange grainy texture? Looked it up and everyone is talking about ice crystals. These aren’t ice crystals … it’s just an odd little hard lump.

We were about halfway through the bowl when Scott got a big odd hard lump. It was BUTTER. Frozen butter, but still butter. I’m guessing you cannot re-use custard. If your first attempt at making ice cream doesn’t work … maybe you could re-strain it to remove any little butter bits. Or if it isn’t starting to freeze after five minutes, you know something isn’t right and don’t let it mix long enough to turn into butter. But, this wasn’t the stunning success for which I was hoping.

Next up is a coconut milk / coconut cream / mango ice cream. Hopefully that will turn out better.

Spent Grain Banana Muffins

We made the Medusa Cream Ale last night, and it seems so wasteful to throw out the steeping grains (a.k.a. ‘spent grains’). I’ve added a cup to a 4c flour pizza dough recipe before – it makes a nice whole grainy crust. Anya has taken the ‘self service’ approach to bananas, but she leaves somewhere between an empty peel and 7/8th of a banana sitting on the kitchen counter. I’ve been collecting her banana bits in the refrigerator … so I wanted to make something with bananas.

Banana Muffins With Spent Beer Grains

5 T butter, melted
3.5 bananas
1/3 c dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 t salt
2 t vanilla
1 t baking soda
2 t Penzey’s apple pie spices
2 cups spent beer grains — this batch was from a light cream ale, you’ll get a different taste using grains from a darker beer
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Melt the butter in a large bowl
  3. Mash the bananas into the butter
  4. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved
  5. Stir in the egg, salt, vanilla, baking soda, and spices
  6. Add the spent grains and mix well
  7. Add the flour, half a cup at a time, and stir until no streaks of flour are seen
  8. Scoop batter into muffin tin (I use a non-stick tin from Williams Sonoma and filled each one about 90%)
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out without raw batter (a little moist is OK, uncooked batter not OK)

Healthy Preschool Valentines Party Snack

I made the heart cut-out PBJ sandwiches – with no peanut butter. Or jelly. But the same idea — you need two heart-shaped cookie cutters. The pair I have leaves about 1/2″ between the two cutters.

We made our own strawberry compote – a pound of strawberries sprinkled with one tablespoon of tapioca powder (to thicken the sauce). This was heated on low until the strawberries got mushy and the tapioca started to thicken. I used an immersion blender to create a smooth sauce, then refrigerated it for a few hours to allow the tapioca to set.

We used two different loaves of bread — a white bread and a whole wheat with sunflower seeds. Use the large cookie cutter and cut out 2 hearts for each sandwich you are making (e.g. we have eighteen people in the class so cut thirty six large hearts). In half of the hearts, center the smaller cookie cutter and punch out the center.

To assemble, take an uncut heart. Spread with ‘butter’ of your choice — we used sunflower butter because the school forbids nuts of any sort. Then spread with strawberry compote. Top with a cut-out heart.

Instead of pre-staging all of the components, Anya helped me make them. She cut one large heart, and while she cut a second heart, I got it spread with butter and compote. As she cut another heart (the back of the next sandwich), I took the one she just made, stamped out the centre, and put it on top. Anya removed the small heart from the cookie cutter, then got her big cookie cutter and started all over again.

You now have a little heart shaped sandwich with a red heart in the middle.

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.