A simple treat that I’ve been enjoying a lot lately is figs with melted blue cheese, drizzled with honey. It’s a really quick and luxurious side dish or appetizer. Turn on the broiler in your oven and slice figs lengthwise. Place them in a baking dish face up and put a healthy slice of blue cheese on top. Put them in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese, it only takes about a minute. After the cheese is melted, remove them from the oven and drizzle with honey. It is a really fancy seeming dish that takes all of five minute to prepare. Go ahead, treat yourself!
I don’t know why it never occurred to me to make homemade popcorn before now, but I somehow managed to go 24 years of eating only fake-butter microwave popcorn. Not that I ate microwave popcorn often, because it isn’t that good. Now that I’ve discovered how easy it is to make stovetop popcorn with real butter, I’m obsessed. I LOVE IT! I always thought microwave popcorn was a little stale or styrofoamy but stovetop popcorn tastes fresh and has a great texture. My sweetie digs it as well. We’ve actually had popcorn for dinner a few nights. It’s not a balanced meal but it’s salty, crunchy, satisfaction. Like I said, I’m obsessed.
Here’s how to do it:
Buy some popcorn kernels from the bulk bins at the grocery store. I picked some up at the Berkeley Bowl for one dollar a pound. Considering you only use 1/2 cup at a time, a few dollars goes a long way. You will also need canola or vegetable oil, butter, and salt.
Step one: Put two tablespoons of oil in a large pot with a lid. Turn the heat to medium and put 3 individual kernels of corn in the pot.
Step two. While you’re waiting for the oil to heat up, melt the two tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan or in the microwave.
Step three: When the 3 kernels have popped, the oil is hot enough to add the rest of the popcorn. Pour in 1/2 cup of kernels and put the lid on the pot. Give the pot a shake to coat the kernels in oil. When the corn starts popping give the pot a shake every few seconds. When the popping slows significantly. Turn off the heat and continue shaking for a few more seconds.
Step four: Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and sprinkle with salt. Replace the lid and shake to evenly coat. Season with salt, to taste. Another tasty option is to sprinkle the popcorn with finely grated parmesan or romano cheese.
I hope you give this a try! It’s much cheaper than microwave popcorn, less processed, much more delicious, AND it’s better for the environment because there is less packaging. Have a good week everyone, and happy snacking!
I don’t usually keep many snack foods around the house. Mostly because I try not to eat too much processed food but also because they’re pricey. When I’m grocery shopping I never have enough money in my food budget for the ingredients I need for meals AND bags of chips and cookies. However, just because I don’t often buy snack food doesn’t mean I don’t often want snacks. A good compromise I’ve reached is making my own. That way I still get to have greasy, fatty, oh-so-delicious snacks, but the extra work of preparing it myself keeps me from constantly grazing on junk food.
One night recently, my sweetie and I were staying in to watch a movie and we wanted a salty treat to go along with the film. After a few minutes of flipping through our copy of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman I came across his recipe for Simplest Cheese Straws and few a variations later I came up with my own version of Spicy Cheese Straws. This recipe make 8 servings and they keep well in a sealed container for a few days.
Spicy Cheese Straws:
- One pound of grated cheese. I used a 50-50 combination of cheddar and jalapeno jack but you can really use any hard cheese.
- 2 cups of flour.
- 8 tablespoons of butter.
- A few drops ice water
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
- 1/2 teaspoon italian spices.
- Salt for sprinkling.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Grate the cheese.
- In a separate bowl mix the flour with the cayenne, italian spices, and red pepper flakes.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
- Stir in the cheese and knead it by hand until it comes together. Add a few drops of water at the time to help bring the clumps together but don’t add more than one tablespoon of water.
- Roll the dough out into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Then cut into 1/2 inch wide strips.
- Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown.
I recently tasted kumquats for the first time. It was a deliciously intense experience. I became interested in trying kumquats after watching some moms give their little kids some to snack on. The moms were happily munching away at the fruit while the kids made the best sour faces I’ve ever seen and immediately spat them out. Their little faces were all puckered up, brows furrowed, eyes squinted tightly shut, and cheeks turned inward. It was hilarious and I knew I had to give kumquats a try.
After I bought some kumquats I had to do a little research to figure out how to eat them. Turns out it’s pretty simple, just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Kumquats are a citrus fruit about the size of a grape, so it’s not a big mouthful. But that tiny fruit packs a punch. The outer rind has a very delicate sweet flavor and the inside flesh is extremely tart. Together they balance out to a nice sweet-and-sour flavor.
The taste took some getting used to but I really began to love the extreme flavor. Plus, they have an amazingly refreshing aftertaste. I love trying out new fruits; if you haven’t experienced kumquats, give them a try sometime!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! This weekend I made homemade pretzels as a Valentine’s Day treat for my sweetie, Andrew. He doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth but the man loves salty snacks. I thought these delightfully salty, vaguely heart shaped goodies would be a perfect Valentine’s Day indulgence. But really, homemade pretzels are a great treat no matter what the occasion.
I found an awesome recipe for soft pretzels by Alton Brown of the Food Network. The recipe wasn’t very difficult and the pretzels came out great. The worst part about the whole thing was waiting for the dough to rise.
- 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil, for pan
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Coarse Sea Salt (for the top of the pretzels)
To make the dough, combine the warm water, kosher salt, and sugar in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. When the yeast begins to foam (about five minutes) add the melted butter and flour and combine.
Alton Brown suggests using a mixer with a bread hook but I just kneaded the dough by hand. I put the bowl in the sink, to cut down on the mess, and used a wooden spoon to mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Once it is well combined, I began kneading the dough by hand. The dough starts out rather sticky but become airy and much less sticky after 4-5 minutes. When the dough reaches this point, set it aside. Clean the bowl, then oil it and return the dough. Cover with plastic and put it in a warm spot to rise. Let it sit for one hour.
After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl onto a slightly oiled surface. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F and oil a baking sheet. Bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a boil.
Divide the dough into eight equal chunks. Roll each chunk of dough into 24 inch “snakes.”
To fold the dough into a pretzel shape, hold each end of the dough snake and let it hang like a U. Then cross the ends over each other down to the middle of the U.
One at a time, place each pretzel into the boiling water. Let it boil for 30 seconds, then remove from the water using a large spatula. Place it on the oiled sheet pan.
Brush the top of the pretzel with the egg yoke/water mixture and sprinkle with coarse salt. If you like a sweeter snack you could sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar. You could really top it with anything you like, chopped garlic and rosemary might be a delicious alternative to salt. When adding salt, be careful not to add too much. Some of the salt dissolves into the yoke/water mixture. If you’re trying to have a visible layer of salt, you’ll probably add too much and end up having to scrape most of it off in the end. (I did this. Oops!) Bake for 12-14 minutes until a dark golden brown.
Mmmmmm salty carbs, so good!