Now that’s a spicy lollipop!

Mexican kids are tough!

That’s what I always think when I look at the candy section at my local carniceria.  Not only does it carry things like custom-cut meat, tortillas, and drinks, but there is an ever expanding candy section. I feel lucky to be living in Southern Arizona. If I didn’t, I’d be missing out on a lot of great flavors.

Why do I think those kids are tough? For one thing, half their candy has cayenne in it. One of my favorite kinds is a paste made with tamarind, chili powder, and sugar. I also like the lollipops that are fruit flavored once you get through a layer of chili and salt. Another thing I tried recently is candied barrel cactus. That was good, as was the candied sweet potato. Both were chewy and moist on the inside, rather like a good chunk of dried pineapple.

Mexican candy has interesting and unique things in it. I love the goat milk caramel, for instance, which brings back memories of my childhood – I milked a goat every day. I will admit, I haven’t gotten used to the salted, preserved plums, called saladitos. It’s just too much salt for me. I tried, though! Another thing I’ve learned to do is eat jicama strips with chili and lime. It’s also good on apple slices. Go to any Hispanic oriented grocery store and you’ll even find a liquid preparation of brined fruit chili powder just for drizzling over things.

Other candy is made with coconut, peanut, tamarind, various forms of chocolate, and marshmallow. You can even find chocolate dipped corn flakes sold in little bags, the same way M&Ms are sold. I haven’t tried everything there is to try, but there sure are a lot of interesting flavors out there!

I think the coolest lollipop is sort of mango flavored, covered with a spicy layer, and shaped like a chicken.  They are fun to eat and a balanced flavor.  Really!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/lollipop/

Finally, summer’s here! Have some Switchel.

You may be wanting to know exactly what switchel is.   Basically, it’s a mix of water, ginger, vinegar, and sugar.  Sometimes fruit juice is added.

When I first encountered this beverage, I thought it tasted strange. However, the more I drank it, the better I liked it. I learned that it was a common hot weather beverage in Early America, and that intrigued me. I’ll write more about its history later but first, here’s how to make it.

Switchel is simple to make. You start with cold water and add apple cider vinegar, sweetener of some kind, and fresh ginger. It’s refreshing, replenishes your potassium, and helps your digestion. It’s a great recovery drink for after a work out. Though the spicy, sweet and sour flavor may be a bit odd at first, it’s certainly well worth getting used to!

Here’s a good recipe to start with.

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons brown sugar, 10 ounces cold water, and minced fresh ginger to taste.  

Variations:

Make ginger tea and add the vinegar and sugar.

Use honey.

Use maple syrup.

Add a splash of fruit juice, such as blueberry or cherry.

Sometimes I will make a strong ginger tea and chill that to make my base with. Other times I’ll simply add chopped ginger to my vinegar-sugar-water mix. Or, as mentioned in the recipe, I might add some fruit juice for variety. I’ve even drunk it warm! Your choice of sweeteners affects the taste. So far I like pure maple syrup or plain white sugar the best. You could also use honey, molasses, or stevia. You may want to limit your sweetener, though I wouldn’t recommend eliminating it at first. Personally, I plan to keep a big jug of it in the fridge this summer, especially during the hot, sticky monsoon months.

Personal experiences:

I have found it to have an energizing effect, somewhat like a mild energy drink. I usually digest things better after I’ve had some, too. I have some digestive issues and the ginger helps the muscles in my stomach and gut move a bit more slowly (link) so I digest things more thoroughly. Plain ginger tea does the same, particularly when I eat the chopped ginger as well as drinking the liquid. My body seems to crave the vitamins that are found in the apple cider vinegar. I tend to like {this brand}, though you can buy it at your local grocery store. If possible, buy it organic with the “mother” still included, though I’ve had great results even with the purified, pasteurized variety.

The history of Swtichel:

As mentioned before, this was a farmer’s drink in early America, but many people liked it. It was believed that the ginger had a warming effect that would lessen the shocking effect of cold water on the stomach, while the sugar and vinegar were there for flavor. It was basically an early sports drink.

Since it’s so easy to make, why not try some today?

If something more traditional is more to your liking, here is how to make a simple ginger beer.

First, start with ginger tea. That’s easy to make – steep chopped ginger in hot water for five minutes or so. Make it nice and strong.

Mix the tea with sugar to taste. Perhaps a cup of sugar for a gallon of ginger beer.

Once it’s cooled to body temperature, add a half teaspoon of yeast. Simple baking yeast is fine.

Evenly divide the mixture into two clean 2 liter soda bottles. Put a slice or two of ginger in each one to strengthen the flavor. Fill the rest of the way with plain water. Leave an inch or so of space at the top of the bottle for “head room.” Cap the bottles tightly.

Leave the ginger beer in the fridge overnight, or until the bottles feel hard. The yeast will carbonate the sweet ginger tea and make it into a simple ginger ale, without building up enough to form alcohol. This makes a great cold drink for a hot day!

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Final

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Mellow Spice Cookies

Need a quick snack that you can share with friends?  Have a deepseated yearning but don’t want to pay high prices or eat a million preservatives?  This recipe will heal that void.  It’s is a variation on a basic recipe but I find it quite delicious.  These cookies are very quick and easy to make.  Depending on how you make them, they are slightly chewy, rather like a soft snickerdoodle.

You will need:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)

2 sticks (one cup) butter or margarine, softened but not melted

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg

2 Tb spices (pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and nutmeg, or whatever you like)

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the brown sugar, spices, and baking powder.  Cut the butter into it.  Add the egg.  Mix well.  Add the flour till it turns into a crumbly dough.

Roll dough into balls about an inch and a half across, place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, top will be soft when it first comes out.  Let cool.  Makes about 2 dozen.

These cookies are also great if you substitute vanilla extract and Craisins.  I find that they are a little chewy but crispy on the bottom.  You could experiment with different spices.  I want to try some with Chinese Five Spice, or maybe just ginger and cinnamon!  Though they are far from a health food, it’s well known that having more culinary spices in your diet can help heal certain conditions.  So it’s worth a try if you were going to have cookies anyway!

Troubleshooting

If they spread too much, either the butter is too warm or you used too much sugar.

If you can’t mix the dough, either butter is too cold or you’re using too much flour.

If you are using margarine, use stick margarine like Blue Bonnet or it will be too soft.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/heal/

Automatic Yogurt

 

Tired of paying high prices for yogurt?  Interested in being more involved with your own food supply?  Sick of tiny containers and lots of artificial ingredients?  Don’t have the time for a complicated cooking project?

Try automatic yogurt!

It’s really easy.

All you need is milk of some kind, a spoonful of unsweetened yogurt to use as a culture, and a Thermos style insulated bottle.

That’s it!

How?

The process is simple and even a little fun.  Just heat up the milk to just above body temperature, then stir in a spoonful of your favorite plain yogurt.  Finally a use for those tiny containers that go on sale at the grocer’s.  If you use a microwave to heat the milk, add the culture after you already have it warm.

You can use nonfat dry milk to make yogurt, then you can just use warm tap water to make your milk.  Mix it double strength for a really awesome texture.

Then, cap the Thermos tightly and set it in a warm place overnight.  I usually use the top of my hot water heater.  In the morning, you should have a nice amount of smooth, thick yogurt.

Uses:

You can add fruit or honey to your new yogurt, mix it into recipes, use it as a substitute for sour cream, or make it into sauces like tzatziki.  It can be made into a type of cheese, too, if you drain it for several hours in cheesecloth.  Make sure to save the whey for adding to soups or bread.

Tips:

If you’re looking for a wide mouthed Thermos bottle, it’s best to choose one that’s made of stainless steel.  You can use other kinds but plastic holds odors and bacteria a little too well, while steel is easy to sanitize.  Here’s a good example for you.

Some people also use a Crock Pot style slow cooker, which is great for when you need large batches, like if you’re making yogurt cheese.  Here’s a nice, high quality, low cost example.

Common problems:

If you have an issue with mold, make sure your container is well sanitized with a weak bleach solution. Clean every nook.

If your yogurt won’t set, either your culture (the spoonful of yogurt) is weak, or you killed it with excessive heat or cold. The best temperature is about body tempoerature, maybe a little above.

If your yogurt tastes funny, clean your container.

Almost all problems with yogurt can be corrected by cleanliness, waiting a little longer, or getting the right temperature. The key is to remember that the bacteria that make yogurt are living organisms, and make an ideal environment for them to grow.

 

(Disclaimer:  If you follow the links to Amazon and decide to buy something, I get a small amount from the purchase.  There’s no additional cost to you.  I looked for the best value for the money and shared that, rather than picking the most expensive thing.)

via Daily Prompt: Automatic

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2017/01/28/automatic/

Cooking in a small space

It’s possible to make some really amazing meals in a small room even if it doesn’t have a kitchen. All you need is a power outlet and a nearby water source such as a sink. While I love my kitchen with its counters and full sink and gas range with oven, I have fond memories of cooking in my dorm.

Provided you can safely get away with having one, an electric wok is a great choice for cooking in a small space. It’s deep enough you can use it as a steamer, just put a round rack in the bottom with a shallow layer of water, put the food on the rack and close it tightly. That way you can steam vegetables, dumplings, fish, bread, and any number of things. You can make stews in the electric wok because of its depth, you can fry, and you can of course use it for normal wok things like stir frying. This one item, plus a small cutting board, a good knife, and a cube fridge will allow you to do some amazing things. Having a couple of metal bowls also improves your abilities tremendously.

Some writers have also talked about crock pot cooking, making omelettes in a waffle iron, and making grilled cheese sandwiches or fried bacon with a clothes iron and aluminum foil. However, for sheer versatility I think the electric wok is still the best!

I once steamed a cake in my wok. I used a metal mixing bowl for the pan.

My best meal was probably steamed salmon, cooked on a bed of baby bok choy, served over rice. The salmon cooked on the bok choy in the wok.

Once I turned the wok into a double boiler and melted chocolate in it- using the venerable metal bowl.

I cooked eggs in it, fried bacon, made pancakes, as well as countless soups, stews and stir fries. This saved me money because I didn’t have to eat at the cafeteria every time I wanted something, and gave me hours of fun. I also had some pretty spectacular failures due to some overly adventurous taste buds.

There are two secrets to using an electric wok for cooking: planning ahead so everything can be cooked in the right order, and always using utensils of wood, metal, and other heat resistant materials. That way bowls can double as pans, and you have more versatility.

Discovering new foods

At this point, I haven’t had much chance to travel.  But I’m still a person who’s curious about the rest of the world, so much so that I love roaming around on Wikimapia, and using Google Street view to see places I’ve never been!  How to feed this desire to experience new things?

I travel to different international stores!

Not only do they have really interesting packaging in other languages, but I get a taste of different cultures, I see different ways of doing things.  The sounds, sights and smells are different.  I love that!

I’ll travel to Asia, by going to the international supermarket in the rich part of town – their prices are amazing, the staff is friendly, their meat and fish are well prepared, and I love exploring all the odd snack foods.  What exactly does that fruit taste like?  Let’s try!  Why does dried squid make a good snack?  What exactly is that cut of meat used for?  Is refrigerated udon better than the dry stuff?  How do you open a bottle of ramune, anyway?  And what in the world is that huge purple flower bud that’s a foot long, and how do you cook it?  So many questions, so many delicious answers.

Then there’s the utensils!  Why are there five or six different types of mortar and pestle?  What is that knife used for, specifically?  How about that pot?  The wonders don’t stop.

Other times I’ll head south, to the Carniceria, and get my favorite marinated meats, either to have them grilled (right there outside the store) or to take them home to bake.   I’ll get some taijin powder to put on my apples, maybe a chunk of candied sweet potato, or maybe I’ll get some pumpkin empenadas.  I’ll certainly pick up some thin, lovely, handmade tortillas and some real Coke with real sugar in a glass bottle.

By the time I get home, I feel like I’ve traveled!

via Daily Prompt: Discover

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A most delightfully Pungent kitchen

There are things I can’t cook at home – certain Vietnamese soups, old fashioned oatmeal, and overcooked cabbage.  They leave the kitchen in a most pungent state.

This weekend my kitchen has been pungent in a good way.  It normally whiffs of sesame oil and garlic, but now it also smelled of turkey breast, roasted potatoes, and more than the legal limit of pumpkin spice.  Last night I made another batch of pumpkin bread.  I used my own spice mix and I must tell you it was heady indeed.  When I took it out of the oven, I stood for a moment, deeply inhaling.

That smell was a great one, almost rivaling rain when it hasn’t started falling yet, or a good Monsoon downpour when it fills the whole house with that damp, clean, almost resinous smell.

My nose and I are good friends and I love good aromas.  Some of them always tell me I’m home.

Bonus: pumpkin spice mix recipe

For any interested, here’s my spice mix:  nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger – all ground and mixed together in roughly equal amounts with maybe a bit more cinnamon.  I buy them in packets at the grocery store, you know those lovely dollar packets?  So I get my pumpkin spice at a discount price.  It’s great for adding to oatmeal or coffee.

 

via Daily Prompt: Pungent

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/pungent/