Thursday, July 30, 2009

Easy Sponge Cake

This is one recipe you will never forget, and I guarantee it !
It goes as follows:
10 eggs, separated
10 TBSP sugar (white or powder)
10 TBSP flour (all purpose of cake flour)

Now... can you forget that ration ? Of course not !
- preheat the oven to 350 F
- line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper or butter the pan and set aside
- beat the eggs and when hard peaks form, fold in half of the sugar and beat more until glossy and very firm
- separately beat the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until very pale yellow and at least doubled in volume
- if there is any flavoring you want to add, add it to the yolks
- fold the yolks into the egg whites and gently sift the flour on top and fold it into the batter
- at this point you need to pour the batter into the jelly roll pan and bake it for approx 12 to 20 minutes
- after the 12 minutes, check it by inserting a tookpick in the center
- if it comes out clean, its ready !

This recipe will give you a 1/2 inch thick cake, if baked in a regular jelly roll pan ....or it can be divided among 2 equal square pans.
- have fun !
*** You can also check THIS out before you start baking.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Temperature Conversion

For all those times when you weren't sure how many Fahrenheit degrees 175 Celsius was or any other temperatures, THIS is what you need : a temperature conversion chart.

Cooking Conversions

I am sometimes using the measurements and conversions found on this website so I thought it would be nice to share.

1 cup all purpose flour = 125 gr
* that is what I use most

Yet another Gluten Free Blog

Here it is :

A few words from "The China Study"

Every now and then I will post here a few phrases from the book I am currently reading.

Obsessively controlling your intake of any one nutrient, such as carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol or omega-3 fats, will not result in long term health.

Dietary change can enable diabetic patients to go off their medication.

Consuming dairy foods can increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Two thirds of the Americans are overweight and over 15 million Americans have diabetes.

Half of Americans have a health problem that requires taking a prescription drug every week, and over 100 million Americans have high cholesterol.

If you are male, you have a 47 % chance of getting cancer, and if you are a woman, you have 38 % chances.

One out of 13 Americans now has diabetes.

Health care system is the third leading cause of death in the US, behind only cancer and heart disease.

So what is my prescription for good health ? In short, it is about the multiple health benefits of consuming plant based foods, and the largely unappreciated health dangers of consuming animal-based foods, including all types of meat, dairy and eggs.

Protein comes from the Greek word proteios, which means "of prime importance".

How to thicken with Gelatin

We may all need to thicken with gelatin at some point in our life, and it is essential that we know what we do.
Unlike with the starch (corn or potato) that needs to be dissolved in cold water or cold liquid, things with gelatin are exactly opposite.
In order for gelatin to thicken anything, it needs first to be dissolved.
The order in which this process works is :
* choose your gelatin and dissolving liquid
* prepare a glass/cup and a teaspoon for stirring
* pour the gelatin
* let it soften for at least 5 to 10 minutes stirring intermittently
* dissolve by placing the glass/cup in a larger pot or bowl with very hot water and let stand for 5 to 10 more minutes, again stirring a bit
* it will start to look a bit thicker than the liquid you started with
* now it's ready to add to your other ingredient you needed to thicken !

And you can do that by pouring the granules into a glass or up, preferably transparent so you can clearly see what is happening, and then adding some warm to hot liquid over it and stirring with a teaspoon.
You may wonder if the liquid should be from withing the recipe's ingredients or not.
I really think it doesn't matter all that's not like you will pour cups and cups of liquid in there.
So let's say you need to thicken some glaze or filling that is between 1 and 2 cups of liquid.
For that, 1 envelope of 7 gr of unflavored gelatin would do, and you would need to dissolve that into maybe 1/4 cup hot water or milk.
Now let's say you have to thicken 4 cups whipped cream and you do not know what to do, since the gelatin will be hot and the cream cold.
It's easy - you will use 2 envelops or 3 if you wish of gelatin which you will dissolve in up to 1,5 cups of warm to hot liquid.
You will need to stir the liquid and if you see it hasnt completely dissolved, put the cup/glass in a larger pot/bowl or very hot water and stir with a teaspoon.
You will see that in 2 to 5 minutes it will be completely dissolved.
Hope that helps !
Have fun !

*** Update
- I have recently found out an easier way to do this !!!
- for each 7 gr envelope of gelatin, use 1 cup of boiling water which you need to pour oven the gelatin into a bowl and stir for 5 minutes, until it is completely dissolved !
- easy !
- oh, and what if you forgot the gelatin on the counter or in the fridge and it has thickened and now you can't mix it in your filling or cream or whipped cream etc....then what ? then you heat it for 6 seconds in the microwave or using steam and voila ! you have it liquid all over again !

***Another update
I have found HERE what one of the greatest chefs (David Lebovitz) had to say about gelatin use. Please read before using gelatin.

How to incorporate starch into your food

There has to have been at least one incident where you or someone you know has incorporated starch into a liquid and lumps have appeared !
OH NO ! you must have thought.
Now what ?
Well, now you use a smaller or larger strainer and strain the liquid or batter.
Easy !
And to prevent such an incident from happening, you will need to dissolved the starch in water, COLD water for that matter, at the ratio of 2 teaspoons of water per each 1 TBSP starch.
If you decide to use hot water you will see that the starch will start to thicken and that is not what you want your food to be thick, not your 1 TBSP or so of starch.
Mix with a teaspoon for a few seconds and then it is ready to mix with your liquid / batter.
Remember never to just dump the starch powder in your food.
The starch will thicken your food in a matter of seconds to minutes, depending on what you are cooking.
And that will happen because the starch molecules will swell by absorbing as much liquid as they can, until they reach their limit.
Good luck !

How to PIT Cherries

Most of the cherries are these days pitted (like the ones in the cans of cherry filling or like the frozen ones you buy in those cute plastic bags), but there are times when we need to do that ourselves. My mom always used a cherry pitter, but I do not have one (yet).
So since today I decided to use the fresh cherries I had on hand to make a fresh cherry pie, I obviously had to remove the pits. While doing that, I thought of how somebody once wrote they do not know how to do it.
So here it is:
- wash the cherries and remove the stems and let them drain in a colander
- put disposable gloves on your hands to protect the manicure (why not ?)
- grab a small, sharp knife and 3 bowls : in one you will need to put the cut through cherries, in the second half of the cherries and in the other you will need to put the pits
- place the colander next to you and one by one, cut them from one end to the other and twist, just as if you had to cut and pit an avocado, and when twisting you will notice that 1 half of your fruit has the pit in it and the other doesn't
- place the clean half in the 2nd bowl and now you have 2 options: to either use the tip of the knife to scoop the pit or to use the knife to cut the fruit again in 2 and then use the tips of your fingers to remove the pit
- I do not think it is hard to do, you just need to try it
- Have fun !

Update on Apple Dumplings

See, no difference between these dumplings in the pan.
Ok, look closer.
The baked result revealed what was put in though !

I have made these before and I have posted the recipe for them previously, but what is new is the fact that I attempted at combining the apples wrapped in crescent rolls dough with apples wrapped in puff pastry. You know, just to see what happens and if there is a problem combing these 2 doughs in the same baking pan. More or less, the pairing worked fine. I think at this point the pictures speak for themselves. The big chubby ones have crescent rolls dough and the tiny ones.....which under normal circumstances would be considered of normal size....have puff pastry dough.
If you never used puff pastry dough to make apple dumplings, do this: thaw the dough, spread it on your work surface, cut it in 4 squares, then every square in 2 triangles. And you'll get 8 pieces of dough....therefore eight triangles ready to roll.
So will I put 2 kinds of dough in the same pan again ? Sure, why not ?

The Charm of Bought Cookies

I have said it before and I will say it again : there are certain cookies that you could never make at home, especially when they those people have been making them for a million years - it seems like - and they keep the recipe such a sacred secret.
Not to mention the "secret" ingredients that are listed on the label which you could never have at know what I'm talking about.....those hard to pronounce words....additives, coloring factors, flavorings etc.
Come to think of it, I don't even want to have the possibility to buy them anywhere.
Well, anyhow, healthy or not, Some cookies are just to die for !
So soft, so velvety, so moist and so inviting.
Here are 2 of my fav bought ones : Lofthouse Cookies and Quizno's Double Chocolate (extralarge) cookie.

Beans and Potatoes Salad

It seems that it is very popular here to combine green beans with potatoes, especially if the potatoes are new.
I think this is supposed to be some sort of a potato salad.....although I saw "regular" potato salad on 2 occasions (at the store and at a gathering) that looked so much different.......with mustard and mayonnaise added.
Did not try it, nor will I ever do. Sorry.
Anyway, my dish used new yukon gold potatoes and very fresh green beans - and of course lots of love !
You can't have good food without love put into the making.

Here are the ingredients:

2 medium new yukon gold potatoes per person (by all means use any kind of potato you have)
1 hard boiled egg per person (from the moment the water starts to boil, the egg will need to be boiled for 5 minutes to achieve the hard boiled stage)
1 cup of fresh green beans, washed trimmed and cut to the size of your choice (boil the beans for 3 to 5 minutes then drain and use)
seasonings of your choice (I used hamburger seasoning, 1 teaspoon, but you can use a dash of pepper and a dash of salt)
2 TBSP oil 2 TBSP lemon juice

Wash the potatoes and cube them, then boil them for approx. 20 to 30 minutes, checking on them and tasting after 15 minutes. Do not overboil.
When cooked through, drain and place in a salad bowl and add the cooked beans, chopped egg and the oil, lemon juice and seasonings.
Toss and serve !
This dish is best when still warm.
No mayonnaise needed !

I recommend the use of gourmet hamburger seasoning at least one time. It's amazing !

Monday, July 27, 2009

Apple Fritters

It all began with the Quick Trip's apple fritters and with my curiosity as to what happens when you play with recipes. HERE is the link to Quick Trip Kitchens. You can spot the apple fritter in the back somewhere, between the donut and the cinnamon roll.
I was hopeful, but soft of knew it would not be exactly the same thing.
It can't be unless you have the store's recipe. Makes sense, right?
Ok, so I had everything in the house and started to play with ingredients:

For the Apples:
2 large or 3 small apples
2 TBSP sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Batter:
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/4 + 2 TBSP sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon oil
oil for frying
powder sugar for garnish

Peel apples and slice/cube and toss with sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
Combine the dry ingredients for the batter and then the wet ingredients and mix together.
Then carefully fold the apples in.
Heat the oil in a deep fryer or deep skillet until it sizzles and scooping 1/4 cup for one apple fritter, drop it and fry until bottom turns brown.
Turn fritter over and fry other side until edges are crisp.
Drain the fritters on paper towels and while still hot / warm, powder with sugar.
The oil needs to be really hot, so try with 1 teaspoon of batter before you begin frying the full size fritter.
Enjoy !

Interesting Nutrition Book - THE CHINA STUDY

I have known about this book - "The China Study" - for a few years now and recently I bought my own personal book to have and read.
Written by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Thomas M. Campbell (father and son), it is mostly based on a 50 years long study on the inhabitants of a Chinese village that did not develop cancer.
It talks about how bad it is to eat animal protein and good it is to be on a completely vegan diet.
Not vegetarian or pescaterian, but a vegan.
Now with my nursing medical education it is only normal to wonder about what this book talks about.
It has sufficient proof and it is being backed up by sufficient amount or scientific studies to make sense, but...I wonder how in the world it is possible to only live on fruit and veggies ?
I have only started reading my book and when I will have completed it, I will come back with a post talking about what else the book said.
In the meantime, I'll try to enjoy the animal protein in my diet.

How Can You Not Love ROSEANNE ?

Here it is Roseanne's personal website :

I have loved her from the first Roseanne episode I saw, which has been 3 years ago, if I remember well.
I still love her even if she seems mean and she so often emasculates the males she interacts with.
I watch her on channel 127, Oxygen whenever they broadcast it.
Probably one day I will buy the entire 9 seasons, that is if Jeff will agree, as he does not like her. It's ok, I love her !
I don't really care how she is in her real life, what's important to me is how she is in her show.
That also goes for other TV shows characters.
I wish I knew why Becky left the show though.
Oh, cool, it seems Yahoo answers DO have the answer for just about anything. LOL
So, do you like Roseanne ?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Apple Galette

Galette is the name given for pies that have a freeform shape. I just like to call it lazy shape, as you do not really need to work on crimping the edge or fluting the dough. I did however, try to make it look pretty and I tried to give the flaps a certain direction.

I cheated on this recipe. Well, sort of.
Cheated meaning I used a box mix for the crust.
I absolutely love this box mix, even though I am not a box mixes lover, nor do I recommend them. This one I do though.
Could have used the recipe for pate brisee. I'm sorry I didn't, but I was lazy.
I am not too proud of myself. LOL

Cinnamon apples layer:
1 medium size apple of your choice, which you need to peel and slice thinly
1 TBSP cinnamon
1 TBSP sugar

Apple filling:
1 big apple or 2 small ones (Granny Smith is best), which should weigh 200 gr, peeled and cubed
2 eggs
1 heaping TBSP sugar (20 gr)
60 gr butter
60 ml sour cream (4 TBSP)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 TBSP corn starch (15 gr)

100 water

Almonds or any nuts of your choice

Use a box mix to make the dough or use THIS recipe to make pate brisee, the flaky, perfect every time pie crust.
I used to mix a double batch, bake one crust and freeze the other.
You know, just to test it out to see how it is when you thaw it and bake it.
It is perfect for freezing for later use !
Just before pouring the apple filling in, make sure you prepare the galette crust.
It should be a little larger than the regular pie crust, a 10 to 11 inch diameter circle.
Place it into your pie pan, with the edges overlapping the rim and put it into the refrigerator.
Now for the filling:
Mix the first 3 ingredients and cook them on medium high heat in a sauce pan for approx. 10 minutes, stirring often.
Set aside to cool off and prepare another sauce pan for the apple filling.
Place the diced/cubed apples in it along with the sugar to caramelize them and then add the water, stirring every now and then until all the water has been absorbed.
Mix the apples in a food processor or use a potato masher to mash them up.
Add the butter, sour cream, eggs, vanilla and corn starch and stir.
Keep on medium heat until thickened, approx. 10 minutes, stirring continuously.
Let the filling cool off and when it is cool pour it into the prepared pie crust.
Put the cinnamon apples on top and sprinkle the nuts.
Now make the nice shape of the galette or just gather the edges around the filling.
Cook at 400 for 10 minutes or according to your choice of crust, depending on what the directions are.
Let me know if you have any problems.

Saturday Morning Breakfast

Breakfast. On Saturday. Soooooooooo yummy !

I fry the eggs in 2 TBSP canola oil, on both sides.
The hash browns are new potatoes (yukon gold), fried in a different non stick skillet, with 4 TBSP canola oil, flipped after 5 or so minutes with a wide spatula.
I used a tight fitting lid because I wanted the tops of the potatoes to cook with the steam created inside.
And I used kosher salt which I sprinkled over the potatoes to draw the liquid out of them.
Yes, that's what they say - that salt, kosher especially, does to legumes, vegetables and other things you cook salted.
Draws the liquid out.
The sausage links are the fully cooked frozen kind which you heat in the microwave.
The shredded cheese is mozarella.

Ice Cream I Have Eaten Lately

So creamy, so sweet and so special.
So $ 1.79 + tax !
The milk chocolate that covers the smooth filling is melt in your mouth awesome !
But it's all worth it for a Snickers ice cream bar !
Have you seen that commercial where the student is in the principal's office and it all revoloves around this magical ice cream bar ?
That's actually what made me go buy it and try it !
If you can believe the degree of how persuasive a silly commercial can be !

How about this one that has a commercial in which a guy is rubbing his mother in law's feet for a bite of the ice cream ?

We live somewhat out of the city limits and since I don't drive (don't have a driver's license), I cannot go get ice cream at the big store any time I feel like it, like I used to do before I moved here where I live now.
One could probably buy a big batch of ice cream when buying the other groceries on the monthly visit to the grocery store, but.......since it is now so hot (over the 100 F limit), it may melt on the way home.
Here in the country the closest place where one could get ice cream is at the gas station - convenience store.
I need to walk on a distance others would gladly drive, but I do not mind walking !
So anyway, here it's what I got.
The Snickers ice cream is the most delicious stuff I have ever tasted.
It's got to be since I do not recall tasting any other variety that I would like more.
YUM !!
I have got to say that the TV commercials are really having some sort of an effect on me, since I am really trying stuff they advertise for !
And yes, I did post about making YOUR OWN HOMEMADE STYLE ice cream, and I know it is much more healthful to do so, BUT, there are certain things you cannot replicate at home.
You must agree with that.
It's so sad....

Update on Pretzels

I learned how to make soft pretzels and one day when I was kneading some dough for some goodies, I thought it would be nice to knead some dough for a batch of soft pretzels, thinking it would not take too long for me to make them.
Maybe a week at the most for the dough to sit in the freezer.
It turns out it took me maybe a month.
So far nothing adventurous.
Knead, freeze, thaw, shape, proof, dip in bicarbonate water, bake, cool, enjoy !
Or so was MY plan.
It turns out that frozen dough doesn't seem to taste as good as fresh one.
Nor do I recommend you knead ahead and freeze anything hoping it will save you time when the baking moment comes.
The end result may not taste good, and in the end you will have wasted both time and the ingredients.
Here is what you need for the soft pretzels:

1 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
extra 8 TBSP butter for dipping at the end
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/3 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons coarse salt
cinnamon sugar (1 TBSP cinnamon to every 2 TBSP sugar)
if you like, use poppy seeds and sesame seeds too

Warm the milk in a saucepan until it is about 110 degrees.
Pour the milk into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast.
Let the yeast soften, about 2 minutes; stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon.
Dice the butter and soften it before stirring into the mix.
Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour and the fine salt to make a sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let the dough in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 F and grease a large baking sheet.
Punch the dough down to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
If the dough seems tight, cover and let it rest until it relaxes.
Divide the dough into 6 pieces.
I used the kitchen scale and divided the dough in 8 pieces this time.
Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into a 30-inch rope if you decide to mke 6 normal size pretzels.
Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.

Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish.
Gently dip each pretzel in the soda solution, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the coarse salt.
If you plan on dipping the pretzels in butter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over, do not sprinkle salt over them.
Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a shallow dish.
Dip the hot pretzels in the butter, turning to coat and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over.
Place the pretzels on a wire rack to let excess butter drip off.
Serve the pretzels warm.

Fruit we can find in season now

I once heard a professor saying that the best food, and in particular he was referring to fruits and vegetables, for a person, is the one grown in the country the person was born in. It had something to do with energy fields and stuff like that. Basically we should not eat citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, mandarines etc), for example, if they do not grow in the country we were born and live in.
I wonder how it works with fish varieties.....

There is no question fresh fruit is good for you, and I try to eat fresh fruit as often as I can, but sometimes you just need to have a wide variety or you will get bored or the same taste.
I do not think that there is a magical fruit out there that has everything in it, therefore we need variation to get all the vitamins, amino-acids and the antioxidants that are so important for well being.
I have recently got a book that praises the vegan life style so much, that it is becoming somewhat hard to eat animal protein. But that's a story for another post.
So what have I been getting lately ?
Apples (I like red delicious and granny smith), grapes,pears, peaches, nectarines, water melon, strawberries and CHERRIES. Love cherries !
Of course, we can find much more at the grocery store or fresh produce market, but I do not buy quite everything.
If you cannot stand the fuzz on the peaches, use the vegetables brush to remove the fuzz.
Works for me every time !

Potato Veggies Soup

I have made this soup many times and it seems that every time I make slight changes to it.
This time I used new potatoes and different spices.
Made a big difference !
Sometimes it has chicken in it, or homemade noodles or peas or pork.
When you choose the potatoes for your dish, remember that the red skinned ones hold better when boiled and are less crumbly once cut, while the yellow/white skinned ones are starchier, more crumblier and are best for mashed potatoes.
My hamburger seasoning has an orange tint so the resulting soup is looking kind of orange to me.
It is so tasty you will make it again and again.

This time I used:
8 cups water
1/2 bell pepper (I used green)
4 medium size new potatoes
1 big tomato
1 medium onion
1 big carrot
1 teaspoon hamburger seasoning
1/3 teaspoon salt
3 TBSP oil

Chop the vegetables and put them in a skillet with the oil and the seasoning and cook them for 10 minutes on medium heat stirring every 1 minute.
Cube the potatoes, keeping in mind the fact that if you leave the skins on adds some extra fiber to your diet.
Place them in a soup pot in the 8 cups of water and boil for approx 25 minutes, or until they are done.
When the potatoes are cooked, add the vegetables and keep on the stove for 1 to 2 more minutes for the flavors to merry.
If you have parsley on hand, add some to your bowl of soup, right before serving so you preserve the C vitamin.
Enjoy !

M & M Candy

Don't you just love those ?
I personally like the milk chocolate variety, the peanut being the next, but do not really fancy the peanut butter.
I wonder why.

Sweet Salamy

In the country where I am from this sweet salamy is called "crackers salamy" as it has animal shaped crackers in it among other delicious ingredients.
I was missing the delicious taste of this sweet treat, so one day I decided to make it, only this version has a twist. The coconut and the roasted nuts !
I gave some to Kay, my neighbor, and she loved it !
It is easy to make and you do not need a whole bunch of stuff, but you do need a little bit of patience. The butter needs to harden !
Here is what you need and how you do it :

Brown layer
500 gr crackers (I used the animal shaped ones)
150 gr unsalted butter, room temperature
200 gr sugar
150 ml water
5 heaping TBSP cocoa powder
vanilla, or any extract you like (1/2 tsp)

White layer

150 gr coconut flakes
100 gr powder sugar
100 gr unsalted butter


1/2 cup of mixed nuts....preferably slivered almonds and macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts

Combine the water with the 200 gr sugar and keep it on the stove until a honey like consistency syrup forms.
Smash the crackers and combine with the cocoa and vanilla extract.
To smash the crackers you have a few options, among which : placing them in a bag and pounding them with a dough roller or a kitchen hammer (meat tenderizer) or pulsing them in a food processor.
You do not need them to be a fine powder, but a little more coarse.
Add the warm syrup and the 150 gr butter, mixing until a paste/dough forms.
Spread an aluminum foil or a plastic foil on your work surface and spread the cocoa paste, at 1/3 inch thickness, square or rectangular shape.
Now mix the ingredients for the white layer and spread the white paste over the brown paste.
Put the nuts in a skillet and continuously stirring, roast them on the stove at medium temperature. It should only take a few minutes.
When you're done, transfer to a chopping board and chop them, but not too finely.
Spread over the white layer and using the rolling pin or your palms, press the nuts in.
Roll the salamy tight and put it in the fridge for the butter to harden. After approx 1 hour it is ready to enjoy !
When ready to serve, make sure you use a sharp knife.