Smarter Than Pancakes

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

Filed under: Healthy Junk Food,yogurt — shaye3 @ 1:28 pm

I could have sworn I copied this from my old Vox blog into this one, but I can’t find it anywhere.  My niece posted about homemade yogurt on facebook this morning, and I was going to direct her to this post, but then I couldn’t find it.

Be warned, this looks like it’s hard, but I typed every single step in detail to make it foolproof.

There for a while, I was making yogurt about once a week.  The better your milk tastes, the better your yogurt will taste.  We prefer organic, but regular works fine as long as you taste it before you use it.  We’ve gotten regular milk that tastes really nasty before.

I like to add pictures with my posts, so I’m adding this lovely shot of the yogurt maker that I inherited from my husband’s grandmother, but you absolutely don’t need a special maker.  I’ve used a heating pad, the oven pilot light, and my crock pot set on warm.  Lately I use this baby:

This was Steve's grandmother's yogurt maker. I love this stupid thing.

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

To make about a quart of yogurt you’ll need:

1/2 gallon of milk

1/3 to 1/2 cup dried milk–makes it thick and creamy (skim milk takes more than whole milk)

1/4 to 1/2 cup plain yogurt with active cultures

100% apple juice concentrate (I use frozen)

fruit like bananas, strawberries, etc. to puree to mix in

1.      Set out the plain yogurt to warm up to room temp while you do everything else

2.      Combine your milk and dry milk in a large pot and slowly warm it to 180° F. (You need an instant read thermometer.)

3.      Let it cool down to about 110°

4.      Add the yogurt, but stir carefully so you don’t incorporate much air

5.      Pour it into a very clean container (I use a big Tupperware with a lid.)

6.      Put the container somewhere where it will stay at 110° (+/-5°)
(You can use your oven set on low, you can use warm water in a cooler, anything you want as long as it stays between 105° and 115°.  I used to put my Tupperware container in a soft sided cooler with my heating pad set on medium with the probe of my thermometer in there so I can keep an eye on the temperature.)

8.      Leave it to ferment for around 6 hours.  (Don’t jostle it while it’s fermenting or it might not set up.)
You can see when it’s set up because it looks kind of jelled and sometimes you can see the watery whey around it.  The longer you let it set, the tangier it gets.

9.     It’s now ready to eat, but I drain mine so it’s thicker–almost like pudding.

10.  After it’s set up, pour it into a strainer lined with a few layers of cheesecloth (or a coffee filter) over a mixing bowl to catch the whey.

11.  Leave it in your fridge for several hours or overnight so the whey can drain.

12.  After the whey has drained, pour it out of the bowl and dump the leftover yogurt cheese from the strainer into the bowl.  (It will kind of peel away from the cheesecloth.)

13.  Stir in the apple juice concentrate, a little at a time, until it is a sweet as you’d like (I think I use about 1/4 cup.)

14.  To make the fruit for the bottom or to mix in; I frequently use unsweetened, defrosted, frozen fruit that I’ve whirled in the food processor.  Our favorite is a really ripe banana, a few defrosted strawberries, and a drop or two of lemon juice.  (The lemon juice keeps the bananas from turning brown.)  You can experiment to find your favorites.

15.  I just keep all of it in a large container in the fridge and mix flavors when I serve it so I can pick flavors depending on my whim.

16.  If you leave the yogurt to drain longer, it will get more firm—like soft cream cheese.  You can then add herbs and spices and use it as a really good, low fat, savory spread or dip.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Slow But Sure Post–Now with FRUIT SMOOTHIE!

Filed under: Alton's Smoothie (tweaked),Healthy Junk Food,WW Points — shaye3 @ 3:31 pm

For those of you who are here looking for the marble cake or the rolls, I swear I’m working on them!  Long recipes take longer to type out.  I have to type a paraphrased version of each recipe for copyright reasons, and both of those recipes are kind of long.  I’ve been working on them, but I’m also homeschooling and just started a new job.  I’m starting with a super-easy recipe, and I’ll try to get to the other two very soon!

Sooo, you already know about how good intentions pave roads–no need to expound on that one.  My grand scheme was to start the big diet on January first, except we were still in full holiday mode and had all kinds of company that first week.  Not to mention that Steve’s work decided that they should let everyone wait an extra week between pay periods the first of the year because there were too many weeks in the year or something.  I don’t know, but the budget got tighter that first week in January.  It actually worked out well because we ate out of our pantry for a while, and got rid of a lot of fattening foods that I didn’t want to have around anyway.   When we finally hit the grocery, we came out with lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.  I guess that should cushion the blow that we came out almost $300 lighter.  (In all fairness, we were out everything.  It does cost a little more to stock up on staples when you’re completely starting over with only healthy versions of everything.)

Steve finally got paid on the eighth, and the ninth is my half birthday–which means I have exactly six months to take off this weight before it becomes permanently glued to the body on my fortieth birthday.  (At least I’ve heard that it’s impossible to lose weight after you turn forty.  Hopefully it’s an exaggeration since I’ll still have a little more weight to lose after this initial fifty pounds I’m hoping to drop by mid-July.)

It seems that all the cool people are dropping weight now-a-days.  I just watched an extremely gaunt-looking Alton Brown do a show on that very topic.  (Somebody please tell me when I get too thin. I don’t want to look unhealthy like Alton.)

Anyway, one of Alton’s recipes from his show “Live and Let Diet” was a fruit smoothie that he has for breakfast each and every day.   (I’m not the type who could stand having the same thing every day for breakfast, but I say more power to him!)  His recipe makes 24 ounces of smoothie, which seems like way too much for a normal person to drink.  I made a whole batch and split it with my son for a mid-morning snack.  It was pretty good, but it needed some vanilla in my opinion.  All smoothies need vanilla in my opinion.

Alton’s Buff Smoothie

Alton’s Buff SmoothieMakes 24 oz–which serves two in our house. 3 WW points per 12 oz. / 6 WW points for the whole thing

(Know that Alton is a little strange, so he weighs the whole thing.  I did it like he did and just put the tank of my VitaMix right on my food scale and then zeroed out each time I added a new ingredient.  It worked easily enough.)

4 oz low-fat plain soy milk (I used unsweetened Silk, but the vanilla would be really tasty.)

4 oz Concord grape juice (Grape is cheapest, but according to him you can also use pomegranate or acai juice.)

4 oz frozen strawberries (All fruit is unsweetened–naturally.)

4 oz frozen bananas (I didn’t have any bananas in the freezer, so I just peeled one straight off the counter.)

4 oz frozen blueberries (You can use blackberries, but I don’t like that many seeds.)

4 oz frozen peaches or mangoes (I calculated the points using peaches.  Mango is tasty, but it has more calories and less fiber.)

A splash of vanilla extract (Alton doesn’t call for this, but it needs it.  I added maybe 1/4 tsp. to my half of the finished smoothie, and it was a big improvement since I like everything to taste like ice cream.)

  1. Alton measures the ingredients into blender the night before and blends the next morning.  I didn’t, and it was a pain to mix because my fruit was really frozen.  I used a Vita-Mix, which has a power-boat motor.  I don’t know if it would have worked otherwise.  That fruit was rock hard.
  2. If you want to know the exact nuance of how he mixed it, check the food network site.  I figure it’s a smoothie–you can’t really do it wrong if it comes out smooth in the end.

Ok, I’m off to nag my son to get his math done, and to work on that stupid marble cake post. 😉

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What does your grocery list look like when you’re eating healthy?

Filed under: Healthy Junk Food,Meal Plans,Menu Planning,Opinions,WW Points — shaye3 @ 10:12 am

I’m on Weight Watchers again, and I’m working on my grocery list.  I was talking to a couple of Facebook friends earlier about the types of healthy foods we try to keep on hand when trying to eat healthy.  I shared a few things that I’ve come up with, but I’d love to hear other people’s suggestions!

Here are some of mine:

I hate to admit it, because I seriously do try to avoid processed foods when I can, but it’s a lot harder when you’re dieting or doing Weight Watchers.  I tend to keep a few Lean Cuisines or Lean Pockets in the freezer for emergencies or when I’m just feeling extremely lazy–they’re easy and don’t have a lot of points.  I also tend to keep a can of milk chocolate Slimfast powder in the cupboard for the same reason.  While I’m doing true confessions, I also use butter sprinkles or butter spray when I’m doing Weight Watchers.  Yes I know it’s like one molecule away from being plastic, but I still do it.  (There, I admitted it.)

Other than those seriously processed things…

I try to buy a lot of produce, then wash and chop it the next day so it’s easy to grab at a moment’s notice.  (Grocery shopping can be exhausting, so I usually never do it right when I get home from the store.)

I buy romaine & other lettuces, spinach, radishes, carrots, sprouts, and any other salad-bar things that would be low or no points.  I also get some slightly higher cal/higher protein items  like sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans, olives,  and 2% cheese–but I try to make sure to weigh those things before putting on my salad because they can rack up points quickly.  I keep all of it–chopped, washed and ready to eat–in small containers in the fridge.  (My own little instant salad bar!) I also keep low cal salad dressing, which I also try to remember to measure when I use it when I’m counting points.  I try to make my own salad dressings because it’s hard to find dressings that don’t have HFCS.  The Annie’s dressings don’t, but I’m just not crazy about bottled dressings to begin with.

I also try to get stuff like zucchini, summer squash, fresh mushrooms, onions, eggplant, red peppers, and other similar veggies that I’ll chop up and saute in a small amount of olive oil while I’m prepping all my produce. (I usually saute them one at a time, then throw it all in together.  I just keep a big container of cooked veggies in the fridge so I can warm some in the microwave to go into my Egg Beaters omlet in the morning with a couple of Tbs. of 2% cheese.  It’s a fast, healthy, and fairly quick breakfast.

The other day, I figured out that I can peel and chop up an apple, throw it together with a little sweetener, pinch of salt, butter spray, cinnamon and nutmeg; and then nuke it until it’s soft.  It’s awesome on a toasted whole grain English Muffin when I’m craving a pastry.

When I buy any bread product, I check the label to make sure there’s no HFCS, then I check to make sure it says “Whole Wheat” or “Whole Grain”.  After that, I check the nutrition label to figure out which one has the most fiber and the fewest calories.  If there’s more than one that fits that criteria, I get the one that feels softer. 😉

In the summer, we love frozen grapes.  I’ll buy a bunch of grapes, wash them really well and cut the stems so that when you grab them you’ll get a proper serving size.  Then I just throw them in the freezer.  They work really well when you want something cold and sweet like a Popsicle.  (They don’t satisfy a chocolate craving though.  I’ve been known to keep the fat free Fudgesicles on hand for that purpose.  Only one point each!)

My doctor suggested another one to me.  He’s completely against all sweeteners.  (He prefers sugar or honey to HFCS, but would prefer we avoid all of them with the history of diabetes in our family.) He suggested that a calorie free, yet refreshing drink is flavored water.  He told me to take a pitcher of water and put in sliced lemons, limes, even cucumber.  Throw it in the fridge overnight, and it makes a really good drink.  I’ve tried cucumber water at a spa, but I keep meaning to do this at home.  I love to put water in the fridge anyway.  It’s handy to have cold water, and I swear it tastes better after the chlorine has had a chance to evaporate away.

We also love to make 5-minute tomato soup.  I’m pretty sure I’ve posted it on here before, but all you do is put a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan, warm it a little and then throw in a little fresh garlic.  (Roasted garlic is even better!) Then you let that sizzle for less than a minute before you add a can of crushed tomatoes and a little dried basil.  You let that simmer for about 5 minutes, then either take a stick blender to it, throw it in your regular blender, or leave it slightly chunky.  We love it, and it’s almost point free!

Ok, there are a few of my healthy food tricks.  Now it’s your turn to comment and share some of yours!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What to do with ALL OF THE TOMATOES!!

Ok, so we bought four tomato plants, two of them actually lived, and of course neither living plant was the Roma or the cherry.  (Romas are my favorite, and I have an awesome recipe for stuffed cherry tomatoes that I wanted to make.)  That means that I now have tons and tons of tomatoes that fall into the “other” category.  For some reason, a lot of the tomatoes on one of the plants have turned black on the top and started cracking.  I think it’s because of all the rain we’ve gotten recently.  Fortunately, the other plant seems to be fine.  More than fine.  Prolific.  Exuberant.  Crazy!

So here’s what I did.  I decided to oven dry them.  I dried two huge trays of them, and then proceeded to eat all of them like candy.  I guess it could have been worse, they could have been actual candy.  I swear, I can’t resist them!  They’re really sweet, and kind of chewy.  They have this amazing concentrated tomato flavor, and I just sit and eat them like popcorn or something.  I probably ate a dozen tomatoes worth before they were even off the tray.  It’s probably shameful, but if it’s wrong I don’t wanna be right!  (And the best part is, they pretty much count as 0 ww points!)

Here’s how you do it-

Wash your tomatoes, cut them into 8ths, run your finger through the sides of the slices to get rid of the liquid and seeds, and cut off the bits of core stuck to the top of the wedges.

Put them on a foil-lined baking sheet that you’ve oiled with about two tablespoons of olive oil.  Lightly sprinkle with salt.  (You can also throw some dried basil on them if you’d like.  I didn’t this time.)

Put the trays in a 275 oven, and leave them for an hour.  After the hour, come back and shake them to loosen any that are sticking.  Put them back in the oven and let them continue to dry.  Eventually, you can flip them over if you’d like.

I’d say it takes at least two hours, depending on how big and juicy your tomatoes were to begin with.  They dehydrate down to little bite sized pieces that you won’t be able to resist.

tomatoes (before)

tomatoes (before)

tomatoes (during)

tomatoes (during)

tomatoes (after)

tomatoes (after)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Baked Potato Skins in honor of the Potato Hos of the Blogosphere!

Well folks, Cathy at Noble Pig is having a blogging event to satisfy her obsession with potatoes. Now, it seems, that the third Wednesday of every month will be Potato Ho Down Wednesday for Cathy and several of her Potato-Ho friends. (And yes, I’m cracking up because they are self-proclaimed Potato Hos.)

Unfortunately, I’m am a potato slacker because July 14th is the last day to enter for this month; but you can see the results at Noble Pig on Wednesday July 16th! (Heck, if you’re a true potato ho, you’ll probably fix a potato dish tonight AND Monday, so you can just snap a pic and enter one of those dishes! If not, there’s always the third Wednesday of August.)

I made these potato skins for the first time last New Years Eve. I have to warn you, they are highly addictive! Normal potato skins are resistible, but the spiced oil that you brush on these babies makes them utterly irresistible.

And before you read the recipe name and question my sanity, you need to question the sanity of the folks over at Noble Pig because it is a requirement that you use your official “ho name” to name your dish, and I’m not one to buck the system! (In case you were wondering, your “ho name” can be found by combining your pet’s name and your middle name.)

And so, I present to you…

Daisy Elaine’s Tater Skins
8 servings
6 WW Points per potato half

4 potatoes, scrubbed and baked (I nuke mine.)

3 Tbs vegetable oil (Evoo is too strong. I use canola.)

1 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp paprika (Smoked is really good. Regular works fine.)

1/8 tsp pepper

1/4 cup bacon bits (Soy works fine.)

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

4 green onions, sliced (Or use some of those chives that’ve been taking over your herb garden.)

  1. Cut baked potatoes in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the pulp. (Leave 1/4-inch shell.)
  2. Place on a sprayed baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the oil, Parm, salt, garlic powder, paprika and pepper and brush all over the skins inside and out.
  4. Bake them cut side up at 475° for about 8 minutes and turn them over.
  5. Bake them for another 8 minutes or so and then turn them right side up again.
  6. Sprinkle the bacon and cheddar on the inside of the cup part.
  7. Bake a couple of minutes longer until the cheese is melty.
  8. Top with sour cream and onions/chives.

(Feel free to leave off the sour cream and onions if you don’t like them. Or feel free to go nuts and put whatever you want on the nekkid skins. I think taco stuff might be good. Or maybe even chopped, steamed broccoli and cheese or something. They’re your skins, it ain’t none of my business what you wanna do with them!) 😉

I would also be remiss if I didn’t pimp my own Blogging Event! I’m having a picnic for my birthday, and you’re invited! Just bring some sort of pot-luck, pitch-iny kind of dish!
Click here for details!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chocolate Chip Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Ok, so the past several days have been crazy around here. We enjoyed Memorial Day weekend, and yesterday was my son’s last day of school. We also have folks coming over this coming weekend, and over night guests coming the second week of June so I’ve been trying to whip this crack house into shape!

I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new, so I figured I’d share some cupcakes that I baked over the weekend. The problem is that we inhaled them before I could snap a picture.

Here’s an artist’s rendition though.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
13 ww points each
(Hey, cupcakes ain’t health food.)
Makes 24 cupcakes
Time to make 50 min (25 min prep)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour (As always, whole wheat pastry flour rules!)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup mini-chocolate chips (The first time I used regular sized chips and they all stuck to the cupcake papers. The mini stay distributed better and fewer stick to the papers.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with papers.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  3. Throw the butter and sugars in the mixer and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the bananas, eggs (one at a time), and then the vanilla.
  5. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture alternately, and mix until just combined.
  6. Gently stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  8. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Please don’t over mix these, don’t over bake these, and if you want them obnoxiously moist you should add extra mashed banana.

Then make this for the top:

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter (Softened to room temperature unless you have a stand mixer.)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I use the natural kind with no sweeteners. It might be too sweet if you use something like Jiff of Skippy.)

2 cups powdered sugar (sifted works best)

1/8 cup milk (Same as 2 Tbs.)

1 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Cream butter and peanut butter together.
  2. Add half the powdered sugar and mix in.
  3. Add the milk and vanilla and mix more.
  4. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix until it’s smooth.
  5. Frost those cooled cupcakes, and don’t be stingy with the frosting!

Whip these up and take them to your next potluck or pitch-in! Everyone will love you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Vanilla-Scented Granola

Filed under: Vanilla-Scented Granola,WW Points — shaye3 @ 9:09 am
Tags: ,
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I actually posted this on my non-food blog a while back, but since I’ve been on a breakfast kick lately, I thought I’d share it over here, too.)
Vanilla-Scented Granola — 11 ww points per 1 cup serving

I don’t remember adding the crack to these, but I swear I had to go back and look at the recipe this morning because Simon and I couldn’t stop eating it.  I know it has a lot of sugar, but I figure at least it’s not hfcs, and I know exactly what all of the ingredients are!

45 min | 15 min prep | 8 cups

vegetable oil cooking spray

4 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup sliced almonds (I used chopped pecans because that’s what I had.)

1/2 cup golden brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey (I used some honey and some agave nectar because I ran out of honey.)

2 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

(I also threw in one cup of dried fruit right before I put it in the oven. It was a mix of blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and plums.)

  1. Position rack to middle of oven and preheat to 300°.
  2. Lightly spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray. (I put down a sheet of parchment and sprayed that.)
  3. Mix oats, nuts, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in large bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine oil, honey and sugar, and bring to simmer over medium heat.
  5. Remove from heat; then stir in vanilla.
  6. Pour hot liquid over oat mixture; stir well.
  7. Using hands, toss mixture until thoroughly mixed. (I used a rubber spatula and it worked fine.)
  8. (I added the cup of dried fruit right after I mixed the liquid into the oats, by the way.)
  9. Spread granola on prepared baking sheet.
  10. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes (Check after 20 because the sugar burns easily).
  11. Transfer sheet to rack; cool granola completely.
  12. Store in airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for about two weeks.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Pizza Day!

Filed under: Healthy Junk Food,Pizza,WW Points — shaye3 @ 10:37 am
Tags: ,

Friday is pizza day at our house. Most of the time, my husband makes the crust. I don’t know why, but he just has a knack for it. Occasionally I’ll pull out a more complicated pizza crust recipe that I make in my bread machine, but for today I’ll just give you the fast and easy recipe.

Our toppings vary, but this is the version we make most frequently over the winter. (Our Summer version involves fresh tomatoes.)

Easy Pizza Crust

8 Servings – 5.5 WW points per slice

1 package active dry yeast (or a scant tablespoon of bulk yeast)

1 cup warm water (105° to 115°)

2 1/2 cups flour (My original recipe says use all-purpose, but we frequently use 1.5 cup bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour.)

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. olive oil

  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients and vigorously 20 strokes. (I’ll knead it a little to make it smoother if it feels like it needs it.)
  3. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes before using to give the gluten time to relax.

* * * * *

Our Normal Friday Pizza

This is how I make our normal pizza. (I usually have all of the ingredients on hand.)

1 recipe pizza crust

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

A sprinkle of Italian Seasoning (I frequently use Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle or Italian Herb Mix)

8 oz. mozzarella cheese (I prefer to get the block and shred it myself, but we use bags or shreds a lot.)

1 7 oz. can of sliced mushrooms, well drained (Or mushroom pieces & stems are cheaper.)

A handful or two of Morningstar Farms soy “sausage” crumbles (I know, these are totally processed food; but it’s hard to find veggie alternatives that *aren’t* processed, so I look the other way sometimes.)

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°
  2. Oil your pizza stone, terra cotta tile, or another pan. (A stone or stone tile will make the best crust.)
  3. Spread your crust out by pushing it with your fingers or the heels of your hand. (Try to push instead of stretch because stretched dough usually tears or springs back.)
  4. Sometimes I throw the crust in the oven for a few minutes, sometimes I don’t. It’s a mood thing. (Last night I did pre-bake the crust because it makes it a little easier to spread the toppings sometimes.)
  5. Spread the tomato paste all over the top of the crust. (If you open both ends of the tomato paste can, you can push one end of the can all the way through and all of the tomato paste will come right out.)
  6. Sprinkle Italian seasoning all over the top of the tomato paste. (If I’m out of Italian seasoning, I’ve also just sprinkled dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, or whatever sounds good at the time.)
  7. Dump the whole 8 oz. of shredded cheese on top and spread it out to the edges.
  8. Sprinkle the sausage and mushrooms on top of the cheese. (You can obviously sub any toppings you want.)
  9. Pop the whole thing back into the oven and bake until the cheese starts to get golden.
  10. Pull it out of the oven, and let it sit for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Yum!

* * * * *

I’ll throw in this bonus picture of a slice of our pizza. My hand was shaking a little bit, so it’s a little blurry. I would love to blame it on our earthquake, but I actually made the pizza last night and our earthquake was at 5:38 this morning. 😉

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hot Fudge Sundae

Today is our second day of sunny, 70-degree weather in Central Indiana, and trust me when I say we’ve been taking advantage of it! Yesterday I got our patio tidied and pressure washed the winter dust off so we can eat out there, and today I’m working on the lawn. I think tomorrow is supposed to be our last warm, sunny day before the April showers start back up, so it was definitely time for some ice cream!

(A hot fudge sundae with 1/2 cup of this ice cream and 2 Tbs of this hot fudge is 7 WW points)

Vanilla Ice Cream

I got this recipe from Alton Brown’s “Good Eats”.

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups half and half

1 cup minus 2 Tbs sugar

2 Tbs peach preserves (I used apricot because I had it.)

1 vanilla bean, split and scrape the seeds into the mix (I’ve read that you can also use 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract if you don’t have a bean.)

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, and stir over medium heat until the mixture reaches 170°.

Pour into an airtight container, and stash it in the fridge for at least four hours, but overnight is better. (I strained mine to catch the pieces of vanilla bean and the pieces of apricot that were in the preserves.)

Pour into your ice cream maker and process according to ice cream maker directions. (For my machine, you just pour it into the frozen insert while the blade thingy is running and let it freeze for about 20 minutes or until it looks like soft serve.)

After it has reached soft serve consistency, spoon it back into your airtight container and stash it back into your freezer to let it cure. (Let it harden and let the flavors meld some more.)

Or you could always just eat it like soft serve, which I think is better anyway!

I have to say that this recipe was a little too sweet for me. It tastes a lot like Dairy Queen soft serve—which is good, but I think I prefer the custard type ice creams if I’m going to harden them off. Next time I’m going to just eat this as soft serve.

This is very close to the recipe that came with the ice cream maker, but the ice cream maker recipe skips the preserves and only uses 3/4 cup of sugar. I might try using 3/4 cup minus 2 Tbs sugar next time and include the preserves and see what we think.

* * * * *

Hot Fudge Sauce

This recipe is a slight adaptation of a recipe I got from my friend Kelly’s mom. We love it because it is thick, creamy, and made of stuff we always have on hand. (I’ve actually thought about mixing up enough dry ingredients for one batch, and keeping it in the cabinet in case of chocolate emergency!)

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 dash salt

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mix dry ingredients.

2. Stir in room temperature water.

3. Microwave 90 seconds–stirring every 30 seconds.

4. Blend in butter and microwave 15 seconds more and stir.

5. Continue to alternate microwaving for 15 seconds and stirring until it reaches desired thickness. (The longer you cook it, the thicker it gets.).

6. After microwaving stir in vanilla.

7. Serve warm.

The trick to this hot fudge sauce is to keep putting it back in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until it is as thick as you want it. If you like it thinner, it won’t take very long; but we like it pretty thick and fudgy so I keep putting it back in. After it is as thick as you want, add the vanilla and you’re golden!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Veggie Burger and Veg-o-Matic Fries

The other day, I decided that I wanted to create the ultimate vintage diner meal; except a healthier, vegetarian, and homemade version.

I present to you–Veggie Burger with Homemade Bun and Veg-o-Matic Fries!

The bun recipe is tried and true. I found it on a cooking site that I frequent, and it is always good. I’ve never managed to screw it up, which is saying something when it comes to yeast bread!

Burger Buns

3.858 WW points for 1 bun if you make 10 / 3.215 WW points if you make 12

1 cup water
2 Tbs butter or margarine
1 egg
2 1/4 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp instant yeast

1. Place all ingredients in your bread machine. Select dough. Allow to run cycle

2. Dump out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 pieces. Slap each piece into a bun shape. (Usually 4 or 5 slaps will do it.) Place on greased cookie sheets or your bun pans, cover; rise about 30 to 40 minutes.

(I used my muffin-top pan, and it worked really well—except that it only has 6 holes.)

3. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes until golden. Cool on wire racks

Food Processor Directions for buns:

Place flour, sugar, salt and yeast in your 7-cup or larger food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade.

Pulse to combine, add the egg and butter and pulse again to combine.

With the motor running, add warm water (90-95 degrees F) through the feed tube until it starts to form into a rough ball. Stop the machine and check that the dough is slightly sticky. Add a little flour or water if necessary.

Place in a bowl you’re either oiled or sprayed with a cooking spray like Pam. Cover loosely with some sprayed plastic wrap, and let rise for about an hour.

From that point, follow the bread machine directions for shaping.

(Someone told me that they sometimes add 1 tsp onion powder and 1/2 tsp dehydrated minced onion. I did that this time, and it added a light onion-y flavor that was really good.)

Servings: 10

Unfortunately, I forgot about the buns and they got a little more brown than I prefer, but they were still soft and very tasty. I’d made the burgers before, and we love them. I try to keep some of the burger patties in the freezer for quick lunches.

Chicago Diner Burgers

2 WW points for 1 burger if you make 12 out of the mixture

Vegetarian Times Issue: July 1, 2007 p.69

3 stalks celery, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos because I didn’t have a lot of soy sauce.)
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
12 oz. mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
(I also threw a couple of dashes of liquid smoke into the water with the veggies.)

Directions

1. Bring 4 cups water, celery, onion, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper and liquid smoke to a boil in pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in oats, mushrooms and flour, and cook 5 minutes more. Transfer to bowl, and chill. (I put mine in the fridge overnight.)

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Shape mixture into patties, and bake on prepared baking sheet 15 minutes. Flip, and bake 10 minutes more. Cool. (At first I put these on parchment. That was a mistake because it kept the bottoms soggy. The next batch I put on sprayed foil, and that worked much better.)

3. Heat grill to medium-high. Place foil on grill, and coat with cooking spray. Grill burgers on foil 7 minutes per side.
(I re-used the same foil that I baked them on.)

Homemade French Fries

(No idea how many points for the fries. I use Living Cookbook to calculate calories/fat/fiber, and I don’t know how to calculate how much fat is soaked in when you deep fry the potatoes. Sorry.)

Making french fries from potatoes is kind of an inexact science, in my opinion; but I think I’ve found a good trick! I do actually fry my fries in canola oil. I know it adds more calories from the oil, but I’ve heard Alton Brown say that if your oil is hot enough when you put them in, they really don’t absorb much; and I believe him. (Of course, I still try to never eat more than a small potato’s worth–just in case.)

Here’s how I do it:

Use one potato for each serving you’d like to make. (I like to use the mealier rather than waxy potatoes because I’m going for crispy outsides and fluffy insides with my fries.)

I’ve heard many people recommend frying fries twice. The first time on a lower temperature to soften and cook the potato, then put them back in again on a higher temperature to crisp the outsides. The problem with that method is that if I believe Alton Brown, the first low-temp fry might make them greasy–which I obviously don’t want.

The trick I’ve figured out is to give the outsides of the potatoes a cursory wash, poke steam holes in them, and bake them in the microwave until just before they’re fully cooked. (I put my potatoes uncovered on a plate for about 3 minutes a potato. I kind of give them a gentle squeeze; and I’m going for when they’ve softened a little, but aren’t yet fully done and squishy.) I then drop the potatoes in cold water to cool them quickly, and then you can pull the peel off really easily when they’re cool enough to handle.

After they’re peeled, cut them into fry-sized sticks. (A Veg-o-Matic is a delightful way to achieve that, but I realize that not everyone has a Veg-o-Matic so a knife works just fine.)

Heat your oil to about 375. (A little higher is ok because the oil temp will drop a little when you add the fries.) I use my handy-dandy deep fryer that I got a few years ago at Costco, but you can definitely use a large pan or dutch oven and a thermometer that goes up to 375.

Drop in your fries, but keep in mind that it will lower your temp so you might not want to put in too much at a time. (Mine has a basket, so I fill the basket about half full at a time. If you’re using a regular pot, I don’t think I’d put in more fries than would cover the entire top of the oil with one layer of fries at a time.)

Let them fry until they’ve reached your desired degree of golden and they’re done. You’ve already cooked the insides, so you pull them out throw them on something to drain, and give them a little salt and ketchup. (And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Heinz Organic ketchup has no high-fructose corn syrup, and we actually prefer the taste over the original. It is a little more expensive, but we aren’t huge ketchup eaters so a 10 oz. bottle lasts us a while.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Veg-o-Matic!

Ok, so the receipt in the box says 1962, but I still love it!

I live in a wonderful 1940s ranch house that used to be my husband’s grandparents’, and is filled with character. I would absolutely love to be able to undo the modernizations that have been done to it, and return it to it’s full 1940s kitchy splendor. For now, I just delight in things like the vintage Veg-o-Matic that I got from my grandma when she moved out of her home and in with my aunt years ago. I had forgotten all about the Veg-o-Matic until I was recently cleaning out my basement, but I’ve used it several times since then!

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