Posts Tagged ‘unrecipe of the week’

Unrecipe of the Week: Zucchini Soup

April 11, 2016

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The calendar may say it is spring, but around here, its pretty darn cold out there! With some states having snow, winter is clearly not over yet. Its a perfect day to whip up some soup. This one doesn’t take long, and has a creamy, velvety textures without using a drop of cream!It is so quick, you can make it on a weekday, and enjoy it for lunch in the days to come.

Zucchini is a favorite of mine, magically manefesting itself into zoodles, chips, breads, salads, and this delcious soup. It was on sale at my local vegetable market this week for $1.50 for 2 pounds,(super cheap by New York standards) so I happen to have a few in the house, and very little else. Sounds like zucchini soup time to me!

Zucchini Soup:
Dice a small onion and a clove or two of garlic and saute in olive oil or butter until translucent. Add a few diced zucchini to the pot and saute another minute or two.
Add enough chicken or vegetable broth to the pot to cover the vegetables by at least an inch, and simmer with the lid on for about 15- 2o minutes or so, until the zucchini is soft.

Puree the soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

You can adapt this by adding a little fresh thyme to the pot while the zucchini is cooking, and a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese to the pureed soup, to give it a little extra zip.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Cacio e Pepe

March 24, 2016

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Just like in fashion, some foods suddenly take on a life of their own, as every menu, magazine and blog seems to be gushing over the same dish. Lately, that dish is Cacio e Pepe.

Translating from Italian, “cacio e pepe” means cheese and pepper. It is just a slight upgrade from the children’s plate of pasta with butter and parmesan cheese, but the simplicity of the dish, and the purity of the ingredients make it one that you will go back to again and again.

The preparation varies from recipe to recipe, but all agree on the ingredients: pasta, some of the water in which it was cooked, Parmesan, Romano, and or Pecorino Cheese, butter, and of course, pepper.  You really can’t go wrong here.

Cacio e Pepe:
Cook pasta a minute or two less than stated in the directions, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.

In a large pan, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, and add a liberal amount of freshly ground black pepper, swirling until the pepper is “toasted.”
Put the drained pasta into the pan, and add about a cup or more of the grated cheese, ( you can use all of one kind or mix the Pecorino with the Parmesan) and another tablespoon of butter, and toss until the pasta is coated. Slowly add some of the pasta cooking water, while continuing to mix and toss the pasta, until a smoother consistency is reached. You will likely only need 1/2 of the water. Place in a bowl and enjoy!!

Photo: Bon Appetite

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Unrecipe of the Week: Chicken in Tomato Tarragon Sauce

February 1, 2016

Lately, I am facing the ultimate dilemma; trying to eat clean, and longing for something warm, hearty and a little more comforting. When I saw a photo of this on the New York Times cooking site, I knew I had to try it. It was quick, healthy and full of flavor, taking those boring chicken breasts to a better place. The sauce is good enough to eat with a spoon, and was perfect over pasta for the non-carb deprived members of the family. This one may become part of my regular dinner rotation this winter!

Photo via The New York Times

Photo via The New York Times

Chicken Breast In a Tomato Tarragon Sauce: (adapted from Pierre Franey)

Heat olive oil in a saute pan, and add 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Season with salt and pepper and saute for about 3 minutes on each side to brown, turning often.

Add a large diced shallot or two, and a few diced garlic cloves to the pan and saute quickly. Add a handful of chopped fresh tarragon (or 2 teaspoons of dried tarragon), 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of drained capers, 1 cup of dry white wine and a couple of big squirts of tomato paste. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Add a can of drained, chopped tomatoes(or pureed tomatoes for a saucier dish), and continue to simmer covered, for about 8-10 more minutes. Serve over pasta or zucchini noodles and enjoy!

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Unrecipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

January 25, 2016

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New York is experiencing a blizzard today, and everyone is longing for something warm, and hearty. Slow days like this call for slow cooking. This dish has all the right elements for a snow day. It comes together in no time, and fills the house with a delicious aroma of things to come. It is also made from things I have on hand since venturing out to the grocery store is not really an option.

This is one of the easiest ways to use the slow cooker, as this pulled pork requires no marinating, no pre-searing of the meat and almost no mess. Simply place the pork tenderloin in  the slow cooker, add the one bowl sauce, and let it cook. Later, the tender, juicy meat can be shredded and served on fluffy brioche buns for a comfort food sandwich that everyone will enjoy.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork: ( adapted from Le Creme de la Crumb)

Place a pork tenderloin into the slow cooker bowl.

In a separate bowl mix together 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup of honey, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Add a couple of diced garlic cloves and about 1/2 of a small onion finely diced. Sprinkle the pork with a black pepper and pour the sauce over it.
Cover, and cook at high for about 4 1/2 -5 hours.

Drain the sauce into a sauce pan and bring to a slow boil. Mix together a tablespoon of cornstarch and a some water until it forms a smooth paste. Whisk a little at a time into the sauce, and let it simmer for a few minutes until thickened.

In the meantime, use forks to shred the pork. Alternatively, you can toss it into the electric mixer with the paddle attachment, and mix on a low speed until it shreds. (It is easier, but you have to wash another bowl, and frankly, who wants to do that? But to each his own!)

Serve on toasted brioche buns and enjoy!

Photo: Spencer Jones Glasshouse Assignment

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Unrecipe of the Week: Nut Butter

January 11, 2016

 

1635400235_compI loathe peanut butter. I always have and always will. I remember being at a friend’s house when I was a little girl, and the babysitter said that we couldn’t leave the table until we finished our lunch. Not wanting to insult her “cooking,” I sat there for hours until she finally sent us away. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat that sticky muck, slathered with jelly and smeared inside that gummy white bread that stuck to the roof of my mouth and was so hard to swallow. I still don’t really care for the stuff, but I have managed to make amends with almond butter. Pure, salted almond butter with nothing else in it. I put it on an apple or a banana to add protein to my meal. When it is in its purest state, I can eat it with a spoon right out of the jar if I let myself.

I think the key here is purity. When you can taste just the freshly roasted nuts, and the consistancy is not gummy, it can be delicous. The common commercial brands contain sugar, molasses, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and mono and diglycerides. This contains just nuts. It doesn’t really need anything else.

You can buy great alternative nut butters in many supermarkets that are pure, and some supply the machine to grind your own peanut butter. I am partial to Trader Joe’s brand of almond butter. You can also make your own in a matter of minutes if you have a food processor or a super strong blender.

Homemade Nut Butter:

Place roasted nuts* into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse the nuts until they are completely chopped. Continue running the machine constantly for several minutes, pausing to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula. Process until the nuts go from grainy, to smooth. This could take about 5 minutes, depending on the amount of nuts, and the strength of the machine. If you like it chunky, add a little more of the nuts at the end, and pulse until they are finely chopped and distributed throughout the nut butter. Store nut butter in an airtight jar and refrigerate until ready to enjoy!

If you like salted nut butter, you may add a little and process until mixed. If your nuts seem very dry, you can add a little neutral flavored oil and continue to pulse, however, if you are patient, it should smooth out without any additional oil.

If you like flavored nut butters, you can add in some cinnamon or melted chocolate at the end, and mix it thoroughly.

*I roasted my own raw almonds,but you can buy them already roasted. Just look for dry roasted nuts with no added ingredients except salt, if you like salted nut butter.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Confit

January 6, 2016

 

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Confit is a word that often turns up on restaurant menus, confounding the diner. Simply put, confit, ( pronounced kon- FEE,) means “to preserve,” in French.

Classically pertaining to duck, confit is the process of slowly cooking a food in a liquid that is inhospitable to bacteria growth. With meats and vegetables, it is some form of pure fat. For fruit, it is a concentrated sugar syrup. Once the food is slow cooked in its liquid, it has a shelf, or refrigerator life that is extended.

When food is fried in oil at a high temperature, the result is crisp surface acheived in a short period of time. With a confit, the oil is heated to a much lower temperature, during a longer period of time.

This week, we are making confits from garlic and shallots. These preserved alliums add a mellow flavor to meats and vegetables and the oil they are cooked in add a subtle taste to dressings and sautés.

They are easy to make, and great to have on hand to add dimension to simple week night dishes. While the instructions are interchangeable,we prefer to prepare them separately to keep the flavors pure.

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Peel several heads of garlic or shallots and cover them with olive oil so that they are fully submerged with at least  1/2″-1″ of oil on top. For about 2 or 3 pounds of shallots, you will use about 3 cups of oil.  Add several sprigs of fresh herbs, such as thyme or rosemary, and a bay leaf or two, depending on the quantity you are making. Some people like to add a little diced hot peppers to give the confit some heat. Place in a 300 degree oven for about an hour, until the cloves become somewhat brown, but are still very soft. The time it takes to cook will be determined by the quantity. Start taking a look at the 40 minute mark if you making a small amount.

Conversely, this can be done on the stovetop, simmering the oil at a low heat until the garlic or shallots are soft and slightly brown.

Cool, and store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use. The confit should last several weeks and up to 2 months.

Photos: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Even Baking

January 5, 2016

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True confession: I hate my ovens! Many years ago, when I researched appliances for my kitchen, I read that electric ovens bake more evenly than gas. Gas however, is far superior for a cooktop. For these reasons, I opted to put in a gas range, and two electric ovens, which is quite unusual in New York City. I chose Viking, which had high ratings at the time. I even bought mulitple racks so that I could bake 6 sheets of cookies at a time. I hoped I would see a big difference from the standard issue gas oven I had been using. Yep, I saw a big difference and it wasn’t pretty.
Just after our big renovation was complete, we hosted Thanksgiving dinner. The dining table was delivered the day before, as were a sofa and chair for the den. My kitchen was glistening and new, fully upgraded and ready to be broken in with this fall feast.

The turkey was placed in the bottom oven and I used the top for the side dishes and desserts. At 9:30 pm, I cut the still uncooked turkey into pieces and popped it into the top oven to finish cooking. What a fiasco! After many checks, the Viking people have assured me that the temperature of the ovens is correct. It turns out, that after extensive research,using an architect, interior designer and visiting appliance showrooms, nobody mentioned that New York City doesn’t have the appropriate voltage for electric ovens. If one oven is in use, the second one doesn’t have enough volts to come to temperature and stay there. Pre-heating is a nightmare, as it takes easily half an hour to heat up. To make matters worse, the temperature control panel erased after a few cleanings, and the self-clean function doesn’t seem to work anymore. For a high end and expensive product, they are a huge source of disappointment. For a baker, they are a nightmare!

For better or worse, these ovens are my ovens, so I have learned to navigate my way through the undercooked, the burnt to a crisp and the unevenly baked items, one tray of ruined cookies at a time. My burden could become your bonus, as I have aquired all kinds of ways to try to alleviate the problem of uneven cooking. Since no oven is perfect, and few ovens are exactly the same, these tips could come in handy even for those of you who don’t suffer from oven issues.

Baking Tips for an Erratic Oven:

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Set the timer for a few minutes less than the recipe states. Check to see how the food is cooking and adjust the time or temperature accordingly. This means catching the cookies before they burn, covering the cake that is browning quickly but still raw inside, or noticing that one side of the pan is cooking faster than the other.

Rotate the pans. When I am baking, I sometimes notice hot spots, where cookies might burn on one side of the pan, while the others are perfectly fine. Also, the bottom of my oven is where the heating element is, so keeping cookies as far away from that as possible keeps the bottoms from burning before the tops are done. Rotating the pans among the different shelves as well as turning them around prevents any one part from living in the hot zone.

Go undercover. If a cake, pie or other item is getting very brown while the rest still needs some quality time in the oven, cover it loosely with aluminium foil. This stops the browning on the outside while allowing the inside to keep cooking.

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Adjust the temperature as necessary. Sometimes, I think a hotter temperature might be required than that in which my oven is set. Othertimes, I find baking with convenction at a slightly lower temperature allows for better circulation, and more even cooking. This is the case with some thinner cookies, where I want them to fully bake in the center, without becoming overly colored around the edges. Going to 325 degrees with convection vs. 350 or 375 degrees with normal baking can make a big difference.

Keep the oven door closed. Opening the oven door to check on the food frequently, allows the hot air to escape, and can alter the way the food is cooking. A quick glimpse here and there is often critical. Frequent checking, not so much. In my case, this problem is exacerbated by the quick loss of temperature, requiring that bottom heating element to kick into high gear to try bring things back to normal, thus burning my cookies in the process. Try to avoid opening the oven door until it is necessary.

While most people think of baking as an exact science, dealing with my erratic ovens has taught me otherwise. Learing how to watch out for over or under cooking, feeling the texture of dough or learning how to adjust flavors takes experience but is often necessary to get a superior outcome. It is sometimes a matter of a minute between perfectly baked and burnt to a crisp. Practice makes perfect!

PHOTOS: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Gnocchi

December 28, 2015

We were so excited to receive the Gjelina cookbook for Christmas this year. It is filled with simple, delicious vegetable and grain-centric recipes from acclaimed chef, Travis Lett.

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We tried the ricotta gnocchi tonight, and it was recieved with rave reviews. Like any dough recipe, this requires using your sense of what the dough should feel like, vs. a hard and fast recipe to follow to a tee. The result was light, pillowy gnocchi that we devoured with nothing more than a pool of pomodoro sauce and some Parmesan cheese. The best news: it didn’t take much more than 30 minutes to create. Go ahead and give it try…we’ll guide you through the process.

Ricotta Gnocchi adapted from Gjelina:
Spread about 1/2 cup of flour onto the counter in a circular shape. Top with 1 pound of strained ricotta cheese. ( we used part skim from the grocery store.) and then top that with another 1/2 cup of flour. Sprinkle it with a pinch each of salt and ground nutmeg.

Using your fingertips, lightly mix the flour and ricotta and gather it into a mound with a well in the center. Add 3/4 to one whole egg,which has been lightly beaten into the well, and combine it with a fork until it is roughly held together. Using a bench scraper, gently fold the dough repeatedly until it has come together into a ragged mass. Sprinkle it with small amounts of flour and delicately knead the dough, adding more flour as you go until it comes together into a ball. Delicate is the operative word here, and the more assertively the dough is handled, the more the gluten will develop and make your gnocchi tough, or gummy in texture. Handle the dough as little and as gently as possible to attain the results outlined above.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let it sit about 20 minutes.

Cover the surface with flour and gently shape the dough into a large disk about 1″ thick. Cut the disk into strips.  Take each strip and roll it into a log about 1/2″ in diameter. With a knife, cut each strip into 1″ segments, and press the tines of a fork into one side of each piece. Don’t flatten them with the fork, just create an impression. Place the pieces of gnocchi on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with flour until ready to use.

Boil a large pot of salted water. Place the gnocchi into the pot and cook for about 2 minutes until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss them in the sauce of your choice. Keep sauces on the lighter side, so you don’t overpower the gnocchi. We recommend a simple pomodoro sauce, or even butter and sage or basil and Parmesan cheese. Serve while hot and enjoy!!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Quick Tiramisu

October 19, 2015

 

4556800185_compLast weekend, I hosted a party for my husband’s birthday. I served cocktails and dinner for about 20 people, offering a variety of foods to please just about any palate. Around 3:00 on the day of the party, my husband asked for a tiramisu as one of the desserts. Time was of the essence, so anything that required too much prep work, or actual baking wasn’t advisable at that point.

For those who may not know, tiramisu is an Italian dessert consisting of layers of espresso soaked sponge, and creamy layers containing sweet marscapone cheese.

Most of the recipes incorporate eggs into the cream mixture. Not one who likes to serve raw eggs to my guests, I needed to find a way to make an egg-less version, and to make it fast!

This ended up being so easy, that you could whip it up after work and it enjoy it later that evening, although the longer it has to chill, the better it will hold together when you take it out of the pan.

The flavors melded well, and the espresso soaked cookies functioned beautifully as the sponge layers. The rest, as they say, is history. Try this yourself and see how quick and simple it really is to make.

Quick Tiramisu:

Select a pan that is deep enough to house 2 or 3 layers of cookies and cream. I used an 8″x8″ square baking pan, but you can use a small cassorole pan, or a loaf pan.

Line the pan with either plastic wrap or parchment paper so that it is smooth along the bottom and sides of the pan, and hangs over the top. Place the wrap in both directions. This will help you ease it out of the pan later.

Brew a pot of espresso, or very strong coffee. Pour some in a bowl and allow it cool enough that you don’t burn yourself when dipping the cookies. You can add a little Marsala wine for authenticity if you like, or a bit of rum if you have it. I didn’t use any alchohol, and it was still very tasty.

Quickly dip store bought (yep, I went there) lady fingers into the strong coffee. Make sure they are fully saturated, but don’t let them soak, or they will fall apart. Line the bottom of the pan with the coffee dipped cookies. Be sure to cover the whole area, even if you have to use broken cookies to fill in the gaps. The wet cookies will start to merge together and you will not be able to tell if a cookie was placed in the opposite direction or broken once you are done.

Beat about 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream with about  1 1/4 cup of powdered confectioner’s sugar, until the cream forms soft peaks. Beat in a 16 oz. container of soft, room temperature marscapone cheese. Spread a thick layer of the sweet cream over the cookies, and repeat. You should be able to stack 2 or 3 layers of cookies, and cream in the pan. End with a cream layer on top.
Dust the top liberally with unsweetened cocoa powder. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving.
To remove from the pan, use the over-hanging layers of plastic or paper to lift it out. Place it on a serving dish, cut it into squares, and enjoy!

Notes: The finished, chilled product should hold together well and easily come out of the pan. If you don’t want to take it out of the pan, or don’t have several hours to let it chill, use a large spoon to serve it. Put it in a nice glass and make it look like a parfait. Put a strawberry on top, and make it look like you planned it. Its all good.

I used store bought lady fingers, which I found in the cookie aisle at the grocery store.

Marscapone is a spreadable Italian cheese, similar to American cream cheese. It is found in the refrigerated dairy area of the market.

You can adjust the amount of the cream mixture to suit the size of the pan. This amount worked for my 8″x8″ pan, but you could cut it in half for a smaller loaf pan, or increase it for a larger rectangular pan. Just make sure the sides are high enough to build the layers.

The sides of tiramisu will be as smooth as the pan liner. If you don’t get the plastic or paper smooth, there will be creases in the sides of the cake. You can spray the pan with cooking spray before lining it to help the liner stick to the sides so it can be smoothed.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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How Not to Make Almond Milk: An Unrecipe

October 12, 2015

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Nut milks have become an important part of our diets, providing us with a plant based, lactose free alterative to regular milk. Almond milk, as well as soy and coconut milks are among the most popular choices of non-dairy milks.
In reading the label on the almond milk carton, I was shocked to see that it listed several ingredients, other than almonds, and water. There really isn’t any reason to have additives if you consume it quickly enough, as it is persishable. Carageenen and locust bean gum aren’t necessary ingredients to make almond milk, so why would we want to consume them? It is possible to make your own pure almond milk,( or any other nut milk ) and with the right tools, it also easy. I made a colossel mess the other day trying my hand at making homemade almond milk, so you don’t have to. Don’t worry, I got this one down now!

Homemade Almond Milk:

Soak unsalted, raw almonds in enough water to cover them fully and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. The almonds will get soft, but shouldn’t stay soaking long enough to sprout. We recommend using filtered water.

Drain the water and rinse the almonds with clean water. This will rinse off the phytic acid which has accumulated in the water, and  inhibits the body from absorbing nutrients.

It all went well up to this point. Then all hell broke loose!

Place the nuts in either the blender, or the bowl of the food processor. [*Tip #1: If you don’t have a Vitamix or other high powered fancy blender, use the food processor. I used both, which started the messy portion of this project]. Add clean, preferably filtered water. For 1 cup of nuts, add 2 cups of water or more. Next time I will err on the “more side” and probably use closer to 2.5-3 cups. Process for about 3 or 4 minutes until the nuts are ground into a fine meal, and the water is milky white.

SPOILER ALERT: Here is where the really big mess comes in. Pay attention, so this won’t happen to you.

Strain the almonds into a bowl, using a sieve lined with a cheesecloth, or a nut bag. [Tip#2 I didn’t have a cheesecloth, but I did have a lot of sterile gauze from a previous injury, so I used that. Don’t. Just don’t. The meal squirted out of the holes, and splattered on the counters, walls, floor and me. It is thick and gloppy and has the ability to go projectile. It is not pleasant to clean off of everything it spattered on. Which was pretty much everything.] Although the fine sieve will filter out the almonds, you need to have a cloth that you can wrap the almonds in and twist and squeeze to get the liquid out. I ended up using a kitchen towel, which was more absorbant than you want it to be. Do yourself a favor and invest in a nutbag, or at the very least a cheesecloth if you plan to do this. It will make a big difference not only in the mess department, but also in the yield of the almond milk. More on that in a minute.

Once you have extracted the liquid from the almond puree, pour it into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, ala a Mason jar, and sweeten as desired. You can add a little agave, honey or maple syrup to give it some flavor, or just leave it plain. You should get about 2 cups of milk from 1 cup of almonds.
I used a 16 oz. bag of nuts and due to my ineptitude, I only got a full Mason Jar of milk, with a little extra to spare. That is until I pulled the funnel out of the full jar and knocked it over, spilling the entire contents down the sink. That left me with about 2 gulps of almond milk and a colossal mess.

Homemade almond milk has a very short shelf life of about 2 days in the refrigerator. Make only what you can consume. All those additives in the store bought type makes it last longer.

If you do this properly, you will have quite a bit of ground almond meal. You can store this in the fridge for a few days, and it is a great addition to smoothies, hot cereal, or an additive in muffins and sweet breads. It has healthy fats, protien, some bulk, and a nutty taste. It can also be dried by placing it on a baking sheet in the oven at a low temperature for a few hours until it is completly dry. Dried almond meal can be used in baked goods and in some cases can be a substitute for all or some of the flour in a recipe.

Verdict: I would do it again, and go straight to the food processor to grind the nuts, since my blender was not up to the job.  I would use a bit more water so that the meal is not so thick that it is like wet cement and hard to strain. You don’t want it to be too watery, but a little more liquid would have helped. I will buy a nut bag. It is made for this purpose, and was likely designed by some poor sod who had an experience similar to mine. I had never heard of this invention before, but for about $6 bucks, it could be well worth it. I will be careful when removing the extremely long tubed funnel from the jar so I don’t knock it over again. But I am not one to cry over spilled milk, although I may have said a few choice words I prefer not to publish here, I am willing to try, try again. I think the second time could be the charm!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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