Just last weekend, we watched Shrek the Musical on our cable’s On-Demand system. It was cute. The line about the parfait made it in. Most of the best lines from the movie made it in. But…honestly…with the exception of a few particularly cute moments, I didn’t find it to be a great or memorable musical. (Except for this. But that’s about it. And it’s way too early in the show to save it. IMO.)
Today, my husband shows me a picture from his phone:
Since we’re a little demoralized today because we were going to go apple-picking and can’t because one of our short roommates has had a fever all weekend, I thought we should do something sort of cool and fall-ish to salvage the day. And the recipe looked really easy, basically just two different flavors of cornstarch-thickened pudding, and we had all the ingredients. (Except the toffee. But we bought some.)
So here’s the recipe. The thing about parfaits is that you can really make them out of anything you want, just layer stuff. If I were to make this in “real life,” as in not on a day when my husband and kids had already seen how much evil stuff was in the recipe and were craving it, I would have maybe made just the pumpkin pudding, and substituted yogurt for the vanilla pudding layer. I would have used just granola in the crunchy layer, or crushed up some gingersnaps. Or some toasted pecans. In fact, without the toffee…but here’s what we did tonight:
Pumpkin Vanilla Toffee Parfaits
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- scant 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
- 3 cups milk
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For each individual pudding:
- Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and whatever spices you are using in saucepan.
- Mix in a little milk to form a paste and avoid lumps.
- For pumpkin pudding, add pumpkin at this point
- Add milk and heat to near boil stirring constantly 4-6 minutes, till pudding thickens
- Add flavoring, remove from heat, and chill 3+ hours. Put plastic wrap directly on top of pudding to avoid forming a skin, or be prepared to peel the skin away when it’s chilled.
- 1/2 cups toffee bits
- 1/2 cups granola
(NOTE: This is where I would definitely make substitutions, with all granola or crushed gingersnaps or something.)
In trifle bowl or individual parfait glasses, layer pumpkin and vanilla puddings with a layer of crumble in between. Chill again and serve.
VERDICT: A little Too Much, if you know what I mean. Too sweet, too gooey, just too much. Definitely a yogurt substitution for the vanilla pudding would have been good, or a not as sweet crunchy layer, or something of that nature. It was sweetness overkill. The pumpkin pudding would have been good in a trifle, too–layered with not-too-sweet cake or something. (And by the way, we all sort of agreed about the “too muchness” of it–it wasn’t just buzzkill mom.)
A Word about Pudding:
Cornstarch-based puddings are incredibly easy, I’ve learned. These recipes called for 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/2 cup sugar to 3 cups liquid. (Next time I’ll use much less sugar; Neither pudding needed this much at all.) I’m assuming you could make them out of almost anything–this recipe substituted a cup of pumpkin puree for 1 cup of the milk, but I can’t imagine why you couldn’t puree bananas or use applesauce or some combination thereof instead. For chocolate pudding, you’d add up to 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa to the pan with the dry ingredients. You could use brown sugar in place of white, and add whatever spices or flavors you want. From this really easy base recipe, you can make pies, trifles, parfaits, fruit dips, or just plain old pudding. You could use your favorite dairy-free substitute for the liquid; there’s nothing magical about milk itself as the main ingredient. And it’s ridiculously easy, and hard to screw up (honestly! I used to be totally intimidated by them, but they are easy to make), and if you are judicious about your ingredients there’s not that much that’s bad in them. And certainly better than those boxed chemical-tasting things…
Okay, a couple of days later I tried something I should have earlier: I made one of these in a skinny little shot glass, like the photo up top (though it took us a while to realize that’s what we were looking at in the photo):
You know, it’s nuts, but serving this “too much” dessert in a deliberately tiny vessel, with a slightly higher crunch-to-pudding ratio, suddenly made the whole thing not too much after all but just right. Really quite marvelous, actually. Which, if you did do a slightly less candy-ish version (i.e. gingersnaps or just granola or crushed candied nuts) would render this dessert actually almost virtuous–there’s not much in there but milk and sugar and pumpkin, really, and though of course refined sugar is one of the world’s dietary evils, this would be kind of not very much at a go!
Even here you can see I used much less of the candy filling than the original, but even that was plenty. Yummers! Definitely give this one a try! (But maybe halve the recipe entirely, because this version makes a LOT of little shot glasses of pudding!
This afternoon I suddenly realized I didn’t know what we would eat for dinner, because all I had was these odds and ends of things…and somehow I was able to throw stuff into my 2 quart slow cooker at 2:30 and have an awesome dinner at about 7.
This is one of those posts i feel like I should apologize for, because it’s not a post as much as it’s a place to deposit a new recipe I don’t want to lose. But if anyone else tries and enjoys it…why not?
Crockpot Chicken Curry (or you could leave out the chicken entirely, really)
In the crockpot, unceremoniously dump the following:
- 1 cut up baby summer squash you forgot to do something with the other day
- that half onion that’s going to go bad if you don’t do something with it
- those 6 desiccated baby carrots (or 1-2 ordinary ones) in the crisper
- 1 small jalapeno or other hot (or not hot) pepper that’s starting to shrivel
- 2-3 frozen chicken thighs from the corner of the freezer
- 1 tbs curry powder (I use Penzey’s)
- 1 tsp+ fresh minced ginger
- 2-3 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
- 1 14oz. can diced tomatoes, not drained
- 1 tsp salt
Cook on high about 4 hours; remove and cut up or shred chicken if using, then put back in pot. Like I said, you can totally skip the chicken, and this would make a great vegetarian curry.
Shortly before serving, add:
- about half of that can of light coconut milk that’s been sitting in the pantry for God knows how long–or a little more, or a little less, depends how much you like coconut milk.
Stir, taste, correct seasonings and add salt if needed. Serve over rice or with naan bread.
Obviously, the veggies are completely inexact–potatoes, butternut squash, green beans, all kinds of things could go in this. It was seriously good, it tasted, well…right. I think it was the coconut milk, which is something I rarely cook with, that gave it that real curry-like flavor. I need to revisit that ingredient (especially since I now still have half a can in the fridge…)
Buon appetito! (Pretty low cal, too!)
Okay, thanks to a really good sale on black plums last week and a box of Pomona’s Pectin (which I reviewed last summer), I now have 7 half-pints of lovely delicious plum-ginger jam in the canner…
The thing I love about Pomona’s Pectin (I get it at my local Whole Foods, but I think it’s also available from Amazon and the like) is that you aren’t boxed into (no pun intended) set batch sizes and recipes. It’s incredibly flexible, and you can just kind of make up your own recipes and be fairly assured that they are safe and actually going to work. Last year I made Apricot-Ginger jam, and that was probably my all time favorite jam like ever (or at least since my mom used to make us help pick wild beach plums at the dunes in Ocean City, MD and make jelly out of them, but those plums and the dunes they used to grow on are long gone). Since I tend to think a shot of fresh ginger makes everything just a little lovelier, I thought I’d try it with plums this year.
Try this. It took under an hour start to finish, and is delicious.
Plum Ginger Jam with Red Wine
(Note: Pomona’s also has low-sugar and no-sugar instructions in the box; I made this jam with about half the sugar a normal pectin or no-pectin recipe would call for, and got a good bit more jam out of it…next time I’ll try even less.)
- 3-4 lbs sweet plums, pitted and cut into small pieces. (Or mashed/chopped, but I like the pieces)
- 2-ish cups sugar
- 1 tbs. fresh minced or crushed ginger
- 1/3 cup red table wine
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 box (you won’t use it all) Pomona’s Pectin, which includes pectin and powdered calcium; follow instructions for mixing the calcium water, and save the rest. This is the only extra step in this product, and it’s painfully easy.
- Place cut up plums, ginger, wine, and lemon juice in a bowl with 1 cup of sugar. Let sit a few hours or overnight. (Optional–this is a step not included in any jam recipe I’ve ever seen, but in recipes with several flavors it gives them time to blend really nicely and creates a lot of nice juice. If you want something more preserves-y, skip this.)
- At “jamming time,” put your canner water on to boil. Sterilize your jar lids and rings in it while it’s boiling, if you like. (Follow your own safe canning procedure; pickyourown.org has great instructions.)
- Here’s where the imprecision begins: Measure out how much fruit you have before putting it into your large saucepan to boil. This is what tells you how much pectin to use–if you have 4 cups of fruit, you’ll probably go with 2 tsp. pectin and 2 tsp calcium water. Read the package instructions; it’s easy.
- Mix the appropriate amount of calcium water into your fruit, and bring to a boil on the stove at medium or so heat
- Decide how much sugar you want: I generally do 2 cups sugar per 4 cups fruit, which is half what other recipes let you do, although I’ll probably cut that back next time. You’ve already put 1 cup sugar into your fruit, so you need one more. Add appropriate amount of pectin powder to your sugar and mix well.
- When fruit comes to a boil, add sugar/pectin mixture and stir in well. If you like, add 1 tbs. oil to prevent foaming. Let fruit boil for a few minutes (pectin package says 1-2 minutes; I usually give it 4-5 since I use bigger fruit bits). Remove from heat.
- If you like, this is where you could test the gelling–put a plate into the freezer earlier in the process (or forget the plate and use the tupperware lid of something already in there, which is what I usually do). Drizzle a little jam on top of the cold surface and put it back for a few minutes; if it’s all wrinkly on top when you touch it, your jam is fine and happy. I forgot to check this time, but…it’s fine and happy.
- Distribute jam among clean jelly jars, put lids and rings on, and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Take out, let cool, enjoy the happy little “pop!” sound you’ll hear from the jars as they come out telling you the jam is sealed good in there. Enjoy making just enough more jam than you meant to that there’s some leftover stuff that didn’t get canned, which means you can refrigerate it and eat it right away.
OMG guys, this is LOVELY jam. The ginger blends in with the plum, and the wine cuts the plums sweetness just enough that it doesn’t overpower. Next time I might put a cinnamon stick in during the overnight sit…
Okay, one of the big mysteries of fast-food purchasing for me has always been those delicious giant hot pretzels. I always wondered how to do it, and all my attempts at shaping bread dough into pretzel shapes have been, while delicious (I mean, fresh homemade bread products of any kind are usually going to be lovely), hardly what I was looking for.
So today, my kids and I found a few online recipes and realized we could make these without any rising time, in maybe 45 minutes total, with only about 5 ingredients. And the result tasted exactly like I remember hot pretzels tasting when I used to buy them, only these have whole wheat flour and nothing weird in them.
So–on the next rainy day, try these with your short people, or just for the heck of it!
Giant Soft Pretzels
- 1 cup (plus a few tbs) lukewarm water
- 1.5 tsp active dry yeast
- 3 cups flour (mixture of unbleached all purpose and whole wheat, if you wish)
- 2 tbs brown sugar
- 1/2-1 tsp salt
- Coarse sea salt crystals to sprinkle on pretzels at baking time; alternatively, dipping them into a cinnamon/sugar mixture would be equally delicious.
- large saucepan with 2 quarts boiling water
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- Put pan of water with baking soda on to boil
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Prepared greased baking sheet (not absolutely necessary, but this will make it much easier to get the pretzels off the sheet.)
- In large bowl, mix 1 cup water and yeast; let soften a few minutes
- Add flour, brown sugar, and salt; mix till soft dough forms. (Add a little more water as needed)
- Knead 5-10 minutes till dough is soft and elastic
- Cut into 8 equal sized pieces; roll into skinny 20 inch ropes and form into pretzel shapes
- 1 or 2 at a time only, drop pretzels into boiling water/soda for 15-30 seconds; remove with slotted spoon or spatula and place on baking sheet. (If you wish, this would be when you’d dip them into cinnamon/sugar or other spice mixture; otherwise, wait and sprinkle them all with salt before going into the oven
- Bake at 425 about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
VERDICT: Seriously, seriously good! Apparently it’s the baking soda in the boiling pot that gives you that “pretzelly” texture and flavor; now that I know this, I may use this method with other rolls and breads to make pretzel baguettes and things like that I know my kids love. And much much easier and less messy than I would have thought.
Please, before you go buying any of the weird commercial ones (check out an ingredients list on the frozen ones in the grocery store, for example!), try this!
I don’t know what got into me today at the farmstand–I got a pint of lovely local cherries, and right there next to them were bunches of fresh asparagus. So I bought one.
I don’t much like asparagus. It has always had a sort of icky-pond-scum thing going. Then a few years ago I got my first taste of raw asparagus and realized it was delicious. But whenever I’ve tried to cook it, I’ve tended to overdo and it goes all mooshy again.
But today–OMG, this was delicious!
So here we go:
Clean and trim about 1/2 lb. fresh asparagus spears. Trim into 2-inch lengths if desired.
Bring a pan or skillet of water to a boil. Drop asparagus pieces into boiling water for about 90 seconds and drain immediately; rinse with cold water to stop cooking process.
Chop 2 scallions, 1 shallot, or a little bit of red onion–whatever you want–and toss in a bowl with the asparagus.
In a separate bowl, mix the following:
- 1/2 tsp dijon or any high quality mustard
- 1 tbs balsamic vinaigrette
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- shake each pepper and salt (to taste)
Drizzle over asparagus. Chill if you want, but I didn’t bother. Eat. Enjoy.
A nice change from all those dessert and bread recipes I’ve been posting! This was seriously good.
This blog gets less and less like a “green” blog and more like a “recipes for potentially really unhealthy stuff that actually aren’t so bad” blog with every day that goes by, doesn’t it?
On the other hand, it keeps us away from weird chemical processed things, so that’s not so bad. In fact, this pudding recipe–what’s to avoid? It’s good stuff, right?
In our house bananas are always going overripe before they are eaten, and at a certain point in the summer you just don’t want to turn the oven on for more banana bread, you know? So here’s a delicious couple of alternatives…these are also a good way to avoid adding much sugar, since cooking bananas really heightens the sweetness.
Easy Bananas Foster (base recipe–half or double as needed)
- In a large skillet on medium high, melt 1-2 tbs. butter, 1-2 tbs brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Stir till melted and bubbly.
- If desired, toss in a splash of brandy or rum and stir. I always do, because it adds to the flavor and enables me to stay on the lower side with the butter. (I never bother to flame it–who needs the added terror?)
- Add 2-3 cut up bananas (or 4, I guess–go wild, you know?). If the bananas themselves are the main event, cut them in big diagonals; if you are making pudding or ice cream, go for thinner slices or even quartered slices.
- Stir into brown sugar syrup for maybe 30 seconds till the bananas themselves start to disintegrate a little. Dribble in a few drops of vanilla extract and stir; remove from heat.
Ridiculously easy, right? This takes, and I’m not kidding, maybe 2-3 minutes. We do this over ice cream, folded into crepes, folded into crepes with ice cream, and now added to pudding or ice cream. (In full disclosure, when the Pioneer Woman makes this, she uses a whole stick of butter and a whole cup of brown sugar to 2 bananas, so naturally if you want additional syrup knock yourself out. I prefer to exercise a little more restraint.) So: the variations:
Bananas Foster Ice Cream/Popsicles
Use a little additional brown sugar and vanilla in the original recipe (but probably not much, since the cooked bananas impart a lot of sweetness!). After bananas are made, stir into 2 cups milk or half and half, depending on how decadent you want to be. Pour into popsicle molds or ice cream maker, and, you know, do what you do.
Bananas Foster Pudding
For this, I started with a base vanilla pudding recipe and simply combined it with the Bananas Foster:
- In a large saucepan, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar (you might be able to adjust this down) and 3 tbs cornstarch and stir.
- Add 2 cups milk; heat slowly over low/medium heat until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved; raise heat to medium. (If you feel daring, you could make the Bananas Foster right about now, or you could make it before or after the pudding. Just be aware that timing is sometimes an issue…)
- Continue heating and stirring (make sure you get the bottom edges of the pan) until small bubbles form at the edges of the liquid and it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and remove from heat.
- If you have not already made the bananas, do so now. Add bananas mixture to the vanilla pudding mixture. Pour into 1 large or 6 small bowls; cover and chill.
Again, green? Maybe not really. But these desserts are all full of whole and barely processed ingredients, and when you think about it, they really don’t have much that’s bad in them beyond a little refined sugar and a pat of butter. I’ve made this with 1% milk, and it tastes perfectly decadent.
Let me know if you try this, and how it works for you!
A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted a recipe for banana-cake-in-a-mug. I have a recipe for chocolate cake in a mug that I’ve made from time to time, which is quite good, but until I went searching I didn’t realize how many different things you can make with a single mug, in the microwave.
I’m gradually working my way down this list, and I’ll come back and update as I go. In the meantime, here’s a pretty good list to start from.
Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug–I sort of made this today, only I used leftover cooked pasta rather than cooking it first. It’s actually not bad–the cheese doesn’t melt gently into a lovely bechamel sauce like one would prefer, and it stays a little stretchy, but it tastes yummy and comfort-food-y.
Coffee Cup Quiche–This seems like a sort of no-brainer, actually; we do scrambled egg in a ramekin all the time, why not add a few extra ingredients and put it in a mug? (Obviously, no crust here, but one does what one can.)
Chilaquiles in a Mug–Quiche but with Mexican seasonings and a little tortilla chip crust and crunch. I actually like chilaquiles a lot, so I’m delighted to have found an easy way to make them for myself, since my family isn’t into it.
Meatloaf in a mug–I’m only really linking for the concept, and I’ll post my version if I ever really make it. Off the top of my head, I’d leave out the onion soup mix and add some actual chopped up onion, carrots, and celery, with garlic and herbs. I’d swap barbecue sauce for the ketchup. But I like the quick oats idea instead of bread crumbs…
And now, on to the desserts, which we all know is what we’re really interested in:
Chocolate Cake in a Mug–the Classic, easy and fast and fairly not-too-bad-for-you, if you leave out the chocolate chips and go easy on the sugar. I use organic yogurt and white whole wheat flour too.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake in a Mug–This one will go on the list early…as soon as I get some peanut butter. Looks amazing.
Nutella Mug Cake–I don’t really buy Nutella any more, due to the whole unsustainable palm oil thing, but if I did I’d be all over this.
Banana Cake in a Mug–Looks nice, and easy, and sort of foolproof. I might consider substituting a tbs. of unsweetened cocoa powder for 1 tbs of the flour…and maybe leaving out some of the sugar since banana is usually plenty sweet.
Cinnamon Roll Mug Cake–This looks like a basic cake recipe but with cinnamon and applesauce instead of other spices and fruits; seems a little unremarkable, but who knows?
Cheesecake in a Mug–Minute microwave cheesecake; I’m not sure about this one, since you have to stir and cook as you go, so it can’t possibly have the same consistency as regular cheesecake. I tried it, but with an extra (and I think deal-breaking) wrinkle in the mix: I substituted greek yogurt and cornstarch for the cream cheese per this “normal” cheesecake recipe. Didn’t quite do it in the microwave; got all curdly and lumpy. Anyone tried this for real?
Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Mug–what’s to say? There’s nothing not to like about this…nothing all that remarkable, either, it’s chocolate chip dough but in a mug.
Brownie in a Mug–Ditto above
Cup of Coffee Cake–Intriguing. Looks like more work than it’s worth, but could be good. I just can’t see myself making this, when I could be making the next one down the list…
Mason Jar Berry Cobbler--this one makes a larger portion, or it can be divided into two mugs. (Or, I guess, halved, right?)
Anything I missed from this list? Any more awesome 1-mug microwave wonders out there?
Okay, with all my bread experiments, I’ve never tried anything using quick-rise yeast, but yesterday I found this recipe on the internet for a beginning-to-end one hour yeast bread. I both couldn’t believe it and thought it was too amazing not to try…
Well, it works. The trick, aside from the quick yeast, is putting it into a cold oven, with a broiler pan of hot water that steams away. It doesn’t get the surge of “poof” you get when you quickly put bread into a very hot oven, but it rises just fine during the oven-heating period and then bakes the rest of the way. Sort of amazing!
Me being me, I of course tweaked the recipe, but it worked fine in my food processor. (I had to add a little more water.) And I was able, during this hour, to make both this bread and a batch of the Pioneer Woman’s drop biscuits in the same food processor in the same hot oven, for double the high-cal bread products out of the same energy use.
Okay, I ran across this recipe for a “batter bread” using yeast dough that’s not thick enough to knead or anything…and I couldn’t resist trying it. It’s called Sally Lunn bread, and there are dozens of recipes, but the one I used is here.
Verdict: It was easy, pretty quick (about two hours beginning to end), low maintenance, not messy, and really yummy. It’s more cake-like than bread-like when all is said and done, and I should have added more salt (I…forgot. Bread needs salt. It does.). Real butter instead of my coconut oil substitution would also probably make it yummier…but all in all it was good! And ridiculously easy–I’d totally recommend this one to anyone with anxiety over using yeast. I don’t think it’s possible to screw this one up, really.
Here’s my version, with my adaptations:
Sally Lunn Bread
- 1 C. lukewarm milk
- 1/2 cup combined coconut oil and neutral oil, melted. (Or butter.)
- 1/4 C. sugar (or honey)
- 1 t. salt
- 1 pkg. dry yeast
- 1/4 C. warm water
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 1/2 C. white whole wheat flour
- Stir the yeast into the warm water and let it stand for 5 minutes to dissolve.
- Mix the milk, oils, sugar and salt in a large bowl; beat in the eggs. Test to make sure it’s lukewarm. Add the dissolved yeast to the first mixture and beat vigorously.
- Gradually add the flour. Cover and let rise for about an hour in a warm place until about double in bulk. Spoon the mixture into a buttered loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 50 minutes.
Seriously, not bad at all. Next time I’ll sub honey for the sugar and maybe add some spices.
The next one I want to try is this one-hour sandwich bread…