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Tenacious Flog
Tuesday, May 31

Breakfast Sludge: Formula Three  
I must have a recessive British gene - my food habits over time seem to show some decidedly UK-ishness about them.

Case in point: the common assertion that all British food is bland and/or boiled. Throughout my young life I loved nothing better than plain food. Mac & cheese with nothing weird floating in it, like hot dogs or ketchup or even pepper; cakes without frosting; toast with butter but never jam; scrambled eggs without meat or veggies..... the list goes on and on.

As my culinary wings started to feather, I became interested in spicy foods and exotic nibbles, true. At the same time, however, I developed a love of porridge and endless varieties of soups (especially those with long simmer times). Because I lived in a rather temperate climate and always had a soft spot for oatmeal anyway, its anyone's guess why the porridge phenomenon happened.

Previously, I have described two of my weird "scare the coworkers" breakfast concoctions, including one that involved cooking a raw egg inside my oatmeal. I like eggs, I like oatmeal, I like cottage cheese..... why not mash them all together? Why not, indeed!

Today, for a little change of pace, I invented a new one and I believe it is even weirder than my previous standards. Ultimately, the idea came to me as I realized that eating dry cereal is supremely unsatisfying - it doesn't seem to fill one up, and you can consume a vast lot of it before you realize it. So, lets take that dry cereal and make it a bit more substantial. Introducing:

Dry Cereal Sludge with Yogurt (serves 1)
1 cup dry and non-sturdy breakfast cereal. (GoLean is a good example, GrapeNuts would not be)
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tsp flaxseed oil (optional - for the uber hippies out there)

In a bowl, combine the cereal with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup HOT water. Put the bowl in the nuker and get the whole thing boiling.
Take the bowl and stir the cereal vigorously for a minute or more, until it starts to dissolve and the mixture takes on a pudding-like texture. If you have non-sturdy cereal, this should not take long. Add the yogurt (and the optional oil), stir to combine - or not - and eat.

You are now one gigantic leap closer towards being a true earth muffin, but don't blame me when half your paycheck is going to La Montanita.

Time posted: 13:01 [permalink]
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Friday, May 27

Pointy Stuff Kills!  
In the "oh, geez" department:

Britain urges pointy kitchen knife ban, as well as a complete redesign to include blunted tips.

I'm a bit flabbergasted, as is Tony Bourdain, who was quoted in the NY Times article as saying, "This is yet another sign of the coming apocalypse." Hehe.

However, if I were a paramedic, I might feel differently. So for now I will reserve my own judgement and let ya'll make up your mind based on your experience with your own kitchen knives and your ideas about why/how people stab each other.

With that, have a great weekend!

Time posted: 08:49 [permalink]
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Tuesday, May 24

Heat and Bananas  

Gawd-damn its hot. After 5 or so days of 95 degrees I am getting used to it, but not without a compensatory frenzy of ice cream production. In the last 4 days I've made "deadly chocolate sorbet", mango ice milk, and banana walnut ice cream.

The last turned out the best because I threw my previously entrenched proclivities towards making light ice cream out the window. Forget the gelatin to improve the texture, forget using all milk and no cream, forget using (gasp) Splenda.... this amazing treat is very rich and *still* just over half the calories of Chunky Monkey... see below for details.

*Key elements to ice cream success are italicized below.

Banana Walnut Ice Cream
1 cup half and half, organic preferably or Strauss if you can get yer paws on it.
1 egg
1 T sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 very very ripe medium bananas (if not as ripe, add more sugar)
1 tsp white rum
4 shelled walnuts, finely chopped.

Heat the half and half and sugar to hot but not boiling (170 if you have a thermometer). Beat the egg well, then add 1/4 cup of the hot milk to the egg, bringing its temperature up. Dump the egg mixture back into the pan and very gently bring the temperature back up to 170-175, stirring constantly. Do not curdle the egg or you're back to square one (or dump the whole thing in the blender). Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

Put the banana in a storage container and pour the hot liquid over it. Chill overnight.

The next day, use a blending device to combine the custard with the banana to the desired degree of smoothness. Add the rum.

Process in your ice cream machine as per instructions. While transferring the soft ice cream to its permanent storage, fold in the walnuts.

Makes 1 generous pint.

Nutritional Info (my version / Chunky Monkey)
per 1/2 cup serving
Calories: 182/300
Fat: 11/18
Carbs: 18/30
Protein: 5/5

Oh yeah, and my ingredient list is 6 items, Ben and Jerry's is 15 - not counting their chocolate chunks, which I have omitted, but it is counting the half-dozen or so emulsifiers and stabilizers that they have added.

Time posted: 21:47 [permalink]
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Is My Blog Burning? (episode 15)  
"Is My Blog Burning" is a periodic meme started by Alberto at Il Forno way back in January of 2004 and it allows many food bloggers to all create something in the same theme, post about it, and then marvel at the dozens of others that have tried their hand at the same project.

Strangely enough, I have participated in exactly ONE of these so far in 15 - Episode 13, the cupcake theme. I was wholeheartedly planning on participating in at least 5 others but never got around to it, and looked interestedly in at least 8 of them but didn't even get around to coming up with ideas..... and then I prepared something for Episode 15 but never blogged about it! How lame is that? The whole point of the exercise is for everyone to create something at the same time and then cross-link like crazy, so it is also of benefit to one's web traffic and visibility.

Because I did not officially submit my entry on time, I will not be linked from the hosting site, but I will post about my creation regardless, because I feel like it, and I was inspired by Lex Culinaria, who turned in THREE entries, all of which look far more appetizing than most specimens I've ever seen.

The theme for this go-round was JELLIES. Or gelatin, or aspic, whatever. Make something congeal and you're in, basically. I have done some experimenting with jellies before, so I expected this go-round to be fun and productive, but then I just didn't get everything ready in time. (In fact I had the jelly made but never got the POSTING of it in on time)

I used a relatively new product in my kitchen: agar agar, a seaweed extract used in many asian preparations, and sometimes used to thicken things like ice cream. It has a few benefits over gelatin - you can boil it without damage, it sets at room temperature, and once set you can re-melt it and allow it to set again without structural damage. All very cool. One of the seeming drawbacks is mouthfeel - this stuff sets up pretty stiffly, and is not "jiggly" like you expect a gelatin dish to be, nor does it get chewier the more you use (as in finger gelatin) but rather it gets almost glass-like. This difference in mouthfeel is not bad at all, but it is definitely different, so you have to get used to it when using agar agar.

This weekend it finally started getting oppressively hot, so something cool and refreshing was in order. The bunch of mint in my fridge was likewise starting to turn on me, so mint jelly it is!

Mint Jelly with Pears
1 tsp agar agar powder
2 cups water
1/4 c sugar or sweetener
large handful of mint leaves
chopped pears (I used dried, you could use fresh)

Sprinkle the powder on the water in a small saucepan, slowly bring the water up to a boil and stir until the powder is dissolved. Add the sugar, stir again until clear, and add the mint leaves. Allow to steep for at least 10 minutes. Strain liquid into serving bowl, then add pears or other fruit and allow to cool, either in fridge or on the counter. It should start setting up pretty quickly.

Serve cool on a hot summer day.

Time posted: 08:07 [permalink]
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Sunday, May 22

Whole Wheat "Cracker" Pizza  
Last night, made 2 pies with my thinnest crusts EVER (mostly by necessity as the number of diners went from 2 to 4 - more toppings can be put on larger crust acreage :raz: ), so technically they were crackers rather than pies. I rolled and rolled and stretched and coerced a rather small ball of dough (about 3") out to a 12" pizza. Yes, it was thin, but no holes! Woohoo!

The dough was previously made and frozen, using only whole wheat flour and some gluten (and yeast, of course). It was seasoned with salt, pepper, and Penzeys "shallot pepper" blend which I use quite a bit of in my cooking.

I divided the dough into one big and one tiny ball so that I could give the normal people in the house a pepperoni specimen, and myself something weirder. Both doughs are always spritzed down with olive oil immediately prior to putting on toppings to protect against sogginess.

Pepperoni has on it: quick cooked marinara from canned tomatoes, oregano, olive oil, preserved basil; the pepperoni; mozz cheese; cracked pepper.

Here's the pepperoni before going in (that's mozz made that morning by a local cheese shop):

....and then after being flash-carbonized (6 minutes flat) in the oven (preheated at 500 for 40 minutes with 3 sq ft of 1/2" thick tile lining the oven plus a pizza stone):

....and the obligatory "under the hood" shot:

....and finally, my weirdo pizza. Topped with sauteed and chopped beet greens, yellow wax hot peppers, a bit of pistou, goat cheese, and an egg:

Second view of same pizza....

Overall both turned out well, as I had finally remembered to knead some salt & flavors into the dough to give it more flavor than just "healthy brown cracker stuff". I do not yet know if it is possible to produce a really outstanding pizza crust made from all whole grain, but I can certainly make one that is edible.

Time posted: 17:47 [permalink]
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This site is not good - pathetic. I looked for a recipt, not pics of your pizzas. You should reconsider.
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Friday, May 20

When presented with perfect berries....  

...what else is there to do but to make a tart?

My brothers claimed the raspberry patch when we were growing up. They ate everything that came off those bushes with gusto. I relinquished my claim easily enough, as I had decided that I did not like raspberries. Too red, too tart, too.... something. Who knows. However, by never getting near the big overgrown patch myself, I was free to discover and pillage the wild blackberries that were growing behind our garage. Wild they may not have truly been in taxonomy, but only in the sense that we did not "intend" for them to be there and no one tended to them like the rest of the gardens. Those huge overly sweet fruits were just what I was after - and I had them all to myself. They may have even been one of my first "food epiphanies" that vastly preceded my true interest in taste and culinary creations, which only set in after I was in my 20's. When I was 10, offer me red raspberries? "No, thank you, I'll be behind the garage."

When at Wild Oats recently, I was picking up a few of the usual things - Gala apples, steel-cut oatmeal, the indulgent and irresistable Larabar(s) - when I spotted the sale on raspberries. A pint was $2, they were organic, and they were gorgeous. Obviously you wouldn't think I would leap on even perfect raspberries, but of course I cannot resist a lovely ripe specimen of nearly anything, so I grab one container on my way out.

And then they sit in my kitchen for a day and a half. What am I going to do with them? They are too excellent to ruin by whizzing into a smoothie, too firm and fragrant to need to liven them up by baking into a crumble. The remaining options all vary on the "fruit tart" theme - whether it be an actual fruit tart, or a cheesecake garnished with fresh berries, or something of that nature.

I searched my newest cookbook acquisition, "Canyon Ranch Cooks", a spa cookbook, which means that everything in it is "lite" in some way, caloric or unhealthy-ingredients. Towards the back I found a blackberry and lemon pie, and after some obvious tweaks, I had my plan:

Raspberry and Lemon Pie-Tart

Start with:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 t salt
2T sugar
4T cold butter, cut into dice
6T ice cold water

Take the flour, salt and sugar and whiz a few seconds in the food processor until combined, then add the butter and pulse until the butter is mostly broken up and the mixture looks sandy. Add the water 1 T at a time, until you think the dough is wet enough to mash into a stable ball. You do not necessarily need all 6 T of water. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic and chuck into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Once it has rested, plop onto a floured surface and gently roll it out large enough to fit an 8" pie pan. GREASE (or Pam or butter) the pie pan and then dust it with flour. Lay the dough into the pan, patch any holes that may have occurred, and bake at 400 until lightly browned (about 8-10 minutes).

(While the crust is baking, start prepping the lemons for the filling, below...)

Remove crust from oven and allow it to cool....

While that is cooling off, make the filling:
grated zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 the lemons
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2T melted butter
1 pint perfect raspberries

Beat together the lemon juice and sugar, then add the eggs and beat until bright yellow and almost ribbony in texture.

Add the lemon peel and melted butter and mix to combine.

Arrange the raspberries on the crust as haphazardly or symmetrically as you'd like.

Pour the lemon filling over:

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until the filling is no longer jiggly. Let cool before cutting and serving. Share with friends, or eat it mostly yourself while wishing that perfect raspberry season was just a wee bit longer....

Time posted: 08:23 [permalink]
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Wednesday, May 18

Hating Mickey Ds  
FQOTD ("Food Quote of the Day"): my nomination.

"People hate McDonald's because it represents American imperialism. And they hate McDonald's because they hate themselves - or their lack of control. Fast food is insidious and overeating is easy."
- Gremolata interview with Gina Mallet, the author of Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World. I had dismissed this book as being a rehash of Fast Food Nation (which, having read, I don't think I need to be beaten by THAT brick again, thank you), but the reviews I have been seeing state that it is not nearly so pedantic. Of course, now it is back on my "to read" list.

Time posted: 13:00 [permalink]
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Monday, May 16

Chocolate Guinea Pig  
Did I say guinea pig? For chocolate? Absolutely! Tonight I tried one of the new varieties of Haagen Dazs - 'dutch chocolate'. Now, unlike your usual Haagen Dazs, this is part of their new line of "light" ice creams. Unlike usual light ice cream, this stuff stayed true to its bloodline and sported just 6 ingredients, and not a one of them was "guar gum" or "polyhooha anything". To make the change all that was done was a tipping of the ratio of cream to skim milk, making the latter much more voluminous than the former.

Taste? Very good. I would call it at least twice as good as your standard Dreyers stuff, and many more times as good as any other light ice cream. Not overly sweet - note that the sugar content was NOT raised to account for the lowered fat (there are slightly more carb grams, but that seems to come from milk sugars, not added sugar). Overall, this is a great middle of the road for those tempted to shell out the high $$ for Haagen Dazs frozen yogurt, which IS overly sweet and just not a necessary part of their lineup. Now, that all being said, this IS Haagen Dazs we are talking about, so now that I've tried the light concoction I don't feel any need to continue. Back to Rum Raisin I will skip.... after I shake the lactose coma I'm about to lapse into. Bleah. This guinea will wait at least a few days for the next pig(out).

Time posted: 22:00 [permalink]
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Sunday, May 15

Glass o' Green  
Hey, guess what? Fat makes stuff emulsify. For some weirdo reason, I had forgotten about that before I threw:

1 avocado
1 cup crushed ice
1 cup soy milk
2 T simple syrup
1 T lime juice my blender. Things were churning along nicely and then all of a sudden it got MUCH thicker, so I stopped the operation and poured it into my glass. The lovely mint green concoction that came out was luscious, beautiful, and - oh yeah - the texture of pudding. Next time I'll add more ice.

But now you know my recipe for Avocado Smoothie. Order one the next time you're at a Vietnamese restaurant in town - they are very delicious, sweet and rich.

Time posted: 18:24 [permalink]
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Friday, May 13

Bowling Ball Head & Factoids  
My bowling ball (feeling) head has turned into a snot making machine. A wheezing, chortling, haucking specimen....that I am. I have one of my every-leap-year bouts with the cold, otherwise known as Snot City. Obviously, the cause is twinfold - sick co-workers coupled with roaring jet lag (oh, and 2 weeks of 1-2 hours per night less than usual in the sleep department). All things considered, yep, that would do it.

Because I tend to have a 'nervous' constitution, my status of being sick usually entails a half day of rollicking GI distress. Having a full blown Robitussin/NyQuil moment is practically a novelty in my boring life. I'd enjoy the hell out of it if I didn't feel so.... CLOGGED. *sniffle*

Because of this condition I have actually sought out some alternative types of self medication. Substances, you say? Sure, but it depends on your definition of substance. Mango salad? Kitchari? Food intended to nurture and balance? Sheesh, I must be losing my clarity of mind and rational faculties already.

Enough joshing already, I do admit that I am a bit of a nutrition factoid junkie. It is interesting to me to read about what food does once it is inside, gurgling away in there. How it might be possible that what I ate at my last meal could influence how I digest the next, or how soon I get hungry, or what I FEEL in those several hours after eating. Sites about food and health, the connection between superfood and superhealth, writing about micronutrients and macronutrients, studies in medical journals, every little bit of it I love to absorb. But like food, the more I absorb, the possibly rises that factoids will start to duke it out inside. Superfoods, ayurveda, high-veggie/high-fat, Mediterranean, French, macrobiotics, full-out hedonism on par with Orangette: may the best set of theories win!

Time posted: 16:06 [permalink]
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Thursday, May 12

Power to the Popsicle  
Its getting warmer, I'm getting the munchies and don't have the wherewithal to make ice cream.... therefore it is POPSICLE time!

Take your handy-dandy set of rocket pop molds and get them all lined up and ready to be filled. Mix up a half batch of the vanilla pudding of your choice (1 cup net, and I won't even get on your case if you use instant - a popsicle craving needs to be fulfilled!), and then mash up a med-large sweet fruit of your choice (mango, banana, etc). Combine pudding and fruit, pour into molds, and wait for frozen rigor mortis.

[Note on the mango useage.... chopping the thing up into tiny pieces prior to the mash-up is advisable, since mango flesh is stringy and hampers popsicle eating later on if the whole fruit is simply mashed whole.]

Enjoy! As I continue the popsicle pandemonium, I will provide a plethora of possibilities for your perusal...

Time posted: 08:52 [permalink]
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Sunday, May 8

Soup for you!  
I don't think I need to explain myself; the article will do that just fine.

Time posted: 08:47 [permalink]
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Thursday, May 5

Practicing What They Preach?  
At Starbucks, when you order a hot drink you will likely get a little brown sleeve around your cup. This cute little cardboardy anti-finger-scalding contraption helpfully informs you that it has "approximately 45% less material than a second paper cup". This is in addition to the other factoids printed on the sleeve such as, "Starbucks stores use energy-efficient lightbulbs..." and "Starbucks proudly supports Earth Day Network...". You get the picture.

Now, that's all fine and dandy, rah-rah Starbucks for putting off landfill overflow by about .03 nanoseconds in the grand scheme of things, yay them.... if every single time I order a tall Americano I didn't get the sleeve AND the 2nd paper cup that the sleeve so passionately rails AGAINST.


Time posted: 12:00 [permalink]
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