Saturday, June 18, 2011

Easiest Ever Ice Cream!

So last week was what they call "Restaurant Week" which is where several restaurants participate in offering deals for lunch and dinner (sometimes both!).  Sometimes they have special menu's they prepare and it's always a great way to try out new foods, and lots of them!

So that is my excuse for having not cooked in a week.  I did however decide to make some of this ridiculously easy ice cream which tastes delicious. It's a little bit like the consistency of frozen yogurt, but in my opinion it tastes better.

Photo taken by kitchen partner Dan :)
Ice Cream

Very ripe bananas, cut into 1/4" slices

Optional Flavorings
Vanilla Extract
Lacuma (gives it a caramel like flavor)
Any other kinds of fruit (my favorite is mixing in blueberries at the end)
Cocoa Powder
Peanut butter

1. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Spread out banana slices.  Add another piece of wax paper on top if you need room for more slices.

2. Cover with plastic wrap.  Freeze a few hours or overnight.

3. Blend 1-2 cups of frozen banana slices at a time in a blender.  Note: The more powerful the blender the more banana slices you can add at once but be conservative at first! Use a spatula to scrap down the sides and pulse the banana until creamy.

When it comes to adding flavors its better to add too little and have to add more than to add too much at once.  If you are using a flavoring like cocoa powder (I have some that is raw) you may need to add some agave nectar or other sweetener.  You can eat this plain, which is what I do, or mix in some fresh fruit for some extra pockets of flavor.  Contrary to what you would think this is not overpoweringly banana flavored. I like adding some homemade vanilla to mine and maybe a crack of sea salt. :)

Once frozen the bananas can be transferred to a zip lock bag and kept in the freezer for quite a long time if need be.  Some times I have this "ice cream" in the morning instead of my normal breakfast smoothie. 

I apologize for there being no end picture.  I will try my best to remedy that soon! I just wanted everyone to be able to enjoy this recipe while the weather holds!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kickin' Ketchup - Incredibly Addictive

So since I've been making some confessions lately I figure I shouldn't stop now.  I am addicted to ketchup.  At first I thought it was simply the white sugar it contained but after switching to agave sweetened ketchup I was still buying it in bulk and purposefully making things to put it on.  Back in the day I bought ketchup in 64oz containers, they were like the free weights you would use at the gym.  Yes, I think it's safe to say I have a problem.

But from my addiction sprang something even better than store bought ketchup.  This ketchup is not just one straight up flavor.  It has layers of complex flavors.  Its savory, thick, and doesn't separate (no more ketchup water!). I want to spread this stuff on every thing from veggie dogs (done), garlic fries (done several times), toast, sandwiches, pizza, and really any form of potato.  I can't help myself.  It's that good.

Kicking Ketchup

Makes about 3 1/3 Cups

2 12oz cans tomato paste, no salt added
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Onion Powder
2 T. Balsamic Vinegar
2 T. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 C. Honey
1/4 C. Agave
1/2 T. Chili Powder
1 T. Parsley
1 T. Dill
1 t. fine Sea Salt
1/2 t. Fresh ground black pepper
1 t. Hot Sauce (I use Tabasco Habanero hot sauce, pictured above)
2 T. Warm water

1. In a medium sauce pan saute the garlic in the olive oil until just golden brown. Remove from heat.

2. Add all other ingredients.  Start with the liquids (to stop the garlic from cooking further), then add the spices and tomato paste.  Stir thoroughly to combine everything.

3. Heat on medium low for 5 minutes, stirring frequently if not continuously (you don't want it to burn!).  Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the sauce pan.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before refrigeration. 

Notes: I store my ketchup in an old squeeze bottle that used to hold agave but any bottle will do.  I've also put it in mason jars (they make great gifts!) and just used a spoon to smother whatever I'm eating.  This ketchup is really best when it has time to sit over night.  You can use it right away but the flavors really get better after it's had a chance to sit. 

I've been asked a lot if I have tried canning this.  I have not (yet!) but since it's very acidic you probably could.  In the future I will try it and let you know how it goes.  I might attempt it before Christmas so I could add a small jar to the gift baskets I make.

Now, go forth, fearlessly into your kitchens and create this sauce from heaven.

As a bonus, if you successfully can this recipe (with few alterations) and tell me how you did it I will mail you a wonderful gift as a thanks!

Hot Ketchup

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Banh- Mi (Vietnamese Sandwiches)

So I have a confession to make.  Its beyond too hot to cook today, the same thing happened yesterday.  But today I wanted to make something refreshing and ethnic.  Something very non- American.  Ladies and gents, allow me to introduce the Banh- Mi.  Its gloriously simple, packed full of flavor, and has very little cooking involved.

But first let me just say that this sandwich is customarily not vegetarian although it is really delicious anyway.  I choose to top it with cucumber although other vegetables such as carrots and pretty much anything yummy and crunchy is suitable. Another common topping is mayonnaise, which is great but I couldn't resist putting my own twist on that as well.

Garlic- Avocado Mayo
1 ripe avacado
3-4 T. Vegan Mayonnaise
2-4 Cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of one lime
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl roughly mash the avocado.

2. Add all the other ingredients and combine well.

Keeps well in the fridge in a sealed container.  To keep it from browning add the avocado pit to the container.  Also makes an excellent spread for breads.

Banh- Mi Tofu

1 pkg of firm tofu, cut in 8 slices
1/4 C. Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 T. Soy sauce
2 t. Salt
2 t. Pepper
1 T. Sesame oil
1t. Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon (about 2T.)

1. Place all ingredients except tofu into a large zip-lock baggy or seal-able container. Combine well.

2. Add tofu to marinade and allow to sit for a few hours or preferably overnight.  Shake up the container every once in a while to make sure all the tofu is being soaked by the marinade.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Put tofu on a cookie sheet.  Brush the top of the tofu with the marinade and bake for 5-10 minutes.  Flip tofu, brush other side with marinade and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until each side is slightly browned.

Finished Sandwiches!
I used burger buns for my sandwich but you could use some kind of rustic more traditional sandwich bread if you prefer.  I spread a generous amount of the mayo on the top piece of bread. Also I chose to keep it simple and just use sliced cucumbers as my topping since the mayo and tofu had so much flavor to it. Feel free to try other veggies like shredded carrots, sprouts, daikon, or any fresh herbs.  As an added bonus I toasted my bread so it wouldn't get soggy and it added a nice crunch and mouth feel to the overall sandwich.

This sandwich is pretty quick and super easy.  Don't fret if you don't have one of the ingredients for the marinade, just substitute something close. If you don't like mayo you can use hummus, or a bean dip instead.  It may be less traditional but it's still super tasty!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sun Tea FAQ

Ok, so it might seem silly to have a post about Sun Tea but it seems necessary.  Given that tomorrow is going to be 87 degrees and ungodly humid on top of that.  Here are some guidelines for making sun tea.

Looseleaf teas
  • Use 1 t. of loose tea for every 6 oz of water.  
  • I use a coffee filter to hold my tea, and secure it with a rubber band.
  • Use teas that will brew to their fullest flavor in warm water.  (avoid thai tea, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, chai) Good choices include black tea, green tea, and white tea varieties.  
  • Do not allow the ball of loose leaf tea to steep overnight.  This will make your tea bitter.  Use a proper storage container for your tea such as glass or a BPA free plastic container. (I use a 2 quart mason jar)
Bag Tea
  • Use 4-6 tea bags for 2 quarts of tea.
  • See above guidelines for picking tea and storage.
  • DO NOT squeeze the tea bags when removing them.  This will make your tea bitter.
  • I use agave nectar to sweeten my tea.  It dissolves very quickly into cold liquids with minimal stirring and only barely changes the color of the drink.  Its also a low glycemic index sweetener so you won't suffer from sugar spikes and crashes.
  • Feel free to experiment with different teas! If you're not sure the tea is done, have a taste!
  • I always chill my tea after it's done brewing and I remove the tea ball.  That way my tea isn't diluted by melting ice cubes.
Happy Summer!!

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

I'm a huge fan of rhubarb.  A really really big fan. So when I saw rhubarb appearing at the farmers market, (and I started having dreams about eating it) I decided to do something about it.  After tweaking the recipe several times I've finally come up with something that I'm quite happy with and is also quick to make.

*See Below
Rhubarb Upside- Down Cake
Makes one 9 inch cake.

One 9 inch cake pan

1/2 C. Palm sugar
1-2 T. Earth Balance vegan butter
2 T. agave nectar
4 C. Rhubarb, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 3/4 C. Whole wheat pastry flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. sea salt
1 C. Palm sugar or granulated sugar
1/2 C. Coconut oil
1 C. Coconut milk
1 T. pure vanilla extract
Juice from one Lemon (about 2 T.)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease pan with butter. It is wise to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to ensure nothing sticks.  Coat greased pan with 1/2 C. palm sugar. 

2. Spread rhubarb evenly in the bottom of the pan and drizzle with Agave nectar. Set aside.

3.   Whisk together flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk sugar, oil, milk, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients into the dry until well blended. Whisk in lemon juice vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the lemon juice).

4. Pour cake batter over rhubarb,  and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes.

5. Cool cake for about 5 minutes in pan then place a plate on top, hold firmly and flip over to un-mold. Remove the parchment paper carefully (if you used any).

Fresh out of the oven!
In the end I think all my obsessing over this recipe really paid off.  Afterall, I got to make and eat this lovely cake 3 times in the pursuit!  It's become a favorite in my house so I'll probably have to make it again soon!

Notes: If you do not have palm sugar you can substitute brown sugar in equal amounts.  Maple syrup can also be used instead of agave nectar.

*Photo Courtesy of