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10.23.2004

Espresso Brownies


**Update**
I'm leaving this picture up because I like it but the brownies are a bust. I ate one last night and it felt like a lead weight in my stomach. I ate half of one this afternoon and the same fate befell me. So...I wouldn't feel right about leaving them up on the site. Don't make them! I promise to post a better dessert recipe in its place.

10.20.2004

Tapenade


In the south of France this summer I fell in love with olive tapenade all over again. The only problem is that it often contains anchovy paste. Luckily in the markets in France I was able to find some that was just olives and olive oil. People always say a mediterranean diet is the key to longevity. I say the more olive oil the better. Tapenade is a great little snack or party food. John is obsessed with it. It's even better with a little white wine or to be really authentic, some rose from the Rhone region. Here is the recipe. Adjust the ingredients to taste.
Olive Tapenade
Ingredients
20 pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
(Add some sliced black olives from a can too to give it a deeper color)
1 Tbsp or less of rinsed, drained, and chopped capers
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper

Instructions
Use a food processor or blender to create a smooth paste. Refrigerate and use within two weeks.

Risotto


I made the risotto again last night. This time I took a picture.

10.19.2004

Nutritional Yeast



I've posted a bunch of recipes that contain Nutritional Yeast in place of cheese or as a thickening agent. So, I decided I should probably post about the product I'm talking about. It is an excellent source of protein (52%), containing essential amino acids as well as being rich in vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins. It is also an excellent source of folic acid, which is important for formation, growth, and reproduction of red blood cells. Don't confuse it with regular yeast for baking breads or brewer's yeast which is used in production of beer. It is great on popcorn, as it has a sort of nutty, cheesy flavor. It thickens soups really well and is supposed to help digestion too. You can find it at Whole Foods or online.

10.16.2004

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins


Remember when there was a muffin craze in the late 80's and everyone thought that if something was called a muffin (when it really was a cupcake) that it was healthy? Most muffins are unfortunately not healthy. These muffins however, are made with whole wheat pastry flour, applesauce, and unrefined cane sugar so they are definitely healthy but definitely tasty as well. Whole wheat pastry flour has more nutrients and fiber as well as a lower gluten content than white flour but is not heavy like straight up whole wheat flour. Both whole wheat pastry flour and unrefined cane sugar can be found in regular grocery stores and are infinitely better for you than their refined counterparts. The best part is: they don't really sacrifice taste at all. So, throw out your white sugar and white flour...they are evil! Here is the recipe:

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

Topping
2 Tbsp unbleached cane sugar (use Florida Crystals or like)
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Dry Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp unbleached cane sugar (use Florida Crystals or like)
1 tsp non-aluminum baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
½ cup applesauce (the individual snack pack ones are exactly 1/2 cup!)
¼ cup soy or rice milk or regular milk
1 Tbsp REAL maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 ½ tsp fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 6-muffin tin with a little margarine (use Earth Balance brand) or oil. Set aside.
2. Combine sugar and cinnamon for the topping in a small bowl, and set aside.
3. Place dry ingredients EXCEPT baking powder in a medium mixing bowl, and stir together.
4. Place the wet ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir them together well. Add the baking powder to the dry ingredients and mix. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients right away and mix VERY lightly. There should be lots of lumps and probably still some flour that’s a little dry. DON’T OVER MIX. (That was always my downfall and made the muffins heavy.)
5. Immediately spoon the batter equally into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle surface with the cinnamon sugar mixture from the first step and place on the center rack of the oven. (They shouldn’t be too close to the top or bottom.)
Bake muffins for 20-25 min. Remove the muffins from the oven, and allow them to rest for 2 to 3 minutes in the pan before eating. Serve warm or at room temp. Baked goods that don’t contain eggs or dairy can be gummy while still hot. It’s best to let them cool off a bit before tasting.

10.15.2004

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread


**Update: Recipe**
When we were in France this summer I fell in love with Nutella. This chocolate hazelnut spread is creamy and amazing on any bread. Let's face it, sometimes I like a little chocolate for breakfast. In the states I've tried to buy it but it contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil. In Europe that was not on the list of ingredients. Partially hydrogentaed soybean oil (sometimes called fracitonated oil as well) is probably why America is so fat and unhealthy. It makes foods able to have really long shelf lives, so imagine what it must do inside your body! I make it a point to never buy anything that contains it. So, for that reason I haven't been able to induldge my love of Nutella since Europe. I decided I would just make my own. It is delicious and much healthier since it's made from scratch. It seems to last forever so the work that it requires really pays off. Here is the recipe:

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients (These ingredients are approximations. Add or subtract for your taste)
1 cup good quality chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s has excellent ones, Ghiardelli is a good brand from regular grocery stores)
¼ cup milk (soy, half+half, reg. Milk)
¼ lightly packed brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup roasted, unsalted hazelnuts (I used roasted, salted and then just rinsed the salt off)

Directions
1. Heat the chocolate and milk in a large glass bowl that is sitting on top of a pot of slowly boiling water. (this is essentially called a double boiler) Stir the chocolate making sure it doesn’t burn. Add more milk if it looks like it won’t become liquid. Be patient.
2. In a food processor pulverize the hazelnuts as finely as possible.
3. Turn off the heat once chocolate has liquefied and is creamy. Add the salt, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve
4. Add the hazelnuts to the chocolate mixture and mix well.
5. Put the spread into a bowl and refrigerate until firm.

10.14.2004

Brown Rice Risotto

I make risotto with brown rice instead of arborio because it is so healthy for you. I made this last night and it got rave reviews from john. Here is the recipe. (Sorry no pic!)

Cremini risotto with Spinach

Ingredients
· 2 cups crimini or portobello mushrooms, sliced
· 2 cups vegetable broth
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 medium onion, chopped
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 cup uncooked short grain brown rice
· 1/2 cup dry white wine
· 1 tablespoon lemon juice
· 1/4 cup nutritional yeast or ¼ grated parmesan reggiano
· Black pepper to taste
· 1 pound spinach leaves, washed and chopped
· 1 clove garlic, minced
Directions
1. Heat the vegetable broth to boiling over high heat in a large saucepan.
2. Reduce heat to low and simmer.
3. In another large saucepan (the one the risotto will end up in), heat oil over medium heat.
4. Cook mushrooms, onions, and garlic in the oil, stirring often, for about four minutes.
5. Add rice, wine, and simmering broth.
6. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring often.
7. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 25 minutes.
8. Turn off heat and allow to stand, covered, for ten minutes.
9. At this time, cook the spinach in a large sauce pan with olive oil and a clove of garlic just until it starts to wilt. You don’t want it to turn olive green. It should stay a nice dark green color. This only take a few minutes.
10. Add lemon juice and nutritional yeast or cheese to the risotto and stir well, until the mixture becomes creamy.
11. Serve with fresh parsley garnish a top the spinach.
12. Serves four.

Granulated Garlic and Onion

The granulated garlic and onion from Morton and Bassett can be really good in a pinch. I am a firm believer in using fresh ingredients but sometimes you need a little shake of something at the end of the preparation if it just doesn't taste the way you wanted it to. I find these are best in soups and stir frys. They also have dried parsley in them, which adds a nice fleck of color. They are different from powdered onion and garlic which are shitty and taste bad. Powdered garlic and onion are really processed and contain lots of starchs and chemicals. The granulated stuff is real onion and garlic that has been dried and crushed. They say that 1/2 tsp equals a small onion. Potent stuff. Highly worth investing in. They last quite a while. You can buy them at the regular grocery store with the other fancy spices. Not every grocery chain carries them, but you just have to shop around. Or order online. I even found them in the small town John's parents live in.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup


The other night I made a really good grilled cheese on this sprouted multigrain bread which really makes it a more filling sandwich. I served it with a baby romaine salad dressed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar (just a TINY bit of each goes a long way!) and a homemade tomato soup that was so easy and so delicious. Here is the recipe:

Tomato Soup

Ingredients
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (or 1 cup if you have a 15oz can of tomato sauce)
2 cup rice milk (if you are using regular milk I might suggest using 1 cup milk and one cup water so it won't be too rich)
1 tablespoon cornstarch (I used Nutritional Yeast which has vitamins vegetarians need as well as flavor and thickening properties)
PINCH of onion granules (i'll post about these) or onion powder (less if using onion powder)

Directions:
Add 1 1/2 cups of milk and 8 oz. tomato sauce, and the soy sauce to a sauce pan and heat but don't boil. Mix 1 T. cornstarch with remaining 1/2 cup of milk or water. Add cornstarch/milk/water mixture to soup, stirring constantly until thickened. Add the onion granules and whatever other seasonings you want. I used a tiny amount of dry basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.

Serve the soup with the salad and grilled cheese. I had a glass of pinot grigio in my little european wine glasses with it as well.

10.12.2004

Herbs

Herbs are essential. Fresh herbs are even more essential. Even just a little chopped fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley sprinkled into macaroni and cheese makes it gourmet. Herbs are also incredibly expensive to buy at the store (except for the $1.99 basil they sell at Trader Joe's.) If I had a recipe that called for a fresh herb I would buy it, use the little bit I needed and then the rest would inevitably rot in the fridge. So, long story short, I decided to grow the herbs I most frequently use in cute little pots on my balcony. I grow basil, parsely, rosemary, and thyme. If you decide to invest in a little plant I recommend basil first. It is so amazing because now when I need a little of an herb for a recipe, I just go out to the balcony and harvest it. I feel like a little farmer. A little farmer that makes an excellent pesto. I bought my plants at Lowe's hardware store and they cost about $1.99 a plant. And they just keep on giving.

Espresso

Making espresso at home is one of my favorite indulgences. Contrary to what I had originally thought, it is not necessary to have one of those machines that costs $400. There are aluminium pots that go on the stove top. They are often called "moka pots" and are apparently a favorite way to make espresso at home in Italy. This one from Ikea is only $6.99 and makes three espressos. The picture posted above is an espresso set from Bed, Bath and Beyond which is only $9.99. Drinking espresso out of the demitasse cups is at least 65% of the fun. Plus you can serve it to friends and really impress them. If you don't like to drink espresso plain you can use it to make any of the espresso drinks that you pay 10 bucks for at Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Again, you don't need a milk frother to make these. All you do is put really cold milk (straight out of the fridge) into a sauce pan on the stove. Begin to heat milk slowly while whisking it. As the milk continues to heat whisk faster and faster and a stiff foam will form. (you really have to whip the hell out of it.) Don't let it scald. Take off the heat and pour the milk under the foam into a cup or mug that you have already put the desired amount of espresso in. Top with as much foam as you want depending on the type of drink you are making. Here are recipes for common drinks like: lattes, cappuccino, mochas etc. Enjoy!
Pure Espresso Drinks:
Basic Espresso: A single shot (approximately 1 to 1-1/2 oz of espresso).
Espresso Macchiato: A single serving of espresso topped with a dollop of frothed(foamed/textured) milk.Cappucchino Drinks:
Basic Cappucchino: 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk (no foam), and 1/3 frothed milk. Put the steamed milk in first, then pour the espresso, and lastly finish off with the layer of frothed milk. This will allow the espresso to settle between the milk and the foam.
Cafe Latte Drinks:
Basic Cafe Latte: Make a single shot of espresso. Add steamed milk to fill an 8 to 10 oz. latte mug (preferably clear). There should be a very fine layer of foam on the top.
Flavored Cafe Latte: Lattes are frequently flavored with Italian syrups. First pour in the espresso, then the flavor of choice, and then the milk. (usually 3 squirts of flavor for 8 oz. cup, 4 squirts for 12 oz. cup, and 5 squirts for 16 oz. cup, and so on)
Caffè Mocha
Prepare steamed milk. Add 1 oz chocolate syrup to 2 oz steamed milk and mix well. Brew a single espresso and transfer to a tall glass. Add the chocolate milk. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles if desired.

This site.

I've created this site to introduce people to the joy of creating food at home from simple ingredients. I'll be developing this site further with recipes, info and how-tos. Check back here frequently to see what I'm doing.