Myra's Kitchen Blog  

Not Your Ordinary Jello Shot
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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In today’s gelatin shot video, I demonstrate how to make berry jigglers, also known as gelatin shots. In case just hearing the word “gelatin” makes you think of images of wobbly neon molds popular in bygone eras, think again. These delightful bites are made purely from berries, so they’re more like gelled fruit bites. They have only the minimal number of ingredients; and good quality gelatin makes these refreshing nibbles extra nutritious. Gelatin has many healing properties: it soothes the gut lining; it strengthens  bones, ligaments, skin and hair; and it regulates blood sugar. And that’s just the short list. To get the most healing benefits from these jiggers, make the effort to obtain powdered gelatin from grassfed cows, which is readily available nowadays.

In the video, I demonstrate two flavors of jigglers, beginning with the blueberry version. It hardly matters whether you use fresh or frozen fruit. Add 2 1/2 cups berries to a medium pot or saucepan along with 1/2 cup of liquid. In the demonstration, I use coconut water, but apple or other fruit juice works as well. Let the berries heat to a gentle bubble to soften. Then, blend the berries until smooth. This is a good occasion to use an immersion blender if you have one. Tilt the pot to make sure to blend the berries evenly without splattering. Transfer them to a bowl to cool for about 10 minutes. Gelatin dissolves best in warm liquid, not super hot.

I also demonstrate a version made with strawberries and raspberries. Working with berries with seeds requires an extra step; the seeds need to be strained. After the berries are heated and puréed, press them through a fine-meshed wire strainer.  Use the bottom of a ladle, rotating it in a circular motion to push the puree through quickly and efficiently. You’ll be left with just a handful of seeds in the strainer basket, which you can discard or give to the compost worms. Make sure to use a spatula to collect any of the puree that is stuck to the bottom of the strainer—that’s good stuff you don’t want to waste. Since raspberries tend to be a bit tart, stir in a tablespoon or so of honey to sweeten them just a tad.

Now it’s time to add the gelatin. Two tablespoons is the perfect amount to set each of these purees just right (neither too hard nor too loose). Sprinkle the powder evenly over the top, then stir the gelatin in until it’s completely dissolved. Next, pour the mix into molds and chill until set, about 2 hours or so. Use whatever you like or have for a mold. Some examples of kitchen favorites that make good molds include 8×8-inch baking pans, ice cube trays, or—my personal favorite, and the type that I show in the video—silicon mini muffin molds. These flexible molds make it especially easy to pop out the individual jigglers.

After the stint in the refrigerator, unmold by running a blunt knife or small spatula around the edge of the mold, then lift—or in the case of the silicon—pop out the pieces. If you’ve poured your puree into a baking dish, simply slice the jigglers into squares before lifting out the pieces with an offset spatula. Stack the jiggers in a covered container, and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

These shots are wonderful to keep on hand for an instant snack or low-key dessert. I like to eat a few of these in the morning instead of a piece of fruit.  Once you’ve made these a couple of times, I’m certain you’ll want to keep a regular stash. I know I do.

 

Acai Bowls
Thursday, June 25, 2015

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In today’s Video on how to make acai bowls, I show how to make a couple of fun frozen concoctions known as acai (pronounce ah-sigh-ee) bowls, which start with a base of acai berries.  These Amazonian berries look like a cross between grapes and blueberries, and their flavor resembles a cross between those of berries and chocolate.

Acai berries contain many beneficial compounds, such as powerful antioxidants, fiber, monounsaturated fats (oleic acid), and anthocyanins, which are all clinically proven to have health benefits.

Because they’re so low not only in sugar, but also in the acid that protects most fruits, they must be picked, processed, and flash frozen before being transported out of the Amazon. Otherwise the fruit would oxidize, turn brown, and lose its beneficial nutrients.

The berries are squeezed into juice or—my favorite—pureed into frozen smoothie packs. These are sold in the freezer section of natural food stores. You can take advantage of the packs by making delicious frozen treats without using an ice cream maker.  The only equipment required is a food processor.

In today’s video, I demonstrate two delicious bowls that are suitable for dessert, snacks, or even breakfast. Each one has healthy fat added to keep your blood sugar stable and help you feel satisfied for hours. They’re quick to make: You whirl a few ingredients together, then immediately eat what you’ve made. You can store leftovers in the freezer, but you do have to let them thaw before eating.

The first bowl that I demonstrate in the video is flavored with cherries, cocoa, and almonds, all of which complement the acai. Begin by adding 2 unsweetened smoothie packages to the bowl of a food processor. It’s best to let the acai pack sit out for 5 minutes or so to thaw slightly, so it’s not rock hard when you whirl it. Add a cup of frozen cherries, half a ripe avocado, a couple tablespoons cocoa powder, a tablespoon raw honey, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Now you’re ready to whirl, except you need to add about 1/2 cup of liquid to loosen up the mixture. (In the demo video I add coconut milk, but almond and cashew milk are both delicious as well.) A quick whirl in the food processor melds these ingredients into a luscious concoction. To add a bit of texture, top the two servings with a sprinkling of almonds and cocoa nibs, and a dash of cocoa powder.

The second bowl features bananas and almond butter. Again, start with two packages of acai smoothie packs, the contents broken into chunky pieces. Add one chopped frozen banana, 3 pitted medjool dates, a tablespoon almond butter, and a dash cinnamon. Loosen the whole mix with 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Again, a quick whirl transforms the whole mix into frozen ambrosia. Top this banana-almond acai bowl with large flakes of dried coconut and rosy goji berries.

These simple blends are so easy to make with ingredients that you can keep handy in your freezer and pantry. These bowls (which can serve as a snack, a breakfast, or a dessert) underscore that a luscious frozen treat can both satisfy a sweet tooth and be truly health-promoting.

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Chia Seed Puddings
Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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In today’s video of chia seed puddings, I show how to make two delicious chia seed puddings. Chia seeds are touted for their powerful salutary benefits: Included among their vital nutrients are protein, fiber, antioxidants, and ALA (alpha-linoleic acid), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. It seems that nowadays people are shaking these micro-seeds into everything from cereals to salads, from baked goods to beverages. I’m not a fan of the dry chia sprinkle: Chia seeds are most digestible when allowed to soak and swell. Therefore, I favor adding them to blended concoctions, then leaving enough time for the tiny powerhouses to plump. The result is thickened puddings with luscious pebbly beads, reminiscent of tapioca.

The procedure for making chia seed pudding is quick, simple, and consistent. Whiz together a flavorful blend, stir in some chia, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the seeds to thicken. The array of potential flavor permutations are vast. In the video, I demonstrate two berry-based puddings, each one ideal to savor alone or to layer into a colorful parfait.  You’ll need a stand blender to pulverize the ingredients; a high-powered blender is the gold standard, but it’s not essential.

The first purée that I show has a base of blueberries. Start with 2 cups of the fruit, either fresh or frozen. If you’re using frozen, let the berries rest a few minutes to defrost. Add 1/2 cup cashews, ideally after having soaked them for 2 hours before draining. Soaking the cashews allows for maximum nutrient absorption and digestibility. The sweetener in this pudding is a mere 4 dates. Any variety of date (make sure to remove the pit!) is fine, but the medjool variety is the softest and sweetest. This resulting pudding is sweet enough without being cloying. A couple tablespoons coconut oil—virgin or aroma-free—will also help keep your blood sugar stable as well as ensure that the pudding has a luxurious texture. One tablespoon vanilla and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon complete the flavorings. A cup of liquid is necessary for proper blending. In the video, I use coconut water, but plain water would be fine as well. Give the ingredients a good whiz until well combined. Transfer the purée to a bowl or container, then stir in 6 tablespoons chia. The micro seeds need a bit of time to work their magic and swell. Transfer the pudding to the refrigerator and leave for 30 minutes minimum, preferably longer.

The next strawberry chia delight that I show in the video is simplicity itself. Blend well 3 cups strawberries (if frozen, defrost a bit), 1/4 cup raw honey, and 3/4 cup coconut milk, which lends the needed richness and body to the finished dish. Add a splash vanilla, and give a long enough whiz in the blender until the base is smooth. Transfer to a bowl or container, and stir in 1/4 cup chia. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, but longer is even better to allow for the seeds to expand as much as possible.

The puddings last refrigerated for at least a week, and they each yield 4 to 6 luscious servings. Either of them alone—or the two in combination—can make a great snack or low-sugar dessert. You can also leave them refrigerated for a convenient grab-and-go breakfast. One favorite breakfast of mine is the combination of puddings layered in a parfait or martini glass with sheep’s milk yogurt. The blend tastes tart and sweet, looks gorgeous, and contains just enough fat, fiber, and fruit to keep you happily sated until lunch.

 

Toffee-Ginger Nut Squares
Sunday, December 22, 2013

            Delicious treats are part of the joy of any celebration. In this video, I show you how to make one of my absolute favorite delectables: toffee-ginger nut squares.  These melt-in-your-mouth bars are nutty, buttery, gingery, and salty—a taste combination that lingers tinglingly on your palette. Even a small square is satisfying. You can make up a batch and freeze them. You can even make these gluten-free, by replacing the pastry flour with sorghum flour. Best of all, these bite-sized morsels make special edible holiday gifts your loved ones will really appreciate.

Toffee-Ginger Nut Squares

            Start by buttering an 8×8 baking dish, then line it with parchment that overhangs the edges on two sides; these handles are convenient for when you transfer the finished bars to the cutting board. Begin with the crust. Sift together one cup of whole wheat pastry flour with ¼ teaspoon each baking powder and salt, and set it aside. Use an electric or hand mixer to beat 6 tablespoons butter with 1/3 cup of maple sugar (or any other unprocessed granulated sugar) for a couple of minutes, until well-combined. Then beat in the sifted flour mixture, followed by ¼ cup finely chopped nuts. In the video, I make the squares with pecans, but cashews and macadamia nuts are delicious as well. Press the crust (which looks crumbly at first) into the prepared baking dish, and bake it for 10 minutes in a 350˚F preheated oven, just until lightly colored.

            While the crust is baking, make the topping. Melt 6 tablespoons butter and ¾ cup chopped pecans (use the same variety of nuts that you added to the crust) in a small pot. Cook for a couple of minutes over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the butter is foamy and the nuts are fragrant. Then stir in the rest of the ingredients: ¼ cup maple sugar (or the same sugar that you used for the crust), 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup, and ½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger. Let the mixture simmer for a couple of minutes.

            Whisk two eggs in a medium bowl. Add the hot liquid slowly at first to temper the eggs, then faster as the eggs warm. Stir in 2 tablespoons pastry flour (or sorghum flour). Pour this mix, spreading evenly with a spatula, over the crust; bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top sets and develops a luscious caramel color. Let the squares cool to room temperature in the pan, then sprinkle the top with coarse sea salt; lightly press the salt granules into the top. Using the flaps of the parchment as handles, lift the bars out of the pan and transfer them to a cutting board.  Cut into squares: sixteen if they are for a full dessert, and twenty-five if they are tea treats or holiday gifts. Keep the squares covered, at room temperature, for up to five days, refrigerate them for up to two weeks, or freeze to have on hand any time. This way, you’ll have an exciting delight ready for when you have guests over, or for when you want a little extra pleasure. Happy holidays!

Toffee-Ginger Nut Squares

Toffee-Ginger Nut Squares

 

Amaretti Cookies
Friday, December 14, 2012

Amaretti cookies are chewy Italian cookies studded with pine nuts. These are festive enough for your holiday gift-giving but simple enough to make any time. This video shows the ins and outs of making these gluten-free cookies.

Amaretti Cookies

I start with 2 cups almond flour, then add 1½ cups natural sugar. My favorite sweetener for these is maple sugar, but succanat ™ and rapadura™ work as well. Keep in mind that different natural sugars affect the flavor and moisture and can alter the texture slightly. I then stir in a pinch of salt and a couple teaspoons almond extract to heighten the almond flavor. The next step is to whip three egg whites in a separate bowl until they form peaks. You can do this by hand or with a hand-held or stand mixer, but my tool of choice to make the job efficient is an immersion blender. I then stir the fluffy egg whites into the flour mix. Finally, I brown the butter. I melt half a stick of butter, and cook it until it is copper-colored and fragrantly nutty. I keep a watchful eye on the pot after the butter melts—the process takes only a few minutes, and I want to make sure to stir the butter into the batter when it is browned, not burnt.

At this point, I’m ready to form cookies. The batter is sticky, so using 2 spoons is the easiest way to drop the batter onto a parchment-covered baking tray. In order to leave enough room for these cookies to spread, I use 2 trays and drop the batter 1 ½ inches apart, making about 30 cookies. I sprinkle each cookie with pine nuts before it goes into a 300˚F oven to bake. Halfway through the cooking, after ten minutes, I rotate the trays to help them to color evenly. They smell heavenly while they bake.

Once I’ve let the cookies cool, I store the extras in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or I freeze them for up to two months. What a wonderful way to start off the holiday season.

 

Mediterranean Catering
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I’ve been cooking a lot of Mediterranean food lately, for all kinds of events.

This one featured dukkah-crusted stuffed medallions of chicken. I filled boneless breasts with caramelized onions and garlic-sautéed spinach, then coated the breasts with flour, egg, and dukkah. Dukkah is a combination of toasted pistachios, sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. (It’s a great mix to have on hand to jazz up a meal.) The breasts were sautéed, then finished in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts Coated with Dukkah

I then sliced them with an electric saw to get these beautiful even cuts. Best thing about these breasts is that they stay tender, even when reheated the next day.

Sliced Stuffed Chicken

 

I also made Moroccan-braised short ribs. I had previously been making these with lamb shanks, but the short ribs worked as well. I salted, peppered, and browned the  short ribs first, then sautéed sliced red onions until tender. I added some harissa, garlic, ginger, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, and cooked the spices for a couple of minutes.  I then added a jar of roasted red peppers and some stock, brought the liquid to a boil, and then transferred the baking pan to the oven. The dish braised at 325˚F. for 2 ½ hours. I pulled the dish out of the oven, added some dried apricots and figs, and returned it to the oven to cook uncovered at 500˚F. for another 30 minutes to brown. The ribs by this time were falling off the bone.

Moroccan-Braised Short Ribs

I tossed carrots, parsnips, and butternut squash with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, chicken stock (vegetable stock is good as well), cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cayenne and place them in the oven to braise at 375˚F. for about 45 minutes.  Then I let the vegetables cook another 20 minutes uncovered so that they could color.

Braise-Roasted Vegetables

For dessert, I made the coconut chocolate mousse from The Healthy Hedonist, layered with berry sauce and cashew cream made from cashews blended with coconut milk, maple sugar, and vanilla.

Coconut Chocolate Mousse Parfaits

I also made the cakes-in-a-jar for gifts, only this time they were topped off with whipped cream.  Thank goodness I had done a test run. (See previous post for how to make these.) They were a hit.

Topped off with Whipped Cream

The salad was an herbed watercress and orange blossom vinaigrette salad with roasted beets and was sprinkled with pistachios. This is how a single serving looked.

Watercress, Herb, and Beet Salad

All of these dishes stored well and could be made in advance, which was, after all, the whole idea.

 

Cake-in-a-Jar
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Next week I am going to be making about 40 cakes-in-a-jar for a catering job, so I spent some time in the kitchen working out the technical challenges. I’ve been having a blast experimenting. These packed jars are not only adorable, they are delicious as well. My version here has chocolate cake, layers of raspberry or strawberry jam, and a thick layer of ganache.

Ready for the Lid

I’ve been using pint ball jars, which serve two, and are a good size for gifts.  The smaller 1-cup ball jars are perfect for individual servings.

First I coat the jars with spray. I rarely use spray fat, but since I’m about to make over 40 cakes, I’m looking to streamline the process. Plus, I just found a coconut oil spray from Spectrum.

First you Prep the Jars

Next, I spoon a layer of jam on the bottom. I’ve used strawberry and raspberry jam, for the color as well as the flavor. It’s a treat to dig up with a long spoon the cooked jam under the baked cake.

Dollop a Layer of Jam

Use any favorite chocolate cake recipe and fill the containers half full. A cake recipe that makes two layer cakes is perfect for 6 pint-sized jars. I baked the cakes at 350˚ for about 25 minutes. Don’t worry, the jars won’t explode or anything — this is like baking in pyrex. The cakes do take a little less time than when they’re in cake pans, so check on them a little earlier than you might otherwise.

Ready to Bake

The cakes emerge from the oven looking like they’ve risen too high, but they settle a lot after a few minutes.

Fresh out of the Oven

After 10 minutes

I then added a bit more jam around the top dome to fill in the gap (for 6 cakes you will need a 16-ounce jar) as well as a thick layer of ganache on top. (I flavored my ganache with Chambord.) Keep in mind that the weight of the ganache will eventually sink the cake about an inch. That makes the whole cake compress and taste extra fudgey. The whole concoction tastes like a trifle.

Screw on the lid and refrigerate. These are tastiest if you refrigerate them for a couple of hours before eating to let the ganache settle.

Refrigerated Cakes

The cakes stay fresh for at least five days.  Dig a long spoon in and get all of the layers in each bite. (I feel positively naughty eating these, kind of like I’ve been caught eating out of the jar.)

A Spoonful of Decadence

The larger ones are fun to share. Pass the jar around, and dig in. At least it’s not illegal.

 

 

 


Photo: Tess Steinkolk

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