Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cream of Leftover Green Beans Soup

Last week, while making béchamel sauce, I learned that béchamel sauce is used as a base for cream of whatever soups. Of course, when I looked up recipes, none of them required me to make béchamel sauce first as such, so I had to improvise. Like using half a tub of leftover green beans from KFC that didn't look so appetizing on their own. It really wasn't very hard. Here is what I did:

  • Bring all of the above ingredients to a boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer and cook for about ten minutes.
  • Slowly pour soup mixture into 2ish cups of béchamel sauce, stirring constantly.
  • Simmer for a few minutes, then serve.
I say 2ish cups of béchamel sauce because that is about what I ended up with after making the previously posted recipe. I also got about 3 servings of soup.

The flavor was, obviously, quite nutty, and texture not as creamy as if I'd been able to strain it. (I've since purchased cheese cloth, but have yet to use it.) I liked it, though! The nuttiness added some substance to what is generally a subtle taste. Cream soups can be rich, but I don't think of them as packed with flavor like a marinara, chili, or masala.

I would consider making this soup again with other vegetables (soup is a wonderful dish for leftovers), but maybe without making the nut milk first. I'd prefer to use ingredients already on hand. That is how leftovers usually work.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Nut Milk and Béchamel (White) Sauce

So the first two lessons in Fl!p Your K!tchen by Liza Baker are nut milk and béchamel sauce (also known as white sauce). I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook by Sarah Wilson also has a recipe for making nut milk. It's really quite easy, though I find the result rather tasteless and unsatisfactory, so I guess it's a good thing Ms. Baker has an immediate use for it in the béchamel sauce!

Nut Milk

Fl!p has you soak 1.5 cups of any variety of tree nuts in enough cool water to cover them for 12 to 24 hours (my schedule demanded the full 24 hours). Then drain and rinse the now puffy nuts and combine them with 4.5 cups of cold water in your blender. My blender only fits 4 cups of water with nothing else in there, so this did not work so well for me. Good thing I had a towel handy! 

(The great thing about Fl!p is that it includes variations on every recipe. So if you'd like some different things to do with this recipe, buy the book online or, where I picked it up, at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in downtown Ann Arbor, MI.) 

I Quit Sugar has a somewhat different approach to making nut milk (she specifies almond or cashew). You boil 3 cups of water, allowing it to cool some before blending with 1 cup of blanched or soaked-over-night almonds or cashews. 

Both ladies mention sieving out the pulp and dehydrating it into nut meal. Unfortunately this did not work for me. I tried to use a coffee filter, as I did when making my own paneer, but it got too clogged, and I only got a few drops of liquid to go through. So my béchamel sauce was not as creamy as it might have been.

Béchamel Sauce

In order to make this simple sauce, you will need 2 T butter (Ms. Baker suggests substituting the butter with olive or coconut oil for a vegan option), 2 T flour, .5 tsp of salt, .25 tsp of pepper, and 2 cups of the above nut milk (or regular milk if you don't care about the nut milk). 

I am going to simplify here, so again, check the book (or the internet) for more through instructions. In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium on the stove. In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients, then add them to the butter in the pan once it has melted, stirring constantly so it doesn't clump. Cook a bit - until it smells "toasty" according to Fl!p. Then gradually whisk in your 2 cups of nut milk. 

This step got a bit messy for me due to the nut meal being mixed in with the milk because I couldn't separate it out. At the bottom of my measuring cup is a bunch of gooey nut meal, so looks like I may be able to dehydrate it into meal after all. 

Moving on, bring this all to a boil while stirring constantly, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes while stirring occasionally. 

This is where the recipe and I parted ways as I wanted to now put my béchamel sauce to immediate use, and Fl!p does not do that. I read that béchamel can be used to make cream of vegetable soups, and I had some leftover, not especially appetizing on their own green bean leftovers from KFC sitting in the fridge. I decided to combine them with the béchamel, but I will talk about that next week. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Nut Milk (Happy New Year)

Hey, I'm back! It's been about half a year since my last update (Peanut Butter and Mulberry (and Banana and Spinach) Protein Smoothie). A lot has happened since then! Life has been busy, and I am sad to report I have not been dong a lot of cooking. My husband cooks dinner more often than I do (P.S. I got married).

I also quit one of my part-time jobs, leaving me with more free time. And I got a promotion and started working as an editor as well as writer for the Journal, which eats up some of that free time, but I want to return to writing for fun and pleasure! So here I am.

I have undertaken in this new year to cut out a significant amount of fructose (removing all forms of sugar is just crazy talk) from my diet because I love sugar, and I think it's been making me sick. I also want to switch to a more whole foods, locally procured diet, so I used some Christmas money to purchase two cook books: Fl!p Your K!tchen by Liza Baker and I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook by Sarah Wilson.

The former is by a local author and is available for purchase at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room. The latter is not a step-by-step guide to quitting sugar, but rather a helpful, easygoing collection of guidelines with some promising recipes - so my kind of book. They both recommend making your own nut milk (I know, snicker snicker, nut milk). I rolled my eyes until I saw that lesson one in Fl!p was nut milk. The béchamel sauce recipe, lesson two, uses the nut milk. Sigh. Fine! 

So now there is a bowl of almonds and cashews (all the nuts in the house, picked one by one from a plastic canister of assorted mixed nuts and dried cranberries) soaking in cold water on my counter, waiting to be blended with more cold water tomorrow, thus creating homemade nut milk. I have been cow milk free for many months now (I'm allergic to the protein), but though I have been using almond milk as my milk alternative, this homemade variety does not sound appetizing.

I'll let you know next time how it - and the béchamel sauce - goes.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Peanut Butter and Mulberry (and Banana and Spinach) Protein Smoothie

Now that it's hot again, and the house lacks air conditioning, I'm back to making smoothies and shakes! This time with added protein powder. I've also gone dairy-free (with some things anyway).

The inspiration for this recipe was this Peanut Butter and Jelly Protein Smoothie. Naturally, I couldn't just follow the recipe, so here is what I did.

  1. The house may lack AC, but there is a flourishing mulberry bush in the side yard, and I went outside one day and picked a bunch! For this recipe, I measured out 1 cup of fresh mulberries.
  2. Peanut butter can be difficult to blend sometimes and sticks to the sides of my vintage blender, which is frustrating to clean. So I used 1 tablespoon of PB2 powdered peanut butter. It claims to have 85% less fat calories than regular peanut butter, but that part doesn't concern me. 
  3. Next I added 1 scoop of Nature's Way Alive! Protein Complete Shake (vanilla flavored). It has a bunch of vitamins and minerals and vegetable protein. Also, it's gluten free and was on sale at Meijer last week.
  4. Now here's something I never considered - 2 tablespoons of oats in a smoothie. I opted for the quick cook kind because it was already chopped up.
  5. To all of this was added 1 cup of vanilla almond milk. 

I blended all of these ingredients together, and it tasted pretty good, but it was really thin. I wanted to thicken it up, so I added:
  1. 1 whole banana. 
  2. And for a little added nutrition, a handful of frozen spinach leaves. 

I should have added chia seeds, but I forgot. Next time. And there will be a next time. This concoction was delicious! The seeds from the mulberries kept it from being completely smooth, but they're easy enough to just swallow. (Same with the oats.) And it made enough for two servings, so I poured some in a glass bottle and put it in the fridge for tomorrow.

Keep cool, everybody.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Chicken Cheese Casserole with Asparagus

I posted a version of this recipe - my usual form of this recipe - a couple of years ago here under For the Love of Casseroles. I mentioned that the original recipe that my family has never actually made calls for a can of green beans and that it's probably not a bad way to add some vegetables to the meal. Tonight, I gave it a try. But not with a can of green beans, with a bag of frozen asparagus. And this time with pretzel panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs) rather than Italian seasoned.

The Steps:
  • Cover the bottom of a glass casserole dish with cooked chunks of chicken (1.5 to 2 cups).
  • Layer the chicken with a bag of frozen asparagus cuts. (Spears are probably too big.) 
  • Sprinkle this layer with breadcrumbs. 
  • Then sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. 
  • In a saucepan, heat cream of chicken soup (condensed) and 1/2 can of chicken broth. (I used cream of celery and vegetable broth because Greg is allergic to chicken broth, but chicken is traditional.) 
  • Add a 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the soups. Warm and stir until cheese melts. 
  • Pour this over the stuff in the casserole dish. 
  • Cover with another layer of breadcrumbs and drizzle with 1/4 cup melted butter. 
  • Bake 1 hour at 350F.
Why pretzel panko? Because it was what I had in the cupboard. I figure the texture and salt level are similar to the crushed Ritz crackers that often top casseroles. 

I debated between frozen broccoli and frozen asparagus, eventually choosing the asparagus because if I'm going to be experimental, why not go all out? We sometimes get cheese and asparagus-stuffed chicken breasts from Meijer, so I already knew asparagus and cheese go great together (albeit a different kind of cheese). 

One of the reasons I love casseroles so much is because you can throw all the ingredients of a meal - protein, vegetable, cheese - into one container, toss it in the oven, and an hour later out comes dinner. (This Chicken Meal in One is another great tactic!)

So here you have it, another recipe I did not follow. And that's why the blog is called Adventures.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Johnny Bread (Cornbread)

Johnnycake is what my Grandma Coburn called cornbread. The recipe I have for Johnny Bread, courtesy of a group milling cornmeal as a demonstration of old engines at the historical festival in Ypsilanti last summer, blends these two names and warranted investigation.

Wow! Are there ever some variances of these two things. And they do seem to be two things as Wikipedia has one entry for Johnnycake and a separate one for cornbread. This Johnny Bread looks like a northern U.S. cornbread, rather than Johnnycake, recipe since it involves half wheat flour and half cornmeal. Southern style cornbread uses more cornmeal and less sugar. Johnnycake is unleavened cornbread, and this recipe calls for baking soda. 

My one substitution was butter for Crisco because that shit will kill you. (I've read that the original Crisco recipe has changed to make it safer for human consumption, but I don't trust it and limit my own consumption.) 

I'd never heard of sour milk before. It's easy to make and does not taste bad (yes, I tried it - couldn't resist). This recipe as whole was very easy to make! And I had all the ingredients on hand. Northern cornbread is supposed to be more "cake-like" than bread, but I didn't get that with this recipe. Jiffy's cornbread mix, my usual go-to, is definitely on the fluffy side. 

This also could have used more salt, in my opinion, an odd assertion for me because I don't really like salt (my nutritionist called me salt-deficient). There is still some cornmeal left, so I will take that into consideration next time. (Another use for cornmeal, cookies!)

So there you have it - Johnny Bread! Which is really cornbread and not Johnnycake.

Monday, April 4, 2016

10 Foods I'm Looking Forward to at the Farmer's Market

  1. Asparagus
  2. Corn on the cob
  3. Eggplant
  4. Greens (I have a lot of recipes for various kinds)
  5. Potatoes
  6. Squash (including - and especially - zucchini)
  7. Tomatoes
  8. Apples
  9. Blueberries
  10. Strawberries
There are so many farmers markets around town! And just a few weeks ago, Greg and I picked out seeds for our impending garden. Some of these foods will be in that garden, but not all. We actually intend to plant two apple trees in the backyard, so we'll have our own fruit as well as vegetables and herbs. There will also be plenty of flowers and a little garden for fairies. I'm excited!