Foodie Sips Hot Chocolate

In my part of the world, it’s autumn. This time of the year and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine from scratch (naturally). It’s easy to mix up a batch from a container of baking cocoa, sugar (or your choice of sweetener), and milk.

This time of year, we’re often found around campfires in our own back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

Think in a different vein.

If candy manufacturers can add a twist to their chocolate confections, why not do the same to your cup of hot chocolate? I like chocolate with raspberries or cherries. I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try some homemade cocoa and give it a little zip with one of these suggestions.

Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these always adds zip.

Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight.

Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh-brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.

Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold. Peppermint also calms an upset tummy.

Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter, take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix well until it melts.

Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 fresh slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in. I like hot sauce, but admit this choice isn’t for the faint of heart.

Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. It tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.

Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of pure maple syrup livens up ordinary hot chocolate.

If you’re interested in making a single cup of cocoa for yourself, Epicurious has a recipe for that.

Make your own hot chocolate mix to have on hand whenever you want a cup. The Pioneer Woman has a recipe which is easy and makes a really creamy concoction you can share as gifts.

So, cozy up in your chair or in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

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Foodie Celebrates #NationalCoffeeDay

Can’t you smell the coffee brewing? Aaaaah!

Anyone who knows me understands that I ‘celebrate’ coffee every day. The celebration happens in the morning, in the afternoon, and sometimes even in the evening. As I write this, there’s a cup on the end table to my right.

I am, simply put, a Coffee Hound. I guess I’m one of  those people who jokingly (or not so jokingly) consider coffee a food group. Who needs a special day to recognize coffee? I wouldn’t normally ask that and to a coffee hound it may seem ridiculous. But as time goes by, I understand the plight of some of the people who grow the wonderful beans that become my cup of joe.

Quite often, the people farming the plants receive little for their efforts. I don’t totally understand the process, but I know that to support fair trade for coffee growers is smart. It’s the benevolent thing to do; the equivalent of paying a fair wage for work done. My church serves only coffee which is fair trade in its on-site cafe. Every penny taken in on every cup of coffee purchased is returned to the growers’ initiative to support the coffee growers. We get the best tasting coffee we’ve ever served and we participate in a mission to help others help themselves.

How do you like your coffee? Flavors? Black? “Doctored up?” Decaf? However you like it, let’s celebrate the beautiful bean.

 

Disposing of Foodie Scraps

A garbage disposal is one my favorite appliances in the kitchen. Does that sound weird coming from a Foodie? Why not a food processor or a slow cooker? Let me tell you why. I don’t consider having a garbage disposal a luxury. It’s just part of my mindset regarding stewardship of our environment.

I can be cranky thinking I’m sending stuff to the landfill, even if it’s supposedly biodegradable. Think about it: you stuff your garbage in a bag and take it to the dumpster. Your trash company takes it away and, ultimately, that plastic bag ends up in a landfill. I’m not a scientist, but I’m guessing it takes a little longer for the food to break down when it’s in a plastic bag.

Leaning heavily on the side of recycling, I’d rather send something into a waste treatment plant than onto a garbage truck. Getting washed away in this manner means someone’s actually keeping an eye on water quality and ground waters.

Since I’ve had a disposal for so long, I thought I knew all there was to know about using one. But I discovered some tips and habits that I can put into practice which I formerly haven’t used.

Veering from the usual recipes and cooking tips, here’s a list of things you should know about using your garbage disposal. I hope this list will be useful for you. If you don’t already have a garbage disposal, perhaps you’ll consider installing one.

  • Large pieces of food should not be put down the disposal. Cut food into smallish pieces and feed them into the disposal gradually with cold water running constantly.
  • Don’t turn off the water while the disposal is running. Wait until grinding is complete. When grinding is complete, turn off the disposal and let the water run for another 15 seconds.

Keeping the Disposal Clean

  1. Something you can do to keep the disposal clean is to periodically pour a little dish soap down it and run cold water while running the disposal as you would to grind food. If you wash dishes in the sink, that’s a good time to do it.
  2. Run the disposal regularly; it prevents corrosion and obstructions.
  3. Grind certain hard materials such as small chicken bones, fish bones, egg shells, ice, etc. It causes a scouring action and prevents food from building up around the walls of the disposal. However, do not put large bones down the disposal. Only fine bones and only occasionally.
  4. Borax is a natural cleaner with many uses around the home and is a good product for cleaning the disposal. It can be found in the aisle with detergents and cleaning products.
  5. Don’t use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners in your disposal. They can damage the drains and pipes.

The “Don’t” List

  1. Don’t put anything down the disposal that’s not a biodegradable food. This includes non-food items like glass, plastic, metal, paper, anything combustible, cigarette butts, etc.
  2. Do not put coffee grounds down the garbage disposal. They do not harm the disposal, but could clog drains and pipes.
  3. Don’t put ‘expandable’ foods like pasta and rice down the disposal. When they expand as water is run down the sink, they create one of the biggest causes for repairs.
  4. Do not pour grease, oil, or naturally occurring fat in a food into your disposal or drain. This includes the fat on cuts of meat. Fats will slowly accumulate and impede the disposal’s grinding ability as well as clog drains.
  5. Too many potato peels put down the disposal create a thick paste because of the starch in the potato. This causes the blades to stick so don’t put too many down the disposal at one time. If you’re preparing a lot of potatoes, put the bulk of the peelings in the trash.
  6. Do not grind fibrous material like corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins and artichokes. Fibers from these can tangle and jam the motor.

I hadn’t always thought about how to care for a garbage disposal until I needed to call someone to come repair it or get it unstuck. Remember that someone who knows how to do the job should be the person to do so.

If you hear a nasty sound coming from the disposal, turn it off immediately. It goes without saying you should never put your hands down a disposal that has not stopped spinning. If you go to retrieve something which has gone down the sink (usually a spoon or something else small) carefully move your hand around the blades. You can prevent things from going down the sink in the first place by using a mesh strainer. They’re easy to find and usually inexpensive.

Do you have tips for using a garbage disposal which I may have left out?

 

Foodie’s Greens Galore

When the weather is hot and humid like it is currently where I live, I don’t want to cook. Not even on the stovetop. So salads come to the rescue. My plan for this blog post was to talk about creating salads with a variety of ingredients. And just in time, the Start Cooking blog posted “Salad Greens From A to Z.”

In addition to reading Kathy’s list on the various greens you can pick from and their individual characteristics, she includes a few recipes. You might want to try one or two.

My favorite greens are spinach, romaine, radicchio, leaf lettuce, and arugula. My tastes for what I’ll put on my salad are all over the map. I’m always experimenting. Fruits, nuts and seeds, a variety of vegetables, meats and cheeses, condiments, and even some herbs have all found their way to my plate of leafy greens.

The flavors I get by using a variety of dressings determines which ingredients I add. Here’s a recipe for a Greek Salad Dressing I make to keep on hand all the time. What I like about this dressing is it doesn’t need refrigeration and the recipe uses stuff I have in my pantry all the time. I don’t need to go out and buy something exotic.

Greek Style Salad Dressing

  • 1 ½ c. olive oil
  • 1 T. plus 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1 T. plus 1 t. dried oregano
  • 1 T. plus 1 t. dried basil
  • 1 T. pepper
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 ½ c. red wine vinegar

In a large container (about 1-quart capacity), mix together all ingredients except vinegar. Pour in the vinegar and mix vigorously until well blended. Store tightly at room temperature. Makes about 25 2-tablespoon servings.

I’ve made this dressing with both red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. I like balsamic better. Also, I usually start with only one cup of vinegar and taste it until, after adding a little more at a time, it tastes just right. Depending on which kind you use, the vinegar can be a little overwhelming.

Another variation I’ve tried is to add about 1/3 c. mayonnaise for a creamy dressing. If you add mayo, the dressing will need refrigeration.

Foodie in a Pickle

If your garden isn’t already ready for the harvest of those peppers, it soon will be. And pepper plants always give forth a plentiful yield. If you planted banana peppers and like the flavor of them pickled (or would like to try them that way), here’s a simple recipe for refrigerator pickles.

The number of jars you get depends on whether you use pint jars, quart jars, or those cute little jars you find that look like they should be gift jars. I believe this recipe could be multiplied easily too. I always like that about working in the kitchen; doing whatever works.

When I made these, I added the optional ingredients because 1. I like pepper and celery seed and 2. turmeric has healthy side benefits and adds color to the pickles. In addition to stirring the peppers to make sure they were covered with brine, I turn the jars over a few times while they  sit in the fridge. It keeps that flavor going. (Be sure you have those seals on tight if you’re going to do this.)

Refrigerator Banana Pickles

  • 2 lbs. banana peppers
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 ½ c water
  • 1 ½ c. white vinegar
  • 4 t. kosher salt
  • ½ t. sugar
  • 1 t. black peppercorns (optional)
  • ½ t. turmeric (optional)
  • ½ t. celery seed (optional)

Wash the peppers, cut off the tops and remove as many of the seeds as you can. Cut the peppers into rings of whatever thickness you like. Put the pepper rings and garlic pieces into glass jar(s) that have air tight seals when closed.

In a medium saucepan, combine water, vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high head. Remove from heat and pour over the peppers and garlic.

Use a knife to move the peppers around, removing air bubbles and to get peppers and garlic submerged in the liquid. Seal the jars and set aside overnight. After 24 hours, refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

The colors of the peppers will dull a bit after 24 hours; this is normal.

Be sure to use glass containers because this keeps the flavors true.

For an appetizer using your bounty of peppers, try these broiled stuffed banana peppers  wrapped in bacon with a zippy flavor.

Eat Hardy!

A Foodie Guide to Vs and Ps and Fs

My own diet aside, what other people put on their plate became of interest to me when I decided to have a young married couple over for dinner. They’d recently decided to switch to the vegan diet and I had no idea what that entailed.

It reminded me of the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Tula’s aunt meets Ian, the fiancée, and insists she’ll cook for him. When he tells her he doesn’t eat meat, she exclaims in disbelief, “You don’t eat no meat?” (Pause) “Oh, that’s okay,” she says, satisfied she can still come through. “I cook you lamb.”

I have challenges enough trying to figure out what to put on my own table since I have some health issues to be aware of. But when it comes to entertaining––and I do like to entertain––now I try to ask first, “Is there anything you cannot or prefer not to eat?”

Educating myself on just what a vegetarian would eat came fairly easily. I have some friends who serve at the local soup kitchen and I know what they put in their weekly main courses. The other “Vs”, not to mention the pescatarian and flexitarian, required a little digging.

Here’s some information to help you if you ever wondered how a friend might expect to be fed if they’re a guest in your home. Or…if you’re a guest in theirs, expect dishes prepared this way from them. Here’s a short lesson on some of the “arians” and “isms.”

  1. Ovo vegetarianism includes eggs but not dairy products.
  2. Lacto vegetarianism includes dairy products but not eggs.
  3. Lacto-ovo vegetarianism includes dairy products such as eggs, milk and cheese.
  4. Veganism excludes all animal flesh and animal products, so it excludes milk, cheese and eggs. Vegan purists exclude honey because it is a by-product of bees.
  5. Raw veganism includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Some allow the cooking of vegetables only up to a certain low temperature. Raw foods purist cook nothing.

Semi-Vegetarian Diets Include:

  1. Pescatarianism, which includes fish and sometimes other seafood.
  2. Pollotarianism, which includes poultry.
  3. Pollo-pescatarian, which includes poultry and fish, or “white meat” only.
  4. Flexitarian, which is primarily vegetarian, but will eat meat if easier by social circumstance.

Often, the first question a carnivore will have for the vegan is, “How do you get protein into your diet?” It’s a valid question. But we meat-eaters needn’t worry about anyone who’s done their homework. There’s protein in every living thing because proteins are the building blocks of life. So it makes sense that proteins are in every food we eat. The difference is in the amount.

For the sake of argument, even scientific studies are limited by the test groups and the conditions applied. If you’re considering a change, it’s best to experiment and find out what works best for you.

Healthy eating is also more than what we put into our mouths. We all know that many times it’s the community in our midst while we’re eating so let’s not be Foodie Snobs.

Some would say, “Think outside the box and try something new.”

I say, “Throw the box in the dumpster. And eat hardy.”

 

Chemicals in My Foodie

Today is a goofball day.

I’m visiting out of town for an extended period and busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Hence, I’m skipping the usual fare. I apologize for the lack of postings lately in every theme. I’ve been ill and was in hospital for a bit.

Better now though, thanks.

I know enough about chemistry and physical science to be dangerous. (Some of it actually helps in the kitchen.) One day, in my Pins, I was introduced to Chemistry Cat and fell in love. I’m a cat person who also enjoys puns. So, for a little change of pace, Foodie offers up a short humorous post about food and cooking.

You’re welcome.

Don’t tell anyone I “lead” you into anything dangerous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you next week, Foodies. Eat hardy.

Foodie Found the Way to His Heart

Once upon a time, I got the attention of a certain fellow and he asked me on a date. Well, actually, it was a blind date his cousin set up.

Time passed after a few dates and I decided I wanted to cook a meal and invite him over (to try and impress him, obviously). The main dish would be beef stroganoff, which I’d learned to make with my brother-in-law a year or two prior.

This was also the first time I’d made this particular dish for my family and I was pleased that it was a hit. Especially with that fellow. I eventually married him and we had a couple of children together. Our daughter, Sarah, who moved west and left her poor mother in the Midwest to pine for her…wait, that’s another story.

Sarah confessed some time after she got married that her husband would like more variety in the meals she served. (I hope he said it kindly.) She conceded that she had limits and wondered if I had any ideas. So I recruited family members to send me recipes for main dishes, appetizers, desserts–you name it–that were favorites at their house. Or dishes that were traditionally prepared on special occasions. We definitely had to include her Grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe. My siblings and I still talk about that cake that was so moist, we didn’t even care if it had frosting. That one had tradition written all over it.

She was delighted with the book we put together for her.

I included the recipe for Beef Stroganoff because a certain tale had been told over the years. It was almost legend that cooking that particular dish had turned her dad’s heart toward her mom. (I don’t know that it’s the only thing. I was pretty good with a sewing machine too.)

Love and food go together. And I don’t just mean “Goodness, I love to eat food,” although if we’re Foodies, we not only love to cook, we love to eat and feed others.

Maybe it’s the process of cooking and baking and then sharing the meal that makes for a true Foodie. I have a friend who says this is absolutely one of  the ways she shows love. If she cooks for you, she’s loving on you.

I don’t think it matters if it’s an elaborate meal for a Foodie to love on someone with what they prepare. It could be as simple as making your friend’s favorite oatmeal cookie recipe–just because he’s your friend. Maybe your kids could eat tacos ’til they’re coming out of their ears. Make a traditional Taco Night. And let them help in the kitchen. You never know; you might pass the soul of a Foodie to one of your children. Now wouldn’t that be love made visible?

Cook. Bake. Serve. Love. Enjoy being a Foodie. And eat hardy!

 

 

Chocolate Addict Foodie

Yeah, I’m addicted to chocolate. But you won’t hear me saying I want to recover from the addiction. Any excuse to eat it is a good one. Several years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to eat chocolate at least once a week. I figured it was a resolution I could keep.

Today is National Dessert Day so Foodie Friday will feature a couple (or more) chocolate desserts. But first, let’s talk about baking with chocolate.

Helpful Hints

For converting chocolate, these tips should help.

1 oz. (1 square) unsweetened baking chocolate = 3 oz. (1/2 cup) semi-sweet chocolate morsels. If, in a recipe calling for unsweetened baking chocolate, you use semi-sweet morsels instead, decrease butter, margarine or shortening by 1 T. and sugar by ¼ cup.

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder = 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels. When substituting, again, butter (or whatever you use) and sugar should be decreased by the same amounts.

Chocolate may develop a grey film on its surface called a “bloom.” Chocolate bloom is caused by cocoa butter within the chocolate rising to the surface. It’s no big deal; it doesn’t change the taste, even though it dulls the color. Go ahead and use it for melting or baking. The attractive color will reappear.

Keep chocolate in a cool, dry place. It can be refrigerated, but if you choose to do so, wrap it tightly so it doesn’t absorb odors from other foods. Airtight wrapping also prevents the chocolate from acquiring moisture which can condense on it. This is a problem discussed below. Also, chocolate becomes hard and brittle when chilled, so allow it to come to room temperature before using.

About Melting Chocolateheart-dripping-chocolate

Important Warning: The smallest drop of moisture (even a wet spoon or steam from a double boiler) can cause melted chocolate to become lumpy. If this occurs, stir in 1 T. vegetable oil or shortening for every 3 oz. chocolate. Don’t use butter since it contains water.

Yield: One 12-ounce package (2 cups) of semi-sweet morsels equals 1 cup melted chocolate.

Top-of-stove method: Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Place over hot, not boiling water. Stir occasionally until smooth.

Microwave method: To melt chocolate, place morsels or chunks of baking chocolate in a dry 4 cup microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Microwave on high for 2 minutes; stir. Nuke it again on high 1 more minute and stir until it’s smooth.

These methods also, obviously, work for other morsels such as butterscotch, white chocolate, etc.

I’m doing the happy homemaker thing today. I’ve baked the squash and toasted the seeds from it. Next will come the mending, ironing, and laundry. But I just might get around to making something chocolatey for National Dessert Day. Brownies? Sounds good.

I promised some recipes and here are some I found. My favorite dessert, besides pie, is cheesecake and a well-done cheesecake is worth the effort. Urban Bakes offers her Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake. Looks dreamy.

Suburban Soapbox has a recipe for a No Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie. It’s easier to prepare than a cheesecake, but you have to save a bunch of your daily calories for it. It’s reeealy rich.

And these aren’t exactly a dessert––more of treat or snack––but here you’ll find a recipe for my ‘famous’ Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

keep calm eat dk chocWe who are addicted to chocolate could have told researchers a long time ago that chocolate is good for you. We didn’t know anything scientific; we just knew we felt better when we ate it. Right? Well, here’s a story by Medical News Today with a list of facts about chocolate and some reasons backed up by research (finally!) for why we should be eating this sweet–or semi-sweet–substance.

Enjoy your chocolate desserts today!

Foodie Converts (Food)

Most of the time, I cook for one person (me). For that reason, recipes end up being changed to accommodate. Instead of making a recipe for eight servings, I cut it down to one or two so I’m not eating that main or side dish all week. Sure, there are some dishes for which I cook a whole batch and freeze enough for later. But some foods I’d rather not preserve that way because they’re just not as good thawed and re-heated.

Something that helps me to cut a recipe is having simple conversions I can make while baking or cooking. Today I’m passing on some that you can memorize if you need to decrease like I do. You may even find it handy to know these simple conversions if you’re increasing a recipe.

It’s easy to double; you just multiply by two. But how about making a recipe one-and-a-half times the amount? That’s a little trickier. Foodies make it work, though, don’t we?

Here are some simple conversions I’ve managed to keep in my brain (for the most part) for when I need to “alter” a recipe to suit my needs.stainless-steel-measuring-cups-spoons-250 square

Basic conversions

  • 3 tsp. = 1 Tbsp.
  • 1/3 cup = 5 Tbsp. + 1 tsp.
  • 1 c. = 16 Tbsp.
  • 2 c. = 1 pint
  • 4 c. = 1 quart
  • 1 oz. = 2 Tbsp.
  • 16 oz. = 1 lb.

Can Number Equivalents

  • No. 300 = 14-16 oz. = 1 ¾ c.
  • No. 303 = 16-17 oz. = 2 c.
  • No. 2 = 1 lb. 4 oz. = 2 ½ c.
  • No 10 = 6 ½ – 7 ¼ lbs. = 12-13 c. (This is handy to remember when you’re cooking for a crowd)

One-Pound Equivalents

  • 2 c. butter
  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 ½ c. sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 c. milk
  • 9 medium eggs
  • 2 2/3 c. oatmeal or brown sugar
  • 1 1/8 c. rice (uncooked)
  • 2 1/3 c. dry beans
  • 2 c. ground, packed meat

Pan Size Equivalents

  • 2 8-inch layer pans or 1 ½ to 2 dozen cupcakes in muffin tins
  • 3 8-inch layer pans or 2 9-inch square pans
  • 1 9-inch layer pan or 1 8-inch square pan
  • 2 9-inch layer pans or 1 13×9 pan, or 1 9-inch tube pan or 2 8-inch square pans
  • 1 9×5 loaf pan or 2 dozen cupcakes in muffin tins

That last conversion comes in handy when I want to make apple, zucchini or carrot bread to freeze, but I want to freeze individual servings for snacks. It would also work for individual meatloaf servings if you’re trying to maintain portion sizes.

Remember to measure liquids and dry ingredients correctly.

Use dry measuring cups for flour, sugar, shortening (or other solid fat), and various chopped or minced foods. Liquid measuring cups (glass, plastic or other material) for any kind of liquid. Don’t know the difference between a dry measure or liquid measuring cup? Liquid measuring cups have a spout.

Use measuring spoons to measure ingredients such as lemon juice, flavorings, salt, spices, etc.

Certain ingredients like flour and powdered sugar should be spooned into the measuring cup and leveled off, never packed in. Other ingredients, like brown sugar, butter or shortening, should be packed down into the cup and then leveled off.

I’m not the only person who needs to make changes to recipes. As I travel the web and investigate new foods, taste combinations, and options, I see recipes in metric measurements. This Midwest cook doesn’t do metric! That’s when I need more help and I rely on what others who’ve gone before me have created.

Here’s a blog post from “Start Cooking” with a chart to help you convert just about anything during your kitchen adventures.

Happy cooking and eat hardy!