Archive for April, 2013

Falafels (★★★★☆)

I made falafels, yogurt herb sauce for the falafels and black bean burgers on Sunday.  I’ve already shared the yogurt herb sauce recipe and the falafel recipe is below.  I am not saving the best for last, as the black bean burgers were actually the one disappointment from Sunday’s experiments with new recipes.  The falafels, on the other hand, were a pleasant surprise.  I’m only giving them four stars because it’s been a long time since I had authentic falafels, and I’m not sure how these would actually compare to other falafels, but they are both good and easy to make, and unlike the black bean burgers, I likely will be making them again in the near future.

Part of the reason they were such a pleasant surprise is that most of the recipes I looked at wanted me to soak dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) overnight and/or refrigerate the falafel mix overnight after preparing and before frying.  Like my I-don’t-have-time-to-make-this-correctly Baked Potato Soup, I eschewed any steps that would make this unnecessarily time consuming, but unlike the baked potato soup, I don’t feel like the falafels suffered because of it.  I prepared the falafel mix in the early afternoon and fried them that same night, and the results were delicious.

Falafels (★★★☆)
Deep-fried balls made from ground chickpeas, a traditional Arab food, which I served in a toasted pita with sliced lettuce, cucumber and drizzled with yogurt herb sauce.

2 cans (15.5 oz each) of chickpeas/garbanzos beans, both thoroughly strained of as much liquid as possible
1 small vidalia onion
5-6 fresh cilantro sprigs
5-6 fresh parsley sprigs

8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ cup all-purpose flour

Cut the onion into a dozen or so pieces and put the onion, chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, garlic, cumin, cayenne and salt into the blender.  Pulse on speed 4 several times until everything is well mixed and no large pieces of cilantro, parsley, chickpea or onion remain.

Add the baking soda and a tablespoon of flour into the mix, and pulse several times until the baking soda and flour is evenly mixed in.

Put the mixture into a mixing bowl, add the rest of the flour, mix by hand until the flour is evenly mixed in, then refrigerate for at least a few hours (overnight is fine) before cooking.

To cook, heat an inch of vegetable oil in a pan to 190°C (350-375°F).  My wife’s trick for knowing when the oil is hot enough is to put the tip of the wooden cooking chopsticks we use in the oil.  If you put the tip of wooden chopsticks (or of a wooden spoon) in and the oil bubbles, it’s ready to use.  Form balls just a little larger than golf ball size, and drop them in the pan.  Fry them for one minute, then turn them over and fry them for another minute and they’re ready.  I served them in a toasted pita with sliced lettuce, cucumber and drizzled with yogurt herb sauce.

The result was surprisingly good.  I can also look at the above ingredients and say, “Hey, I really like garlic, chickpeas and cilantro, I’ll probably like this,” so it’s no surprise to me that this was good, but I was surprised at how good both the sauce and falafels were together, and how easy this was to make.  I definitely recommend trying this recipe out.

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Yogurt Herb Sauce (★★★★★)

Before writing up the Falafel recipe, I thought I would share the Yogurt Herb Sauce that I made to go with the falafels, as I think it was the sauce that made them as unexpectedly good as they were.

Yogurt Herb Sauce (★★★★★)
Highly recommended as a sauce to serve with falafels

1 cup plain yogurt
1 lemon worth of zest (only the very outer layer of the lemon)
½ lemon (for freshly squeezed juice)
3-4 fresh cilantro sprigs
6-7 fresh parsley sprigs
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt, to taste

Use a bread knife or other serrated knife to take just the outermost layer of the lemon rind, putting the zest into the blender, and squeeze half a lemon worth of juice in, taking care not to let any seeds in.  Put everything else but salt in the blender and pulse blend until no large pieces of cilantro or parsley remain.  Add salt to taste, then chill until ready to use.

Both this herb sauce and the falafels are pretty easy to make, and I’ll likely be making them again in the near future.

Homemade Grown-up Polar Cup (★★★★★)

To celebrate this blog getting 25,000 hits, I decided to try to make something new this weekend.  In fact, it turned into a very busy weekend for the blender, as I made Frozen Mocha Frappuccino, peanut butter and chocolate milk shakes on Saturday, and Falafels (new!) with Yogurt Herb Sauce (new!) and Black Bean Burger Patties (also new!) on Sunday.  But while those three will also all see their recipes shared in the near future, the recipe that really pleasantly surprised me tonight was something I tried on a whim that worked out really well.

After picking up a whole bag of lemons for a recipe that only needed one (Yogurt Herb Sauce for my Falafels), I decided to try to make a lemonade similar to the Newman’s Own diet lemonade that we get.  It’s really good, and it’s made with real sugar and stevia as it’s sweeteners.  That mix of sweeteners works really well in the lemonade, which is what got me to try it in my own creation.

Homemade Grown-up Polar Cup (★★★★★)
I don’t know whether to describe this as a loose italian ice, thick frozen beverage or what polar cups would taste like if they were made for adults instead of kids, but it is all of those things, and it is very good.

2 lemons (both zest and juice)
stevia
sugar
ice/water

Use a bread knife or other serrated knife to take just the outermost layer of the lemon rind, putting the zest into the blender.  Squeeze the juice from both lemons into the blender, taking care not to allow any seeds into the blender.  Add three packets of stevia sweetener and an equal amount of sugar.  (four if the lemons are large)  Add a glass of ice and blend until the mixture is too icy to blend.  Add a bit of ice and water for the desired consistency, and additional sweetener to taste.   Pulse blend on high with the tamper to insure no ice chunks remain.

Very simple to make, very good. The zest is the difference, as I’ve definitely done variations of this before with just lemon juice, and it does not have the same level of flavor that the addition of zest gives it.  I’ve got three more lemons in the fridge and will probably be making this again this week.

25,000 Views!

25,000 Views!

Wow! When I started this blog back in 2011, I didn’t expect it would ever see this many views! Thanks for reading!

New Refurbished blender option available at Vitamix.com

I don’t know exactly how new this is, but I hadn’t noticed it before today.

Someone asked about the difference between a Creations Elite and the Vitamix 7500 on this post, and to answer them, I went over to Vitamix.com to find the page that says:   “Certified Reconditioned Next Generation blenders may reflect one of the following labels: 7500, Professional Series 300, or Creations Elite.”

While I was there, I noticed an option I hadn’t seen before:

Certified Reconditioned Standard Programs

Basically, like the Certified Reconditioned Next Generation blender, which can be one of the three, basically identical, models mentioned above, the “Certified Reconditioned Standard Programs blenders may reflect one of the following labels: 6300 or Professional Series 500.” (That’s a direct quote from that link)

Now, at $329 for the older 5200/Creations II model, $379 for the programmable versions and $399 for the 7500/Pro 300/Creations Elite, if someone were to ask me what my recommendation would be, I’d have a very easy answer.

$399 is the best price for the 7500 I’ve seen anywhere, and I absolutely love mine.

My mom loves my old Creations II/5200 that I gave her, and if I didn’t have either, and couldn’t swing the $399 but I could swing the $329, I would definitely be satisfied with the older 5200.  For me, I just don’t want the programmable functionality enough to be interested in the 6300 or 500.  I’m sure there’s a group they’re appealing to, after all, the Blendtecs tend to be all about programmed buttons, but I honestly just prefer the analog control and the appeal of being hands on with my blender when I’m using it.

Anyway, all of the above prices are refurbished models over at the Vitamix website, but with the 5-year warranty and the ridiculous service (those are two separate links) Vitamix has, it’s what this penny pincher finds the most compelling bargain on a Vitamix.  (I can say as many nice things about Vitamix as I can unkind things about United, their 5-year warranty is amazing.)  I do recommend, based on their excellent service, purchasing directly from Vitamix.com.

The Best Tasting Banana Milk (★★★★★)

I have a lot of posts about Banana Milk.  15 entries that precede this one mention Banana Milk, but none that specifically list it as a recipe the way I’d recommend it to someone today, so here that is:

The Best Tasting Banana Milk (★★★★★)
The best tasting Banana Milk I know how to make

1 frozen banana
milk
soymilk

Add a mix of approximately half milk and half soy milk, along with the banana, to the blender jar, adding enough milk/soymilk to blend the banana into a creamy, milkshake like consistency.  It’s very important to use the tamper when making this to avoid having any banana chunks remaining.  I find I get the best results when I blend it on high for about 20-30 seconds using the tamper while blending, then check the consistency, adding more milk if needed, and then blending for another 20-30 seconds before serving.

You can adjust the milk/soymilk ratio as you like, I tend to like a little more milk than soymilk in the mix, but I definitely prefer the mix of milk and soy milk to either just milk or just soy milk.

As someone who owned the Vitamix 5200 and now owns and uses the Vitamix 7500/Pro 300, there is small difference in making Banana Milk with the two.  (I made a post with a video of me making Banana Milk in both.)  With the wider 7500/Pro 300 blender, I find it’s easier to make Banana Milk when you’re making two bananas worth, but you can absolutely do it with just one.  Unlike with the 5200, there’s no real benefit from breaking the banana into two pieces before putting it in the blender jar.

I-don’t-have-time-to-make-this-correctly Baked Potato Soup (★★★☆☆)

After a long, fun day that included a buffet for lunch, we just wanted some nice soup, salad and bread for a light dinner, and I figured that was a good reason to try making a new soup with the Vitamix.  All things considered, I think the soup turned out pretty darn good.

I-don’t-have-time-to-make-this-correctly Baked Potato Soup (★★★☆☆)
The potatoes are microwaved, not baked, and everything basically got cooked and thrown together in a rush, and it still turned out tasting pretty darn good.

2 cups of milk  (used whole milk we get from a local farm)
2 medium-large Russet potatoes
2-3 slices of bacon (used two thick, fatty strips made at a local farm)
⅔ cup of shredded cheese (preferably cheddar, but I only had a cheese blend that included cheddar)
½ onion
½ teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon salt

To cook the potatoes, I washed/scrubbed each, poked holes in the skin with a fork, rubbed a small amount of olive oil on the skin, wrapped the potato in saran wrap and then placed on in the microwave for three minutes.

While the first potato was microwaving, I gathered all the other ingredients I would need and started cooking the bacon.

I took out the first potato and started cooking the second potato for three minutes.  While it cooked, I cooked the bacon, put the milk, half the cheese, salt and dillweed in the blender, cut the half onion into small pieces and put it in with the bacon to start cooking in the bacon fat.  (Probably not the healthiest way to saute the onion, but it tastes good!)

When the second potato finished, I put the first potato in upside down for two minutes (it was the smaller of the two potatoes), took out my bacon, putting half into the blender, and then taking out the onions, putting them all into the blender.

When the first potato finished, I threw it into the blender and turned it on.  I put the second potato in, upside down, for three minutes and allowed everything (except the remaining potato, bacon and cheese) to blend on high in the blender while the last potato finished being microwaved.

When the last potato finished, I took off most of its skin and threw it into the blender, which was still running.  I put the hot potato, remaining cheese and remaining bacon on a plate and turned the blender down to the lowest speed before putting them in the blender.  I let the bacon, cheese and potato blend for about 10 seconds and then turned the blender off.

The result was surprisingly good.  I waffled on whether to give it three or four stars, but the fact that my kids didn’t finish theirs (although they didn’t finish their bread or salads either) and that I’m sure it tastes much better with proper baked potatoes kept me from giving it four stars.

I was a bit concerned about putting potatoes in the blender after my experience decimating potatoes trying to make mashed potatoes, and to be honest, the soup every so slightly reminded me of the texture of the decimated potatoes in the post I linked above.  If I was trying to make homemade soup with fresh, raw ingredients in 15 minutes, I’d absolutely do this again, but I’d probably dial the blender to 5 or 6 instead of 10, since I think it was a bit overkill.

Hopefully either the recipe or my experience/thoughts help someone!  If I ever try making this with proper mashed potatoes, I’ll post about whether it makes a big difference or not.

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