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Archive for April, 2011

Breakfast

… or dinner. Smoothies are frequent meals in our house, especially in the stinking hot days of summer. This morning, it was more about craving something fresh & fruity to counteract last night’s stodgy dinner (sausages, mashed potatoes & garlicky greens).

Here’s my rough template – as usual, adjust & modify with abandon:

Super Smoothies

1-2 ripe bananas, peeled

Appx 1 c plain non-fat yoghurt

Appx 1 c frozen fruit (blueberries, raspberries, mangoes, peaches, whathaveyou)

Honey & lime juice to taste

Optional extras:

1-2 T nut butter (cashew butter is divine, I tell you, especially with peaches & blueberries)

1 T ground flax seed or toasted wheat germ

A small handful of fresh baby spinach

A few cubes of silken tofu (adding awesome protein, but be warned – too much will change the texture & flavor)

Chuck the lot in a large food processor or blender & wail away. The longer you blend, the finer the texture, especially if you’ve added raspberries, spinach or flax seed. If it’s a bit too thick, add a splash of milk or juice, or a bit more honey. If it’s too thin, add some more frozen fruit. I’m a bit of a purist, but you can experiment with adding vanilla, spices, spirulina.

One batch makes 2 nice big glasses. Pour it into popsicle molds this summer. Revel in your virtuousness…

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Spice it up

(Whoa, a month since my last post? Sorry about that folks, too many irons in the fire as of late…)

Some girls get all excited about a pair of new shoes in the mail. Not me. The way to my heart is scented with China #1 Ginger Powder…

We’re all about buying locally, but there are some things that require going a bit farther afield… About once a year, I place a nice big order with our favorite spice & herb suppliers, The Spice House, in Evanston, IL. I love these folks – they offer a fantastic array of familiar & esoteric spices at decent prices, & our orders arrive packed with such care, it’s like a deliciously scented Christmas.

I buy in 4 & 8 ounce bulk bags, a great option for us as I put all our herbs & spices in square jars for regular use; what doesn’t fit in the jars gets resealed in their zip bags & stashed in a cool, dry cupboard. Buying in bulk bags keeps our costs down, & we aren’t tossing tiny plastic & glass jars every few weeks. I know exactly when my seasonings were purchased, & if I see we’re not getting through a particular selection as fast as I’d anticipated, finding a home for some quality herbs & spices is never hard.

On my list of regulars from The Spice House:

China #1 Ginger Powder – I’m not kidding when I say we get through half a pound of this a year, easy. I am a bit of a ginger fiend, & add it to everything from curries to stirfrys to banana bread to my morning coffee. Most powdered gingers are but pale imitations of the fresh root, but TSH’s China #1 is hot & sweet & reconstitutes beautifully when simmered.

Ground Cumin – Does anyone else think that cumin smells like sweaty armpits? And yet, it’s a staple in my pantry. I add a few teaspoons to my vegetarian meatballs, among many other dishes.

Basil, Oregano, Thyme – In the summer, we grow our own herbs, & dry as much as we can at the end of the season. But inevitably our stock runs empty, so it’s nice to have quality dried herbs on hand to get us through the winter. TSH’s California Basil is especially good, sweet & fresh & just right in the middle of January.

Curry Powder – I do blend my own for most recipes, but sometimes a good pre-made curry powder comes in handy. I keep garam masala & red Thai on hand, as a rule, & have finally replenished my stock of Vadouvan – this is a wonderful blend I haven’t seen anywhere else, rich & savory & yellow, with very little heat. It’s fantastic with chickpeas, potatoes & cauliflower, & makes a righteous dip when blended with Greek yoghurt.

Whole Nutmeg – As a rule, I buy my spices pre-ground – yes, I know they degrade faster than whole, but when you’ve got half an hour to slap together some dinner, convenience prevails. One of my ironclad exceptions to this is nutmeg. I grate it as I need it, into pancake batter, hot milk, & spinach dishes. It was one of the first spices I added to our infant son’s diet, & to this day, it’s his favorite part of making pancakes.

Tellicherry Black Peppercorns – The other spice that gets ground to use in our house, no exceptions. I don’t know what they put in those jars marked Ground Black Pepper, but it’s nothing like the sweet-hot-bitter magic that comes from freshly ground peppercorns. If I had to pick one spice out of my extensive wardrobe to use exclusively for the rest of my life, it would be black pepper. Pepper brings everything to life, from potatoes to fish to field greens to ripe melon. It’s also amazing in shortbread cookies.

So, what’s in your spice cabinet? Are you a salt snob? What can’t you imagine cooking without?

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