Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Roasted Broccoli and Vegan Whipped Cream

Two things today, because they're both so good.

1. Roasted Broccoli
My mom has always grown her own broccoli and frozen it, so as a child I ate a lot of broccoli. I've always liked it, but it never turned my life around or anything. I just thought that was broccoli's fate: to be good, but never revolutionary.

Until I realized something.

We were cooking it the wrong way.

Until a few months ago, the only way I had ever eaten broccoli was raw or steamed. Either cold, firm, and kind of grassy-flavored, or steamy, mushy, and... still grassy-flavored.

And then I discovered the joy of roasting. Roasting brings out a level of sweetness in broccoli that I never knew existed. Adding a bit of sugar to the dressing caramelizes and crisps the delicate crowns, and a splash of fresh lemon wakes up the whole dish. THIS broccoli has literally turned my life around, because I don't know if I will ever steam broccoli again. THIS broccoli is revolutionary. I recommend following this recipe with just a few modifications: use only 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Be sure to toss the broccoli with the oil and seasonings to thoroughly coat each piece. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil (clean up is so easy--sometimes I don't even have to wash the pan). Lemon is optional, but boy is it good.

2. Vegan Whipped Cream
Don't worry, I'm not actually going vegan. But I do recognize the benefits of eating less dairy, and some people can't eat dairy at all, lest they suffer an upset stomach the rest of the day. For these people, this little trick is a dream.
Buy a can of full-fat coconut milk and store in the refrigerator overnight. Open the can and scoop out the top solidified layer, leaving any liquid in the can (save and use in smoothies or whatnot). Whip the solidified coconut milk with a hand or stand mixer until thick and fluffy. Add powdered sugar to taste. You could use a natural sweetener, but I do recommend using something dry, or the cream may get too soupy.

I am ridiculously impressed with the texture of this cream. It's thick and luscious, virtually like real whipped cream in almost every way. The only caveat here is that it does taste like coconut, so if you're a coconut hater, this may not be for you. Fortunately, I learned to like coconut some years back, and even though I'm not giving up dairy any time soon (or ever, let's be honest), I'm really excited to have an interesting, flavorful alternative to whipped cream. Tonight, I'm serving it with homemade chocolate pudding.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Easy Dessert: Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches

Need a dessert for company? (Or, let's just be honest... need a dessert for your Friday night alone?) Don't feel like cooking? Still want something awesome? Would rather not break your calorie bank?

I've covered all those bases.

Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches
Approximately 260 calories each!
  • Plain Entenmann's donuts (if you choose sugared or frosted, calories go up)
  • Any flavor ice cream, slightly softened (I chose chocolate)
  • Chocolate chips (or white, or peanut butter, or whatever)
Slice donuts in half. Scoop about 1/4 cup ice cream onto half of the donuts; top with other half. Smooth ice cream edges with spoon. Freeze sandwiches for 30 minutes. Put chocolate chips in a freezer storage bag, and microwave on high in intervals of 30 seconds, until you can squish and melt the chips with your hands. Remove sandwiches from freezer and drizzle melted chips on top. Refreeze for at least 1 hour before eating; less time will result in a still delicious, but melty sandwich. (If you have a particularly cold freezer, allow to sit on the counter for 5 minutes or so before eating.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Meadow Tea

When I was young, my mom would take us to my aunt and uncle's old farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania to pick peppermint, spearmint, and wooly leaf tea in their creekside meadow. All kinds of mint grow very well in moist, well-drained locations, which makes meadows, which often have a water source of some kind, excellent harvesting locations for wild mint.

Once home, my mom would boil water in three of her largest pots, steep the tea, sweeten it to taste, and pour it into old glass milk jars purchased from a local dairy. While there was tea in the refrigerator, we hardly drank anything else. It is one of my favorite beverages, and one of the most refreshing drinks for summer. Various people have asked me how to make meadow tea, and the truth is that everyone's procedure differs, but I'll try to give you the gist here.

Meadow Tea

  • One bunch peppermint, spearmint, or woolly (apple) mint (about as much as you can hold in one hand, and a combination of mints makes the best tea)
  • Approximately 64 oz. water (more if you have a particularly large bunch of leaves, or much more if you have shopping bags full like my mother)
  • Your choice of sweetener (white sugar, raw sugar, and honey have all worked well for me; I imagine agave would be good too)
In a large pot, bring water to rolling boil. Immediately remove from heat. Toss in the bunch of mint and steep for 5-10 minutes. Remove leaves and discard. Sweeten to taste. Pour while still hot into heavy glass storage containers. When cool, refrigerate. Tea should taste fresh for up to 2 weeks.


Additional notes:
  •  I know some people will want a specific amount of sweetener to add. I can't help you there. The level of sweetness is the most variable part of this recipe. Some little Amish ladies make their meadow tea as sweet as Southern sweet tea, which is entirely too much for me. Others use honey and others hate honey. Use whatever you find most palatable, and add gradually, tasting as you go along. I recommend sweetening while the tea is still hot, and stopping just short of where you'd like the sweetness to be, as I find the drink seems sweeter when cold.
  • If your hot tea has a lot of sediment in it, let it sit for a few minutes and then ladle out into your containers. The dirt will settle to the bottom, and the boiling water will have neutralized any harmful elements. Especially if you collected your mint from a natural meadow or organic garden, you shouldn't have any issues, and bugs rarely bother mint plants.
  • I've never tried adding fruit or any other herb to my mint tea, as the taste is too nostalgic for me to meddle with, but you should totally go for it. My first picks would be strawberries, raspberries, or lemon balm.