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’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!

 

 

Foodie Snacks For 100 Or Less

I can always make a long story longer, but the short of it is I don’t eat the way I used to.

What I mean by that is I read food product labels; I don’t eat as much processed food; I cook from scratch even more than I used to; I log my food with an online app; and I eat ‘normal’ portion sizes.

Today’s post is about snacking. I still snack because I need to. Snacking is “doctor’s orders” and a strong suggestion from a dietician I see regularly.

You all know how much I like to cook, how much I like to try new flavors, and how much I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. This list is a sampling of my favorite snacks that are 100 calories or fewer.

It’s Almost Apple Pie Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Miniature Tostada On a small corn tortilla, spread 1/4 cup nonfat refried beans. Top it with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and a sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese.

Mediterranean Tomato Dice a medium tomato and top it with 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

Cottage Cheese With Melon For a twist on cottage cheese with fruit, combine 3/4 cup diced cantaloupe with 1/4 cup nonfat cottage cheese. If you’re craving sweetness, drizzle a little raw honey over it.cottage-cheese-cantaloupe

Carrots With Hummus This is the old veggie dip idea but with protein instead of fat. Crunch on nine or ten 2-inch carrot sticks dipped in hummus. Bonus points if you make your own hummus. Hey, it’s easy to make and tastes better than store-bought.

Santa Fe Black Beans Combine 1/4 cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s a hearty snack with protein that won’t quit.

Greek Watermelon Can you tell I enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean? This one combines watermelon (1 cup) and 2 tablespoons feta cheese. Those seemingly incompatible flavors do work. (And I really like feta cheese.)

Oh-So-Sweet-Potato This is not a sugary sweet potato; it’s sweet because of the lack of sugar. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get used to not eating sugar on food. Just bake a small sweet potato and sprinkle salt or cinnamon on it. If you want to, microwave it in a potato bag. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, here’s an easy pattern for making your own bag. The potatoes come out great this way and it’s so quick.

Turkey Tartine It’s a fancy name for a foodie snack that’s a simple open faced sandwich. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard on a slice of toasted whole grain bread and lay on 2 thin slices of deli turkey.

Carrot ‘Salad’ Mix two grated carrots with 1 tablespoon raisins, 1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds, and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.

Black Bean Salad This one’s not only lean, it has protein and fiber. Mix 1/4 cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1 small chopped tomato, 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of chili powder.

Spiced Cottage Cheese Mix 3/4 cup nonfat cottage cheese with a pinch of chili powder and a pinch of curry powder. A garnish of chopped scallions is nice.

strawberryspinachsaladStrawberry and Spinach Salad Mixing savory and sweet reminds me of those cooking shows on the food networks. So be a pro and mix 1 cup baby spinach with 1/2 cup sliced strawberries. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

My tastes run to the spicy and savory so this baker’s dozen snack sampling reflects that. You probably have some favorite healthy low-cal snacks as well. Share them in the comments. I’ll give you bonus points for that too!

In the meantime, you know what I always say: get creative in the kitchen. Life’s too short to eat boring food.

Eat hardy!

Foodie Bucket List

This past year, I came up with a list of cooking-related activities I’d like to accomplish or participate in before I die. We’re facing a new calendar year in my part of the world and people often make lists of goals to accomplish for the coming year. So this list seems appropriate right now.

Of course you’ve heard of Bucket Lists. Here’s a Foodie oriented one for me. I came up with a list of 20, but am always open to adding to it. Perhaps as I check these off, I’ll post about the experience. Eat Hardy!list-learn-to-cook

  1. Bake a batch of filled cupcakes
  2. Bake a new recipe from an old cookbook
  3. Make a cheesecake from scratch
  4. Cook a new-to-me Asian dish
  5. Try my hand at seafood gumbo
  6. Make a chowder
  7. Cook with an herb/spice I’ve never used
  8. Try a decorative lattice top for a pie
  9. Decorate a pie top with dough cutouts
  10. Participate in a progressive dinner
  11. Eat vegetarian for a week
  12. Create a piece of food art
  13. Make cheese
  14. Make a pesto
  15. Make salsa
  16. Shop at a different farmer’s market
  17. Try a new fruit
  18. Make plantain chips
  19. Make/bake an edible gift for Christmas or other celebration
  20. Learn a new kitchen technique
  21. Always open to another challenge!

Foodie (Thick As) Pea Soup

It’s been a lazy sort of day. Looking out the window, I see big chunks of snow falling from a cloudy sky. There’s no wind so the snow, which has been falling all day, is sticking to the tree branches and trunks.

It’s beautiful. And time for comfort food; like pea soup, maybe.

This is what I’d be conjuring up in the kitchen if my refrigerator wasn’t already full of enough food to keep me going for about a week and a half. (I’ve been on a spree.)

There’s no reason why I can’t share a couple of recipe ideas with you, though.split-pea-soup-960x1438

One is from a blog I follow almost daily when I log my food on MyFitnessPal. They’ve set me up with some great recipes which I add to my database. When I’ve eaten that food for one of my meals, I go in and log from the recipe database. I love how easy that is. Here’s one, Split Pea Soup With Bacon, which came from the blog, HelloHealthy.

I like ham in my split pea soup and most often use a good leftover bone with meat on it. That’s how my mom always made a soup with ham in it. This Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup includes ham and might be more to your taste.

Whether or not it’s snowing in your neck of the woods, comfort food may be exactly what you’re hungry for. As always, make adjustments to the recipes so they work for you.

And eat hardy.

Shake it Up, Foodie

As a busy young mother (oh, so many years ago), I took shortcuts in the kitchen if I could. Because it gave baked chicken a flavor my husband liked (and because someone came up with an easy way to add flavor and crispiness to baked chicken), Shake ‘n Bake brand coating mix was a staple in our house.

Not anymore. I prefer to make my own ‘mixes’ when I can from ingredients I have in my cupboards. That way I know what’s in it and avoid additives. The flavors are usually the same and sometimes even better (depending on how I tinker with the concoction) than the so-called original.

Here’s my coating mix recipe for meat––chicken or pork––you can make easily. In fact, if you don’t want to make it up ahead of time and store it, you only need a few minutes to mix it up while you’re preparing dinner. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled.chicken-in-pan

Crispy Coating Baking Mix

  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 2 t. poultry seasoning
  • 1 t. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients (shake ’em up in a plastic bag, if you want!). The recipe as written coats all the pieces of a whole chicken. Obviously, for more or less chicken, use more or less mix. It’s good on pork chops too, but you may want to substitute a combination of basil, oregano and rosemary for the poultry seasoning.

Store in a tightly sealed container or zipper bag. Depending on the humidity, you can store in the cupboard up to 4 months. DO NOT store any mix which has already been used for coating meat. Toss it!

I make my own bread crumbs too. I just chug 3-4 slices of bread around in the blender until they’re finely ground, stopping to stir the larger pieces toward the blades. When I want an Italian flavor as in the commercially prepared Italian crumbs, I add 1 t. Italian seasoning for every 4 slices of bread. Another variation you can try is adding 1 1/2 t. of ranch dressing mix, but that defeats the purpose of avoiding additives. Folks with gluten intolerances: you know how to adapt ingredients.

When baking chicken, just like when you’re frying, coating mix stays on better when you dip it in a mixture of 1/2 c. buttermilk and one beaten egg. It also gives it a Southern-fried flavor.

So there you go. You can shake it and bake it with your own homemade mix. I’m happy to say, “And I helped!”

Eat Hardy!