Love Thin Mints? Then, you’ll love this even better.

Lately, I’ve been reading Facebook status updates from my girlfriends who are practically cursing the Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies. I, too used to have  a love/hate relationship with Girl Scout cookies. Love to eat them. Hate yourself after you’ve eaten the whole box in one sitting. Thin. Mints. Are. Addicting. Then, I found this recipe from Rachel Ray years ago. I’m happy to share this recipe with you as a solution to your Thin Mint addiction. Well… come to think of it– I’m not sure if you thank me or curse me (because this recipe is delish).

So, every year when cookie sales come around, I buy a box of Thin Mints, eat half and save the other half to make  this Thin Mints Dessert Pizza.  Make it and take it to work. You will definitely win “Co-worker of the Week” for sharing this with them (and you’ll have only devoured half the box by yourself instead of the entire thing).

Thin Mints Dessert Pizza

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Open sesame: How to make roasted sesame milk

For all of you looking for milk alternatives and are wanting to try something besides soy or almond milk, give this a try. Sesame milk (contains no milk) tastes wonderful and is almost reminiscent of a “peanut-buttery milk”.

Roasted sesame milk

Ingredients:

2 cups of water

3/4 cups of sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Toast sesame seeds in oven @ 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

2. Place all ingredients in Vitamix blender and secure lid.

3. Start machine at Variable 1 and quickly increase to Variable 10. Then, switch to high.

4. Blend for about 2 minutes or until desired consistency.

5. Strain using cheesecloth or nut milk bag (shown below) and/or add sweetener if desired.

After I strained the milk, I only had a tiny bit of nut pulp left. You could add this to a bread dough (e.g., banana bread). I added mine to my compost pile. (Click here for post on how to compost apartment-style.)

6. Store in the refrigerator or enjoy immediately! (I store mine in an “upcycled” glass peanut butter jar.)

Notes:

I used my toaster oven to toast the seeds, so it was pretty quick. Actually, the sesame seeds that I had were already labeled as “roasted”, but the recipe I used said that toasting seeds improves the slight bitter flavor of the “milk”, so I wasn’t taking any chances.

The recipe makes 2 cups, but the batch that I made in the pictures is only 1/2 of the recipe.

I made this using my Vitamix. I’m sure you could make it in a regular blender, but because it does require that you blend for about 2 minutes, I would be afraid that a regular blender couldn’t handle it. (It was when I tried to make things like this, that I burnt out several “regular” blenders and decided to get a Vitamix. Click here for more information on how to purchase a Vitamix (30-day money back guarantee–so if you don’t like it, you can always send it back–although I doubt you will). Using this link will provide free shipping (a $25 value).

Bake (and eat) at your own risk

Yeah, this title might totally be the way R would describe some of my past baking (and cooking) “experiments”. Remember that cake-in-a-jar that I baked back in October 2010? Well, immediately after making them, I sent them off to my sister and BIL who are currently serving in A-stan. All except for one lonely jar. I stuck this one away at the bottom of my fruit basket with all intentions of “opening” it about 3 weeks after I baked it. (Three weeks is about the time that it takes for a package to arrive over to my sister.) Well, about three weeks later, I did indeed hear from her that the pineapple cake-in-a-jar was delish and she then requested zucchini bread-in-a-jar, which you can read all about here. Needless to say, I forgot about the cake-in-a-jar that I had saved to try later. One month passed. Then two months. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been eyeing the jar on my baker’s rack and every time I see it, I decide that I’m going to open it…and then I get distracted and forget about it. I think part of me was (subconsciously) afraid it wasn’t good anymore and I would get some sort of stomach bug from it. And that’s coming from the girl with the iron stomach. Well, I saw an “encouragement” from my friend A (see her blog here) to “write” blog entries so she would have something to read tonight, so A, this post is for you.

Here’s what the cake-in-a-jar looked like after 3 months. No obvious mold. Good.

When I opened it, I did hear the seal “POP”. And it didn’t look dried out and still smelled delicious. It came out of the jar pretty easily. Only a little part of it was left behind in the jar. Continue reading

If they sell donut holes, where do all the bagel holes go?

For those of you following my adventures in the kitchen through this blog, you know that I love trying to make things from scratch, like fruit leather, Shanghai soup dumplings (xiao long tang bao), or green tea  and birthday cake ice cream. Many of you probably are wondering why in the world would you make yogurt from scratch [or insert food], when you can buy them for 0.40 [insert insanely cheap price] at the store? Here are some of the reasons I’m up for the challenge of  DIY food:

1) Sometimes things really do taste better homemade.

2) Sometimes things really are cheaper homemade.

3) It’s “greener”. It reduces packaging waste and doesn’t contribute (much) to my carbon footprint.

4) I can control what goes into what I make. I don’t need to add preservatives, unecessary colorings or flavor enhancers.

5) It’s fun to know “where your food comes from.”

6) It makes me feel more “domesticated”. ( :

Making food from scratch doesn’t always make sense. Some recipes take way too long to prepare and only taste slightly better than store-bought like my Taiwanese pineapple cakes. But nonetheless it’s fun.

So, I wanted to share with you my attempt at homemade bagels. Continue reading

Vitamix does fruit roll-ups

On their website, Vitamix boasts that this amazing “blender” can tackle 52 amazing food feats. Well, I’m proud to say I’ve discovered food feat #53.

Before Christmas break, I stuck some apples in the fridge…and forgot about them…until yesterday. Now, when it comes to apples, I’m pretty snobby. I really like a crisp, crunchy apple. I do not do mealy apples. I’ve recently discovered honeycrisp apples (or as R likes to call them: “honeycripsy” apples) and if any of you have ever ate one, you know exactly what a delicious apple should taste like. Sorry Gala and Fuji but I’ve found a new love. But, I deter. Back to the old, mushy apples in the fridge. Yesterday, I pulled them out of the fridge just to see how “bad” they really were. Secretly, I was hoping that they were rotten and I could just toss them. But suprisingly, they “looked” decent. Well, I knew they weren’t good enough for this “apple snob” to eat directly. So, I remembered that I had been wanting to try to make fruit leather from scratch. Do you remember eating Fruit Roll-Ups as a kid? I thought this would be the perfect way to use up my “old” fruit.

Here’s what I did:

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update: Thirty before 30

I fully intended to update you on the progress of my TB30 list the day after my 30th birthday (which was about 2 months ago). Better late than never, huh?

Although I wasn’t able to finish everything on my list, it was still loads of fun trying to.

Here’s a repost of my TB30 list with some added commentary from yours truly. Continue reading

Xiao long tang bao (Shanghai steamed soup dumplings)

This year R and I decided that we weren’t going to celebrate our birthdays and anniversary with gifts in order to save money (and plus neither of us really need/want anything). So, we promised each other we wouldn’t buy anything. Well, giving gifts must be a love language for me. I just couldn’t resist doing something for R’s birthday. Each year, the tradition so far has been to cook him a special birthday dinner. It’s usually lamb because he really loves it and it’s something that we don’t make on a regular basis. But in the last couple of months (ever since returning from our summer trip to Taiwan), I can’t tell you how many times he has mentioned xiao long bao. If you’ve never heard of these or eaten these, they are the most delicious dumpling you will ever have. What makes them extra special is that there is a gushing of delicious, savory soup inside each dumpling that escapes and dribbles down your chin as you bite into its tender, slightly chewy skin. If you ever go to Taiwan (or are in a restaurant that serves these), this is a must-eat kinda food. So, in my quest to become a good Taiwanese wife, I decided to attempt to make these and enlisted my roommate (a wonderful cook) to help. Attempting the make these is definitely not for the faint of heart. They take a lot more effort than the usual speedy Taiwanese recipes that we make on a day-to-day basis. Since the first time that I made these about 3 weeks ago, I have made them twice since and found that each time it does get easier.

The recipe below is a translation of something my roommate found online, along with some adjustments from trial and error. Continue reading

Hello YouTube: How to make green tea ice cream without an ice cream maker

For me, part of the idea of living fully is to live simply. And in trying to embrace living simply, I’ve been practicing how to become more self-sufficient…which in the kitchen translates into learning how to make as many things as possible from scratch instead of buying it already pre-made. Living simply in the kitchen also means trying to get away with as few speciality appliances as absolutely necessary (e.g., the ice cream maker).

One of my minor obsessions this summer was making homemade ice cream without an ice cream machine. Click here,  here and here to read about my other ice cream making adventures.  Continue reading

Zucchini bread in a jar

After sending some vacuum-sealed baked goods to my sister who is currently serving in Afghanistan only to find out that they arrived 3 weeks later, with mold, I discovered that you could bake cakes in Mason jars and that they would essentially be preserved (due to the sealing of the jars). Read here for my first attempt. My sister did receive the first cake-in-a-jar that I attempted. I mailed the first batch of pineapple cake on October 5. She told me that she opened the jars and ate the cake on October 23, almost 3 weeks later—and they were fresh! So I asked her if she had any requests for the next batch and she said since they don’t have a lot of access to fresh produce and fruit that she would like zucchini bread. So, here is my attempt with zucchini bread in a jar.

Ingredients:

8-10 pint canning jars (or the equivalent in a larger size) with rings and new lids (I only had 6, so I used these and then made a separate mini loaf.)

3 c flour

1 t salt

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t cloves

2 c zucchini (~1 medium zucchini)

2 c granulated sugar

1 c margarine—at room temperature (I used 1 stick of butter (1/2 c) and then 1/2 c of applesauce

1 t vanilla

3 egg whites—whipped

1. Boil jars, lids and rings for 10 minutes. Dry jars. Leave rings and lids in hot water while preparing the batter.

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2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

3. Mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in one bowl.

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4. Grate zucchini. I used the Vitamix to grate my zucchini. I put the lid on the Vitamix and removed the plug. Turned the Vitamix on to Speed 5-6 and put in the large pieces of zucchini. Wah-lah…grated zucchini with no bloody knuckles.

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1-minute homemade peanut butter in the Vitamix

So, peanut butter is another of those things that I had been wanting to try to make in the Vitamix, but was waiting until I used up the last of my commercial PB. Making homemade peanut butter is too easy not to share how it is done. Making your own nut butters can be great, especially if you tend to buy some of the more expensive nut butters like almond butter or cashew butter (which can be made the exact same way as the PB). I knew this was going to be pretty easy, but had no idea it would be this easy.

Here’s what I did:

I started with a couple of cups of roasted peanuts. I bought them unshelled (from the Asian market) and roasted them myself (20min in 350 degree oven). I debated taking off the skin, but in the end was too lazy.

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Put the nuts in the Vitamix. Cover with lid and tamper.

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Blend on High for 1 minute or so, using tamper to send nuts to blades. My PB was probably done around 45 seconds, but since this was my first time, I wanted to make sure it was really creamy and blended for the full minute.

Here’s what you get. Fresh, homemade creamy peanut butter.

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R thought I put chocolate into it because it looks darker than commercial PB, but I think it just came out this color because I roasted my nuts a long time and left the peanut skins on (more fiber, right?). If you want crunchy PB, I suspect you just save some nuts to add in towards the end of the 1-minute blend time. Now, that I know that making nut butters in the VM is super fast and easy, I’m going to try to make cashew, almond, macadamia nut and sunflower seed butters. Oh, you can also add in salt and sugar during the blend if you like, but I prefer au natural. Plus, eaten with apples or bananas, there’s no need for added sugars or salt.

If you have a Vitamix, this is definitely something you should try to make. But I will admit, the normal ‘30-second blending with soapy water’ didn’t quite clean it the same as it does with smoothies. But, every now and then my VM definitely needs a good scrub. I also let it soak with hot, soapy water to get rid of the PB underneath the blades. This worked just fine.

Yield: ~2 cups of nuts made 1 cup of nut butter

Click on the Vitamix button below to order your own or use code 06-005573 at checkout to receive free shipping ($25 value).

You’d be nutty not to make this: Almond milk in the Vitamix

Recently, you might have noticed Blue Diamond has made commercially available almond milk. Almond milk is a great alternative for those who don’t like or can’t tolerate milk or soymilk. It’s cholesterol-free and has a delicious nutty flavor. It surprisingly isn’t as expensive as I thought it might be, a half gallon costing a little more than a gallon of milk (if I remember correctly). Well, I tasted and thought it was pretty good. But if you know me, in my quest to become more domesticated, I wanted to see how difficult it would be to make almond milk from scratch. Again, this was another thing that was on my list of things I wanted to try with the Vitamix, but haven’t got around to it until tonight. (It seems that every time I have almonds in the house, I end up making these.)

Here’s how I did it:

Soak 3/4 cup almonds overnight in water. You can use whole almonds or sliced. I had both, so I used both.

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After soaking, rinse them until the water runs clear. They will be puffy.

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Who says Mason jars are just for jelly? How to make cake-in-a-jar.

Since my sister and BIL left for duty in Afghanistan in March of this year, I have been experimenting with how to best send them baked goods. I had some success in the past with vacuum sealing using a Reynolds vacuum sealer, until the last time I sent her peanut butter bread. When she called me last month, she said she opened up the package and it smelt so good. She was all ready to take a big bite…until she saw the mold. Boo.

Determined to send her something besides cookies, I have had this cake-in-a-jar project on my list for a while and just hadn’t gotten around to it until this weekend. For my first attempt, I made a very simple cake. Once I hear from her that it worked, I will fancy it up.

Here’s how I did it:

I boiled a big pot of water to sterilize my half-pint jars, lids and rings. You can also use pint jars, which will just result in a bigger cake serving per jar. It’s okay to use cleaned old jars. Just make sure to use new lids and rings.

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Popeye approved: Faux Cream of Spinach Soup in the Vitamix

The cool fall day today made me really crave soup for dinner. I had bought a big ‘ole bunch of spinach at the Asian market tonight. So, I decided to make a faux cream of spinach soup. This recipe could easily be vegan if made with vegetable broth instead of chicken.

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4 T onion, peeled/chopped

2 t canola or olive oil

1/2 # fresh spinach, washed

2 c broth (chicken or vegetable)

1 1/2 t cornstarch

3 oz tofu

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Oodles and oodles of zoodles

Here is a post on what you can do with all of those zucchinis from this summer’s garden.

When I was at the farmer’s market buying peaches and basil for the smoothie that I wanted to try, I also picked up some beautiful zucchinis. I wanted to try to make the zoodles that I had tried at the local raw/vegan cafe that I ate at the other day. This is perfect for people who are following diet restrictions (for whatever reason), like vegan or raw food diets and for people who just want a fun way to eat zucchini besides zucchini bread. For this re-creation, I did not see what ingredients they used to make them with and just went with my instincts on what I thought I might like. I hope the owner of this cafe isn’t offended by my attempts at re-creating her delicious dishes. I hope she just remembers that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Here’s what I used in my version of zoodles:

zucchini, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds (I had white and black so I used both), sugar (not shown in picture)

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Here is what the zucchini looks like after it’s been attacked by the julienne peeler. Don’t they look like green noodles?

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Here is the delicious final product: Zoodles (They were so yummy that I ate them with 2 meals today and I can’t wait to get my hands on more zucchini.)

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Shrek Juice and Blueberry Ice Cream in the Vitamix

I have decided to affectionately refer to my green smoothies as “Shrek Juice”. This morning I made a special batch of Shrek Juice (SJ) to take to work with me. Today’s SJ was made with banana, pineapple (the not pretty part that you don’t want to eat, but is a waste to throw it away), including pineapple core (or pineapple hearts), frozen strawberries, frozen mangos, carrot, grape tomatoes and and the “Shrekiest” of ingredients—a generous handful of spinach!

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As you can see, I definitely made enough to share. So, I packaged it up for my bike ride to work by pouring the SJ into pint-sized Ball jelly jars. I then put the jars into a insulate cooler (that I scored the other day for free from the University career fair—which I likely didn’t have business visiting). Continue reading

Butter me up: Homemade cinnamon-honey butter in the Vitamix blender

As I sit here writing this post, I am enjoying some luscious homemade strawberry ice cream (made with real cream, not skim milk like I usually do) made in the Vitamix.

Picture 018But I digress. I wanted to tell you about my first attempt at making butter in the Vitamix. As a dietitian, you may be wondering why I am making my own butter. Well, #1: I am not against eating butter (everything in moderation); #2: I have a machine that can do it and wanted to see how easy or hard it was; and #3 I had some whipping cream in the fridge that was getting close to its expiration date and wanted to use it up. Continue reading

Peanut butter bread and green smoothies–in the Vitamix

Even though green smoothies are one of the main reasons I originally invested in a Vitamix sadly, I have only made 1 or 2 since I’ve owned my Vitamix since March of this year. Partly, because there are so many other delicious things that I have been making with my Vitamix, I truly have not had the time. Well, it’s getting to be the end of summer, and I thought that I had better start gorging on fresh fruits and vegetables. So, I thought I would make more green smoothies. I made one last weekend (did not take pictures) with grapes, banana, pineapple, apple, spinach and ice. I added no additional sweetener and it was delicious! Today, I decided to make another and remembered to take photos. Continue reading

5-minute plastic bag ice cream

I’m not sure what my obsession this summer with ice cream is all about, but for some reason, I keep Googling different ways to make ice cream So, far this summer, I have made mango ice cream, strawberry ice cream (both in the Vitamix), green tea ice cream and sesame seed ice cream (both on the stove and by mixing my hand) and my latest adventure yesterday was “How to make 5-minute plastic bag ice cream”. Here are the simple list of ingredients: Continue reading

making tai yang bing (Taiwanese Sun Cakes)

Tonight I attempted to make Taiwanese Tai Yang Bing.

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The recipe I used calls for 3 different doughs: a water dough (the blobs on the left), the oil dough (the blobs in the middle) and the filling (the light-colored blobs on the right). The ingredients are simple. Mostly flour (all-purpose and cake), confectioner’s sugar, maltose, shortening and butter. Surprisingly, they weren’t as hard as I thought they would be to make. Continue reading