Saturday, November 27, 2004

Pudding - the experiment

chocolate puddingFor some reason I had the urge to make homemade vanilla pudding. And for some reason this morphed into wanting chocolate pudding (true chocoholic) instead. I checked some recipes and figured I'd give it a shot.

I ended up making both. The chocolate came out good. Next time I'll use better chocolate (live and learn). The vanilla was a disaster. It came out looking like bad tapioca (see photos here and here). I tried two different recipes (one using corn starch, one using corn syrup), and used soy milk instead of regular milk. This might've been a factor in why the vanilla didn't work. Corn starch worked (thickened the chocolate pudding), corn syrup, didn't (but should've).

Another lesson learned, the whisk is your best friend in pudding making. I used one, but should've used it the entire time (used a wooden spoon most of the time). Still, this tasted pretty good and I think its nice creamy texture would be great as a cake (or even eclair) filling. So perhaps the next time I need some, I'll remember :)

This is how I made the chocolate pudding:

2 1/2 cups soy milk (I used the shelf stable variety)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup (8oz. semisweet chocolate chips)
1 TBS. vanilla

In a saucepan, scald (boil a bit) the soy milk. Whisk in the sugar and the corn starch. Cook until thick, (it takes a few minutes) stirring constantly. When thick, let it boil at least a minute to cook the corn starch. Take the pan off the heat and add the chocolate chips and the vanilla and stir until the chocolate melts.

Pour into cups (or small bowls) and refrigerate.

This tasted better after being in the fridge for a while. It was a little bland when it was warm, and more chocolatey when it was chilled.

All in all, this was a learning experience. I used two different kinds of soy milk (shelf stable for the chocolate and the refrigerated kind for the vanilla). This might've been a factor. But mainly I think the corn syrup recipe was missing something. (though what, I don't know).

I like to experiment, and this wasn't a loss. The whole thing (both recipes) took about 20 minutes and I have a dessert for the next couple of days. (the chocolate, I tossed the vanilla :)

There's another picture of the chocolate pudding here.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Simple Soup - Veggie

I just threw this together... wanted something healthy and filling but most importantly, quick. The whole thing took me about 25-30 minutes. That's pretty quick. And the best part? It was really good!

What I threw together:

1 small onion, chopped (large dice)
1 stalk celery, diced
handful of baby carrots, halves and sliced (quicker than dicing)
1 broccoli floret (grabbed one off a bigger bunch)
handful of frozen whole green beans, broken into smaller pieces
1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup orzo
Ground pepper (to taste)
Drizzle of olive (or your favorite) oil

This started out as a high power stir fry. In a medium pot on medium to high heat, add the oil, onion, celery, carrots, and broccoli; stir(fry) until the onion and carrots soften.

Add the green beans, the orzo, and a little of the broth and stir. Add the pepper and the rest of the broth, and heat to boiling. Once this is boiling, lower the heat to medium and cook about 7 minutes or until the orzo is cooked (I cooked this uncovered).

That's it. Simple and yummy.
(Always good when an idea of a meal actually ends up becoming a good meal.)

I think I'll add some toast next time. Like the kind that goes with onion soup. And use 2 cans of broth so it's more soup-like (more broth-y; though it was good just like this).

There's another picture here.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Keftethes (Greek meatballs)

An old favorite. I learned this from watching both my mother and grandmother make them (not sure of the spelling, but it's pronounced: kif-TEH-this). Both, of course, do it a little differently. And there are many ways to make these and many variations.

For example, you can use lamb, ground pork, ground turkey/chicken, ground beef, or any combination (though I wouldn't recommend mixing red meat with white). When I was abroad, I made this with a mix of ground beef and ground pork (sold together, interesting concept) and it came out just fine. The two kinds of meat worked well and changed the flavor. Still good, just, different.

My grandmother sometimes adds diced tomatoes (adds moisture) or orange or lemon zest (adds a surprise "kick") for variety. I've added shredded carrots (my attempt to make this a little healthier, heh) or used scallions instead of onions. Using bread crumbs instead of the bread changes the texture. All good variations.

This is the basic recipe:

ground beef (1-2lbs)
2 small or 1 lg. onion, diced (or grated)
1 TBS. oregano
Pepper (couple of good grinds, or a few dashes pre-ground)
1 Tsp. cumin (ground, and optional)
Pinch of salt
3-4 slices bread (I use white, any unseeded variety works well)
Flour, enough to coat each meatball
Oil for frying

Add some flour to small plate or bowl and set aside. Have 2 clean plates ready; one to hold the formed patties/meatballs, one to hold the flour coated ones.

In a bowl add the first five ingredients. Wet the bread under cool tap water, and squeeze out the excess (squeezing it into a tight ball works). Tear the wet bread into pieces and add this to the bowl. Using your hands, or a hand/stand mixer, blend everything together.

Form small-ish palm-sized flattend balls/patties and put them on one of your plates. If your hands get too sticky, you can rub a little oil on your palms, this helps. Try to make them all the same size. Basically, you want a flat meatball about the size of a golf ball. The bigger they are, the longer they will take to cook.

When all your meatballs are formed, dip each one in the flour and coat completely. Shake off any excess and put it on the clean plate.

Heat a frying pan on low to medium heat. When it's hot, add some oil. You want there to be at least 1/4 inch of oil or so (maybe a little less). Line your pan with some of the meatballs (leave a little room in-between each one), cover and cook. The cook times vary, so check these often and cook until the bottom of each meatball is dark brown (but not burned). Turn each one over and cook the other side the same way.

I usually cut one in half to make sure it's cooked through. I'm paranoid that way :)

Drain these on a wire rack (over a tray)
in a metal bowl/foil bowl/on a cookie sheet lined with foil and topped with paper towels.

Keep them warm in the oven or toaster oven (without the paper towels) on low while you cook the rest.


Serve with rice, or fries (or mashed potatoes), add a veggie and you have great a meal.

There's a little work involved, but not too much, and it's pretty simple.
These reheat easily (warm oven or toaster oven) and are great (cut 2-4 in half and place on bread) in a sandwich with mayo or ketchup.

There's another picture here.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Chicken and Dumpling Soup

chicken dumpling soup
My way. Easy. This is my adaptation of many other (more difficult) recipes. The cream of _____ soup can be any kind (except the cheese types) you like. For veggies, I use about a cup and a half of mixed frozen veggies (as well as some fresh). In this case, some peas & carrots and some green beans. For the dumplings, I use a non-flakey pre-made biscuit dough, rolled into small pieces. Very easy! The chicken can be leftovers or a chosen especially for this dish. (er...bowl)


1 TBS butter
1 small onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
handful baby carrots, diced
chicken breast, diced
3 cans low sodium chicken broth and 2 cans of water
1 to 1/2 cups mixed frozen veggies (peas, carrots, green beans, etc)
prepared biscuit dough (store bought canister non-flakey variety)
1 can of cream of ______ soup (any flavor you like except the cheesy type)

This basically starts out as a stir fry.

Melt the butter in a large pot on low heat. Add 1 small diced onion and sweat it a bit. When the onion is almost (but not quite) translucent, add the chicken. When the chicken is partially cooked (still a little pink), add the diced baby carrots and diced celery. Let this cook until the chicken is almost cooked. (if you use leftover chicken, just cook until the fresh veggies are a bit tender)

Add 3 cans low sodium chicken broth, 2 cans of water, some pepper, and bring to a boil (cover on). Let this simmer for about 10-15 minutes on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add your frozen veggies cook (slow boil) another 5-10 minutes on low heat.

Add your biscuit dough: break off pieces and roll into little balls with your fingers and gently drop into the simmering broth. (I use about 3-5 biscuits). Stir the soup a bit. After about 5-10 minutes, (or whenever the biscuit dough is cooked, it will be soft but not raw), add the cream of _____ soup and stir gently (I used cream of celery this time). Let this mixture cook a minute or two until hot (but don't boil!).

That's it.

Yum! This is a simple and quick way to comfort food. There are so many ways to make this soup, but this way works for me. I always make a little extra so I can bring it to work the next day or so.

There's another picture here.

Two things to note... adding prepared biscuit dough adds a lot of fat to this soup. So once it's been refrigerated a while, you can skim that extra fat off the top. And, when you reheat the leftovers (if there's any), do so on very low heat. High heat will disintegrate the dumplings. The soup will still taste great, but it'll be much thicker (if the dumplings dissolve).