Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fruit and Nut Pilaf

So I went to Taste of Atlanta yesterday and ate lots of great foods.  And also lots of salt.  So today I decided to try to avoid salt as much as possible.  Which is hard, since I just made vegetable soup which I was planning on eating every day for a while.  Also that used all my veggies except lettuce, but I can't eat lettuce without SOMETHING on it and everything I put on lettuce (dressing, cottage cheese, feta, etc) is high in sodium, so that was out for the day.  Which meant I had to figure out something else for dinner.  I immediate thought broccoli and brown rice, which is my go to plain healthy meal when I'm not actually hungry (somehow the vast amounts of food I ate yesterday are helping me not get too hungry today) but know I need to get some nutrition.  But I decided to shake it up a little with this Kashi 7 Grain Pilaf I bought a while ago but haven't used.  But I clearly need to flavor the pilaf, and I'm trying to avoid salt, so instead I decided to play it sweet.  I followed the basic directions for the pilaf and decided to throw a little dried fruit in too.  i like the way dried fruit plays when it's added in the middle of cooking oatmeal, so why not some other grain?  Another great thing about this is sometimes I hate cooking 4 portions of everything and having to find room for leftovers.  This can be made to feed one, which is perfect.  Note I also had broccoli with this, but I cooked that first since I only have one small saucepan.

This is definitely customizable in terms of fruits and nuts based on what is in your pantry.  But make sure not to add too much dried fruit, it expands a lot.  Also note I added a squirt of lemon juice, but I didn't like it in there.

Fruit and Nut Pilaf
(serves 1)
1/4 c Kashi 7 grain pilaf
3/4 c water (this is more than the directions call for because the fruit absorbs a lot of the water)
2 dried apricots, cut into small pieces (this doesn't sound like much but they expand a lot)
2 tsp dried cranberries.
sprinkle dried basil
pinch of black pepper
pinch (I did a very small pinch) of sea salt
2 tsp toasted almonds (I keep a few tablespoons of these at all times)

Bring the water and pilaf to a boil, then add the fruit (or most of the fruit, it is nice to have a little added at the end for a texture difference) and basil, salt, and pepper.  Cook until most of the water is absorbed.  Add any remaining fruit and nuts, stirring until all the water is absorbed (about 20 minutes).  Check the texture of the pilaf to make sure it is done enough, if not, add a little more water and cook until the water is absorbed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

Many of you know of my journey to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.  This ice cream was not as smooth and creamy as when we made the swiss rolls, but it did have praline mixed in which affected that.  This is a David Lebovitz creation, but don't worry, someday I will make up my own recipes for ice cream.  It's really not that hard.  Also this took forever to freeze, while stirring it every hour (except when I slept of course, it didn't even freeze over night!).  I blame the salt.

The one change I made here was instead of making the salt praline, I used some almond praline that I had lying around and added a little salt to it (the almond praline was maybe 1/3 cup ground almonds and a cup of sugar melted, following the same technique he described minus what I used to coat some cookies that did not come out well.  It made this ice cream taste even more like toffee, which it very much does.  It's like eating toffee in ice cream form.  Here's the recipe link.  Genius.

Cinnamon Flavored Black Eyed Peas

I'm always looking for new ways to eat legumes, which in some cases, means trying new legumes.  I've never made black eyed peas, but I figured it was worth a shot, especially after seeing a Serious Eats column about them.  Plus, as we all know, I can't resist cinnamon and any opportunity to put it in any meal is a good enough for me.  So I decided to try this recipe.  It seemed safe, where by safe I mean did not involve any purchases and used flavors I knew I liked (I'd call it "Indian inspired") and not too much work.  I did however use yellow onion rather than red and tomato sauce rather than tomato paste, and then added more but added about half the water it called for.  I'll just link you the recipe, rather than retyping, since I basically followed it, except for those few changes.  Here you go!

As for my opinion: it is a kind of boring dinner, but the cinnamon and spice make it more interesting and worthwhile.  If you don't want to make it as spicy, it might not be good, I can't make any promises there.  But it does have my favorite things: garlic, cayenne and cinnamon, so I'm a happy camper.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Multigrain Bread

I attempted multigrain bread for the first time today.  It was ugly and kind of bland.  Also I thought it needed quinoa.  But I looked for a recipe that used a soaker and called for all ingredients I had.  And this one was from Peter Reinhart so I trusted it.  It was probably my fault.  I might not have added enough salt.  I usually undermeasure salt a little and it usually works out okay.  But the texture was good, just not rolled quite right, so it is hard to cut.

But I got to try.  And I got to play with my mortar and pestle for the first time (to crush steel cut oats to make cracked oats).  And with apple butter, it was still pretty good.

Daring Cooks September 2010: Food Preservation

Apple butter on cornbread.  Yum.

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation. 

This month for the daring cooks, we were supposed to preserve food.  Since my friend who I often do these challenges with had the closest thing a grad student can have to a canning system, we decided to make and can apple butter.  The directions are pretty simple.  Make apple sauce, add spices, then cook it for another two hours, then can.  We cooked about 6 pounds of apples (well, about 6 pounds before we cored and peeled them), cooked them for half an hour or so with a little honey, then added a "tablespoon and a half" of cinnamon, which was probably over 2 Tbsp of cinnamon, which made me nervous at first because it was quite strong, but eventually cooked down.  We also added some cloves, not much though.  Over the two hours we tested and adjusted, mostly adding more sugar.  We also added a little vanilla to balance the flavors a bit.  We dipped challah in it and had a grand old time.  And then I went out for dinner... bad planning there, i was full from the apple butter and challah.

But the fun of it (and the point of it) was the canning.  I'll include the actual directions, since I'll probably leave something out if I try to explain it from memory.

For our challenge, apples are high acid foods. Golden delicious apples have an approximate pH of 3.6. Boiling Water Canning is an appropriate method of preserving apple butter. 
Apple Butter processing information: 
Headspace when canning apple butter is 1/4 “ (0.64 cm) 
Processing Time: 
15 minutes for altitude of 0 ft (0 m) to 1,000 ft (305 m) 
20 minutes for altitude of 1,001 ft (305.1 m) to 6,000 ft (1828.8 m) 
25 minutes altitudes above 6,000 ft (1828.8 m) 
For boiling water canning, you need a pot that is high enough to cover the jars with at least 1” (2.5 cm) of water. Also, a rack, to prevent thermal shock, is used to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. Any type of rack will work – a tea towel, a trivet, tying together unused bands… etc. I improvised a rack by tying metal bands to a bamboo sushi mat. Also, for my pot, I used a large tamale steamer. 
Jars are filled using a wide mouth funnel. A plastic bubble remover is run along the sides of the jar, in an up and down motion, to remove air pockets. Headspace is measured to •••" (6.5mm). 
The top and side of the jar are wiped down with a damp paper towel. 
Lids are placed in a pan of hot water (180ºF or 82ºC) to soften the sealing compound. 
The lid is seated, centered on the jar and the band is screwed on. 
The purpose of the band is to hold the lid down, but not too tightly. Air from the jar needs to escape into the boiling water. 
I generally screw down the bands (using two fingers) until resistance stops the band. After which, I give a slight additional 1/4" (6.5mm) twist. 
The jars are lowered into the hot water canner. Water temperature is about 180ºF (82.2ºC). 
The water level is checked to ensure there is at least 1” (2.54 cm) of water above the jars. 
Next, pot is covered and heat turned to high. 
When the water comes to a boil, the timer is started (15 minutes). The heat can be lowered as long as the water remains at a boil. 
After the 15 minutes are up, the whole canner is removed off the burner (I have an electric stove) and uncovered. Jars are left in the canner for 5 more minutes. 
After 5 minutes, the jars are lifted out level. 
The temptation is to tilt the jars to drain the water off the top of the lids. Do NOT do that! You don’t want to contents of the jar to running under the seal. 
Jars are placed on a dish towel to minimize thermal shock and allowed to cool for 12 to 24 hours. 
While the jars are cooling, you may hear a ping or a pop from the lid as it seals. That ping is a good sound. For these three jars, they all pinged within a minute. 
After 24 hours, test the seal. The lid should be bowed down (concave), when you press down the lid should not move or pop up. Also, try lifting the jar by the lid only. The lid should stay on if properly sealed. The final thing is to look at the lid to see if there are any cracks or debris caught between the jar and the lid.