Kitchen Gadgets

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?

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

The Goose is Outta the Bag…

The time has come, dear readers, for me to satisfy your curiosity.  I promised you a phenomenal recipe yesterday and I will now deliver on that promise. 

You remember the hint I gave you, yes?

Little ball of sunshine.

What could this gem possibly be?  Many of you guessed a tiny yellow tomato.  Nope.  Another guessed it was a kumquat.  I’m afraid not.  The title of this post offers another hint.  Any takers?  No?  What was that?  Did you say, “JUST CUT THE CR*P AND TELL ME ALREADY!!!”  Well, okay then, no need to get your knickers in a bunch.  My friends, this little bugger is a…drumroll please…

This was a flippin’ fantastic movie. Go see it.

…Gooseberry!  A Cape Gooseberry to be precise.  Yay for Gooseberries!

While I have certainly heard of gooseberries, I have never heard of Cape Gooseberries and I have never actually consumed one of either variety…until Tuesday evening, that is.  During my weekly trip to the West End Farmers’ Market, I was perusing the offerings at the Rose’s Berry Farm stand when I noticed a pint of what at first appeared to be tiny tomatillos.  “What, pray tell, are these?”  I asked the kind farmer.  “Gooseberries,” he so eloquently responded.  A man of few words, he then proceeded to unwrap one from its crepe-y covering, offer it to me, and say, “Try.”  So I did.

Folks, it was delightful.  It burst open in my mouth like a tiny little tomato but the flavor was much sweeter with just a touch of tartness.  I could have eaten a whole pint just like that.  However, I decided that much more was in store for these babies…

Like a photo shoot.

…so I brought them home and got my apron on.  This, my patient readers, is the outcome:

Wait for It… Gooseberry Salsa

Glamour Shot.

1 cup chopped Cape Gooseberries

1/2 cup chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped jalapenos (I used jarred, fresh would work as well but be sure to remove the seeds!)

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all of the above together and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours.  The refrigeration lets all the ingredients mingle so that the flavor is more intense (even vegetables and spices need some time to get to know each other, people) but if you’re impatient (like me) there’s nothing wrong with eating the salsa right away. 🙂

Serving suggestion.

As I said yesterday, this stuff is goo-OOO-ood.  Slightly tart, the tiny gooseberry seeds pop on your tongue and are complimented by the crunch of crisp onion.  Much as you’ve had to do for this post, you have to wait a moment for the kick of jalapeno but when it does come it is the perfect balance to the refreshing sweetness of the gooseberries and brown sugar.

Go make it. 

If you are still reading, that’s good.  You did not succumb to my above order nor to your growling belly that, I’m sure, is screaming at you “GO MAKE THAT DELICIOUS SALSA!!!”  Yay to you for not being a pushover and for having the willpower of Miranda Kerr – though a healthy person should probably not have the willpower of Miranda Kerr.

Anywho, there’s one morething I’d like to share with you…

You may have noticed from the photos above that all of the salsa ingredients are beautifully, uniformly chopped. 

The salsa is ready for its close-up.

No, I am not an Iron Chef.  I do not have amazing knife skills.  What I do have is this:

Another birthday gift from Mom. She done good this year.

You all know my love of Tupperware.  Well, this new gadget did not disappoint.

Them blades are sharp! Don’t use this if you’ve had a few glasses of wine. Just sayin’…

It’s better than that damn Magic Bullet (which I’ve sold off to a friend, by the way…good ridance – to the Bullet, not the friend)!  It chopped gooseberries, onion, garlic, and jalapenos with ease!  It’s manually operated which I (and my ears – no loud grating noises) love!  The bowl detaches from the blade portion and comes with its own cover so you can prep and store in the same container!  This contraption is genius.  Here’s where you can go to get one.

Well, now you’ve got the recipe.  All you need is to get the ingredients and a chopping mechanism of your choice and you will be well on your way to enjoying Wait for It… Gooseberry Salsa.

You may be cursing me for making you wait.  You may be thanking me for sharing – in which case, you’re welcome.  Either way the cat goose is outta the bag.

Have you ever tried gooseberries or cape gooseberries before?

What’s your favorite kitchen contraption?

Categories: Farmer's Market, Kitchen Gadgets, Veggies | 3 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

Yum!

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.

AAAHHHHAHAHAHAHA…I’m sorry.

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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