Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chocolate Panini

A few people have asked me about my cooking segments on the morning show "Better", so I thought that I would explain further. I do the cooking segments once or twice a month, and get to cook a variety of easy and delicious recipes. As of last month I am now officially the "Entertaining Editor", which means that I get a nifty title on the screen when I do the segments.

This chocolate panini is what I made yesterday, although the segment aired this morning. The video can be seen here. Let me know if for some reason the link doesn't work.

So for those of you that want to make these chocolaty babies at home, it couldn't be simpler. I like to spread some organic nut butter (almond or peanut butter) on a nice rustic bread. Then I pile on chocolate, whether semisweet or dark, broken bars or chocolate chips. For the segment I used Maranatha nut butters , organic chocolate (vegan, of course) and Sunspire chocolate chips. Oh yeah, and a little Earth Balance too. Oh, and banana if you like.

If you don't like nut butter or you are allergic, no problem. Just omit it and you will have a super-duper melty chocolate panini!

Lightly spread the outside of the sandwich with a touch of Earth Balance and cook on a panini grill or in a heavy skillet. Cook the panini until the chocolate is melted and the bread is nicely toasted. Serve the panini warm, preferably with a glass of hazelnut milk.

Filled with chocolate and nut butter

Ready to grill

Now I just have to decide what I'm going to make for next month's segment. Hmmm, any suggestions?

Oh, and before I forget, we have a couple of new segments on everyday dish. Whole grain blueberry orange pancakes and chocolate chip orange biscotti. Both recipes are yum!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Kitchen Toys

(Butterscotch brownies from the book "My Sweet Vegan", baking away)

I guess by now, everyone knows how much I love my kitchen toys. I don't think it's quite at the point of needing an intervention, but I do love a fun kitchen toy or appliance. Just to set the record straight, I do have some pretty tough criteria. First of all, it needs to function really well and take the place of another tool/appliance, because let's face it, I have a pretty small kitchen. Real estate is at a premium here, and, I have a "deal" with my husband that as one tool arrives, another must go. Sometimes this works better in theory, but I really try to stick to the plan. And in case you're wondering where the previous "tenants" go, that is usually straight to my brother or mother's kitchen (my brother is a chef too). In my family, kitchen toys become a game of musical toys.

(The oven with freshly baked vegan hot artichoke dip. The oven did an amazing job baking it)

As well as enjoying playing with the new toys, I think it's important to offer feedback on these products, sharing how they hold up to a lot of wear and tear in a busy kitchen. Believe me, not everything makes that cut. I will try to give everyone feedback on products that I am really enjoying and think are worthwhile or could be a good addition to someone's kitchen.

Another reason for some of my counter top appliances is that I do a lot of cooking segments on television (I am the "entertaining editor" for a morning show called Better), and there isn't a kitchen set-up -just a table and an extension cord. I need to be able to bring these appliances with me, so that I can actually cook on set. In other words, my "toys" are also part of my lively hood. Anyways, on to a few new favorites.

The first is the Cuisinart Brick Oven. This is a counter top oven which really performs. I first heard rave reviews about it from Bryanna Clark Grogan. She was having an awful time baking bread and pizzas in her new oven, unable to get it hot enough to blister the crust. This began to pique my interest, because how cool would it be to use a counter top oven that not only baked extremely well, but actually saved the energy of turning on a large gas or electric oven/range.
As an added bonus, the oven is really well designed and beautiful too. In addition to standard and convection baking and broiling, it also toasts. Plus, the oven has built in brick/stones on the sides of the oven, as well as a removable one for baking directly on.

I have been having so much fun with this oven. It bakes extremely well and I was blown away with the results, whether cakes, cookies, bread or roasting or broiling. It's fairly large, which is nice because I can easily fit pie plates and brownie pans in it. I have it tucked into a corner of my kitchen. I give this oven 2 big thumbs up. If you have a sketchy oven or are just looking for a great counter top oven, check out the Cuisinart Brick Oven.

The next toy that I want to share is The Garlic Twist. This gadget was also recommended to me, and it did not disappoint. I use a ton of garlic in my cooking, so anytime I can mince it quickly it's appreciated. I know I could use a knife, but this gadget is awesome. I can do about 4 peeled cloves at a time with a quick couple twists of the wrist. Another benefit is that you can smash the garlic and store it temporarily in the container. This is an added benefit, because in order to get all of the healthy benefits from cooked garlic, it needs to sit for 10 minutes after mincing/pressing/smashing before being cooked. No problem with the Garlic Twist. It also smash/minces the garlic, which I think releases more flavor and oil than by simply chopping it.

(The Garlic Twist. I didn't take this pic, but rather borrowed it from their website. Our dark gloomy weather today wasn't too conducive to photography)

Another great item I've discovered recently is the new Zyliss Smart Touch salad spinner. It makes quick work of washing lettuce, greens and herbs, spinning them dry with ease. Obviously I wash a lot of greens, so this is a great time saver. My old spinner was tiny and you pulled a cord to spin the veggies dry. Well I had used it so much that the cord had cut a nifty rut into the side of the spinner. It seemed like an appropriate time to retire it and try something new and more efficient. Instead of a cord for this new spinner, there's a flat paddle on the top that you place your hand on, effortlessly pressing up and down. It's almost meditative. Suddenly my kids are volunteering to make salads. This can't be a bad thing, right? We all need to eat more greens, so why not make the task easier, and do it with a bit of flair? I am loving this stylin' new spinner.

(I didn't take this photo either. It's courtesy of the Zyliss website. Darn gloomy weather)

I don't sell any of these items, but have truly enjoyed using them. I'm sure that they can be found online with a quick Google search, or your local kitchen store. It's fun for me to share and pass my thoughts on to other kitchen enthusiasts.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I'm Back

Well, we have finished most of the living room (except for one wall to go). Actually, I should say Jay has finished it, because I can't really take much credit for it. He's the talent with the home remodeling.

So here's some pics of the new space. I didn't get a "before" shot, because he started so quickly I missed the shot. But you will notice that there's a mid-way shot. I'm so happy the messy part is done and we are left with a truly "grown-up" living room. I feel like such an adult now.

"Before Cabinets"

"After Cabinets"

Backing up a week and a half or so, we celebrated our daughter's 17th birthday. Her one request was a chocolate birthday cake. Unfortunately, as I was taking it out of the pan, it broke into pieces. I had to think quick on my feet, because I only had 30 minutes or so to finish off her birthday dessert. Trifle came to mind. I whipped out a large glass dish (shaped like a giant martini glass), figuring that would be a nice presentation. I had already made a batch of chocolate mousse and had some beautiful fresh strawberries. In a couple of minutes I layered cake cubes, mousse and strawberries, and had a "birthday-worthy" dessert. It was a huge hit.

(My daughter and her boyfriend. Pour thing didn't feel good that night. It sure sucks to be sick on your birthday)

Then, this past weekend, we had a guest chef come in to film 3 segments for Everyday Dish. He is the Maui Vegetarian, aka Chef Brian Igarta. He has some awesome recipes, which I am so excited to share . His first segment for Tropical Haupia is up on the Everyday Dish website. Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian pudding, made with coconut milk. He made both a coconut and a mango version, which are so incredibly delicious! Brian's haupia has my brain working in overdrive now, as I'm thinking of all kinds of new haupia flavor combinations.

Brian also made a fabulous hot artichoke dip (vegan, of course), that is out-of-this-world, along with a delicious Puerto Rican Soup (flavored with anatto seed). Needless to say The Maui Vegetarian knows how to cook some great vegan food, which I'm glad I got a chance to taste.

Edited to add: The Haupia recipe and video are up at everyday dish. Go check it out and let me know what you think.

Happy cooking!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Back Soon

I'm sorry I haven't put up a new post this week. We've been working on painting/fixing up our living room, which seems to be taking forever. I will post again soon. Promise.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Homemade Soy Milk

I've been tinkering with homemade soymilk for a while now. I have always loved the idea of making it from scratch, without any additives, preservatives, wasted packaging and the boundless variations of flavors. The problem was that I couldn't get past the beany taste, until now. Someone had posted a tip on the PPK boards about soaking the beans in a large shallow container. They claimed that it eliminated a lot of that beany taste. Although I was skeptical, I gave it a try. Wow, it worked like a charm! And it was so quick and easy to make.

To begin with, I used a Soyabella soy milk maker. I soaked the required measure of organic soybeans in a large glass casserole dish overnight. In the morning, I rinsed the beans, adding water to cover. I rubbed the beans between my hands (in the water) to get off some of the skins (you can also pop them between your fingers). This only took a couple of minutes, and apparently helps to reduce the beany flavor. The skins floated to the top. I gave the beans another quick rinse, added them to the machine, filled it up with the required water and was ready to go. Fifteen minutes later, I had a lovely looking soy milk. For flavor, I added 3 tablespoons of organic sugar and a nice dash of vanilla (maybe a teaspoon or so). Once the milk had cooled down a bit, I strained it into a clean glass jug and it was ready to go. This was the best batch of soy milk yet!

Soaked soybeans ready for action

Freshly made milk in the machine

I am now hooked on making fresh soy milk at home. It's so quick, easy and very economical. I'll keep playing with the recipes and flavorings and let you know what I come up with. I'm thinking almond, horchata, nutmeg, ginger...maybe even matcha or chai. The flavor combinations are endless.

Fresh, creamy soy milk