Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting the Most Flavor from your Spices

   To get the most flavor from your dried spices start with the whole product, rather than ground. Pictured we have Cumin and Coriander.
   The flavor comes from the oils in the spices, to release these oils you need to heat the spices. To toast them heat a small/ medium sauce pan on medium heat. Add the spices. Small seeds like cumin can burn easily, continuously swirl the pan, to prevent this. It takes only about 5 minutes, you will know when they're done when the aroma becomes very strong and wonderful!
   Allow for the seeds to cool.
   Next we need to grind the seeds, so they are edible! The easiest way to do this is to use a coffee grinder. The fun way, is to use a mortal and pestle, as pictured. Put a small amount of the seeds in the mortal and slowly press and twist the pestle until the seeds are broken up, and continue until they are ground.
   Store at room temperature in an airtight container. They will save nearly indefinitely, but they will loose their potency over time. I recommend grinding small amounts, so you are not tempted to save them longer than a week or two.
   You can leave the toasted seeds whole, if you would like to use them to flavor soups/ sauces. Wrap them in a double layer of cheesecloth and simmer them in your liquid. Remove before serving.

Fruity French Toast

   We all have those days where all we want is a yummy piece of complex carbohydrates dipped in saturated fats and covered with those sweet simple carbohydrates! Mmm... French Toast!
   There are a few ways to make it a bit healthier, and taste even better!
   The Bread. Get a nice loaf of bread, something made at a local bakery, or in your own kitchen! Just about anything is better for you than the commercial brand of white bread, which is packed full of chemicals and sugars. Slice the bread yourself, so you can make them nice thick slices!

   The Egg. Buy local and organic. Commerical eggs (and the chickens that lay them) are fed and sprayed with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and steroids. A bunch of things we don't want in our bodies! By purchasing organic eggs your eliminating these harmful toxins from your eggs and your diet. Even organic eggs are high in cholesterol, but eaten in moderation this is a good and nutritionally dense form of cholesterol.

   The Syrup. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. This is, by far, the most unnecessary item for our health on the menu. I recommend purchasing local maple syrup. I purchase Hickory Syrup made in Bloomington, Indiana at the Broad Ripple Farmers' Market. It has that amazing Hickory flavor. Local syrups, likes breads and eggs, are going to be better for you (generally speaking) than commercial brands. Having said that, it is still sugar! Use in moderation. The hickory syrup is strong enough that I only need to use a small drizzle, and I don't feel like I'm missing out! Find a syrup that works for you and drizzle lightly.

   The Toppings. Now to make this French Toast really awesome lets add some toppings! My favorite is bananas with strawberries and pecans. Matt's favorite is blueberries and granola. Add your favorite combination of fruits and nuts and enjoy!

   Remember to eat these things in moderation and remember to eat your fruits & veggies everyday!

Dry BBQ Rub

This rub is sweet with a little spicy kick. The sugar in this rub gives your seared/ grilled meat a nice dark brown coloration as it cooks. It’s great to use as a rub on seared or grilled meat, tofu, even grilled corn on the cob. Experiment with the amounts to create your own unique flavor combination! 

   2 T Brown Sugar
   1 t Salt
   1 t Pepper
   1 t Cayenne
   1 t Garlic Powder
   1 t Dry Mustard
   1 t Cinnamon
   ½ t Dark Chili Powder

1.      Mix all ingredients together.
2.      Store in an air tight container.

Banana & Walnut Crumb Muffins

One of my favorite breakfast muffin recipes! It is both flavorful & filling and gives you a little kick of protein in the morning. This recipe is nice & moist. It also makes awesome extra large or mini muffins, just adjust your bake time accordingly. 
   1 ½ c All Purpose Flour
   1 t Baking Soda
   1 t Baking Powder
   ½ t Salt
   3 ripe Bananas, mashed with a fork
   ¾ c Sugar
   1 egg, lightly beaten
   1/3 c Butter, melted
   ¾ c Walnuts, roughly chopped

   1/3 c Brown Sugar, packed
   2 T All Purpose Flour
   1/8 t Cinnamon
   ¼ c Walnuts, roughly chopped
   1 T Butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line your pan with muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. In another bowl beat together the bananas, sugar, egg and butter. Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients until just mixed.
  4. Fold in the walnuts to the batter. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles course cornmeal. Mix in walnuts. Sprinkle topping over the muffins.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.

   -These muffins freeze well. Cool at room temperature, place in freezer bag and freeze. To thaw set out at room temperature overnight.

Seared Asparagus

   A member of the lily family, asparagus promotes a healthy cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal health, is a natural diuretic and actually helps fight birth defects in pregnant women. It is an excellent source of vitamin K, the B vitamin foliate, vitamin C and vitamin A.
   The season for asparagus is relatively short, lasing from April through July in the Midwest. When selecting, look for firm, rounded, thin stems with deep green or purplish tips. Asparagus is grown in 100 varieties worldwide. White and purple asparagus are two common varieties. White asparagus has a milder flavor, while purple asparagus is fruitier.

   ¼ bunch Asparagus, trimmed
   1 clove Garlic, cut in half
   Olive Oil
   Salt & Pepper

  1. Put a large pot of water on high heat, bring to a boil.
  2. Trim the ends of the asparagus. If asparagus is woody, you can peel the ends.
  3. Once water is boiling, submerge the asparagus into the boiling water for 30-60 seconds or until they are bright green. Immediately remove them from the boiling water and plunge into an ice bath until cool. Once cool, remove and dry on paper towels. Make sure they are dry before moving onto the next step.
  4. Heat a large skillet/ griddle/ grill on medium/high heat. Once hot, rub with garlic & add olive oil, then asparagus. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll asparagus to cook evenly. Cook until tender.

Potatoes Roasted with Garlic & Herbs

   Potatoes are the number one vegetable crop in the world, with over 100 varieties. Often considered a comfort food, potatoes' nutrients are commonly underestimated. They are an exceptionally healthful low calorie, high fiber food that offers significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer.
   Potatoes are harvested July through September in Indiana. When purchasing, potatoes should be firm, well shaped and relatively smooth. Potatoes are on the Top 12 Foods to Buy Organic list, a list defining foods in which pesticide residues are most commonly found.

   1 potato, cut into wedges
   1 tsp garlic, minced
   1 tsp parsley, chopped
   Olive Oil  

1.      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.      Rinse your potatoes, and set them on a towel to dry.
3.      Peel, crush & mince the garlic. Set aside in a small bowl.
4.      Chop the parsley and put in bowl with garlic.
5.      Cut the potatoes into wedges, lengthwise.
6.      Toss potatoes with garlic, parsley & Olive Oil in a medium bowl.
7.      Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, and put them in the preheated oven.
8.      Bake for 35- 45 minutes, or until tender.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How to Make a Roux

   A roux ("roo") is used to thicken soups and sauces. It has been used in French cooking for more than 300 years. It is made using equal parts of fat and flour. There are four types of rouxs, based on the length of time that they are cooked. Each has a slightly different thickening power and each adds a different flavor profile.

Types of Rouxs
1. White- Cooked for approximately 5 minutes, just until the raw flour smell is gone.
2. Blond- Cooked for approximately 20 minutes, until it has a popcorn like aroma. This is the ideal general purpose roux.
3. Brown- Cooked for approximately 35 minutes. It will take on a carmel/ light brown color and a toasted & nutty aroma. At this point the roux starts to loose some of it's thickening power, more roux will be needed for the same amount of liquid.
4. Black- Cooked for approximately 45 minutes, until it takes on a melted milk chocolate color. This roux is most commonly used in Cajun cuisine, or when the soup or sauce is very dark in color.

How to Make a Roux
   A properly cooked roux will add a silky smooth body and nutty flavor to your soup or sauce. I recommend starting with larger quantities than what you think you will need. It cooks more evenly and doesn't burn as easily. It also can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for weeks.

1. Heat your medium saute pan on medium heat. When hot, add 1/2 cup of Butter.
2. When your butter is melted sprinkle 1/2 cup of All Purpose Flour into the pan and swirl into the butter. Using a wooden spoon, continuously stir until it is completely incorporated.
3. It burns easy. Turn the heat down to low, and stir continuously.
4. When stirring, it should take on a crumbly appearance. When allowed to settle, it should be smooth in appearance. Cook until the raw flour smell and flavor are gone, approximately 5 minutes.
5. At this point you have a white roux. You may continue cooking for the flavor and appearance that you like. Keep your heat down and continue stirring.
6. Allow to cool in the pan.
7. Store in sealed container at room temperature.

Using it to Thicken
   To have your end product be silky smooth and prevent clumping, follow these simple instructions.
1. Put the amount of roux your recipe calls for in a sauce pan, heat until warmed.
2. While whisking, add a small amount of liquid, until completely incorporated and smooth.
3. Pour the roux & liquid mixture into your sauce/ soup slowly, while whisking.
4. If you are unsure of how much roux it will take to thicken your liquid, always start with less, it is easy to add more.