Ganache


Go Get ‘Em
August 5, 2011, 1:48 am
Filed under: Drinks, Food and Recipes | Tags: , , , ,

My favorite episode of Nigella Lawson’s is one about breakfast. I love breakfast; it’s my favorite meal of the day. In this episode she makes spicy scrambled eggs (which I’ll share on another day) and this smoothie.

I love everything about this smoothie. It makes me feel like I can conquer the day, and while being nutritious and giving me my caffiene kick, it also seems naughty. Like dessert for breakfast. When I was little, my dad made me bananas drizzled with chocolate syrup for a dessert. This shake reminds me exactly of that. It’s cold, but warms me from the inside out with recollected memories, which is what I need in this 100 plus degree heat on an early Memphis morning.

Go Get ‘Em Smoothie
Recipe slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson
4 WW Points Plus

1 banana, peeled and broken into pieces
1 packet reduced calorie hot chocolate mix
1 cup fat free milk
1-2 tsp instant espresso powder (depending on your caffiene needs)
1 cup ice

Take all ingredients and blend until smooth in a blender. Pour into your favorite on-the-go mug, add a straw, and face your day!

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Tea Time Revamped
February 8, 2011, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Appetizers, Breads, Breakfast, Dessert, Drinks, Food and Recipes | Tags: , , ,

I have a friend that has recently blogged a whole month about tea and tea related themes. It’s been such a pleasure reading all those posts! I’d highly suggest you checking them out if you are looking for a fun read.

One of my favorite tea time treats is a scone. I’ve blogged about them before. Being on weight watchers, however, I’ve had to find a new, lighter base recipe.

After a recent trip to SAMs, I saw a container of pomegranate seeds, and remembered a recipe I had read some time ago on a blog called Gina’s Skinny Taste. Infamous for her easy, low fat recipes, I thought I would give them a shot. The result: a delicious, light, texturally pleasing scone. At only 5 WW points plus, I’d suggest having a stash on hand for those tea time cravings!

Pomegranate Scones
Recipe Courtesy of, and slightly adapted from, Gina’s Skinny Taste

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup fat free half and half, plus a splash more reserved for topping
1/4 cup vanilla sugar (see recipe below)
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp chilled butter, cut into bits
1 cup pomegranate seeds
cooking spray

1. Preheat your oven to 375.

2. Combine AP flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine, set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together half and half, sugar, zest, vanilla, and egg until thoroughly combined, set aside.

3. Take your butter, and either using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of small peas. Sprinkle in pomegranate seeds into the dry mixture and toss around. Make a well in the flour mixture, pour in the wet mixture, and stir until just combined. Be careful as to not burst the pomegranate seeds. The batter may look slightly shaggy and crumbly, that’s okay.

4. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until just combined. No more than 12 times (I swear by this; it makes the most tender scones). The dough will be very damp and sticky. Just flour your hands and board well.

5. Shape the dough into approximately an 8 inch circle. Cut into 10 triangles. Place your triangles on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the tops with the reserved fat free half and half. Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve alongside your favorite tea or coffee.

Vanilla Sugar

Sugar, amount as desired
Vanilla Bean, amount as desired

In a large bowl, combine desired amount of sugar (2-3 cups) and a split vanilla bean. Place the lid on, shake to combine, and allow to sit in the pantry. The sugar will absorb the light vanilla flavor. Anytime you empty out a vanilla pod for a dessert, dry the pod, and throw into the sugar. When the sugar level gets low, simply add more! It’s simple. Uses? Sprinkled on strawberries, substitution for normal sugar in desserts, as a topping for creme brulee. The possibilites are endless!



A Lazy Afternoon
May 5, 2010, 1:44 am
Filed under: Breads, Drinks, Food and Recipes | Tags: ,

Nothing is better than getting up for work at 5 am, taking a shower feeling tired, all you want to do is get back in bed…

And then, low and behold, you get the phonecall that you’re not needed and you can stay at home. Priceless. Quickly followed, of course, by crawling back into bed, sleeping late, and having a lazy day at home.

There’s one favorite way I have of spending a long afternoon home alone. I catch up on my tv shows, make homemade bread, drink coffee, and tend my little growing plants…all from pajamas. And the dogs do the same. It’s a lovely day.

I don’t think that I have ever shared my love of breadmaking with you. There is something serene about the kneading, patience, and gentle loving that breadmaking takes (not to mention the lovely smell in the house as the bread cooks). It’s a rewarding process, and is not that difficult with a little patience and know-how. I first found the recipe here, from my long distance friend. I love sharing recipes with her, and just so happened, that today, she was making this bread as well.

I made a variation on the recipe, that worked out quite well. Here’s the little know how that I have figured out along the way…

1. Do not make bread on a humid, rainy day. Your bread will be too moist and soak up way too much flour…end result: dense and never bakes.

2. Rising matters. Not the amount of time that it says on the recipe, use that as a guideline. Go by the look and feel. When the recipe says doubled in size, has it truly doubled in size? Also, the place you choose to do your rising. If it’s cool and airy, it will take longer to achieve your end result. But the bread will have a better texture with a longer slow rise. In a warm and non drafty place, the bread will rise quickly, which can be advantageous in a pinch. My choice: in my oven, with the oven turned off, and the oven light on. It’s non-drafty, is warm from the oven light, but not too hot that my yeast is killed off. I have to allow slightly extra time in rising, but that’s ok. The bread is great in the end: light and fluffy and tall.

3. Don’t confuse yeasts. If a recipe calls for instant yeast, don’t subsitute another. I tried this once, my bread was flat, hard, and not at all tasty: picture cardboard. If it calls for dry active yeast, don’t substitute instant, or your bread will blow up all over the place. Read the label.

4. Don’t make it serious, hard work. It won’t be fun, and it will be begrudging work.

5. The flour amount is a mere guideline. In the recipe above, I usually start with about 4 cups mixed into the dough, and then start working it with my hands, using the rest to help knead the dough and to keep it from sticking everywhere. I usually use right around 5 cups, not the full six that it calls for, but it always varies slightly. The less flour you use, the lighter and less dense your bread will be.

Today’s variation on the recipe:

In place of the listed flours in the recipe, I used –
3 cups bread flour
1 cup all purpose
2 cups whole wheat flour

An addition of a palm-full of dried herbs de provence (italian seasoning) at the point where you add salt

In place of the sugar and honey, I used –
2/3 cup locally sourced honey (if you can find this in your area, I swear it has made a difference in the end taste)

Last, but not least, I use olive oil when it calls for the oil, not vegetable or any other. Extra virgin olive oil, at that. For the flavor.

Call me crazy, but it was the best version I’ve ever made. The result was a light, airy bread, with complexity of flavor. Just right, and will make a nice addition to the dinner table tonight with my homemade meatballs.

On coffee (which we already know that I love), a french press has to be one of my favorite ways to enjoy the intricasies of flavor. The hot water has an amazing ability to extract all the good flavor of coffee, and leave behind the bad. It also couldn’t be simpler to use. Here’s what you do:

French Press Coffee (for one – for two, just double it)

Using a Bodum brand french press, use one level tablespoon of your favorite coffee per cup of water. Fresh ground coffee is better, you want a coarse grind. For one person, you want to fill to the 4 cup line. For two, go to the 8 cup line. I measure this according to standard coffee mugs. If you’re using dainty ones, then 4 cups might be enough for two people.

Place 4 level tablespoons of coffee in the bottom of the french press, a little sprinkling of cinnamon (or cinnamon chunks, which I used and you can find here), and a little, slight sprinkle of salt – to bring out the flavor of the coffee and cinnamon. Pour hot boiling water from your kettle to the 4 cup marker. Give the coffee and water a swirl, and put the lid on the french press. Don’t press the plunger down yet. Wait 5 minutes for the brew, plunge it down slowly to help emulsify the oils from the coffee into your cup, pour and enjoy. It’s shown here with a little dollop of vanilla flavored whipped topping. It was a nice addition.

May you find ways to soak up your lazy afternoons, maybe even with homemade bread and coffee…



Skinny Doesn’t Have to be Expensive
February 21, 2010, 4:23 am
Filed under: Drinks, Food and Recipes | Tags: ,

I remember the precise moment that I fell in love with coffee. It was my birthday dinner. I don’t particularly remember which year, but that doesn’t matter in the story anyway. My dad and I were at Macaroni Grill, one of my favorite restaurants at the time, and my dad ordered a cappuccino. He asked if I wanted one, but I politely declined (this was before I liked coffee).

You see, as a side note, I grew up with my dad making coffee around the clock at home. There was morning coffee, midday coffee, afternoon coffee…you get my drift. So, it was only natural that my dad have coffee with dinner.

The waitress approached the table bearing a large ceramic cup, with this puffy white foam nearly spilling over and running down the edge. The smell was so unlike coffee at home, but had this rich aroma that filled my nostrils. My dad drank, exclaimed how wonderful it was, and asked if I wanted a taste.

Now, as any good middle schooler would, I said yes. Who turns down puffy white foam? It looked like marshmallow cream. How can that be bad? I blew, to cool off the drink; I sipped. Then I blew again; this time, I drank, a long gulp. It was unlike anything I imagined: flavorful, slightly sweet, not bitter as I had always heard coffee tasted, but full of body, and deliciousness. I quickly ordered a cappuccino the next time the waitress passed.

This is when I first fell in love with coffee. And it loved me back. I clearly remember being unable to fall asleep that night due to drinking the coffee so late in the evening.

I guess it’s safe to say that I love coffee. Not just any coffee, but good coffee. It’s not just a drink, but an experience, and, one that’s easily shared with others. Thus the explosion of coffee shops. But, it’s also safe to say that I don’t love paying an arm and a leg for good coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I like having someone make me a cup once in a while, but on the whole, I don’t want to shell out five bucks for every cup.

So, I started making espresso at home. And, suprisingly, you don’t need to saw off your arm and leg to pay for a good coffee machine. You just have to shell out around 15 to 30 bucks. That’s it. Blood doesn’t even have to be shed for that one.

You need one of these:

A stovetop espresso maker. You can get it here, at Target. You can find them online just about anywhere. They come in an array of sizes, to meet your espresso needs, and a variety of brands and prices. I suggest buying one of the more name brand ones like the link I gave you. I bought a cheap one once, and the handle melted off. It wasn’t pretty. So, go with slightly more here. After all, compared to an automatic machine, thirty bucks is nothing if you love your coffee.

And, with that, and some good ingredients, and a little know-how, you can get your skinny vanilla latte (or any flavor you desire) without shelling out 5 bucks like you would at the big chain places…

Homemade Skinny Vanilla Latte
Makes one large drink

INGREDIENTS:

One shot of espresso (30 mL, or 2 tbsp)
1/2 cup of lowfat to non-fat milk, it’s your choice
1/2 cup of fat free half and half
flavored creamer of your choice

Note on making your coffee buying choice: Now here’s where I get a little picky. Please buy good coffee. I suggest Illy, good Italian coffee. You can even buy it for your drip machines. Since this is your major flavor profile, you want good coffee to get the best espresso flavor possible. You can find this coffee at most specialty grocery stores. Or you can find it online.

Steps:
1. Brew coffee according to the instructions for the stovetop machine. Set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, heat milk, half and half, and a generous shot of your flavor creamer (I usually use vanilla for a vanilla latte, but you could choose whatever flavor you desire, or even the original flavor if you want to just taste the coffee. What you’re mostly using it for here is the sweetness, creaminess, and the flavor. I’ve found that coffee syrups here just add way too much sugar and overly flavors the coffee). Use however much creamer you would normally use in your cup of coffee, as to sweeten the coffee to your tastes.

3. After milk is warm, but not boiling, add shot of espresso (or more if you like), and stir to combine. Pour into a mug.

4. Using a whisk, foam coffee. Place in the mug as pictured below. Briskly rub the handle of the whisk between the palms of your hands to foam up the coffee until you are satisfied with the results.

5. Drink, be merry. Enjoy!



Here’s to a buff new you, and new year
January 10, 2010, 3:59 am
Filed under: Drinks, Food and Recipes | Tags: , ,

It’s time to dust off the never-used appliance…in my house at least. Of all my kitchen appliances, this one stands alone, in the dark recesses of my pantry. You, see…it’s a blender. I have a wonderful food processor…and a mixer…so I don’t have that many uses for a blender.

It was originally a gag gift. Remember the line from the infamous movie, Father of the Bride? “He bought me a blender…” So my husband, the wonderful person that he is, thought it would be hilarious to get a cheap blender and give it to me the Christmas before we were wed happily ever after. I must give it to him, it was funny. But, since then, the blender has rarely been used. It’s loud, clunky, takes up much needed, little to spare, counter space.

That is, until now. You see, I’ve found a use for it. It’s called smoothies.

I know, you’re like “smoothies? come on…” But seriously, this is the BEST smoothie. It’s delicious, smooth, thick, satistfying, and best of all, SO good for you. It’s loaded with everything you need to start the day (besides the coffee). A great thanks to Mr. Alton Brown for bringing us, yet again, a great recipe into our home…

I cut up my bananas in thirds and freeze them in large bags worth so all I have to do is pull out two frozen chunks per smoothie. Also, on the episode of Good Eats that this recipe originated from, Alton suggests buying bananas in bulk that are on the quick sale table, that way they are perfect the day you bring them home, and you can freeze a bunch for cheap. Feel free to alter the fruit in this recipe, just make sure you keep the same blue to yellow to red fruit balance in the smoothie…in other words, if you substitute a fruit for strawberries, make sure it’s still a red fruit. This maintains the nutritional balance in the smoothie. Don’t ask me, ask Alton…he’s the smart one with the info…

Buff Smoothies
Recipe Courtesy of Alton Brown

1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mango
2/3 frozen banana
1/2 cup lowfat soy milk
1/2 cup grape juice, acai juice, OR pomegranate juice

1. Assemble frozen items in your blender. Either allow the fruit to partially thaw on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes, or assemble your beverage the night before consumption, and stash in your fridge until blending in the morning. The fruit will partially thaw in the fridge, thus allowing for blending immediately in the morning.

2. Add liquids.

3. Blend away until smooth.



Copycat
September 4, 2009, 1:53 am
Filed under: Drinks, Food and Recipes | Tags: , ,

I’m not a secret fan of Starbucks…I’m a big out there fan. As a matter of fact, I’m a big out there fan of good coffee and tea in general. One particular drink that I’ve found at Starbucks that I’ve LOVED is the London Fog. It’s not regularly on the menu, so thanks to the lovely lady at the Target Starbucks that couldn’t remember the recipe, I now know the secret to the magic (she was reading the recipe aloud). So, I’m here to share with you.

The London Fog is a tea latte, with Earl Grey tea, Vanilla Syrup, and milk. Delicious…and who knew Starbucks had a recipe book?

London Fog

1 mug full of your choice of milk (I use 2 percent)
1 tea bag of Earl Grey Tea (or Lady Grey by Twinings, my favorite)
1 tbsp of vanilla coffee syrup

IMG_0471[1]

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Infuse the tea into the milk until the milk has turned a sand color. Pour milk into your mug, insert whisk in the mug, and roll the handle of the whisk briskly in your palms to create foam on top of your milk. Serve warm and enjoy!

IMG_0474[1]

Now if only I could replicate the Pumpkin Spice Latte…