Thin Mints vs. Grasshoppers

It’s Girl Scouts Cookies season again! Nationwide, the Girl Scouts outsource their cookie production to two different companies, Little Brownie Bakers (LBB) and ABC Bakers.

I live in an LBB region, and LBB is a subsidiary of Keebler; ostensibly, Girl Scouts licenses their recipes to Keebler via LBB for their actual cookie production. Two of their cookies, Thin Mints and Samoas, have supposedly-identical equivalents available from Keebler, namely Grasshoppers and Coconut Dreams, respectively.

Whenever the Girl Scouts aren’t selling cookies, or whenever joyless grownups want to enjoy their cookies without actually funding the Girl Scouts, common knowledge is that you can satisfy your cravings by buying the Keebler equivalents. But is that true?

Read more…

Turkey kale meatloaf

Thanksgiving dinner

This is what I made for my Thanksgiving entrée this year, what with having Thanksgiving all on my own. It turned out pretty good.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 large shallot, finely minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbps of minced sage
  • 1 tsp each of minced thyme and rosemary
  • ½ cup toasted bread crumbs
  • 1-2 cups kale leaves, finely minced
  • 4 ounces thinly-sliced prosciutto (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the turkey, shallot, egg, sage, thyme, rosemary, bread crumbs, and kale, thoroughly mixing with your fingers if possible. If no prosciutto is being used, also add some salt. And, of course, add pepper to your preference (and maybe some garlic).

Form the turkey mixture into a loaf, and wrap it in the prosciutto (if desired).

Bake until the internal temperature reads at least 155°F, approximately 45-60 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes.

Slice and serve.

Read more…

Easy ice cream

There are a lot of recipes for ice cream out there, but a lot of them involve making large amounts of custard creme and therefore large batches of ice cream. But sometimes you just want to make a small amount at a time, especially with a small ice cream maker. And portion control is important, too!

So, here’s a simple way to make a small amount of what’s essentially ice cream, without a lot of fuss or process:

  1. Combine 120 grams of half and half with 30 grams of agave nectar or corn syrup or other liquid sweetener (Torani flavor syrups might work well for this too)
  2. Add a pinch of salt
  3. Add a few drops of whatever flavor extract you want (4-5 drops of vanilla, peppermint, or orange extract) and any other flavorings you’re interested in
  4. Stir thoroughly (I use a milk frother or a tiny whisk)
  5. Churn until smooth

At this point you could also add small chocolate chips or fresh fruit or whatever other mix-ins you want.

Read more…

Home-brewed root beer

Base recipe for 1 liter of root beer: half a tablespoon of root beer extract (I use Zatarain’s) and half a cup of sugar (raw/turbinado sugar is especially nice).

For typical root beer, make half a cup of simple syrup by combining the sugar with half a cup of water and heating until the sugar is dissolved, then add it and the extract to 750mL of sparkling water.

However, for home-brewed root beer, which has a more complex flavor (and a slight amount of alcohol), combine the sugar, extract, 1 liter of water, and 1 teaspoon of yeast (baker’s yeast is fine, champagne yeast is better) into a clean 1-liter plastic bottle. Squeeze the air out and cap, and allow to sit at room temperature until the bottle has expanded and become firm to the touch, and then move it into your refrigerator to chill. This process depends on the temperature, and can be sped up or better controlled using a sous vide circulator set to around 90°F which should make the fermentation take only a few hours.

NOTE: Be absolutely careful not to let this stay out past the time it has gotten firm, or else you run the risk of the bottle exploding and making a mess! And, for that matter, only use a flexible plastic bottle (I use leftover seltzer bottles) and not a firm bottle like a SodaStream or, worse yet, a glass bottle, as those will be very difficult to use safely and are very likely to explode on you.

Anyway, the nice thing about brewed rootbeer is that the flavor will continue to develop over time in the refrigerator, and it won’t easily go flat, as the yeast will continue to ferment and carbonate it even while cold. (This will also increase the alcohol content over time.)

I highly recommend storing the bottle upright, if possible, as the yeast will form a sediment on the bottom of the bottle and this doesn’t have a very good taste or texture. Keeping it upright makes it easier to pour off the root beer without ending up with the yeast slurry.

Piña Colada mix

For a simple piña colada mix, combine two 16-ounce cans of crushed or chunk pineapple (including the juice) and one 12-ounce can of coconut cream and blend until smooth. Then add a few tablespoons of lime juice.

This can be used for a whole bunch of things:

  • Make it into an actual piña colada by combining 1 shot of rum, 1 cup of mix, and a bunch of ice in a blender and blending until smooth
  • Combine with a splash of unflavored seltzer to make a virgin colada
  • Make vegan pineapple-coconut ice cream by putting this in an ice cream maker (rum optional)
  • Freeze into popsicles using popsicle molds (don’t add rum if you do this or it’ll never set)

Perfect eggs over-easy

IMG_1983.jpeg

There’s a bunch of things out there about the way of making eggs perfectly over-easy, with fully-cooked whites but nice and runny yolks. Most of them involve either basting the eggs with oil, steaming them with a lid, or flipping them with much trepidation.

But my favorite way: heat the oil to medium-high, crack the eggs, wait for the whites on the bottom to set (1-2 minutes), and then set the remaining whites with a culinary blowtorch (Amazon affiliate link).

Perfectly-cooked whites, perfectly-runny yolks, and no breakage in sight!

Pizza potluck

Every now and then I decide to have a party where I invite people over to have fun and chat while I feed them a bunch of homemade pizza. The format which seems to work best is a “pizza potluck,” where I provide the basics and everyone else brings interesting things to try as toppings. It’s a great party for someone who has a lot of friends but doesn’t have a lot of social energy and likes to make their friends happy and have people meet each other but would rather be a wall flower at their own party. Like me.

I’ve done this a few times now. Here’s some notes for things to do and things to avoid.

Read more…

Sausage and lentil soup

IMG_0137.jpg

An easy-to-prepare soup that’s filling and hearty.

Ingredients:

  • 7-14 ounces of smoked sausage (kielbasa or similar), diced or sliced
  • 1-2 carrots, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1-2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper or ¼ cup chopped green chile (optional)
  • 4-6 cups stock or broth
  • 1 ½ cups lentils
  • 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 tbsp crushed or minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp dried oregano

In a soup pot on medium high, brown the sausage. Add the carrots, and cook until carmelized; add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the celery and cook until translucent, along with the chile if so desired. Deglaze with stock or broth, before adding the rest, along with the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaves, garlic, and oregano. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to low and cook, covered, for 1 hour or until lentils are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Optionally, garnish with sour cream.

Margarita Iconoclasta

IMG_0136.jpg

I don’t drink booze often but when I do I like it to be nice. Your definition of “nice” may vary.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jigger (1.5 oz) of good tequila (I use Herradura Reposado)
  • 1 jigger of lime juice
  • 1 jigger of agave nectar
  • 1 pony (0.75 oz) of triple sec
  • 2-3 dashes of habanero sauce (optional)

Place into cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until the ice gets somewhat crushed. Pour into a glass. Salt rim optional.

Sous vide black garlic

Brad Leone recently did an episode on fermented garlic miso, and in it there was an aside of starting up a black garlic experiment. Recently he finished an episode on the black garlic itself, but the initial episode was enough to plant a seed in my mind of doing a bunch of black garlic myself.

His technique involves placing the garlic into a sealed bag and that into a dehydrator at around 130ºF/55ºC. However, my dehydrator tends to be both very loud and high on power consumption, so I decided to try using my sous vide circulator instead.

Read more…

Citrus soda syrup

  • 20mL agave nectar
  • 20mL of lemon or lime juice (or a combination of them, totaling 20mL)

Combine the above, and then add to 1 liter of sparkling water.

For an extra kick, add some powdered ginger, or replace some (or all) of the agave nectar with ginger syrup. And maybe a pinch or three of cayenne pepper.

Home-made vegan waffle mix

I ended up getting a tiny waffle iron (affiliate link), mostly for the purpose of waffling foods. But I figured, hey, now I can make waffles, too!

But making a tiny amount of waffle is really annoying, especially since it involves baking powder, which loses its leavening properties if it’s wet for too long.

For my first attempt at a single waffle I took ¼ cup pastry flour, a pinch of salt, ¼ cup of soymilk, and a teaspoon of vanilla sugar. The resulting waffle turned out rubbery and flat, but it was a good start.

Anyway, I did some reading and found that flax flour makes a good egg substitute. So here’s a recipe for some dry waffle mix that’s easy to make a bunch of in advance and make just the amount you need:

  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it!)
  • ¼ tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients, and then when ready to make a waffle, combine equal parts mix and your favorite dairy equivalent. Or actual milk if you’re so inclined. Two tablespoons of each is just about a perfect amount for the linked waffle maker.

Anyway this gives me a nice base for experimenting with other stuff. I’m planning on trying it with some added spelt or buckwheat flour, or with chocolate chips, or with dried cranberries.

Also the waffle maker comes with a bunch of other great-looking recipes, and I’m looking forward to giving a lot of them a try.

Ice cream experiments

A while ago I tried making ice cream using the salad-spinner approach. This did not work well, so I ended up buying an ice cream maker (affiliate link). I’ve made plenty of experiments with it so far; here’s some of what I’ve done.

Read more…

All-purpose bread dough

Here’s the bread dough recipe I’ve been using for a while. I mostly use it for pizza crusts but it’s also great for loaves and rolls and a bunch of other stuff. It’s adapted from the simplest recipes and techniques in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (affiliate link). There is also a newer edition (affiliate link) of the book although I haven’t seen what’s different in it.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1.5 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1.5 tbsp coarse salt (sea salt, kosher salt, etc.)
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup rye flour

Directions

In a large container (I use one of these food storage boxes (affiliate link) — don’t forget the lid! (affiliate link)) combine the water, yeast, and salt. Wisk until consistent.

Then add the flours and stir until of consistent hydration.

That’s it! Now you just let it rise for a while, and then tear off a hunk of the dough and use it for whatever you want. Keep it in the refrigerator; cover it tightly if you like it to get a beer-like aroma, otherwise leave it cracked open a bit and just make sure you keep on adding enough moisture every few days.

Read more…

Ginger ale syrup

I just made some ginger ale syrup for making home-made ginger ale. It’s pretty easy! Just peel some ginger (use a spoon to remove the skin so you don’t waste the tasty flesh) and chop it up into thin-ish chunks, and put it into a saucepan with some water, some sugar, and other flavorings as you see fit (I used some pomegranate molasses, some coriander seed, and the peel and juice of a lemon). Then heat the water up and let the ginger steep for a while, then slowly bring it to a low boil.

Occasionally test the flavor, both to adjust the sugar level and to know when it’s gingery enough (don’t worry about extracting EVERY LAST BIT of ginger flavor, as that’s impossible and the point is to make something that tastes good, right?), and when it has a good flavor, use a wire strainer or the like to fish out as much solid stuff as you can. Then raise it to a moderate boil, and let it boil down until it’s 225-230F (don’t let it go any higher than that though, since at that point it starts to turn into candy).

Let it cool, and while it’s still warm and runny, strain it through a mesh strainer into a storage bottle of some sort.

To make the ginger ale, just mix some of the syrup with some soda water.

For bonus points, the chunks of ginger can be rolled in sugar and then put into an oven at 250F or so to dry them out a bit. And this is how you make candied ginger.