Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ceviche for a Citrus-y #SundaySupper

We really like ceviche at our house. It's a great little appetizer with crackers, and it's a nice salad on some lettuce. Use it to fill an avocado half for a light lunch.

Most of the time, though, we just serve it with crackers.

If you think ceviche includes raw fish, you're wrong. And sort of right. It's uncooked, but it's not actually raw. It's cooked chemically. Or, in other words, pickled. Usually in lime juice, which adds its distinct flavor to the dish.

I've had ceviche made with a lot of different types of seafood. You can use fish, scallops, or shrimp. Or a combination. All of them are fine, but the texture will be a little bit different, depending on how firm the seafood happens to be.

Ceviche is a pretty quick dish. It involves some chopping, but but then is just needs some time to marinate. The smaller and thinner the pieces are, the faster they will be done. And, depending on how you feel about the doneness of fish, your ceviche can be ready to eat in maybe ten minutes. Or maybe 30. And then it's still great the next day. It keeps longer, but the seafood can start getting a little rubbery if it sits too long.

Since ceviche recipes are often a Mexican version, they usually include cilantro. But there are some folks who hate the stuff. And it's not something I always have on hand. Even when I don't have cilantro around, I think ceviche needs some sort of fresh herb, and in this case I thought chives would be a good choice. They play well with the onion, add a nice dark green color, and don't add a jarring flavor to the mix. Parsley or scallions would also work well.

I normally use fresh jalapeno, but I've been avoiding going to the grocery store, so I used a jarred hot pepper. If you don't like heat, you could leave it out, or even pass some salsa at the table.

It's not tomato season yet, so red bell peppers added the bright red for me. Fire roasted red peppers would also be good, if you have them on hand.

As far as the fish, use whatever you like that is fairly firm and fresh.

Ceviche for Cilantro Haters

1 5-6 ounce cod filet
1/2 medium onion
1/2 red bell pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice
Pinch of salt
Several grinds white pepper
2 tablespoons fire roasted hot pepper

Cut the cod into a 1/4-inch (ish) cubes and add them to a small bowl or lidded storage container. Dice the onion and bell pepper to about the same size. Add the lime juice, salt, and pepper. Dice the hot pepper, if needed, and add it to the bowl. Stir, cover, and refrigerate.

When you're cutting, keep in mind that that this is something you might want to eat on a cracker, so keep the pieces small so you have a little bit of everything in each bite.

The fish is done when it changes from translucent to a more opaque white and is a little more firm to the touch rather than soft and squishy like raw fish. Depending on the fish and how big your 1/4-ish-inch pieces were, figure about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more lime juice, salt, pepper, or hot pepper, as desired.

Serve chilled.

Want more citrus-y #SundaySupper recipes? Here you go:

Better with Citrus Breakfasts:
Orange Ricotta Pancakes from Gotta Get Baked
Big On Citrus Breads & Condiments:
Honey Lime Dressing from Ruffles & Truffles
Lemon Poppyseed Sweet Bread from Food Lust People Love
Meyer Lemon Pistachio Loaf from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
Moroccan Preserved Lemons from MarocMama

Make You Pucker Salads, Sides, & Main Dishes:
Ceviche from Cookistry
Cilantro Lime Rice from Crazy Foodie Stunts
Citrus Ginger Chicken from Kudos Kitchen
Easy Indian Lemon Chicken from Soni’s Food
Grilled Orange & Lime Chicken Thighs from Big Bear’s Wife
Meyer Lemon-Garlic Shrimp & Asparagus with Brown Rice from Daily Dish Recipes
Orange Chicken from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Red Cabbage and Red Pepper Salad with Citrus Dressing from Family Foodie
Seared Cod with Grapefruit Fennel Slaw from Magnolia Days
Tangy Lemon Rice with Grated Mango & Roasted Cashew from Sue’s Nutrition Buzz

Sour Citrusy Sweets & Desserts:
Blood Orange Sorbet from My Cute Bride
Broiled Oranges with Toasted Coconut from Neighborfood
Clementine Curd from Small Wallet Big Appetite
Creamsicle Cupcakes from The Meltaways
Dairyfree Key Lime Meringue Bliss from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
Fresh Lemon Mousse from Comfy Cuisine
Frozen Lemon Dessert from Gourmet Drizzles
Gluten Free Orange Pound Cake from Simply Gourmet
Honey and Lemon Cake from Happy Baking Days
Key Lime Biscotti from Juanita’s Cocina
Key Lime Cheesecake from Flour on My Face
Key Lime Cookie Bars from Supper for a Steal
Key Lime Truffles from What Smells So Good?
Lemon Blueberry Polenta Cake from Vintage Kitchen Notes
Lemon Coconut Cinnamon Rolls from Chocolate Moosey
Lemon Cookies from Basic N Delicious
Lemon Cream Pie Push Pops from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Lemon Layer Cake from Crispy Bits & Burnt Ends
Lemon Ricotta Cake from The Urban Mrs.
Meyer Lemon Snack Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Mini Meyer Lemon Pies from Cravings of a Lunatic
Mini Orange Cream & Lemon Cream Scones from The Foodie Army Wife
No-Bake Lemon Cheese Cakes w/Blueberry-Lemon Sauce from Momma’s Meals
Olive Oil Cake with Orange Marmalade from Hip Foodie Mom
Omiyage California Citrus Cake from Ninja Baking
Orange Cake with Orange Syrup from The Lovely Pantry
Pink Grapefruit Pie from In the Kitchen With Audrey and Maurene
Pink Lemonade Pound Cake from In the Kitchen with KP
Sugar-Free Lemon Meringue Pie from Webicurean
Tarte au Citron from That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Sour Sips & Drinks:
{DIY} Arancello and Limoncello from girlichef
Orange Creamsicle Smoothies from Mama.Mommy.Mom

Have a great Easter!


Oh! Look! It's the Easter Bunny!!! Or ... maybe not.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Oat n Yogurt Bread Machine Loaf

Some days I have no yogurt at all. Other days I have way too much. And then I start getting creative about using it. I mean, I like eating it plain, but I also like using it in cooking. And baking. And sauces, dips, dressings ... all sorts of things.

This time around, I decided to use just a little bit of my recent yogurt richness in bread. And then I decided to add some whole grain goodness in the form of rolled oat.

Then, since I was being just a teeny bit lazy, I used my bread machine.

Have I mentioned how convenient this machine is? As much as I love making bread by hand (and I'm working on a few very interesting variations) sometimes I just need to have a loaf of bread that I can use for toast in the morning. So I can toss ingredients into the machine and just let it go until it beeps.

Did I mention that we're going through a lot more bread since Bob came home from the hospital? Yeah, we are. He's been busy eating and trying to gain some weight.

Oat n Yogurt Bread

1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon cane sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt (I used Wallaby 0%)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup water

Put all of the ingredients in your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (in general, the differences are about when the yeast is added, and when the water is added. It might not make a huge difference, but if your manufacturer has a recommendation, go for it.

Set the machine for a medium loaf, light crust.

Press appropriate buttons.

When the bread is done, remove it from the machine and let it cool on a rack before slicing.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cooking in Cast Iron

I love my cast iron cookware. Yes, it's heavy, but it's also durable. It's cookware you can pass down to your children. Or defend yourself against marauding slabs of bacon.
Once cast iron is properly seasoned, it's pretty much nonstick. And the more often you use it, the more nonstick it will become. Nothing sticks to my cast iron frying pans any more.

With cast iron, you can get a really good sear on your food, or you can pour cold batter in a screaming hot pan (like for cornbread). It holds the heat, so you can keep food warm. You can heat it while it's dry (unlike nonstick cookware) and you can use it on the stove, in the oven, or on your grill.

A frittata is about as versatile as a cast iron pan. You can serve it hot, warm, or chilled. It's great for breakfast, lunch, or even a side dish. You can add a wide variety of ingredients. You can plan it carefully or use up leftovers. Meat or meat-free. Serve it out of the pan, or flip it out to serve.

This time, I used a variety of vegetables. Okay, I'll admit that some of them were leftovers. My combination included carrots, red bell pepper, potato, onion, zucchini, and yellow squash. All of that added a variety of colors and textures.

Vegetable Frittata

2 cups vegetables, cooked through, drained of any excess liquid
1 tablespoon butter
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preaheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice any vegetables that weren't cut before cooking into 1/4-inch slices and bite-size pieces.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron frying pan. Add the vegetables and cook until warmed.

Beat the eggs with the cream and salt. Add to the frying pan, quickly mix into the vegetables, and even out the vegetables in the pan.

Cook without stirring until the eggs are cooked around the edges but still jiggly in the center.

Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the eggs are no longer jiggly and firm, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the cheese on top and continue cooking until the cheese is melted.

Serve warm from the pan.

Cast Iron Steak and Potatoes
Steak on the grill is great in the summer, but when the weather isn't cooperating, you can get a great sear on the meat in a cast iron frying pan. Potatoes also get a nice crust. This time I used mini-potatoes that were pre-cooked until done, then crisped and warmed in the pan.

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 strip steak
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound mini potatoes, cooked until tender
10 cherry tomatoes
Flake salt, as needed
Fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano, or chives)
Olive oil, for finishing

Heat the cooking oil (use a high-heat oil) in the pan on medium-high heat until it's just barely smoking. Add the steak and sear on one side, then flip and sear on the second side.

Turn the heat to medium and continue cooking, turning as needed, until the steak is cooked to your desired temperature.

Move the steak to a plate to rest.

Slice the potatoes in half and add them to the pan. Cook, stirring as needed, until the potatoes are browned in spots and heated through.

Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes in half.

To serve, slide the steak and arrange on a plate. Arrange the potatoes and tomatoes around and on top of the steak. Sprinkle with the salt and herbs. Drizzle the potatoes and tomatoes with a bit of oil.

Serve warm.

Got Leftovers? Make Tacos!



Any leftovers are perfect for steak tacos. Just cut the remaining steak into bite-size pieces and toss everything into that handy cast iron pan to heat briefly, then serve in tortillas. Top with salsa and any other garnishes you like.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pineapple Frozen Yogurt

One of my all-time favorite food combinations is pineapple and yogurt. Preferably fresh pineapple and Greek-style yogurt. And it's a pretty healthy treat, right?

Of course, my next step was to put some machinery to use and change that simple treat into ... well, another simple treat. Pineapple frozen yogurt. There's no cooking required and not a lot of ingredients. If you've got the pineapple and the yogurt, I'll bet you have the rest.

For the yogurt, I used mostly Wallaby 0%, but didn't have quite enough, so the rest was 2%, Use whatever you have. But you do want a Greek-style yogurt, or it will end up too icy. As it is, it freezes pretty solid, but after a few minutes it warms up to a nice consistency.

Or just eat it right out of the machine, when it's a nice soft serve consistency.

Pineapple Frozen Yogurt
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
I was playing photo lighting. I think I like this one.
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
2 cups Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Put the pineapple in your blender and blend-blend-blend. Scrape the sides down. Blend again until it's smooth.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until it's all nicely mixed and as smooth as you can get it..

Dump the blender contents into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's directions. This is really nice straight out of the machine as a soft-serve dessert, or you can freeze it further.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup Magic Cake

I decided to try one more adaption of the ever-popular magic cake. Last time I added hazelnut flour, which is more like finely chopped nuts than like a powdery flour. It formed its own layer n the cake.

This time I decided to add peanut butter. And then to gild the lily, I added mini chocolate chips.

I figured the peanut butter would mix in, but the chocolate chips were the wild card. Would they sink or float? Would they melt? What would happen???

It turns out that the chocolate chips sunk to the bottom of the pan. I sort of suspected that. When I made this, I mixed the chips into the batter, But I'd suggest sprinkling them over the top after you've poured the batter into the pan so you can get even distribution of the chips along the bottom. (I've adjusted the recipe with that instruction.)

Peanut Butter Cup Magic Cake
Adapted from Pasteles de Colores
Recipe adaptation © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
4 room temperature eggs, separated
1 tablespoon water
150 g sugar (2/3 cup granulated or 1 1/5 cups confectioner's sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 stick unsalted butter. melted and somewhat cooled (not hot)
4 ounces flour (about one cup, measured lightly)
2 cups milk at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon white vinegar
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and spray an 8-inch square pan with baking spray. Pyrex is recommended.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks, water, sugar and salt until the mixture is light in color and thickened. Add the peanut butter and beat until combined. Add the butter and beat until combined.

Add the flour in two or three additions, beating it in well each time.

Add the milk and vanilla extract. The mixture will get loose and sloppy. That's fine. Beat it until it's smooth.

In a very clean bowl with very clean beaters (the tiniest bit of yolk or fat will thwart your efforts to get those eggs beaten properly), beat the egg whites and the vinegar to stiff peaks.

Add the whites to the yolk mixture in several additions using with a whisk or one of the beaters from the mixer. You don't want to beat it in, just break up the whites gently while not deflating them.

The source blog has a video for what it looks like, if you need help.

This isn't be like a cake batter. It's pretty wet. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top. They'll sink, but this will ensure that they're evenly distributed over the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until the top is browned and the cake is jiggly but not sloshy.

Let the cake cool COMPLETELY. Give it three bours, or let it cool, them  refrigerate. I don't suggest trying to turn this out of the pan, but if you cut it into squares you should be able to take neat squares out of the pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar right before serving.

Since this is more custard than cake, you want to store this in the refrigerator. I thought it tasted best when it was cold, or at least chilly.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Can we talk about SHARING?

Please don't steal my dog.
Sharing is always good, right?

You're probably not aware of it, but there's been a bit of a kerfluffle on Facebook regarding some pages that are sharing recipes from food blogs.

When conversations arise on these sites about why these sorts of shares are not right, people will often jump into the fray and say, "Didn't your mother teach you that sharing is good!?"

Well, yes, but ...

Imagine this scenario. Your child looks out the window and sees that the little girl next door has a lot of people in the back yard, laughing, playing on swings, and having a good old time. Your child asks if he can go over there.

Well, sure, honey, if you're invited.

The gate is wide open, and your child is welcomed. When he comes home that evening he says that the little girl next door baked cupcakes and invited everyone over to share the cupcakes. And she's going to be making more cupcakes tomorrow and the next day.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Cooks.
And he says, "Can, I do that, too, mom?"

Well, sure.

So the next day, your son goes next door - the gate is open, remember, and the cupcakes are being freely shared - and he brings all the freshly-baked cupcakes home and invites a whole bunch of people over to enjoy the cupcakes.

You have a crowd in your back yard, and your son is very happy. He makes plans for future parties that will be even better.

But now the little girl is looking out her window and wondering why no one is coming over to visit. She looks sad. She sees the crowd in your back yard and climbs the fence. "These look like my cupcakes," she says.

"No, they're not your cupcakes any more," your son says. "You shared them with me and now I'm sharing them with all these people. They don't have to come visit you any more because I have your cupcakes, and I have lemonade from the stand on the corner and I have cookies from that kid three doors down, and later on I will get hot dogs and hamburgers from the guy across the street who is always grilling."

And then to sweeten the pot, he has moved a swing set and pool into your back yard, and there is a brand new basketball hoop out front and a whole array of balls, bats, mitts, hockey sticks, and roller skates in a big pile.

Would you be pleased?

Probably not.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Days.
So you have a conversation with your son, and he says, "I'm not really good at baking, but I'm really good at sharing. All these kids wanted their food shared with the neighborhood, and moms are always telling us to share our toys, so I'm helping all these kids share!"

And all around the neighborhood, children are looking out their windows, wondering where their cupcakes and cookies and toys went to, and they why no one is in their back yard any more.

The guy who lost his hot dogs and hamburgers is just all-out angry and stalking though the neighborhood with a barbecue fork in his hand looking for the culprit.

And when the children go to school, they hear other kids talking about these great cookies and lemonade and cupcakes, but no one thanks them for making the cupcakes and cookies and lemonade because all the kids are talking about the little boy who gave them the food. What a great guy he is!

Do you see how unfair that is?

Wouldn't it have been better if the little boy didn't steal all the food and toys, but instead he organized a tour of the neighborhood, where he brought friends over to the cupcake girl and introduced them, and then he showed them where the lemonade stand was and where the cookie-baker lived?

She will share Tiger, but you can't take him home.
Maybe the guy with the burgers doesn't want to share at all, but there's nothing wrong with knocking on the door and asking politely.

See, that's what was going on with the pages on Facebook. They were publishing photos and recipes from a great number of blogs without asking permission.

Since the recipes were published in full, there was no reason for anyone to visit the original bloggers. Sometimes there would be a link to the original blog, but often there would be no acknowledgement at all.

Bloggers stumbled upon these Facebook sites when they saw their own recipes coming through their news feed from unknown sources. Or friends notified them.

Then a lot of bloggers got mad. Some left messages on those Facebook pages, some filed DMCA reports, and some just curled up in a ball of hurt.

There were some people who thought the bloggers were jealous, whiny troublemakers. Some honestly didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

There are always arguments that a link is good enough, even if a recipe is published in full because, "if I see something I like, I'd go to your blog to see what else you have."

Photo courtesy of Vintage Kitchen.
As bloggers, we know that is not true for the vast majority of people. Most people will see one recipe on a page, then move on to the next recipe on the same page, and then the next. They won't click to see the original blog, because there are plenty of recipes to look without ever leaving that one Facebook page.

It's good for the page, but not for the bloggers who created the recipes.

On some of those Facebook pages, there were recipes that had been shared hundreds-of-thousands of times. One very popular recipe had been shared over 900,000 times on Facebook, but the blogger saw no increase in blog traffic.

We bloggers are not greedy or selfish. We open our doors and invite you in and give you our recipes that you can use, print, or copy for your own use. We invite you to share links. We don't want to lock down our blogs with copy-deterrent software that will make it difficult for our fans.

But we do not expect you to walk out with the silverware and the mixer and the dog.

Photo courtesy of From Cupcakes to Caviar.
If you want to SHARE a recipe, please do not publish the whole recipe. Tweet a link on Twitter, pin a photo on Pinterest, stumble a post, link or like on Facebook, put links on message boards - we LOVE that sort of sharing.

Please note that some bloggers do not want their images shared without explicit permission. Personally, I'm fine with having an image shared if you link to the blog post it came from.

But when you republish an entire recipe, there is no reason for anyone to come and visit us in our own home. We like meeting new friends and sharing with them. We get lonely when our visitors go away.

We bloggers get very frustrated when we work hard on recipes and it seems like no one stops by to see them or leave comments, particularly when we see those recipes becoming popular without us. We get hungry when someone has stolen all of our cupcakes. And the dog would have a hard time adjusting to a new home.

It doesn't hurt anyone to share correctly. YOU still look like a genius for finding a great recipe, and WE get to make new friends.

Sharing my cupcakes.
I know that someone out there is forming the argument that cupcakes have a value that is lost when the cupcakes are stolen from the owner, but republishing recipes from blogs does not harm the owner financially.

But in many cases it does.

Many bloggers have ads on their sites which pay the blogger a teeny amount for every person who visits the site.

One less visit isn't a big deal, but in the case of a recipe that is shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook - well, those visits to a blog could be a significant payment for a blogger.

Or at least enough to buy some fancy new ingredients to blog about.

And some bloggers aspire to work with big-name brands or maybe even write a cookbook some day. Those brands and publishers want to work with bloggers who are popular. They don't care if a recipe has been shared on Facebook a biz-quintillion times. They want to know how many people visited the blog.

Every visit that is funneled away from a blog and captured by another site is money or opportunity lost for that blogger. Meanwhile, other sites are profiting from the work done by bloggers.

Please share responsibly.
Even bloggers who don't have financial motives are losing out when recipes are shared in full. We read comments on those sites that say, "Oh, your macaroni strudel meatloaf pie is amazing! We LOVE YOU!!! Post more of YOUR yummy recipes!"

We feel sad and hurt because the person who posted our full recipe is getting the accolades and we're not even getting a nod in the hallway for creating the recipe, writing the blog post, and taking the pretty photos.

There are legal reasons why you shouldn't share full recipes, which I've already discussed here and hereI just wanted you to know why we get sad and hurt and angry when we see someone else publishing our work. Please share a link to this post, if you feel it's appropriate. And visit the bloggers who graciously allowed me to use their cupcake photos.

More reading: http://diannej.com/blog/2013/04/food-bloggers-fight-firestorm-of-abusive-facebook-pages

Magic Cake: All the cool kids are doing it! (the nuttier version)

It's magic.

But is it SAFE? Magic could be dangerous.

How can it not be safe? It's CAKE. No one's going to turn into a frog.

And all the cool kids are doing it!

And I wanna do it too! Just like the cool kids!

Well, okay, then.

I'd been seeing photos and posts about something called "Magic Cake" and I have to tell ya, I was intrigued. You mix a bunch of stuff, toss it in a pan, and it separates into different layers all by itself. Whoo hoo! Magic Cake!

Sort of like those old Bisquick recipes, but without the Bisquick. Okay, maybe more science than magic going on. But it's still pretty cool.

I made a slight tactical error by getting the recipe from a blog other than the original source blog. The one I chose probably wasn't the best version. It still worked, but now that I've made it once, I can see how important the technique is. That's where the other blog steered me just little bit wrong.

The other problem was that my large eggs looked more like medium eggs. I checked the box and they were supposed to be large, but they were a little ... medium-ish. But still, the recipe worked.

And then, I decided to shake things up a bit. I added some hazelnut flour. I knew it wouldn't affect the :formula, so it wasn't all that risky. I was curious where the nuts would end up in the finished cake. Would they spread throughout the cake, or would they show up in just one layer?

It turns out that the nuts ended up mostly in a layer between the custardy layer and the cakey top layer. A few bits were scattered around, but more of them were in that layer.

And since I used nuts, I used almond extract instead of vanilla.

I have a few ideas for tweaking this recipe, but meanwhile, here's my ingredients, along with what I think is the correct technique based on the video on the original site. You really ought to watch the video before you make this, so you can see exactly what this is supposed to look like at each stage.

Almond meal would also work in this, but it wouldn't be quite as visible, if that matters.

Magic Cake, the Nuttier Version
Adapted from Pasteles de Colores
Recipe adaptation © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
4 room temperature eggs, separated
1 tablespoon water
150 g sugar (2/3 cup granulated or 1 1/5 cups confectioner's sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter. melted and somewhat cooled (not hot)
4 ounces flour (about one cup, measured lightly)
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
2 cups milk at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon white vinegar

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and spray an 8-inch square pan with baking spray. The video showed a glass pan.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks, water, sugar and salt until the mixture is light in color and thickened. Add the butter and beat until combined.

Note: on the original page, the writer said she used icing sugar (confectioner's) instead of regular sugar, which suggests that she's following someone else's recipe that had called for the granulated sugar. I used regular granulated sugar. I might use confectioner's next time.

Add the flour in two or three additions, beating it in well each time. Beat in the hazelnut flour.

Add the milk and extracts. The mixture will get loose and sloppy. That's fine. Beat it until it's smooth.

In a very clean bowl with very clean beaters (the tiniest bit of yolk or fat will thwart your efforts to get those eggs beaten properly), beat the egg whites and the vinegar to stiff peaks.

Add the whites to the yolk mixture in several additions.

In the video, this was done with one of the beaters from the mixer. A whisk would also work. But gently. This is a point where watching the video is a good idea. Folding stiff egg whites into a wet mixture is sort of futile. Breaking those eggs up with a whisk or beater does the job much better. BUT you don't want to beat the whites into the mixture completely.

I'm thinking that next time I'll add some of the yolk mixture to the whites to loosen them up, then add the whites to the yolks. We'll see how that works. Or doesn't.

This isn't be like a cake batter. It's pretty wet. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until the top is browned and the cake is jiggly but not sloshy.

Let the cake cool COMPLETELY. Give it three bours. I don't suggest trying to turn this out of the pan, but if you cut into squares you should be able to take neat squares out of the pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar right before serving.

Since this cake is more custard than cake, I'm guessing it's best served refrigerated. And to be honest, I thought it tasted best when it was cold.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Yopa! - It's yogurt


I love yogurt. Particularly Greek-style yogurt. Getting my husband to eat it is a whole other story. If it's in a recipe, he's fine with that, but otherwise, he's not so interested.

Since his recent release from the hospital, I've been trying to get him to eat more "healthy for your tummy" foods. His poor abused digestive system needs some special attention, but trying to convince him to eat yogurt was an uphill battle until I said the magic words.

"Honey, I need to write about this Yopa! yogurt, and I'd like you to sample it."

He's always willing to try samples of foods that I'm writing about, even if it's something he's pretty sure he doesn't like.

I offered him some of the vanilla yogurt with chocolate chips. He tried it without the chips, and then with the chips added in. This is kind of a cool feature - the add-ins are in a separate part of the container, so you can add them in or not. Munch them alone or stir them in.

And ...

He liked it!

Well, then, that's interesting.

Since he still can't eat large portions of food at one sitting, I make sure there are plenty of snacks around, so he can have a little something between meals. The little containers of yogurt in the 4-pack are perfect for that, although I might pick up a few of the larger single containers for hungrier days. Because, seriously, the guy needs to put on some weight. Although the Yopa! yogurt is fat-free and lower in calorie than some of the snacks we've got around here, it's a healthy snack that'll be good for his tummy.

What I also like about the smaller packs is that they're a snack without being half a meal. You know what I mean - you're hungry between meals and the next thing you know you're eating lunch an hour early and sometimes that's just a bad idea.

Or I'm home from running errands, and I want something NOW. A little container of yogurt is just enough to keep the snacking demons away so I can prep for dinner without eating half of the mise en place. And since I'm not a fan of super-sweet foods, a little container of vanilla yogurt with dark chocolate chips is just sweet enough for breakfast or dessert.

And for me, the lower-calorie feature is a bonus, because I'm not looking to start putting on weight along with my husband. So it's great that we have one snack that's good for both of us, and makes this a good fit in a balanced diet.

And besides, Yopa! is kind of fun to say. Yopa! Yopa! Yopa! Bonus points for that.

If you're not into vanilla yogurt with chocolate chips, there are also fruit flavors with granola, and a vanilla yogurt with almonds. I think I'm gonna try that one next. I'm kind of nutty.

So tell me, are you a yogurt fan? What flavors do you like best? Do you like mix-ins?


Speaking of balance, gold medalist Gabby Douglas is an expert, and she's challenging you to take the Yopa! Taste Challenge where you can win a variety of prizes, including $10,000! Just "like" Yopa! on Facebook for a chance to win and to grab a coupon for $.50 (or more!) off one cup of Yopa! Authentic Greek Yogurt.

I was selected for participation in this campaign as a member of Clever Girls Collective.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mango-Matcha Smoothie

A while back, I mentioned that I'll be working with The Republic of Tea for the next few months. I just got a whole boatload of Matcha tea along with a bowl and crazy little whisk.

I'll be honest here and say that I've never actually tried matcha tea, so this was a completely new experience for me. I've tried a lot of other teas before, and I'd heard of matcha. And I knew a lot of people used it in cooking and baking.

Matcha is actually very finely ground green tea (which is supposed to be really good for you, right?) and it's the tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies, according to info I got from The Republic of Tea.

Here are the descriptions of the teas I got (quoted from The Republic of Tea):
  • Our premium U-Matcha Natural tea contains tender, shade-grown leaves that have been ground to a fine powder creating a rich balance of flavors. This matcha tea is ideal for blending with water for sipping or for cooking. 
  • Our premium U-Matcha Yuzu tea blends fine matcha powder with yuzu for a citrus flavor. This matcha tea makes a bright addition to mixed drinks, spice rubs and sweet desserts. 
  • Our premium U-Matcha Ginger tea blends fine matcha powder with ginger. This matcha tea boasts a spicy kick and wakes up the flavors of miso soups, stir-fry and other savory dishes. 
  • Our premium U-Matcha Roasted Rice tea blends fine matcha powder with roasted rice to create a nutty finish of flavor. This matcha tea provides warm nuances for sweet baked goods, savory dishes, shakes and lattes. 
So there we go.  Now you probably know more about matcha than I do. What I thought was interesting was the brewing method. For a hot tea, you're supposed to whisk it for a minute or two until the tea is frothy. I's way different from my usual brewing method. For cold tea, you can just mix it in, without all the whisking.

And of course, you can cook with it. They sent me a whole bunch of recipes and there were also recipes inside the can the tea came in. And it wasn't just drinks - there's soup, salad dressing, dessert ... lots of stuff.

The U-Matcha Ginger was my first taste on an evening when I thought the ginger would be good for a slightly unsettled tummy. Then I decided to make a chilly fruity drink. I've got to say that this stuff really makes things green. I'm looking forward to adding it to foods that I want to color naturally.

Mango-Matcha Smoothie
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
1 mango
2 bananas
1 teaspoon matcha ginger
1 cup milk (plus more as needed)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Peel the mango, remove the pit, chunk it, and toss it in a blender. Peel the bananas, chunk them, and add them to the blender.

Add the matcha powder, milk, salt, and honey (if you're using it.). Blend until smooth.

This is pretty thick as-is. If you want something a little thinner, add more milk and blend again. If you want it sweeter, add a bit more honey - the sweetness depends a bit on how sweet your fruit is, so make it to your taste.

I received product from The Republic of Tea as part of the TEAm blogger program.

As a special bonus for my readers, you can get a free electric matcha frother with any order of U-Matcha Tea from The Republic of Tea when you use the promo code #MATCHA4.from March 22, 2013 through March 29. Cheers!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pasta dinner ... or is it?

This could be ...

Three-Cheese Stuffed Artisan Whole-Grain Manicotti 
with Wild Mushroom Sauce and Parmesan


That's what it looks like, right?


Look at that sprinkle of parmesan cheese ... and the cheesy stuffing ...


And that wild mushroom sauce on the bottom of the bowl looks pretty good, right?


And the mise en place... all ready to assemble.

Yep, that looks like a mighty fine dinner right there. Right? 
And not a lot of mess, there. Two pots, two bowls. 
Looks easy enough.


Well, actually I'd be LYING to you if I said this was for dinner.

Yep. Lying.

Because this post is for the Marx Foods Dinner for Dessert recipe challenge. The point was to make a dessert that looks like an entree. And I had to use a chocolate rigatoni pasta that Marx Foods sent to me.

Chocolate pasta. How crazy is that?

So, let's see. The rule is that it has to look like an entree. But, um ... they didn't say that it had BE a full-size entree.


Do you see where I'm going?


Now you got it?


They're one-bite desserts that look like itty-bitty entrees.

This dessert is really:

Peanut-Butter-Whipped-Cream Stuffed Chocolate Rigatoni
on softened coffee ice cream with grated white chocolate
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
Ingredients:
Chocolate rigatoni
Peanut butter whipped cream (recipe below)
Coffee ice cream, softened (recipe here, or use store-bought)
Finely grated white chocolate

Cook the rigatoni in boiling salted water. Rinse in cold water to chill. Cut off the pointed ends if you want it to look like actual manicotti.

Put the whipped cream into a plastic bag, like a sandwich-size zip-top bag. Cut the tip off the bag. (You could also use a piping bag, but a plastic bag works fine.) Pipe the whipped cream into the rigatoni.

Place the ice cream on a spoon or very small plate.

Arrange the rigatoni on top of the ice cream.

Scatter the white chocolate on top.

Serve.

Peanut Butter Whipped Cream
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Put the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and cream in a medium bowl. Beat with a whisk or hand-held mixer until you have a thick whipped cream. It won't be as light and airy as regular whipped cream because of the peanut butter, but it will get firm and will hold its shape a lot longer than standard whipped cream.

This makes more than you'll need unless you're making a LOT of these, but I'm sure you'll find other uses for it. It's really good stuff. If you need a hint, check out this recipe.

You could try making less, but it's kind of ridiculous to whip. Trust me, You'll use it. Or eat it with a spoon.

Do you like this recipe? PLEASE go vote for it here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Whole Foods Friday: Two Tuna Salads

When I was growing up, the only tuna I was familiar with came in a can and was incredibly inexpensive. Most of it went into tuna noodle casserole.

It was quite a while later that I discovered fresh tuna.

And even longer before I found out that all canned tuna isn't bargain-basement stuff. The better-quality tuna has great flavor without being "fishy." It tastes like tuna should. I picked up one small 6.7-ounce jar of tuna and used it to make two completely different dishes.

First up was a composed salad reminiscent of the nicoise salad.

I really like composed salads like this. You can nibble at the bits you like, taste different combinations together, and make the salad a lovely shared dish that you can take your time over.

Once you have the components for this salad prepared, you can arrange them on one large plate, or on multiple smaller plates. This can be an appetizer, first course, or light lunch. It can be served as is, or made a little more substantial with the addition of some crusty bread and butter or some crackers and an array of cheeses.

Homage to Nicoise 
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
1 small bunch asparagus
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 pound baby potatoes, cooked and chilled
1/2 cup olives
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 6.7-ounce jar tuna in oil
Olive oil, as needed
Large flake salt

Trim the tough ends off the asparagus, then steam until tender, but still some crispness. As soon as it's done, plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking and keep the vibrant green color.

Arrange the asparagus on a plate and drizzle with the lemon juice.

The potatoes I used were very small - one bite each. If your potatoes are larger, cut them in half or into quarters. Arrange them on the plate as well.

Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange them with the olives, and then add the tuna to the plate.

Drizzle the potatoes with a bit of olive oil (if you like, you can use some of the oil from the tuna).

Sprinkle large flake salt over the plate, as desired.

Old-School Tuna Salad
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
Since the tuna was so flavorful, I decided to use the rest of the jar to make tuna salad. You could use this for sandwiches or serve it on a lettuce leaf. Or serve a small scoop on top of an avocado half for a particularly decadent dish. This would also be nice as an appetizer on crackers with a garnish of chives or chopped pickles.

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 shallot, diced
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon sweet relish
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 6.7-ounce jar tuna in oil

Cut the eggs into small chunks and place in a small bowl. Add the shallot, capers, relish, and 1 tablespoon mayonnaise. Stir to combine.

Add the tuna, and if you like, a little bit of the oil - it has a lot of flavor. Stir gently to combine, but try to keep the tuna in larger chunks. If you think it needs more mayonnaise, add another tablespoon.

Serve.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Gadgets: Magnetic Knife Blade Guards

If you're a professional cook or even serious home cook, there are probably times when you want to bring some of your knives with you. Like when you'll be cooking with a friend and you want to use your own favorite knife.

If you've got a whole lot of knives you carry around, you probably have a knife roll. Me, most of the time I just need to bring one knife or maybe two. So blade guards make a lot of sense.

The magnetic blade guards ($9-$12) from Bisbell have a couple of advantages over plastic guards. First, they're easy to cut with scissors so you can shorten them to fit specific knives.

Second, they hold the knives snugly, so the edge of the blade isn't bumping around the way it could inside a hard plastic guard. Maybe not a big deal if you're just taking your favorite knife to Aunt Susie's house to carve the turkey once a year, but more important if you use those guards to store knives in a drawer.

Although these things are magnetic on the inside, they don't stick to each other, so you can carry or store them together or with other metal items without worrying about them grabbing onto everything they touch.

While this isn't the most earthshaking gadget I've seen, I have to say it's a nice improvement over the slip-on plastic guards.

The product was provided to me by the manufacturer for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vita-Chef: A review

When a package arrived on my doorstep from Vitachef, I was pretty impressed. Dubbed the Healthy Lifestyle Cooking System, this beast performs the functions of an electric skillet, steamer, slow cooker, roaster, and indoor smoker.

The world probably doesn't need another slow cooker. I was much more interested in the other functions.

It's a skillet

An electric skillet is meant to replace a skillet, with a wide surface and relatively shallow sides that makes it easy to flip your food over. Yup, this puppy does that perfectly well in the bottom pan. The pan heats quickly and you can get a good sear on meats. Or turn the heat down for more gently cooking. It does its job really well. If you can do it in a skilled or frying pan, you can do it in this pan, including poaching, stir frying, and shallow frying.

As far as steaming, you'd place the steamer insert (the one with the long handle) on top of that bottom pan, add water, then add the food you want to steam. If you're steaming a lot of food or tall/bulky food, like crab legs, you can add the ring to the top of the steamer insert to expand the amount of space you have.

Smoking

For smoking, you'd use the same setup as for steaming, but without water, and with dry wood chips in the bottom pan.

The instruction manual didn't have any information on smoking, but I found instructions on the manufacturer's website. Unlike my stove top smoker, this uses dry wood chips, which means the prep time is a lot shorter since you don't need to soak the chips for the usual 20 minutes.

I was a little bit skeptical about using dry wood, cranking the heat to 400 degrees, and cooking fish for 20 minutes. I was a little afraid that I'd end up with fire, billows of thick smoke, and dry, overcooked fish. What I got was gentle smoke - yes, is smelled a little smoky in the house, but it didn't get foggy or hazy. It wasn't unpleasant at all, and no smokier than my stovetop smoker.

I cooked some tilapia, and after 20 minutes the two thin filets were nicely cooked, still moist, and they had a gently smoky flavor. The wood seemed barely burned. Hmmm. Interesting.

I've yet to try smoking anything for a longer period of time, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. So, yes, it does work well as a smoker.

Slow Cooking

Slow cookers have higher sides, so you can toss in a roast or other bulky items. This has a ring that you can place on top so you can cook taller foods. So it works as a slow cooker for braising. If you wanted to fill it with liquid (for example, for making a large batch of soup), you wouldn't be able to do that. But it still holds quite a bit of liquid in that bottom pan, so you could make a decent amount of soup or sauce.

Since I use my slow cooker quite often for making stock, I don't think this could completely replace the slow cooker. But it comes close. And it performs additional functions, which is cool.

You can roast or bake in this, and it has a glass lid with a vent hole that fits all the pieces. The thermostat   goes from 200 to 400 degrees with a "warm" setting below 200, so you've got a wide range of temperatures.

All the cooking parts are dishwasher safe, but it's easy enough to wash by hand. It's all non-stick coated, so nothing sticks. My dishwasher doesn't easily accommodate pieces like this, so it's good that it cleans up so well.

The final verdict

I have to say that this has done everything it has claimed to do, but like any such appliance, its ultimate usefulness is going to depend on where you keep it. Store it in a place that's inconvenient to get to, and you probably won't pull it out very often. Keep it on your counter, and you'll probably use it regularly. Maybe even every day.

And if it's the only thing you've got to cook with - like in a dorm room - you'd get a LOT of use out of it. I wish I would have had this thing when my stove decided to suicide. There's not much I couldn't manage to cook in this.

I received this product from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chicken with Lemon and Herbs - a crockpot recipe

I love cooking chicken thighs in the crockpot. They a can handle a long, slow cook without drying out, and the slow cooker doesn't need any attention during the process.

So I can walk away.

Cooking potatoes in an acidic liquid is interesting - the outside of the potatoes gets a bit of a "skin" while the inside gets soft and fluffy - not great if you wanted mashed potatoes, but great if you want potatoes that will hold together in a stew or soup.

You could also make this in a Dutch oven on the stove. I'm assuming your slow cooker has a browning setting. If it doesn't, you can brown the chicken in any convenient pan on the stove, or skip the browning. The chicken will be a bit pale, but it will taste fine.

Chicken with Lemon and Herbs
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
1 tablepoon olive oil
3 chicken thighs
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut in large chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup dry sake
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 lemon, halved

Put the oil in slow cooker and set for browning. Add the chicken, skin-side down. Cook until the skin in nicely brown, then flip it over and add the potatoes.

Let the second side of the chicken and the potatoes brown a bit, then add the garlic, sake, salt, oregano, and rosemary. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken (keeping the seeds out) then add the whole lemon to the pot.

Stir once, then turn the crockpot to low, and cook until the chicken is tender and the potatoes are cooked through - 2-3 hours is good.

Serve hot.
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