Homemade Mondays: Lemon Sesame Salad Dressing (and science experiment)

I really like homeschooling lessons that involve food. So for our salad the other night, we mixed up this simple salad dressing together and discussed how the different layers of liquid had different densities, and what emulsions are (I only gave the very basic description that oil and water are not really friends and that when you emulsify them it’s like making them stay together even though they don’t want to–cut me some slack! I don’t have a degree in science. My goal in homeschooling isn’t to be an expert in everything; because who can know all the things? The point is to rouse kids’ curiousity about stuff and then google the answers to their questions with them!).

This was easy, fun, and delicious.

 

Lemon Sesame Salad Dressing and Science Experiment

Ingredients:

1 part lemon juice

1 part honey, agave, maple syrup, sugar, etc.

2 parts sesame oil (you could easily substitute avocado, olive, etc.)

 

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a clear glass bottle. If you have little kids around you (or even if you don’t; whatever) take a minute to notice which liquid is where…the least dense (oil) will be on top, and the most dense (honey) on the bottom! Food is interesting!

Oh, then tightly lid and shake well to combine.

I served this over a romaine salad with sesame seeds and it was yummy.

lemon sesame salad

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Homemade Mondays: Vegan Aloo Mash with Chapates

A few years ago we met a lovely lady who taught us how to prepare and enjoy a few Indian dishes. After picking up a taste for it, I started looking into more fun meals that would be easy to prepare and fun to eat. Somehow I came across a recipe for something calling itself “Aloo Bhartha” which my family loved and quickly became a staple. Except that in Hindi, that actually means “Potato Eggplant”. Since there is no eggplant involved, we’ve renamed it (because it’s still delicious, whatever it is and however much it’s not a traditional Indian dish). Also, if you can or will eat butter I highly recommend cooking your chapates in ghee instead of coconut oil like me. Yumm…..butter……

Lastly, this is a good thing to serve with a salad or some other kind of vegetable because otherwise it’s kind of a starchy meal.

Vegan Aloo Mash

Ingredients:

2 smallish potatoes per person, well washed

1 medium onion per 4 people, peeled and chopped

a little oil for the pan (avocado, coconut, or your favorite cooking oil)

whole cumin seeds, 1-2 tsp (to taste)

whole yellow or black mustard seeds 1-2 tsp (to taste)

turmeric (to taste)

salt (to taste)

Method:

Roughly chop the potatoes. Boil as you would for mashed potatoes, until a fork goes easily through them. No need to peel, as long as they’re clean. I cut out bad spots and leave the peels because they are a good source of iron!

Once the potatoes are done, turn them off and set them aside. Heat oil over medium heat in a large fry pan for a minute. Add onions, cumin, and mustard seeds. Cook, stirring constantly, until the seeds begin to crackle a bit. Have a potato masher handy, if you have one (if not, you can mash the potatoes in whatever way you usually do…like with a mixer or whatever). Add the potatoes a little at a time, mashing them up well with the spices and onions before adding more. Add turmeric and salt to taste, and water for texture as you go. You might have to try some to get the flavoring just right. 😉

Chapates

Ingredients:

(sourdough starter)

flour (I use spelt, but whatever all-purpose-ey sort of flour you use will be fine)

water

salt

coconut oil (or ghee)

Method:

Start with sourdough starter if you have it, or a cup of water if you don’t. Add flour a little at a time until you have a workable dough. If your dough gets too dry, add a little water and keep mixing. These roll out on a floured surface much like flour tortillas. Roll them as thin and round as you can while keeping them easy to pick up (mine are often not very round).

Heat a griddle or large fry pan over medium/high heat. Put a chapate on, then put about 1/2-1 teaspoon of coconut oil in the center. Roll out the next chapate while this one is cooking. Once there are small brown spots on the bottom, flip and cook for 30 seconds or so on the other side. Transfer to a serving plate and put the new chapate on, and so on and so forth. If they are cooking too fast for you to keep up, turn the heat down a bit.

Serve chapates and aloo mash immediately with hot sauce or chutneys of your choice, fresh coriander (cilantro), or just plain.

To reheat leftovers, add a little water to them and stir until they are as hot as you like and have the right texture.

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Homemade Mondays: Chocolate Syrup Hack

Whether you’re mid-party and someone wants a chocolate drink, or just by yourself and don’t feel like going to the grocery, it’s convenient sometimes to be able to whip up something quickly to add a little extra fun. Some of my favorite homemade staples started to be homemade because one day it seemed like too much work to get to the store. This particular chocolate syrup recipe took me only a few minutes of stirring.

Chocolate Syrup

Ingredients:

Hot Cocoa Mix

Water

optional add-ins: vanilla or almond extract, sea salt to taste, other flavors you might like. But the point is to keep this simple, right? Chocolate syrup is painfully simple to make and customize to your own taste.

Method:

Pour desired amount of hot cocoa mix into a small saucepan. Add only a little bit of water (enough that you can mix it into a medium-thick paste) and cook over low to medium heat. Stir with a wisk and make sure it doesn’t burn to the sides. It doesn’t take long but you do have to watch it pretty closely. Once all the sugar has dissolved, the syrup is very smooth, slightly thinner than you would like, and has the flavor you prefer (add more sugar if it’s too bitter, or sift in a bit more cocoa powder if it’s not chocolatey enough) remove from the heat. Allow to cool, and use immediately or store tightly covered in the fridge.

serving idea: mix in some peanut butter and serve as a fondue with bananas, graham crackers, marshmallows, etc.

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Homemade Mondays: Grenadine!

**If you just want the recipe then scroll down a bit. This is a blog, after all, and so it includes my musings.**

So, I have this group of mamas that has started getting together semi-regularly. We call it “the Mama Speakeasy”. The first time we had it, I put a sign on my front door that looked like this:

no admittance

Which was funny and made us feel like we were doing something sneaky and fun. And we were. Ironically, the day of the party this sign did not deter the AT&T guy from accosting J (again! Dear AT&T: PLEASE LEAVE US ALONE. WE DO NOT WANT U-VERSE. Coming to our house several times a week in the summer and sending us things in the mail is not convincing. Furthermore, trying to engage us in long and fruitless conversation with the door open when it’s well below freezing doesn’t help your case.)

But for this month’s Mama Speakeasy, and moving forward, I wanted to find something that reflected what I was trying to accomplish a little more accurately, while still preserving my nerd cred. So we landed here:

speak friend and enter

I want people to be able to speak freely and in safety about their lives in an environment that is nonjudgmental and encouraging. And sometimes involves martinis. (In case you are nerdy too and wondering, I did not actually make people say “mellon” before they could come into my house. I’m not THAT bad.)

Anyhow, in the quest for crunchy or “real food” drink options, a friend and I were looking for grenadine because pink drinks are fun. And the first one I found had these types of ingredients:

Ingredients: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE, SODIUM BENZOATE (PRESERVATIVE), RED 40, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, BLUE 1

Um, no thank you.

We did manage to find one that seemed to contain food, but when I looked at the ingredients I realized it was basically pomegranate simple syrup. Since we were planning for a fancy party, I already had pomegranate juice at home, so I decided to try to figure it out myself. It has to boil down for a while, but there’s very little (read: about 30 seconds) actual work involved in this and it makes an impressive party addition because it’s one of those things not everyone might think to make from scratch.

Homemade Grenadine

Ingredients:

2 cups of pomegranate juice

1/4-1/2 cup of real maple syrup

a little splash of lemon juice

Method:

Combine pomegranate juice and maple syrup in a wide sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce, stirring periodically, until it reaches your preferred intensity of flavor. If it’s too sweet, add a little juice (pomegranate juice is tart!). If it’s too tart, add some more maple syrup. When you are happy with it (mine reduced over low heat for about an hour), remove from heat, pour into a cute bottle if you have one (or whatever container you have), cover, and use or refrigerate.

You could also make this with regular sugar, or honey, or another natural sweetener. But my maple syrup version was really good. Just saying.

This weekend my kids and I talked about Shirley Temple Black and drank homemade shirley temples. Good times. 

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Homemade Mondays: Cashew Milk and Cashew Cream Cheese

Since going dairy free one of the best things I’ve found (apart from my husband avoiding surgery and my toddler starting to sleep through the night sometimes), is cashew milk. It’s yummy and creamy in my coffee. So it’s become a staple in our house. Since I try not to waste, I’ve been experimenting with what to do with the pulp that’s left when I strain it. The first recipe I found online said you didn’t have to strain it and it would still be creamy and delicious, but I found that not to be true. So in the interest of wasting not and wanting not:

Cashew Milk

Ingredients and supplies:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked 4 hours on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator

3 cups filtered water, plus more for soaking and rinsing

nut milk bag or cheesecloth

large measuring pitcher or bowl

high powered blender (or maybe a normal blender and lots of patience…)

 

Method:

After soaking, rinse the cashews until the water runs clear. Combine the 3 cups of water and the cashews in the blender. Blend on high for 5 minutes or more (I usually set a timer). Strain through cheesecloth or nutmilk bag until pulp and milk have reached desired consistency. For a thicker milk, add a little less water. For a thinner milk, add a little more. Store in the fridge. You can also add other flavoring agents like honey, maple syrup, or other sweeteners, or vanilla. I don’t do that, because I mostly use this for my coffee and for smoothies for the kids, but if you’re drinking it straight or on cereal or something that might be helpful.

Cashew Cream Cheese

Ingredients:

cashew milk pulp, strained to cream cheesy thickness

lemon or lime juice to taste (start with only a little!)

salt to taste

Method:

Mix ingredients well with a fork, starting with a tiny bit of each and adding until it has the flavor you want. This is very easy to customize however you like…sweet or savory.

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Homemade Mondays: Easy Oven Rice

Some of our Homemade Monday recipes have been a little fancy lately. This one is really simple and really basic, but this trick has saved me from scraping sad burned rice out of the bottom of my pans more times than I’d care to admit. This post could also be called “How to avoid buying yet another appliance that takes up space and only does one thing.”

Easy Oven Rice

Ingredients and supplies:

rice of your choice (also works with several other grains, like quinoa)

water or chicken, vegetable, or other stock

salt (optional)

glass or ceramic casserole dish with a well-fitting glass or ceramic lid

The Method:

Mix one part rice to two parts water (or stock) in the casserole dish. Add salt to taste, if you choose.

Cover and bake for an hour at 350 Degrees. If you oven has a “cook timer” on it, you can even set it to beep when it’s finished, like a rice cooker!

This will work passably well for most rice. I cook both white and brown rice for the same amount of time, although white rice would probably be done a little quicker than an hour.

If you’re interested in doing more research, Alton Brown was the first person I ever saw cook rice in the oven. His recipe is pretty similar but mine is easier and doesn’t use butter. 😉

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Homemade Mondays: Flexitarian Taco Dip

Taco Dip is one of my new favorite things. It’s a crowd pleaser and easy to customize for a variety of eaters. It’s very simple to make vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, or meat-loving. Last weekend I made some of this up for my family using only salsa, black beans, and chorizo. It was so simple, and a huge hit! It also makes a good quick dinner if you make sure to add a protein like beans or meat. If you are a Very Responsible Adult you can serve it over rice at a table (we do this sometimes), or you can gather around it as a family with chips and eat it in or by a pillow fort (we do this more). It’s good over eggs for breakfast, too.

You just choose the taco-ey ingredients that suit your nutritional and gustatory needs, mix, heat, and serve! I kind of feel silly calling this a ‘recipe’, so let’s just say it’s more of a serving suggestion.

 

Flexitarian Taco Dip

Ingredients (include but are not limited to):

salsa of your choice

cooked black beans (bonus points for avoiding BPA in can liners if you cook your own, but hey it’s the holidays so do what you have to!)

tomato paste

corn

chopped olives

cooked ground meat like chorizo

cheese

sour cream

potential fancy looking garnishes: avocado, cilantro, chives, olives, fresh tomato, shredded lettuce

Chips for serving

 

Method:

Mix together in a pretty skillet if you have one. Warm and serve. If you choose to use dairy make sure not to cook it too long because the cheese will burn. I like to serve this in a cast iron skillet because it keeps it warm longer.

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