Thursday, April 28, 2016

Product reviews - Quinn popcorn and Mast Brothers chocolate

I forgot to tell you about Quinn Popcorn in my last product reviews! I don’t know how much you’ve read about microwavable popcorn lately, but some of the headlines are scary, like ”Microwave popcorn ingredient linked to Alzheimer’s” (specifically diacetyl, used to create the butter smell and flavoring), not to mention the possible carcinogens in the bag coating. Some people respond by popping their own kernels (in a glassware container or, usually, in a plain brown paper bag) or by buying pre-popped popcorn. For the latter, I tasted Skinny Pop’s original flavor last summer, and I have to say it was really good! The salt and pepper flavor looks good, and there’s even a dark chocolate flavor now. That being said, there’s just something about freshly popped, warm popcorn that’s hard to beat.

Enter Quinn Popcorn, which comes in both ready-to-pop and already-popped forms (I ordered online, but have since seen their products in stores). I only bought the microwavable bags (see here for how their products differ from most). The flavorings are mixed in right after popping. We tried three flavors: butter and sea salt; maple and sea salt; and parmesan and rosemary. The only downside: we followed their instructions and stuck close to the microwave, stopping it when the delay between popping kernels was about 2 seconds. But even then, it was WAY overdone! We find that just under 1 min 30 sec does the trick, and the unpopped kernels are an acceptable loss to prevent the rest from burning. Once you figure that out, the flavors are really great! Granted, it might be less expensive to buy kernels in bulk and sprinkle them with canola oil, maple sugar and sea salt once they’ve popped, but some of us just want a bag of popcorn when the mood strikes, like if we unexpectedly have time to watch a movie one weekend evening. And for that, I heartily recommend Quinn popcorn!

In other news, I finally tried Mast Brothers chocolate. It is pricey, so in order to try more flavors, I went with the smallest, 28-gram bars (there’s a photo with my thumb and index for scale). The larger sizes are proportionately a better value, but that would have blown my budget.

So, in my opinion, the dark chocolate is lovely! It has just the right amount of bitterness and a smooth mouthfeel. It actually reminds me a bit of Alter Eco and Madécasse. The olive oil chocolate was disappointing, because I couldn’t actually taste the olive oil. It tasted very much like the dark chocolate, which is good, but that’s not the point of flavoring it. My experience with the other flavors was similar: I couldn’t taste the vanilla in the vanilla chocolate, but I could taste the milk and I didn’t like it. As for the maple flavor, I couldn’t taste the maple either! It was a bit milkier than the dark chocolate, though not as much as the vanilla one. Overall, I was disappointed by these, especially given the price point! That’s why I won’t be buying them again, even though the flavors in the herb collection sound good in theory – I think it would all just taste the same. So I’m now one of those snobs who think Mast Brothers is overrated.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Vegan Quiche

I have seen several recipes for vegan quiches, but this was the only one that used chickpea flour. As it turns out, it isn’t a quiche in the sense that you wouldn’t know the difference between that version and a real quiche, because you absolutely would, but it has the form of a quiche, pushes the same buttons, and fills the same place in a meal. It’s a recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini, where it’s really just a quiche filling recipe – I added half an onion and half a large shallot that were languishing in my fridge, pan-frying them first with 2 cloves of minced garlic, as well as some spinach (roughly 10 oz. frozen, thawed, squeezed and chopped). I think this would go well with red onion or leeks, or maybe cooked mushrooms. I used my regular pâte brisée recipe for the crust, but store-bought or gluten-free is fine, too.

The original recipe said that one could make the filling ahead of time and simply whisk it back into shape before using it, but that was not my experience. My filling never got luscious again and remained the sad ghost of what it had originally been. That being said, the quiche was delicious! The Little Prince wasn’t into it, admittedly, but both the Engineer and I really enjoyed it very much.

100 g. (1 cup) chickpea flour
15 g. (¼ cup) nutritional yeast
½ tsp. fine sea salt
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup + 1 ½ cups water
1 shell of pâte brisée
filling of your choice (see note above)

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Prick your quiche shell with a fork and parbake it for 10 minutes on the lowest rack. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, salt, nutmeg, and turmeric. Add the mustard and whisk in 1 cup fresh water.

Pour 1 ½ cups water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the chickpea mixture and bring back to a simmer.

Cook over low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.

The filling is now ready to use; just combine it with the other filling ingredients and pour into the parbaked quiche shell. Bake at 350 °F for 25 minutes, then brush the top with olive oil and return to the oven for another 5 minutes (this gives a nice sheen to the otherwise matte finish). Serve hot or warm.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Orange Muffins

I got this recipe from San Antonio Magazine. It immediately looked good to me; it wasn’t until the day I made them that I realized there is probably a mistake in the baking time. I mean, who bakes muffins at 375 °F for 40 minutes? I reduced the cooking time in the recipe below; 15 minutes was enough for me. I made a few more changes to make these lactose-free and to clarify instructions. I really loved how these turned out, and I can already see variations with blood orange or pink grapefruit. Do use freshly squeezed orange juice! Two oranges will do for this recipe.

This yielded 24 muffins for me, even though the original recipe said 20 muffins.

For the muffins
½ lb. margarine (or butter)
1 lb. 2 oz. flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup lactose-free milk
½ cup orange juice
½ cup lactose-free sour cream (I used plain Greek yogurt instead)
2 extra large eggs or 3 medium sized eggs
zest of one orange

For the glaze (optional)
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
orange juice
orange zest, for decorating

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Grease two standard muffin pans.

Melt margarine and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, orange juice, sour cream, eggs and margarine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix until just combined; fold in orange zest.

Fill muffin cups about halfway with batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in tins before unmolding.

To make the glaze, mix the powdered sugar with enough orange juice until consistency is thick. Pour on muffins and add orange zest on top if desired.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Raspberry and Yogurt Multigrain Bars

It’s been hit-or-miss lately with the chia seeds. I mean, I know I’ve made some great stuff with them before, but the most recent recipes were duds. Raspberry chia overnight oats were bland, as was chocolate-almond chia pudding. The latter was my first time putting chia seeds in the blender, which did make them closer to a pudding consistency, but even then it wasn’t ideal. Moreover, the Engineer has decided he doesn’t like chia seeds in puddings. So I tried a recipe where they are used differently: dry, in a multigrain crust for raspberry yogurt bars. The recipe is from a calendar published by 100% Canadian Milk, but I can’t find it on their website.

I recommend lining the pan with parchment paper and leaving some overhang, to make unmolding easier – I had greased my pan, even though the recipe didn’t call for it, and I’m glad I did, but I would have liked a little extra help. I omitted the sliced almonds from the topping, because I didn’t have any, and used homemade almond meal for the crust. I also didn’t have a 9”-square baking dish, so I used my 8”-square dish and it came out fine. This was actually a very good dessert, healthful and not too sweet. I think it would be good with blueberries or blackberries as well, and maybe I would add a touch of honey next time.

½ cup dates
½ cup almond slices, divided
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup quinoa
1 Tbsp. flax seeds
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
½ cup multigrain flour
¼ cup softened margarine
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1 egg
1 ½ cups vanilla yogurt

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Grease an 8”-square or a 9”-square dish and line it with parchment paper so that there is a bit of overhang.

In the food processor, finely mince dates and half the almonds. Add rolled oats, quinoa, flax seeds, chia seeds, and flour and mince some more. Add margarine and blend to obtain a homogenous mixture.

Press mixture into the prepared pan and cover with raspberries.

In a bowl, beat the egg with the vanilla yogurt. Pour over raspberries and sprinkle with remaining almonds.

Bake 30 minutes (I baked mine for closer to 40 minutes, and it was still a bit wiggly in the center). Remove from oven and cool at room temperature before refrigerating. Serve cold.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Batch of links

- Prince passed away yesterday. I thought it was interesting to see what was in his fridge five years ago. (Interesting, though I’d question his knowledge of yak husbandry…)

- A really interesting article about how “farm-to-table” is usually a lie.

- A look at the history of bagged milk. I’m from Quebec, so this really isn’t weird to me, but apparently others disagree.

- Watch 100 years of family dinners in 3 minutes. I can’t help but notice how green vegetables are a recent apparition on our plates…

- Bon Appétit recently had an article singing the praises of Hillstone Restaurant Group, and I have to admit, it sounds really good! Sadly, there aren’t any near me, but there are recipes available.

- The same issue also mentioned this Oster Versa blender as being able to make nut butter much more easily than its competition, and it’s much cheaper than a Vitamix (though obviously not quite as powerful).

- It looks like Ikea has a really great 3-in-1 cake pan that super affordable. I don’t get to shop there, because the closest Ikea is two hours away, but Ikea is where I got my first chef’s knife and my moule à cake, so I know their kitchen section has some great finds.

- Ikea is also developing biodegradable mushroom-based packaging to replace polystyrene, which is tricky to recycle.

- Researchers think they’ve uncovered a link between the deaths of three US presidents in the 1840s, and it had to do with the water supply. It reminded me of this article on water towers in New York City – pretty horrible!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Burgers de poulet au soja et au gingembre

Cette recette, apparemment que je ne l’ai pas encore mise en ligne sur le blogue, même si j’en avais parlé vite-vite il y a sept (!) ans. Je ne sais plus d’où je la tiens, malheureusement. Avec 1 livre de poulet haché, normalement ça ferait environ 4 boulettes. Là, j’ai réussi à étirer ça comme l’aurait fait Jésus à un mariage, en faisant 8 petites boulettes, et personne ne s’est plaint (mais la prochaine fois, je penserai à doubler, puisque nous avons ajouté un troisième membre à notre famille depuis que j’ai fait cette recette la dernière fois). C’est un hamburger avec un petit goût asiatique, que j’aime servir avec des concombres, de la laitue (ou de la luzerne), et de la mayonnaise au lieu de ketchup.

1 blanc d’œuf
1 carotte râpée (½ tasse), égouttée
2 oignons verts, finement hachés
2 gousses d’ail, finement hachées
½ tasse panko (ou chapelure ordinaire)
2 c. à soupe de sauce soja
1 c. à soupe de racine de gingembre râpée
1 c. à soupe de cassonade
1 c. à thé d’huile de sésame
1 lb. de poulet haché
6 pains à hamburger (idéalement de type Thintini)

Dans un bol, battre un peu le blanc d’œuf; ajouter la carotte râpée, les oignons verts, l’ail, le panko, la sauce soja, le gingembre, la cassonade et l’huile et mélanger. Ajouter le poulet et mélanger.

Former des galettes d’environ ½ pouce d’épaisseur (entre 4 et 8, selon les circonstances).

Cuire à feu moyen dans une poêle huilée, en les retournant une fois, pendant 15 minutes (ou jusqu’à ce que la température interne soit de 165 °F).

Servir sur les pains et garnir, idéalement, de mayonnaise, de concombre et de laitue.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Poppy Seed Bread with Orange Almond Glaze

I made this poppy seed bread for breakfast, though it’s a great snacking cake as well. The recipe calls for almond extract as well as butter flavor extract, the latter of which gives it a great butter flavor without any of the lactose. I made a few changes, like reducing the amount of sugar a bit and using applesauce instead of some of the oil; I also reordered the ingredients and elaborated on the steps to follow. We all really liked this bread!

Note that the recipe makes 2 loaves (I stashed one in the freezer); you can halve it if you want.

For the bread
3 cups flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1½ Tbsp. poppy seeds
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1½ cups lactose-free milk
1½ tsp. almond extract
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1½ tsp. butter flavoring extract

For the glaze
¼ cup orange juice
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. butter flavor extract

For the bread
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour 2 standard-size loaf pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the wet and mix until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Once the cakes have cooled a bit, you can unmold them and glaze them.

For the glaze
Pour all ingredients into a small saucepan and let cook on stove on medium heat until sugar dissolves. Immediately pour glaze over warm bread (do not let this glaze solidify before you’ve used it).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Une nouvelle bordée de tricots

J’avais une pelote de Lorna’s Laces Shepherd’s Sock Yarn, couleur Waistcoat, qui traînait dans mes affaires. Je l’avais achetée avec quelque chose en tête (je ne sais plus quoi), mais elle ne convenait pas, et je l’avais mise de côté. Je l’avais ressortie ensuite pour essayer d’en faire un cardigan pour bébé, mais le fil était trop mince. C’était rendu que je voulais à tout prix m’en débarrasser, mais je n’en avais assez que pour environ une paire de bas pour adulte (alors que je ne tricote pas de bas), donc mes options étaient limitées. En fin de compte, quand j’ai su qu’une de mes amies du secondaire attendait un bébé ce printemps, j’ai décidé de faire un chapeau pour bébé, et par bonheur, le patron Beloved Baby Bonnet convenait pour cette laine, avec quelques ajustements. J’ai commencé par tricoter la taille la plus grande, mais j’ai trouvé le motif horrible! Les trous de dentelle étaient beaucoup trop rapprochés pour que ce soit esthétique (c’est ce que montre la première photo). J’ai donc tout défait et recommencé en faisant la taille la plus petite qui, avec ma laine, a donné un bonnet quand même assez grand à mon goût. Pour être honnête : j’aime le résultat, je trouve que c’est un bonnet très mignon. Mais j’ai tellement ragé avec ma laine, qui avait trouvé le moyen de s’emmêler, que j’étais trop heureuse de finir. Sauf que j’en ai fait un deuxième, puisque je ne voyais pas quoi faire d’autre avec mon restant de pelote! Là, il m’en reste trop peu pour un troisième chapeau, alors le reste de la pelote servira peut-être à un projet de bricolage ou à un motif Fair Isle à moment donné.

Ensuite, j’ai su qu’une de mes amies du primaire attendait des jumeaux (qui sont nés à la fin de février), alors j’ai tricoté d’autres tuques. J’avais des restes de laine orange et corail qui s’agençaient bien (ça me faisait penser à du sobet), alors j’ai décidé de faire une tuque de chaque couleur. Mais puisque je me souvenais que la laine Cascade 220 (comme mon orange) s’agrandit au lavage, j’ai décidé de tricoter ça un peu plus petit et de laver les tuques avant de les poster. Or, il se trouve que ma laine corail, c’était aussi de la Cascade 220, et cette tuque-là s’est tellement agrandie qu’elle me faisait à moi! J’ai été surprise, parce qu’il me semble bien que mon chandail corail est resté de la même taille… Alors, plan B : j’ai tricoté une autre tuque pour bébé en Madeline Tosh Merino DK Yarn, couleur Nassau Blue, en m’y reprenant à quelques reprises pour que ce soit de la bonne taille une fois lavé (cette laine ne s’agrandit que très peu comparée à l’autre). J’ai donc offert les tuques orange et turquoise à mon amie, et elle les a eues la semaine avant la naissance. Quant à la tuque corail, je l’ai postée au projet 25 000 tuques, visant à offrir une tuque à chaque réfugié syrien au Québec (« parce qu’au Québec, le seul véritable ennemi, c’est le froid »).

Pour le Petit Prince, j’ai tricoté un chandail dont le modèle se nomme simplement « Le Pull ». Il s’agit du modèle n° 15 du cahier Tricotez Câlin de Phildar, automne-hiver 2008. Je l’avais vu sur le blogue Miss Grain de Sel, où il était tricoté avec une jolie étoile à l’avant. Je n’ai pas pu trouver de copie du patron en ligne, alors je l’ai commandé directement de chez Phildar (ils ont eu la gentillesse de me l’offrir gratuitement, en plus!). J’ai utilisé de la laine que j’avais achetée l’été dernier à Whitmore Lake (au Michigan) : de la Cascade Yarns Elysian, couleur 04. Sur le site pour lequel je viens de mettre un lien, la couleur 04 s’appelle Crimson et a l’air pourpre; la mienne est rouge vif, comme vous le voyez sur les photos. Le gris de l’étoile est un reste de Blue Sky Alpacas 100% Alpaca Sportweight Yarn en Medium Grey.

J’ai eu un peu de difficultés avec le motif de l’étoile. Quand je l’ai fait en suivant le patron, puisque je n’avais pas la laine recommandée, elle était comme toute étirée sur le long, et je n’aimais pas ça du tout. C’est en cherchant une solution que je suis tombée sur deux outils géniaux. Premièrement, un site pour faire du papier quadrillé en taille réelle, c’est-à-dire qu’il a exactement le même nombre de mailles et de rangs que notre échantillon; on peut l’utiliser pour dessiner un motif de notre choix et le tricoter ensuite. Et deuxièmement, KnitPro 2.0, où on peut téléverser une image de notre choix et télécharger ensuite un motif pour tricoter cette image (trois choix de taille). C’est ce dernier que j’ai d’abord utilisé, après avoir fait une recherche Google pour trouver des images d’étoiles plus larges que longues.

Malheureusement, l’étoile était beaucoup trop grosse à mon goût, alors j’ai dû modifier le patron grâce au premier outil pour enfin obtenir quelque chose qui me satisfait (je l’ai tricoté en version échantillon pour l’approuver). Je ne l’aime pas autant que celle de Miss Grain de Sel, mais je n’y touche plus.

De plus, les instructions pour les pattes de boutonnage étaient manquantes (ou pas assez détaillées pour moi), alors j’ai fait des boutonnières normales. J’ai aussi choisi de prendre des boutons dans ma collection plutôt que d’en chercher de nouveaux, question d’économiser un peu, mais ils sont moins cohérents avec le chandail que je voudrais.

J’ai aussi fait deux chandails que j’aime beaucoup! Le premier est le modèle 21 du n° 74 de Tricotez Câlin (automne 2012/hiver 2013) de Phildar, dont l’adorable robot en jacquard m’a tout de suite séduite. Je l’ai trouvé dans un catalogue prêté par une cousine de ma mère, et c’est elle qui m’a fourni la laine : 4 pelotes de Pronostic + (également de Phildar) couleur Quetsche, 1 pelote de Blanc et 1 pelote de Bois de Rose. Il s’agit d’un mélange 70 % acrylique et 30 % laine. Selon mes recherches, Phildar n’en fait plus, mais vous pouvez trouver des équivalences ici. Le Petit Prince aime beaucoup le mauve, alors c’était parfait! Bon, j’aurais préféré un chandail tricoté d’un seul morceau, sans coutures, mais j’ai bien l’impression que ce n’est pas la spécialité de Phildar… Quand même, je suis très satisfaite du robot! J’ai apporté deux modifications au patron : tout d’abord, je trouve qu’il fallait un collet. Rien n’est prévu dans le patron (simplement du jersey endroit rabattu souplement), mais à voir d’autres modèles complétés sur Ravelry, je ne suis pas la seule à avoir fait cette modification. On pourrait aussi modifier le bord inférieur et celui des manches pour le faire comme celui du col, parce que 5 rangs jersey endroit plus 1 rang de jersey envers, ça a tendance à rouler… Et bon, la deuxième modification, c’est que j’ai solidifié l’ouverture du dos avec du galon croisé en coton gris avant d’y coudre les boutons pression – il me semble que ça va tenir mieux. Il se trouve que le galon s’effiloche, et je n’avais pas replié les bouts, alors je les ai enduits de Fray Check et je me croise les doigts.

Enfin, cela faisait longtemps que j’avais envie de tricoter un chandail à manches raglan avec des boutons sur l’emmanchure. J’en avais vu avec des boutons sur un seul côté, comme le patron Toby de DROPS et le Tide Pools, mais cette fois-ci, j’ai décidé d’y aller avec les boutons des deux côtés. Je trouvais que le Langoz laissait un peu à désirer, alors je l’ai éliminé de mes choix; il m’en restait deux, et j’ai fini par préférer le Livingston au Milord (et puis, je me dis toujours « Dr. Livingstone, I presume » quand je vois le premier patron, malgré que dans le deuxième cas je pense à Édith Piaf et ça me fait sourire aussi). En fait, je me suis quand même inspirée un peu du Milord en mettant du galon croisé en coton gris le long des ouvertures à l’avant. Sauf que mon galon était trop mince pour y coudre des boutonnières, et puisque seul le côté arrière de l’emmanchure a du galon, il est plus étiré que l’avant… Je pense donc le découdre, par souci d’esthétisme. Les boutons viennent eux aussi de Whitmore Lake. Pour la laine, j’ai utilisé celle recommandée, soit la Malabrigo Arroyo, couleur Fresco y Seco – j’adore la Malabrigo, et ce vert-là me faisait le l’œil. C’est un beau vert foncé riche, que je n’arrive malheureusement pas à photographier correctement, mais il apparaît bien au lien. Je n’ai pas terminé la deuxième pelote pour la taille la plus grande.

Magic Custard Cake

Do you remember the magic chocolate custard cake I made last fall? This time, I made the plain version, from the White on Rice Couple. It deflated a bit more after coming out of the oven, but it was delicious nonetheless! I think it would be better dusted with powdered sugar or served with fruit, so I’ll keep that in mind next time (assuming I don’t make the chocolate version instead). This was a big hit!

Note that the temperature of the ingredients is important here, because adding something that is too hot could cook the eggs, and too cold could solidify the margarine.

½ cup unsalted butter or margarine
2 cups lactose-free milk
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
4 drops white vinegar
1 ¼ cups (150 g.) confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp. water
1 cup (115 g.) flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
extra confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Lightly butter or grease an 8"x8" baking dish.

Melt the margarine and set aside to slightly cool. Warm the milk to lukewarm and set aside.

Whip the egg whites and vinegar to stiff peaks. Set aside.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light. Mix in the melted butter and the tablespoon of water for about 2 minutes or until evenly incorporated.

Mix in the flour until evenly incorporated. Slowly beat in the milk and vanilla extract until everything is well mixed.

Fold in the egg whites, 1/3 at a time. Repeat until all of the egg whites are folded in. (At this point, the batter always seems impossibly liquid and you’ll think the recipe will fail, but keep going!)

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the cake is barely jiggly in the center. If the top browns too quick before the minimum of 45 minutes, then cover the cake with aluminum foil and cook for remainder of time needed.

Allow cake to completely cool before cutting, then dust with confectioner's sugar. For faster cooling you can place the cake in the fridge. Even after fully cooled, it will still be slightly jiggly.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cheesy Beefaroni

I tried a few dinner recipes that were disappointing. One, a pad thai, was particularly disappointing because I had been saving it for a long time. The Engineer loves pad thai, but what I made was barely edible. Another, a roasted onion and sesame quiche, was something I had just bookmarked, but it fell short as well. It could have been good if the onions had been roasted further so that they were more tender, and if they had been chopped more finely (using kitchen scissors wasn’t really a time saver and didn’t allow for size control). Come to think of it, I would have preferred onion paste to chopped onions… As it turns out, what satisfied me was something unfussy and homey: cheesy beefaroni.

There is something universally comforting about this dish. I can’t even say it reminds me of my childhood, because I don’t remember ever eating it… But it was definitely what we needed. It was absolutely delicious and satisfying; I highly recommend it.

12 oz. pasta shells, medium
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef (sirloin if possible)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme (or a few fresh sprigs tied in a bundle)
¼ tsp. each salt and pepper
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
½ cup beef or chicken broth
1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce, or 2 (8-oz.) cans if that's what you have
2 cups shredded lactose-free sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup grated parmesan

Cook the pasta until just before al dente while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Heat olive oil in a deep oven-proof skillet or 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent.

Add ground beef and brown. Season with oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix in the tomato paste until combined.

Add the broth, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in tomato sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, when the pasta is ready, drain and ad it to the meat sauce, gently stirring to combine. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil about 1 to 3 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble and lightly brown.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

More banana muffins, because why not?

The Little Prince used to love bananas. There was a time when he would eat them every day. Now, however, his tastes have changed, and even though he still asks for bananas, he’s really not as into them once he does have them. This means that we’ve had a lot of bananas going brown on the counter lately, so I made banana muffins. The world doesn’t need another banana muffin recipe, but I made them anyway, because why not? I used the lesser of two amounts of sugar suggested in the recipe, but I still found the muffins a bit sweet, so I’m suggesting an even smaller amount below. These were really good!

1 ½ cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup lactose-free milk (non-dairy is fine)
3 medium mashed bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Grease a standard muffin tin.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, blend the bananas until smooth. Add oil, milk and vanilla, mixing until combined. Slowing add in the dry ingredients while mixing the batter on the lowest speed. Mix until just combined.

Spoon batter evenly into the tins. Bake for 16-20 minutes. Cool in muffin tins.

And after that, because I still had bananas left, I tried another recipe: marbled banana chocolate muffins. It was originally a gluten-free recipe, but I don’t have all-purpose gluten-free flour on hand, so I used the same amount (by weight) of wheat flour. They came out a bit dry, so I reduced the baking time below; they were really good, though!

2 very ripe bananas
lactose-free milk (vegan milk is fine)
280 g. all-purpose flour (see note above)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 pinch of salt
115 g. brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350 °F and prep a muffin tin by greasing the tins or lining them with paper or silicone molds.

Mash the bananas. Put them in a measuring cup and add enough milk to reach the 1-cup mark.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix in the sugar. Set aside.

Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl and add the banana-milk mixture, the oil and the vanilla. Make a well at the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Gently stir together until just incorporated.

Put half of the batter in the prepared muffin tins. Sift the cocoa powder over the remaining half and mix. Put this batter in the tins and, with a fork or a sharp knife, draw figure-eights to mix the batter.

Bake for 17-20 minutes, until the muffins have risen and are golden and firm to the touch.