Tag: cooking

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)

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.

Christmas Healthy Snack For Preschool

Not sure why no one seems to sign up to provide the healthy snack for Anya’s preschool parties … I guess it’s not as much fun as providing the unhealthy snack that you know everyone is going to love. We’ve been volunteering; and it’s an opportunity to find interesting, festive, but still healthy snacks. For the Christmas party, we made pita trees. I found them on the Betty Crocker web site.

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These are pitas cut in sixths (pie-shaped wedges). They are topped with a spinach hummus and finely diced red pepper (we’ve made them with multi-color peppers, tomatoes, carrot shreds … basically any colorful combination of vegetables). A thin pretzel stick is inserted into the bottom to make trunk – but leave that to the last minute, otherwise you have soggy pretzels! You cannot pick them up by the trunk, although pretty much every kid tried.

Spinach Hummus Recipe

1/4c tahini
1/4c fresh lemon juice,
About a cup of dry garbanzo beans
Package of frozen spinach (thawed)

Pressure cook the garbanzo beans for 45 minutes on the high pressure (yes, that’s massively overcooked – I get a much smoother hummus by overcooking the beans), then allow to cool. Blend the tahini and lemon juice in a food processor until it is smooth. Add the drained garbanzo beans and run the processor until smooth. Squeeze the spinach to dry it out, then slowly add to the hummus and blend to combine. I was going for color – I wanted a bright green.