Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Cake Flour

June 2, 2015

 

If you are a baker, you might see a recipe specify cake flour. Cake flour is similar to all-purpose flour, except that its lower protein content makes for a lighter, loftier product with a much finer crumb. It is often used for more delicate cakes ( think Angel Food Cake ) and can be mixed with regular flour to achieve a desired texture. It isn’t something the average home baker always has in the pantry, and isn’t carried at every store. It is however, something you can make yourself in a pinch, without too much extra trouble.

To transform all purpose white flour into cake flour, measure out the required amount of cake flour, substituting regular flour. For each cup of flour, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour, and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Use this formula for subsequent amounts. For instance, if the recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour, remove and replace 7 tablespoons of flour. Whisk the mixture together and sift several times to  integrate the cornstarch, and aerate the flour to be the lightest it can be.

Use the blend in place of cake flour, and enjoy your lighter, airier baked goods!

Photo:  Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Fresh Pasta with Zucchini and Roasted Tomatoes

June 1, 2015

Isn’t it funny how once the weather changes, my palatte changes with it? I suddenly can’t get enough tomatoes, corn, basil and zucchini. My spiralizer becomes my best friend, allowing me to morph a zucchini into noodles with the quick turn of a handle. Two minutes in a pan and I have a tasty base that gets me past my pasta craving most days. Except yesterday.

Home Made Pasta

Home Made Pasta

I made homemade fettuccine in the late afternoon, and tucked it away until dinner time. The dough gave me a run for my money…it was too dry, so I added a little olive oil and water and kneaded it into submission. When I started to put it through the pasta machine (the old fashioned hand crank type is all I use,) I felt like something magical had happened. The dough reacted perfectly, and didn’t require untangling or adding flour to prevent the cut pasta from sticking together. After 2 or 3 minutes in boiling salty water, I had a big bowl of the lightest, most delicate fettuccine I had ever made. It easily held its own against the fresh pastas I have had in fine restaurants here or in Italy. I had to give in and taste it.

Don’t let people trick you into believing that fresh pasta is always superior to the dried varieties. Fresh pasta is more delicate, and takes to simpler, oil based sauces. The dried types do the heavy lifting, and should be used for tomato sauces, especially those with meat, which could overpower many freshly made pastas. I tossed ours in a garlic and basil puree with lots of parmesan cheese and topped it off with my latest obsession, oven roasted cherry tomatoes. They become so sweet they are like eating candy.

This dinner is so simple to make that you can prepare the components and go sit around and relax until dinner time. At least that is what I did.

If you can’t get fresh pasta (many stores carry it in the refrigerator case ) and don’t feel like making your own, it will still be good with the boxed kind. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to shave your zucchinni into ribbons. If you don’t have a food processor, use a blender, or buy a bottle of pesto sauce. The beauty of an unrecipe is keeping it simple and making it your own. Do roast the tomatoes though. Its totally worth the minimal effort.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

For the tomatoes:

Rinse and dry a pint of cherry or grape tomatoes.  Toss them in a little olive oil, sprinkle them with sea salt and pepper, and spread them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Pop them into a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until they are starting to caramelize, but not burnt or dehydrated. Turn the pan about half way through and give it a shake to ensure more even cooking. You can also sprinkle some dried or fresh herbs, such as basil or oregano on them before roasting.

For the basil oil: 

Place the leaves of one bunch of basil and a clove or two of garlic into the food processor, and process until finely minced. (Traditional pesto has pine nuts in it. If you would like to use nuts, add them now and mince thoroughly.)Drizzle olive oil through the feed tube with the machine running, until it forms a loose paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap that lays right on the surface of the food to avoid it turning brown. (* Traditional pesto has the parmesan integrated into the sauce. You can add it now if you prefer. I like the consistency of the basil puree without the cheese for this purpose, but it is your choice. If using jarred pesto, it will already be in there.)

Spiralized Zucchini Noodles aka Zoodles!

Spiralized Zucchini Noodles aka Zoodles!

For the zucchini:
Saute the zucchini noodles in a little olive oil until starting to soften, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the pureed basil oil and mix well. If it is a little thick, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water to thin it down.

Fresh Pasta with Zucchini, Basil Oil, Parmesan Cheese and Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Fresh Pasta with Zucchini, Basil Oil, Parmesan Cheese and Oven Roasted Tomatoes

To assemble:
Cook the pasta according to directions, or about 2-3 minutes if homemade, and drain.

Place the pasta in a bowl. Spoon the zucchini on top, and sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese. Place the oven roasted tomatoes on top, and enjoy!!!

Pasta photo: Spencer Jones for Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Cappuccino Ice Pops

May 28, 2015

As the weather gets warmer, and the days get longer, its time to rethink your afternoon coffee run. Instead of heading out for an over priced, sugary calorie bomb in a cup, why not make these easy “cappuccino” pops at home?  We love the old school look of these ice-pops, made from coffee, cream and sugar, with just a touch of cinnamon. The recipe can be customized to suit your taste. A little sweeter? More cream? Dairy free? No problem. We even made ours decaf!

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Cappuccino Ice Pops:

Brew 3 or 4 cups of strong coffee, and cool to room temperature. (If you make a little extra in the morning, it will be cool when you get home in the evening.)

Using the ice pop molds of your choice, or paper cups if you don’t have a mold, freeze about 1/2″ of cream until it is solid. You can substitute the milk of your choice; coconut, almond or soy would work just fine. We don’t recommend using skim milk , as it might be a bit watery and lack substance once its frozen.

Once the coffee is cool, add cream (or the milk of your choice) to taste, about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of sugar to taste, and a little cinnamon. Mix well and pour into the molds or paper cups. If your mold has sticks and a cover, insert them now. If not, let the coffee start to freeze up a little before inserting the sticks. We covered our mold with foil, and popped the sticks through so that they would stand upright while freezing. Leave them in the freezer until they are fully frozen, remove from the molds and enjoy!

Tips: Dip the mold in warm water to loosen the pop so it slides out easily.

Once frozen, the sweetness in the coffee subsides a bit. Use a little more sugar than you normally would, to get the correct sweetness in the ice pop.

You can make the coffee and refrigerate it until you are ready to freeze it. The colder the coffee when you start, the less ice crystals your pops will have.

Photo: Spencer Jones for Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Mason Jar Iced Tea

May 26, 2015

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Lately, it seems nearly everything can be made in a mason jar.

Mason jars have made a comeback in recent years, as much for their rustic charm, as for their versatility. We use them for everything, from food storage to salads to go, but today, they proved themselves to be the ultimate iced tea vessel.

When brewing tea, place the bags into the jar, and let the tags hang over the outer edge. Screw on the ring to secure the tea bags, and pour the barely boiling water into the jar. Always put a metal spoon in first, so that it will absorb some of the heat and prevent the glass from cracking.

If you like sweet tea, stir in the sugar or honey while the tea is hot, so that it fully dissolves.

When the tea is cool, remove the ring and the tea bags, and add the metal top to the jar and reseal. Now you can pop it into the refrigerator to chill and enjoy!

No more teabags slipping into the brew, the jar fully covered to avoid picking up odors in the fridge, and no more toxic plastic! Its also portable, if sealed tightly, so you can take it to the office or on a picnic without it spilling.

Photo gif: Spencer Jones for Glasshouse Images

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Starch We Can’t Resist

May 20, 2015
Vermicelli nests

Vermicelli nests

I tend to avoid refined carbs as much as possible. It’s not easy. Especially when I love pasta, potatoes, bread and dessert. The hard cold reality is that those foods don’t love me back. Everytime I indulge a little, the dial on the scale goes up, and a little spare tire instantly appears around my midsection.

When I read an article in Prevention about resistant starches, I admit I got a bit excited.

Resistant starches have the chemical structure of starch, but act like fiber, in that they pass through our colon undigested. Our bodies can’t convert them to energy, so they become calorie free. Resistant starches are naturally found in many foods, including lentils, black beans, green peas, oats, and barley. Research has found that resistant starch enriched foods were responsible for an 8%-45% reduction in fat in an animal test group. Most of the fat loss came from visceral fat, or the dangerous fat that surrounds the internal organs. A human study revealed increased fat burning of 20%-25% when resistant starches were consumed.They have also been linked to lowering blood sugar, helping digestion, and reducing appetite.

Roseval potatoes

Roseval potatoes

The catch? How you prepare the foods, effects the levels of resistant starches. Cooking, and then cooling potatoes or rice, for example, has been shown to increase the levels of resistant starch, where allowing a green banana to ripen, decreases the benefits.

While there is not enough research yet to prove its effects, it could be the next big thing in weight management.

Head over to Authority Nutrition for more detailed information.

Related article: Like White on Rice

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Heat The Pan

May 19, 2015

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It is best to begin sautéing food in a pre-heated pan.

A hot pan allows the food to sear, or brown when the food hits the surface, rather than sit and soak up the oil while the pan comes to temperature.

Here a few tips to decide when its time to add the food to the oil:

Place the pan on the hot burner before adding the oil.  Pans with non-stick coatings should not be pre-heated without anything in them, as it can destroy the finish.

Drizzle a couple of drops of water onto the pan. Do they sizzle? If so, the pan is hot.

Is the oil flowing freely and coating the pan? Does the surface glisten a bit? These are signs that the pan is hot enough.

Add a tiny morsal of food or batter to the pan. When the food starts sizzling, you are good to go. You can also use a tiny amount of salt or flour for the same effect.

Some people use a wooden spoon or chopstick to test the oil. If it bubbles when you touch the wood to the pan, its ready.

Don’t allow the pan to over heat. Burnt oil doesn’t taste very good. If you see a little smoke start to appear, the pan is too hot. Remove it from the heat, and let it cool down a little bit. Take a paper towel and wipe the over heated oil from the pan and start again.

related post: Smoking Hot: http://indigo-jones.com/2013/08/09/smoking-hot/

photo GIF: Come Alive |Glasshouse Images

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S’mores Season

May 17, 2015

Big-Smores-Loop-33

Next week is Memorial Day, which marks the official start of summer, and that means barbeques, bonfires, beach parties and s’mores. Well, you haven’t really had a s’more until you’ve had ours…

Homemade melt in your mouth graham crackers. Fluffy artisanal marshmallows roasted to caramelized perfection. Chunks of rich chocolate. I mean, what’s not to love?

Wander over to our sister site, indigo jones eats for more information. With a gift box of these as a hostess gift, we guarentee you will be invited back.

photo: Spencer Jones for Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Avocado Ripeness

May 12, 2015

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We love avocados. They taste great, and they provide a dose of healthy nutrients, such as potassium, folate and vitamin C, among many others.
The monounsaturated oleic acid in them is heart healthy, and can help lower triglycerides and cholesterol.
When shopping for avocados, it is important to find them when they are perfectly ripe. It is often frustrating to go through a pile at the produce market only to find them hard as a rock, or so soft they are practically guacamole already!

We know the hard ones need a little more time, but what about the soft-ish ones that disappont us when we cut them, only to find them riddled with dark spots? Those are over ripe, and past their prime.

How do you tell when it is “just right?” Here is an easy trick to assess the ripeness of an avocado without cutting into it.

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First of all, squeeze it gently. The flesh should yield slightly, but not be too soft, or too hard.

Next,take the little brown nob at the top of the avocado and flick it off. If it is hard to remove, the avocado isn’t ripe yet. Leave it ripen for a couple of days and you’re good to go.

If it comes off easily but reveals a dark spot underneath, it is over-ripe. Leave this one behind.

If it comes off easily, and there is a beautiful green hue peeking out at you, you have found perfection! That means the avocado should be green and unblemished inside. Bring this one home and enjoy it!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Raw Artichoke Salad

May 11, 2015

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One of my favorite dishes to eat in Italy in the summertime is a raw artichoke salad. It is delicous in it’s simplicity; small ribbons of sliced artichoke drizzled with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, with a pile of paper thin shreds of parmesean cheese on top.
Something has always held me back from making it. Artichokes can be a bit prickly to deal with, pun intended.  Today, I set out to conquer my fear of preparing fresh artichokes so that we could finally enjoy this seasonal specialty at home. What did I have to lose, except perhaps a few artichokes?

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Artichoke 101:

Artichokes have tough outer leaves, which get progressively more tender as you get closer to the center. Once there, you will find the prickly purple core, called the choke. Some of the leaves also have sharp points on them, which need to be trimmed. All in all, not such a daunting task, except that the artichoke starts to turn a not-so-pleasant shade of brown, the minute it is cut and exposed to air. Yet, with a few tricks and some fast knife work, artichoke salad was enjoyed by all!

Raw Artichoke Salad With Lemon and Parmesean

Rinse artichokes thouroughly, getting in between the leaves to rid them of any dirty residue.

Prepare a large bowl of water, with the juice 1 or 2 lemons in it. Save the already squeezed lemon halves and toss them into the bowl.

Peel any of the tough leaves off of the artichoke and discard them. For this salad, you will want to get to the more tender leaves, which are yellow. Using a kitchen scissors, trim the tips of the remaining leaves to eliminate the sharp points. There is a tremenous amount of waste in preparing fresh artichokes, so brace yourself to throw out what appears to be more than you are keeping.

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Slice the artichoke in half, lengthwise,and immediately rub it with one of the discarded lemon halves. Using a spoon or melon baller, remove the purple “choke” and discard it. Trim off the stem, and toss the remaining artichoke heart into the bowl of lemon water to prevent it from discoloring. Continue with the rest of the artichokes, always putting them back into  the lemon water as quickly as possible.

Squeeze another lemon or two into a bowl big enough to hold the artichokes.

Take one piece of the cleaned artichoke hearts at a time, quickly slice it into thin strips, and toss it in the lemon juice. Once all the artichokes are sliced and coated with lemon juice, add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Spread it on a platter, and using a peeler, shave fresh parmesan cheese over the entire salad and enjoy!

NOTES: for 2 people, I used 4 very small artichokes and 2 tiny lemons. With larger artichokes, you may be able to get by with 2 or 3. The lemon quantity should be enough to coat the artichoke slices, without them swimming in lemon juice.

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Sisterhood

April 29, 2015

This weekend, our s’mores got the opportunity to attend a brunch called “Keep the Drama on the Stage,” which brought together young women of color to foster solidarity, rather than competition for limited roles in film, stage and television.

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Hosted by actress Eden Duncan-Smith, the event was modeled after
Alfre Woodard’s annual pre-Oscars Sisters Soiree, with an aim to “dismantle the casting myth that divides [young Black actresses]: There is only room for one.”

Duncan-Smith tells BET: “I’m tired of people thinking that girls of color don’t get along. The spirit of competition that keeps us from supporting each other also exhausts me,” Duncan-Smith says. “I wanted to support Keep The Drama on The Stage because it would be a first step to humanizing (or sister-izing) us.”

Keep-the-drama-on-the-stage-brunch

Eden Duncan-Smith has already forged a successful career at age 15, with roles in the film, “Annie,” and the Tony award winning plays Fences, and The Lion King. She is currently in “Meadowlands,” which is debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival this month.

Our flower shaped s’mores on a stick got rave reviews. Maybe there is an award in our future some day too!!

To order s’mores, go to our food site: indigo jones eats, or visit our Etsy shop.

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