Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yam and Cranberry Spice Muffins

One of the reasons my posting has been so infrequent of late is that I've been mulling over the usefulness of what I write. See, I don't usually work from a recipe. I just throw stuff in a pot until it tastes right, and that's not the easiest thing to reproduce for other readers.

But, it's the way I cook. So if you're here I'm just assuming that's what you like to read.

Take today for example. I had a roasted and peeled yam in the fridge. I had half a bag of fresh cranberries left over. I decided to make muffins.

Now, muffins are not rocket science. They are hard to render completely inedible, regardless of what you add, as long as you stick to some basic rules.

You need flour, baking powder, eggs, oil, and liquid, the rest is just details. I used to start with a recipe, and then alter it to work with what I have on hand. That helped me to get an idea of proportions. Now, I usually wing it with what I know.

Today, I started with 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour, in a mixing bowl.

I washed the cranberries and put them in a saucepan with just enough water to cover them. I added a glop of sugar probably 2 TBSP and a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. I let that boil just long enough for the berries to burst and then turned it off and set it aside.

I wanted a pretty dense grainy sort of breakfast muffin. So while the cranberries were boiling I added one cup of rolled oats and two handfuls of millet. (yes, I measure by the handful, it's very scientific.) Then I added 2 tsp of baking soda and 1/4 tsp of salt. (given how the muffins turned out I think next time I would add 1 tsp of baking soda, instead of the second tsp of baking powder. They were a bit more dense than I would like and the soda would hopefully fix that. Let me know :) Then I added a lot of ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I several shakes, lets guess 1 tsp each. Or more if you want.

Then I mashed up the yam and added it to the flour mixture along with the cranberry sauce. Then I added two eggs. And then I added 1/4 cup molasses for sweetening, and 1 tbsp of oil.

It was still a bit too dry so I added 1/2 cup of yogurt as well, 1/4 cup at a time until it was right.

I baked them at 325 for about half an hour. And they were all gone less than a hour later.

This recipe made 1 dozen large muffins.

And that my friends is how to bake on the fly. If you've made muffins once or twice you know what the batter should look like. Just make sure you have:

  • a rising agent-Baking powder or soda, enough for the amount you have. My rule of thumb is one tsp per cup of flour or dried stuff, minimum.
  • A binding agent-the gluten in flour is binding to an extent, but with so much other stuff in it as well you need another binding agent, in this case, the eggs.
  • Oil-so the muffins aren't too dry. Again, because of the mashed yam in this I didn't need as much oil because the yam was moist enough.
  • Seasoning of some sort-salt, spices, vanilla extract, it depends on what else is in your muffin.
  • Sweetener-you can use sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar, apple sauce, etc. You will adjust the amount of dry or wet ingredients depending on whether your sweetener is dry or wet. If it's dry, like sugar, you will need more liquid. If it's wet, you will need less of another type of liquid.
  • Some sort of liquid to get things to the right consistency. You could use water, if you want, but that's just boring. I like to use milk, blended fruit, yogurt, buttermilk (Really fluffy muffins with buttermilk) etc. Or you can add powdered milk to the dry ingredient and just add water for a cheaper alternative to milk.
And there you have all you need to try and use what you have in your kitchen already to make some muffins, transforming leftovers into something else entirely.

Good luck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get a big knife

photo from

Here's a really simple frugal food tip.

If you cut everything smaller, it goes farther.

If you cut smaller pieces of meat before you cook it it will stretch farther than large pieces without anyone really feeling deprived.

I cut dried fruit smaller when I make muesli. The flavor is more evenly distributed that way and it takes less fruit for the same result.

There's even science behind this. Remember high school chem when they told you that if you increase the surface area you increase the intensity of the chemical reaction? Same applies in the kitchen. Needless to say, I use my big chef's knife and cutting board every day.

The smaller you chop your onions the more flavor you get out of them in a dish, same with garlic.

Raisins can be chopped up smaller before putting them in baking. You can turn 1/2 cup of raisins into close to one whole cup just by cutting them into smaller pieces.

So go forth and chop smaller.

And share your frugal tips in the comments.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Greek Style Yogurt and Flavored Yogurt from Homemade-And Homemade Yogurt Cheese All in One Post!

First let's talk about Greek Style yogurt. What is it exactly?

It' s a high fat content yogurt that is really creamy. Thankfully, making it is one of the simplest things ever. This is also how to thicken your yogurt that was a bit too runny.

Plain yogurt made from whole milk.


Line a plastic colander with a clean cheese cloth. Place inside a large bowl. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth line colander. Pull all of the loose ends together and tie in a loose knot on the top, or use a clip or twist tie. If you can't close it up remove some of the yogurt and try again.

Put it in the fridge for a few hours. As it sits in the cheese cloth the whey, or liquid, will start to drain and the fat will remain in the cheese cloth. In a few hours you will have thicker creamier yogurt exactly like Greek style yogurt. If you leave it for a few days you will have yogurt cheese.

Do not discard the whey. Save it and use it as a substitute for buttermilk in any recipes you may have. You can also use it to start more yogurt.

The traditional way to sweeten Greek style yogurt is with honey which you can drizzle on top when serving, or stir in before hand. You can also add any other flavors you enjoy. Jam is a good way to add flavor to yogurt, or stir in fresh pureed fruit. And, you can freeze it and then you have it as frozen yogurt. What could be easier?

To flavor yogurt cheese. Add a bit of salt to taste and use as cream cheese or in dips. It tastes especially good with that Hungarian eggplant dip. What's it called...arghh! like Baba Ganoush but not. If you know what I'm talking about let me know?

I also like to chop up and add fresh herbs to it, like rosemary and basil and dill, with some fresh ground pepper, it tastes great on crackers and bagels, and as a dip for veggies, or plain on a pita with some hummus and olives. You'll find lots of ways to use it.

Now if you are really ambitious and want to try making fruit on the bottom yogurt like you buy it in the stores instead of stirring in flavor afterwards here is how.

You need to start with the fruit preserves. You can make this yourself by simmering fruit over a hot stove until it is a thick sauce, adding sugar or honey helps to thicken it. Or you can use a fruit preserve that is already made. Your own, or something you bought at the store.

Follow the instructions in Making Yogurt-How to make yogurt at Home.
When you get the containers ready for the warm milk, carefully pour some of the fruit preserve into the bottom of the containers. Try not to get it on the sides of the container. How much will depend on the container size, and how much flavor you like to add to your yogurt. I would say 1/2 to 1 inch high at the bottom of a quart jar. When your milk is ready to pour into the containers, slowly and carefully on top of the preserves. Be careful not to pour too quickly and stir the milk and fruit together. Place the caps on the jars, and carefully, so as not to disturb the layers, put it in your warm place and wait until it sets. Then pull it out and impress all of your friends with your stellar homemaking skillz. It looks pretty actually, and makes a good gift basket item. But it's just as easy I think to stir jam or preserves into plain yogurt just before you eat it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

What to do to "rescue" yogurt that doesn't turn out.

Sometimes yogurt doesn't turn out.

You reach into the warm oven in the morning and instead of firm tangy yogurt you have warm milk. Oops. It happens to everyone once in a while.

Before you throw away all that milk, here are a few things to try to fix it.

The problem is always either temperature or culture.

If your culture is/was dead, nothing you can do will make your milk turn into yogurt. You need to get a new starter and begin again.

Usually though the problem is one of temperature and is easy to fix. If your yogurt didn't turn out, you either put the culture in when it was too hot and killed it, which isn't likely if you were using a thermometer carefully, or, that it cooled off too fast before the yogurt could thicken.

The latter is almost always the case, and is relatively simple to fix.

Put your yogurt back into a pot with a thermometer. Stand over it like a hawk and make sure to remove it from heat the instant the thermometer reads 110-115F. Any warmer an you will kill your culture. (If you have more that's not a problem, but if you are like me and use the last of your former batch to start the next one, you probably don't any more culture handy.)

Pour the warm again milk back into the storage containers and put it back in the warm oven. If you have a digital temperature control and can set the oven to 110F do so and leave it on. Check on the yogurt in 4 hours.

If you have an older oven, set it to the lowest possible setting, just when the light comes on, and turn it off once the light goes off. In two hours check the inside of the oven to see how warm it is. If it's starting to feel cool, turn it back on again for a few minutes to warm back up. Be sure to turn it off after a few minutes. You don't want to kill the culture or cook the yogurt.

Most times this will do the trick and closer attention to temperature will help your yogurt work the second time around. If it doesn't work get a new starter and use this batch as buttermilk in recipes. I wouldn't try it a third time.

If you find that your oven just doesn't stay warm enough long enough here are a few alternate ways to incubate yogurt.

Alternate Methods of Incubation for Yogurt

Alternate Methods of Incubation for Yogurt

Here are a few variations in method for Making Yogurt. Using the oven is the easiest method for me. No mess, no fuss, no special equipment. But if your oven doesn't stay warm long enough to incubate yogurt you may want to try another method.

1.)You could use a cooler and hot water bottles or a heat packs. Put your yogurt jars in the cooler with the heat packs or water bottles. Close firmly. You can even put a thermometer in the cooler to help you monitor the temperature inside. This method would work well if you were camping as well and wanted to make yogurt. Or live somewhere without electricity.

2.) Speaking of camping and living without electricity...I've always been fascinated by this technique though I've not tried it. If you happen to have pack goats, which people have in South America I hear, and one of them is a milking goat, which would only make sense if they are accompanying you on a long trek, here is how you would make yogurt. At night, after milking the pack goat you would add culture to the still warm fresh milk, put it in a jar, put the jar in you sleeping bag at the foot and you body heat should keep it warm all night. In the morning you have yogurt for breakfast. One day I really want to try that one.

3.)I've successfully incubated yogurt in a sink full of warm water. Just make sure the jars are sealed tight. Use a thermometer and start with water slightly warmer than 110F because it will cool quickly. I used this method when I've had to run out of the house for a long time, usually over night, and for various reasons I started yogurt but didn't have time to finish it. The water incubates it long enough for the yogurt to set, and then continues to cool and eventually acts as a bit of refrigeration for the yogurt, keeping it fresh until I can return home and put it in the fridge. I also left the tiny window over my sink open so the water would cool at night. This wouldn't work in a heat wave however.

4.)You can purchase a yogurt maker. Most of these are a bucket lined with Styrofoam and a fancy label, but you can set them on you counter top and they do work. Others are fancier and have a heat source and places for bottles to rest. I don't personally think they are worth the expense but they may be helpful for some.

5.) My friend from Iran used to wrap her yogurt in a blanket and set it on her kitchen counter for the day. She probably still does.

I think you get the idea. Insulate, keep warm. If the oven method isn't working for you, you may find success with one of the other methods listed. Good luck.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Making Yogurt-How to make Yogurt at Home

Okay, here's the thing you need to know about yogurt. It's really really easy. I tell you this at the beginning, before you read all about getting a thermometer and temperatures and bacterial process and all, because I was intimidated by yogurt for years. I would read the directions, in numerous books, and then put them down and relegate yogurt making to the someday when I have a lot of time to figure it out category in my head. I don't want you to do the same thing. So I'll say it again, making yogurt is simple.

Now, I'll probably be very long winded about making yogurt because I like to understand WHY things work. "Why mommy? Why?" I'm not that different from my 6 year old after all. "But why mommy? Why shouldn't I pee on my little sister in the bathtub? She's laughing."


Moving on.

Here's the other thing you need to know about yogurt. You will save a lot of money making it yourself. Say one gallon of milk is $3. One quart of good quality yogurt is usually $3-4 minimum. That means if you are buying yogurt you are paying $12-16 per gallon. If you make a gallon of yogurt guess how much it costs? That's right, $3, give or take the price of a gallon of milk. If you like yogurt, you really want to know how to make it yourself.

The first thing you will need is a pot large enough to hold the amount of yogurt you want to make. I don't recommend trying to do more than a gallon at a time. It takes too long to heat and burns on the bottom, and too long to cool. But you can start with less. You will have exactly as much yogurt as milk that you start with so you will need containers to hold them. My personal preference is glass mason jars. They seal nicely, don't leak, don't leech dioxins when they are warmed and look pretty. I went through a lot of plastic containers before I caught on. But you can use whatever you want. Really. It doesn't even need a lid. The picky among us may want a wire sieve, but that's completely optional.

So for you who like it laid out all neat and tidy instead of lost in the narrative, here's your list.

Large Stock Pot or Sauce Pan (Heavy bottomed is best.)
Candy thermometer (Can be found in the baking section of every grocery store chain in North America I think. But I'll tell you what to do if you haven't got one too. Yogurt makers have been going by feel for centuries.)
Storage Containers
Wire Sieve
Whisk or spoon for stirring

(See that jar with a bit of yogurt in the bottom? That's
from my last batch, to use to start this one.)

Milk (Whole, Skim, and every thing in between. Personally I think whole milk tastes better and makes creamier yogurt, but low fat will work just as well.)
1 tbsp of your favorite brand of plain unsweetened yogurt, as long as it reads on the side, "Active bacterial cultures".

And please tell me that your favorite yogurt doesn't have gelatin or cornstarch in it, because those people who make that slop don't know how to make yogurt. Well, they probably do, but they're cheating you into thinking that it's creamier with additives. Anyway, you could go out and buy a yogurt starter like yo-gourmet or the like, but it's a whole lot simpler to just use some yogurt you already have. Their instructions are way to complex in my opinion, though that's how I started.

Yogurt is a simple bacterial process, just like bread. You introduce the bacteria to the milk, get it nice and cozy so that the bacteria thrive and they eat their way through all of the lactose and in turn give you yogurt. Before you get all grossed out by that, consider that you have a lot of bacteria and microorganisms in your body right now and you want the stuff in yogurt in you, because it's good for you, and then the bad bacteria has less space to run around and eventually almost moves out altogether complaining about over crowding. So that's why you need a little bit of yogurt from somewhere else. It already has live bacteria in it for you to add to the milk.

The rest is just all about temperature. You get the milk hot enough to pasteurize it so that the only thing alive in it is the bacteria you want to grow and nothing else. Then you get it cool enough to not kill the bacteria and then keep it warm enough that they stay active until they have spread through out the yogurt. Got that? Good. Here we go.


Pour the milk into the pot. Set the heat beneath the pot to medium/medium high. (There are those who will tell you that you should put it on low and stir constantly to keep from burning but those people don't make yogurt that often I don't think. Higher heat warms it faster before the stuff on the bottom starts to stick and burn.) Put the thermometer in the milk, it should have a clip for the side of the pot, and stay close by stirring from time to time.

The hardest part about making yogurt is keeping the milk from burning. It takes so long to heat up that you have usually forgotten that you have anything on the stove and you have gone off to fold laundry or have a shower or something. If you get at all engrossed in movies, do not try to watch one while making yogurt. You will forget about it until it's boiling over the top and burnt on the bottom. Oh wait, that's just me? Never mind. Magazines are good. Yogurt making is a good time to read a magazine. On a chair or stool in the kitchen. Next to your milk. So you don't forget.

Watch your yogurt, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 180F, or 80C. If you have no thermometer, stand over it and watch until the outside edges are bubbling vigorously and there is a lot of steam coming off the milk.

Here's for the list people.


Preheat oven to 110F. Or just set it on the lowest possible setting just when the light comes on, no more. Heat milk to 180F, 80C. Remove immediately from heat. Allow to cool to between 110-115F, about 54C. (Or if you have no thermometer, until you can hold your pinkie finger in the milk for a full 10 seconds without it burning.) Skim the skin off the top. Add the tbsp of yogurt. Stir together. Pour into storage containers. Place storage containers in the warmed oven. Turn the oven off. Wait 4 to 8 hours before opening. When the milk stays firm when the container is tilted remove from oven and place in fridge.

making yogurt

There you're done. That wasn't so hard was it?

Oh the sieve? That's for people who want a very smooth yogurt. You can pour the milk through it into the storage containers to catch any lumps.

I don't usually bother sterilizing my equipment. But I do try to get it very clean, rinsing in very hot water and soap just before I use it all. I don't want anything that isn't healthy bacteria growing in my milk.

Be sure to save a little bit of this batch of yogurt to use for starting your next batch.

For breakfast pair it with Muesli.

See also,

Alternate Methods of Incubation

How to "Rescue" Yogurt that Doesn't Turn Out

Greek Style Yogurt, and Making Yogurt Cheese

Monday, June 16, 2008

How to make Muesli

Basic Muesli Recipe

5 cups rolled oats (Not instant)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds ( I haven't put these in in a while)
1/2 cup millet
1 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1 cup dried fruit, (anything you want, we like dried apples and raisins, cranberries, candied orange peels, or a berry mix.)
2 tsps cinnamon
2 tsps ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg

(For an optional but absolutely wonderful ingredient addition, it does add a bit of sugar, chop up some crystallized ginger and add it in, mmm, mmm, good.)

Mix together and store in an airtight container or keep in a bag in the fridge. To serve add fresh plain yogurt, stir together and eat. (quantities depend on individual preference.) Or you can use it as a cereal with milk, soy milk, etc. The longer you let it sit, the softer it gets. You can add fresh fruit also; berries, kiwi, mangoes, whatever your imagination can come up with.

There are as many different ways to make muesli as there are people, you can add other grains, avoid sour ones, you can add more nuts, less nuts, different kinds of nuts, seeds, coconut, fruit, spices, etc. Experiment until you find one that your family loves.

Yogurt can get expensive to buy so I have a secret for you; it's super simple to make and way cheaper. I used to be afraid of it, and waited a long time to try, and then wondered why I had because it's so simple. Instructions for how to make yogurt coming soon.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Whole Grain Crockpot Porridge

I've posted this before. (See Breakfast-When you need it now.) But Now I'm giving it it's own separate entry and title so you can find it easier. Enjoy.

1 cup whole oats-hulled
1 cup whole barley-hulled
1/2 cup millet
5-6-7 cups of water
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dried fruit (Raisins, apples, cranberries, prunes, apricots, etc.)

Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on low. feeds 4-5 hungry people. To keep the outside from getting crunchy you can put a bowl with the combined ingredients in it inside the crock pot. Fill the crock pot itself with water that goes about halfway up the outside of the bowl.

Turn on the crock pot just before you go to bed, and turn it off as soon as you wake up. Serve with milk or cream or yogurt, maple syrup, fresh berries, my husband likes to add brown sugar; whatever you like. The longer you sleep, the more water you need to add so it doesn't burn or dry out. Also, if you have leftovers, take them out of the crock pot right away and put them in something else so that they don't dry out from the residual heat.

It's great having breakfast ready when you get out of bed, and it smells good too.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Here's some reading material

I found this article the other day while browsing around. It's an interesting read.

From Lab to Lunch: Chemicals they call food.

As I've been saying... ahem... not everything you can eat deserves the name food. Click over to find out why.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

This is one of my family's favorite dishes. It's frugal, tasty, healthy, and really easy to make.
You can easily adapt it for vegetarian diets by using vegetable bouillon instead of chicken and you can make it vegan if you skip the goat cheese and substitute margarine for butter in the potatoes.



4-5 large potatoes
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2-1/2 cup goat cheese (Optional)
chicken broth to thin as needed.

2 cups lentils (regular brown will do fine but I like to use french green lentils when I can find them.)
1 medium sized onion-diced or purreed
1 tbsp minced garlic
1-2 tbsp chicken bouillon or 1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano/thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp madras curry powder (optional)
salt and pepper to taste.

1 tbsp cornstarch

Wash and rinse the lentils. Soak them in a pot for about half an hour in at least 4 cups of cold water before cooking them. (This helps them to "wake up" and get ready to srpout which starts to change carbs to protein and reduces enzyme inhibitors that make digestion difficult.)

Change water and bring water with lentils in it to a boil on the stove top. Turn down to simmer and cook until lentil are soft. Drain and set aside.

While the lentils are soaking and cooking, wash and dice potatoes. (I don't peel them because I like peels in my mashed potatoes and the peels are where all the minerals are. But I do chop them smaller before cooking so the peels are smaller.)

Place potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water and cook until they break apart when pierced with a fork. Drain water immediately and add the garlic, butter, goat cheese (Cheapest at Trader Joe's) and salt and pepper. Mash together. If the potatoes are too thick for you add chicken broth a little at a time until they are smooth. Set aside.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds and then add the cooked lentils. Add bouillon and little bits of water, enough to form a gravy. Add spices and taste often until you are happy with the flavor.

Put the cornstarch in a cup and stir in 1/4 cup of cold water until combined. Slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the lentils mixture, stirring quickly to avoid lumps. Once it is all combine cook at medium heat for about one minute until it thickens.

Place lentil mixture in a pie pan or baking dish. Carefully spread the mashed potatoes on top, leaving a hole in the center for venting. Use a fork to smooth the potatoes out and then dot with butter and place in the oven at 350. Bake until the potatoes form a golden crust on the top and then serve immediately.

The lentils taste really hearty and savory and the creamy potatoes with the goat cheese go with it perfectly. It will be hard to only have one helping.

Serving suggestions:

Serve with a mixed green salad and balsamic vinaigrette.


Add mixed chopped vegetables to the lentil filling before baking.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saint Patrick's Day Green Mashed Potatoes

Here's a fun idea to serve with dinner for St. Patricks day tonight. As much fun as green beer and cupcakes can be, this way of turning your meal green using parsley actually adds more nutrients to the dish, rather than taking any away. Parsley is a very nutrient dense food, high in anti-oxidants.

Start with 6-8 medium sized potatoes. You can use any kind but I prefer red potatoes because I don't peel my potatoes and the red skins are usually less tough. (There are a lot of nutrients in the skin, vitamin C, folic Acid, minerals, and I like to keep those in the food instead of taking them out.)

Sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil (Extra virgin-it's green :)
6-8 cloves of garlic-minced
4-5 tbsp butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk (You can substitute broth for milk with nice results, but it's a little less creamy.)
one thick bunch of parsley
Fresh ground pepper
Goat cheese or cream cheese-Optional and more fatty, but very delicious. The goat cheese adds a nice sharp flavor and protein.

Dice the potatoes. I like to make the pieces pretty small so that the peel is cut up more and there aren't any big chunks in the mashed potatoes.

Place the diced potatoes in a pot and add cold water until it covers the potatoes. Add a generous splash of sea salt. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are soft through and break apart when you stick a fork in them.

Remove them from heat and drain the water. You can save this salty potato water for use in soups and breads, it's full of minerals. Put the butter in the drained potatoes so it melts right away. (If you are using cheese now is the time to add it too.)

While the potatoes are cooking, in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat, saute the garlic in the olive oil. Be careful not to burn. Stop as soon as the garlic starts to give off a nutty aroma.

Wash the parsley. Coarsely chop the parsley, stems and all.

Place the parsley, olive oil and garlic mixture, and 1/4 cup of milk in a blender or food processor. Blend until the parsley is very small and the mixture is smooth.

Mash potatoes. If you are doing it by hand, mash them and then stir in the parsley and garlic mixture. If they need more liquid add more milk or broth. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Your potatoes will turn out green.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Thursday, March 13, 2008

home made iced coffee, save money and use leftovers

Every morning my husband wakes up, fills the french press with coffee and boils the water. He fills his travel mug and leaves for work leaving behind almost exactly one more cup of coffee. I don't drink coffee, can't stand the stuff. My husband won't reheat old coffee. So every day I was pouring money down the sink in the form of this wasted cup of coffee. Granted it is still cheaper than a trip to Starbucks every morning, but still. Waste not want not is a motto I was raised on. I started to freeze the stuff, thinking I'd find a use for it eventually, and then, I had a big duh moment.

My husband also likes the iced coffees that Starbucks offers, with the names like frappacino, for $2.50 a bottle. So one day I poured the leftover coffee into a jar. I used a salsa jar, you could use a recycled frappacino bottle from Starbucks. I added sugar (Organic evaporated cane juice actually) , I added cream. I put the lid on and shook it all together before putting it in the fridge. Then I slipped it into his lunch box the next day.

The result?

He tells me it tastes good. Almost exactly like the store bought version in fact. He's been taking it every day since and has been enjoying an iced coffee at lunch out of what was essentially waste before.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Easy Valentine's Treats

Here's a quick and simple Valentine's day gift, and project with the kids.

Target has heart shaped ice cube trays on sale this month 3 for $1.

You can use any size ice cube tray container that has a pretty or interesting shape. The flexible trays are much easier to extract the finished chocolates from.

Take whatever chocolate you have on hand. Melt it in a double boiler. The key here is to not let the chocolate get too hot or it will become grainy. Keep it just warm enough to melt but no warmer. (If you don't have a double boiler, a metal or glass bowl set in a pot of water above a burner will work just as well.)

I am using 72% dark Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe's, approx $3/pound.

Chocolate chips would work too. This is by no means gourmet, but it's fun and tasty. I'd show you pictures but my battery died during this project so you'll have to use your imagination.

Spray your molds with a light cooking spray so the formed chocolates come out.

Here is where it gets fun. You can do whatever you like with this chocolate. You can add salt free butter and cream to make a ganache, which is softer. You can add flavors; peppermint extract, cinnamon, chai liqueur, Irish cream. The cheaper the chocolate, the funner it is to play with the flavors. Or, you can just melt the chocolate and use it plain.

Then, simply pour the melted chocolate mixture into the molds. Cool and pop out. Wrap individually in cellophane, you can put them in the tiny muffin cups for color, and tie with a ribbon and you have a lot of fun Valentine's to give away.

Fancy tips and tricks

First paint the inside of the molds with melted chocolate using a pastry brush or clean paint brush. Allow to cool.

Next fill the inside of the mold. I like to do a dark chocolate shell with a milk chocolate center. You can also use peanut butter (I would sweeten it if it's unsweetened), macadamia nut and cashew butter, whole nuts, white chocolate, strawberry preserves, or cream filling.

Cream filling is simple to make. Start with a few drops of your favorite flavoring in a bowl. Stir in powdered sugar until the desired thickness. The end, unless you want to add color.

I'm using the leftover cream cheese frosting from my birthday cake for filling some of them.

Once the chocolates are filled, put in the freezer so the centers get firm and then pour a final coat of melted chocolate over the outside to seal it.

Let set and then pop out of the molds.

I you want to get fancy you can do things like paint a picture in one color chocolate on the inside of the mold and then it will show when you pour a contrasting color in over top.

The easiest way to get fancy is to use regular chocolate and white chocolate pour the dark chocolate in first. Then add a dollop of white. With a toothpick quickly swirl, just once, inside the mold and then put it in the freezer. You'll have pretty swirls in the finished product. Don't over stir.

Finally, if using a paint brush seems like too much work for you, you can just make layers. Pour in a bit of chocolate, let set. Pour in a different flavor of chocolate, like milk chocolate, let set. Pour in a third layer of the first chocolate. You get it. It's simple but it impresses your kids.

Updated to add:

Hazelnut, how could I forget the magic of hazelnut spread. It make s great filling and you can even put it in and stuff a real hazelnut in the center for a truly gourmet effect.

Have fun.

Happy Valentine's Day

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What, You're hungry again???!

You know that feeling? The one you get when you are just thinking that maybe you'll have a minute to yourself after a long day of work, tending children, or both and you suddenly realize that people are hungry, yourself included, but didn't you just make lunch? Didn't we already deal with food today? Why do you have to be hungry again?

I sometimes feel this way about this blog. I love to write about food. I like to cook. But often I realize that it's way past time to post again and I'm still feeling like I just did that already, even if it's been several weeks. Sigh.

Well I don't know what's for dinner kids, sorry. I've been a bit swamped lately.

How about I send you over to someone else for a few meals? I just found The Cleaner Plate Club, and wow I like what I'm reading so far. So go over and take a gander. I'll be back soon.

*Thanks to mir for the link
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