Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread

Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread

1 cup flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 cup milk

¼ cup maple syrup or honey

4 tbsp butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 jalapeno pepper. minced

Preheat the oven to 425℉.  Coat 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray.  

In a medium sized mixing bowl, which together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt until combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together milk, maple syrup, butter and eggs.  Add to flour mixture and mix until just until moistened.  Add shredded cheese and jalapeno to cornbread mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

9 servings, 250 calories per serving

Hack:  This cornbread pairs nicely with homemade barbeque beans.

Hack:  Use leftover cornbread to make featherbed eggs.

Hack:  Store cornbread tightly covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or freeze individually wrapped slices for up to 3 months.


Cooking For One Person — Hacks, Tips and Tricks- Part 2

When I post recipes, I’ll often post hacks at the end of it to give some helpful information in regards to storing leftover ingredients or to make things easier.  I hope this has been beneficial but I also thought it might be great to have all those ideas in one place.  Yep, right here.  

Print ‘em out and stick ‘em right on your fridge for the next time you’re wondering how to soften that butter quickly!!

Ready?  Let’s GO!

Baked Goods

Bread:

Do not add flour to mat while kneading unless absolutely necessary.  This may cause your finished product to be dry.  If dough is sticky at first, spray the mat and your hands with cooking spray while kneading.  Use a pastry scraper or spatula to fold dough if necessary.

For better rising, put covered dough in a sunny spot in your house.  I’m not sure this is necessary in warmer climates but it sure helps here in cold New England!  

On the final rise, gauge the readiness of the dough by pressing your finger gently on the top.  If it bounces right back, it’s not proofed enough.  Your fingerprint should remain briefly after you take your finger away, however, if your dough falls to any degree after removing your finger, it’s over proofed and will probably fall in the oven.

Bread can be sliced and then frozen or refrigerated for longer storage.  You can “refresh” the bread by warming it briefly in the microwave or toasting it before use.

If the bread stales before you’ve finished eating it, run it between your fingers (or use a food processor) to turn it into bread crumbs.   Seal in a bag or container and store in the freezer for future use.

Recipes for loaves of bread can be turned into sandwich rolls if preferred.  After first rise, separate dough into 8 pieces and form into rolls.  Allow to rise until double, about 30 minutes.

Loaves and cakes

Instead of making a single big cake or bread, make smaller loaves (for freezing or giving away!) by dividing batter between two 6’ x 4” loaf pans, 12 muffin tins or shaping dough into rolls.

Dried Beans

Cooked legumes, beans and lentils can be frozen for future use but allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator before reheating.

One 15 oz. can of cooked beans can be substituted for each cup of dried beans in most recipes.  Drain, rinse and add to the pot at the end of the recipe.

Fresh Produce

Brussels sprouts, broccoli florets, shallots, mushrooms and other items can often be found loose and/or pre-cut in the produce department of your grocery store..  If you don’t see them, ask a clerk if they’re available.  

Cabbage:  Instead of buying an entire head of cabbage, ask the produce clerk to cut it into wedges so you’ll only have to buy what you need.  They’ll wrap the leftover pieces and put it back on the shelf for sale.

Carrots:  Matchstick carrots can be found in the packaged section of the produce department.  Freeze any leftover carrots for use in cooking

Cranberries:  Cranberries can only be bought fresh when they’re “in season”.  If you want to stock up, fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 30 days or frozen for up to a year.  Frozen cranberries are available in the freezer section of your local grocery store year round.  

Frozen vegetables:  Frozen veggies can be substituted for fresh vegetables in cooked recipes.  This includes frozen onions and peppers.

Green onions: Chop green onions and freeze in a sealable freezer bag or container for future use.  The defrosted onions may not be pretty enough to use as a garnish but they’ll be perfectly fine for cooking.

Oranges:

To easily zest a whole orange, use a vegetable peeler and then chop finely with a sharp knife. Lay unused zest in a single layer and freeze. Store, tightly wrapped, in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Puree any leftover oranges in the blender or food processor for use in recipes such as cakes, cookies or breads. 1 orange yields about ½ cup, which can be sealed in a bag and stored in the freezer.

Tomatoes:  If you have leftover tomatoes that are becoming over-ripe, simply puree them in the blender and freeze the fresh puree in sealed freezer bags or containers to use in recipes at a later date.  No need to core, peel or seed ‘em…just toss ‘em right in.  Run the puree through a mesh colander if you want to remove the seeds.

Tricks of the Trade

Bacon Grease:  Store any leftover bacon grease tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.  It can be used as a substitute for butter in various cooked dishes.  Caution:  Use caution when cooking with bacon grease.  It  has a smoke point similar to butter, which is lower than oils.  

Blue Cheese:  Many grocery store delis cut and wrap blue cheese for the shelf.  If you can’t find the size you’re looking for, ask a clerk to cut it for you.  Blue cheese can be frozen but it will lose some of its creaminess and flavor.  

Meats:  When cutting meats, place them in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to butterflying or thin slicing to allow for more stability.  Allow to thaw completely before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Softened Butter:  Butter will soften to room temperature in 30-60 minutes, depending on the size of the chunk of butter.  Butter can also be softened in the microwave at 30% power for 5 second intervals until desired softness.

Room Temperature Eggs:   Forget to take that egg out of the fridge to warm up?  Place it in warm (not boiling!) water for 10 minutes.

Turmeric: stains anything it touches so proceed with caution!

Just one more tip:  Click here to check out my favorite bags and containers to freeze all the above mentioned goodies!

That’s All For Now!

So, I think that’s enough for one day, don’t you?  That’s a whole lot of information and I hope it comes in handy!

Did I miss anything?  Do you have any handy-dandy hacks, tips and tricks to share with the class?  Please leave a comment below to let us know what it is!

All my best

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com


Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls

Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls
(Courtesy: Yuhong Sun)

4 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying

3 eggs

Pinch salt

4 green onions, julienned into 1” lengths

1 carrot, julienned into 1” lengths

8 water chestnuts, thinly sliced

2” knob of ginger root, thinly sliced

4 mushrooms, thinly sliced and julienned

¾ cup bean sprouts

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

20 spring roll wrappers

 

Crack eggs in a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Beat well.

Heat 4 tbsp of vegetable oil in a heavy pan over medium high heat. Add eggs and cook until puffy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add ginger to the pan and saute until fragrant. Add water chestnuts and carrots. Saute for 3 minutes.

Add mushroom, green onion and bean sprouts and a pinch of salt. Cook for 3-5 minutes until bean sprouts are translucent and golden. Add soy sauce and sesame oil. Remove from the pan.

Thinly slice egg into 1” lengths. Add to vegetables and mix thoroughly.

Lay spring roll wrapper on a flat surface. Place 2 tbsp filling on one corner, keeping away from edges. Roll the edge over the top of the filling and then flip the and right sides of the wrapper over the filling. Continue to roll, moistening the edge of the remaining corner to seal.

Heat 2” vegetable oil in a heavy pan cast iron skillet to 365℉. Turn heat to medium and lower spring roll, one at a time, into oil and fry until golden brown, turning once. Fry in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan.

Yield: 20 spring rolls, 95 calories per roll

Hack: Spring rolls can be cooked in an air fryer at 375℉ for 6 minutes.

Hack: Spring rolls can be frozen before cooking. Lay them in a single layer on a pan to freeze, then transfer them to a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Spring rolls can be fried in their frozen state.

 

 

Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce

 

Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce

2 cups tomato sauce

½ cup tomato paste

¼ cup maple syrup or honey

¼ cup molasses

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons paprika

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp cayenne pepper (use more or less to taste)

 

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Yield:  2 ½ cups barbecue sauce.

Serving size:  2 tbsp, 55 calories per serving

Hack:  Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

 

Homemade Fruit Nut Granola

Homemade Fruit Nut Granola

4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup pecan halves

½ cup sliced almonds

¾ tsp salt

¾ tsp cinnamon

½ cup olive oil

½ cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

⅓ cup dried cherries

⅓ cup chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 350℉.  Line a 15”x10” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix oats, nuts and salt and cinnamon until well blended.

Add olive oil, honey and vanilla to oats.  Mix until well incorporated and all nuts and oats are coated.  Spread evenly on a lined baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and use a spatula to flip granola.  Press granola down with the back of the spatula to make it more cohesive.  Return to the oven and bake until golden brown (10-12 minutes).  Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem crunchy enough at this point.  It will continue to crisp up as it cools.

Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle cherries and dates evenly over the top.  Use the back of the spatula to gently press fruit down.

Allow to rest undisturbed until completely cool then crumble or break into pieces.  

Store in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.

Serving size: ½ cup, 235 calories per serving

Hack:  Granola is incredibly versatile.  Feel free to use whatever nuts or seeds you have on hand.  The same goes for the dried fruit.  Alternative sweeteners such as maple syrup or applesauce can also be used.  Go crazy!

Hack:  Serve this in a bowl with milk for a fast and easy meal anytime of day!  It can also be stirred into plain yogurt (sweetened with a touch of honey and vanilla) or in overnight oats.


Healthy Eating 101: How Food Affects Your Brain

Our brain is the team leader that keeps our entire body functioning. It facilitates every process that takes place, it coordinates every action that occurs. Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t want anything murking up the driver of my car and, as it turns out, what you eat does affect your driver. A lot.

Just as our cars need regular maintenance to continue to run smoothly, our brains require a steady diet of nutrient rich food to continue to function at an optimal level. That, of course, comes from eating high quality food.

Welcome to “Healthy Eating 101: How Food Affects Your Brain”. Please find a seat, class has begun!

How Sugar Affects Health

Wait… Is Sugar A Processed Food?

Both refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are processed from their original form (sugarcane, beets or corn) to become the easy to use sweeteners that we’re so familiar with. The problem is not really the processing of these products but the sheer volume at which they are added to our foods.

What are the side effects of eating too much sugar?

High sugar diets lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, which increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that increased glucose levels lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease even without diabetes being present.

Studies also show the excess consumption of fructose specifically, such as is found in high-fructose corn syrup, leads to an increased risk of dementia.

How much sugar is too much?

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men. Unfortunately, the average American consumes a whopping 108 grams (22 teaspoons) every day. That’s almost half a cup of sugar. Wondering how we’re managing to choke down that much sugar every single day? It’s really not that hard.

Traditional Coca-Cola, by their own admission, contains 65 grams of sugar in a 20 oz bottle. 13 teaspoons. With one bottle of Coke, you are well over your daily intake of sugar already and more than halfway to being an “Average American”.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that soda (pop, tonic or whatever your regional term for it is) has that much sugar. It’s no secret and many people have given it up completely for this very reason. But in this world of processed foods, you will find sugar in the most unlikely of places.

Pasta sauce, granola bars, instant oatmeal packets, salad dressings and breakfast cereal can all put a serious dent in your daily sugar allotment. Heck, there are some yogurts that can suck up your entire allowance!

Should I cut out sugar completely?

It’s not necessary to cut sugar out completely. Sugar and corn syrup aren’t evil villains who have it in for you. As a matter of fact, they’re here to help. Added sweeteners can enhance or mellow flavors by altering our perception of tastes but keep in mind that a little goes a long way. You can make a difference in your own diet by reading those nutrition labels so you can be aware of how much sugar you’re taking in. It might even cause you to start making your own spaghetti sauce.

The link Between Serotonin and Depression

Do Processed Foods Lead To Depression?

Processed foods don’t, in and of themselves, cause depression but when we eat them we are not eating the healthy food we need to keep our serotonin at the proper level.

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates a number of bodily functions, both physical and psychological. Low serotonin levels have been linked to poor memory, low mood, anxiety and aggression.

So How Does Serotonin Affect Depression?

While there is no direct link to low serotonin causing depression, there is a link to those who are already suffering from depression or have a family history of depression. While higher serotonin levels in this group of people doesn’t dissipate feelings of depression, it does provide a more positive emotional response to those feelings. In other words, they are less likely to take negative action, such as self-harm, in response to what they’re feeling.

What foods increase Serotonin?

Eating foods rich in tryptophan will help to increase serotonin levels but not all these foods will be able to cross the blood – brain barrier and actually help serotonin levels in the brain. Some foods that can pass the barrier are corn, milk and chickpeas which can be especially effective when paired with bright light and exercise.

What Other Foods Improve Brain Function?

The antioxidant beta-carotene that’s found in many orange and dark green produce can protect the brain against mental decline. An 18 year study showed that men who took beta-carotene supplements had sharper memory skills and less cognitive decline than their counterparts who were taking a placebo.

Consuming nuts, seeds, fish and certain oils provides omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. These lipids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that promote healthier brain cells and can lessen the deterioration of the brain.

Curcumin, which is found in turmeric, improves the function of brain neurons, strengthening and protecting them while encouraging their growth. This promotes memory and the ability to cope with mental strain.

The Bottom Line Is This…

Yes, you can eat a little more of this and a little more of that but the bottom line is this: Eating a whole foods diet is simply good for your mind, body and soul. The evidence shows that sticking to high quality foods positively affects your brain function and emotional stability.

It’s time to take charge of your food, your health and your life. Your brain will thank you.

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Simple Thai Green Curry

Simple Thai Green Curry

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tbsp)

1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

3 green onions, chopped (about ½ cup)

1 ½ cups broccoli florets

1 ½ cups cauliflower florets

1 ½ cups sugar snap peas

3 cups coconut milk

3 tbsp green curry paste

12 medium cooked shrimp

Heat olive oil  over medium heat in a wok or saute pan.  Add garlic, ginger and green onion.  Saute until fragrant, 1-2 minutes

Add broccoli, cauliflower and green onions and continue to saute for 5 minutes.

Add curry paste and saute for 2 minutes.

Add coconut milk and bring to simmer.  Turn heat to medium low and simmer until vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness.  Add shrimp and heat just until warm through.

Serve immediately with hot rice or noodles.

3 servings, 350 calories per serving, excluding rice or noodles

Hack:  Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root?  Grating it in it’s frozen state is easier than grating it fresh and, if you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it!  Simply place in a sealed freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.

Hack:  Shop the salad bar if you just need a small amount of an item that you don’t think you’ll use again before it “goes over”.

Hack:  Shrimp can be purchased individually from the seafood counter at most grocery stores.  Alternately, they can be purchased frozen in larger portions if you wish to keep some on hand.  Thaw needed amounts before cooking.  

Hack:  Seafood can be thawed overnight in refrigerator.  It can be thawed more quickly by placing it in a sealable bag and submerging in a bath of cold water for about an hour.

Hack: Check the  produce department of your local grocery store for pre-cut broccoli and cauliflower florets to avoid having to buy an entire head.  Frozen vegetables would also work in this recipe.


Fresh Orange Quick Bread

Fresh Orange Quick Bread

1 orange

2 eggs, room temperature

1 stick butter, room temperature (½ cup)

1½ cups sugar

½ cup orange juice + ¼ cup

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 375℉. Line one 9” x 5” loaf pan with parchment paper.

Zest orange. Place on a flat surface and, using a knife with a flat blade, minced finely. Set aside. Pulse remaining orange in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.

Cream eggs, butter and sugar together with a mixer until pale. Add orange zest, orange puree, ½ cup orange juice and vanilla. Mix until smooth.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to sugar mixture and blend until smooth

Place batter into loaf pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes.

Immediately after taking the bread out of the oven, drizzle the top with ¼ orange juice, going slowly enough to allow the juice to soak into the top of the bread.

10 servings, 350 calories per serving

Hack: For smaller loaves (for freezing or giving away!), divide batter between two 6’ x 4” loaf pans lined with parchment paper and bake for 40-45 minutes. Alternately, line 24 muffin cups with muffin papers. Divide batter between cups and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Hack: To easily zest a whole orange, use a vegetable peeler. Lay unused zest in a single layer and freeze. Store, tightly wrapped, in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Hack: Puree any leftover oranges in the blender or food processor for use in recipes such as cakes, cookies or breads. 1 orange yields about ⅓ cup, which can be sealed in a bag and stored in the freezer.

Homemade Crispy Hash Browns

Homemade Crispy Hash Browns

1 large potato, 12 oz

½ cup fresh onion, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp paprika

¼ cayenne pepper (optional or to taste)

Scrub potato and, if desired, peel. Using a box grater or grater attachment on a food processor, shred potato using the largest holes. Grate potato on the long side to get longer shreds.

Submerge potatoes in a bowl of water and swirl around with your hand. Use a fine mesh colander to strain out water. Repeat this process 1-2 more times until water remains clear.*

After potatoes are strained the last time, place them on a linen hand towel or cheesecloth. Squeeze as much water out as possible.

Heat oil in a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and onions. Sprinkle salt, black pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper over the mixture and stir to combine.

Allow potatoes to cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes or until the bottom is brown. Turn in 2 or 3 sections and allow to cook undisturbed 2-3 minutes until the bottom is browned. Turn again in 2 or 3 sections. Continue the process until desired crispiness is achieved, about 10 minutes. Add more olive as necessary for potatoes to continue to sizzle. A non-stick pan will require less oil than a cast iron skillet.

Serve immediately.

* At this point, potatoes can be left in water and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

2 servings, 265 calories per serving

Hack: Leftover hash browns can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To reheat, place in a skillet over medium heat just until warm.



Chinese Pork Fried Rice

Chinese Pork Fried Rice

 

5 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

¼ lb pork, cut into small cubes

2 cloves garlic, sliced (2 tsp)

½ cup frozen corn

½ cup frozen peas and carrots

3 eggs, beaten

3 cups cooked rice, cold*

Salt to taste

3 tbsp Soy sauce

2 green onions, sliced

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok or saute pan over high heat.  Add pork and garlic.  Saute, stirring constantly, until pork is no longer pink.  Add corn and peas/carrots and saute for 3 minutes.  Remove the contents from the pan and set aside.

Add 3 tbsp vegetable oil to the pan.  When it’s heated, add eggs and stir until cooked.

Push the eggs to one side and add rice.  Stir to combine and add pork mixture.  Add salt.

Make a well in the middle of the pan and add soy sauce.  Add green onions and heat through.

Serve hot.

*Leftover, day-old rice works best for this recipe, as it’s less sticky.

6 servings, 310 calories per serving

Hack:  Freeze serving sized portions of leftovers in freezer safe bags or containers for future use.