The Family Food Blog

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Month: August, 2012

So Smooth(ie)

by mukwritesbooks

In the past year or so, smoothies have become one of my favorite go-to snacks. They take just minutes to make, they are refreshing, and it’s so easy to try new variations based on my mood or what I have on hand. And especially when bananas are involved, you know that the smoothie will be filling and nutritious.

So here you go, one of my favorite smoothie recipes:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie (3 guesses what the main ingredients are…)

Ingredients (makes one 1-cup serving):

1 banana, broken into small chunks

3/4 cup soy milk (my personal favorite is Silk Vanilla, although any type of soy milk will work)

1 teaspoon cocoa

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon flaxseed

Combine banana and milk, and then cocoa, peanut butter, and flaxseed. I have found that the last three ingredients blend better with the milk when they are added afterwards. If possible, let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes to let the banana start to soften (unless the banana is already quite ripe and soft). Blend, and enjoy!

You can try regular milk, but I have found that soy milk creates a nicer texture

Keep in mind that the peanut butter will considerably thicken the smoothie, so you may want to keep a bit more milk on hand to thin out the smoothie – and avoid a milkshake consistency.  Feel free to throw in a handful of blueberries, raspberries, or even chopped strawberries.

Girls’ Night Out Treat: Slutty Brownies

by thefamilyfoodblog

This past weekend, a friend of mine organized a girls’ night out, where all of us dressed up in little black dresses, caught up over cocktails, and then hit the town. Several of us brought appetizers, and I decided to bake up a pan of slutty brownies, inspired by this recipe from The Londoner. As she explains, “they’re called slutty brownies because they’re oh so easy, and more than a little bit filthy.” She’s right.

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate mix), and associated ingredients
  • 1 packet cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix), and associated ingredients
  • about 20 Oreos
  • butter or oil to grease the baking pan
  • 2 handfuls chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

Start with the cookie layer. Mix up the cookie mix as directed on the box, and then add a teaspoon or two of oil and/or water – whichever you’ve already used in the cookie mix – to make the dough extra gooey. This is because you’ll be baking it significantly longer than you would for cookies (it ends up looking a little gross but trust me on this). If you’d like, stir in an extra handful of chocolate chips. I’d imagine that nuts would work well here, too. Lightly grease your baking pan and add the cookie dough layer, pressing it down to form a flat surface.

Press down the cookie dough layer so it fills the bottom of your pan.

(Wondering about those ramekins? Full confession: I wanted to save some of the brownies for myself, and so I baked a couple of mini batches in those. I ended up using them for a little experimentation, too.)

Next up is the Oreo layer. Cover the cookie dough with Oreos. I used about 20 of them in my 11×7 pan. Be generous but don’t pack them in too close; leave some spaces for the brownie layer to seep in between the Oreos.

On top of the cookie dough layer, add a layer of Oreos, leaving small spaces between them.

Here’s where the ramekin experiment comes in: for these little batches, I tried using Girl Scout Thin Mints instead of Oreos, and they came out great! Since they lack a cream layer, though, they aren’t as soft, so if you try this, I’d recommend eating them fresh out of the oven or heating them up before eating.

Consider trying other kinds of cookies. These small brownies have my favorite Girl Scout cookie: Thin Mints.

Finally, you have the brownie layer. Make the brownie mix as directed on the box. If you’d like, add the remaining handful of chocolate chips (or nuts, or whatever) into the mix. Pour the batter over the Oreo layer, using a spoon or spatula to spread it out evenly.

For the third and final layer, use brownie mix.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Baking time depends on the vessel; the ramekin brownies were ready after about 25 minutes, and my 11×7 pan took about 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

All finished and ready to eat!

Pro tip: If you want to go the extra mile and use homemade cookie dough and brownie batter, try this version of the recipe by What’s Gaby Cooking. I haven’t tried it yet but the pictures look delicious.

Making Use of the Balcony Garden: Macaroni and Cheese with Fresh Herbs

by thefamilyfoodblog

I grew up thinking I didn’t like cheese. My friends and I pretty much took that as fact during my childhood – one friend even theorized that I was borderline lactose intolerant. (We were both a little skeptical of “borderline lactose intolerance” actually being a thing, but how else would you explain that I didn’t like cheese but had to have my cereal and milk every day?)

Anyway. What I learned, one fine day in high school – when I tasted smoked gouda for the first time, on top of a water cracker, at a hotel in Monterey Bay – was that what I didn’t like was not in fact cheese, but cheese singles. Two very different things, as I came to find out. (Kraft, how you ruined me.) The same thing happened with macaroni and cheese a few years later: I learned that the real stuff was actually pretty delicious.

So when a recent trip to Costco left me with a brick-sized block of aged English cheddar, it was a no-brainer to make my own macaroni and cheese. I came across this recipe on the bus ride home from work yesterday and decided to adapt it to the ingredients we had and liked. I also cut down the butter and cheese a little to make it healthier.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz whole-wheat elbow macaroni (about half a box)
  • 6 medium Shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped with stems removed
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup grated aged cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped herbs of your choice (I used oregano, lemon thyme, and rosemary)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • olive oil or cooking spray to grease the baking dish
  • salt and black pepper

Instructions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

To make the cheese sauce, start by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s melted, whisk in the flour and mix for several seconds until bubbly. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring often to avoid lumps.

When the mixture starts to thicken and form bubbles (about 5 minutes), add in the cheese, herbs, mustard, and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat down to low and continue stirring until the cheese melts. Remove from heat and toss with the macaroni and mushrooms.

Toss the pasta and mushrooms with the cheese sauce. (Taste this, too – it’s delicious!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease the baking dish and pour in the pasta mixture. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Use more or less breadcrumbs to suit your taste. If you’d like, sprinkle more fresh herbs over the breadcrumb topping.

Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

We countered the richness of the macaroni and cheese with a simple salad of spinach leaves, walnuts, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

 

A Family Favorite: Sweet Corn Soup

by thefamilyfoodblog

This weekend, my parents were in town and among other things, we enjoyed a lot of great homemade food – including family recipes that I’ve had many times over the years. One of those was my mom’s sweet corn soup, which we had Sunday night with some herb bread.

As this Google search will tell you, sweet corn coup is a key dish in Indian-Chinese cooking, the adaptation of Chinese seasoning and dishes to the Indian palate. My mom’s version is a little cornier (pun intended – this joke is pretty corny, isn’t it? All right, I’ll stop now) and creamier than the kind you usually get in restaurants.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 cans cream-style sweet corn
  • 2 cans whole kernel corn (drained)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • green onions to garnish (optional)

Cream-style corn, whole kernel corn, and milk are key ingredients to this recipe.

Instructions

Start by melting the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the pan is hot and the butter melted, add the onions. Sprinkle with salt. Stir occasionally for about five minutes, till onions become translucent.

Toss the onions in the butter until they become translucent.

Add flour and mix well with the onions and butter for 3-5 minutes, or until the flour starts to turn golden brown, to create a roux, Add the milk and stir briskly, making sure the flour doesn’t clump. Once the white sauce starts to thicken, add the water, a little bit at a time. Once the white sauce has thinned, add the cream-style corn and mix together. Then add the whole kernel corn, turn the heat to medium, and stir well.

Voila! Sweet corn soup. Serve with bread.

Add pepper, salt, and even hot sauce to taste. Make sure you keep stirring the soup so that the corn doesn’t sink to the bottom and burn!

Tip: The consistency of this soup makes it a great pairing with a hearty bread, like a baguette, sourdough, or even garlic bread.

Aubergine and Paneer Subji

by Sanjukta Moorthy

This is a dish totally of my own invention, which I made for dinner earlier this week. I salted some aubergines to make Pasta alla Norma, one of my all-time favourite comfort foods.

Turns out we had no pasta whatsoever. Whoops.

So I thought, why not turn it into a subji?

Just to clarify, subji is the Hindi word for ‘vegetable’, which Indians will use to describe a vegetable dish – what’s basically known commonly as a ‘curry’. Those who know me will know that I hate the word ‘curry’ because of the stereotype of terribly greasy, spicy and unappetising Indian food that goes with it!

I put this dish together using my knowledge of spices and my mother’s special homemade garam masala (thanks for both of those Amma!)

Indian food is really easy and can be fantastic if you know what spices work together, and the various ‘stars’ (vegetables, chicken, lamb, beef, fish etc) which work well with them.

Garam masala is fantastic with everything and my mother’s super special mix is really nice and sweet with a nutty smell, and it’s full of flavour and always reminds me of home. I thought some of that, with a little coriander powder, some coconut milk and maybe a dash of paprika powder would make a simple but really satisfying and comforting dish which would remind me of home. Which it did!

We had some paneer (Indian cottage cheese, you can get it in every supermarket) in the freezer, which after some quick Googling, discovered could be defrosted in the microwave for a few minutes. We defrosted about 200g for about 3 minutes, which brought it to room temperature.

So here it is: my surprisingly fantastic invention! It was a massive ego boost, because now I know I can cobble together a nice Indian meal without fuss and just rely on my own knowledge of tastes!

Serves 2

2 large aubergines, sliced (I cut them widthways into thirds, then cut those individual pieces into sticks about 1cm square)

200g paneer, cubed

1 can coconut milk

2 onions, chopped or sliced

2 tsp ginger-garlic paste (available in all supermarkets and a fantastic storecupboard staple for Asian and Indian food. If you can’t get it, a 1 inch piece of ginger and about 2 cloves of garlic, mashed together or chopped finely will do)

3 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp paprika powder or mild chilli powder

Parathas, naans, chappatis or rotis to serve

Chop or slice the onions, and in the mean time bring your wok or large saucepan to a medium heat with some olive oil.

Add the onions and the ginger-garlic paste, and leave them for about 5 minutes to soften – this should be done on a low to medium heat, to get all the sweetness out of the onions.

Once that’s done, turn the heat up and add the garam masala and coriander powder. Indian food relies on the base of either onions or onions and tomatoes to be flavoured first, and strongly, then that flavour then being distributed across the rest of the dish. Adding the spices now will also help them cook a little and release the aromatics.

Now add the cubes of paneer. For the paneer to cook, it needs to brown on as many sides as possible – just like halloumi, basically. When the paneer looks beautifully golden, you can turn it over. The best way to do this is to leave the paneer in the pan for a few minutes on one side, on a medium heat, so that it browns, then to turn it over and shake everything around, let that sit for a few minutes too and then repeat etc.

When the paneer is browned on as many sides as you’d like, add the slices of aubergine.

I had salted the aubergine a few hours before, in the hopes of making the Pasta-That-Never-Was. I’d recommend doing that, because it draws out the moisture, meaning you have to use less oil to cook the aubergines. The easiest way to do this is to add about 2 tsp of salt per aubergine, to a tea towel so you can pat the aubergines dry before cooking. Leave them from anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour, bearing in mind that the longer you leave it, the less it needs to cook, meaning that you can eat that much faster. Always a good thing. Don’t forget to wash the aubergines in a colander or sieve before you cook them – this removes the excess salt but still makes sure they’re really salty so won’t need to add any more to the dish. If you haven’t salted your aubergines before-hand, about 1-2 tsp would do for this dish, and you can add it with the aubergine.

Stir the aubergines around and turn the heat up. In a few minutes you’ll see the skin start to blister and turn a lighter purple, and the paneer will get a little more golden. This is all good, and means your dish is about 15-20 minutes away from completion, hurray!

Keep this mix stirring, you want to coat everything in the yummy spices.

When the aubergine has cooked for about 5 minutes, add the can of coconut milk. Turn the heat up, so it bubbles a little, let it bubble for a few minutes then turn the heat back down again.

At this point, you can add the naans/chappatis/rotis in the oven to warm through. If you’re making parathas,

 Taste it now, and if you think it could use a little more salt or garam masala, add it now. This is also the time to add your paprika, so let that cook for a few more minutes.

When you think the spices have all mixed well and the coconut milk has thickened enough, the dish is probably done.

Garnish with chopped coriander if you have any, then serve with yoghurt and your breads!

Enjoy, let me know if it worked for you!