June 24, 2015

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up here to have newsletter appear every Wednesday in your email in box. Join us!

Dear friends,

I am a Popsicle addict.  I eat sugar-free ice pops year ‘round, stepping up consumption in the summer to a couple of dozen a week.  My current favorites are Aldi’s Sundae Shoppe sugar-free Junior Pops in watermelon, raspberry, cherry and lime. At just 20 calories, they are a fairly low-guilt snack.

Still, I yearn for ice pops that are more than just good. I want fabulous.  I want a Popsmith blueberry-lavender or rhubarb-ginger frozen treat. I want a pop that tastes like frozen strawberries on a stick.

Unfortunately, Tim and Beth Knorr, who sell their luscious Popsmith ice pops at local farmers markets, don’t make sugar-free treats. So I decided to make my own after finding gorgeous, six-ounce pop molds at T.J. Maxx.

Recipes in books and on the Internet didn’t help. The most popular recipe for homemade ice pops is made with sweetened, condensed milk, which is as sugar-dense as a piece of fudge.

Because sugar helps soften the texture of frozen liquids, I knew I needed a substitute texturizing agent. I chose two: a smidgeon of cream cheese and a dash of instant tapioca. I used the tapioca to thicken skim milk that I mashed with the cream cheese and strawberries in a bowl. I used a potato masher instead of a blender or food processor in order to retain some of the texture of the strawberries.

The result is no Popsmith but it’s pretty good, especially if allowed to mellow overnight in the freezer. The texture is soft and creamy enough to bite, and the flavor is pure strawberry.

I have all summer to refine the recipe. Next up: Blueberry-lavender. Popsmith had better watch out.

CREAMY STRAWBERRY ICE POPS

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•    1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries (in about 3/4-inch dice)
•    1/2 cup skim, 2 percent or whole milk
•    2 tsp. instant tapioca granules
•    1 1/2 oz. cream cheese
•    Sugar or artificial sweetener to taste

Dice strawberries and place in a medium-sized bowl. Measure milk in a 1-cup glass measure and stir in tapioca granules. Bring to a full boil in a microwave. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the tapioca. Return to microwave and cook on high until milk boils and the froth rises to the top of the cup. Let froth subside, then repeat. Remove from oven and let stand until tapioca has swelled and milk has partially cooled, about 10 minutes.

Place cream cheese on a small plate and microwave until very warm and soft, about 15 seconds. Scrape into the bowl with the berries. Mash with a potato masher until cream cheese is evenly distributed. Pour in tapioca mixture and continue to mash until the consistency is even but still slightly chunky with berries. Taste, then stir in sugar or sweetener to taste. I used 1 tablespoon of Splenda Granular.

Ladle into small paper cups or ice pop molds. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight for the best flavor. If using paper cups, partially freeze before inserting craft sticks. Makes about 18 ounces of mixture.

TIDBITS

There’s no need to ever buy ground nutmeg. It never tastes as fresh as nutmeg you grind yourself, and the flavor fades day by day. Buying whole nutmegs makes sense flavor-wise and money-wise, too.

Whole nutmegs keep forever, so you don’t have to worry about using them up quickly or throwing them out. One nutmeg makes a heck of a lot of ground nutmeg, so the whole spice is a bargain – especially if you buy it in the bulk-spice section of supermarkets or in an ethnic market that carries them.

Grating nutmeg at home is simple. I keep a miniature box grater with a whole nutmeg in my spice cabinet, and swipe the nutmeg over the grater a few times whenever I need some. Miniature graters about the size of your thumb are sold in most kitchen supply stores.

I’ve been enjoying fresh-ground nutmeg in vanilla protein shakes, one of my favorite summer snacks. I combine vanilla protein powder with fresh-ground nutmeg, skim milk and lots of ice in a blender and turn the ingredients into a healthful milkshake.

Nutmeg is rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. In folk medicine it has been used to improve brain function, mood and as an aphrodisiac. Yeow.

MAILBAG

From Judy R.:
I apologize for taking so long to get back to you with the Aloha Punch recipe. Here it is.

Dear Judy: It took me two weeks to find your email in my overstuffed In box, so obviously no apology is necessary. Note to readers: I met Judy while cooking at a farmers’ market. She mentioned the punch during our conversation and I asked for the recipe. She serves it laced with rum to adults and sans booze to children. It sounds like a great warm-weather house cocktail.

ALOHA PUNCH

•    1 can (46 oz.) pineapple juice
•    1 can (12 oz.) frozen concentrated orange juice
•    1 can (12 oz.) frozen concentrated lemonade
•    3 bananas pureed in blender or food processor
•    2 cups sugar
•    4 cups water

Create an ice ring to float in the punch bowl with cut-up fruit, juice and/or rainbow sherbet.  (You can fill a Bundt pan half full of juice, water, sherbet and fruit for the ice ring and place it in the freezer).

Mix all of the punch ingredients and freeze in 2 containers.  Just before serving, slightly thaw mixture and put in punch bowl and add:

2 liter bottle of lemon-lime soda

Note from Judy: I have used all or part of the above recipe depending on how much I needed to make.  The last time I made this recipe, I omitted the sugar and lemonade and used only half the water and it still tasted great.  However, extra sugar came from the rainbow sherbet in the ice ring as it melted.

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June 19, 2015

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up here to have newsletter appear every Wednesday in your email in box. Join us!

Dear friends,

I’m feeling smug this week with six quarts of local strawberries in my refrigerator. Actually five, because I used one Saturday to make strawberry shortcakes with preserved ginger.

This week is the peak of strawberry season in Northeast Ohio, farmers say. Although the berries at some farms I checked are smaller than usual, most farmers report normal to larger-than-normal berries and crop.

In fact, get ready for all kinds of local fruit and vegetables in abundance this summer. The rain came at just the right time to jump-start the growing season, and if the sun comes out soon, most local farmers should harvest bumper crops.

“I think the garden crops are going to be very vibrant because of all the rain we’ve gotten,” says Karen Whiting, owner with husband, Dan, of Sunrise Farm near Burton in Geauga County.

After a winter of root vegetables and a frigid spring with trucked-in fruits, the strawberries I picked last week taste vibrant, all right. Although Florida and California berries have improved in flavor in recent years thanks to new hybrids, nothing can compare to a local strawberry.

I arrived at a nearby pick-your-own farm plastered with bug spray and wearing Muck Boots, the proper way to wade through the muddy rows after days of rain. While pitifully equipped dilettantes nearby quit after a quart or two, I kept picking until my back reminded me that I was 65 and out of shape. But I had my berries.

Back in the kitchen, I knew I didn’t want to gussy up the strawberries too much. The flavor was too pure and luscious to cloak in a sauce or bake in a cake.  Adding finely chopped candied ginger to the shortcake batter would be enough, I thought. And it was.

These tender, scone-like shortcakes are loosely based on a recipe in “Biscuit Bliss” by James Villas.
SHORTCAKE BISCUITS WITH CRYSTALLIZED GINGER

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•    1 cup self-rising flour
•    2 tbsp. sugar
•    4 tbsp. chilled butter, cut in bits
•    1 tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger
•    2 1/2 to 3 tbsp. water
•    1 egg

Combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until the lumps are the size of small peas. Stir in chopped ginger. Add egg and sprinkle water over mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Knead several times on a floured work surface.

Roll out dough to ½-inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut into six 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter, gathering and rolling out scraps. Space evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until the tops are browned.

Split shortcakes in half horizontally with a fork and place one on each dessert plate. Top with sliced and sugared strawberries. Makes 6 servings.

TIDBITS

If you’re stumped about where to pick strawberries – or blueberries, green beans, sugar-snap peas, tomatoes, etc. – head for the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Ohio Proud website at http://www.ohioproud.org/searchmarkets.php.

The site’s search function allows you to search by county, food product and whether you want to pick your own or just buy. I like the clickable boxes that allow you to choose farm markets, farmers’ markets or farm stands. For the uninitiated, farm markets are attached to a farm. Farm stands are not, and farmers’ markets, of course, are gatherings of many farm market stands.

Now that my strawberries are in the fridge (and soon in the freezer), I’m looking forward to local sugar-snap peas, which should be ready to pick next week, according the folks at Boughton Farm in Copley Township.

MAILBAG

From Annie Fry:
The arugula responses last week brought to mind a couple of arugula dishes I enjoyed in Luxembourg a few years ago.  While living there I got to know a chef who ran a storefront cooking school in the city. His recipe for arugula salad is so easy it is ridiculous. To dress a salad of baby arugula, mix a generous amount of Dijon mustard with heavy cream and toss with the leaves. It is less fat than using oil and is a spicy bit of decadence. As for arugula on pizza, I had a carpaccio pizza topped with raw thinly sliced beef, shaves of Parmesan and a generous handful of the greens and it was delicious.

Dear Annie:
I had a similar pizza in Italy that I still crave. Love the idea of cream and Dijon as a salad dressing. Thanks.

Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in  our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter.  Then go to  http://www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

June 10, 2015

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up here to have newsletter appear every Wednesday in your email in box. Join us!
Dear friends,

I passed on the chicken-and-waffles trend until last week, when I couldn’t resist the combo on special at the Wolfe Creek Tavern in Norton. This wasn’t the usual diet-busting version of fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup. Unbreaded jerk chicken was served on a sweet potato waffle with mango-strawberry salsa and dabs of strawberry-chili sauce. It was awesome.

I thought about that waffle the rest of the week, devising waffle-chicken combos in my head. I finally got one out of my head and onto a plate Monday, and it was worth the hassle of making the three separate components: chili-rubbed pan-seared chicken, cornmeal waffles and spicy blood orange sauce.

“This is like something you’d get at a great restaurant,” Tony enthused as he stuffed big hunks of waffle and chicken into his mouth so fast he almost choked. Seriously. Later, he marveled at my waffle-maker, which he hadn’t seen in the nine years we’ve been together.

‘You’ve never made waffles before,” he said accusingly. “I love waffles.”

Yeah, well, my hips don’t. But I ate a waffle with a piece of the deeply flavored chicken and spoon-licking sauce, and it was worth the calories.

Each element of the meal is easy to make and may be prepared in steps between other chores or commercial breaks if you’re watching TV. I made the sauce first by simply combining the orange juice, chopped garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and orange marmalade in a saucepan and boiling it to reduce and thicken the mixture. A couple of tablespoons of butter is beaten in at the end to give the sauce a creamy texture. If you can’t find tart blood oranges, use regular orange juice and lime juice according to the directions that follow.

The bone-in chicken pieces – skinned or not, your choice – are rubbed with a spice mixture and refrigerated until a half-hour before dinner. I used four large bone-in breasts, hacked in half crosswise before cooking. You can even prep the waffle mixture in advance by measuring out the dry ingredients into one bowl and the wet into another, to be combined just before cooking the waffles.

If possible, rub the spices on the chicken at least an hour before cooking to dry-brine and flavor the meat. Two hours is even better. I skinned half the chicken I cooked, and it was just as good as the skin-on chicken, maybe better. The chicken is crisped in a skillet and put in the oven to finish cooking. This method produces crisp, juicy chicken without a lot of standing over the stove. Just watch the meat carefully to avoid overcooking it.

If you have excess waffle batter, make pale-brown waffles to warm up and finish browning  in the toaster the next morning for breakfast. Tony loved his morning treat, which is a good thing. My Fitbit readout tells me they’re the last waffles he’ll see for a loooong time.
CHILI-RUBBED CHICKEN AND CORNMEAL WAFFLES WITH BLOOD ORANGE SAUCE

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Chili-rubbed chicken:
•    2 tbsp. ground cumin
•    1 tbsp. sweet paprika
•    1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
•    2 tbsp. salt
•    4 bone-in chicken breasts or thigh-leg pieces
•    Vegetable oil for frying
Combine cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Trim fat and excess skin from chicken, or skin the chicken if desired.  If the breasts are very large, cut in halves crosswise. Pat very dry with paper towels.

Rub spice mixture over all surfaces of chicken. Place in a single layer in an oblong pan or other container and refrigerate, uncovered for at least an hour (preferably two hours) before cooking.

Thirty minutes before dinner, heat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat a large, heavy oven-proof  skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1/8- to ¼-inch of oil. When oil is hot, place chicken in skillet, skin (or meaty) sides down. Cook for 4 minutes or until very brown and crisp. Turn chicken over.  Place pan in a preheated oven and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Makes 4 servings.
Blood orange sauce:

•    2 1/2 cups blood-orange juice OR 2 cups regular orange juice and 1/2 cup lime juice
•    Finely grated zest of 1 blood or regular orange, about 1 teaspoon
•    2 cloves garlic, minced
•    1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
•    6 tbsp. orange marmalade
•    1/4 tsp. salt
•    4 tbsp. cold butter, cut into bits

Combine all ingredients except butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to combine. Boil until reduced to 2 cups. Whisk in butter bit by bit to produce a creamy texture. Remove from heat until ready to serve. Rewarm gently, whisking once or twice. Makes about 2 cups.

Cornmeal waffles:
•    1 cup corn meal
•    1 cup flour
•    2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
•    1/2 tsp. baking soda
•    2 tbsp. sugar
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1/4 cup vegetable oil
•    2 eggs
•    1 cup milk

In a medium bowl whisk together corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. In another bowl whisk together oil, milk and eggs. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until dry ingredients are moistened. Let stand while waffle iron heats.

Ladle batter onto a greased waffle iron. Bake according to manufacturer’s directions. The batter should make 4 large waffles.

Place hot waffles on four dinner plates. Top with chicken and spoon sauce over all. Makes 4 servings.
TIDBITS
Slowpokes who haven’t yet made it to Lemongrass in Monroe Falls have lost the chance to taste Sunanta Fogle’s extraordinary Thai food. Fogle, who recently returned to the area after an extended stay in her native Thailand, has left the new Thai restaurant after just a month.

“It’s a long story,” Sue said.

I’ll keep you posted on whether she finds another restaurant willing to showcase her considerable talent.
MAILBAG
From Michele, Elkton, Md.:
I loved your post about your arugula. I didn’t attempt it this spring, but might towards the fall when temps are a bit cooler.  I have container gardens on my deck.  One is full of herbs, another has radishes and green onions (I will replant them mid-summer and enjoy them all summer long, well into the fall).  Two others hold lettuce (one was lettuce that I accidentally let go to seed last fall, but was a nice surprise that I could have lettuce earlier than planned). Jalapeno, red peppers and cherry tomatoes each have their own pot, too.  I don’t have the time for a huge garden, but my containers are my little slice of heaven.  I also support our local farmers at the farmers’ market and have a membership with one of the farms for first pick of fresh produce.

I am hopeful that the Vernons will open a specialty shop that will include their cheeses.  While I no longer live in Akron, I have always visited West Point for the best in everything.  It was an icon for our family.  My grandmother shopped there almost exclusively and both my sister and brother worked there. Can’t wait to see what comes in its place.

Have a great summer!

Dear Michele: Your container garden sounds bigger than my in-ground garden. What fun.

From Judy:
Have you tried wilting your arugula and tossing it with pasta?  My son does this periodically with baby organic spinach and he really likes the result.  Would it work with your arugula?

Love the trough garden.

Dear Judy: Yes, it would work with arugula. I’ve seen recipes. Thanks for the idea.

From Linda A., France:
Make pesto with your arugula, then top pizza dough with the pesto and put a handful of fresh leaves on top when you serve it — best, by a mile, pizza I ever tasted!

Dear Linda: Aw, why don’t I just come visit you and taste it there? I’m overdue for a trip to France.
Seriously, I’ve had pizza in Italy topped with arugula, but never pizza with arugula pesto. I’m on it!

From Joy:
Re: the question from one of your readers (Tami) seeking a recipe for the West Point Market cheese spread she likes so much.

I do believe an English-style garlic cheese spread that had been discontinued by Kraft, was mentioned in one of your long past newsletters.

I’ve no idea if this homemade version of the discontinued cheese spread might be close to what your reader Tami was referring to, but the ingredients seem to suggest it might be.

Have a look and see what you think.

http://www.deepsouthdish.com/2009/11/kraft-garlic-cheese-roll-substitute.html

Dear Joy: I have a vague memory of that discussion. Here’s the recipe for Tami to try:

GARLIC-CHEESE SPREAD

    • 1 1/2 lbs. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
    • 1/2 lb. of Velveeta
    • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
    • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
    • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, or to taste
    • Drop of Liquid Smoke, or to taste

Warm ingredients in the top of a double boiler until cheeses have melted and ingredients are well combined. Pour into storage container to cool and set. Portion as needed.
Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in  our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter.  Then go to  http://www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

June 3, 2015

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up here to have newsletter appear every Wednesday in your email in box. Join us!

Dear friends,

In a matter of a couple of weeks, my arugula went from green specks to a forest of leaves shooting above the galvanized tin livestock feed tub I used this year as a planter. The central shoots were developing buds. I needed to use them before they went to seed.

I probably have five or six gallons of arugula waving in the breeze on the back deck. I love my handy greens garden. The oval feed trough we bought at a farm tractor store is just the right size for a back-deck container crop. We punched holes in the bottom with a nail for drainage and put the tub on a sturdy little redwood table at thigh height. Perfect.

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I adore the peppery bite of arugula, so using the first crop of the season would be no problem. Or so I thought. When a couple of salads and casual grazing put barely a dent in the thick patch, I thought in earnest of ways to use a lot of arugula in a hurry.

The recipe I came up with, steak salad sandwiches, uses four cups of arugula leaves. I tossed them with vinaigrette and about a half pound of thin-sliced, pan-grilled top sirloin steak, chopped fresh herbs, thin-sliced sweet onion, sun-dried tomatoes and crumbled blue cheese. The salad lushly filled four 4-inch lengths of crisp baguette that I had partially hollowed out. Two sandwiches were perfect for Tony for dinner. I was satisfied with one.

These sandwiches are a semi-elegant, flavor-packed way to make a little steak go a long way. With some fresh fruit, they would make a lovely picnic. Wrap each sandwich in parchment and refrigerate before serving.

The sandwiches used up only a fourth of my supply of arugula, so I’d better get grazing.

By the way, if you grow arugula – and you should, because it grows like wildfire – use scissors to harvest the outer leaves of each plant, at the base of the stems. Do not allow the plant to flower. The leaves will grow back for continued harvesting.

STEAK SALAD SANDWICHES

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•    1/2 to 3/4 lb. top sirloin steak, well trimmed
•    Salt, pepper
•    4 cups lightly packed arugula leaves
•    3 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, sage and tarragon
•    1/4 cup sweet onion in paper-thin slices
•    1 tbsp. vinaigrette (see note)
•    Coarse sea salt, fresh-ground pepper
•    1/4 cup half-dried or sun-dried tomatoes, in bite-sized bits
•    1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
•    4 4-inch lengths of crisp French baguette

Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. Do not add oil. Season steak well on both sides with salt and pepper. When the skillet is very hot, add steak and cook for two minutes. Turn steak, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until medium rare or desired doneness.

Meanwhile, toss arugula in a bowl with the herbs and onion. When steak is done, cut into thin strips. Add vinaigrette to arugula mixture and toss very well to coat every leaf. You’ll think one tablespoon isn’t enough, but if you keep tossing, you’ll see it is. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Add steak, sun-dried tomatoes and crumbled blue cheese. Toss to distribute ingredients.

Cut each length of baguette in half horizontally. Pluck crumbs of bread from the interior of the baguette rolls with your fingers to measure about 1 tablespoon per roll. Discard crumbs. Fill each roll with one-fourth of the steak salad. Serve immediately or wrap sandwiches in parchment paper. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Note: An all-purpose vinaigrette may be made by combining one-half cup olive oil, one-fourth cup red or white wine vinegar, one-half teaspoon Dijon mustard and salt and pepper in a lidded jar and shaking well. Store leftovers in refrigerator.
TIDBITS
The fresh greens, radishes and herbs of early-June farmers’ markets are so welcome after a winter and extended spring of root vegetables and stews. I watch in wonder as my buckeye tree shoots out its glorious bottle-brush flowers, amazed again by the earth’s awakening. The older I get the more surprised I am when winter ends. This year I half expected the landscape to remain cold, brown and dead.

So I may even do a little dance when I cook at my first farmers’ market of the season. I am so happy to see blue sky and green grass, let alone basil and sugar-snap peas.

I will be cooking and sampling from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday (June 4) at the grand opening of the Copley Creekside Farmers’ Market just north of Copley Circle on Cleveland-Massillon Road. Get out of the house. Come join the dance.

Pass it on:
Please e-mail this newsletter to someone you think would enjoy it. I run into former Beacon Journal fans all the time who are surprised to hear that I’m still writing.

MAILBAG

From Tami:
My West Point Market favorite was their “other” spread.  It is a cream cheese based cheese spread that I think contains butter and a lot of garlic – and probably a host of other ingredients.  I have never found anything that closely resembles the taste of it.  Any chance you or your readers have the recipe so we don’t have to live without it once WPM closes its doors?

Thanks for the great newsletter.

Dear Tami: After that nice compliment I’m sorry to tell you I don’t have the recipe and I don’t trust myself with all the butter and cheese it would take to recreate it. Has someone else found a close substitute? If so, please share.
Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in  our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter.  Then go to  http://www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.