Friday, June 12, 2015

Smoothies--The Solution for Leftover Bits!

I was never much into smoothies, but I had a friend who was recovering from an accident stay with me, and she requested smoothies, so I started making them. That's when I discovered that I had the perfect solution to all those leftover bits of stuff from other recipes, and now smoothies are part of my regular routine. In addition to being filling, these breakfast shakes are perfect for cleaning out your pantry or refrigerator in a hurry! Those leftovers that are too small to do anything with make the greatest ingredients for smoothies.


What Can Go Into a Smoothie?

You'd be amazed!

At first, I started with the usual suspects: frozen fruit, yoghurt, a little milk, and maybe some sweetener if necessary. But then Thanksgiving came around, and I had leftover cranberry sauce, and voilĂ , my journey had begun. I dumped the cranberry sauce into the blender, along with my other smoothie ingredients, and it tasted great. So then I began experimenting with everything else in the fridge and the pantry.
That jar of wheat germ I had sitting around since 2005? Put some in a jar, pour in a little leftover coffee, and left it to soak overnight to soften the wheat germ. Great! A couple of spoons of leftover cottage cheese? Mix it with some peaches and cinnamon, and it was astonishingly good. Tofu? Into the blender with some leftover pumpkin puree and spices, a little yogurt, and a spoonful of agave syrup. Fantastic!


The Next Step

Savory Smoothies!

So now that I had my pantry starting to clear, I took a look at what was left, and thought hard about all the ingredients I had. I had already made the transition from sweet French toast to savory French toast, and from sweet cheesecake to savory cheesecake, and from sweet ice cream to savory ice cream, so clearly the next step was to take on savory smoothies.

Into my blender went leftover lasagna, a single bite of bacon, and a few spoons full of vegetables, along with some milk and yogurt to thin it out. I added a few fresh herbs from the garden, and the result was genius. Since then, my smoothies have become a part of my everyday routine, and it's easy to change them up, simply depending on whatever I have left over in the fridge or the pantry.



What?

Yes, savory smoothies. It's really not that weird of an idea. If you need help wrapping your head around it, think of it as soup. Now think of it as cold soup. There, isn't that better? If not, well, you can always heat it up and serve it!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Non-Stick?

I realized this fact when a houseguest cooked breakfast and left me with a huge mess in the cast-iron pan he used and refused to clean it up. I couldn't understand why when he cooked, the food stuck to the pan, and when I cooked, the food released, and then I finally realized one very important thing.

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He was not allowing the pan to heat up before he dumped in the eggs!

Now in case you're not aware, cast-iron cookware can get very expensive, especially when you get into the antiques (many of my pots and pans are over seventy-five years old, and one is over a hundred years old).

A light in my brain went on, because we need to understand a little of materials science to cook food in cast-iron without having it stick.

When food hits a cold (even greased) pan, the raw food touches the pan, and there is the potential for sticking. But when food hits a hot greased pan, the moisture on the surface of the food turns to steam, forming a small barrier between the food and the fat. The steam (being at 212°F, or 100°C) starts too cook the food. Then the surface of the food cooks in the fat that forms the barrier between the food and the pan, before it ever touches the pan. As we all know, the texture of food changes when it is cooked. Therefore the food that hits a hot pan doesn't stick because only the finished (cooked) surface touches the pan.

So part of the key to having your supposedly non-stick cast-iron pans work properly is simply to allow the pan to heat up hot enough to cook the food while it is still empty.

If you're constantly having to clean up messes in your cast-iron cooking pots and pans, I think you'll find that they come out a lot cleaner if you try this.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Herb Hack

So, in case anyone missed it, I got an Aerogarden from one of my neighbors when she moved, and I tried growing expensive lettuces in it and loved it, but the lettuces gave out after about four months. But my mother bought me another as a present, and inside was a herb kit, so I gave that a try and I love it, too. (What is an Aerogarden? This thing:

.) I've even reviewed it elsewhere, and yes, I love it.) But the problem is, the herbs grow much faster than just one person can eat them, so what should I do? One day when I was reorganizing my kitchen (which is growing to be my all-consuming task), I looked at a glass spice jar I was about to recycle, and . . .

I realized I could use the holes in the lid as support for herb stems! So I filled the jar with water, clipped the herbs, stuck the stems in the holes, and voilĂ ! The herbs stay fresh, and some are even rooting (and with a week of nice weather and spring around the corner, time to get my patio garden going).
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So before you throw out (or better yet, recycle) your empty spice jars, consider repurposing them to root cuttings, or to keep fresh herbs fresh. If you have a chance to pick up empty shaker jars anywhere, or even the shaker lids (contact your local Italian or pizza restaurant and ask them to save the lids from broken jars for you) to put on other jars, it's just a really handy way to keep those herbs fresh for when you want them, or want to plant them to grow even more.