Monday, June 22, 2009

I scream, you scream, we all . . . you know the drill.

Summer is here, and if you are not already making ice cream at home, this is the year to begin. After all, according to The New York Times, due to the economy people are now actually making more sandwiches and coffee at home. (Coffee at home? I'm "shocked, shocked.").

Whatever the state of the economy, if you are looking to make delicious treats at home for any reason, ice cream should be on the list. You simply cannot buy ice cream that is a delicious as the stuff you can make on your own.

An ice cream maker is required. I use a Cuisinart, pictured below. Why? Because the product was on sale at the time I was shopping for the machine. It works great for me. I've seen advertisements for sales going on right now. Check around on the web, and you may find a good deal.

There are many recipes for ice cream on the web. If you own a large, general purpose cookbook such as Joy of Cooking, flip through the index because it's likely that such a book will contains ice cream recipes.

My favorite ice cream to make is vanilla, and it is very rich. It has a custard base made from sugar, eggs, cream, and whole milk. Because it is so rich, a small serving is not only appropriate, it is appreciated. Little bit goes a long way, and because it tastes so indulgent you will not feel deprived of dessert. Vanilla is the perfect base to add chocolate, nuts, or fruit. It can be given a cinnamon flavor for a perfect accompaniment to pie. Recently, I've made vanilla with chunks of bittersweet chocolate and bits of crunchy caramel, giving the dish a creme brulee-feeling.

The idea for the caramel came from Michael Richard's book Happy in the Kitchen. The caramel is made by stirring together red wine vinegar and sugar. The mixture is cooked on the stove until it is dark brown, then poured onto a silpat where it sits to harden for 24-hours. The chocolate chunks and broken-up caramel are stirred into the churned ice cream, and the whole thing comes together after sitting in the freezer for a day.

Is it good? No; it is beyond good.

Get an ice cream maker and try making some yourself this summer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Slashfood Reviews "Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking"

Should you buy Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking? Slashfood says, "For those in search of a serious, down-home pan-Southern cookbook, backed by a solid amount of cultural context, this is a goldmine." Read the entire review at this link.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Feel like you are all thumbs in the kitchen? Is opening a bag of prewashed lettuce your version of haute cuisine? Then you have sufficient skills to make strawberry freezer jam. It is so simple, and will also astound and amaze your friends. ("You made jam? Get lost!") Easy, delicious, and magical. You can do this. Here's how.

Step One: Assemble Stuff.

You'll need four cups of crushed strawberries. I purchased two quarts, figuring that if there were leftover berries, I could put them to good use. You will also need six 8-ounce containers in which to to put the jam. I purchased eight-ounce Ball jars and lids at the grocery story because I prefer glass to plastic for this project. The jars, which come with lids, are 12 to a pack. Don't worry, you'll find a use of all of them.

You'll also need a product from Ball called No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin. It should be in the same aisle of the grocery story where the jars are located. The recipe for the freezer jam is on this package. Also, make sure you have 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar in the house. Ball's recipe states that Splenda may be substituted for sugar, buy why do this? It's jam: you'll only eat a tablespoon or two at a time, which is hardly enough to destroy your diet.

Note also that the package calls for the use of five eight-ounce jars, but in making this last summer and this spring, I've always enough jam to fill more than five jars.

Step Two: Wash the Stuff.

Put the six jars and lids in the dishwasher and run them with that day's load of dishes (or wash with hot water and soap in the sink). Wash and stem the berries. This is, in my opinion, the most tedious part of the project. Because this should be fun and not tedious, I stop here, put the berries in the refrigerator, and return to this project the next day. If you want to carry on, go ahead.

Step Three: Make the Stuff.

Follow the directions on the Fruit Pectin package. Crush the fruit. I use a potato masher for this task. Measure out four cups of crushed fruit. Add the sugar and Fruit Pectin, gently combine everything together, and then stir another three minutes. Spoon the jam into jars and put on the lids. Let the jars sit on the counter for 30 minutes. That's it. You are finished. Put one jar in the fridge to eat with your next breakfast, and the remainder into the freezer.

You've made jam. Genius!

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Actor Christopher Walken Cooks

Christopher Walken rocks. Here he is at home, cooking chicken. Nice.

More cowbell, baby!

(Via. Lifehacker)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

English Muffins

I really like English Muffins. For toasting at breakfast, they are better than bread. English Muffins have a delightful, crispy exterior. When pulled open with a large fork, the interior has those groovy craters that hold butter and jam.

Often I've thought about making English Muffins, but have been held back by the procedure called for in various recipes. In some, the muffins are cooked in a cast iron skillet or on a griddle, but this sounds a bit too labor-intensive (cook a batch, keep warm, cook more, repeat). Recipes also often call for use of an English Muffin ring to hold the shape of the bread as it is cooking in the pan. I don't have such rings, and its not something I'm looking to buy.

This morning, however, I found an adaptation of a recipe at All Recipes that doesn't require either special equipment or messing around with cooking small batches of muffins in a skillet. The ingredients are simple, the technique easy, and the results are absolutely delicious.

Hurray! English Muffins baked at home. This is absolutely something you should try.

Whole Wheat English Muffins
Adapted from Allrecipies. com

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk
2 Tbs. white sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

Corn meal
2 greased cookie sheets


Place flours and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk to combine.

Melt the butter; set aside.

Heat 1 cup of water to about 110 degrees. Mix yeast and a pinch of out of the 2 Tbs. of sugar to the warm water and allow to stand for about 10 minutes as the yeast gets creamy.

In a small sauce pan, heat the milk until it just bubbles. Add the remainder of the sugar to the milk and mix to dissolve. Let stand until lukewarm.

Whisk the melted butter into the lukewarm milk/sugar mixture and then pour all of it into the bowl with the flours and salt. Add yeast and water mixture to the bowl. Stir to combine.

Knead the dough on the stand-mixer for 8 to 10 minutes. Whole wheat flour is sticky; add sprinkles of all purpose flour as necessary to get a smooth, elastic dough. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, heat the oven to 100 degrees. Lightly flour the work surface and turn the dough out of the bowl. Form the dough into a log. Carefully spray a large serrated bread knife with cooking spray, then cut the log into 18 pieces. Use a sawing motion when cutting the pieces to avoid compressing the dough.

Dredge the dough slices in the corn meal and place on the oiled cookie sheets.

Turn off the oven. Place the cookie sheets into the warm oven and allow dough to rise for 30 minutes. Remove sheets from oven and leave the dough on the sheets while heating the oven to 375 degrees.

When the oven is ready, put the sheets back in and bake the muffins at 375 for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, flip the muffins over, and bake for an additional 5 - 6 minutes.

Remove muffins and allow to cool on a rack.

Freeze those muffins not eaten on bake day or planned for use in the following day's meals.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday Morning FYI: Crunchberries are Not Fruit.

Originally posted at Something Good to Read.

If you are lazin' around this Saturday morning, feeling virtuous because you are eating Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries and getting a serving of fruit in your bowl, then you have a problem. Actually, you may have more than one problem, but definitely a problem with thinking a Crunchberry is a fruit. It is not, and there is now a legal opinion confirming this point.

In a suit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, the Plaintiff claimed that the packaging and marketing of Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries misled her into thinking that the product contains real, nutritious fruit. Defendant moved to dismiss, and that motion was recently granted.

In dismissing the Plaintiff's claims concerning deceptive practices and advertising, the Court wrote:

While the challenged packaging contains the word "berries" it does so only in conjunction with the descriptive term "crunch." This Court is not aware of, nor has Plaintiff alleged the existence of, any actual fruit referred to as a "crunchberry."

Furthermore, the "Crunchberries" depicted on the [Product's principal display panel ("PDP"), the panel of the cereal box facing consumers as they shop in a store aisle] are round, crunchy, brightly-colored cereal balls, and the PDP clearly states both that the Product contains "sweetened corn & oat cereal" and that the cereal is "enlarged to show texture." Thus, a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the Product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist. (emphasis supplied).
Not only would no "reasonable consumer" - the standard for analyzing the Plaintiff's claims - be duped into thinking that a Crunchberry was fruit, but the Court noted that the Plaintiff even conceded that "'[c]lose inspection reveals that Crunchberries on the PDP are not really berries.'"

Delivering the coup de grace, the Court ruled that Plaintiff is not allowed to file an amended complaint: "The survival of the instant claim would require this Court to ignore all concepts of personal responsibility and common sense. The Court has no intention of allowing that to happen."

Read all of Sugawara v. Pepsico, Inc. here.

And to be complete: Froot Loops? Also not fruit. McKinnis v. Kellogg USA, 2007 WL 4766060 (C.D. Cal. 2007).

And the man himself, Cap'n Crunch? Well, I'm sorry to tell you this, but . . .

(Via Slashfood)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Make It Yourself: Hummus.

It's official: I'm never buying hummus again. Not since I've made it at home and discovered how easy it is to do, and how delicious it tastes. And as an additional bonus, I don't have to deal with those small, plastic containers that hummus comes in from the store.

Below is the basic recipe.

Basic Hummus

2 cups canned garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chick peas), drained
1/3 cup tahini, well stirred
1 ounce fresh lemon juice (start there; add more in small increments if you feel it is necessary)
2-3 cloves garlic
Generous pinch of salt
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. red pepper flake

Measure 2 cups of garbanzo beans. Reserve the liquid from the can. Rinse the beans under cold water.

Peel the garlic cloves. Using a motar and pestle, put a few pinches of salt into the bottom of the motar, add the garlic, and mash together.

Place rinsed beans, tahini, salt/garlic mash, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and red pepper flake into the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape the walls of the processor bowl as needed.

At this point, the mixture may be too thick. Adjust it to suit your taste by adding bean liquid, or water, by the scant tablespoon until the hummus is of the right consistency. Taste, and adjust salt and seasonings as necessary.

Refrigerate. Allow several hours for the flavors to blend together.

Enjoy on pita bread, sesame crackers, and veggies!

Amanda Hesser Writing in the New York Times: The Commander in Chef

From the Op-ed pages of yesterday's paper: Amanda Hesser asks, "What's missing from Mrs. Obama's good food campaign? Cooking."

The Coffee Buzz

"Coffee? Yeah, I could use a cup."

Over at Lifehacker, brewing good coffee at home has been under discussion: