Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tried and Tasted: Tastes Like Home's Peanut Punch

Zlamushka of Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen is hosting a great new blogging event called "Tried and Tasted", where every month a food blog is chosen to have it's recipes tried out by other food bloggers. The first blog to receive this honor (and trial by fire) is the blog Tastes Like Home, written by Cynthia, a talented cook and photographer from Guyana who is in the middle of finishing up her very own cookbook!

Cynthia was one of the first people to comment on my blog and has been a source of recipes, banter about tropical ingredients and general camaraderie. I was excited to have an excuse to finally try one of her recipes and blog about it. I even emailed her and promised that I would participate for sure! But then life intervened with weddings and classes and work and the next thing I knew it was May 30th, the night before the deadline, which is today my dear readers, and I realized I had yet to make something from Cynthia's beautiful blog. So this morning I made myself some Peanut Punch. This is one of the few recipes that Cynthia has posted directly on her blog, although if you want to make any of the things she writes about, she will be happy to send you the recipe if you email her. The punch was delicious, and I have some leftovers chilling in my fridge, for a drink later on this afternoon.

So here it is, my contribution to Tried and Tasted: Tastes Like Home. I changed up the ingredients just a little, by adding some Belizean coconut rum. Because, you know, everything is better with rum! Enjoy!


Cynthia's Peanut Punch (with a Belizean twist)

Get the original recipe here. This version serves 2. The recipe is about 500 calories if you err on the teaspoon side with the rum (though why you would want to do that is beyond me.) With no alcohol, the recipe contains 460 calories.

1 tsp to 1 tablespoon coconut rum (to taste)
3 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 cup cold 1% milk (for a colder drink, try freezing a few milk ice cubes to add to the blender)
1 tbsp sugar
dash of cinnamon
about 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Procedure:

Blend everything together on high until smooth. Serve ice cold with a dusting of nutmeg and a couple peanuts on top. They will soon sink to the bottom, but the crunchy ending is delightful. As you can see, mine didn't last long. Thanks Cynthia!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Whole-wheat Orange Blueberry Hotcakes

Hello Everyone! It certainly has been a while hasn't it? Over ten days and I haven't posted a thing. I have an explanation for that though! (Don't I always.) It has been a hectic fortnight around here. I started an intensive summer class last week. It is titled "food, security and globalization" and addresses food security, hunger and food prices around the world. Very topical, and very interesting, but also a lot of work. So instead of trying to take pretty pictures of my food, lately I have resorted to simply eating it, and feeling grateful to have it in front of me.

Then last weekend my cousin got married so I spent a long weekend in Pennsylvania, overeating at the reception, my favorite local pizza joint, and a memorial day pot-luck. The venison burger and rhubarb pie were especially yummy. I couldn't stay away from you guys for too long though, so here is a picture of my breakfast. This is one of my favorite recipes, orange-blueberry hotcakes. I topped mine with home made Greek yogurt, honey and blueberries (previously frozen!). I actually made these yesterday, but pancakes, hotcakes, flapjacks and the like keep pretty well if you put them in a Ziplock bag with a paper towel and toss them in the fridge. Then you can pop them in a toaster for a quick meal or snack. They are also great as a healthy treat at work.


Whole Wheat Orange Blueberry Hotcakes
This particular recipe is whole grain and fat free and can easily be veganized by replacing the milk with soy or rice milk. If you don't care for berries, omit them and enjoy some plain orange hotcakes. This recipe makes roughly 14 hotcakes at about 55 calories a piece.

1 and 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon flax meal (optional, but gives the hotcakes a nice golden colour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1 cup orange juice
1/4-1/3 cup milk or soy milk (lowfat or skim is fine)
Zest of one orange
Zest of half a lemon
1 tsp sugar (or more, to your taste)
About one cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Procedure:

1. Sift flour, flax meal, soda, salt and powder into a bowl.
2. In a small cup or bowl mix together the sugar with the zests, then add to the dry ingredients.
3. Quickly stir the orange juice and milk or soymilk into the flour mixture. Don't worry about a few lumps. The batter will not be thin and runny, but it shouldn't be like a biscuit dough either, add more milk if you deem it necessary, until you get something like a rather wet muffin batter.
4. Fold in the blueberries and drop by spoonfuls onto a medium-hot, preferably cast iron, griddle or frying pan. (Nonstick works too). Flip when the tops look a bit opaque, or if bubbles on the surface begin to burst.

Toppings:

While the American choice of Maple syrup is always good, I also recommend topping these with a nice marmalade, orange blossom honey and Greek yogurt, or a compound butter. Try this one on for size:

Orange Honey Compound Butter

1 part orange blossom honey
1 part softened butter
zest of orange and/or lemon, to taste

Procedure:

Just cream the honey and butter together thoroughly, then add citrus zest to taste. You can freeze or refrigerate this for weeks or even months if you keep it covered, and it is delicious not only on these hotcakes, but also on scones, biscuits, muffins and fresh cornbread.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lambs Quarters

You thought you were going to see big hunks of meat didn't you? That's the funny thing about this vegetable. Called pigweed, lambs quarters or any of a dozen other names, this delicious relative of spinach is found growing in parks, fields and roadsides across North America. Also known as chenopodium album, lambs quarters is one of my favorite foraged foods. This green is just plain delicious, and it doesn't require any fancy cooking to bring out its full flavour. Like beet greens and spinach, it can be cooked relatively quickly with just a little water, and cooked lambs quarters can be substituted wherever you might use cooked spinach. (It is tough and gritty raw, however).

I ran across some lambs quarters the other day and stuffed a plastic bag full of the tender tips. They will quickly send up new shoots to replace what I took, so I didn't feel bad about raiding the patch. Here is what I did with them the next day:

Your basic Lambs Quarters

A large bunch of lambs quarters
about 1/2 cup water
hot sauce to taste
several tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar
salt and fresh ground black pepper

Procedure:

1. Thoroughly wash the lambs quarters. The leaves have a slightly downy feel to them, and the water will run off without completely wetting the leaves, but clean them up as best you can.

2. Strip the leaves off of the bigger and tougher stems. You can keep the whole tender tips, stem and all. (If you can pinch through the stem without too much effort, its a keeper).

3. Heat the 1/2 cup water in a big pot over medium heat. Add the lambs quarters, cover and cook until tender. This will take 10-15 minutes, depending on the size and toughness of the leaves. Taste one if you aren't sure.

4. Add the vinegar and hot sauce to taste, along with the black pepper and salt. Cover and let cook for a minute or two more.

5. Remove the lambs quarters and the juice (pot liquor) from the pot and dump into a bowl. Place in the fridge or freezer to quickly cool them down to handling temperature. Get yourself a good cutting board and knife, take the bowl out and grab a handful of the lambs quarters. Give it a nice squeeze to let the juices run back into the bowl, place on your cutting board and chop thoroughly. Do the same for the rest of the lambs quarters, and return to the bowl with the pot liquor. Serve with curried chickpeas, black eyed peas, red kidney beans or any other type of bean and rice, or use as a side dish with a meat (or tofu) and potatoes meal.

I ate these lambs quarters with some curried chickpeas.

They were delicious, and free, which is great considering the price of food these days.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Its all been done before...Spring vegetable pasta with feta

It seems that pretty much everyone has done some kind of spring vegetable dish by now. And inspired by all the leading runners, I have finally gotten out of the starting gate with a weeknight recipe that only takes about 20 minutes to make. It is also quite delicious and pretty good for you too, as long as you don't overload it with cheese.

Spring Vegetable Pasta with Feta
While I availed myself of frozen peas and young Lima beans in my freezer, you can certainly use fresh if you prefer and I am sure the result would be even more sublime. Feeds about 6.

About 2 cups dry whole wheat fusilli pasta

About 2 cups broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces

About 1 cup baby Lima beans (fresh or frozen)

About 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)

About 2 ounces of good quality feta (I used a sun-dried tomato feta from my farmers market)

2-3 tablespoons capers

1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

A splash or two of white wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)

About 1/2 tablespoon of good quality olive oil (or to taste)

salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

A sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional)



Procedure:

1. Set one large and one small pot of water to boil. When they do, put the pasta in the large pot and cook it al dente. It will get a few minutes more cooking time later on, so you don't want it to be too soft. Toss the Lima beans and peas into the other pot. If they are frozen they should both need about 10-12 minutes of cooking time. Otherwise, cook the fresh beans and peas until tender, which should take less time than with the frozen version.

2. Once the pasta is cooked, strain it and leave it in the colander. Drain the beans and peas as well, and reserve. Heat a couple tablespoons of water in the pasta pot and dump in the broccoli. Cover the lid on medium low and let the broccoli steam for a couple minutes. Open the lid and stir, letting the water evaporate. Turn the heat to medium low.

3. Add the beans and peas to the broccoli, then add a couple glugs of white wine and about half a tablespoon of good quality olive oil (or more if you so desire). Toss the vegetables and then add the fusilli pasta, the salt and black pepper and the red pepper flakes, if desired.

4. Stir for a minute or two, then add the parsley, capers and feta cheese, breaking it up into little pieces as you dump it in. Toss everything over medium low heat until the cheese has melted a bit and coated the pasta and vegetables. Add a swig more of wine if desired, stir until thoroughly mixed, and serve.

This is delicious fresh but it also can keep for up to a week in a closed container in the fridge, and when reheated in the microwave makes a nice workday lunch. Personally I really like the meaty feel and satisfying flavour of the Lima beans combined with the sharpness of the capers and feta.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sourdough focaccia with various toppings...

One of my dinners lately...some fun with sourdough focaccia.

The watercress just didn't work out as nicely as I had hoped. The olive/feta/onion combination was, of course, delicious.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What are you doing to cut down on your food costs?

Today I read an article in the Washington Post about rising food prices. Titled "Clipping, Scrimping and Saving", it discussed the effect of high food costs on Americans across the country.

It made me think about how many of us have had to tighten our belts, or, at least, shorten our grocery lists, as we plan our weekly budgets.

Personally I have stopped buying meat almost completely and seafood has, unfortunately, been relegated to the back burner, since I am not about to start buying ecologically destructive farmed shrimp or Tilapia from Thailand or Vietnam, and most other seafood is too expensive. I stocked up on lentils and other hearty, yet cheap, organic produce the last time I was at Whole Foods-and that was a while ago. At the Farmers market I select my groceries judiciously, going for whats cheapest, and avoiding expensive items like mushrooms, meat, pre-made foods or particularly rare (and expensive) veggies and fruits. I do, however, still buy cheese. One can't give up everything, and I need my goat cheese darnit!

Another way I save money is by making my own yogurt and bread at home. Both save a significant amount of money, but even if bread was a dollar a loaf I would still bake it often, so I can't say that economic reasons drove me to my oven.

So, I'm wondering, how have high food prices affected you? Are there certain things that you buy less of, or simply don't buy at all? And what is your must have splurge item?