Saturday, August 25, 2012

Quick & Easy - Coconut Mango Chia Pudding

I bought a pack of chia seeds a few weeks ago but I had no idea how to use it except to sprinkle it over my Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the morning.  And then a few days ago, Pinterest came to my rescue!  This recipe takes 2 minutes to put together, takes no skills whatsoever, & it is only 197 calories per serving.

The recipe calls for...
     1/2 cup light coconut milk
     1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or almond milk)
     3/4 cup fresh mango, diced
     2 tablespoons chia seeds (black & white ones are the same)
     1/4 cup agave nectar (or honey or stevia)

Everything is done in 1 simple step...
     In a container, combine every ingredient & refrigerate for 24 hours

Chia seeds expand when they come in contact with liquid, creating this thick gooey texture that is similar to sago (tapioca) so the pudding is actually quite pudding'y...if you can get over the tiny seed in the middle.  The whole thing is not super sweet but it isn't super coconut'y either so if you are a big fan of coconut, you can add some coconut flakes.  I am definitely going to make more of this; actually I think I am going to go make some more right now!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nothing Homemade - Basil Prosciutto Pizza

Friends of ours recently posted pictures of a pizza that they made using frozen dough from Whole Foods.  Inspired, we tried our hand @ making our own version using ingredients (mostly) from Trader Joe's.

Throw into the shopping basket...
     1 package of Trader Joe's pizza dough
     1 package of Trader Joe's mozzarella cheese
     1 package of Stockmeyer sliced prosciutto
     1 jar of Classico traditional pizza sauce
     1 small bunch of fresh basil

And then throw everything together like this...
     Stretch or roll out the pizza dough into the desired thickness
     Spread an even layer of pizza sauce over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch rim
     Sprinkle small slices of mozzarella cheese all over the pizza
     Lay down entire slices of prosciutto across the pizza
     Over the pizza with some more mozzarella cheese
     Roll up a few leaves of basil & cut them into thin strips; sprinkle over top
     Bake at 450F for 10 minutes


The pizza turned out well except the crust didn't get crispy & it wasn't even in thickness throughout.  The whole slices of prosciutto was not a great idea because it made cutting the pizza into slices sort of difficult; but that can also be a problem with the knife.  Also, I would suggest putting on the basil near the end or after the pizza is done baking.  In summary, this was a easy, fairly healthy, & delicious dinner that was put together in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weekend Dinner - Cajun'esque Panko Crusted Cod

I am a huge salt'water fish lover; but the Boyfriend...not so much.  So to get him to not only eat but actually enjoy some fish, I had to get a little creative.  I found the original recipe on Group Recipes which used Halibut but I don't see why I couldn't experiment with cod instead.  The end result was really, really, spicy so I am reducing the amount of peppers used in the recipe that follows.

To make this recipe, you'll have to get...
     2 medium cod filets
     3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
     1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
     1/4 teaspoon salt
     1/4 teaspoon black pepper
     3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
     1/2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning*
     3 tablespoons olive oil

And then all you have to do is...
     Thoroughly dry the filets making sure all the liquid is out
     In a plate, combine the flour with the cayenne pepper
     In another plate, combine the panko & the Cajun seasoning
     Dredge the filets in the olive, the flour, & then the panko (you have to press hard)
     Put the filets onto a foil-lined cookie sheet & bake at 350F for 15 minutes

The fish comes out really moist & perfectly cooked with a crispy crust on top.  The bottom crust was a little soggy but that's to be expected as it sat touching another surface completely.  What can I do to get that bottom crust crispy too?!?  We had our filets with some rice & veggies but you can eat it with pasta or even with a little bit of a cucumber salad which can help alleviate some of the heat.

* Homemade Cajun seasoning: combine in a bowl: 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, & 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Quick & Easy - Lemon Ginger Soda

Friends of ours are moving away for school & we are going to take care of their Sodastream machine in the mean time.  Before we could make the drink that we intend to though (stay tuned to see what that is!), we need to get to know the machine & form a bond with it.  While there are plenty of delicious soda ready-made syrups out there, the Boyfriend decided he was going to make his very own from scratch.

To make the simple syrup, gather together...
     1 cup ginger, finely chopped
     1 cup water
     1/2 cup agave nectar (or honey)

And in a small pot...
     Bring water, ginger, & agave to a boil while stirring constantly
     Reduce heat to a simmer & let that continue for 15 minutes
     Turn off the heat & let the syrup steep for 3 minutes
     Strain the syrup through a sieve into a container

To make the actual soda.....
     Carbonate cold plain water according to the Sodastream
     Slowly pour in the juice of 2 lemons & 3/4 cup of the ginger syrup
     Close the bottle tightly (not too tightly) & gently roll the bottle on a flat surface

Pour into a glass & enjoy!  The spiciness of the ginger comes through without being too overpowering & it was not too sweet like store bought sodas can be.  And a huge bonus?  Everything was natural without artificial additions or chemicals!

From the Oven - No Fat Banana Bread

If you read my banana cake recipe, you know that I have a pet peeve about yellow bananas.  Well it just so happened that this time around, I had some more yellow (actually they were more black) bananas around my apartment.  Not really satisfied with my previous attempt of baking banana goodies, I thought it best to go back to the basics & use a vegan banana bread recipe that I have tried before with great success; a recipe that my college roomie shared with  me.

Searching through old Facebook messages, I finally found the link to the original recipe after a good while.  *Click*.... Error 404 Page Not Found. NOOO!  What?!?  How can that be?!?

OK, so that was a dramatization of what actually happened but that doesn't mean I was any less disappointed about the disappearance of this delicious recipe.  But the show must go on - & I had to get rid of these bananas - so I searched around for a similar recipe & found this on Pinterest.

So to make a banana bread that doesn't have any fat, it will take...
     2 cups all-purpose flour
     1 teaspoon baking soda
     1/4 teaspoon salt
     1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
     1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
     3/4 cup agave nectar (or honey)
     3 bananas, mashed

And you would have to...
     Combine flour, baking soda, salt, & cinnamon together in a bowl
     Combine apple sauce, agave, & mashed bananas in another bowl
     Add the wet ingredients to the dry & combine until everything just comes together
     Bake in a prepared loaf pan @ 375F for 30 minutes uncovered
     After 30 minutes, cover the pan with foil & bake for 20 more minutes

The picture is kind of blurry but the loaf turned out pretty decent...that was, until I took a bite.  It doesn't taste bad; actually it tastes pretty good.  But the texture was...well...interesting; it is kind of dense, thick, & makes you want to smack it in between your tongue/roof of your mouth.  I can't say his is a faulty recipe & I can't say that my substitution of agave nectar for the honey messed things up; but I can say that the lack of fat might have something to do with it.

*Sigh*...why are things that are bad for you always make things taste better?!?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cracking the "Whip" on Heavy Cream

A friend & I were embarking on a little baking adventure when she asked me if I knew the difference between heavy cream & heavy whipping cream.  Great question!  Why do some recipes call for heavy cream & some for heavy whipping cream?  Do they react differently?  Do they taste different?  What exactly is the difference between the 2?

To start off with the basics, cream is the yellow'ish fatty layer that lies on the surface of raw milk before homogenization [1].  There are 8 types of commonly used cream & they are classified by their butterfat content which then defines how well a cream can be whipped & how stable it is [2].

So what are heavy cream & heavy whipping cream?  In the United States, both heavy cream & heavy whipping cream are creams with a butterfat content between 36%-40% [3]. The main difference is that heavy whipping cream contains small amounts of stabilizers & emulsifiers.  Why?

Before the invention of heavy whipping cream, chefs (& probably home cooks too) would try to whip up plain heavy cream only to have it end up curdled because the cream & the utensils weren't cold enough.  To make things easier for the consumers, manufacturers added in small quantities of Monoglyceride, Diglyceride, Polysorbate 80, & Carrageenan - thereby creating the "whipping" aspect - so the cream can be whipped up more quickly & at slightly lower temperatures [4].  This industrialization process not only made heavy cream easier to use, but the increased stability also meant giving the product a longer shelf life (also reduced production cost & greater profit margins for manufacturers; but that's a different blog post all together).

While we are @ it, let's clear 1 more thing up: what is whipping cream?  Not heavy, not light, just whipping.  Well, as you might have guessed it by now, it has something to do with the butterfat content.  In the United States (I guess different countries have different standards), regular whipping cream is a cream that has a butterfat content of 30% [3].

So there, mystery solved: heavy whipping cream is simply heavy cream + chemicals.  According to my research, almost all grocery stores nowadays sell only heavy whipping cream (even if it is not named as such); so for those of you out there who are trying to move away from processed foods, I strongly suggest skimming the ingredients lists before making a purchase or maybe even consider venturing to farmers' markets or diary farms to find natural heavy cream (just make sure it's not raw please!).

[1] "Cream." Wikipedia. <>.
[2] "Types of Cream - Definitions of Cream - What is Cream?" What's Cooking America
[3] "Cream." Joy of Baking. <>.
[4] "Heavy Cream Vs. Heavy Whipping Cream." 5 min: Life Videopedia.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Nothing Homemade - Chocolate Frozen Greek Yogurt

I have an enormous sweet tooth & I would love nothing more than to sit in my chair & indulge in Häagen-Dazs while watching Big Bang Theory every single night.  But in reality, I cannot do that; at least not without negative consequences.  So begins my quest to search for tasty treats that can satisfy my cravings without blowing the scale wide-open.

I came upon this recipe while browsing around on Pinterest & thought to give it a try since it was just using things that I already had around the house.  All I had to do was mix the plain yogurt with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder & 3 tablespoons of agave nectar.  Pop the whole thing into the freezer for 45 minutes & enjoy.  I added in some chocolate chips just for kicks.

Even though I used a lot more agave nectar than I wanted to, the yogurt was still pretty tart & the flavor was more bitter cocoa instead of chocolate.  Maybe this would be better if using chocolate syrup or a hot chocolate mix (omitting the agave).  While I really liked was how thick & creamy the yogurt became after it was frozen & how much cheaper this is compared to Ben & Jerry's frozen Greek yogurt, I don't think I will be making this again.