Friday, February 28, 2014

Shamrock Spritz Cookies

I love making spritz cookies, so it seemed like a great idea to make shamrock-shaped mint cookies for St. Patrick's Day.

I like eating them, of course. I mean, they're cookies. 

But it's fun (and fast) to pump them out of a cookie press into even rows. The barrel of the press makes it pretty easy to make sure you're leaving enough space for the cookies on the sheet, which is another great thing about using a press.

Spritz cookies bake quickly, so you go from "want cookies" to munching cookies in no time at all.

Spritz dough needs to be the right consistency to push it through a cookie press - it can't be too dense, or it won't go through the press, so this is one dough that you won't want to refrigerate before baking.

If you do absolutely need to make the dough ahead, let it warm up before you start shoving it through your cookie press, or it just won't work.

As much as I love buttery cookies, if you try to make these with all butter they'll spread a little too much and you'll lose a lot of design detail. These do spread a little so they might not be the best for super-detailed designs, but this recipe works well for basic shapes like flowers or for the shamrocks that I made.

When it comes to food coloring, I prefer the gel colors, since they're so concentrated. You can add a lot of color without adding much extra liquid to the recipe. If you use a liquid food coloring, you might need to add a bit of extra flour to compensate, or use just a few drops of the liquid color for a paler green cookie.

When it comes to mint flavoring, I had two different types on hand. One was peppermint (think of candy canes) and one was more like spearmint. Use whatever you have on hand, or what you like. I used the spearmint here.

Not a fan of mint? Omit it, or use a different flavor. I like almond-flavored spritz cookies, or you could go with citrus flavors or whatever else you like. There are a lot of flavors to choose from.

Shamrock Spritz Cookies
Makes about 10 dozen cookies, depending on size

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
Green food coloring, as needed
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Green decorating sugar (optional)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees and have several baking sheets standing by.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with an electric mixer in a large bowl) beat the butter until it is smooth. Add the shortening, sugar, and salt, and beat until light. Add the egg, flavorings, and food coloring and beat until well combined.

Add the flour in portions (to keep it from flying all over your kitchen when it hits the beater!) and beat until well combined.

Put the dough into your cookie press fitted with the die of your choice - you'll need to refill the press several times, so don't fret about that - and portion the dough onto your cookie sheets. I used shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day from the OXO spring disk set for their cookie press, but a leaf or flower would be nice for spring.

Sprinkle with colored sugar, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees until the cookies are just barely browned on the edges, about 12 minutes.

Let them cool for 30 seconds or so on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Gadgets: Swissmar Cheese Holder

The stainless steel cheese holder from Swissmar ($12) has one purpose - you guessed it - holding cheese.

The three short prongs poke into a hunk of cheese to grip it without stabbing so deep that the cheese would begin to crack or tear, so you can slice the cheese without using your hands to hold it. Meanwhile, the knob is big enough to hang onto easily.

Not a big deal to touch a hunk of cheese with your (clean) bare hands if you're making grilled cheese sandwiches for the family, right?

But if you're serving guests or have a cheese board set up where guests can slice cheese for self-serve, they might be happier not to have everyone's fingerprints all over every wheel and brick of cheese on the board.

This obviously isn't something everyone needs, but it's kind of cool-looking, doesn't take much storage space since it's only 2 1/4 inches tall, and turophiles will no doubt love it.

The product was supplied for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats; this was previously published on Serious Eats.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pickled Mushrooms

I adore mushrooms, and that includes the pickled ones (or I guess you could call them marinated) that show up on olive bars in grocery stores. Every time I pass by those, I'm tempted to fill a container. Sometimes I do.

And then I'm tempted to snack on them every time I open the refrigerator.

Once in a while, I make my own. These are pretty great - not sweet, but not too hugely tart. Lemon and wine vinegar add their own personality. There's just enough red pepper to give them a little pop, but not so much that they've got bite.

Oh - and check out the cool green jar - these are the latest special edition canning jars from Ball.

Pickled Mushrooms

1 pound button mushrooms
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes
3/4 cup wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Clean the mushrooms. If they're small, leave them whole. Otherwise halve, quarter, or slice them - whatever you choose.

Peel the onion, quarter, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Drop the garlic into a quart canning jar, then layer the mushrooms and onions in. You might have a few mushrooms left over - it depends on how well you pack.

Combine the sugar, salt, oregano, pepper flakes, vinegar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring a bit to make sure the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour this over the mushrooms in the jar. Add the lemon juice.

Put the lid on the jar, and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

These are good as soon as they're cool, but they improve over the next few days.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Long Loaves

I'm not really sure what to call this bread - it's similar to French or Italian bread, but it's neither, really. But it's just what I wanted. It's soft enough for sandwiches, but still sturdy. It's rich from the semolina flour. And it makes great toasty garlic bread.

I used Red Star Platinum yeast, but you can use regular yeast. The Platinum will give a better rise.

If you use a different brand of active dry yeast, let it bloom for a few minutes in the water before kneading. If you use any type of Red Star yeast, you don't need to wait.

Long Loaves

1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) Red Star Platinum yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semolina flour
2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour
1/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic.

If you don't have a stand mixer, you can mix the dough in a bowl, then turn it out and knead by hand.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about an hour.

When the dough has risen, flour your work surface and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide in half. Form each half into a rope about 13 inches long. Place one rope on each baking sheet on a diagonal to give them plenty of space.

Cover the loaves with plastic wrap. Or, what I do is use a second baking sheet upside-down on top of the sheets with the rising bread. Set aside until the dough has doubled in size and if you poke one gently, the dent remains or fills in slowly.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake at 350 degrees until the loaves are nicely browned, about 25 minutes.

Remove the bread and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mushroom and Swiss Mac and Cheese for #MacCheeseMania

This post is part of the multi-blog #maccheesemania, coordinated by Rachel from Rachel Cooks and Brandy from Nutmeg Nanny.

There are all sorts of great mac and cheese recipes from some fantastic bloggers, and a chance to win some great prizes (details at the bottom of this post).

Prizes include Door to Door Organics Gift Cards, OXO Gift Baskets, Zak Designs Prize Pack, a year's supply of Cabot cheese, a Vermont Creamery gift basket, a risotto kit from Marx Foods, Barilla pasta, Anolon Advanced Bronze 4.5 Qt. Tapered Stockpot, Rachael Ray Stoneware Casseroval, Wusthof CLASSIC Studio Block Set, Microplane Graters and Kitchen Tools, a SavorX Starter Block with spices, and Le Cordon Bleu by Swissmar oven to table roasters. All giveaways open to US residents over the age of 18 only.

Mac and Cheese Mania is being sponsored by Door to Door Organics and OXO.

So let's get right to the recipe, shall we? This was inspired by my love of mushrooms. And I guess it reminded me of Swiss-mushroom burgers. Without the burger part.

Choose whatever mushrooms you like - all one kind, or a mix. For some reason, the mushroom section at my local grocer was pretty barren, so I used white button mushrooms. Baby bellas might have been better, but to be honest, I like fresh button mushrooms, and in this quantity, it had a lot of mushroom flavor, and a perfect balance with the cheese.

As for the cheese, a basic Swiss is fine, or you can go to the fancy cheese section and go crazy. The choice is yours. As far as those red pepper flakes, add as much or as little as you like. I added a hefty pinch so the mac and cheese had a nice zing.

Mushroom and Swiss Mac and Cheese

For the bread crumbs:
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup bread crumbs

For the mac and cheese:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flour
2 cups cream, half-and-half, or milk
1/2 cup creme fraiche
8 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 pound shell pasta, cooked al dente
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
1 cup buttered bread crumbs

To butter the bread crumbs:

Use a tiny knife and spread the butter - no, just kidding. 

Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, dump in the crumbs and stir until all the butter is absorbed and the bread is lightly toasted. Remember, this gets cooked more in the oven, so you're not looking for a dark toast. Since my bread crumbs included the bread crusts, mine started out a little darker than if I had made my crumbs from just the bread middles.

Set the crumbs aside until needed. You can make these well in advance, or right before you need them.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and have a a 1 1/2 quart baking dish standing by. Larger is fine, if you don't have the perfect size. Or you can cook in several smaller dishes, if you like.

In a large saucepan or skillet or saucier (big enough to hold all the sauce, plus the noodles, after they're cooked) melt the 4 tablespoons of butter.

Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the mushrooms are cooked through and most of the liquid disappears.

Add the flour and stir. It will become very dry. Add the milk and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan well. Bring to a simmer. Add the creme fraiche, stir to combine, then begin adding the cheese in small handfuls, stirring after each addition to incorporate the cheese.

Add the cooked pasta and chives, and stir to coat the pasta with the cheese. The liquid should be thick, but not goopy. Thin enough to call it a liquid. If it seems too thick, add some of the pasta cooking water to thin it out.

Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top. If it's a really tight fit in your baking dish, you might want to put it on a baking sheet, or put a sheet of aluminum foil under it to catch possible drips.

Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbling around the edge of the dish.

Serve hot.

Be sure to visit all the other great bloggers participating in Mac and Cheese Mania!

Jalapeno Popper Mac & Cheese by Heather's Dish
Buffalo Cheddar Mac and Cheese by Eats Well With Others
Creamy Spinach Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese with Gouda by Sarah's Cucina Bella
Light Sweet Potato Mac 'n Cheese Recipe by Cookin' Canuck
Macaroni and Cheese Fritters by Amuse Your Bouche
Skinny Chicken Mac and Cheese Casserole by A Zesty Bite
Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese by Cravings of a Lunatic
Pizza Mac and Cheese by Very Culinary
Crab Mac and Cheese by Dine & Dish
Bacon & Eggs Breakfast Mac & Cheese by Sweet Remedy
Fried Mac & Cheese Balls by The Little Kitchen
Sweet Pork Macaroni and Cheese by Oh, Sweet Basil
Butternut Squash Quinoa Mac n' Cheese Bake by Queen of Quinoa
Lightened Up Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese by Prevention RD
Butternut Mac and Cheese with Pretzel Crust by Healthy. Delicious.
Skinny Greek Mac and Cheese with Crunchy Pita Chip Topping by The Law Student's Wife
Potato Skin Mac and Cheese by Eat Your Heart Out
Homestyle Baked Mac & Cheese by Pocket Change Gourmet
Bacon Mac and Cheese Egg Rolls by Miss in the Kitchen
Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese by Crunchy Creamy Sweet
Blue Cheese Bechamel Mac and Cheese by Sweetphi
Korean Mac & Cheese by Cooking with Books
Black and Blue Mac and Cheese by Fabtastic Eats
Tomato and Leek Mac and Cheese by Susie Freaking Homemaker
Healthier Mac & Cheese with Chipotle Peppers by Go Gingham
Mac and Cheese Ice Cream by Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body
Blue Cheese & Bacon Macaroni & Cheese by Gimme Some Oven
Poutine Mac and Cheese with Andouille Gravy by Climbing Grier Mountain
Double Smoked Chicken Mac and Cheese by Girl Carnivore
Creamy Greek Yogurt Mac and Cheese with Peas and Bacon by Running to the Kitchen
Nudel Gratin by Crumbs and Chaos
Mushroom and Truffle Sea Salt White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese by Big Bear's Wife
Roasted Poblano and Goat Cheese Mac by Daisy at Home
Creamy Cauliflower 'n Cheese with Bacon by Barefeet in the Kitchen
Wisconsin Cheese, Brats, and Onion Macaroni and Cheese by a farmgirl's dabbles
Spinach Queso Mac & Cheese by Bake Your Day
Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese with a Pancetta Parmesan Crust by Mountain Mama Cooks
French Onion Mac & Cheese by Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts
Healthier Macaroni and Cheese by Texanerin Baking
Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese by CafeTerraBlog
Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Peppers by Cook the Story
Jack Daniels Mac and Cheese by The Slow Roasted Italian
Lobster Mac and Cheese by FoodieCrush
Green Chili 5-cheese Baked Mac and Cheese by A Southern Fairytale
Homemade Elbow Noodle Tutorial + a Recipe for Roasted Veggie Mac by Bakeaholic Mama
Salsa Verde Mac-n-Cheese (two ways) by Eat2Gather
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping by The Lemon Bowl

If you want to enter the GIVEAWAY:

Go to Rachel Cooks and/or Nutmeg Nanny and enter to win some great prizes!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gadgets: Garject Lite

Is there any kitchen simple kitchen gadget more controversial than the garlic press? I think not. So, if you don't like them, you might as well look away right now.

For the most part, garlic presses operate the same way - they mash garlic cloves through small holes. The Garject Lite ($19.95) from Dreamfarm does that and a little more.

After you press the garlic, there's always garlic clinging to the bottom of a press, so the Garject Lite has a little squeegee-like attachment that scrapes the bottom of the press to remove that garlic. Then, when you open the press, little fingers press through the holes from the bottom to loosen the garlic peels inside the press, Then you press a button and a lever pops the skins out.

I was pretty happy with the squeegee action, but popping the skins out wasn't always 100 percent successful. If the skins were small, the lever only popped part of them out. But that's better than nothing, and a quick rinse got the rest of the skins out of the press.

The Garget Lite comes in a variety of colors, to match your kitchen or to help you find the gadget in your junk drawer. If you're looking for a garlic press, this one is worth checking out.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Vanilla Alphabet Cookies

You know I've got a fetish for baking gear, right?

So when Frieling offered me a cookie pan to make alphabet cookies, of course I had to try it. It makes numbers, too. So, three dozen cookies - 26 letters plus six numbers - per pan.

But they're not giant cookies. They're thin and sort of delicate. So you can easily eat a whole word's worth.

Since I wasn't sure what sort of cookie dough was best for the pan, I decided to use a recipe from the company's website. Turns out that the cookie dough was thicker than cake batter but not quite as thick as a drop cookie. Other doughs might work, too. I have some experimenting to do.

Right now, I'm thinking I'd like to make some sort of cheese crackers with this pan.

The tricky part was figuring out the best way to fill the letters and scrape off the excess without also scraping up cookie dough. It was just a matter of making a few pans full to figure out the best technique.

Speaking of a few pans, the recipe on the website was for making one pan full of cookies, but I wanted to make more. And, the recipe called for half of an egg, which is a little silly. So, I quadrupled the recipe. That let me make 5 full pans full of cookies, plus a little extra.

The other slightly tricky thing was cooking time. Since the cookies were soooo thin, they went from nicely browned to a little more browned pretty quickly. I didn't actually burn any, but thirty seconds made a difference.

Vanilla Cookies
Recipe by Frieling
For one sheet of 26 letters and 10 numbers

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup melted butter
1/2 egg
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon melted butter to grease the pan

Preheat oven to 320°F and grease the pan with the melted butter.

Grease pan and refrigerate for 5 minutes (cookie dough will stick better to the mold when cold).

Mix all ingredients (except the butter for greasing the pan) in a small bowl.

Fill the pan using a dough scraper to remove excess batter.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool for a few minutes. then softly tap the pan on a kitchen towel to loosen cookies and drop them off onto a plate.

Decorate to your liking. I used powdered sugar, but they'd be nice dipped in chocolate, too.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Delicious and Decadent

If I told you I made a recipe that included 1 1/4 cups of heavy cream along with an egg, creme fraiche and some butter, you might think it was dessert. That's a logical assumption.

But, no.

It's bread.

I decided to make a super-rich bread, but instead of loading it with butter, I loaded it with cream. And while many rich breads are also sweet, this one isn't. It's got just a tablespoon of sugar, which is typically what I add to bread to make the yeast giddy and aid in browning.

The result was loaf with definite dairy flavor and an interesting crust - almost flaky or crumbly rather than completely solid. And the aroma of the baking bread was intoxicating.

You might imagine that I'm used to the scent of baking bread around here, but every once in a while there's one that really calls to me. This is one of those. I wanted to rip into it as soon as it came out of the oven.

But I waited. Impatiently. And the wait was worth it. Darned good loaf. Maybe not something I'd make every day - just like I wouldn't make challah or brioche or any other similar bread every day. But once in a while, ya gotta splurge.

You might notice that I used Red Star Platinum Yeast here. That's because I wanted to get a little more rise from this super-rich bread. If you don't happen to have it, I suggest Red Star's active dry yeast.

Delicious and Decadent White Bread

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons Red Star Platinum yeast
1/2 cup (2 3/4 ounces) durum flour
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Combine everything in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Note: If you're using a brand of yeast other than Red Star, it might have a larger pellet size, so you'd need to let it soften in the liquid before you continue. If you're using the Red Star Platinum or Red Star active dry yeast, then you can simply combine it all.

Knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size - about 1 hour 15 minutes in a warm place.

Flour your work surface, spray a 9x5 loaf pan with baking spray, and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Turn out the dough and form the dough into a tight log about 8 1/2 inches long - to fit in the loaf pan. Place the formed log into the pan, seam-side down. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until the dough rises above the top of the pan - about 30 minutes.

When the dough has risen, remove the plastic wrap and slash the dough as desired. Bake at 350 degrees until the bread is nicely browned, about 45 minutes.

Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Browned Butter Purple Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

Once again, I dive into my box of produce from Frieda's Specialty Produce and see what I can make.

This month, both purple cauliflower and purple Brussels sprouts were in the box, and I decided to use them together.

This is one of those recipes where amounts are sort of irrelevant. You could use a giant cauliflower or you could use a small one. Use a little hand full of Brussels sprouts, or use more.

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. I like it pretty much any way it's prepared, from completely raw to completely soft and pureed. I like it steamed, roasted, boiled, grilled, pickled or fried. I like it hot or cold. I like it as a salad, a soup, a side, or a snack.

Because I like cauliflower so much, I often rely on the simplest preparation methods. Often that's steaming in the microwave and adding a touch of butter.

This time, it was a little different. But that little bit actually made a pretty big impact.

Meawhile the Brussels sprouts were interesting, with purple and green leaves. I thought they'd make a great accent for the cauliflower, adding that bit of green.

What I thought was really interesting about this cooking method was that when the cauliflower came out of the microwave, it was more of a lavender color, but after it came out of the frying pan it was a deep, jewel-toned purple.

The color was simply stunning.

The flavor of the browned butter was really good, but it's almost worth doing, just for the color change. Give it a try, and see what you think.

Browned Butter Purple Cauliflower
and Brussels Sprouts

1 head purple cauliflower
1 cup purple Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
Salt, to taste

Break or cut the cauliflower into florets and put the florets into a microwave-safe bowl with about 1/2 cup of water. Microwave on high or on the vegetable-cooking setting if your microwave has one, until the florets are cooked to your liking. Drain the water.

Note: you can cover the cauliflower loosely during microwaving, if you like.

If the Brussels sprouts have tough ends or gnarly leaves, remove them. Cook just like you cooked the cauliflower.

Heat the butter in a saute pan. If you had a giant heat of cauliflower, you can certainly add more. Cook the butter until you see some golden brown bits and the butter smells nutty. Add the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Cook, stirring as needed, until you seen some browning on the cauliflower and the sprouts.

Transfer to a serving dish. Add salt, if desired. Serve hot.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Apothecary Cocktails

I've been having some fun with Warren Bobrow's book, Apothecary Cocktails.

Yeah, the testing was tough, but someone had to do it, right?

The theme of the book is "restorative drinks," some of which purport to cure hangovers, help keep you warm in winter, or make your cold feel less annoying. I won't argue with that. I've been known to mix up a little warm cocktail when I'm battling a head cold.

The cool thing about this book is that it's got recipes for a lot of liquors that are a little unusual. And then there are recipes using rum or gin. So there's something for everyone.

One of the first things I tried was a simple drink with Fernet Branca and ginger beer. Okay, I used ginger ale, but close enough for me. The Fernet is a little bitter with flavors of licorice and mint. One sip and you can see why it could be a digestif.

There were a few warm rum drinks that I thought were interesting, including versions of hot buttered rum and some that included tea. I hadn't thought of doing that ... but why not? slurp...

Drinking your way through this book might be a little difficult because there are so many unusual liquors used, but if you're looking for a book to wander through and find some interesting cocktails using some odd liquors you haven't tried before, this is the book for you.

And of course you can always make substitutions, if you need to. Because sometimes that's half the fun.

Warren Bobrow blogs at the Cocktail Whisperer.

I received this book from the publisher. Opinions are my own.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gadgets: Bent Spoons

Spoons. They're so simple. But Michael Ruhlman thought they weren't designed quite right, so he started bending them to make them easier for basting, skimming and scooping.

Then a friend suggested he could make them so they looked nice - you know, instead  manhandling the current spoons.

And that's how Ruhlman's offset spoons ($19.95/3) were born and how he started his web store. Or at least that's what the video on his site depicts.

I've been using these spoons for a while now, and I have to say that the downside was finding a place to put them. The bends, which are functionally a good idea, didn't make them great for storage among their straighter brethren. Right now they're living in a utensil crock, and that's working well enough and it keeps them readily available.

The bends in the spoons do make them less awkward for scooping up pan juices to baste food, and for skimming the froth off the top of a simmering liquid. Meanwhile, the bend isn't so radical that it feels odd in the hand.

Earthshaking? No. But I didn't expect them to be. Regular spoons do the same job, it's just that these make those particular jobs easier. So if you do a lot of basting or skimming, this shape makes more sense. There's also a set of soup spoons, so you can get that last bit of soup from the bowl in a more elegant manner.

In theory, you could bend your own spoons if you have some that are sufficiently bendable, but if they're that bendy, they're probably not going to hold their shape all that well. And, if it matters, these look nice.

The product was supplied for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats; this was previously published on Serious Eats.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Little Heart-Shaped Egg Puffs - perfect for Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day arrived via a UPS truck in the form of kitchen gadgets. It's all heart-shaped here, folks. And totally fun.

Before we continue with recipes, let me point out that, yes, I do seem to have a gadget addiction. Maybe I didn't have enough building blocks when I was a kid, or maybe I'm revolting against mom's unwillingness to buy more ingredients for the Easy Bake Oven, but I absolutely LOVE to mess around with new gadgets.

Thank goodness I'm a food blogger and people send me stuff, or we'd be living in a tent in the woods.

Surrounded by kitchen gear, of course.

The Valentine's Day goodies came from Mastrad, maker of all sorts of fun things. The UPS box was barely room temperature before I started cooking.

First up, silicone egg molds.

Let's pretend it's time for breakfast on V-Day, shall we?

The heart-shaped egg shapers come as a pair, and the idea is that you cook your eggs inside the mold to create a heart shaped breakfast. Mmmm ... "hearty" eggs.

I cooked a single egg in one of the molds, but I think the result might have been a tad nicer if I had cooked two eggs in it, since my heart was a little thin around the edges. Or, maybe if I had extra-large eggs instead of large.

I made a basic sunnyside-up egg, but there's no reason you couldn't make a fried/scrambled sort of thing. Just pour the egg mixture into the mold, and off you go.

For an egg that cooks more evenly on the top and bottom, I usually pour a teeny amount of water - like two tablespoons - into the pan, then cover the pan. The steam helps to cook the egg on top.

You could also use these for pancakes.

In any case, the heart was cute, and I could see serving these on occasions other than Valentine's Day, like on birthdays, anniversaries, or just when you're feeling a little mushy and romantic. Or just for the fun of it.

I mean, why not? They're just adorable.

Mini Hearts

Moving on to Valentine's lunch, Mastrad also sent me a silicone mini muffin pan that had two different sizes of heart. Awwwwww.

But I wasn't in a muffin mood, and I had cake standing by, so I didn't want little cupcakes, either.

But ... hmmm ... something savory.

I thought about little heart-shaped quiches, but then decided on something just a little different. Not as custardy. Still rich because of the heavy cream.

Go ahead and use milk if you like.

These are cute little snacks, appetizers, or part of a breakfast or lunch plate. Dress them up if you like with a tiny dollop of creme fraiche, some salsa or guacamole, or even some extra cheese melted on top.

Or just serve them plain. The heart shape is fancy enough.

The great thing about these is that they're just as good warm, room temperature or chilled.

Little Heart-Shaped Egg Puffs

5 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces mild cheddar cheese, cut in chunks
3 slices deli ham, cut in 1-inch squares
1 tablespoon dry or fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and have the silicone heart pan standing by.

Combine all the ingredients in your blender. The cheese and ham pieces don't need to be precise, you just want them small enough so the blades of your blender can catch them.

Pulse a few times, then run the blender until the ham and cheese are smaller bits.You're not looking for something completely smooth.

Pour the prepared egg mixture into the silicone molds, leaving some headroom in each cup for them to expand.

Bake at 350 degrees until the eggs are set and lightly browned, about 25 minutes.

The Mastrad pan is sturdy enough that you don't need to put it on a baking sheet, but you can use one if you think it will be easier to handle. Also, depending on your oven racks, you might want to use a baking sheet just to keep all those hearts flat.

Remove from the oven and turn out onto a plate. Serve. Eat. Yum.

Valentine's Dessert

What else could it be -  chocolate!

Even better, melted chocolate. The last Valentine's Day item that Mastrad sent me was a really cute fondue set, perfect for melting chocolate and dipping berries or bits of cake or cookies, or whatever you want to dip.

I didn't have time to actually set this one up and use it - I wanted to get this posted as soon as possible, just in case you wanted to try some of these yourself. But I unpacked it and ogled.

The stand is sturdy and the bowl is pretty. I've used this type of fondue setup before. Once the chocolate is melted, the tea light is enough to keep it melted. And you really don't need a recipe - just melt some chocolate and go.

Of course, you can add things to the chocolate, if you like.

The four included fondue forks are marked with hearts - two have solid red hearts, and two red outlined hearts, so you can keep track of which forks belong to who. Of course, on Valentine's Day, that might not really matter, but it's a nice decorative touch.

Besides helping you make a fun Valentine's Day dessert, I think this would made a cute gift, along with some good chocolate and some berries and cake for dipping. This is nice quality, and the bowl could serve other purposes when it's not being used for fondue.

Happy Valentine's Day! What are you serving?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Spring Spritz Cookies

I love cookies ...

I'll admit that I bake more cookies during the Christmas season, but I bake them pretty much all year long, as the mood strikes. Around here, most evenings are cool, even in the summer, so that's a perfect time to send a tray or two of cookies to the oven.

Spritz cookies are one of my favorites. Not only do I like the flavor and texture, but they're also pretty, and fun to make.

Downside is that you need a cookie press. I suppose you could also use a pastry bag, but a cookie press has a few advantages. Like, it's easier.

Also, with some presses, you can get extra disks to make even more cookie shapes. I recently received the spring disk set from OXO and had some fun with it. I already had the cookie press, which I wrote about in my holiday gift, guide, and I recently bought the fall disk set. I'm pretty sure that if they come up with more disks, I'll buy them.

The spring set included a rose, a flower bouquet, two hearts, a shamrock, a cherry blossom, and the word "love." My favorite was the flower bouquet, maybe because it was so intricate, but the rest were also really nice. Needless to say, the shamrock would look nice tinted green for St. Patrick's day.

As soon as the disks showed up, I ripped 'em open and started making cookies.

Hey, I needed them for a party.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, I decided to use a recipe from OXO's website. I really liked this one, because it wasn't just butter - it also had cream cheese. The cheese gave these cookies a richness that I loved.

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies
Recipe by OXO

Makes about 8 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
3 ounces brick cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together cubed butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and egg yolk, beating until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and cinnamon. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until well incorporated.

Place dough in Cookie Press with desired disk. Press dough out onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges. Rotate baking sheet halfway through baking time.

Disclosure: I received the spring disk set from OXO at my requested, but I was ready to purchase it because I knew I wanted it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cuban Chicken Cordon Bleu

I love Cuban food, and Cuban sandwiches in particular. So when I saw a recipe for Cuban Chicken Cordon Blue in the book Stuffed by Dan Whalen, I knew I had to give it a try. The general idea is that you flatten some chicken breasts and then stuff them with ham, Swiss cheese, pickle and a smear of mustard.

As is usual when I'm making a recipe from a new book, I followed the recipe as closely as possible. Unfortunately, I ran into couple little glitches along the way. Not necessarily recipe problems, but things where I might have gone off the rails a bit. You'll see.

Technical difficulties aside, we really liked the results a lot. And to be honest, once these were cooked, you really couldn't tell that I had any difficulties. I like that in a recipe. You can mess up, but the results still look presentable and taste great.

Cuban Chicken Cordon Bleu
Adapated from Stuffed by Dan Whalen

For the chicken rolls:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt (maybe) and pepper
6 tablespoons mustard (I suggest brown)
6 large slices rosemary ham (I suggest thin-sliced deli ham)
12 slices dill pickle
6 slices Swiss cheese

For the breading:
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups bread crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying

Slice the chicken breasts the long way to form two thinner cutlets.

This was my first technical difficulty. Chicken breasts come in different sizes, and mine weren't huge. I think this would have worked better if I had bought larger chicken breasts, or if I had not sliced them into two pieces per breast. At some point, you don't want these to be overly huge, because you'd probably want each one as a serving, but you could also present these as slices, or cut each one in half if they're really huge. So ... choose your breasts wisely.

Now, pound the chicken breast halves thinner. The instructions suggested using two sheets of plastic wrap, but I put them, one at a time, into a zip-top plastic bag to pound them thinner. That's just what I do. Less mess since nothing can escape from the sides, and the plastic is thicker so it holds up to the pounding and it just seems easier to manage than some flimsy plastic wrap. But you can do it any way you like. I've been known to just flatten them with the chicken breasts sitting on my cutting board. As long as you end up with evenly-thick slices that can be rolled, you're good to go.

One at a time, you salt-and-pepper the chicken breasts. I didn't add any salt, since the ham, cheese, and pickles were all salty ingredients. I think it was a good choice. If I was going to salt, I'd add it to the flour or the bread crumbs rather than the inside part of the chicken.

So, for the mustard, I used a brown mustard because that's what I use for Cuban sandwiches. I think it makes a difference, but use yellow mustard, if that's what you have. You probably don't want to use hot Chinese mustard ... but then again, that could be interesting, too. Your choice.

Then on top of the mustard goes 1 slice of the rosemary ham. Okay, here's my second technical difficulty. I had no idea what "rosemary ham" might be. I'd never heard of it, and never seen it. Maybe it's a regional thing. I assumed it wasn't a ham steak, but the note to use a "large" slice was puzzling. When you buy deli ham or lunchmeat-style ham, the slices tend to be all the same size, but you can vary the thickness. I ended up with a slightly thick slice of regular lunchmeat-style ham, which worked, but not as well as it could have. When it came to rolling, I would have been MUCH better off with paper-thin slices of ham and using more than one slice if I wanted more ham flavor. The thick(ish) ham slices made this harder to roll. Or, then again, if my chicken breasts had been a little larger, this might have been fine. Stupid chicken breasts. Sigh.

Then you add the pickle chips and the cheese. That's easy enough.

And now the rolling. The instructions suggested using the plastic wrap to help the rolling process, but I had used one plastic bag, so my chicken breasts weren't all sitting on pieces of plastic. No biggie, except that for some reason I envisioned this rolling like a jelly roll, with a swirl of chicken and filling. No go, there. What I ended up with was ham wrapped around pickle and cheese, and chicken wrapped around that. Which actually makes more sense because with the chicken all on the outside rather than swirled in the center, it cooks more evenly.

As far as the cheese, a little log of cheese or even shredded would be fine since it didn't need to be swirly. Heck, chopped pickles mixed with the cheese might have been fun, too.

Next time, I'm going to wrap the ham around the pickle and cheese, then put the ham on top of the chicken breast and wrap the chicken around the outside and secure. I think that will be easier and the final result won't be any different.

Since one of my chicken breasts was undersized, I ended up taking one of the six pieces and using that to fill out some of the halves that were a little smaller. That worked well, and I ended up with a total of five rolls. And, once cooked, you'd never know I did that. Pretty cool.

It's suggested that you wrap each chicken breast in the plastic and twist the ends to tighten the rolls and refrigerate them as you make the rest. I didn't do that. But if I was making these for company, I might. Making them ahead and refrigerating would make this a pretty quick dinner, since you just unwrap, bread, fry, and bake. Once they're in the oven, you have time to make a salad and set the table.

Then you need a lightly greased baking dish - I used a quarter-sheet pan lined with aluminum foil rather than a baking dish, and it was just right for my 5 rolls with some space between them. So if you're using a baking dish, you'll need a pretty large one, particularly if your chicken breasts are larger than the ones I used. But ... I tend to use sheet pans for a whole lot of stuff. I do have some pretty baking dishes, but I tend to use them when I'm going to serve in the dishes.

Which ... hmmm ... if you had smaller baking dishes, you could cook these each in their own dish and serve in the dishes. That's a thought.

So ... after unwrapping the breasts from the plastic, secure with toothpicks so they don't unroll. I actually toothpicked as I made them, since I skipped the plastic wrap step. If they're plastic-wrapped for a while, they might not need the picks, but they're good insurance. I used 2 picks in each one. Some could have worked with just one, but I always use the same number in each piece when I do something like this - that's so I know how many I need to remove later.

Dredge in flour, then coat with the eggs, then coat with the bread crumbs. You know how to do this, right? Flour in one flat dish, eggs in another, and crumbs in another. Then just roll them through, coating on all sides with each ingredient.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, and brown the crumbed chicken on all sides, cooking in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan. As they're done, transfer to the baking sheet/dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. I'm not actually sure if they needed that much cooking, but I guess it depends on how thick your chicken layer is, and how long it took to brown them on the stovetop. They might be pretty close to cooked when they're done browning, but you also want to heat the filling and melt the cheese, so some oven time makes sense.

And ... ta da!

About the book:

The premise of this books is things stuffed into other things, and I've got to say there are a lot of creative ideas, and a lot of mashups of cuisines, which is something I like. So there are recipes like cheesesteak pot stickers, carnitas burrito manicotti, Italian bolognese polenta tamales, mac and cheese ravioli, and teriyaki ravioli.

Some of these are the types of recipes where you'd purposely go into the kitchen and make them totally from scratch (like the chicken I made), but others I think would be great for those days when you've got something left over and you're looking for some way to transform it into something else.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be making the mac and cheese stuffed burgers the next time I have a little bit of mac and cheese left over, for example.

There are also a lot of recipes that are great inspirations for other things. There's a recipe for couscous salad that's stuffed into giant shell pasta. And the first thing I thought was, wouldn't that be great stuffed with tuna salad? Or a shrimp seafood salad?

That's one thing I love about cookbooks - you see one thing and think, "gee, that's great. And now let me run with that idea and try something else." With all the crazy "stuff this into that" recipes here, there's lots of room here for inspiration.

This might even get me out of my rut where all leftovers are fodder for tacos.

Dan Whalen blogs at The Food in My Beard. Go visit him there.

This book was provided to me by the publisher for review. Opinions are my own.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gadgets: Mastrad Qwik WIsk

This is probably going to get me a ticket on the crazy train, but I actually like the process of hand-whipping cream to make my own whipped cream. Unfortunately, after a bad work relationship with a poorly designed computer mouse, my wrist doesn't enjoy the process quite so much. So I use my stand mixer.

The Mastrad Qwik Wisk ($19.99) gives me another option, particularly for small quantities. The Qwik Wisk holds a bit over a cup, so it's a good choice for a few small servings of whipped cream. It operates with an up-and-down motion, with two spinning disks doing the whipping in the enclosed container.

Like many kitchen gadgets these days, this is another that would be great for kids who want to help in the kitchen, since the motion is simple and the mess is contained. Also great for folks who have lost some manual dexterity.

I tested it first (and second and third) by making whipped cream, and it did a fine job - just as good as I'd get from using a whisk and a bowl, but less messy. Next, I made salad dressing. And last, mayonnaise.

I have to say that I was particularly pleased with the mayonnaise, since making that in small quantities can be annoying. With too few egg yolks, a standard blender won't grab the yolks to beat them before adding the oil, and a stand mixer is overkill for a small job like that.

Since the Qwik Wisk's lower disk reaches all the way to the bottom of the container, it had no trouble grabbing and whipping a single egg yolk in preparation for making mayonnaise, and it had no trouble incorporating the oil, even when I glugged it in a little too fast. And, since you're doing this by hand, you can feel the ingredients thicken as you whip.

While this wouldn't be useful for someone who makes whipped cream by the gallon and mayonnaise by the quart, it's quite useful for someone who wants to make a cup of whipped cream or mayonnaise and who doesn't want to dirty a big bowl in the process.

The rubber base of the whipper comes off and becomes a lid for the container, so you can use it for storage of the finished product, if you like.

And, completely irrelevant - it's kind of fun to use.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Basic Drop Biscuits

The first version of my book proposal included some quick bread and muffin recipes, but after some discussion, it was decided that we'd focus on yeast breads rather than splitting the book between chemically leavened and yeast leavened.

To be honest, I like the current concept better. It's more tightly focused. And you know I love yeast breads. Mmmm. Yeasty.

But I also love muffins, quick breads, biscuits, and all the other baked goods.

Biscuits are like emergency bread. You can make them very quickly ... but ... but ... you can enhance their flavor by letting them hang around for a while. And the texture is different as well. Give this method a try and see what you think!

The easiest biscuits of all, drop biscuits, don’t require any rolling, folding, shaping, or cutting. They aren’t the pretty in the traditional sense, but the hills, valleys, and craters have a rugged beauty all their own.

And the ingredient list is short.

Basic Drop Biscuits
Makes 8 biscuits

2 cups (9 ounces) self rising flour
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup milk

Place the flour in a medium bowl. Add the butter and cut with a pastry cutter or two knives until the butter pieces are no larger than small peas. Add the milk, stir to combine, just until all the flour is moistened.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate until morning. Yup, that's what I said. Cover and refrigerate. The flour will hydrate during the long rest and you'll end up with better biscuits. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Or, obviously, you could bake these right away. Your choice.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a disher or a large spoon, portion the dough into 8 equal mounds on the baking sheet, leaving space between them. Flatten the biscuits slightly.

Bake the biscuits at 400 degrees until golden brown on top, about 25 minutes. Take the biscuits out of the oven and put on a rack. Serve warm.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Make Ahead Bread ... The Good Cook blogger event!

You might have noticed that I took a few days off from blogging in the last couple weeks. That's because the second half of my book was due to the publisher on February 1, and I was busy finishing a lot of little things.

Now that it's turned in, I can take a few deep breaths and get back to cooking, blogging, writing, and baking.

But meanwhile, my book, Make Ahead Bread is already up for sale on Amazon. SQUeeeeeee!

Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, it's time to get back to work, I guess.

Want something FREE?

But first, I have a little something for you. Or, more accurately, my good friends at Good Cook have a deal for you. If you pre-order my book on Amazon before Feb 28, Good Cook will send you a free loaf pan. Just like that. No winning or raffling or choosing. Just pre-order, fill out this form, and a loaf pan will get sent to you from Good Cook.

To get the pan, fill out the form HERE.

The theme of Make Ahead Bread is breaking the bread-baking process into several steps so that you can fit the prep work and baking into your schedule. For most of the recipes, on the day you want to bake, you just preheat the oven and bake.

There are also recipes for sauces, compound butters, and some fun recipes for using left over bread. Many of the recipes are very simple, so even new bakers should get a good result.

The following recipe was published previously on this blog, and you might say it's a precursor to the methods used in the book. It's not quite the same, but it's still a recipe that's designed to be easy, even for non-bakers.

The Simplest White Bread Ever

2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 oz) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil

Add the sugar and yeast to the water in your measuring cup and stir to combine. If you're using anything except an instant yeast, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture is lively and bubbly. If it's instant yeast, you can continue without proofing, or let it proof to ease your mind that the yeast is alive - your choice.

Put the flour and salt into a medium bowl, and stir to distribute salt.

Add the water/yeast mixture to the the bowl with the flour, and stir to combine all the ingredients.

Sprinkle some flour on your countertop and dump the dough mixture onto the counter. Knead for a minute or two, adding flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. You don't need to knead until the dough is stretchy and elastic - just knead until it's a nice cohesive mixture and not a lumpy, sticky, blobby mess. Form it into a ball.

Drizzle the olive oil into a zip-top bag and plop the dough into the bag. Make sure the dough is completely coated with olive oil, zip the top, and stash it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, take the bag out of the fridge and massage it a bit, still in the bag, to mash out all the bubbles in the dough. You may need to open the bag to let the air out, but reseal it after.

Leave the bag on the countertop until the dough has come to room temperature, about an hour. It will rise and expand a bit during that time.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of a loaf pan.

Sprinkle some flour on your countertop, and dump the dough onto the counter. You don't need to squeeze every bit of olive oil out of the bag, but don't try to hold it back, either.

Knead and fold it a bit to incorporate the olive oil into the dough, then form the dough into a log that will fit into your loaf pan.

Put the loaf into the pan, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rise until it has at least doubled in size. I used an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 pan and let it rise until it was slightly higher than the pan.

Remove the plastic wrap and slash the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Let it rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, then place it on a rack to cool completely before slicing.

And now for a blogger event!

You probably have noticed that I've gone quite a number of posts featuring Good Cook products. Now, they're featuring ME in a blogger event. A bunch of the Good Cook Kitchen Experts will be making some of my recipes, blogging about it, and telling their readers about the loaf pan offer. Check out the linky below for their awesome bread creations!

Thanks to Good Cook for all the awesome support, and for putting together the first blogger event featuring my book.

And here's a link to an article on the Good Cook site featuring my book. Awesome, right?

And thanks to everyone who pre-ordered the book! If you ordered before the free loaf pans were offered, you can fill out the form and get your loaf pan. Isn't that awesome?


You can get 25% off your order at Good Cook with the promo code BAKEBREAD. I suggest you go buy some loaf pans. Just because.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Blueberry yogurt, anyone?

Let the yogurt games begin.
Ice cream with blueberry yogurt. Yum.

I just got an email that said, "Results of a national taste test that revealed nearly two out of three consumers prefer the taste of Yoplait Greek blueberry over Chobani."

I generally don't like to pick sides when it comes to products, but I totally get this. My husband generally doesn't like yogurt, but when we got some of the Yoplait Greek to sample quite some time ago, he liked it. And not just, "ugh, I'll eat it if I have to." He was happy to eat it. He liked it.

That says something.

And I have to agree. There's something really appealing about the Yoplait Greek Blueberry. Here's where I used it to make ice cream.

And I used the pineapple yogurt to make cake here. I want to do that again with the blueberry.

So, I'm more than happy to help promote Yoplait's taste-off, where they're inviting consumers to try their yogurt and make comments. Check the Twitter feed - they're allowing the Chobani fans to comment as well. Got to love that.

On a first come, first serve basis at,Yoplait is supplying the first 5,000 visitors with the goods to conduct their own taste test at home, including gift cards for free yogurt.

In addition, Yoplait is conducting Taste-Off taste tests at grocery stores all over the country. I'm really hoping they show up at a store in my neighborhood. Not that I want to be on a commercial or anything, but I love it that they're taking the risk and seeing what consumers really prefer.

Have you tried the Yoplait Greek? What do you think?

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Yoplait to promote the Taste Off, but I was not required to offer my opinion on the product. However, I wouldn't have posted this if I didn't really like it.

Juicing! Three Recipes for Tasty Juices

Do you have a juicer? What do you put in it?

I use my juicer a lot for tomatoes. but now that the tomato season is over, there are other things to be juiced. I'll admit that one of my favorites is pineapple juice, but that doesn't mean I can't play around a little bit, right?

Pink Pineapple Thing
Makes about 3 cups

Pineapples are cheap right now, with piles of them at the grocery store. It's tempting to bring home a few extras. And then ... juice!

The pink color is from fresh cranberries, enjoying their short season (you could also use frozen berries, if you bought extra and froze them). The cranberries add their tartness, which is nicely balanced by the pineapple and the apple.

While the color is primarily from the cranberries, the flavor is mostly from the pineapple, but at the same time the color fools you momentarily, evoking watermelon before the pineapple says hello to your taste buds.

The nice thing about juicing a pineapple is that you don't need to completely peel it, and you don't have to core it at all. I remove most of tough skin, but I don't worry about getting all the eyes removed, as I would if I was serving slices. And I leave the core in.

Got leftovers? While this is intended as a morning juice or afternoon pick-me-up, it would be completely at home in a cocktail glass.

1 pineapple
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 apple

Prep the fruit according to your juicer manufacturer's directions, and juice all of the fruits. Serve chilled.

Very Orange Thing
Makes about 1 pint

I usually juice oranges with a squeezer or a reamer, but I decided that since I was tormenting fruits and vegetables, anyway, it made sense to use the electric juicer, and I was very pleased with the results.

I peeled two of the oranges to get eliminate the bitter pith, but I left one unpeeled. This allowed the orange oil from the peel to make its way into the juice.

Meanwhile, carrots added sweetness and body to the drink, and making it heartier than a citrus-only beverage.

Ginger is a very strong flavor, so don't get carried away with it. If you don't get enough ginger flavor, you can add more, but once it's there, you can't take it out. I wanted the ginger to be a back note in this, so I was conservative.

Interestingly, I liked this better after it rested for a while in the refrigerator and the flavors mingled a little, but it was also very good when I first made it.

6 carrots, scrubbed or peeled
3 oranges, 1 unpeeled
1 piece of ginger, about 1/8 inch thick, 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter

Prep the fruit according to your juicer manufacturer's directions, and juice all of the fruits. Serve chilled.

Green Thing
Makes about 3 cups

I'm not really into the super-green juices that taste like fresh lawn, but that doesn't mean I don't like green. This drink is a definitely green, and very refreshing. You can peel the cucumber, or not, depending on your preference and the type of cucumber you buy. If you don't peel the cucumber, the drink will be much more green than if you don't peel.

The lemon makes an appearance here to add some brightness, and this is the only one of the juices where I thought salt was needed. Without it, the cucumber flavor got lost and the juice tasted flat. A small pinch of salt made a huge difference.

I expected the fennel flavor to be stronger than it was. The predominant flavor here is the cucumber, with a little brightness from the lemon and a mingle of the rest of the other vegetables. If you're into garnishes, a dollop of Greek-style yogurt would be very appropriate here, with a fennel-frond stalk or a celery stalk as a stir-stick. Which makes a lot of sense, since my inspiration for this juice was tziatziki sauce.

2 large cucumbers
1 bulb fennel
1/4 lemon, peeled
1 stalk celery
1/4 green bell pepper
Pinch of salt.

Prep the vegetables according to your juicer manufacturer's directions, and juice all of the vegetables. Serve chilled.