Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pink Lemonade

Every wonder what the pink in pink lemonade was? (besides artificial colors, of which there is none in this recipe). I know I did all the time. The flavor is slightly different...the color is way off. I always wondered what made is so different. I mean, why dye lemonade pink? Seems a bit absurd to me.

Turns out it's cranberries.

I suppose you could make it with strawberries, but then it becomes strawberry lemonade, and we all know that strawberry lemonade and pink lemonade are entirely different things.

Here's how to do it: (Or, at least how I did it...I don't really follow recipes, I guess I can't really expect you to.)

Pink Lemonade

1-1 1/4 C sugar (depending on how sweet you like your lemonade)
1 C Water
1 1/2 C frozen whole cranberries
1 C lemon juice

Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and the sugar to a low boil.

Add the cranberries to the boiling mixture, and continue boiling until the cranberries break apart and you can easily mash them with a wooden spoon. Mash them up while still in the pot, getting all the big chuncks mashed.

Strain the cranberry/sugar syrup into a pitcher. Slowly pour an aditional 3-4 C water through the strainer, mixing it with the cranberry pulp to get all the color and flavor out of the pulp.

Add the lemon juice to the pitcher.

Stir, then chill, or serve immediately over ice.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Perfectly Pan-seared Salmon

Pan searing salmon is remarkably simple. Here is the wisdom my fiancee's grandma gave to her, which she passed on to me:

1. Pat dry the salmon fillet with a paper towel. You don't want too much extra liquid in there.
2. Cover the top and bottom of the fillet with cracked black pepper. Be generous with the pepper, you don't want to see pink sticking through. Sprinkle on some good salt. By good, I mean kosher and sea salt.
3. Use lots of butter. Butter the skillet before heating it up, but then also put a little butter under the fillet right when you put it in and right when you flip it.
4. Cook it until the color change goes all the way to the middle, but as soon as it does that, take it off. Don't cook too long!

Here I put the fillet on toasted wheat bread, served with fresh tomato, lettuce, and spicy mustard. The acid in the tomato worked like a lemon might, so it was great. If you're not in the mood for a sandwich, I recommend serving the fillet with a side of rice and sauteed green beans.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mango Tomato Salad

I had a bunch of mangoes, and I had a bunch of tomatoes. And I was thinking to myself "This could be heaven or this could be hell"...wait, no, I was thinking "I bet these would taste great together in a salad." So I did a little internet research, looked at quite a few suggestions, and this is what I came up with. It's a keeper:

Mango Tomato Salad
2 mangoes, peeled and cubed
4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large shallot or 1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 C chopped fresh basil
1/4 C Golden Balsamic vinegar
Dash of olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for at least 15 min before serving. Golden balsamic is divine. If you can't find any in your store, you can easily use some regular balsamic, though the color will be off, the red/brown of the vinegar dying the mango. Since coming up with this recipe, I've made it for several events and it is always a hit. Easy, sweet, summery, and simple. The second time I made it I didn't have any shallots or red onion, so I used green onions. It was still good, but the shallots were definitely better.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cake Balls

It turns out that making cake balls is REALLY easy. I had no idea. I kind of thought that they would be difficult to make. But, there is one simple concept, and then a million different variations you can do from there.

What you need:
A cake
chocolate chips
cake decorating stuff

The Concept of Cake Balls
1. Make a cake. Any standard variety: boxed cakes, homemade, banana or zucchini breads. Any simple cake will do. In the picture above, I used banana bread. Let the cake cool completely before proceeding
2. Crumble the cake up. Use your hands until you get fine crumbles.
3. Mix in enough frosting that you can make a thick, malleable paste out of the crumbles. Again, most frosting will do: canned, simple sugar and milk, homemade store bought, it's all good, just be sure to consider the flavor of cake and frosting you're mixing. Above, I used a banana flavored frosting.
4. Make into balls. This is messy, but fun. You want to keep them small, which is difficult if you're not used it it. Mine ended up being too big. Bite size, maybe like two bite-brownies.
5. As you make the balls, put them on wax paper in a cookie tray. When finished, freeze the balls for about 2 hours (or refrigerate them over night).
6. Melt chocolate chips, then coat the balls in the chocolate, letting them cool.
7. Decorate however you'd like: dip them in toppings while the chocolate is still sticky, or drizzle them with white chocolate, or frost them with addition decorations. I used powdered sugar, chopped almonds, coconut, and powdered ginger for my decorations.

And there you have it! It takes a while, since you have to bake a cake and let things cool several times, but over all, it is pretty simple.

What kind are you going to make?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

White Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

White Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 Tbs cinnamon
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 mashed bananas
2 C white chocolate chips
3/4 C toffee bits

Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together. Add in the bananas.
Mix in all the dry ingredients, adding the chocolate chips and toffee bits once it's all mixed together.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cooking sheet.

Baked at 400 C, 10 min.

Lately I've been using cream of tartar instead of baking powder. Baking powder is just a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar, anyhow, and I figure I can cut out the middle man. Also, baking powder frequently has anti-caking agents, and I just figure I don't need those in my cakes and cookies, or my body. My baking has been a little moister since then. It could be that I am just having a string of good luck, but I am enjoying the result anyhow. I might never go back to baking powder.

To replace cream of tartar for baking powder: add 1 part cream of tartar and 2 parts baking soda. (So you'll add more soda to the recipe if it already has some in it) It's not an exact science, so it won't matter if you're a little over or under on the ratios.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Zucchini Bread with Steusel Topping

I LOVE zucchini bread. It is the bread of choice for summer. With all the zucchini lying around, being given away in basketfuls, you've got to make zucchini bread. Sure, you can also make fried zucchini, or zucchini fritters, or countless stir-fries. But, if you haven't been cooking zucchini bread, then you're missing out. There was one summer when I made it every Friday. The garden supplied the zucchini, and I didn't schedule myself for any work on Fridays. It was a nice arrangement.

I've been trying out zucchini bread recipes for a while now, and this one (with a few of my own tweaks both in flavor and design) is my favorite so far. It is moist and very flavorful. The clove and ginger add a really subtle flavor to complement the ample amount of cinnamon and vanilla I add.

For the zucchini bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup all-purpose wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 generous teaspoons baking soda
1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 dash of ground cloves (optional)
1 tsp ground ginger (optional)
3 eggs
1 cup gently melted butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2.5 cups grated zucchini

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Add the zucchini.
In a smaller bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, then gently mix that into the wet mixture.
Place in a lightly greased loaf pan. If you want to share (or control portions) use several smaller loaf pans.
Sprinkle with steusel, then bake at 325 for 40-60min, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the streusel topping
2 tsp flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
1 pinch salt
3 Tbs COLD butter
(If you like nuts, add 1/2 C finely chopped walnuts or pecans and only use 1/2 C oats)

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients. Using two butter knives, cut the butter into the mix by chopping the butter together, almost like the knives were scissors. When the butter is broken up, use your hands to make a nice crumbly paste. Sprinkle the steusel over the bread. This will make enough to cover a large loaf. If you are making lots of small loaves or cooking the bread in a cake pan, you might want to think about doubling the recipe.

I was thinking that I should get some pictures of it just as a slice of bread...but anything that got sliced off got eaten too quickly. It was a losing battle.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Triple Berry Whatever

I didn't know what to call this. It's almost a jam, not quite a syrup. So I've decided on Triple Berry Whatever. It also works because this delicious spread is good as a base for whatever.

Super easy:

Fill a sauce pan with berries. Here I had a combination of fresh strawberries and a frozen triple berry mix. Heat the berries on medium-hi heat. They will cook down. Cook them for about half an hour. They will start to fall apart. Use a hand blender to mix them even further, though a vigorous spoon with also do the trick. Add some honey to sweeten it.

Then let it cool, and store it in the fridge. Use this almost-jam for everything:

Triple berry ice cream shakes (triple berry whatever, vanilla ice cream, a bit of whole milk)

Triple berry grilled cheese (triple berry whatever, Jarlsberg cheese sprinkled with red pepper and basil)

Triple berry PB&J: triple berry whatever and peanut butter on whole wheat bread

Other ideas I've had:

Triple berry lemonade (triple berry whatever, strong lemonade, club soda)

Triple berry munchies: triple berry whatever and cream cheese on a cracker

What would you use triple berry whatever for?