Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eat the rainbow, skittles don't count

I came across this chart that shows you which color foods have which vitamins. Go ahead, click on it. It's mildly interesting.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

This was my breakfast today. Aren't you jealous? You should be. It's homemade yogurt with homemade granola and strawberries. I think I'm channeling Martha Stewert, or at least a hippy version of Martha Stewart. I've been flirting with the idea of making my own yogurt for years now. (Or is is decades? Who keeps track.) I got a step closer when I saw Alton brown make yogurt on the food network with a heating pad. Then I recently saw this post and had a conversation with Kristy about making yogurt. (Kristy's been threatening for years too.) Making yogurt is not hard. It is a kind or weird scifi voodoo cloning experiment. Since I eat smoothies for breakfast almost every day in the summer, I thought it would be worth it to figure it out. We'll have to see if I want to keep making it or not. If I do decide to keep making it I plan to buy a yogurt maker, which aren't expensive. When I made it yesterday, I just wrapped a heating pad around a quart jar. I did a dry run the day before. I put 100 degree water in a heating pad wrapped quart jar and then took the water temperature a few hours later. Still 100ish degrees, so I was cleared for voodoo yogurt cloning. Here are a few notes on Yogurt making. You need to start with good yogurt so you have good cultures. Your yogurt absolutely must have active live cultures or it won't work. I used low fat Stonyfield farms. They also sell yogurt starters online. Yogurt will only clone itself a few times before you have to get a new yogurt starter. According to Cooking the Hard way, if you want to make yogurt with skim milk you will have to add powdered milk. I used 2 % milk for my yogurt. It's a good idea to sterilize your jars. Running them through a rinse cycle in the dishwasher will do it. I plan to update this post after I have made yogurt a few times and can add my voice of experience.



3 1/2 c milk (I used 2 %)

1/2 c yogurt ( used low fat Stonyfield farms)

Heat milk to 170 degrees. I tried heating the milk slowly, stirring occasionally avoid getting a milk skin. This took forever and I still got a milk skin. I' plan on heating it faster next time. Then you let it cool until it's 100-110 degrees, this took me 20 minutes. Make sure the milk is under 110 or the yogurt cultures will die and it won't work, err on the cool side. Whisk some of the milk into your 1/2 cup yogurt. Whisk the yogurt-milk mixture into the remaining milk. Pour that into a sterilized quart jar. Allow to sit for 8 hours kept at 110 degrees. My yogurt actually set up much quicker then 8 hours. I let it keep going because I wasn't sure if it was really set or not and if you let your yogurt go longer, you get a more tart flavor. There will be a ton of whey (the watery stuff in yogurt). Just pour it off. Don't forget to give the whey to your yogurt loving dog who would really appreciate it. Bad owner. Bad owner.

*second attempt- I warmed the 2 % milk on my simmer burner set to medium to 170 degrees, stirring every few minutes. This took 21 minutes. I stirred the milk every few minutes as it waswarming and cooling (16-18minutes). There was no milk "skin" this time. I think stirring as it cools does it. The yogurt set up somewhere between 3 and 4 3/4 hours. I still let it go for 8 hours so it would be more tart. It made 1 3/4 c yogurt cheese. I drained it overnight and got at least a cup of whey. Based on this, I'd recommend always draining homemade yogurt overnight. I made frozen yogurt and it froze pretty hard. I will either make it again with whole milk or make yogurt Popsicles next time.

*Third attempt-I planned to make yogurt from low fat (1%) milk. That was the plan, but some idiot (OK, it was me) came home with fat free milk (Land O' Lakes with calcium). I figured I'd try anyway. I didn't think it would set up, but it did without a problem. The flavor was not as good with no fat milk however. My plan is to use 1 percent in the future.

*Le Groupe M. Vachon yogurt (bright green package) review- It makes yogurt. Not very good yogurt. It lacks a depth of flavor that I was getting using Stoneyfield Farms Lowfat yogurt. Also the second batch of this yogurt (made from first batch) sets up, but just barely. You could never get a third batch. You can get a third batch from Stoneyfield Farms. I don't recommend this yogurt starter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bacon fun part three

Homemade bacon vodka. How? Steep fried bacon and peppercorns in vodka unrefrigerated for a few weeks. (sounds food safe right?) Put it in the freezer so you can strain the fat out of your vodka. Why? For bloody Marys. Sounds less disgusting and potentially deadly now doesn't it. On a non bacon related note, McAuliflower at brownie points (the bacon vodka mastermind) also has a homemade version of Magic Shell ice cream topping. Remember that? You pour it over your ice cream and it forms a magically hardening shell. She made hers from coconut oil and chocolate. See bacon fun part one and bacon fun part two.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quality ingredients? Top chef rant.

On Top Chef (a reality chef competition show on Bravo) they had a blind taste test challenge. The chefs where blindfolded and had to choose which one was the expensive ingredient and which one was the cheap ingredient. They had expensive vs. cheap olive oil, chocolate, etc. The statistics I'm about to give are approximate, because I don't remember exactly. I believe there were 15 items and the winner correctly identified 12 expensive items out of 15. However, the vast majority of the remaining professional chefs got about half right. In case you never took any statistics, you can do that well by just guessing. What is the moral of the taste test? Top Chef will tell you that the chef who got 12 right has the best pallet. I say the moral is you don't need to buy gourmet ingredients because professional chefs tasting single ingredients side by side can't tell the difference. So, you'll never be able to tell when they are combined into a recipe. Top quality supermarket ingredients should be good enough.

How to strain yogurt

I made a video on how to make strained yogurt (a.k.a yogurt cheese). As I state in the video this method also works for whipped cream that has already been whipped. If it's been a while since you've had real whipped cream instead of cool whip, I suggest giving real whipped cream a try again. It's not that hard to whip it and it tastes so much better. For those of you who can't see the video it goes like this. Line a strainer with cheese cloth (or a coffee filter or paper towel). Set the strainer over a bowl. Cover the yogurt (or whipped cream) with plastic wrap and put the whole works in the refrigerator. Let it set a few hours to overnight. Only let it set a few hours for whipped cream. You may be interested in my post on homemade yogurt.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Muffins

This is another healthy recipe from Kristy. Well, there's a good amount of sugar, but I'll still call them healthy. I've never made the muffins with white flour (as called for in the original recipe), because they are really good with wheat flour. The whole wheat and sweet potatoes make a nice match. I use whole wheat pastry flour for all muffins, because they come out lighter. By the way, paper cup liners are for cupcakes and not muffins. If you bake muffins in greased muffin tins, the outsides of any muffins form a nice enticing crust. Julie taught me that.



1 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c canola oil (or whatever oil)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 c AP flour -I used all whole wheat pastry flour, whole wheat will work too

2 t baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp salt

4 c peeled, grated sweet potato (I use the grating attachment on my food processor)

1/2 c raisins

1 c walnuts, pecans, or almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together brown sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a small bowl. Mix together flour, baking powder, spices, salt, and sweet potatoes in large bowl. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture until just combined, stir in raisins and nuts. Spoon into greased muffin tins. The muffins don't really rise in the oven, so fill the muffin tins to the top and smooth the tops of the muffins. If the batter is uneven, the muffins will have bumpy tops. Bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Run knife around the edge to release muffins and invert. They taste best when warm (or rewarmed).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Brown sugar

I prefer using dark brown sugar for everything. (as opposed to light brown sugar). I think it gives you a deeper richer flavor. It's more caramely, especially in cookies. I've never had a problem using it. Kristy used dark brown sugar and Dutch processed cocoa in her brownies once. She and her husband affectionately called them blackies. She reports they were very dark brown, but still quite good.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Twice Baked Potatoes

I, of course, had to make a healthier version of this recipe. If you make it as written, I'm sure they would be a decadent delight. They are good my way too. I use Swiss in the version with the ham and peas because that is what I'm more likely to have on hand. You'd think the broccoli (pictured) would be the better twice baked potato of the two recipes. But, I like the ham and pea version much better. This reicpe is from America's Test Kitchen.


baked potatoes for twice baked potatoes

Adjust rack to middle position; preheat oven to 400. Scrub, dry,, and lightly rub 4 russet potatoes (8 to 9 oz each) with vegetable oil. Bake potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet until skewer can be inserted into and removed without much resistance, 60-70 minutes. Do not turn oven off. Cool potatoes on baking sheet 10 minutes


serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish


4 russet potatoes baked as above

4 T butter , 2 of those tablespoons melted (I used 2 T total in the broccoli saute)

6 c broccoli florets (form 2 lb bunch) cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces, stems discarded

1/2 tsp table salt + 3/4 tsp table salt

1 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp powdered mustard

6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, about 2 cups

3-4 scallions, sliced thin (about ½ cup)

½ c sour cream (I use yogurt)

1/4 c half and half (I use milk or buttermilk)

ground black pepper

1. While potatoes are baking, heat 2 T butter in 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides; add broccoli and ½ tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add 2 T water and cover and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Uncover and continue to cook until water evaporates, about 1 minute. Transfer to bowl and stir in lemon juice.

2. Halve each potato lengthwise. Using soup spoon, scoop flesh from each half into bowl, leaving about 3/8 inch thickness of flesh. Place shells cut-sides up on baking sheet and return to oven until dry and slightly crisp, about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, mash potato flesh with fork until smooth; stir in melted butter, 3/4 tsp salt, powdered mustard, 1 c cheese, scallions, sour cream, half and half, and pepper to taste, then stir in broccoli.

4. Remove shells from oven; heat broiler. Mound filling into shells; sprinkle with remaining 1 c cheese and broil until spotty brown, 6-10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes; serve.


Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a side dish


4 russet potatoes, baked as above

3 T unsalted butter (I just used the 1 T to saute)

3/4 lb baked deli ham, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 c frozen peas

6 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded (2 c) (I used Swiss)

½ c sour cream

1/4 c half and half (1 use milk or buttermilk)

2 T whole-grained mustard

salt and pepper

1. While potatoes are baking, heat 1 T butter in 12 inch skillet over medium high heat until foaming; add ham in even layer and cook, without stirring until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir and cook 30 seconds longer. Off heat stir in peas; transfer mixture to a large plate.

2. Halve each potato lengthwise. Using soup spoon, scoop flesh from each half into bowl, leaving about 3/8 inch thickness of flesh. Place shells cut-sides up on baking sheet and return to oven until dry and slightly crisp, about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, mash potato flesh with a fork until smooth; stir in melted butter, ham mixture, 1 c cheese, sour cream, half and half, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Remove shells from oven; heat broiler. Mound filling into shells; sprinkle with remaining 1 c cheese and broil until spotty brown, 6-10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes; serve.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Jiffy pop

Pop-pop-pop. What's the secret ingredient? Silicone. Yep, last ingredient on the list is methyl silicone. Yum. Still works great for camping though.

Microwave Vegetable Chart

I'm way behind, I know. I'm just now starting to discover microwaving fresh vegetables. Julie taught me to use the microwave to cook broccoli. I'll post my microwave broccoli ham and cheese recipe when I get the method and amounts written down. Evidently (as everyone but me knows) any vegetable that you would parboil or steam you can cook in the microwave. According to the article, vegetables taste better, have better color and may retain more vitamins when cooked in the microwave. It makes sense that the vegetables would have more vitamins because the vitamins aren't leaching out into the boiling water. Put the vegetables in a bowl with a tiny bit of water (or lemon juice) or none at all with some vegetables, cover and nuke. According to an article in the New York Times, here are approximate cooking times:

Asparagus.............2 minutes

Artichokes.............6 minutes

Broccoli.................9 minutes in my slow microwave

Cauliflower..............5 minuets (9 minutes in my slow microwave)

Potatoes or beets...4 minutes

spinach.................1 or 2 minutes

eggplant................7 minutes

Cooking times vary according to your microwave. Old microwaves take much longer. Under cook rather then over cook. When you figure out how long it takes to cook a vegetable, write it down so you can cook it again without constant checking. I'll update this chart as I make veggies in my microwave. I'm guessing some of these times are just to parcook the vegetables.

See my microwave broccoli, ham, and cheese recipe.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Black beans and rice salad with orange chili vinaigrette

This is kind of a recipe in progress. The first recipe below is the original recipe. Listed after that is what I did today. I essentially cut the recipe in half, messing around some with proportions. I started with leftover cooked brown rice. I also used orange juice concentrate since I didn't have any OJ ready to go. Extra strong orange flavor can't hurt. And, I cut the oil in half (well, technically 1/4) because I like less oily vinaigrettes. You can serve this as a main dish lunch or as a side dish with grilled chicken. I served mine on a bed of spinach with grape tomatoes and a side of jack cheese. This is a good way to use leftover rice or rice you froze for a time when you needed a quick meal. See my oven baked brown rice recipe. When I come up with a more standard way of making this salad, I'll update.



2 14oz cans chicken broth

½ cup water

1 1 LB package long-grain rice

2 bay leaves

2 15oz cans black beans, drained, rinsed

2 red bell peppers, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 medium red onion, diced

1 medium bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

½ c olive oil

3 T orange juice

2 T red wine vinegar

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

Bring chicken broth and water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add rice and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Transfer rice to a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Mix in remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate. Can be prepared 1 day ahead.


2 1/2 c cooked brown rice

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 green pepper, chopped (3/4 c)

1/3 c red onion, chopped

1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped


1 T orange juice concentrate

1 T water

1 T red wine vinegar

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

2 T olive oil

Whisk the vinaigrette together. Mix in remaining salad ingredients. Stir in vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate. Can be prepared 1 day ahead.