Archive for Healthy

Pumpkinless Spice Latte

Pumkinless Spice Latte

For this picture I garnished my spiced latte with an extra dribble/swirl of cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I don’t normally go to this trouble, but you can consider it a serving suggestion.

 I have nothing against pumpkin. I’m even quite fond of the idea of incorporating pumpkin into all kinds of foods, as happens every fall. However, I’m not such a fan of opening an entire can of pumpkin so I can add a tablespoon of it to my coffee and then forgetting I have the rest of the can sitting in my fridge while it gets pushed to the back and turns moldy. (Not that this would ever happen in my fridge. Ahem.)

 I tried making a pumpkin syrup last year so I could use up a larger amount of pumpkin in one go and have the syrup handy for lattes without the ‘whole can of pumpkin’ hassle, but the syrup really didn’t turn out that great.

This year, however, around the same time that my husband started talking about pumpkin spice lattes, I noticed some comments various places online about how really it was the spices that made a pumpkin spice latte, and Starbucks pumpkin spice latte contains no pumpkin.

Hmm.

 I’m sure that tablespoon of pumpkin really boosts the nutritional content of a coffee drink (something like half a gram of fiber and 50 IU of vitamin A by my calculations), but in this specific case I’m willing to sacrifice that sneaky bit of nutrition and eat my pumpkin in more intensive quantities. If you’re really desperate to sneak small amounts of pumpkin into your food, feel free to stir a tablespoon of pumpkin puree into this latte between adding the sugar and the milk.

 As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy with the metabolism boosting spices and fall flavor in this latte as it is.

 Oh, and I neglected to mention this in the video, but you can also chill this drink after you make it for a make ahead iced latte. (Or pour it over ice for an immediate iced latte, but I’m not personally not a big fan of diluting my drinks with ice. I do want to try making this with cold brewed espresso and see if it works well.)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

 Fill in my usual rant about how coffee is bad for you if you make a habit of drinking ten cups a day or otherwise use it excessively, but it can be healthy in moderation, and in that context, consider the latte to be healthy.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

 This is a nice smooth, mildly spiced latte with the right taste of fall. You can increase the sweetener if you like sugar bomb style drinks, but even my husband, who is normally a sugar bomb type person enjoyed it at this level of sweetness. Conversely, if you really don’t like much sweetener, you could cut back on or leave the sugar out altogether and just fall spiced coffee instead of a latte.

‘Pumpkin’ Spiced Latte

1 serving

1 1/2 TBSP ground coffee (or however much coffee you normally like to use)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp ginger

pinch of clove

1 TBSP turbinado sugar

1/4 cup cream, milk or frothed milk

10 servings

3/4 cup ground coffee (or however much coffee you normally like to use)

2 TBSP ground cinnamon

1 1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 1/4 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp clove (scant)

1/2 cup +2 TBSP turbinado sugar

2 1/2 cups cream, milk or frothed milk

(I generally make my coffee by the cup with a cone style filter. If you want to make a full pot of pumpkin spiced coffee using a french press or drip coffeemaker, you can use the 10 servings amount as a guide. The directions are the same for either set of amounts.)

Add spices to ground coffee and make coffee using your preferred method.

Add sugar and stir until it’s dissolved. (Turbinado sugar takes longer to dissolve than white sugar would, but it will eventually dissolve just fine in a hot liquid such as coffee.)

 Stir in cream, milk or frothed milk. (Have I mentioned that I’m a huge fan of my milk frother? I need to do a review of it for you all one of these days.)

This post contains affiliate links.

FAIL: Yummy but Crumbly Healthy Ritz Style Crackers

Healthy Homeamade Ritz Style Cracker Experiment

 Let me start by saying that I based this experiment on a more successful Cupcake Project Homemade Ritz Cracker recipe, and if you want to make homemade crackers with white flour, you should probably head over there and use that recipe and seems to work just fine.

 But as you know, I can’t just make a recipe as it’s written. I have to experiment and try new things and see if I can make healthier versions that work.

I thought these crackers did have really good flavor despite my healthiness modifications, so I might try reworking this recipe at some point, but for now, it really only produces yummy and healthy cracker crumbs.

Here are some things I would do differently the second time through:

 1. More flour: Whole pastry flour (soft white wheat) really does not absorb as much water as white flour or standard whole wheat flour. I’m afraid standard whole wheat flour would have too much whole wheat taste to make a good cracker, so I’d be inclined to just start with 3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and then slowly add more water if it seems needed.

2. Thinner crackers: I should have split the dough between two cookie sheets (especially if I was using more flour, which would increase the amount of dough!) to try to get it thinner. It just wasn’t thin enough to get crisp and crackery in the that amount of baking time.

3. Possibly a long baking time: I know now that the crackers will NOT crisp up as they cool, so I would keep them in the oven until they have the right crispness, even if it takes longer that the official baking time.

4. Possibly replace the coconut oil: I used coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil called for in the original recipe because it’s the healthy oil that I have on hand, but coconut oil does seem to increase the crumbliness of baked goods in my experience, so it might be better to just use more butter, or lard, or possibly even olive oil.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Aside from the fact that the whole wheat flour doesn’t get soaked, there’s nothing in this recipe I would consider unhealthy at all.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

 I thought the flavor was fabulous on these crackers (though that might be because I was going in with such low expectations of how the flavor would measure up to store bought crackers). My husband thought they were actually a little on the bland side. Either way, I have deduct points on texture because they were almost impossible to remove from the pan without disintegrating them.

Buttery Crackers (Crumbs)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (ground from soft white wheat), plus a few more TBSP if needed

1 TBSP baking powder

1 TBSP turbinado sugar

1/4 tsp sea salt

6 TBSP cold butter, cut into chunks

2 TBSP coconut oil

about 1/4 cup water

2 TBSP butter, melted + 1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put the dry ingredients (the first four ingredients) into the food processor and pulse briefly to mix.

Add 6 TBSP butter, about 2 TBSP at a time, blending after each addition until the butter is thoroughly incorporated.

Add coconut oil and blend again. With the food processor running, trickle in water until the dough forms a ball. (If the dough is too soft you can add a few more TBSP of flour until it’s a consistency you can work with.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and press out the dough into the thin layer across the whole cookie sheet. Score the dough into cracker sized squares or rectangles. Poke several holes in each cracker with a fork.

Bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.

Melt 2 TBSP butter and mix in 1/8 tsp salt. Brush across the tops of the crackers.

Very carefully attempt to remove crackers from the pan whole. Give up and enjoy your cracker crumbs!

French Onion Dip

Homemade French Onion Dip

The cast of characters…

 This recipe comes from a post I found here. I have tweaked the ingredients slightly, but the original recipe is also amazing. (Despite the fact that it contains celery seed… and really, who needs to be eating celery seed? Bleah.)

 I had to share this recipe because it’s one of the recipes I find myself making frequently and wanting on hand at all times. It tastes better than most store bought dip, but close enough to my mother’s ‘open a package of french onion soup and mix it in sour cream’ recipe to bring back fond memories. It not only eliminates the junk that’s in an envelope of store bought french onion soup mix, but gives you an opportunity to include more healing herbs and spices in your diet.

 Do you have any idea how amazing turmeric is? It’s anti inflammatory, high in antioxidants, may help fight Alzheimer’s, may help prevent cancer and alleviates depression. And one of the active ingredients (curcumin) is absorbed much better by the body when it’s eaten with black pepper, which also happens to be an ingredient in this recipe.

 All of the that information about turmeric and pepper is interesting and can be useful, especially if you’re working to treat a specific condition, but also works with my theory that you don’t have to be a research enthusiast to be healthy. Just eat real food of different kinds and it will do amazing things in your body, whether you know it or not. Also, foods that tend to work well together also often just happen to taste great together, and you might find yourself frequently combining black pepper and turmeric without ever knowing why this duo was especially good for you.

 So bascially, don’t fret. Just eat the food. (It’s amazing.)

 Turmeric also happens to be one of my favorite spices from a flavor standpoint. (Garlic is, of course, my favorite all time spice, but sadly, there is no garlic in french onion dip.) A small amount of turmeric often provides the final piece of the flavor puzzle when trying to recreate processed foods with real ingredients. In large amounts it can be a little bitter, but a dash or two provides a background flavor that blends all the other flavors and makes them ‘pop’ just a little more.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

 This gets an unreserved healthy rating from me (as long as you’ve checked the ingredients in your sour cream and it doesn’t have any crazy additives) and as an extra bonus, you might just be inspired to eat a lot more raw veggies if this dip is sitting in your fridge.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

 All the fabulousoity (which is, of course, an actual word, and not something I just made up) of french onion dip, but better.

French Onion Dip

1 tub (16 oz) sour cream

3 TBSP dried minced onion

1 TBSP parsley

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

dash cayenne

 Mix all ingredients thoroughly. If you’d like, you can let it sit overnight to let the flavors blend, but it’s still amazing if you eat it right away. Store in the refrigerator.

Cooking 101: How to Brown Ground Beef

Today I’m continuing in my Cooking 101 series, aimed at novice cooks. This post may be a bit dull for old hands at cooking, as I really don’t have any new or exciting comments about cooking ground beef, I simply wanted to provide a basic tutorial for beginning cooks to have some confidence about how to to perform this foundational task in cooking a meal.

Once again, my nephew Toby guest starred on this video, lending his status as a bona fide beginner to make sure my instructions qualified as simple and comprehensive enough for anyone to follow.

When we went to film this video, I discovered that my ground beef had not defrosted as quickly as it should have, and so this video does provide some technique for cooking ground beef even from a partially frozen state. I include written instructions below for both the standard method of cooking completely thawed ground beef, and the jury rigged method of cooking partially frozen ground beef.  (I have recently learned that putting a bit of water in the skillet helps when cooking ground beef that’s still frozen, so I will be including that in the instructions below, though it was not included in the video.)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only is ground beef healthy, but learning to brown ground beef, if you don’t know how, opens up a lot of options for making your own meals that don’t include chemicals and processed foods.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Adjust the salt to your own taste, and again ground beef a great tasting food just on it’s own, but it’s also the foundation of a lot of other even more amazing dishes.

How to Brown Ground Beef (The Basic Method)

1. Remove ground beef from packaging and place in a skillet. (I like to wash the raw meat juices off my hands at this point before I proceed.) Turn on burner to medium.

2. Use spatula or wooden spoon to break up the ground beef into small pieces.

3. Stir ground beef every minute or two (or more often if you like) as it begins to brown. You might also like to continue to break up the ground beef into smaller pieces as you stir.

4. Continue cooking the beef until all traces of pinkish hue are gone and the beef is completely brown all the way through.

5. If there’s an excessive amount of fat in the pan after brown the ground beef, you may want to remove the fat. You can do this by (a) scooping out the meat with a slotted spoon, leaving the grease behind, or (b) pouring the meat into a colander. If you choose option (b) remember that the grease has to go somewhere. You can put the colander in a bowl and empty the grease into the trash after it’s cooled, or put the colander in the sink, remove the colander after the meat has drained, and run lots of hot water and bit of dish soap down the drain to prevent the grease from clogging your drain.

How To Brown Ground Beef (From Frozen)

1. Remove ground beef from packaging and place in a skillet. (I like to wash the raw meat juices off my hands at this point before I proceed.) Turn on burner to medium low.

2. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape any thawed meat off the sides and edges of the hunk of frozen meat.

3. Add a bit of water (maybe 1/4 of a cup) to the skillet. Put a lid on the skillet and let it simmer for about 3 minutes.

4. Repeat step 2, stir and break up any clumps of cooking meat that are separated from the main block of frozen meat, then put the lid back on the skillet for another 2-3 minutes.

5. Repeat step 4 until all the meat is thawed.

6. Increase heat to medium. Stir ground beef every minute or so (or more often if you like) as the ground beef continues to brown. You might also like to continue to break up the ground beef into smaller pieces as you stir.

7. Continue cooking the beef until all traces of pinkish hue are gone and the beef is completely brown all the way through.

8. If there’s an excessive amount of fat in the pan after brown the ground beef, you may want to remove the fat. You can do this by (a) scooping out the meat with a slotted spoon, leaving the grease behind, or (b) pouring the meat into a colander. If you choose option (b) remember that the grease has to go somewhere. You can put the colander in a bowl and empty the grease into the trash after it’s cooled, or put the colander in the sink, remove the colander after the meat has drained, and run lots of hot water and bit of dish soap down the drain to prevent the grease from clogging your drain.

Cooking 101: Easy Berry Cobbler

Cooking 101: Easy Berry Cobbler

This cobbler is made with raspberries, while the cobbler in the video is  made with blackberries. Blueberries, strawberries, peaches and other fruits can also be used.

 

My nephew Toby guest starred in the video for this recipe. He’s sixteen years old, and recently learned how to make eggs and toast, so in the very strictest sense he’s not a complete beginner at cooking, but he is very close. (He’s a brilliant absent minded professor type who could solve for x in his sleep, but didn’t learn how to turn on the stove until he was ten. Also, as you will notice when you watch the video, he’s very funny and makes me laugh a lot.)

I’m going to be posting a few recipes that are very simple for new cooks to learn, and I wanted to have a true novice cook use the recipes to make sure that I didn’t skip over anything in the instructions because it seemed ‘obvious’ to me. If I did miss anything, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at gbfoodrocks@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have. (That goes for any of my recipes, in fact.)

This particular recipe is pretty adaptable to different types of flours and sugars (though I haven’t tried gluten free flours) so you can make it with healthy ingredients (whole wheat pastry flour aka white wheat flour and turbinado sugar) or ingredients found in typical kitchens (white flour and white sugar). I wouldn’t recommend using a hard red whole wheat flour, as it will have the typical whole wheat flavor and texture drawbacks, but it would probably do in a pinch if that’s all you have.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

This cobbler could qualify as completely healthy if you choose to use whole wheat flour and turbinado sugar. If you use white flour and white sugar it’s not going to have a whole lot going for it in terms of nutrition.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

It’s a really good basic cobbler. My version is heavy on the cobbler, but if you prefer it heavy on the fruit, just double the amount of fruit used.

Easy Berry Cobbler

based on this recipe

4 TBSP butter

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (aka whole wheat pastry flour) OR unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup turbinado sugar OR white sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

6 oz package berries of choice (or 1 cup of sliced fruit such as peaches)

Fresh or frozen fruit works fine in this recipe. If using fresh fruit, rinse the berries and leave to drain dry, or prepare the fruit (remove seeds or pits, slice, etc).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter in a 8×8 square baking dish and put it in oven to melt.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. (Note for beginners: This is an important step, so make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined and you don’t see any patches or lumps of seperate ingredients.)

Add the milk. (Note for beginners: Stir briefly, then scrape along the bottom of the bowl to make sure you don’t have any pockets of flour mixture that haven’t been stirred in. Do NOT overmix. As soon as the batter is smooth and all the flour is incorporated, stop stirring.)

Remove pan with melted butter from the oven. Pour the batter into the pan.

Sprinkle the fruit across the top of the batter. Return the pan the oven and set a timer for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. If a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, the cobbler is done. (Note for beginners: ‘Clean’ in this case means that there’s no gummy or liquidy batter sticking to the toothpick. You may get fruit juices or even a dry crumb or two stuck to the toothpick, but if the toothpick is coated in crumbs or other signs of uncooked batter, the cobbler needs to back in the oven for five or ten more minutes.)

Cold Brew ‘Espresso’

cold brew coffee and salted caramel latte 012

 I was first introduced to the concept of cold brewed coffee by Pioneer Woman. Her recipe also sparked my thought on whether the same method would work for cold brewed tea.

As this summer started I kept thinking I should make some more cold brewed coffee, but it never made it to the top of my to do list. Then one evening my husband informed me that he wanted to make cold brewed coffee. Not on his normal list of activities, but hey, it meant we’d have cold brewed coffee.

As he dumped a LOT of ground coffee into a quart jar he explained that he’d just read about this in the Cory Doctorow book he was reading and wanted to try it. In the book it was referred to as liquid gold. Nerds like their caffeine.

Unsurprisingly, my husband’s application of the nerd rules for making coffee turned out to be amazing. The result is more like espresso than standard coffee, containing enough caffeine that 10 oz of it made my not-so-sensitive-to-caffeine husband start twitching, but so smooth that I could probably enjoy drinking it black. (And that was even made using coffee beans that we hadn’t been drinking for normal coffee because I accidentally bought a roast that was too dark for us.) Considering that my ideal cup of coffee ranges from adding LOTS of cream to a full blown froofy drink with whipped cream on top, that is a high compliment to the flavor of this cold brew.

Of course, when you have a coffee that smooth and strong it also makes a fabulous froofy coffee drink. You get all of the benefit of the creaminess and sweetness of the extra ingredients without overwhelming the coffee flavor. Let me repeat, it is fabulous. Fantabulous, even.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

I could go on for a long time explaining my philosophy of the proper use of coffee, but very fast summary is that ingesting to much of anything is bad for you, but in reasonable quantities (and as with anything else, reasonable can vary from person to person depending on tolerance), coffee is a natural substance with some minor health benefits including trace minerals.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Oh, so very yummy!

Cold Brew ‘Espresso’

1 1/3 cups of coarsely ground (french press grind) coffee

about 3 cups of cold water

Put the ground coffee into a quart jar and fill it up the rest of the way with water. You can measure the coffee if you like, or just fill up the jar about 1/3 of the way.

Put the lid on the jar and (if you like) shake briefly to make sure all the coffee is moistened. Refrigerate overnight.

Filter the coffee through a normal coffee filter (you can set the filter in a coffee cone, mesh strainer or funnel for stability) or just filter the coffee through a mesh strainer without the coffee filter.

Drink it black, with any combination of cream/milk and sweetener, or in your favorite iced coffee drink recipe. You can even put a shot of it into a mug of hot water for very smooth normal strength cup of coffee.

In the video I said several times that the coffee/’espresso’ is mild. The word I really wanted was smooth.

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Freeze Zucchini (Two Methods)

How to Freeze Zucchini (Two Methods)

I’m not always the person who will tell you the right way to do something or how you’re supposed to cook. The world has professional chefs for that. I’m always interested in learning better methods for my cooking, but I’m not a professional chef, nor am I ever likely to start cooking in a five star restaurant.

What I can tell you is how I make cooking work in an apartment sized kitchen on a fairly strict grocery budget and with chronically low energy. I like shortcuts in my cooking. If you ask my how to freeze something, my instinct is to say “Put it in a ziploc bag and put it in the freezer.”

I frequently google “how to freeze ______” about whatever I have excess of at the moment, but what I really want to find out is “can I get away without blanching this food” or “Please tell me this is one I can just throw in the freezer and it will be fine in a year”.

My google search on zucchini turned up split results, so I’m sharing two methods with you today. I found a lot of people who are freezing grated zucchini for zucchini bread don’t blanch their zucchini, and it works perfectly fine. However the right answer seemed to be blanching the zucchini for better quality. This led me to the conclusion that grated zucchini is fine to just freeze, but sliced zucchini is probably better off blanched.

I use grated zucchini for zucchini bread and sliced zucchini for zucchini casseroles, reminiscent of lasagna, but with zucchini instead of pasta.

Method 1:

Grate zucchini. (If you have a food processor and a lot of zucchini, I recommend the food processor method of grating.)

Label quart sized bags with ‘shredded zucchini’, the date, and any other info you’ll want later, such as how much zucchini is in each bag or the average cost of each bag of zucchini based on your price paid per zucchini.

If you have a specific recipe in mind for the zucchini, measure out the amount for your recipe and put that much into each bag, otherwise just fill the bags 1/2 to 3/4 full depending on preference.

Squeeze out as much air as possible from the bad, then seal.

Freeze.

Method 2:

Boil a gallon or more of water in a large pot. I like to use my stock pot that came with a pasta insert for this sort of thing–the pasta insert makes draining the vegetables a simpler process. My pot is very similar to this, except I got it deeply discounted. This one would be a less expensive but still high quality option. (affiliate links)

Slice zucchini. (Again, if applicable, food processor is very handy here.)

Plunge zucchini into boiling water. If you have a pasta insert or steamer basket, but the zucchini into the insert first, then put the insert into the already boiling water. Otherwise, just dump the zucchini straight into the pot.

Let ‘cook’ (technically, blanch) for 3-5 minutes. You don’t actually want the zucchini to be soft or cooked when you’re done, just hot enough to kill off the enzymes that change the texture of the zucchini over time.

As the zucchini blanches, label quart sized bags (or gallon sized if you plan on making very large quantities of your selected zucchini dish) with ‘sliced zucchini’, the date, and any other info you might want when you pull it out of the freezer.

Remove the zucchini from the heat and plunge it into an ice bath. If you’re using a pasta insert here, you’ll want to carry the whole pot to the sink and remove the insert over the sink. The pasta insert or steamer basket with allow you save your boiling water for a second batch of zucchini, if desired. If you don’t have a pasta insert, just pour out the zucchini into a colander, then plunge the colander into ice water.

OR, if you take shortcuts (as I tend to do), skip the ice water and just run cold tap water over the zucchini until it’s lukewarm. (Just like you would do to stop pasta from cooking.)

Let the zucchini drain for a few minutes.

Put the zucchini into the labeled freezer bags.

Freeze.

Strawberry Chia Refrigerator/Freezer Jam

strawberry chia jam 007

 There are two things you need to know about this jam right off the bat. One, it’s not as sweet as a typical jam, so you might want to think of it as a ‘strawberry spread’ rather than a jam. Two, my sweets-loving husband liked this jam anyway.

I was intrigued by this jam from the first time I ran across the concept of chia-gelled jam, but as I began to make it, I became a little skeptical. Was it just going to taste like mushed up fruit since it wasn’t cooked down at all? Were the chia seeds going to create a weird texture, like rasberry jam on overload? Was this just going to be a colossal waste of organic strawberries?

As it turns out, that answer to all of those questions is NO. It tastes like jam, though lightly sweetened, fresh, fruity jam flavor, which I quite liked. (I did use more of this spread than I would use of jam that was higher in sugar, but since it’s mostly fruit, there’s not really a health downside to that.)  The texture is a little odd if eaten plain, but spread on bread, the chia seeds blended right in with the whole grains in the bread, and I wouldn’t have even known they were there. And, not only will we enjoy this batch, but I’m definitely going to be making chia jam in the future, and trying out new flavors.

Because there’s nothing to preserve this jam, it only lasts for about a week in the fridge, but can be frozen just fine, and should last for several months in the freezer. (This jam is not recommended for canning.)

The best part about this jam is that it’s so fast to make. Other than hulling the strawberries (see my video for the various methods of hulling I tried) it took less than ten minutes to make (still less than fifteen even counting the hulling). And it would have been less than that if I’d made it easier on my blender and smooshed down the strawberries when I put them into the blender.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Made with honey, this jam would probably edge into superfood status. As I made it, with turbinado sugar, I still consider it completely healthy, and a good way to get a little bit of chia seed into your diet.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband liked it. What more can I really say about a healthy jam to prove that it tasted great?

Strawberry Chia Jam

1 lb strawberries (preferably organic), which is about 4 cups whole strawberries

1/4 cup turbinado sugar (could use 3 TBSP honey or agave instead)

3 TBSP chia seeds

1 TBSP lemon juice

Hull strawberries, if desired. Put into blender with remaining ingredients.

If your blender isn’t that great, you may want to slice the strawberries, or at least cut them in half before trying to blend them. I have a pretty good blender, (affiliate link) but not Vita Mix level, and it worked fine once I smooshed the strawberries down a bit.

Blend until completely smooth. (Unless, of course, you like your jam a bit chunky, in which case you can blend as long as you like.) I found the ‘auto smoothie’ setting on my blender to work quite well–if your blender doesn’t have this setting you can replicated it by pulsing on and off for about 15 seconds, then turning it on low speed followed by high speed for about 15 seconds each.

Pour into half pint jars, freezer bags or other container of choice. Refrigerate overnight to set the jam. Store in fridge for up to a week or in freezer for up to eight months.

Whipped Peppermint Gelatin

Whipped Peppermint Gelatin

 Today’s recipe combines a couple of different concepts. One is the 1-2-3 Jello they used to sell when I was little. I was never all that fond of Jello, but make it creamy and fluffy, and I’m all in. At some point I’m going to have to try making a real food version of this recipe, which actually works on replicating 1-2-3 Jello, but today I’m just taking the concept and whipped and foamy jello and applying it to something else.

 Tea gelatin.

 Several health food bloggers have used the concept of tea gelatin as a way to trick… uh… coax family members to ingest medicinal teas. This is a great idea, but I wanted to more for the fun, flavorful, elegant side of tea gelatin.

 What I really wanted to make was a whipped chai gelatin, but sadly, I haven’t remembered to order more of the best rooibos chai ever, so I decided to go for a simpler and lighter peppermint tea gelatin.

 The beauty of this whipped peppermint gelatin is that it’s equally good on the medicinal side of things (can you imagine anything better to eat when you’re recovering from the stomach flu?) and the elegant side of things (I’m seeing a garden party with individual servings of whipped peppermint gelatin in tea cups being nibbled on by ladies with unreasonably fluffy and lacy sleeves… err, the gelatin is being nibbled on, that is, not the tea cups).

 If you do want to use this in an elegant setting, make sure you pour the gelatin into individual goblets, or bowls, or tea cups, or something, as it is unreasonably hard to make it look elegant again after scooping it out of a large serving bowl. (Ask me how many pictures I had to take to get one for this post that didn’t look like a mutant cauliflower brain…)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

 The exact benefits will vary depending on which tea (and sweetener) you choose to use, but most herbal teas are going to have good general health benefits. (Peppermint, for instance, is soothing, calms an upset stomach, eases headaches, and can act as a decongestant.)

 The gelatin itself is much lauded for many health benefits including improving digestion and healing leaky gut, improving skin health, helping the body to regulate insulin and other hormones, detoxing the liver, building bone and muscle mass, supporting joint health, raising metabolism and supporting the adrenal system. (If even half of that is true, I think I need a lot more gelatin in my diet!) Many people suggest using only gelatin from grass fed beef–the gelatin I personally use is bulk gelatin from Azure Standard, which generally responsibly sources their products, but I have no information about the source of the gelatin specifically.

 And as for sweetener, you can adjust the amount to taste (as written, the recipe makes a fairly sweet dessert, half as much would probably be adequate for a lightly sweetened dessert or snack) and choose whatever level of healthiness you’re comfortable with in a sweetener. I generally use turbinado sugar, as I find it to be a good compromise between healthy sweetener and reasonable price (compared to say, honey, which is a superfood, and quite expensive for good quality).

Whipped Peppermint Gelatin

1 TBSP gelatin (or one packet)

1/4 cup cold water

2 cups boiling water

2 peppermint tea bags OR 1 TBSP loose dried peppermint leaves

1/2 cup turbinado sugar OR 1/3 cup honey

Pour 1/4 cup cold water into a medium size mixing bowl (in needs to hold at least 1 quart). Sprinkle gelatin slowly across the top of the water, then stir the gelatin in, making sure to squish any lumps.

In another bowl, dissolve sugar or honey in boiling water. Add tea. Steep the tea for 5 minutes while the gelatin ‘blooms’.

Pour the tea mixture (through a mesh strainer if using loose leaf tea–I use this one and love it)(affiliate link) into the bowl with the gelatin. Whisk until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Refrigerate for two hours, or until the gelatin is soft set. It should still move and threaten to spill when the bowl is tipped, but more as one big blob than as liquid would.

Pour the gelatin into a blender and blend on low or medium speed until the whole mixture is frothy and roughly doubled in volume. (This only took a few seconds with my blender.)

Return the gelatin mixture to the bowl, or pour into individual serving containers. Refrigerate for at least two more hours, or overnight.

Serve without mentioning that your elegant whipped peppermint gelatin dessert took you less than ten minutes of work to make.

Possible Variations:

Chai: Instead of peppermint tea, use chai tea and add 1/2 cup of milk when you froth it in the blender.

Fruit: Instead of tea, boil fruit juice of choice and proceed with the recipe. Cut sweetener in half, or leave it out altogether.

Lemon/Lime: Instead of tea use 1 1/2 cups boiling water and 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice, or a mixture of the two.

(Added 7/4/14)

Chocolate (inspired by this recipe): Instead of boiling water, use hot (not boiling) milk. Whisk in 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Leave out the tea.

Kombucha (A Fermented Tea Drink)

How To Make Kombucha (A Fermented Tea Drink)

 Kombucha is a fermented tea drink (fermented in the probiotic sense, not so much the alcoholic sense, but if that disappoints you, check out this kombucha margarita recipe). It’s fizzy and tart and can be as sweet (or unsweet) as you want it to be. I haven’t experimented much with flavorings yet, but I’ve heard of people essentially using it as a base for soda, and adding fruit, fruit juice, herbs (think peppermint) and ginger once it’s finished it’s first fermenting stage.

Kombucha is famed for it’s health qualities, including being very high in b vitamins and being so high in probiotics that you have to ease yourself into drinking it, so as to avoid an unpleasant die off effect. Once you’ve acquired a kombucha habit though, you may be a kombucha-er for life, judging by stories I’ve read of people making kombucha in small aquariums so as to have enough…

Kombucha had a lot of steps, so it can seem involved to a beginner, but it’s not particularly hard once you get your kombucha routine figured out. First I’ll lay out some of the basics to understanding kombucha, and then I’ll give you my recipe and procedure.

Kombucha is fermented by using a scoby, which is a kind of mushroom that resembles a dead jellyfish. (I think they’re really cool looking, but sometimes there’s a fine line between cool and gross.) You must have a scoby to make kombucha, but the good news is that if you have a friend who makes kombucha, they probably have scobys coming out their ears and will be happy to give you one to start you off. Otherwise you can find a place order a scoby online. (There are tutorials for growing a scoby from storebought kombucha, but it seems a reformulation a few years ago has made this option a much less reliable source for scobys.)

As with most ferments, the scoby needs to be fed, and has it’s own particular preferences for food. It thrives best on black tea (including the caffeine) and white sugar. Because a large part of the caffeine and sugar are used up by the scoby, the finished product is still low in caffeine and sugar.

Because I’m particularly sensitive to caffeine I like to dunk my tea bags in boiling water for 30 seconds or so before making kombucha out of them, to keep the caffeine levels as low as possible in the finished product. It’s also possible to make kombucha out of green tea or herbals teas, but other teas should either be mixed with black tea, or alternated with batches of full black tea in order to keep your scoby healthy.

I also have been using organic evaporated cane juice as the sugar for my kombucha, which is just a bit less processed than white sugar, and eliminates any concerns about GMO sugar beets. My scoby seems perfectly happy with this sugar so far.

Scobys also don’t like teas with oils, so ginger and peppermint and such generally need to be saved for flavoring the kobmucha after it’s fully brewed (in the secondary ferment). I have successfully made kombucha with half black tea and half peppermint tea, but the kombucha didn’t ferment as quickly as normal, and the scoby didn’t grow at all as it normally does, so it clearly wasn’t good for the scoby, especially for a long term plan. My standard mix is half black tea and half green tea.

Scobys can handle brief contact with metal, but metal does weaken them over time, so it’s best to use glass jars for fermenting and plastic or wooden utensils for handling the scoby.

It’s usually recommended to ferment the kombucha for 10 to 14 days, but my husband and I prefer I much sweeter, only slightly tart kombucha, so we often ferment ours for as little as 3 to 4 days. If you’re very new to kombucha, you may want to taste your brew every day to get an idea of how long you should ferment it to your own taste. (The tartness does sometimes mellow a bit after the second ferment, so if you’re afraid you’ve let it go a bit too long, it may still be fine.)

And, if you accidentally let it ferment for very long, you can use your very vinegary kombucha as a substitute for apple cider vinegar!

Scobys do sometimes stain from the tea, or get holes torn in them, and may be clear (a young scoby) or white (a mature scoby), all of which is perfectly normal and still healthy. However, if your scoby develops any signs of mold, it needs to be discarded immediately.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Aside from possible considerations of the amount of sugar and/or caffeine left in the kombucha if a shorter ferment time is used, this drink pegs the healthiness scale as a classic fermented/probiotic addition to one’s diet. People make some pretty extravagant claims of renewed health and energy after making kombucha a part of their daily lives, and even if those claims are only half true, I think kombucha pretty clearly makes an improvement in the overall health of those who drink it on a regular basis.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

I might be able to get this upgraded to a completely husband approved ‘yummy’ status when I experiment more with flavorings, but as it is, kombucha is something that’s very well tolerated in our diets, and sometimes even enjoyed, just not often craved.

Kombucha

makes 1 gallon

1 scoby (for each fermenting container, no matter what the size)

2 cups kombucha (from last batch–can substitute a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar if necessary)

1 cup sugar (white sugar, or evaporated cane juice)

4 cups water + 10 cups water

8 tea bags or tsp of loose tea (black tea, or half black and half green or herbal)

First ferment:

Heat 4 cups water to boiling. Mix in sugar. Add tea and let steep until water is cold to make a very strong tea concentrate.

If you have a previous batch of kombucha, move it to the second ferment or bottling stage as you wait for the tea concentrate to cool.

Once your tea concentrate is cooled, add it to your fermenting jar or container along with the 2 cups of kombucha reserved from your last batch, the other 10 cups of water (or as needed to fill your container) and the scoby. Cover loosely to allow gases to escape as they are produced by the fermenting process and set aside for anywhere from 3 to 14 days or more, depending how you tart you like the finished product.

Second ferment/bottling:

Pour off 2 cups of kombucha to add to your next batch. Set aside scoby on a clean plate or float in reserved kombucha. (This is a good time to check your scoby for any problems and remove the bottom layer if it’s getting too thick. “Too thick” is mostly measured by whether your kombucha is fermenting faster than you want it too.)

Pour the rest of the kombucha into mason jars, plastic bottles, or one large plastic jug. (Plastic makes it easier to tell when it’s fully carbonated when you’re just starting out.) If you want to add any flavorings, such as chopped ginger, fruit juice, peppermint tea bags, etc, now is the time to do that.

Tightly cap the bottles and let sit out overnight or until fully carbonated. (If using plastic bottles, until the plastic is hard and no longer soft or squeezable.) Refrigerate.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »