Archive for the ‘Fruits and Vegetables’ Category

Granola parfaits – another breakfast idea

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

It seems that I’m always looking for a little inspiration when it comes to breakfast ideas.  When traveling and looking for healthy breakfast options,  yogurt parfaits are always at the top of my list.  And why not make them at home?  Better yet…if you have children….why not let them assemble parfaits for the family.

You’ll need three ingredients.  Granola (for which there is already a recipe in a prior post, should you need one), yogurt, plain or flavored and then some kind of fruit.  In this case I used blueberries but any berry or combination of berries is awesome.  You can use about any fruit you care to try. The parfaits are especially attractive assembled in a clear glass of some kind but even a coffee mug will do. 

The order of things is not critical but the idea is to layer the color and the textures so that every bite in interesting and delicious.  Here I started with the berries…

then the yogurt.  I used the plain yogurt and would normally leave it unsweetened but if you prefer a sweeter result…

then you can drizzle it with honey. 

Then add your granola and repeat the steps for a second layer.

If the parfait is large enough it stands on its own as a complete breakfast but if it’s smaller toast up an english muffin or bagel and you are set for the day!

A lettuce Spinner – hard to live without one

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

There is a difference between kitchen gadgets and kitchen tools.  Gadgets are typically used only once and they often end up being too hard to use, clean or store; not worth the trouble.  A kitchen tool, on the other hand, is something that is used frequently, saves time and helps produce a better end result.  That’s why I put lettuce spinners in the tool category.

If you like to create your own greens for a salad, a spinner is truly indispensable.  The spinner is designed to work with leaf lettuces and other leafy greens.  It was not intended for use with iceberg lettuce.  The leaf lettuces are cut off at the bottom, rinsed thoroughly and then individual leaves are set inside the spinner.

The cord is pulled and causes the inner basket to spin dispelling any water that would otherwise accumulate on the leaves.

The water is poured out of the spinner and the spinning is repeated one or two more times depending on how many leaves you have in the spinning tub.

So why is this important?  If wet leaves are used to create a salad, it’s hard to get a dressing to take hold of the pieces because the water wants to run off the leaves and pool to the bottom of the plate creating a watery mess of the dressing.  If the leaves are spun dry, then the dressing sticks to the pieces and flavors the greens as it is designed to do.

I’m also a fan of the spinner because it acts as a the storage container for the lettuce.  So after coming home from the store I immediately cut off the bottom of the greens, give the leaves a good rinse and toss them in the spinner and spin.  As they sit in the spinner they crispen and will keep for several days, even a week or two if they are super fresh heads to begin with.  You can store other greens simultaneously as well.  When you are in the mood for a salad, the leaves are crisp and ready to use.  Now that’s a cool tool.

Indoor Smoker

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

I have an indoor smoker.  Everytime I use, which isn’t terribly often, I ask myself why I don’t use it more frequently.  It really is a great innovation and simplifies and streamlines the whole outdoor smoking process. Here’s how it works.

Chips can be purchsed with the smoker and come in two sizes, some very fine and some a little larger.  Fruitwoods are especially nice. 

They are placed in the bottom of the smoking pan and your heat is turned on to high. 

While they are warming set the item you intend to smoke on the rack.  You can smoke meats and vegetables, not cheese with this method.

Once the chips begin to smoke, set the rack in the pan, on top of the chips and close the lid. 

In a few minutes more chips will ignite and a little stream of smoke will emerge from a corner.  Reduce the heat to medium and turn on the kitchen fan to minimize the smell.

You are free to check the doneness of what you are cooking simply by sliding the lid open and looking and poking inside.  When the food is done, remove from the smoker and serve. 

In this case I shredded the chicken to use as part of a smoked chicken salad.  Once the pan has cooled down, throw out any leftover chips and wash the smoker.  It’s fun to experiment with.  Most cooks could find many uses for this tool and they are easily found on line.

Working with fresh coconut, making milk and grating the meat

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I love coconut.  In fact my first childhood memories center around coconut.  I was four years old, my family had just moved to Brazil, living in an apartment in Porto Alegre.  The highlight of my week was when the ice cream man came around.  I could hear his car from the top stories.  He sold all kinds of ice cream but once I tried the coconut I couldn’t think of anything else.  So even now I’m a succor for anything with coconut.  Since then I have mastered the art of cracking into one which takes no brains, just a little guts, time and muscle.

You can do this one of two ways:  Take the coconut outside (which is what I usually do) and set it on the concrete walk.  Hit it with a hammer a few times until it breaks open.  You can also set the entire coconut on a baking sheet and take it to a 350 oven and let it sit in there for 15 or 20 minutes until deep cracks develop but you still need to take a hammer or meat mallet to it to break it open.

A clear liquid will spill out but it is of no use to us so let it go.  It doesn’t even stain the concrete.  This picture was taken on a rainy day so the wet on the concrete is not from the coconut but from the sky.

Break it open and head indoors.

Break it into several smaller, manageable pieces (once again using a hammer or a meat mallet).  Using a butter knife, pry the meat away from the hard shell.  This does take a little effort and aim but it does get easier after a few pieces.  It’s just a little unnerving the first time.

Then, with a vegetable peeler peel away the dark skin from the white meat.

Rinse all the pieces and throw them into a blender cup with 2 cups of boiling water.

Put the lid on the cup and blend until quite fine.  This could take a bit of time depending on the strength of your motor.

Pour contents through a sieve that is set atop a bowl.  The sieve will stop the grated meat and the coconut “milk” will pass through to the bowl.

Squeeze all the grated coconut and squeeze as hard as you can to remove any extra milk.  If the coconut is too hot to handle let it sit for a few minutes before squeezing.  After you have squeezed each handful take that amount and drop it onto an ungreased baking sheet.

What you have left is the coconut milk, which is in the bowl and then the grated, unsweetened coconut.  Spread the coconut evenly over the baking sheet and cover it with a clean towel or paper towels.  Let it sit out on the counter for a day or two to dry.  After it’s dry transfer it to an airtight container and use in any recipe.  Because it is so fine you may want to reduce the amount a recipe calls for by 1/4 or 1/3.

The milk can be used in curries, soups, puddings, custards and following is a link to a recipe for fresh coconut ice cream which has to be the best flavor in the world.

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