Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tasty day

Just got done with a lot of cooking... but none of it was really that work intensive.

The list:
Chai Base (fresh ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cloves, Darjeeling tea, water)
Yoghurt (whole milk, one yoplait cup of yoghurt as starter, mason jars)
Apple Sauce (Apples--peeled,cored,diced, ground cinnamon, and some lemon juice)
The chai turned out well and I have about 6 cups of mix in the fridge, just waiting for some cold person to heat it up with some milk (and cream) and honey. Once I come down off of a prednisone-induced manic episode I will type up a recipe--not like I really have one written down anyway. The stuff I make at home is a good rendition of the Yogi Tea Black Chai bags that I get at the store, but much cheaper. It will be even better if I can get my hands on some Assam tea instead of the darjeeling, but that involves a trip to the city.

The yoghurt recipe is taken lovingly from The Frugal Girl's Blog where it can be found. It is very basic and makes a little over a gallon of yoghurt (yogurt?). I found that it is nice and easy to make yoghurt cheese and Greek style yoghurt with this recipe, so that I no longer pay $0.83/oz or more and instead only pay $.030/oz if I make it myself--and that is when milk is not on sale and when store brand yoghurt is! Big difference, and I like the texture better on it too when I strain it to make it nice and thick. It is a good thing that we like yoghurt in this house though, since I now have a gallon of it in the fridge... I give it till Wednesday till it is gone.

Finally the applesauce is basic: peel, core, and dice apples. Add in 1-2 tsp of lemon juice per pound of apples to keep it nice and vibrant and also add tartness (less needed with granny smith apples or other tart apples). Cook on low, stirring occasionally, until the house smells of apples and the pieces are mushy. I cooked mine down with some ground cinnamon, but it is just as good made without too! I have used a potato masher to get chunky sauce, but this time I used my immersion blender to make a smooth batch--mostly because the masher went M.I.A sometime between yesterday and today.

So there you have it. My cooking day as it stands. I am sure that eventually I will come down from this high of usefulness and crash hard... but for now I am going to put it to use (and make sure that nothing I do needs much attention to detail or I will have to redo it once I am back to normal).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winter just fell on Fall

The furnace is on, the sweaters are on, the fireplace is (almost) ready to go, and it is time for soups and hot drinks to keep everyone warm. Yup. It is officially winter. We had our first snowflakes outside the house today as I was making a nice hot cup of chai. Granted, the snow was more like a few flakes drifting down from the sky and not a blanket like Denver got last night, but snow is snow!

This year we actually got to have Summer, Fall, and then Winter, rather than going straight from Summer to Winter. It was really nice to actually get to see the leaves turn colors before getting completely frozen and blown off by the winds. I woke up this morning and expected another brisk day and left myself time to get to class and find parking... but not enough to scrape frost off of the windshield. Luckily my professor was a few minutes late as well, so that did not affect anything, but today was my first day to have to scrape frost, and the first day of snow.

My list o'stuff to do includes snagging a chai recipe from a friend of a friend and then making a giant batch of chai mix--just add milk and honey. I also would like to post a few recipes for ye olde stew and soup but that involves actually having a recipe... something that rarely happens for my dinner foods.

Till next time: stay warm, stay cozy, and stay full.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Betty Crocker GF Yellow Cake Mix

Well, it was inevitable. Our little micro-Wal-Mart finally got in some of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Mixes. I was ready to try yet another yellow cake in the search for an acceptable mix. So far I have a wonderful recipe for a GF pound cake, but none of my baking efforts have yielded a tasty regular yellow cake with the light texture and not overly sweet taste. On to the review!

First off, the price: 5/10 At $3.79 per 10 serving box it is run of the mill on the gluten free side of things, but far more expensive than the $1.29 mixes that were right beside it. Not too bad though, considering that I just saw another GF cake mix that was $7.99 (but it would do two layers of an 8x8... so... it is a draw).

Next the ingredients: 10/10 Nothing that I would not regularly use in my own cakes (rice flour, potato/tapioca starches, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt). So that was a nice change from the ingredients lists as long as my arm on many GF products.

Onward to Cooking: 10/10 Once again, nothing really new here. Beat three eggs, some water and some vanilla together for two-three minutes till well combined. Pour into your mold of choice--for me it was a muffin tin filled with ungreased liners. (It has high altitude directions which boil down to cooking at 350F for all pans and to use slightly less batter in each cupcake tin.) I got 18 medium cupcakes out of the mix according to the directions and that included me licking the bowl and spatula clean of their gooey goodness.

Preliminary Taste Test (batter): 5/10 Because I am one of "those" people who like cake batter, I had to try it. Sure enough, it tastes like yellow cake batter... but a little more sweet and it had the familiar grittiness that white rice flour lends to everything it touches. Overall not unexpected, not like regular wheat flour, but not overly bad either.

Out of the Oven: 8/10 As soon as the timer went off for 18 minutes I tested the cupcakes and they were just done and ready to come out and greet the world. They rose nicely and gained about 1/4 to 1/3 of their height while in the oven. (Some of that rising did wear off as they cooled, but nothing substantial.) I used two different "pans" for baking the cupcakes: one regular dark muffin pan and several silicone muffin molds on a dark pan base. Both form types contained paper liners and both rose equally well and held their shapes. I popped them all out of the pans and onto a cooling rack.

And into my Mouth: 7/10 I let them cool slightly before attempting to burn my fingers on freshly baked cake. I tried one from the silicone mold approach and one from the regular pan--just for scientific data points mind you... I would never pig out on cakey goodness... never... much. The cupcake baked in the metal muffin tin did not want to separate from the paper and I lost some of the cake to the liner (which I then nibbled off later, but that is not the point). The one from the silicone mold separated easily from the liner and had a slightly better texture all around, more cakey and less grainy. I am assuming that the way the silicone cupped the wrapper and cake lended itself to better hydration of the rice flour, but I am not 100% sure on that. Both were very nice and I gladly had another cake. One thing I noticed (that I have been bothered by in other cake mixes) is that they tried to make up for a lack of flour flavor by adding too much sugar. It is okay and not overwhelming like past mixes that I have tried, but I think that they still could use less sugar and have it turn out better.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 Overall it is a good mix and I will probably buy it again if for no other reason than so I can mimic and tweak it to my homemade tastes. I prefer to make as much of my baked goods and food overall at home from scratch since it tends to be cheaper and (normally) healthier for me. It would be great for anyone who needs to bake a cake for a child, and the kid could even help make it without too many problems. I am pleased that it worked at the 4500ft altitude here and held its shape, as many of the mixes I have tried used too much leavening and it rose too much and collapsed. I do wish that the price was lower as the mix does only make a small amount, but it is standard for the GF market. I also am pleased that it is being carried by a national chain so that everyone can have access to a decent GF product--even if it is not the best that could possibly be made.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Of course, the day that I decide to plant the darn garlic, the other plants decide to freeze. Not hard, mind you, but definitely enough to kill off most of the leaves on the watermelon and some on the zucchini. Oh well, not like the watermelon had any melons on it after the darn squirrel took off with my last softball sized babymelon. The zucchini babies survived, so that made me happy, and it gave me the extra boost (a.k.a. kick in the pants) to put down a layer of compost to protect my freshly planted garlic.

Dang moody weather.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Garlicy Goodness

Now that the weather is consistently below 90 (and still slightly above freezing at night) I decided that it was time for the winter crop. After a quick batch of instant pickles that I whipped up with onions, bell pepper, and lots of garlic, I decided to use the remaining three heads of garlic to plant for summer harvest. For the record I planted them about 3 inches deep--about an inch deeper than some instructions say to better protect from freezing--and about 4-5 inches apart. The garlic cloves are sandwiched between the perennials (chard, rhubarb, and an artichoke) and some leftover baby beets. At least with it sandwiched, even if the beets do nothing I at least know where I planted the darn garlic. So there.

On that note, let me say that this is my first time attempting garlic in New Mexico. My sources for gardening are a mix of Arizona desert books (warmer and much lower altitude than here), and one minor source that is outdated but more suited to the altitude and NM weather. I hear that growing garlic works pretty well here assuming that the weather behaves, the water is right, and that the soil is right.

That is a lot of assuming. But it is worth a shot since I was able to find nice healthy heads of garlic for cheap. Whether or not they will grow? I have no idea. I don't care. It is an experiment that should work at least a little and it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Besides, I see no reason for my nice new garden bed to sit empty and alone over what winter we have.

As a note, the cloves should be a random Silverskin Garlic variety as that is what I could lay my hands on at the grocery store and looked healthy. Since they were still firm and looked nice I went with the basic bulk garlic in hopes that it was treated with less anti-sprouting chemicals. I like my food to have as few chemicals as possible thanks... though sometimes I do feel the urge to kill every last sticker bush in sight.

I am never really sure how well my garden is going to work, but I am always willing to shell out a few bucks to try a new plant. (Especially at less than a buck for the three heads)