Posts Tagged ‘ ★★★★★ ’

It’s all about the ingredients! (Acorn Squash Soup and Apple Pancakes, both ★★★★★!!)

Still using my blender a lot.  It’s easier to find time for the blender than for posting here these days, but I am definitely trying new things, and will post some of the better ones when I get a chance.

First off, we visited an apple orchard this weekend, where we got some acorn squash and fresh apples.  The apples we picked ourselves off the trees, but the acorn squash was something the owner has picked that morning.  We used the blender to make Acorn Squash Soup again, and it was unbelievably good.  The only change was the acorn squash, but it was an important one, and we devoured a whole squash worth of soup.

On the way home from the orchard, we also visited a local farm that sold, among other things, fresh eggs.  We used the blender to blend flour, eggs and milk into batter for apple pancakes, and making the pancakes with cinnamon powdered apple slices from the orchard apples to make what might have been the most amazing pancakes I’ve had in my entire life.

I’ll post more later, but for now, the weekend is over, and I need to brush my teeth and get some sleep for Monday.

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World’s Best Hot Chocolate (★★★★★), Jalapeno V6 (★★★☆☆)

Didn’t post yesterday, but definitely used the blender for a few different things today and yesterday, so I’ll just post the first half of the recipes here:

World’s Best Hot Chocolate (★★★★★)
This is unbelievably good and highly recommended

2 cups of whole milk
6 tablespoons of cocoa powder
3 tablespoons of sugar
a small splash of vanilla extra
salt (just the tiniest amount)

Blend everything on high until the Vitamix 5200 heats the milk enough to turn it into hot cocoa.  Steam will rise from the top.  Drink immediately.  You can tweak the cocoa and sugar, but this is the mix I like, and it’s easier to make with larger portions, harder with smaller portions.

(Feb 2013 EditHere are some things I learned the hardway in experimenting with the above recipe:

  • Don’t use stevia as a substitute for part of the sugar
  • Don’t throw a Hershey’s Kiss in thinking it will improve the taste of the cocoa
  • Don’t add too much vanilla (granted, that was on accident.)

The other thing I’ve learned is that rather than heat it in the blender, mixing it thoroughly, then heating it in a sauce pan, taking care to not boil it, seems to be the best way to make this.)

Jalapeno V6(★★★☆☆)
This is better than I expected, but probably not for most people.

¾ cup of tomato puree
¼ celery stalk
1 romaine lettuce heart
several sprigs of cilantro
½ green pepper, with seeds and white insides spooned out
1 jalapeño pepper, halved length-wise, with seeds and white insides spooned out
1 fresh Ginger Gold apple, quartered with seeds and stem removed
salt (to taste)
2 dozen ice cubes

Blend everything but the ice cubes, then add ice cubes through the top of the lid while the blender is on high.

Hopefully I can post about the Banana Milk variant and other green smoothie later today.

Kinako Powder (★★★★★), Homemade Salsa (★★★★☆) and Acorn Squash Soup (★★★★☆)

Today was a very, very successful day with the blender.  First, early this morning, I made a great green smoothie.  Sadly, I don’t really remember everything that went into it, as it’s been a busy Saturday, and the blender was used several times after the green smoothie.

We went shopping at the Asian Supermarket that we like to visit and I bought all kinds of fun fruits and greens, including Water Spinach (which I’ve never had before), Asian Pears, Nashi Pears (different from the Asian Pears we bought, and more like the photo in the wikipedia link),  pomegranates and jalapeno peppers, among other things.

The first thing I made after the green smoothie this morning was kinako powder, which I mentioned yesterday.

Kinako Powder (★★★★★)
Extremely easy to make, and grinds to a fantastic consistency

roasted, unsalted soybeans

Grind on high until you have the powder consistency you want.  It’s that easy.

We used that kinako powder as part of a very easy, and very good recipe for kinako mochi dango.  If anyone is interested, I’ll gladly share it.

That afternoon, after we returned from shopping, I decided to try my hand at making homemade salsa, but didn’t want to waste too many tomatoes on salsa no one wanted to eat, so here’s what I did:

Homemade Salsa (★★★★☆)
Easier and better than expected, and definitely something I’ll experiement with

¾ cup of tomato puree
¾ red onion
3 jalapeño peppers, halved length-wise, with seeds and white insides spooned out
several sprigs of cilantro
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon lemon juice from concentrate
3 ripe roma tomatoes, halved
salt

DSC_8762

First, I put everything but the tomatoes in, and ran the blender on high until everything was blended in.  Then I cranked the speed down to three and threw the tomatoes in all at once and threw the lid back on.  I let the tomatoes blend for about 10 seconds with the salsa, stirring with the tamper to make sure everything was mixed up.  Then I just put everything in a bowl and in the fridge to cool down.

We devoured the salsa within the hour.  Here’s the crazy part…I definitely felt like I’d done a poor job in my first effort.  I just threw things in hodgepodge, didn’t even bother using just real tomatoes, substituting tomato puree for half of that role, I didn’t use fresh lemon juice, and it was my first try, but my wife loved it and we went through the whole bowl, which was over three cups worth.

I wanted to rate it three stars instead of four, but my wife raved about it so much that I feel it deserves at least four stars.  I don’t think she’s raved that much about anything from the blender yet, and I definitely see some room for improvement in future batches.  For one, fresh lemon or lemon juice and real tomatoes is obvious, but I also think there might be room for a touch of vinegar and/or bell peppers, and that better ingredient ratios and mixing duration and order can help as well.  Hopefully the next batch is even better, but there’s definitely something to be said for making fresh salsa from fresh vegetables and greens, and I highly recommend trying your own version yourself.

Acorn Squash Soup (★★★★☆)
My version’s only a small change from the Vitamix’s Whole Food Recipes cookbook

1½ cups chicken broth (using 2 cups worth of bouillon cubes)
1 cup of whole milk
½ medium acorn squash, cooked, peeled and seeded
1 teaspoon maple syrup
pinch of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

First, I tried to prepare the acorn squash half by putting it in a pot of boiling water.  Right around the time the water came to a boil I found an article on the Internet that gave microwaving as one of the ways to cook acorn squash, but warned to never boil it.  I took the squash out and put it in the microwave for 10 minutes.  While that cooked, I prepared chicken broth and put the pumpkin seeds in the oven to bake.  When the squash was done I put it, and all the other ingredients (I accidentally put more nutmeg and cinnamon than I listed above), in the blender and turned it on high for several minutes.

Acorn Squash Soup

The soup was very good, and since I know how much sugar, butter and maple syrup went into the other half when baked it, I’d much rather have the soup version over the oven version going forward. 🙂

Kinako Banana Milk (★★★★★) and Simple Hot Green Soup (★★☆☆☆)

I just made a ridiculously good Banana Milk, and I wanted to post about it before I forget.

My wife and I are going to a お月見 (moon viewing) party on Sunday, and my wife’s going to make dango for it.  One of the common flavors/coatings for dango is kinako, which is powdered soybean and a bit of sugar, and it tastes better than it sounds.

To make our own kinako, as we couldn’t find any at the local asian store, I picked up some roasted, unsalted soybeans, and I plan to use the blender to turn it into kinako.  I haven’t blended any of the soybeans into powder yet, but when I was looking for something to sate my sweet tooth after dinner, my wife suggested mixing some kinako powder, and adding it to a banana milk.  Better yet, I could just make it a one step process and throw the roasted soybeans in with the Banana Milk!

Kinako Banana Milk (★★★★★)
A great Japanese version of a Banana Milk

1 frozen banana
a handful of roasted, unsalted soybeans
milk

The best technique is to break the banana into two or three parts before putting it in the blender, then blending with the tamper in, slowly raising the speed to just below whatever speed the banana bounces out of control at.

Now, at this point, I had the milk ratio down pat, and I threw in a decent amount of soybean as well.  I blended it for about 20 seconds on the way to high, and another 30 seconds at high.  Very, very tasty, and highly recommended.

As for actually making kinako powder, that’s probably something I’ll be able to comment on tomorrow.

I also made some hot soup as part of lunch, as the yakisoba I had for lunch didn’t fill me up.

Simple Hot Green Soup (★★☆☆☆)

½ cup of tomato puree
¼ onion
½ romaine lettuce heart
3 large celery sticks
a handful of mustard greens
several sprigs of cilantro
dash of ground cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
hot water (to desired consistency)
salt (to taste)

Blend everything but the hot water, then add hot water for desired consistency, run on high until you reach the desired temperature, and salt to taste.

As with yesterday’s soup, it’s much better than the two stars suggests, but I wouldn’t say it was necessarily better than the Spicy Tomato Soup (★★☆☆☆) I made yesterday, so I gave it the same rating.

It’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 days since I got my Vitamix 5200, especially considering how many times I’ve used it, but I am absolutely loving it.  I hope I can keep finding fun things to make in it for a long while to come, even if the current pace is pretty unsustainable. 🙂

My first Sunday with the blender (Dal Curry Soup, Good and Bad Green Smoothies and Hummus)

So today was a pretty busy day for my new Vitamix 5200 blender.  In fact, I’ve used it far more this weekend than I thought you could use a blender in a weekend.  What can I say?  I like my new toy, and when clean up is as easy as putting a few drops of dish soap in with water and turning it on again, it’s not like there’s much reason to not use it.

The first thing I made this morning was Banana Milk, again.  I figure I’ll list out my recipes today, in case anyone’s interested in the details:

Banana Milk (★★★★★)
This simple combination is amazing in any blender strong enough to sufficiently blend up a frozen banana

1 frozen banana
milk

Adjust the level of milk to taste, blend for a creamy, milkshake-esque drink.  (Edit:  The best technique is to break the banana into two or three parts before putting in the blender, then blending with the tamper in, slowly raising the speed to just below whatever speed the banana bounces out of control at.  Use less milk than needed, and then add milk for the desired consistency after the banana is blended in already.)

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this morning’s banana milk had a piece of frozen banana that kept being bounced up above the rest of the contents, and I just could get it out at high speed.  Maybe I cranked up to 10 and then high too fast?  Maybe it needs to be done at a lower speed until the banana is blended?  Maybe the quantity was too little?  I’ll figure it out.

I had a toasted frozen waffle and the banana milk for breakfast, but we were going to a Sunday Japanese language program my son is in, and I knew I’d be hungry before lunch if I didn’t have something more, so just before we left, I made a Tasty Green Smoothy.

Tasty Green Smoothie (★★★★☆)
Seriously, it’s pretty good

100g of fresh spinach leaves
1 fresh Jonamac apple, quartered with seeds and stem removed
12-15 frozen raspberries
a splash of orange juice

blend on high for 60 seconds.

It was surprisingly good.  The best green smoothie I’ve had so far to be sure.

That afternoon, after we returned home, I figured I’d make some Hummus to tide us over until dinner, since we’d had a very light lunch.  The recipe was pretty much straight from the cookbook that came with the Vita-Mix, and it was pretty good:

Hummus (★★★★★)
Hummus tastes good.  This tastes great.

2 Goya cans of Chick Peas/Garbanzos (15.5 oz), one strained, one with all the water from the can
¼ cup of raw sesame seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup of lemon juice
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin

Now, the original recipe called for some salt, to season to taste, but it was pretty darn good without any salt, and we enjoyed it on naan bread and celery sticksMy wife lamented the lack of pita chips in the house, which would have been a nice way to enjoy it.

Since I was on a good streak, I figured I’d make another green smoothie, the Worst Green Smoothie Ever.

Worst Green Smoothie Ever (☆☆☆☆☆)
I award this no stars, and may God have mercy on those who try this.

1 bunch of mustard greens
1 frozen banana
1 fresh Jonamac apple, quartered with seeds and stem removed
way too much fresh ginger

Mustard greens probably don’t belong in green smoothies at all, but potent ginger combined with it to really keep it from being something anyone would want to drink.  I watered it down and cooled it with ice cubes, and cold and diluted enough it was merely bad and actually drinkable.  Now I’m trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the mustard greens I’ve got.  I don’t think belong in green smoothies.

For dinner, I slightly altered the Vitamix Dal Soup that’s in the Vita-Mix Whole Foods cookbook, and was pleasantly surprised with the result.

Vitamix Dal Soup (★★★★☆)
Too watery to be curry, but really thick for a soup.  The fine red chilli pepper powder gives it the kick it needs.

1 cup dried lentils
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
6 cups (total) of hot water (from my Zojirushi water boiler*)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
4 cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon curry powder
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup tomato puree
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 baked potatoes with skin
4 sprigs of cilantro
fine red chilli pepper powder

1. I washed the two potatoes and then wrapped them in aluminum foil and put them in the oven at 400°F.  I would have put them in at 350, but I wanted them ready when everything else was done.

2. I washed the lentils several times with cold water until the water stopped clouding, then added the lentils, 1 garlic clove and 3 cups of hot water, and put them on the stove at medium heat.

3. While the potatoes cooked and the lentils absorbed the water, I added all the spices and tomato puree to the blender and turned it on for long enough to chop up the cardamom seeds.  While doing this, I was stirring the lentils.

4. I peeled my onion, cut it into pieces and cut up the other garlic clove, then I put them in a 2-quart pot with the olive oil and sautéed them.  While doing this, I was stirring the lentils.

5. Around this time, the lentils were finished, so I turned off the heat, and poured the spiced tomato puree into the pot with the onions and garlic, added another three cups of hot water and brought it to a boil before turning the heat off.

6. I put everything (potatoes, cilantro, lentils, etc.) in the blender, started on variable 1, cranked it up to 10 and then blended it on high.

7. After pouring bowls for my two kids, I added some red chilli powder, poured my wife a bowl, added a bit more red chilli powder and pour myself a bowl.

I added less water than the recipe called for, as I realized it’d be more watery than I’d originally imagined, and the red chilli pepper was another improvisation that I think turned out very well, as I like spicy Asian food.

Everyone enjoyed the soup, and the hummus was brought back out, even if it was a bit of bean overkill. It’s probably the only homecooked meal I’ve had in my life that qualifies as vegan, and that wasn’t intentional.  It tasted great, and that’s what I was hoping for.

All in all, four successes and one failure today, and I continue to be very pleased with my blender. 🙂

(*That link is there because I figure otherwise some people won’t know what I’m talking about)


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