Spring Cleaning in the Kitchen

A few weeks ago, I was going through the fridge and pantry, checking expiration dates of every food item in the house. (Wow, this unopened jar of cream of tartar expired in 2012. Wait, why did I even buy cream of tartar?)

I came across a box of carrot cake mix which would expire in another month.  Hmmm, what should I make with this?

I used about half of the box mix to make a dump cake.  And instead of making one cake, I make several mini-dump cakes in casserole dishes.  I made a pineapple-apple filling, sprinkled on the dry cake mix, poured on the melted butter, and then added shredded coconut and chopped pecans.

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The following week, I combined the rest of the cake mix with some cinnamon, a beaten egg and orange marmalade. I cooked the batter in my donut maker machine, and when they cooled, sprinkled powder sugar on top.

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Candy Bar-Inspired Bark

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About a year ago, I discovered Crispy Cat, a candy bar sold in the organic/health sections of many grocery stores. The front label states that it is vegan, gluten free, and all natural. Not only that, it is dark chocolate – the healthy chocolate. I bet your doctor would tell you that it is in your best interest to eat his candy, right?

I check out the bar in a green-colored wrapper; the flavor is Mint Coconut. The ingredients list organic brown rice crisp as one of the ingredients – the crispy part of the bar. Hmm, interesting. I’ve had chocolate with mint, chocolate with coconut, and chocolate with crisp rice. But all three together? Think of it as a York Peppermint Patty, Mounds Bar, and Nestle Crunch all in one. Curious, I bought one of these bars to see how it tastes. I tried it almost immediately as I got home.  Mmmm; that is one scrumptious candy bar!  I do not remember, but most likely, I ate the entire bar quickly, as it was that good.  I’ve bought this candy bar several times now when at the grocery store. Then, one day, it was not in stock.   The following week, same thing.  No Crispy Cat bars to be found.  After three or four weeks of wanting a Crispy Cat and not finding one, I went online and purchased a box of them.

Jump ahead to when the box of Crispy Cats are all gone.  The next time at the grocery store, I pick up a Mint Coconut Crispy Cat, which as usual sits next to the Toasted Almond Crispy Cat. Hmm, another thought – wouldn’t the tastes of the Mint Coconut and the Toasted Almond together be good?  It was then, that I decided to make my own chocolate treat.

I melted dark chocolate chips and chocolate mint chips together; the proportions were about 3:1 of chocolate to mint.  Then I stirred in some flaked coconut, sliced almonds, and crisped rice cereal.  (I did not measure anything;  I simply eyeballed it.) After spreading the mixture on a wax-lined baking sheet, I placed the baking sheet in the fridge.  In less than an hour’s time, I had my own Crispy Cat-like candy to enjoy.

The other day, I decided to make this chocolate bark again.  It was either the third or fourth time I have made this concoction. I did it differently this time, though.  Instead of mixing all the ingredients together, I stirred the crisped rice into the melted chocolate and spread it out on the baking sheet.  Then, I added the mint chips, almonds, and coconut, in different sections and in different combinations.

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Thinking of the pan of chocolate bark as a 3×3 grid, I placed different combinations of the three toppings on the chocolate mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This gives your guests (or customers?) a choice in what they would like to taste.  Myself, I’ll go for a piece of the bark which has all three toppings.

Care to try a sample?

Care to try a sample?

 

 

 

Chia Seed Pudding

I’ve noticed chia seeds added to a lot of products lately – nutrition bars, cereals, breads, and also drinks. I asked about the health benefits of chia seeds while at a local health food/organic grocery store, and apparently, there are many health benefits:

  • Chia seeds are rich in Omega-3 acids.
  • Chia seeds are rich in protein.
  • Chia seeds are gluten-free.
  • Chia seeds are high in fiber.
  • Chia seeds are rich in minerals and antioxidants.
  • Chia seeds can help regulate blood insulin levels.

While looking at some smoothie-type beverages which contained chia seeds, one of the store employees told me ways that I could make my own drinks and puddings with very few ingredients and save myself some money.  Since I hadn’t eaten chia seeds or chia powder before, and not knowing if I would like the taste or not, I bought a small amount from the bulk section.

At home, I mixed a cup of blueberry flavored Kefir milk and about 1/3 cup of black chia seeds.  As instructed, I let it refrigerate overnight.  The next day, the pudding-like mixture was ready.  I added some fresh berries, slivered almonds, and unsweetened coconut on top, as I might do with a yogurt parfait.  After a couple of bites, I drizzled a little blue agave nectar on top, as I felt it was missing something, taste-wise.

 

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To me, the chia seeds had the texture of sesame seeds, yet very little taste.  I would not object to using chia seeds again for their health benefits; I would not have them be one of the predominant flavors in recipes, though, opting for something with more flavor.

Greek Yogurt Pops

As warmer weather settles in, we will need something cool to eat….

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Why I LOVE Greek Yogurt Pops:

  1. You might just mistake them for ice cream
  2. Fruit + yogurt + freezer = deliciousness
  3. They cool me down on a hot summer day
  4. Healthy & guilt-free
  5. They totally satisfy my sweet tooth
  6. Pink. Sweet. Fun.

A perfect summer recipe! Fresh. Healthy. Yummy.

I love cold desserts during the hot summer months, so I thought it would be fun to try out this healthy popsicle recipe!  I started by visiting World Market and purchasing a popsicle maker kit, but you can use ice trays as well.

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This recipe makes 6 standard sized popsicles.

Greek yogurt Pops


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups frozen fruit of choice (I used strawberries, bananas, kiwi and pineapple)
  • 6 Tbsp honey

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Directions

1. Combine 2/3 cup fruit, 3 tbsp Greek yogurt and 2 Tbsp honey in blender or food processor until smooth.

2. Scoop the mixture…

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Breakfast Brownies (Gluten-Free)

Twenty-some years ago when I graduated college and got an apartment, I bought a couple of cookbooks and clipped recipes from the newspaper, so that I could teach myself how to cook a variety of foods, so that I could have a variety of meals.
One of the first recipes I came across was called Morning Brownies. This, of course, appealed to me as it was an excuse to have not only chocolate for breakfast, but brownies to boot!
I still have this recipe, though, I’ve upgraded the newspaper clipping into a typed word document.
As I came across the Morning Brownies recipe the other day, I thought that I should redo it so that it will be gluten-free. I will post the original recipe on the Recipes page of this blog; I also have it posted on wwww.tasteofhome.com as Breakfast Brownies Recipe. Keep reading here for the gluten-free variety.

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Rainforest Mint Cupcakes

Endangered Species brand chocolate is a good quality chocolate.  It’s a rich dark chocolate bar, available in many delicious flavors.  And, yes, it is vegan and gluten-free.   You can find the candy bars in health sections of grocery stores as well as some gourmet shops.  Their website features recipes.  The link below is for a chocolate mint cupcake.  When the recipe is followed according to the website’s instructions, the cupcake will be gluten-free:

http://www.chocolatebar.com/involved/?p=1727&utm_source=ChocolateBar.com+Newsletter+Subscribers&utm_campaign=bb799e6814-enews_mar2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_904f3da455-bb799e6814-211729613

 

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Food Technology

Here’s another TED video.  It’s amazing what they are doing, using different foods to taste like other foods.  This is much more than making a cake for April Fools’ Day which resembles a giant cheeseburger.  These two Chicago chefs are creating foods to satisfy customers’ tastes while considering chemistry, local resources, food waste, and people’s dietary needs.

http://www.ted.com/talks/homaro_cantu_ben_roche_cooking_as_alchemy