Sunday, April 27, 2008

Party Fare: Strawberry Lemonade

Today is a party for Ryan's birthday. For the beverages we are going to serve Iced tea and Strawberry Lemonade, which is one of our family's favorite punch type beverages.

Yesterday I made an ice ring with some of the lemonade and some fresh strawberry slices. This will go in the bottom of the punch bowl. All other ingredients should be chilled ahead of time so the ice ring doesn't melt too quickly.

Strawberry Lemonade
(Original recipe)

1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, mixed according to directions on the can
1 small container frozen sweetened strawberries, thawed and whirled in blender until smooth
1 two liter bottle of Sprite

Mix strawberries into lemonade, pour over ice ring in the bottom of a punch bowl. Slowly add Sprite and stir gently. Garnish with fresh lemon slices, if desired and available.

Altered Recipe: That nasty high fructose corn syrup lurks in almost everything these days, and while I couldn't avoid it in the Sprite, I thought I'd at least switch out the lemonade mix, so I bought Simply Lemonade, which is sweetened with regular sugar. It isn't a lot better, but I feel a little better about it! I also bought real strawberries and am using natural sweeteners (agave and turbinado sugar) on them instead of white processed sugar. If I had the time to experiment, I might look at what it would take to use club soda or some other carbonated beverage instead of the Sprite. Any ideas?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Refried Beans

(Pot Beans)

1 lb. dry beans, such as pinto or black turtle beans
2 tsp. minced garlic
salt to taste, at least 1 tsp

Run beans through your hands to pick out any small stones or trash. Wash twice in cold water and drain. Place beans and boiling water to cover by about 4" in a 3 qt crockpot. Turn heat to high and let simmer for 1 hour. Add the garlic then turn on low heat and cook for about 8 hrs, depending on temperature of crockpot. Simmer until skins of beans are soft, then add the salt and continue cooking until the beans are very soft and the broth soupy. Example: (I put mine on about 10 pm and at 7 am added the salt and cooked another 30 minutes.) Beans are better eaten the next day after they are cooked, when the flavor matures, so cook yours ahead.
(well-fried beans)
(This is how you re-fry after they are cooked, and I take the garlics out once they are cooked)

1/2 recipe of Frijoles de Olla
6 Tbsp. lard (or substitute vegetable oil)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped white onion

Heat the lard in a heavy 10" frying pan. Add the onion and fry over gentle heat until transparent, about 1 minute. Add a cupful of beans and their broth and mash down over fairly high heat. A wooden potato masher works best. As they begin to reduce, add some more and keep mashing until they have all been incorporated. Continue frying, scraping sides and bottom of pan to prevent sticking, until the mixture becomes a thick paste and you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir.
Shortening can be substituted for lard, but the taste won't be as good!

(This recipe is from Alejandra. I am going to experiment with them to see if I can make them tasty w/o the lard.)

Beef and Roasted Vegetables

Beef and Roasted Vegetables

1 cup baby carrots, washed
1 green pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 to one whole onion, cut in chunks and separated
2 yellow squash, sliced about 1/4-1/2 inch thick
1.5 lbs. stew meat browned in 1 T olive oil (could use less or chicken or whatever, but it's what I had that needed to be used!)
8 oz. smallish mushrooms, washed and quartered
1/4 head of cabbage
Cooked Brown rice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown meat in 1 T. olive oil on the stove until all sides are seared. Layer all the vegetables and meat in the order listed in a large baking bowl (I used my covered stoneware baker from Pampered chef). Season to taste (I didn't add any seasonings except some Italian seasoning and a little sea salt to the meat, but probably should have). Cover and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until all vegetables are cooked. While the vegetables are baking, cook brown rice in pure water, with sea salt and Mrs. Dash's garlic and herb seasoning mix. Rice and vegetable dish should be done at about the same time. Serve meat and veggies over rice.

This was originally going to be shish-ka-bobs--or parts of it were, but I just couldn't get excited about that tonight, so I thought I'd experiment a bit.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Espresso-chocolate Banana Muffins

This recipe is adapted from one in the Super Natural Cooking book by Heidi Swanson. The recipe called for several ingredients I didn't have, couldn't use or needed to alter for some reason, so this is the revision as I made it. For the original, you'll have to get the book. It's worth the money.

Espresso-chocolate Banana Muffins
2 cups whole grain barley flour
2 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1-1/4 cups chopped toasted walnuts
6 T. softened, unsalted butter
1/4 cup turbinado natural cane sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 lg. omega 3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup half and half (or 1 cup plain yogurt)
1-1/2 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 3 large)
6 squares Ghardelli intense dark chocolate w/ espresso, chopped

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. and line muffin cups with paper liners (original recipe says it makes 12, mine made 20)

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, 3/4 cup of walnuts and chopped chocolate in a bowl. Whisk to combine well.

In a separate large bowl or a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar and agave, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla, half-and-half or yogurt, and masked bananas. Briefly and gently mix in the dry ingredients; over-mixing will result in tough muffins.

Spoon into the prepared muffin pan (I used a Pampered Chef stoneware pan) and top with the remaining walnuts. Bake until golden, about 25-35 minutes. Mine were a little gooey at 25 minutes, but still very moist after 35. The yogurt might make them a little less soft, but when my sister made her variation of them when I was there, they were still very moist.

The changes I made were the flour, in her recipe she uses white whole-wheat flour,
the chocolate, which she does not put in, but adds 1 T fine espresso powder,
and the sugar, which she uses 3/4 cup natural cane sugar and I substituted in the agave for a lower glycemic load. The recipe calls for yogurt instead of half-and-half, but I didn't have any yogurt, so I used what I had on hand. I probably should have cut it back a bit more.