Coconut Curry Popcorn

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Ingredients:

1/2 Cup popcorn kernels

1/4 cup or more Coconut Oil

Fine ground salt

Spices, in order of greatest-to-least proportion used:

Curry
Paprika, smoked (go easy if using scant oil)
Cumin
Cilantro flakes
Black Pepper
Coriander (just a dash)

Directions:

For popping in pot:
Turn on the exhaust fan and open all the windows. This recipe makes smoke.

Heat a tablespoon of oil on med-high heat with 3 kernels. When kernels pop, add the rest. Keep the lid on, and using mitts pick up the pot and shake it vigorously to move the kernels around, every 6 seconds or so. Continue until all the kernels are popped. If the oil smokes a little that’s okay, but if it smokes a LOT then turn the heat down because you don’t want it to catch fire. When popcorn is done, transfer to a bowl and add the remaining oil and spices.

Popping in a popcorn machine:
Pop the popcorn according to the directions on the machine, then transfer to a large bowl and add the oil. If the popcorn is hot, the oil may melt by itself – else, heat it in a saucepan and drizzle over.

Season: salt liberally. If the salt doesn’t stick to the popcorn, add more oil. Add the seasonings one at a time, sprinkling and mixing thoroughly. Exact amounts aren’t important, so much as the overall flavor, so add and adjust to your liking.

Eat and enjoy!

::BK::

 

 

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Whole-Wheat Cream Puffs

I loved this whole wheat, sugar-free cream puff recipe! Unfortunately, the recipe leaves a lot unsaid. The first time me and my roommate tried it, it turned out into perfect little puffy puffs! The second time, however, it was a total flop even though I followed the recipe to the letter. I spent some time experimenting and consulting, and figured out the technique. Here’s my adaptation.

This recipe makes 15-20 puffs. I advise making extra batches; these go quickly!
Time: 45 cooking, plus 30 prep and filling them
Tools: Mixing bowls, pot on stove, pans in oven, and mixer/whisk for cream.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter [add pinch salt if using unsalted butter]
1/2 cup ‘white whole wheat’ flour: see below
2 servings stevia: see Notes
3 eggs

Filling:
2 cups heavy cream (any kind that will whip will do; can be regular or ‘extra heavy’)
2-3 servings stevia: see Notes
2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Directions:
1. An hour or so before beginning preparation, set all ingredients out to come to room temperature. This makes the cream whip up much more effectively (especially thin cream), and helps the eggs combine smoothly in the mix.

Preheat oven at 350º. (Convection: 325º)

2. Combine water, butter, and salt in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let simmer for a few minutes. The butter will melt, and should steam and mingle with the water. Do not brown the butter, but allow it to simmer for 2-5 minutes and evaporate a little.

3. Combine flour and stevia. Remove saucepan from heat. Shake in the flour, and mix till smooth.
At this point it may resemble pancake batter, pourable in texture.
Put saucepan over low heat, and cook for a few minutes, stirring all the while. Time will vary based on particular flour, and how long the butter was simmered in Step 2.
Stop when it becomes thicker than a brownie batter but not yet like cookie dough. Remove from heat.

4. One at a time, break the eggs into a cup, give a few beats with a fork, and add to the dough. Stir till combined before adding the next egg. This will seem weird and clumpy and the dough won’t want to readily combine with the egg; keep at it!

5. With batter now complete, set it back on low heat and stir. The goal here is to thicken it a little. Do not use higher heat; it will cook the eggs. Stir constantly and scrape up from the bottom of the pan to prevent burning.
As the batter thickens, it will begin to form a ball. When the dough pulls away from the pan readily, it is done. It will be like a cookie dough: soft, but keeps its shape when molded or scooped.
If it drizzles off your spoon like peanut butter, it’s not ready. The dough must be just barely thick enough that it doesn’t spread when dropped on the baking sheet.

6. Remove pan from heat. If it doesn’t cool quickly, remove the dough ball into a bowl so it doesn’t continue to cook.
To prevent sticking, grease baking sheet or use parchment paper (which works much better).
Using a spoon, scoop dough onto baking sheet, about 1-2 TB each. Space mounds 1-2 inches apart.

Set on middle rack in oven, and
Bake for 40 minutes at 350º, or till puffed and golden brown on top.
Convection: 25-ish minutes at 325º. These turned out wonderfully in the convection!

7. While puffs are baking, whip up that cream! Plain cream is fine, vanilla is classic, and I like almond extract for that “little something-something” it adds to baked goods. Whip to stiff peaks, then pop in the fridge to chill.

8. When puffs are done, let them cool before filling. Try to have something else to do, so as not to eat them while watching them cool. 😛
Fill them: Using a spoon and a very sharp knife, slice each puff in half horizontally, and scoop a heaping spoonful of cream into the center. Stick the halves back together, and presto!

9. Get yourself a spatula and eat the rest of that whipping cream. One other flaw I found in the original recipe creates a disproportionate amount of filling to the amount of puffs. No problem at all. 🙂
NOTES:
Stevia: depending on the variety, a ‘serving’ will differ, but it’s usually enough to sweeten 8oz of something. You can use any kind of stevia. 2 of those packets, or 1-2 droppers of the liquid (consult the label), or 2 itty bitty scoops with the included scoop from the pure powdered extract kind.
The flour puffs don’t need to taste noticeably sweet.
When sweetening the cream filling, taste before it’s done whipping, and add more stevia to taste if necessary. It should be just-barely-sweet to the taste. Cream puffs are not an overly saccharine treat.

Flour: aka ‘Soft White Winter Wheat’,or ‘Whole wheat pastry flour’. It’s a type of wheat that produces a finer, fluffier flour while still being whole-grain. Regular whole-wheat will work too. We also tried a combo with half white flour and half whole-wheat, and that worked fine.

 

Enjoy! How do you like your cream puffs?  😀 😀

As a bonus, this lovely indulgence is mostly harmless, made with all whole foods and not loaded with sugar. I may or may not have eaten these for breakfast on several occasions.

::BK::

Making: Carrot Soup

Carrot Cilantro Soup by Chez Panisse Vegetables. Love this cookbook.
It made quite a big batch, so I poured the colorful pureé into big jars for later tastiness. 🙂 Will garnish with the accompanying onion-jalepeño-cilantro-lime fresh salsa! I didn’t have a mortar to pound it for authenticity, but it should still be fine. 😉

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::BK::

RIP Terra Chips

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Hains now owns TERRA chips, and all flavors but the plain ‘original’ now have adulterations of sugar, yeast extract… And really don’t taste so exotic. These tasted like the same flavor palettes of regular ‘junk’ chips. I always bought Terra because they were different. Shame! ;(

::KB::

Review: The Best Vanilla Extract

I’ve tried several brands of vanilla in the last few months, and here’s my review so far!

These are all alcohol-based, with vanilla extract only (no sugar/fake flavors).

Singing Dog Organic vanilla: not so great. The potency is quite weak — I used almost double to get the full flavor.
Simply Organic Madagascar: not so great. flat flavor; strong alcohol taste.

Frontier Organic pretty good! Good flavor and strength — good all-purpose cooking extract.

MacTaggart’s Brand Tahitian: THE BEST I have ever tasted. Beats all previous vanilla experiences hand-down. The Tahitian vanilla is delicate in flavor, the extract has a full-bodied flavor and aroma, prompting me to declare it as worth every penny. You can get some here: http://www.mactaggartsbrand.com/

I haven’t tried the Madagascar variety from them, but I intend to!
Most vanilla production is in Madagascar and Tahiti. Nicer vanilla brands will distiguish the two, as they have different flavors: the Madascar is more full-bodied, deep, strong; the Tahitian is delicate, lingering, bright.

::BK::

picture of vanilla bottles

Left to right: Mediocre, Wonderful, Middling.

Ginger Stir-fry #1

Quick recipe jot-down for reference!

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, slice
  • Carrots, slice
  • Celery, slice
  • Red cabbage, in strips
  • red peppers, sliced small — I used canned peppers.
  • sesame seeds
  • tofu, extra-firm (≈4 oz)
  • cilantro leaves, small handful
  • tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
  • garlic powder
  • honey and/or stevia powder
  • olive oil
  • dijon mustard
  • salt, pepper

In a cast-iron pan, add some sesame seeds. Heat dry, until start to brown. (if using pre-toasted seeds, just add them with the veggies.) Add oil and onions. Saute, adding the rest of the veggies. Chop and add tofu and spices. If using soy sauce instead of tamari, may need more salt. Add the sweetener for a teriyaki taste, and a dab of mustard for some zing. Add cilantro at the end.

It came out quite good, and I will be trying this again.
The tofu disappears into the flavors of the mix. Chicken would also go. I prefer tofu over chicken, so I was happy. 🙂

Tastes great as a leftover, when the flavors have had time to marry.

::BK::

PUDDING!

Is my latest craving. What’s your favorite pudding recipe?

So far I’ve tried lemon, carob, Lebanese spice, and several types of tapioca. I’m especially interested in ones that don’t require sugar – I’m sticking solely to stevia and honey for sweetening stuff

Slurp on!!

::BK::

Making: Chestnut Soup

Today I made the recipe, Sweet Potato and Chestnut Soup, from Fresh From the Farmers’ Market, by Janet Fletcher. (I highly recommend this book, though not as highly as Chez Panisse Vegetables.)

It was the most luscious, delightful, and satisfying soup… lovely creamy and not that hard to make! I’m going to get another sweet potato, just so I can make it again with my remaining chestnuts. This one gets two thumbs up, plus props for using economical ingredients. Sides nicely with brown rice, if you feel it’s too rich. The recipe calls for an apple-endive salad, which sounds excellent. I shall have to try that, too!

I followed the recipe precisely, except:
-I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Tasted great, but I agree that chicken broth would have been a perfectly complimentary flavor.
-Instead of cream, I blended a mix of half cream cheese, half water. This is a great lactose-free substitution. The flavor is close, though not identical to regular cream.

Next time I’ll salt it slightly less, and use a few more chestnuts.

::BK::

A Better Pumpkin Pie

If I had a beautiful picture it would go here, but alas, this pie was too beautiful to live and was consumed before I could snap a shot. Try baking one and snapping your own pictures…. go on, I dare you.

😉

This Thanksgiving, I tackled my annual tradition of making the pumpkin pie for our family dinner. Since this became a tradition, I always used the basic baked-in-shell pumpkin pie recipe from my cherished copy of The Joy of Cooking, baked in a whole-wheat butter crust. The result was always okay…good but a lot more dense and ‘serious’ than a really great pumpkin pie would be. The pies looked great, I wasn’t impressed with the taste… but my family ate them, and I didn’t want to take the risk of trying different recipes on Thanksgiving.

And then this year, I lost my cookbook. I looked all over, only to realize I left it at my place… we couldn’t even find my mom’s copy in the house. I turned to the Internet.

My first goal was just to see if anyone had posted that pumpkin pie recipe from the original book. They had — but along the way I found altered versions of that recipe, and improvements, and a bunch of unrelated google links about pies. My curiosity got the better of me, so after some investigation, I decided to try the following. This recipe is more or less original, pulling ingredient amounts from several different recipes, technique from internet posts, and my personal experience. The crust is new flour in an old recipe: made with a buckwheat mix, it becomes light and flaky instead of dense and chewy.

We had our family plus friends over for dinner, and they all said it was the best pumpkin pie they’d had ever/longtime, even if they didn’t like pumpkin pie before, and a most amazing recipe. And when I tasted a bite, I had to agree.

Pumpkin Pie 2.0: The Next Generation

PIE.

3 eggs (separate)
2 C cooked butternut squash (puree before mixing). Yes, the next generation of pumpkin pie isn’t even pumpkin anymore. Progressive I know, but try it and you won’t look back!
1.5 C heavy cream
1/4 C cane sugar
1/4 C maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves/allspice (you can use either or a mix of both)
1 tsp cinnamon

Before making this pie, you must have some cooked (baked) butternut squash. Alot several hours for this process; reference the Internet for squash-baking instructions. Bake it, don’t boil or microwave [shudder]. Baking releases the most natural sugars and flavor in the squash.

Separate the eggs and set the whites aside. Blend/mix the yolks, and all the other ingredients, together until smooth. Whip the egg whites until stiff, then fold them into the batter. Pour into prepared crust (see below), put in oven, turn to 375ºF and bake 45+ minutes, until a knife in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely (unrefrigerated) before serving.

This recipe just barely fits in a 9″ crust; could also use a 10″ or 10.5″ pan. Or go smaller and make several mini pies!

 

CRUST

This recipe (whole wheat pie crust) directly from The Spot cookbook by Tonya somebody…, with my modifications for GF/yeast-free baking…

this part coming soon. (until then, use any crust recipe, but pre-bake the crust for 5-10 minutes [until edges golden] before pouring the filling in.)

 

This recipe is not part of my usual diet, but is much more nutritious and has much less sugar than a typical pumpkin pie, nonetheless.

::BK::

Squash/Brussels/Cranberry Salad

I love cranberries, and their tart-yet-satisfying flavor! I must admit, my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the cranberry sauce.  ^_^ Happy to see them in season again, I’ve been looking for ways to use them. Found this ‘salad’ recipe and knew I had to try it.

This recipe turned out to be not quite as savory as I expected, but still super delicious!

I had more like 1.5 lbs of squash and brussels sprouts, so here’s what I did with my edits:

Dish:

1 butternut squash, cubed
1.5 bags of frozen/fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
0.5 cups frozen (or fresh) cranberries, cut in half
1 TB parsley, chop fine

Dressing:

olive oil
dijon mustard

Put the sprouts and squash in baking pans, dress with salt and olive oil, and roast in oven: 400º for 15 minutes or more, until cooked but not mushy.

Put cranberries in baking pan, and pop in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until soft and juicy. (If using fresh, skip this step.)

Mix a teaspoon of Dijon mustard with a little oil.

Combine all ingredients in a big bowl. Eat!

Time: about 30 minutes total.
Cost: low, considering the affordable prices of squash, brussels, and cranberries in season.

This tastes great warm, but can also be eaten cold. The original has a bit of sugar from the craisins and vinaigrette, but my version is totally yeast-free, except maybe the tiny bit of vinegar in the mustard (which I decided to let slide).
A satisfying dish which makes a great main dish or beside a lettuce salad, and I found it easy to pack to school for lunch! Will be making this one again.

::BK::