Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Almond Boulettes - Take 2 and a poll

I found out where to get rose water in Austin! Actually, I found out over a month ago. I just didn't get there. Well, this weekend we went. We also got some halva (sesame paste mixed with sugar pretty much.) So, having rose water in hand, I had to make the Tunisian Almond Pastries again. I mixed up the pulverized almond with the powdered sugar, and added a splash of rose water. It was crazy! Just like I had spilled rose perfume in the room. I stirred it in, but it needed more liquid. I ended up added plain water to make the 'dough' hold together. Dan and I tasted it, but it was just so much like biting into a chewy rose petal that it was distracting. Not bad, but that's not something I normally eat. Enter chocolate:

Yes, the picture's a little sad, I know. But the addition of a chocolate coating really helped! It's still definitely rose flavored, but the chocolate balances it to make it an interesting combination instead of taste bud confusion. If I ever make these for money, I will certainly take a class in making the chocolate more even, but for now my own taste buds really don't care. I think that next time I will use about a 1/2 teaspoon of rose water diluted in 1/4 cup of plain water to see how that goes. I need to figure out how they really do it...

The poll that I promised:
What should I call these? "Almond balls" seems very dull, and I don't think they're dull. Give me your answers as comments. Here's what I came up with:
A - Almond Boulettes (adding in some of the French name)
B - Almond Kaaber (adding in some Arabic)
C - Almond Pastries
D - You think I'm boring and would like to propose a name I didn't give.

Thanks for your help!

Monday, September 28, 2009

I beg to differ! Somewhat.

I happen to like this site that comments on celebrity clothing, but today they may have crossed a line:

"It's like one of those Food Network shows that's trying to teach you to cook an entire meal lickety-split for $10: At the end of the day, it's just going to taste rushed, probably a little bland, and almost certainly like it only cost $10."

Now, I don't love all of the food network chefs, and the ones who use pre-chopped/pre-washed/pre-shredded EVERYTHING make me a little ill when they claim it's the same as doing it yourself, just quicker. (Semi-Homemade is fine by me. Even the title says it's not the same!) And garlic from a jar is often kinda bland. However, I have had some darn good meals for 4 that cost under $10. They can stick with fashion, I'll stick with food.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No-Fuss Steel Cut Oats

I grew up with a variety of hot grains for breakfast. They are cheap, keep in the fridge for at least a few days, and are healthy, too. If you don't like oatmeal, that's ok; these don't taste like regular oatmeal, have a different texture and they're nothing like the packaged instant crap. Since they're less processed, they also retain more nutrition than their rolled friends.

If you know anything about this kind of cereal, you're probably wondering how it fits into the "fast" idea, but I shall make a believer out of you here in a second. Steel cut oats do normally take a good bit of cook time, but with a little pre-planning, you'll be fine. I did try them in the crockpot and have one word: EWWWWWWWWW. Mushy, mushy, mush, surrounded by (tasty) hard stuff. Someone suggested putting them in a bowl inside the crockpot, and that worked better, but still too much fuss. I know I could try it again, but I found this way first.

The picture below has a plum and a small handful of almonds added to make it a complete breakfast . Any kind of nuts or dried fruit would be great, too. Oh, and the cheap - don't go buying McCann's real Irish oats or, of course, you'll be paying a ton. I have personally only found non-brand steel cut oats in bulk food sections. It looks a little like cracked wheat to me, or like smaller tan grains of rice chopped a bit. You may be able to find a cheap off-brand near the fancy ones, too. These supposedly keep in the fridge for a week, but I've never tried it. I just eat them.

Easy hands-off steel cut oats
Serves: 4 Cook time: about 10 minutes of your effort (soaks overnight)

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
any fruit or nuts you like
syrup or brown sugar

- Place the oats and water in a medium saucepan (one that has a lid!)
- Bring to a rolling boil, then turn off heat and cover (ok to leave it on the burner if you have an electric stove)
- Let the thing wait while you sleep
- In the morning, turn it on to med-high, bring back to a boil. Cook until it looks creamy, but is still chewable. After all, you're not making instant here!
- Top with your favorite combination of fruits, nuts, and/or sugar

Nutrition info for 1/4 cup (dry) oats: Calories - 140   Fat - 2.5g   Carbs - 27g    Protein - 6g

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Food bars

You could call these energy bars or protein-ish bars, but I like the term "food bars" best. It's good, easy, healthy food in bar form. How much better than that can you get? The original recipe is from foodnetwork but, as usual, you will find my own changes below. My main complaint with theirs is that they asked for EVERYTHING to be blended up in a processor. I don't really like the bars that are all one consistency, so I kept some of my stuff bigger. If you want to make it quicker, don't process anything, or process everything. I also replaced the wheat germ with garbanzo flour. Seemed like a cool idea. If you make only 10 bars, they are a pretty good size, though the original recipe suggests 20 (size pictured.)

Update: I have since tried them with wheat germ, and it worked really well, too. It changes the flavor, and I'm not sure yet which I prefer. Wheat germ is certainly easier to find, though. :)

Food Bars
Serves: 10 Total time: 30-40 min, depending on whether you chop stuff

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (raw or roasted, but unsalted are better for you)
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup craisins (or raisins would work)
1/2 cup garbanzo flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup pitted dried dates
1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey - I used lower-sugar syrup that doesn't have fake sugar)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

- Preheat the oven to 350.
- In a small bowl, mix oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and craisins. Pour half of mixture into food processor
- Add to food processor both flours, spices and milk, spice til there are no big chunks left
- In large bowl, mix eggs and syrup, stir in mixture from processor
- Process dates (alone) until all in small bits, add to large bowl
- Process the conserved oat mix 4-5 times, leaving some large chunks (whole almonds are ok)
- Mix everything except chocolate chips in the large bowl until basically combined
- Press into a greased pan (13x9, 9x9, whatever you have) and bake at 350 for 20 minutes
- Once cooked, remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Let set to melt a few minutes, then spread.

Nutrition info (1/10th with chocolate chips): Calories - 277 Fat - 7.1g Carbs - 47.2 g Protein - 9g
Nutrition info (1/10th, NO chocolate chips): Calories - 254 Fat - 5.9g Carbs - 44.7 g Protein - 8.7g

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tasty Peanut Sauce

I think that the key to this is natural peanut butter. I can't be sure, though, because I never have the other stuff anymore. My mom's jaw is likely hitting the floor. When we were little, natural pb was the cheapest. Adam's, I haven't seen it in years. We didn't like it though. The oil separating looked gross, and we had some other complaints. Who knows. Well, after realizing how much fake crap is in food, I have been trying to do little things to put less fake crap in me. Like the natural peanut butter. Just peanuts and salt. I got it for a good price at a warehouse store. More than their "normal" pb, but about the same as a regular grocery store's pb. Well, the recipe, then! We had this with udon noodles, chicken and green beans. If you want to mix this in with the stir fry over heat, you'll want to increase the water to 1/4 cup. The pepper gets hotter when cooked, but if used cold, this is a mild heat recipe. The ground ginger gives it a more uniform flavor, and the fresh adds to it. I happened to have both, but one or the other would work, too.

Peanut Sauce
Serves: 3-4 Prep time: about 5 min

1 1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger (if you just have fresh, use 1 Tbs)
1/4 tsp ground ginger (if you just have ground, used 1/2 tsp)
1 large clove garlic
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
3 Tbs teriyaki sauce (or 2 Tbs soy sauce, 1 1/2 Tbs brown sugar)
1/4 cup peanut butter (I used creamy, but chunky would work)
2 Tbs water

- Mince the garlic and ginger.
- Mix spices, garlic, fresh ginger and teriyaki sauce in a bowl.
- Stir in peanut butter until mostly mixed.
- Add water, stir until well mixed.
- Eat over meat, in chicken salad (with celery and onions, maybe a little cilantro), on rice over stir fry, on grilled veggies, a burger, whatever you might put teriyaki sauce on. mmmm, I want more now....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sweet Potato Burgers

Well, this picture is from CL again (along with the recipe.) I wasn't taking pictures when I made these, you'll have to forgive me! I made them when we had people over, one of them a vegetarian, and everyone agreed that it was really good. The only thing to be careful of is that they are much softer than a regular burger would be, so I found that they sort of try to squish away when you bite if they are too thick. I used bbq sauce on them, and it was realllly good.

Sweet Potato Burgers

6 servings (serving size: 1 burger)

1 teaspoon canola oil
3 cups sliced onion (I used one large sweet onion)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (I used one large sweet potato)
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves
1 cup regular oats
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 tablespoon oil, divided
6 lettuce leaves
6 (1 1/2-ounce) 100% whole wheat or whole-grain buns


1. To prepare onions, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion to pan; sauté 12 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in vinegar, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook 30 seconds or until vinegar is absorbed. Remove onion mixture from pan; keep warm. Wipe pan dry with a paper towel.

2. To prepare burgers, place potato in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender; drain.

3. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chopped onion and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender.

4. Place potato, chopped onion mixture, oats, cumin, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a food processor; process until smooth. Place potato mixture in a large bowl; stir in nuts. Divide potato mixture into 6 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.

5. Wipe pan dry with a paper towel. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add 3 patties to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned. Carefully turn patties over; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and 3 patties. Place lettuce leaves and patties on bottom halves of buns; top each patty with about 3 tablespoons onion, and top halves of buns.

Nutrition for 1/6 of recipe: Cal: 376 Fat: 12.3g Protein: 11.3g Carbs: 59

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What to post?

First, do not worry, I have loads more things to post. I feel bad that I do not have more up. But I am working on it, I swear!

Anyway, I've made a few things lately that Dan has told me I should post, but it's a bit difficult to be sure. If I'm going for the "easy, cheap, and healthy" aspect, then the chai sugar cookies I made don't exactly qualify. I may end up making a new label, something like "indulgent" just as a warning that not everything is so healthy. And some of my recipes, like those that have lots of nuts, certainly have higher fat and calorie content, but it's still a healthier fat.

Another food blog made me think about that a bit. I do like to use lots of fresh ingredients, stay away from really processed things, and not drown everything in butter. But I do use butter. I tried to go light in a buckwheat crepe recipe by using cooking spray and it was a minor disaster til I gave in and used real butter. I know that fat is important in cooking, and in your daily diet. I just also know that a lot of people use way too much, or use it when it's not really necessary. The reason I don't post those things as often is because those sorts of recipes are super easy to find, each with a thousand variations. If I were blogging every day, sure, I'd add them, but I don't really have the time for that, so I'm gonna stick (at least mostly) with posting the healthier stuff. Just don't think that it's the only thing I eat!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rich and light french toast

I love Alton Brown's french toast recipe. It has eggs and half and half and vanilla and spices. And probably something else. The half and half makes it more of a special occasion recipe, though, so I wanted something that was thicker than regular egg-and-milk, but not by adding flour because then I just feel like you may as well have a pancake. Enter evaporated milk. I thought of it after using it in my hot chocolate. It soaks into the bread well without being so thin that it makes it fall apart. For extra fun, I used banana bread for part of the recipe (pictured). Of course, that makes it take a rather long time to make, but it was SOOOO good. We got the idea from a cafe near campus that served zucchini bread french toast. Either way, I approve.

French toast
Serves: 4 Cook time: about 20 minutes (depends on your pan and bread size!)

3 eggs
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)

- Heat a skillet on medium while you prepare the rest
- In a flat dish (square baking dish, plastic leftover container), beat the eggs
- Stir in evaporated milk and spices
- Put bread, 1 layer at a time, into egg mixture. Let soak on each side for about 10 seconds, then flip. (Shorter for thin bread, or lighter bread or else it will fall apart)
- Spray the skillet with cooking spray, then put in as many piece of bread as will fit, leaving enough room to flip them
- When bread looks brown around the edges, up to one minute, flip it over
- Keep finished french toast on a plate in the microwave (don't turn it on, but it's insulated in there to keep them warm and won't have a draft) until you are ready to serve, or serve as you finish them.