Monday, November 16, 2015

Copycat Starbucks hazelnut Frappucino

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My kids have always loved coffee.

My older son, now 16, developed a taste for coffee with milk (not milk with coffee) when he was a toddler. The Starbucks baristas gave him some funny looks when he ordered his own decaf before he could see over the counter.

My younger son, now 13, drinks his coffee black most of the time. Decaf, of course - we'll never know if the old wives' tales about caffeine stunting your growth hold water, but I don't take any chances in the height department given my five-foot-nothing stature.

Younger son, however, also has a sweet tooth. When he spent his allowance one too many times on a huge-ass blended coffee drink, with its many, many grams of added sugar, I decided to bribe him with a copycat version where I control what goes into the blender.

This copycat Starbucks hazelnut Frappucino tastes better than the original, in my opinion. I buy sugar-free hazelnut syrup via Amazon Prime. Not even the 13-year-old minds the lack of sugar.



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Copycat Starbucks hazelnut Frappucino
This hazelnut-flavored blended iced coffee drink has a fraction of the sugar and calories of the real thing. Trying to cut down on added sugar and trim your expensive coffee habit? This recipe is for you.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar-free hazelnut syrup
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Whipped cream (optional)
Instructions
Add ice cubes to blender. Pulse a few times to break the ice into smaller pieces. (If your ice maker generates crushed ice, use that instead.)Add coffee, almond milk, syrup and cinnamon to the blender. Blend on high until smooth, about 30 seconds.Pour into two glasses, dividing evenly. Top with whipped cream if desired. Serve immediately.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 large servings

Monday, September 14, 2015

Grain-free cheese cookies (call them crackers if you must)

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Disclosure: I received this particular block of cheese from Cabot as a gift, although I also buy quite a lot of it on my own dime.

I've been cutting back on grains lately, but that hasn't stopped me from craving cookies and crackers.

And then I made a miraculous discovery.

Replace the all-purpose flour in my Parmesan Smoked Paprika Crackers with almond flour or almond meal and you end up with cheese crackers (or cheese "cookies," as I prefer to call them) that are even more delicious than the originals.

These cheese crackers are also gluten-free, grain-free, and the perfect snack for people following a mostly-Paleo or LCHF (low carbohydrate, high fat) way of eating. (Some Paleo people eat dairy occasionally, as I understand it.)

Here's the basic recipe. I used Seriously Sharp Cheddar from Cabot Creamery, one of my favorites, but you can use any shredded hard cheese - Parmesan, Gouda, Jarlsberg, or any strong cheddar cheese. Feel free to add herbs or spices to suit your taste.

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Paleo Cheese Cookies or Paleo Cheese Crackers
Crisp, crumbly and extra cheesy, these easy cheese crackers contain three ingredients and bake for just 15 minutes. A perfect snack for those eating a grain-free, gluten-free, Paleo or LCHF.
Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup almond flour or almond meal
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (substitute any shredded hard cheese)
Instructions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.Blend all ingredients together in a bowl with a wooden spoon or hand mixer, or use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix (aggressively if you're doing it  by hand) until a smooth dough forms.Roll 1-inch balls of dough between your palms and place on two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each dough ball. Flatten the balls slightly with your fingers. Bake 15 minutes, or until the edges of the crackers start to brown. Cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove the crackers to a rack to finish cooling.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: about 24 crackers

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Paleo fried chicken with almond crust

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I've been trying to eat fewer grains lately. This is tough for me - no one is a bigger fan of the white starch category than I am. But hey, I'm coming up on 50. I figure it's time to make a few adjustments.

I came across a few "Paleo" recipes for fried chicken coated with almond meal instead of flour. I doubt I'll ever move all the way over to a true Paleo diet - it's pretty restrictive - but I thought I'd give almond-crusted fried chicken a try.

It. Was. Stupendous.

I went full-on Paleo and fried the chicken thighs in coconut oil, but if you're not following the Paleo diet strictly you can use any other high-heat frying oil, like grapeseed oil or canola oil.

ON THE SIDE: I served my fried chicken with my Not Ketchup fruit "ketchup" sauces, of course. Sweet and tangy, they're the perfect partner for this crispy, salty, umami-rich fried chicken. Pick up a bottle at NotKetchup.com or Amazon.com today!



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Paleo Fried Chicken With Almond Crust
Fried chicken coated in almond meal and spices and fried in coconut oil. Grain-free, Paleo and delicious!
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups almond meal or almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups coconut oil (can substitute grapeseed or canola oil)
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Instructions
Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl and whisk until frothy. In another bowl, mix together the almond meal, garlic salt, smoked paprika and pepper until combined. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy pot. I use a 5-quart cast iron Dutch oven. Get the oil up to about 350 degrees F. If you're too impatient to use a thermometer (like me), wait until the surface is visibly shimmering. Dip a piece of the chicken first into the egg, then into the almond meal mixture. Make sure the chicken is coated all over with the almond meal. Drop the chicken gently into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. You'll have to work in batches, frying three or four pieces at a time (depending on the size of your pot).When the chicken is golden brown, put it on a rack set over a sheet pan (or just on a sheet pan if you don't have a rack). When all the chicken is fried, slide the pan into the oven for 15 minutes. This will ensure that even the thickest parts of the chicken are cooked through and will re-warm the pieces you fried first.Serve hot with your favorite flavor of Not Ketchup for dipping.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Perfect tomato soup {no dairy}

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Got tomatoes? I'm not growing any this year, but I often buy "second" heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market. They're a little soft and scarred, but they taste the same and they're much cheaper. And they're perfect for tomato soup.

I've seen tomato soup recipes that add sugar and baking soda to smooth out the flavors and balance the acid in the tomatoes. I don't. I want my tomato soup to taste like tomatoes. I don't add cream, either, although I guess you could. Personally, I think it's great just the way it is.



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Perfect Tomato Soup
Six ingredients, half an hour, and a good blender: That's all you need to make this perfect classic tomato soup.
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated or shredded
  • 3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.Add the tomatoes, chicken stock and basil (if using). Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft.Puree the soup in a blender (or in the pot using a hand-held blender) until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to make perfect cheese popcorn

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Every afternoon around 3 p.m. I look around my home office and think "Yep, time for a snack."

Popcorn is one of my go-to afternoon snacks. I used to do the nasty microwave bags. But then I read Elise's "Perfect Popcorn" method on Simply Recipes and threw the bags away. A pot, some oil, popcorn kernels, salt, and five minutes: That's all it takes to make truly perfect popcorn with virtually zero unpopped kernels.

It pays to start with high-quality popping corn. I buy mine in the Whole Foods bulk food department and store it in a recycled jar in the pantry.

What do you like on your popcorn? My favorite topping is Cabot Creamery's Cheddar Cheese Shake, real cheddar cheese in a soft flowing powder that coats each fluffy kernel. It's so flavorful that I don't even need any extra butter or salt. Sometimes I add a little chili powder or garlic powder along with the Cheddar Cheese Shake, just to change things up.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I am eating a bowl of cheese popcorn right now as I type this! Sorry, keyboard.

Disclosure: Cabot Creamery provided me with a sample of Cheddar Cheese Shake as part of their Cabot Cheese Board blogger program. No actual money changed hands.



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Perfect Cheese Popcorn
All it takes to make perfect cheese popcorn is five minutes and a few simple ingredients. You'll never go back to microwave popcorn after trying this simple method.
Ingredients
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil (can substitute a more neutrally flavored oil like canola or grapeseed)
  • 1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 Tablespoons Cabot Creamery Cheddar Cheese Shake
Instructions
Put the oil and 6 kernels of popcorn in a heavy 5-quart pot with a tightly fitting lid. Turn the heat to high. Wait about 45 seconds.When the first kernels start to pop, turn off the heat. Pour in the rest of the popcorn kernels and the salt (if using), then cover the pot again. Count to 30, slowly.Turn the flame back on to medium-high and start shaking the pan gently, back and forth across the burner - this keeps the popcorn from burning. It's a good idea to vent the lid slightly, but you'll need a heavy-duty oven mitt on the hand that's holding the lid ajar, as steam will be escaping.Keep shaking the pan as the popcorn starts to pop. After about a minute, the popping will stop. Turn off the flame and pour the finished popcorn into a large bowl.Sprinkle the popcorn with the Cabot Creamery Cheddar Cheese Shake. Toss the popcorn to distribute the cheese powder. Eat immediately, licking the extra cheese powder off your fingers between bites.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 6 cups

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dazzling food and complex business logistics at Dodger Stadium

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Once a year the Los Angeles Dodgers invite food bloggers like me to visit Dodger Stadium, sample the new menu items from the stadium's ever-improving concession stands, and take in a game. I've been lucky enough to be on the list twice now, and it's one of my favorite events of the year.

The food at Dodger Stadium, where Executive Chef Jason Tingley is in charge of all the kitchens, seems to get tastier and more interesting every season. This year we tried a hot dog Tingley created to honor Los Angeles's firefighters, topped with spicy cheese, jalapenos and Flaming Hot Cheetos; smoked chicken wings; Street Corn Nachos, topped with grilled fresh corn kernels; a really terrific pepperoni pizza. Tingley adds new items throughout the season - look out for that same pepperoni pizza with an actual Dodger Dog baked into the crust (yes, really).

But you know where my head is at these days - I'm thinking like a small business owner 24/7 because of Not Ketchup, my condiment business. So while I was tasting all this delicious food, I was thinking about bobbleheads.



And logo-imprinted barbecue tools, too.




David Siegel, the Dodgers' VP of ticket sales, showed us the many promotional items the Dodgers will give away to fans this season, including multiple bobbleheads, the barbecue tools pictured above, a pop-up laundry hamper, and several dozen more. High quality stuff, not throwaway trinkets. In all, the Dodgers will give away about 1.5 million promotional items this season.

And while he was talking, all I could think about were logistics - the same kinds of things that I have to deal (on a smaller scale) with when buying and distributing promotional items like t-shirts, hats, basting brushes, squeeze bottles and more for Not Ketchup.

For example:

  • Where do they store 1.5 million promotional giveaway items? I order a small fraction of that amount and the boxes are taking over my living room, family room, bedroom and office. Is there a cavernous warehouse under the stands near the outfield? As it turns out - no. The Dodgers work with a promotional company that warehouses the items until they're needed on game day. 
  • What happens to leftover items? The Dodgers handle this the same way I do: They give them out throughout the year for community outreach and other fan events. I stick mine randomly into online orders - one of the advantages of ordering from the Not Ketchup website instead of Amazon.
  • How many ideas do they consider before choosing the winners? I have an amazing promotional products guy, and Keith and I have looked at very long lists of possible Not Ketchup giveaways, including pens (boring), pads (maybe someday), barbecue tools (expensive), oven mitts (couldn't find good ones), wooden spoons (ditto), and more. The Dodgers marketing team says they consider more than 100 product ideas each year, ultimately choosing the things they think will resonate best with fans. (I suspect price has something to do with it as well - at least it does for me.)

The Dodgers also have to think about logistics I don't deal with. For example, they hand certain giveaway items to fans as they enter the stadium, and others on the way out. How do they decide? Items that are heavy, bulky, or could be used as a weapon wait until after the game. Safety first.

As I was leaving Dodger Stadium on a beautiful Monday night, it struck me that I may never again be able to enjoy a baseball game - or a trip to Disneyland, or a visit to the mall, or grocery shopping, or ANYTHING ELSE - without this business-oriented undercurrent of questions, ideas and analysis running through my head. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Just a different way of looking at the world.

Disclosure: The Dodgers invited my family and me as their guests for this event. All opinions and weird logistical musings are, of course, my own.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Truffled white bean puree

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Photo: Lynne Hemer, Cook and Be Merry

I'm often in need of a quick, elegant hors d'oeuvre to keep guests busy and on the other side of the counter while I'm finishing dinner preparations in the kitchen.

I like this truffled white bean puree because it's simple, I can make it ahead, and it's an unusual combination that raises the eyebrows a bit.

You could serve it with crackers or toasted pita bread triangles, but I love making tiny cups out of cucumbers. Buy small Persian cucumbers - the ones with the thin skin you don't have to peel - and hollow out a little divot with a melon baller. You can make these a few hours ahead and store them in the refrigerator in a zip-top bag, between layers of damp paper towels.

If you can't get your hands on a fresh truffle to grate on top (or the budget doesn't allow it), buy a tiny jar of truffle salt and use that instead. You'll get the same flavor, although not the same visual.



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Truffled White Bean Puree
This appetizer couldn't be easier: White beans pureed with lemon and truffle oil. Serve in tiny cucumber cups or with crackers.
Ingredients
  • 1 15-ounce can white cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 Persian cucumbers
  • 1 black truffle, fresh or canned
Instructions
Make the bean puree: Put the beans, lemon juice, lemon zest, and truffle oil into the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to let the flavors blend. (Can be made 1 day ahead; store covered and refrigerated.)Make the cucumber cups: Wash and thoroughly dry the cucumbers. Cut off the ends, then slice the cucumbers into 1-inch rounds. Using a small melon baller or the tip of a very small spoon, hollow out one side of each cucumber slice, being careful not to cut all the way through. You'll end up with a fingertip-sized depression in each slice.Transfer the bean puree into a piping bag, or use a zip-top bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe a swirl of the truffled bean puree into each cucumber cup. Grate a little of the truffle on top of each piece. Serve immediately.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 10 servings

Friday, April 3, 2015

5-minute cucumber salad

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Today I'm sharing with you my 5-minute cucumber salad - a side dish for days when you need to get some vegetables on the table and there's no way in hell you're actually going to have time to cook anything.

(Just to be clear, that's 5 minutes of active time. It does need to sit and marinate for at least 5 minutes at room temperature, or 20 minutes in the refrigerator.)

Peeling, seeding and chopping the cucumbers is the most time-consuming part of making this cucumber salad. You can make it a 3-minute cucumber salad if you use English cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, which need neither peeling nor seeding.

If you have 6 minutes, toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet before adding them to the salad. I never seem to have that sixth minute, though. I can assure you that the sesame seeds taste fine straight from the container. If you want to be really fancy, get the shaker with the mixed black and white sesame seeds.

This is one of my favorite simple salads. Yesterday my 16-year-old son and I stood at the counter eating it with our fingers. Don't judge.



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5-Minute Cucumber Salad
A simple marinated cucumber salad with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Make it even more quickly by using Persian or English cucumbers, which need neither peeling nor seeding. That's 5 minutes of active time, by the way: You do want to let the salad sit for a few minutes to let the flavors get friendly.
Ingredients
  • 3 large cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon (optional) sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
Instructions
Peel the cucumbers. Cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds using a teaspoon. Cut the cucumbers into 1/2-inch slices.Put the cucumbers in a zip-top plastic bag. Add the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, salt, and sugar (if using). Close the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.Let the cucumber salad sit at room temperature for 5 minutes or in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.Sprinkle with the sesame seeds before serving. Serve chilled.NOTE: The cucumbers will get more flavorful the longer the salad marinates. Keep the cucumber salad in the refrigerator for up to three days. By the third day the cucumbers will have lost much of their crunch, but the flavor will be great.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings

Monday, March 9, 2015

Deviled eggs with duck skin "cracklins"

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My younger son, a newly minted teenager, knows what he likes and wants what he wants.

And this week what he wants are deviled eggs.

I believe in turning out self-sufficient young men who can feed themselves - and a dozen of their friends, too. So I taught him how to make deviled eggs.

He has now made three batches on his own. Well, two and a half. The first time he didn't let the eggs come to a full boil and ended up with oozing yolks and wobbly whites. But the next two batches were terrific.

He's been seasoning his with herbs like chervil, chives and thyme. Truth be told, I like my deviled eggs a little more straightforward - mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. But I'll never turn down a bit of crunch on top, whether it's bacon, crushed croutons, or, as in this case, slivered duck skin baked to a crisp.

Admittedly, duck is a rare treat for us. I think the skin off chicken thighs would work - I'll try it and report back.



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Deviled eggs with duck skin "cracklins"
Simple, traditional deviled eggs topped with slivered duck skin that's been baked until crisp. A luxurious treat for a weeknight dinner at home or the fanciest of cocktail parties.
Ingredients
  • 2 duck breast lobes, skins only (use meat for another dish)
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • green onions, chopped (for garnish)
Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Slice the duck skins into 1/4-inch strips and spread them out on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Slide the pan into the oven and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes (start checking after 10 minutes - do not let the duck skins burn). Remove the duck "cracklins" from the oven and use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. Let cool, then chop roughly.While the duck skins cook, put the eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring the pot to a rolling boil, clap on the lid, turn off the flame, and leave the covered pot sitting on the stove for 25 minutes.Drain the water from the pot, add cold water, and let the eggs cool for a few minutes. Peel the eggs and cut them in half horizontally.Carefully remove the yolks from the hard-boiled eggs. Put all the yolks in a small mixing bowl and add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Mash with a fork or whisk until very smooth.Use a small spoon or a piping bag to refill the egg white halves with the yolk mixture. Sprinkle with the duck "cracklins" and the chopped green onions. Serve immediately.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 24 pieces

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Glazed salmon fillets with Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup

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Glazed salmon fillets with Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup

When I first created my Not Ketchup fruit ketchups, I really only thought about using them on meat. Burgers, steak, chicken, sausages, lamb chops, pork chops, ribs. Meaty meat.

But after spending a lot of time at Santa Monica Seafood - the best retail seafood market, wholesale seafood distributor and seafood cafe in southern California, and an enthusiastic supporter of Not Ketchup from the very beginning - I realized that Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup, with its perfectly balanced combination of sweet, salty, tangy, and slightly spicy, would pair well with rich, buttery salmon fillets.

This recipe puts the salmon under the broiler, but you can do it on the grill as well. Just make sure you don't put the fish too close to the heat source - you want the Not Ketchup to caramelize and bubble without burning.


Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup Glazed Salmon

Erika Kerekes
Published 01/06/2015
Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup Glazed Salmon Fillets
Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup fruit ketchup sauce makes a sweet, tangy, slightly spicy glaze for oven-roasted salmon fillets. A delicious and easy gourmet dinner.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler until very hot, with the oven rack about 4 inches below the heat.
  2. Line a sheet pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a basting brush or the back of a spoon, spread each fillet generously on all sides with ⅓ of the Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup. Broil the salmon 2-3 minutes, until the Not Ketchup coating starts to brown and sizzle.
  4. Remove the baking pan from the oven. Slather the salmon with another layer of Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup. Return the baking sheet to the oven for another 3-4 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the salmon doesn’t burn. The salmon is done when the outside is browned and bubbling and the inside is cooked through.
  5. Drizzle the remaining Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup over the top of the salmon fillets and serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 05 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Total time: 15 mins.
Tags: seafood, fish, salmon, dinner, Not Ketchup, chipotle