Tip of the Week

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Dessert: Quick & Easy Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

This is the time of year that I look forward to Pumpkin Pie; it's my favorite dish at Thanksgiving.  There's just something about Pumpkin and Cinnamon that excites my taste buds, but I'm not a big fan of the pie crust. So when I make pumpkin pie from scratch, I skip the traditional pie crust entirely and make a quick graham cracker with a twist crust.  This really simplifies making pie from scratch and you can easily impress your friends and family with a homemade pie.  Oh, and I love using my food processor for this recipe.

1 1/2 cups of graham cracker cookies - ground (preferable homemade)
1/2 - 3/4 cups of pecans - ground
1 tbsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup of brown sugar (if you want a sweeter crust)
about 1 stick of melted butter

2 eggs, beaten
16 oz of pumpkin puree (preferably homemade)
3/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
2-3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.  Combine all ingredients, expect butter in a food processer and process until ground crumbs.  See picture.
3.  Slowly add butter and mix by hand or in the food processor until crumbs start to combine.
4.  Grease pie dish and press crumbs into the bottom and sides of dish.  Bake for about 5-10 minutes in the oven.  Do not let the edges burn or become too dark.
5.  Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl and mix.
6.  Pour into cooled pie crust.  Bake 15 minutes.
7.  Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 45 minutes or until the center is set and knife in the center comes out clean.
8.  Allow to cool and serve.  Can be made a day ahead

The edges turned out slightly 'burned'

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fried Fish Sandwich

Every once in a while I like to batter some cod and make one of two choices - fish tacos or fish & chips.  This time I created a little twist as I was inspired by an episode of Sandwich King on the Food Network.  Now I have three choices when I batter cod - tacos, fish & chips or sandwich.


Sandwich & Fish Batter:
2 portions of cod (any size of your choice)
1 bottle of beer - preferable dark beer
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
Spice mixture - Ancho-Chili powder, Chiptole Chili powder, Chili powder, Paprika, Cumin, and a pinch of Cayenne (all to taste or about 1 tsp each)
Salt & Pepper
Canola Oil
2-3 radishes - sliced thinly
Green leaf lettuce
Fresh baked bread, sliced - Pugliese or Sourdough works best

Tartar Sauce:
2-3 Dill pickles, chopped (you can substitute Bread & Butter or Sweet if you prefer)
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 tsp ground mustard powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & Pepper

1. Salt and Pepper your cod portions.  Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven.
2.  Mix all dry ingredients for the batter, then add beer.  Whisk until blended and no lumps.
3.  Oil should be about 350 degrees.  Dip cod 1 portion at a time in the batter and carefully place in oil.  Fry, flipping once until golden brown.  If you use a dark beer the batter will be darker.
4.  Drain both fried pieces on a rack placed in a baking tray.  (see picture)
5.  Meanwhile mix all ingredients for Tartar sauce.  Allow to chill in the refrigerator.
6.  Slice bread and radishes.
7.  Assemble sandwich and enjoy!

A side of fries

Salt & Pepper your Cod portions

The Batter with spices

Homemade Tartar Sauce

Hot Oil! - Use Caution

Tray with rack to drain fried foods - Works great!

Sliced fresh bread

Assembling the Sandwich - radishes on the left, Tartar sauce on the right

Sandwich and fries - Dinner is served

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Deep Dish Pizza

I always make pizza at home these days, but do not normally go for a deep dish pizza.  I find deep dish pizza to be a bit more "work" than just making my normal pizza dough.

Here's what I used to bake my deep dish pizza. 

Deep Dish Pizza Kit (find at online retailers)

For the pizza dough you can find recipes for specific deep dish pizza, but I just use my normal pizza dough and add a little medium or course grind cornmeal.  The cornmeal gives the dough a little more of a bite or crunch and that's what I like about a deep dish pizza.

Add toppings, sauce and cheese (not in that order) - and the pizza is ready for the oven.

Deep Dish Pizza dough

Time to eat!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baked Banana-Kahlua French Toast - 2 Recipes

This recipe came about because I had some leftover loaves of Banana-Kahlua bread in my freezer.  Freshly baked this version of traditional banana bread is delicious, but I wanted something different.  I've tried stuffing the bread slices and making french toast that way, but without marscarpone or cream cheese this wasn't an option.  My next idea was baked french toast and viola - a yummy dessert recipe and no food wasted.  So there are two recipes, one for the banana bread (which is great on it's own) and the baked french toast.

Banana-Kahlua Bread:

Ingredients -
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 stick of butter at room temperature or 1/2 cup of applesauce
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup kahula
1/2 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark)
1/2 cups nuts (walnuts work best), optional

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Mash ripe bananas in a bowl and add buttermilk, kahula, and vanilla.  Mix until combined
3.  In a separate bowl add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk to combine.
4.  In another bowl, whisk sugar, eggs and butter together.
5.  Combine flour mixture and banana mixture slowly to the sugar mixture.  Mix until combined.
6.  Add chocolate chips and nuts (if desired). Stir until combined, do not over stir.
7.  In a greased loaf pan, add half of the batter.  Makes two loaves of bread.
8.  Bake loaves for about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
9.  Remove from oven and cool.  Then remove from pan.
10.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  To freeze a loaf, allow to cool then wrap in foil and place in a ziplock bag.  Keeps in the freezer for 2-3 months.  Defrost completely before serving.

Baked French Toast:

Ingredients -
1 loaf of Banana-Kahula Bread, sliced
6 eggs
3 cups whole milk
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Instructions -
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Grease a large baking dish and place sliced bread in the dish.  Layer the slices.
3.  Mix the other ingredients together.  Pour over the slices.
4.  Bake in the oven for about 40-45 minutes.

Tip of the Month: Substituting Ingredients when cooking

I am finally able to sit down and post my November tip, though it's a bit late when I usually post at the beginning of the month.  Since Thanksgiving is just days away, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about cooking and substituting ingredients.  The Fall and Winter are always times of year that I bake more, partly because I don't like to have the oven on when it's hot outside.  On cooler days, the oven can warm the house and I don't mind that.

There are many reasons why you might want to substitute ingredients in a recipe, here are the one's I find to be more common, but by-no-means all of them:
       1.  Cannot find the specific ingredient
       2.  Do not have the ingredient in your pantry (and do not want to go to the store)
       3.  Want to include a healthier ingredient
       4.  Do not like a specific ingredient
       5.  Allergic or food-sensitive to a specific ingredient

No matter what your reasoning is, let's figure out how to substitute and not drastically alter a recipe or the flavor.  For baking you can easily substitute ingredients like butter and oil and you do not need to change measurements.  If you have a cup of butter or oil, substitute 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce or cooked pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix).  I've used applesauce in place of butter and oil in many baking recipes, and just recently tried substituting pumpkin for butter in a whoopee pie recipe.  The pumpkin was a great substitute, especially since I was making the whoopee pie's for Halloween.   Applesauce and pumpkin make cookies, muffins, breads and the like moist and are great choices for vegans.  I haven't come up with a great alternative to eggs, if you are looking for a truly  vegan substitution.

Creamed Pumpkin and sugar

Whoopee pie with pumpkin substituted for butter

Now I wouldn't recommend substituting applesauce or pumpkin if you are making any pie crusts or pastry dough.  For those I still use butter and I might try coconut oil, but that will be for another day.

For cooking, I substitute or exclude ingredients depending on the what the recipe is.  For instance, I recently tried Giada's Orecchiette with Roasted Fennel recipe, but did not have any sun-dried tomatoes.  I could have substituted purely sun-dried tomatoes that were not in oil, however I did not have those either.  So to make sure I still had a tomato flavor in the dish, I simply added about a cup or so (to taste) of marinara sauce.  The result was fantastic and I think I might always make this recipe with the substitution.   In other cases you can substitute different cuts of meats or even types of meat.  I often substitute chicken breast for recipes that call for chicken thighs or drumsticks.  Other times, when I cannot find an ingredient, for instance harissa paste, I found a recipe to make my own and used that as a substitute.  Sometimes if can be a simple substitution baby bella mushrooms for button mushrooms or vegetable stock for chicken stock.

Substituting ingredients should not be difficult and remember it is possible to substitute, just make sure you like what you are replacing.  You can find some of my "experiments" with substituting Hemp Seed Here and Here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Caramel Coloring: Is it in your food?

Caramel coloring is found in many food items you consume, as well as your pet's food.  From name brands to generic you will find 'caramel' listed as an ingredient.  Traditional caramel, if you were to make it at home, involves melting sugar until it is brown and thickened.  'Caramel' found in your food is a manufactured chemical of sugar with ammonia and sulfites, resulting in 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole.(1)

Studies have shown that lab mice and/or rats develop cancers from ingesting 4 methylimidazole.  Here is a link for one research study published in the Archives of Toxicology.  Though:

            A consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day
            to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer
            in rodents," the FDA tells WebMD. (2)

However, it is not just soda that you find this 'caramel coloring', so I believe that consumers may be ingesting more than they may think.  The only way you know if you are ingesting it (but not the amount you are ingesting) is to read your food ingredient labels.  Other research indicates that over 15,000 cancers are associated with 4 methylimidazole, though I have not spent that much time locating these studies.

California has listed 4 methylimidazole to the list of known carcinogens resulting in Soda Companies to change the formula for developing this chemical. (3)  So the next time you pick up a can of soda you can expect that the caramel coloring has been changed today, but do you still want this chemical in your food?  In your pet's food?  Do we really need this to add a color to our food?  Now that you have some information you can decide for yourself.

(1) FDA Urged to Prohibit Carcinogenic "Caramel Coloring" by The Center for Science in the Public Interest. pub: February 16, 2011. <http://www.cspinet.org/new/201102161.html> Accessed November 1, 2012.

(2) Cancer in Colas' Caramel Coloring?. by Daniel J DeNoon. pub. March 5 2012. WebMD Health News. <http://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20120305/cancer-in-colas-caramel-coloring> Accessed November 1, 2012.

(3) Coke, Pepsi to change caramel coloring recipes. Associated Press. pub. March 9 2012; FOX News. <http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/03/09/coke-pepsi-to-change-caramel-coloring-recipes/>.  Accessed November 1, 2012.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Time Change

Did you know that Daylight Savings Time began during World War I?  The idea was originally mentioned by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 and proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson.

Daylight Savings Time, though sometimes referred to by other names, is used internationally, mostly among Northern Hemisphere countries  Check out this image.  That's not to say that every nation or state actually uses it.  For example Arizona and Hawaii are two states that do not follow the time change.  In Australia, Queensland does not follow either and the reasons I have heard as to why Queensland does not include the cows would become confused and the drapes would fade.  Whatever the reason is why one should follow or not, doesn't always matter because they are pros and cons to time change.  Our "spring ahead" and "fall back" is meant to give us more sunlight hours in the evenings and less light in the morning.  But is the the 'real truth'?  With the time change occurring later and later in the fall, I'm not so sure.

What do you think of time change?  Just don't forget to change your clocks today!