Pad Thai from shesimmers.com

I just made Pad Thai for the first time. The results were excellent, thanks to Leela’s thorough instructions over at shesimmers.com. I read all 5 pages a couple times. Then I corralled the missing ingredients from my local Asian market and assembled as instructed.

Notes to myself:

  • The 2-burner carbon steel griddle is just right.
  • Use ~25% less palm sugar.
  • Use the food mill to make paste from the seedless Tamarind.
  • Doubling is convenient (1/4 package of Tamarind, 1/2 of sauce, 9 oz. tofu), but fry it in two batches.

Lucas & Matt Veggie Soup

Dice all ingredients (small 5-8mm chunks) and dump into an 8+ quart pressure cooker pot.  Barley needs the most time, so start it immediately and then prep the veggies. Add just enough water to keep ingredients covered. Set the pot over medium heat and add:

  • 1 Matt handful and 3 Lucas handfuls of barley (~1/2 c.)
  • 5 bullion cubes (beef, chicken, whatever)
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 bunch (6) of colored carrots
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 1/2 head of cabbage
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 4 hot dogs
  • 1 Tbsp. of dried basil (or 4 fresh)
  • enough water to cover

Pressure cook for 5 minutes. Cool immediately and serve.

 

the best oven mitts

After 17 years of service, my oven mitts are retiring to file 13. Since they last so long, it’s worth getting the best replacements. My research concluded that the competition is a dead heat between these Grill Gloves ($50) or a pair of these Silicone Oven Mitts ($25). I chose silicon because I can clean them with a quick rinse in the sink and go right back to using them.

The best and worst of Butter

Butter is one of my sirens. The flavor is delicious, the chemical properties make it a delight for baking and frying, and it is inexpensive. The allure of a premium butter like Kerrygold was not lost on me. I probably would not have considered buying it, save for one teeny tiny thing: cholesterol. Like so much else, a little is good and a lot is bad.

A few years back, my annual physical revealed that I have elevated cholesterol. My doctor’s advice was to try dietary changes. If that didn’t work, I’d get to join the millions of Americans taking statins. Since my grandma had artherosclerotic heart disease, I took my doctors advice to heart.

Now I regularly substitute various oils and spreads (mostly olive & canola) for butter. I have developed a sense for when the eaters of the house will rebel because a dish is not buttery enough. I also keep trying butter substitutes. I have come to think of butter like I do red meat: we don’t eat a lot, so make it good when we do.

And that is how I ended up with Kerrygold, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, and Smart Balance all in my shopping cart, next to our normal house brand (from Costco or Sam’s) of butter. It was time for a taste-off!

After dinner, when my test subjects have a more discriminating palate, I toasted some of my homemade whole-wheat bread and English muffins. Each subject got a piece of bread and a muffin sliced into quarters, with a different spread on each quarter. I alone knew which was which. We sampled, discussed, and voted.

The votes for the best butter were split evenly between I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter and our house butter. The first runner up was also split evenly between the same two choices, with Kerrygold solidly ahead of Smart Balance for third place.

tacomole definition

ta•co•mo•lo

noun

a selection of taco leftovers, all mixed together in the same bowl, ready to spread on a taco shell.

Dulce de leche crépes

If you ever wondered whether dulce de leche would go well on crépes, wonder no more. It gets 8 thumbs up around our breakfast table.

Apple Pie Parfait

Today’s breakfast treat was a fairly healthy Apple Pie Partfait.

Apple Pie Parfait
  1. thin layer of grape nuts
  2. 3/4″ layer of plain yogurt
  3. thin layer of grape nuts
  4. generous 3/4″ layer of apple pie filling
  5. thin layer of grape nuts
  6. 3/4″ thick layer of plain yogurt
  7. sprinkling of finely crushed ginger snap cookies

The result was eight thumbs around around the breakfast table. The fresh yogurt is deliciously creamy without the fat. The grape nuts are a very satisfying crunch without the fat of a crust.

Backstory

This meal was spawned between then tensions of desire for an apple pie and knowing that my grandmothers genes are mostly why I have elevated cholesterol. I wanted apple pie, but I didn’t want the calories or saturated fats in a delicious butter crust. Continue reading “Apple Pie Parfait”

Olive oil sprayer

Yes Bill, I’m still happy with my Misto M100S olive oil sprayer.

I’ve had the Misto for 5 months. Its utility is such that it justifies being out on the counter at all times. With most of the oils hiding in a cupboard, the sprayer does get lonely. It has only the pourer to keep it company. The Misto is consoled by knowing that unlike the pourer, he has the premium extra virgin olive oil.

I use the sprayer most for roasting veggies. We really like our roast veggies. With the sprayer, I can coat the veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.) with a thin coat of oil, a dash of seasonings, and they become a sought after course. Any time I fire up the oven, I inventory my veggies to see if there’s anything I could be roasting at the same time.

The key to happiness with an olive oil sprayer is to not tell it you have better oils relieve the pressure after every use. With a quick twist of the cap, the air pressure bleeds off. I often do so while holding the bottle with a towel, so I don’t get oily hands. I leave the cap on loosely and put the pump top back on. When I use it, I screw the cap down, pump it up, and spray away.

Misto M100S.

Best practices for dehydrating (drying) blueberries

In the past two weeks I have processed 51 pounds (not including the spoils of picking fresh) of blueberries, from 3 batches. The first two batches were from the Henna Blueberry Farm in Fall City, Washington. We picked there on July 23rd and July 30th. The blueberries from the u-pick farm were very early, and mid-season (yes, it’s a very late season this year)! The last batch was big ripe peak season berries from a commercial grower in Oregon, purchased Aug 1st at my local Fred Meyer.

My intent was to consume fresh about half the berries and put the rest away for winter. For fresh consumption, I’ve made a blueberry streusel pie, a blueberry crisp, a summer (mixed) berry crisp, oatmeal crisps with fresh blueberries, and a plain blueberry pie. The streusel pie was a knockout hit.

For preservation, I made 3 quarts of blueberry jam, 6 quarts of blueberry pie filling, and just over 2 quarts of dehydrated blueberries. Making jam (hint: Pomonos pectin) and pie filling (hint: clear-jel) are straight forward, but finding good advice for dehydrating blueberries left a lot of room for interpretation and experimentation.

My research on dehydrating blueberries boiled down to 3 discrete steps:
a) wash the berries
b) break the waxy skin of the berries (slice, puncture, or blanch)
c) dehydrate at 135°

I have found that temperature isn’t terribly important. I made a batch of yogurt and dehydrated some berries at 115° to no ill effect. I’ve gone up to 145° but didn’t like the texture as much. If just drying berries, I use 135°, as my dehydrator manual suggests. I vary the temperature for my convenience, like having a batch finish at 9AM instead of 6AM.

To puncture the skin, I didn’t much like the idea of slicing every blueberry in half, or of poking a hole in every berry so I tried blanching. I varied the blanching time between 30 seconds and two minutes. The results are dehydrated berries, but a less than satisfactory experience.

The blanched berries dry very unevenly. I pulled some off the dehydrator at 12 hours, some at 18, and others after 24 hours. The skin of the blanched berries tends to get dry and crispy before the center gets leathery. So part of the berry is too dry by the time the center gets dry enough. The berries that dried the best were blanched longer, and they also tended to mush and leak juice all over the trays, making for more cleanup. I doubt I will ever blanch and dehydrate blueberries again.

Last night I dried a big batch bananas, as well as a few more trays of blueberries. For comparison, I sliced a batch of blueberries in half, I poked a few with a sharp knife blade, I poked others with a paper clip, still others with a hole poked through both sides of the berry with the paper clip, and finally, a set of berries on the paper clip, shish kebab style.

After dehydrating overnight, the bananas are all dehydrated to perfection. The sliced in half blueberries were also dried to leathery perfection. Not a single sliced or poked berry was even close to leathery, and all were still quite moist. The least dehydrated was the shish kebab berries, since the paper clip plugged the holes.

I would like to find a solution that dehydrates the whole berry while producing sliced-in-half texture and flavor. Until then, slicing in half requires a bit more prep, less mess and cleanup, consistently better results in a lot less dehydration time, and no sorting needed while packaging them.