Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Banoffee Pie Recipe

A couple of years ago, we went on a tour of England, Scotland and Wales.  While touring, we had an opportunity to enjoy a slice of "Banoffee" pie - a combination of bananas and a carmel/toffee in a graham cracker crust.  I found this recipe, which is very much like the pie that we had for dessert at a pub in Edinburgh.  Hope you enjoy it too!

14 oz Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cu Graham Crackers Crumbs, about 2 packets of a three packet box
1/2 cu Unsalted Butter, melted
3 Ripe Bananas
2 cu Heavy Cream
1/2 cu Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 oz Bittersweet Chocolate squares

Remove the label from the condensed milk can and set aside.  Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the can by a few inches and bring it to a boil.  Carefully place the unopened can into the water.  Reduce heat to a low boil and cover.  Keep the water boiling for 3 hours, adding additional water if necessary (I keep a second pot of simmering water on the stove so boiling process isn’t impeded with the additional water).  Turn and flip the can from time to time during the cooking process with tongs.  BE VERY CAREFUL not to splash the water about.

Meanwhile, pour the melted butter over the graham crackers and mix thoroughly.  Pour mixture into a spring form pan and spread ingredients evenly over the bottom.  Press down firmly to pack the crust.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Once condensed milk has boiled for 3 hours, remove it from the water and let it rest for about 30 minutes so that it cools.  Carefully open can and pour ingredients into a bowl.  Use a spatula to stir and smooth out any chunks.  Spread this mixture over the graham cracker crust and refrigerate again until cool. 

Slice bananas and spread them evenly over toffee topping.  Whip cream until soft peaks form.  Add powdered sugar and cinnamon and whip until stiff peaks form.  Spread whipped cream over bananas and refrigerate the dessert until you are ready to serve.

Remove pie from the spring form pan.  Grate the chocolate with either a vegetable peeler or a box grater and garnish the top of the pie before slicing and serving. 

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

How To Get Smooth Icing On A Cake

By Theresa Happe

For beginner cake decorators, one of the hardest things to overcome is uneven icing. It takes some practice to attain a nice smooth finish to the buttercream on the cake.

Chill the cake before you start frosting. A warm cake is more apt to break apart. Chill before and after filling it. Often, if you frost the cake right after you fill it, later on the filling will bulge out of the middle of the cake. By chilling first, the cake has time to settle and anything that wants to squeeze out of the sides can be smoothed with the spatula.

It's very helpful to use a lazy suzan. It allows you to turn the cake continuously while icing so you have fewer lines from stopping and starting again. One way to ice to apply a crumb coat. This can either be a thin coat of buttercream or an apricot glaze. To use an apricot glaze, thin apricot jam with hot water and press it through a strainer. Then brush it on the cake with a pastry brush. Chill it and give it time to firm up.

A great way to save time is to use the #789 Wilton cake decorating tip. If you don't have this tip, then carefully place the icing on the cake and move the spatula back and forth without actually touching the cake. You will be pushing the icing from the middle outwards. If using the tip, you'll have to cut a large hole in your cake decorating bag, so that bag will be just for this tip. The buttercream should be medium consistency. That means not so thin that it runs and not thick enough to pull on the cake. Thick icing will pull crumbs into it or tear the cake.

Start piping the icing on the cake, starting from the base. Hold the tip against the cake so the lines are facing inward. Pipe all around the bottom and then start another line of icing all around the cake right above the last one. Continue all the way up the cake, going a little past the top of the cake. This extra overlap of icing at the top will help to make a cleaner edge on the cake. Now use either a metal spatula, a bowl scraper or a spackle knife held vertically against the side of the cake at a 45 degree angle to smooth the sides. Scrape off excess icing as you go. Continue going over the sides until they're pretty even.

Move on to piping lines of icing across the top of the cake. Starting from the outer edge, use your spatula to smooth the icing towards the middle. Scrape off any excess icing. Continue all around the edge of the cake this way. Now pull the spatula straight across the cake. Do this over the whole top of the cake, removing excess icing. Lift away any icing that's sticking past the edge of the cake.

If you've iced the cake with crusting buttercream, at this point you will now let it set for 15 minutes or so or until it feels firm to the touch. (When you touch it, no icing comes off on your finger). Next, you can either use a Viva paper towel, wax paper, or parchment paper. Place the paper towel against the side of the cake and smooth the spatula across it a few times. Move the paper towel over to the next spot and repeat the process. Continue doing this over the entire cake. This will completely smooth out the icing. The wax paper and parchment paper are not quite as flexible as the paper towel, but they will do the trick if you can't get Viva paper towels.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

How To Make Buttermilk From Milk

By Yc Sim

There are 2 ways to make buttermilk, and they will produce 2 different outcomes. The first outcome you will get is a substitute for buttermilk, which will taste equally great; however the texture will be slightly different. The second outcome will be of course, the real buttermilk, fresh and ready-made.

Since the 1st way is the easiest, I will start from it.

1st Recipe (To get a substitute for buttermilk)

Ingredients that you will need:

* 1 cup of milk * 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice

Material that you will need:

* 1 cup measuring cup

That's it! Only 2 ingredients & 1 material are needed and...

Let's start making!

1. Place the white vinegar or lemon juice into the measuring cup. 2. Pour the milk into the measuring cup (together with the white vinegar/lemon juice). 3. Wait for 5 minutes. 4. Your buttermilk substitute is done!

It is fairly easy isn't it? And it can be done in a few simple steps. Now you no longer need to worry if you ever ran out of buttermilk again!

2nd Recipe (To get the real, tasty buttermilk)

Ingredients that you will need:

* 6 - 8 ounces of active cultured buttermilk * 3 cups of whole milk

Material that you will need:

* 1 clean quart container (with a secure lid)

Hey! There are only 2 ingredients and 1 material needed to make this real buttermilk too! However you will need a much longer time to prepare it... And so...

Let's get making!

1. Pour the cultured buttermilk into the clean quart container. 2. Fill the rest of the container with the whole milk. 3. Screw the lid tightly and shake well. 4. Place the container in a warm corner of your house. 5. Wait for 24 hours. 6. The buttermilk will thicken and coat the glass of the container. 7. The buttermilk is now done and can be kept for weeks!

It will be advisable to put the date that your buttermilk was made on the container to serve as a note. And you will roughly know when the buttermilk will expire.

Comparing the 2nd recipe to the 1st. There is only an increase of 3 steps which means that both the substitute and the real buttermilk are not hard to make! However to get the real buttermilk, you will need 23 hours and 55 minutes longer to make it. But wait! That is only the waiting time.

If you are willing to wait just a little more, you can get the real buttermilk with the right taste and texture to go with your cooking. Wouldn't that be really great? Why not wait a little longer?

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Great Recipes For Every Dish

By Adriana Noton

Boring meals can come alive with new recipes. Or you can try a completely different one, for a change. Or they can be tucked away in your collection for a special meal in the future.

Two or more ingredients makes a recipe. But some are so involved, you wish you never began cooking them. The ingredients go on forever. Some are as easy as stirring two ingredients together, and others require a lot of concentration, coordination, and even some imagination if you do not have the proper cookware.

A lot of serious cooks have certain ingredients that they always have on hand. It is actually the flavor of many dishes they prepare. It could be a certain kind of onion, or other vegetables, certain herbs or types of pepper, and a collection of signature spices for their dishes. Then there are always the few items that were purchased for a special meal and never used again. In fact, they will probably never be used again, but it is difficult to make the decision to throw them out because the specialty ingredients are usually a bit expensive.

When you are ready to be daring and try recipes from other countries, you may find that you enjoy the challenge. Or you could just try to prepare something Cajun you might find in New Orleans, or a Tex-Mex meal.

When it comes right down to it, the biggest difference in cooking meals from other regions is the spices they use. Greeks like to sweeten their meat with nutmeg an cinnamon, while East Indians use a lot of turmeric. And an Italian meal would not be Italian without basil, garlic and oregano.

Cook books can, of course, help out when it comes to cooking French foods, or Mexican, and so forth. And you can add to this collection with so many other kinds of cook books, as well. There are those for just appetizers, and those for entertaining, there are barbeque cook books, books on how to cook fish, or how to cook on the grill, and the list goes on. And as far as magazines, there is no shortage of magazines about cooking, either.

There are entire encyclopedia type collections of cook books. And some people join clubs and get them monthly, putting them into a binder they also received as a bonus. You can find these sometimes in thrift stores, and at garage sales. There is nothing wrong with buying a second hand or used cook book. The only problem is that the best healthy recipes have the dirtiest pages. Then there are people who collect certain ones and then put them on four by six inch index cards. Although this could drive a person crazy, at least they do not need to worry about a cook book closing by itself while you are trying to follow a recipe.

One can fill entire shelves, and yes, even entire rooms with recipes. You will eventually have one on every kind of meal for every occasion. It is funny, though, that the cooks with the most talent never use them.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Adding Chocolate (Cacao) To Your Diet -- Get the Healthiest Form!

By Loise Harrison

We'll all cherish the day we learned chocolate was good for us. Maybe a few naysayers still remain skeptical, but study after study is proclaiming the health benefits, both mental and physical, of chocolate. Even the Life Extension Foundation includes chocolate extract in their flagship vitamin formulas. Many folks are switching from their daily dose of coffee to a cup of hot chocolate. It's an antidepressant, an antioxidant, its full of vitamins and minerals, it improves sex drive, AND it tastes good. Really good. So what is the best way to get the health benefits? Is it as simple as eating cases of your childhood favorite chocolates? As you might have thought, there are considerations when indulging in chocolate as a regular part of your diet. But it can be done! Let's see how...

Raw, unroasted chocolate IS A MUST to really reap the health benefits. Little of this fact is given weight in the mass-media's portrayal of chocolate's health benefits, but its the crucial point for anyone interested in bettering their health naturally. There's a big difference in the chemical composition of un-roasted, naturally-dried chocolate when compared to 99% of the chocolate products available today. Nearly every single chocolate bar or drink, even at the large-chain heath food markets, is made from chocolate that's been roasted at high temperatures. 'Organic' does not mean raw; chocolate powder is not raw unless it says its raw. High-end organic hot chocolate drinks are still roasted, and likely processed with alkali to make them dissolve more easily. Why the roasting and processing? Because we've become accustom to chocolate looking and tasting like it has since our childhoods. Working with raw chocolate (called Cacao - note this is different than Cocoa!), like so many things that are really good for you, is best prepared at home using carefully selected ingredients. It's easy to do, and we'll include some recipes at the end. But first back to the question of why raw is better.

For lots of folks, and, there's the question of caffeine. Many are sensitive to caffeine's effect on their nervous system. And many people find chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, has enough caffeine to make them uncomfortable or keep them awake. Yet research has shown a significant difference in the stimulating effects of chocolate depending on whether it's been roasted. A drink of roasted chocolate powder caused excitation of the nervous system whereas the raw chocolate powder drink did not. Scientists find that many molecules change shape when heat is applied, and roasting is a pretty hot, lengthy process. Alteration of chemical structure through heat is common, and very likely to occur in the case of chocolate. The roasting process involves heating the beans between two hundred fifty and three hundred fifty degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes to two hours. Anecdotal reports of individuals moving from coffee or yerba mate as their morning drink to a cup of hot chocolate report gentle stimulating effects without anxiety, as their other drinks had produced. Even very sensitive people who do not do well with any form of caffeine report positive results with raw chocolate; nothing at all like the effects produced by coffee or caffeinated teas.

Next the question of anti-oxidants. Chocolate has been discovered to have exceptionally high quantities of important polyphenols. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry was titled: "Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine." It's hard to argue with that. Here again the question of raw arises: One report notes that while roasted chocolate is made up of 5% antioxidants, raw chocolate contains twice as much at 10%. Another important note is the addition of milk to make milk chocolate. Research has shown that the addition of milk actually cancels-out the positive effects of chocolate's antioxidants. And milk may be one of the reasons many people seem to be allergic to chocolate, as lactose intolerance is fairly common. Another chocolate myth is some individuals break out when ingesting high amounts; reports indicate that raw chocolate does not cause this response, and that it may be the refined fats and sugars present in most chocolate products producing this effect.

Maybe the most intriguing constituents of chocolate are it's mood-altering chemicals besides its stimulation. Many users of raw chocolate find and even greater boost than from commercial chocolates. Like caffeine, some of the molecules attributed to mood-enhancement are also heat sensitive. Tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, is present in significant amounts and is known to be broken down by heat (and apparently it's not the Tryptophan in the turkey dinners that makes one tired, it's the three servings followed by pie and ice cream!). Other natural constituents are dopamine and precursors to dopamine, one molecule called the 'love chemical' and another called the 'bliss chemical'. Add to these monoamine oxidase inhibitors which actually enhance the activity of all of the above mood brighteners. Finally, there's lots of easily absorbed magnesium in raw chocolate, a mineral associated with serotonin production (many pharmaceutical antidepressants increase serotonin activity), and the ability to relax. Raw chocolate offers the healthiest and most effective means of adding these happy-making nutrients to your daily diet.

Convinced? Ready for a little raw chocolate power? First its critical to find a good source; make sure the chocolate you're buying is raw - it will be most likely labeled 'Cacao', the name for the raw chocolate beans and the tree on which they grow. Cacao nibs are small pieces of pure raw chocolate that can be eaten straight, or mixed with other healthy snacks like Gogi berries. But the best-loved raw chocolate preparation is the original chocolate drink: hot chocolate. Now it won't be hot enough for long enough to convert any chemicals or to cook the chocolate, just to make it a warm comforting drink - and of course, heating the water isn't necessary at all (though in recipes calling for Coconut oil, it helps to blend the oil into the drink). So to make a cup, use powdered raw chocolate (grinding the nibs or beans in a coffee grinder can work, though you'll find this challenging as the natural oils in the chocolate will heat up and liquefy before the grinding is complete, leaving little crunchy bits). Put one or two tablespoons powdered chocolate, 1 to 2 teaspoons raw dark agave nectar (a low-glycemic index natural sweetner) and 1 to 2 teaspoons of Coconut oil in a blender. Add 8 to 12 ounces almost-boiling water and blend for 10 seconds. That's it! You'll find your personal favorite formula after a few preparations - more or less chocolate, oil, sweetener or water.

There are lots and lots of recipes out there, and great reading on raw chocolate's health benefits and preparation. You'll cacao powder often combined with other super nutritious foods in smoothies and good-for-you deserts. Natural organic candies start with the same ingredients as the drinks, but without the liquid. Just make a paste, adding pecans, coconut shavings or whatever you like, and chill to harden. As you're not baking anything, there's little to go awry, and really, so many possibilities. By using raw chocolate, you'll open up a whole new world of cooking for yourself and your family -- and if you hadn't before, you might just find yourself really motivated to treat yourself to natural health and wellness.

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