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Pecan pie is probably my all-time favorite pie. Unfortunately because this pie is almost always made with corn syrup I usually either forgo it or eat it and then feel bad about myself. But I have found a way to make my pie and eat it too.

Pecan pie with no corn syrup. No GMOs to worry about and replacing it with a healthy substitute. That’s win-win in my book!

I started with this recipe. As you are probably aware, I can rarely leave a recipe as is. So I used pure maple syrup instead of the cane syrup they used. I also cut back on the sugar from 1 cup to ¾ of a cup. (As it turns out, it was still too sweet and next time I’ll scale back even further on the sugar.) Other than that, I left it as is.

I will admit that I used a store bought pie crust for this. (Serious kung faux pas.) But in my defense, I am mom to a now-crawling baby and am short on time and was not playing super mom that day. And it was an organic crust!

The pie turned out looking beautiful. (A little too perfect looking, thanks to the crust, but oh well. This post is not about the crust.) I was amazed. I delivered it to my Superbowl party friends with both pride and trepidation, because you are never sure how a pie turned out until it’s tasted. And bringing a pie with a slice missing to a friend’s house is just bad form.

The texture of the filling turned out nicely. Maybe not quite as spongy as is achieved with corn syrup, but it delivered on flavor and the texture was good. We felt like it did need more filling for the size of the pie and the amount of pecans, though, so I will probably ramp up the maple syrup and eggs for round two while still reducing the sugar. As I mentioned, it was very sweet.

In the end it was a successful first-time pecan pie. Yes, it was my first. And here’s another factoid – last Thanksgiving I made my first pumpkin pie. Shocking!!

I recommend giving this recipe a whirl and adding your own flair to it. It’s definitely a great place to start for a corn syrup free Southern pee-can pie!

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One of my favorite things in the world is a good Asian peanut sauce. If you add noodles, it’s even better! I’ve been trying to achieve the perfect peanut noodles with just the right balance of heat, spice and sweetness. At long last, I think I have found it. Pull out your big noodle bowls because you’re going to want a big helping of this! It also comes together really quickly so make sure you have all your ingredients ready to roll before you turn on the heat.

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KKF Chicken Peanut Noodles

2 c cooked chicken, shredded

8 oz angel hair or thin spaghetti pasta

1/3 cup peanut butter

1 13.5 oz can coconut milk

2 medium red, orange or yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced

¼ cup soy sauce

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp curry powder

2 tsp rice wine vinegar

2 tsp honey

1 T Korean hot pepper paste

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 bunch of green onions, sliced

½ cup chopped cilantro

 

Heat water for cooking the pasta. (Note: angel hair/thin spaghetti cooks very quickly, so plan to add the pasta to the boiling water about the same time you add the chicken and bell peppers to the sauce below.)

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat and sauté the garlic for a few minutes. Stir in the peanut butter, chili paste, vinegar, curry powder, and honey. Heat through, stirring constantly to maintain the consistency of the sauce. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine, then add the chicken and peppers and heat through, about five minutes.

Toss the noodles and sauce, top with the cilantro and green onions and enjoy!

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When you think of living creatures in your house, you probably think about your pets, the occasional ant or bug, perhaps a spider or two. But you have many, many more than that. Your kitchen is filled with tiny unwanted pets…bacteria. And they are lurking in places that you might not suspect. Here’s the top five nastiest spots in your kitchen:

The Sink: 45% of kitchen sinks were found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria. Even though those sinks may get wiped down regularly, the cracks around the drain or garbage disposal are veritable bacteria nurseries, pumping out baby bacteria like there’s no tomorrow in that warm, food rich environment. Sanitize your sink a few times a week with a one tablespoon of bleach to one quart of water mixture. That will help clean up the bacteria horror show in the garbage disposal as well.
The Sponge/Rag/Brush: These are some of the most disgusting things in your kitchen, and they are probably in and around your sink where you wash your hands, rinse your fruit, fill up water glasses, etc. Or you use that rag to wipe down your countertop, then your little one comes along and rubs their hands on it, immediately transferring that nastiness to their face. NSF International reports that 75% of household sponges and rags carry Coliform bacteria (you know, like E coli.) Don’t keep your dishrags around for more than a day or the bacteria will fester. You can nuke your wet sponge for two minutes in the microwave to kill bacteria, one of the few uses for a microwave I can actually support.
The Fridge Handle/Oven Knobs: Here’s a scenario: you touch your steering wheel, which is covered with the nasty germs you picked up after pumping gas, then you come inside and put away your groceries in the fridge. An hour later you want a snack, open the fridge and grab a piece of cheese and pop it in your mouth. You just ate whatever junk was on the gas pump. Often overlooked when cleaning or forgotten about because they don’t look dirty, oven knobs, drawer knobs and especially the fridge handle are teeming with bacteria. Make sure to wipe them down regularly and wash your hands before putting food away or getting food out.
The Wooden Spoon: Wood is more porous than other types of utensil materials so it can be a haven for bacteria. Especially because you don’t want to put them in the dishwasher (they will crack eventually, either destroying the spoon or creating an even worse environment for bacteria to grow. Wash your wooden spoons in boiling soapy water and replace them at least every five years and discard them if they get black or discolored spots, as this indicates that they may be rotting. And whatever you do, don’t rub that germy sponge all over them!
The Produce Drawer: Cleaning the fridge is a giant pain in the butt. The only task I hate more than cleaning the fridge is cleaning the oven. Unfortunately a dirty fridge is a ticking time bomb, and the produce drawer is a prime candidate for making you and your family sick. Salmonella, yeast, mold, and other unwelcome guests are probably in your produce drawer right now. Compounding that problem is the fact that many items that are stored there are eaten raw, meaning you could be running that bacteria laden lemon under the faucet, then depositing it right into your water glass, salmonella and all. Wash out your produce drawers with soapy water on at least a monthly basis. And get rid of those parsnips that are still in there from the last time you cleaned it.

There are LOTS of other places in the kitchen that can harbor nasty pets – the can opener, the cutting board, the gasket in your blender. The list never ends. Be on your guard against these little baddies and keep your family safe and healthy!

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When I was a teenager I worked in the kitchen in a rest home. There was one old lady who told me the same story every time she saw me. It would always start the same way.

“Where do you live?” Bertha asked.

“Ridgeway,” I would say, knowing what was coming next.

“I was in Ridgeway once. I didn’t know it was a town. We went there to catch a train to see the doctor because my mother had a goiter.”

I must have heard about Bertha’s mother’s goiter a hundred times. These days people don’t get goiters, or if they do, very rarely. Goiters are a result of iodine deficiency, which is why they starting putting iodine into table salt.

Like many ideas, it was a good one at the time that served a purpose whose time has come and gone. Anyone who eats a half way healthy diet including seafood is getting plenty of iodine. No need for the regular table salt, which, frankly, tastes harsh and if it makes any sense…is too salty.

Other than not really needing the iodine, there are other reasons to ditch the table salt. First, regular table salt is heavily processed, stripping away the nutrients. (This website claims that the salt manufacturers then sell the minerals they took out of the salt to nutritional supplement companies. I have not investigated this, but if true is an eye-opener.) Second, they also add anti-clumping agents, generally talc and silica aluminate. Talc is a known carcinogen (why it’s not in baby powder anymore), and aluminum is highly toxic to neurological systems (also a good reason to seek out aluminum free baking powder). Up to 2% of table salt is permitted to be these “fillers.”

Those are additions I’m just not looking for in my diet, so I strongly prefer sea salts. Even if there were no appreciable health differences between table salt and sea salt, sea salt just tastes better. It comes in fun colors (usually grey or pink, depending on where it came from and is due to the minerals that it contains) and a variety of textures.

Sea salt can be expensive, so I usually get mine as part of a bulk order through a food co-op that I’m part of. I do sometimes need to buy it on my own, and when I do I really like Celtic Sea Salt. It has a really mild flavor and I feel like it enhances the flavor of food the way salt should, instead of just masking blandness with saltiness.

What’s your favorite salt?

 

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If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have five cookbooks (er, deserted except for access to any and all ingredients, kitchen supplies and cooking implements) one book that would definitely be among them is How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.

You may know Bittman as The Minimalist. He has a number of cookbooks, writes cooking columns and had a TV show on PBS. I really enjoy his work and his simple but quality approach to culinary delights.

In How to Cook Everything, Bittman offers recipes for, well, just about everything as the name implies. It has an absurd number of recipes for a single book (although it is over 1000 pages) and covers the whole spectrum, from salads to seafood to baked goods to meats and soups to desert, he really does have it all.

What do you want to make? English muffins? Got it. Clafouti or burritos? Yep. Roast saddle of lamp? Uh-huh. Teriyaki chicken or bruchetta? Yes, indeed. Brioche and quick breads? Of course. Potstickers, mayonnaise, Pina Coladas and chocolate layer cake?  Yes, yes and yes. In a single book Bittman provides tried and true recipes for thousands of staples. It is my go-to book whenever I decide to make something I’ve never made before and for those recipes I make again and again. Some of my favorites that I’ve had marked with sticky tabs for years are his quick bread recipes, tomato sauces, beans and rice and fish en papillote (fish in packages).

Voluminous? Yes! But not as bad as cluttering your bookshelf with 18 other cookbooks to cover the same recipes. In fact I’ve used mine so much it’s starting to come apart and I need to replace it. I will get the hard cover version next time so it can stand up to my abuse.

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The week before last I prattled on about my favorite kitchen gadgets. This week I thought I’d also thought I’d relate the story of one of my biggest gadget kung faux pas in recent years.

I’ve had my trusty Cuisinart food processor for about ten years. I love it, and it’s just as powerful now as the day we brought it home from the hospital Santa gave it to me for Christmas. But as one often does after eight years or so my eyes started straying to the new, hot models and I started fantasizing about their amazing features. Multiple sized work bowls. A dough hook. Wide mouthed feeders.

Oh yeah, baby. So I took the plunge and dropped $250+ on the new hotness, relegating my old faithful to the basement. I shredded, sliced and pureed in my HUGE new machine. And there was the first sign that my kitchen karma was turning south.

It was giant. And heavy. And barely fit under my counter. And the huge lid was another monstrosity that took up twice the room in my dishwasher as the old one.

Then there were those magical nesting work bowls of different sizes. The thing is in order to use any of them you also have to use the large one. That means at least two bowls to clean instead of one. More to clean = kitchen fail.

Finally one day I went to make mayonnaise. I put my small work bowl into place (with the large beneath it, both of which would likely need to be washed at the end of the production), added my egg yolks and mustard and let it rip. As I slowly drizzled in my olive oil it became clear that I had no emulsion. Zip, zero, nada.

Kind of important for mayonnaise.

Unable to revive my would-be mayo, I tried again. And again, I failed to emulsify.

What the heck?

It would seem that the blade was not close enough to bottom of the work bowl to properly blend my egg yolks and mustard. My giant new food processor was a total let down.

That was the last straw. I went down into the basement and retrieved Old Faithful. She was not spiteful of my cheating ways. I added my ingredients to her slightly chipped old work bowl and POW. Mayo: smooth, creamy and beautiful as always.

The robotic monstrosity is still under my kitchen counter, and when I have need to shred 15 pounds of cheese or make hummus to feed a crowd, it is there, ready and waiting. But so is Old Faithful, and I pull her out 9 times out of 10 when I need to take something for a spin.


Old Faithful, the new model
 

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Gadget Love Fest

I will freely admit that I’m a kitchen gadget junkie. My hero Alton Brown would be appalled at my kitchen, which is filled will all manner of unitaskers. However, some of them are so unbelievably handy that I think I could turn him to the dark side. Here are some of my favorites:

The Garlic Twist: Heavy enough to smash your garlic cloves and big enough to mince up to 6 cloves at a time, this is my all-time favorite unitasker. Unless you count smashing and mincing garlic as two activities instead of one. In the end, it turns whole garlic cloves into many, many tiny bits of garlic. But it does it in a snap. Smash your garlic, stick the pieces into the twist and…you guessed it. Twist the contraption. It turns those cloves nearly into paste if you want it to. I love it and use it every single time I need garlic. Which is often. Luckily it’s easy to clean (just make sure you rinse it right away because dried on garlic is a pain) and it’s dishwasher safe.

NOTE: Don’t be scammed by the $2.15 garlic twist that looks similar to this one. It is a knock-off and is NOT the same. You’ll be bummed and think bad thoughts about KKF. I won’t lead you astray. Buy the real thing.

The Lemon Squeezer: If you have a little plastic lemon in your fridge right now, I want you to stop what you’re doing and go get it. Then throw it directly into the trash can. You do not need it nor do you want it. Fresh lemon juice is more nutritious and doesn’t contain garbage like the plastic lemon variety. Plus, it’s easy to squeeze when you have yourself one of these lemon squeezers. They come in lime and orange sizes too but I find the lemon size to be very multi-purpose. You can squeeze a lemon, you can squeeze a lime, and if you need to squeeze an orange you can cut it into four chunks and squeeze away so it’s not exactly a unitasker. (If you need to squeeze enough oranges for orange juice go get a juicer.) Fresh lemon water every day is an easy and beneficial health regimen to get into. Plus it’s a natural breath freshener and tastes light and refreshing!

Mr. Pounder: Ok, the actual name brand is Leifheit but in my kitchen it’s known as Mr. Pounder. This thing is heavy (which is what you want in a pounder) and has two handy surfaces: flat for turning pieces of pork, chicken and beef into lovely, uniform thickness cutlets and spiked for tenderizing and home defense. It’s also big enough to handle the job but small enough that you can single out the thick spots without vaporizing the thin spots. I heart Mr. Pounder, and use it every time I make chicken masala or schnitzel to please test subject Bill. It also makes quick work of cabbage for making naturally fermented sauerkraut.

Did you go throw out your plastic lemon? Well?


The Clay Baker: A Romertopf, to be exact. I got this amazing baker as a wedding gift more than 13 years ago and it is a work horse. The reason it’s a unitasker is because I only use it for making roast chicken. You can make a great many other things in it, but it is STELLAR for perfectly roasting a free range bird in your oven. I use Nourished Kitchen’s method and it produces a tender, delicious bird with crunchy skin every time without fail. Get one of these bakers and you will not be disappointed.

This is by no means a complete list of the gadgets I know and love, but they are definitely some of my favorites! What are some of your favorite kitchen tools?

Now go throw out that plastic lemon before I roundhouse kick someone.

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