Culinary Experiments

The Houseguest

I have a houseguest, my dears.

I didn’t even know this was a movie until I googled.

No, my houseguest is not Sinbad – nor anyone resembling Sinbad, for that matter. 

My houseguest is a lady.  A powerful workhorse who does not shy away from intense physical labor yet who also accomplishes such labor with a certain grace and efficient facility.  While a bit hefty, she’s beautiful in her own way – sleek and stately, she is not given to frills but radiates a simple, handsome femininity. 

Would you like to meet her?  Of course you would.  So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my new friend, Vitamix.

Isn’t she lovely?

I call her Vi.

She is on loan from my very generous Auntie.  I have agreed to offer shelter to Vi for a fortnight but, given how amazing our relationship has been thus far,  I’m already thinking that I may prefer her as a permanent roommate.  I cannot be certain with whom Vi’s loyalties lie, but I have already begun working on the ransom note in anticipation of her departure.

You see, Vi has already catered to many of my whims and desires.  She has made me delightful nut butter in less time than it takes to say “I love nut butter.”  If Vi lived with me, I would never need to purchase nut butters again – sorry Justin.  She has also aided in my making Chocolate Covered Katie’s de-freakin’-licious Deep Dish Cookie Pie and I plan to use her services to help create various Thanksgiving concoctions.  All of this and Vi has been my houseguest for just a couple of days.  I have only scraped the surface of Vi’s potential – we have a world of possibilities to explore together.  Our time with each other has been short but I’m already thinking, “Vi, whatever will I do without you?”

Stay tuned, my friends, Vi and I have much to show you. 

Have you ever had the pleasure of owning/using a Vitamix?

What are your favorite Vitamix recipes?  And will you share them with me?

Categories: Culinary Experiments, Kitchen Gadgets, Nut Butter | 2 Comments


I didn’t have to work yesterday.  No, it wasn’t a holiday.  No, I wasn’t sick.  No, I didn’t take a vacation or personal day.  Rather, The Bride of Frankenstorm decided to visit the state so work was cancelled (yes, I just used the British spelling of the word – Hey, I went to grad school in the U.K. and some things just stuck).  We sorta had the Hurricane Sandy version of a Snow Day.  We had a San-Day, if you will.

It was a Cruel, Cruel, Cruel San-Day…

They hold the Guiness World Record as having the most chart enteries of any all-female group in the world. Who woulda thought?

…and I feel for the thousands living on Long Island Sound who just got whalloped.  We were pretty okay in inland CT, though – and I am not nearly as scared of hurricanes as I am of thunderstorms – so I hunkered down, stayed in my jammies…

Please take a mome to appreciate my oh-so-fashionable Halloween socks.

…and thought of some creative ways to use up the ripe bananas that were languishing in my fruit bowl.

First up…

Banana Beer Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 large banana, mashed

1 tablespoon honey

12 oz. beer


Mix together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne.  In a separate bowl, mash the banana and stir in the honey.

Asante sana squash banana!

Create a “well” in the flour mixture.  Pour in the banana-honey mixture and the beer – super gently, you don’t want a lot of “head” goin’ on.  Stir it all together just until combined.  Do not overstir!  You’ll end up with stiff, dense bread and that would be ick.  Unless, of course, you like stiff, dense bread – in which case, stir away.  Pour the batter in a 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

During the baking process a delightful aroma will fill your house.  So delighful, in fact, that you’ll think you’re burning a banana/beer scented Yankee Candle.  You’re tummy will start to grumble in anticipation of this wonderous delight and before you know it you’ll pull this outta the oven:

Cue the singing angels.

I didn’t wait one minute before diving in – I might have burned myself on the loaf pan in the process – it smelled that good.  It tasted pretty good too – a nice mix of savory and sweet.  The yeastiness of the beer complimented the sweetness of the banana while the cinnamon added some spicey warmth.  I didn’t really taste the cayenne which was mildly disappointing – I’ll probably add more next time.

Seeing as I still had a couple of bananas left, I continued the banana-fest with:

Banana Roasted Chicken

1/2 chicken breast

1/2 small vidalia onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 large ripe banana, roughly chopped

olive oil, salt, pepper, and bouquet garni to taste

Put everything in a baking dish and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes to a half hour depending on the size of your chicken.  I was cooking for one, but this recipe could easily be doubled or tripled or exponentially multiplied to feed an army.

The chicken is in there, it’s just hiding under all those glorious onions, bananas, and herbs.

Whoa, baby!  Was this delish!  The chicken was tender, the bananas were roasted to sweet perfection, and the onions and gralic added the perfect savory finish.  I am definitely making this recipe a staple in my repertoire.

Ready for its close-up.

Today, the sun is shining and hurricane-force winds are but a memory.  In her aftermath Sandy has left flooded homes, downed trees, thousands of people without power…and 1 1/2 bananas still chilaxing in my fruit bowl.  Sandy may be over but I have a feeling Bananarama is just getting started…

What are your favorite ways to spend a Snow Day San-Day?

How do you use up your ripe bananas?

Categories: Culinary Experiments, Thunderstorms | 2 Comments

When life gives you pistachios…

If you’ve been following me lately, you’ll know that my love of nut butters has recently been amped up a notch thanks to the generosity of Gal A and her gift of Nutty Butters.

In fact, I’ve been so enthralled with the concept of home-made nut butters that I decided it was high time to give it a try myself.  However, never one to go with the crowd…

Those jeans are all kinds of awesome.

…I decided to try a more out of the ordinary nut: pistachios.  It’s not like I haven’t heard of pistachio butter before – they sell it at Whole Foods – but I haven’t seen too many home-made versions floatin’ around the ol’ blog-o-sphere.  So, equipped with a bag of pre-roasted and salted nuts and The Magic Bullet, I set to work.

Things started off well…

The shelling (or is it de-shelling?) process took me nearly a half hour and resulted in a blister on my left thumb. If you decide to undertake this process yourself, well…Godspeed.

…and then quickly devolved.  It was after I loaded the innocent looking nuts into the equally innocent looking Magic Bullet that all hell broke loose.  The initial, somewhat hopeful pulsing of the nuts was soon followed by much smacking of the Bullet, mild cursing, and maybe some tears.  There was noise and there was smoke (I think I burned out the motor on that damn Bullet) but, alas, there was no pistachio butter.  Instead, I ended up with a sort of dry nut paste.

Epic.  Fail.

Now this particular kitchen kerfluffle (I feel “catastrophe” is too strong a word) was due to many factors: odd nut choice, bad appliance choice (shoulda gone with a food processor), and an inexperienced (at least in the fine art of crafting nut butters) chef.  Rationally, I know this but, emotionally, I feel like a loser.  This post was supposed to be about making nut butter – and how Fun! Easy! Enjoyable! it is – and now it has to be about a big fat flop.

But that might be a good thing…

I’m not known to take failure very well.  If I’m going to do something, I want to do it well.  I don’t always have to be the best but I want to rank somewhere up there in the top 15%. 

Birthday gift from Mom. The woman knows me well.

You’d think that this fear of failure would keep me from trying new activities that I can’t be sure I’ll excel at.  You’d be logical to think that, but you’d be wrong.  As we saw from those jeans up there, I’m not one to follow trends – I’m also not very logical – so, rather than shying away from attempting new things because I might fail at them, I dive head first into experimentation regardless of the possibility of a misstep.  Sure, I might throw a temper tantrum when those endeavors don’t go my way, but gosh darn it, it only makes me want to try harder the next time.

Why?  Well, because you never know when a defeat might lead to a victory.

Epic failure? More like iconic success.

Mistakes happen.  Things don’t always go according to plan.  We can’t forget that old adage: When life gives you lemons, go and make yourself some refreshing lemonade. 

In this particular case, life gave me pistachios.  While I was not able to make pistachio butter, my attempt did offer me a reason to write about the importance of embracing blunders.  And don’t think I forgot about that nut paste.  I have another culinary adventure planned.  I may fail again but I won’t know unless I try.  🙂

Have you ever let fear of failure dissuade you from trying something new?

Have you ever turned an “accident” into a “happy accident?”

Categories: Culinary Experiments, Kitchen Gadgets, Nut Butter, Whole Foods | 2 Comments

I’m gonna pump YOU up!

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the benefits of eating cottage cheese before bed.  Here’s a brief recap.  There are loads of sources out there that claim cheese, of the cottage variety, is great for building lean muscle…something I’ve been focusing on for the past couple of months.  I don’t necessarily want to bulk up…

Well, hello, Arnie!

…but I’d like to achieve a little more definition in my arms and abs.  I’m not quite ready to go the whole protein powder route so I figured I’d give this whole cottage cheese thang a try.  I’m not a scientist or nutritionist or doctor of any kind, and I don’t know how true these claims might be, but what’s the worst that could happen?  If anything, I’ll get some added calcium, right? 🙂

Anywho, while I love cottage cheese as is…

An early birthday gift from my Work Wife…true story.

…I’m always looking for ways to spice sweeten things up.  So, inspired by Sara and Lindsay, I decided to do a little protein experiment.  A protein experiment that, I have to say, went terribly, terribly…RIGHT!

Pumped Up Strawberry Cheesecake Bites


1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup diced strawberries

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon vanilla

Pop all of the above into your food processor of choice.  I took this experiment as an excuse to use a variety of recently purchased kitchen gadgets, such as…

Shiny and new 🙂

…which worked pretty well on its first go-around (you’ll see the results below) but I’m reserving real judgement until I try a few more things (hummus, salsa, mixed beverages of various kinds).  I’m pretty sure about one thing, though: I don’t think this contraption is going to fully live up to its claims.

The Magic Bullet is confident of its abilities.

Does this mean it will clean my bathroom?  Give my car an oil change?  Fix the broken utility drawer in my kitchen?  Cause I could use help with all of the above.  Just sayin’…

Anywho, back to the task at hand. 

Looks good just as is, hmm?

Process cheese, strawbs, zest, and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  You might have to add a teaspoon or so of milk (cow, soy, almond, rice…I’m sure any variety would work) depending on how runny your cottage cheese is to start.  It should end up being the consistency of slightly water-y pudding. 

Oh, yeah…

Now, you could just stop here and eat this deliciousness with a spoon – I’m also thinkin’ that this would make a delightful fruit dip – but I had other plans… and more new kitchen gadgets to try.

My new loves.

Full disclosure: I love me a good Tupperware Party and I’m crazy for Pampered Chef.

I used this baby to produce that gorgeous lemon zest pictured above.

No, I am not a middle-aged housewife sporting mom jeans, living in Minnesota with 5 kids.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


But the ice-cube trays pictured above do make me insanely happy.  Since they come with a cover they worked perfectly in the next stage of my experiment: Operation Freeze the Cheese.

Perfect portions.

I added a few cut up strawberries on top and then popped the bites in the freezer for an overnight chill.

Right next to the frozen bananas and below the vodka.

I gotta tell ya guys, these things are pretty darn good.  I let a couple of ’em thaw a little bit before diggin’ in – probably a good idea if you don’t want to chip a tooth – and patted myself on the back as I enjoyed their cool and creamy tangy-ness.  Personally, I like the subtle salty-ness that the cheese imparts but you might want to add a teaspoon or two of a sweetener (stevia, agave, honey, etc.) if you like your frozen treats more on the sweet side.

All in all, my experiment was a success – I’ve discovered a delightful new way to Pump MYSELF Up!

Any of you have suggestions on other ways I can increase lean muscle mass – aside from protein powder?

What kinds of culinary experiments have turned out well for you?  Any epic fails?

Categories: Cottage Cheese, Culinary Experiments, Kitchen Gadgets, protein | 8 Comments

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