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Kernel Season’s Popcorn Spritzer – Review

In a previous post John shared his secret to make Perfect Popped Popcorn, it is a very good method to make a healthy, low cost snack.  For the longest time I didn’t like popcorn, but lately I’ve been a ravenous popcorn addict, sneaking a small pot here and there just to get me by until I could make a big pot.  It has become my favorite snack in a hurry.

I like my popcorn with butter and salt, both of which are not known for being healthy.  Well I think I’ve solved the butter problem.  Enter Kernel Season’s Popcorn Spritzer!  I saw this in the popcorn section of our grocery store when I was gathering kernel’s to feed my addiction but I ignored it, thinking it would taste chemically, artificial or just bad.  In a day of weakness I picked up a bottle to try when my craving was at it’s peak.  Below is the product you are looking for in all of it’s splendor.

kernel seasons popcorn spritzer

I came home and made a small batch just to test this spritzer out, I didn’t know what to expect.  It was FANTASTIC!!!  The flavor is very close to real butter without the fat, calories and cholesterol.  No chemically, funny or otherwise displeasing taste or smell.  It is “lighter” is the best way I can explain it, it doesn’t have the dense feel butter leaves on popcorn.

I really enjoy the aerosol concept of applying it, it just seems like a good idea to me.  However that is one drawback, it seems to have too much propellent and comes out almost violently.  They suggest doing short bursts, which I agree with but I wish it was a gentler misting style discharge than an aggressive mist.  My other complaint would be that it does leave your fingers greasy and I don’t like that.  I’m not entirely sure about if this increases or decreases salt/seasoning adhesion or not.  They claim it does, however I notice a lot of loose salt on the bottom and sides of the bowl.  This could be the seasoning/salt adhering to the overspray on the bowl but it seems fairly loose.  Whatever the case it’s not enough of a short coming for me to have it disuade my usage.

I’ll stress the technique mentioned in John’s post about using fine salt.  We have the Perfex Salt and Pepper Mills which allow the user to control the size of the grind, from powder to whole peppercorns or sea salt crystals falling out as you turn the handle.  While these are expensive, I’ll certainly admit that, they are the last salt and pepper mill you will ever buy.  If you’re purchasing special salt this will pay for itself quickly and you can use it for other cooking as well and who doesn’t love cool cooking toys!  If you have to John’s food processor method is a good substitute, but I prefer sea salt/kosher salt to iodized salt, it has a mellower flavor and is more forgiving.

On the salt/seasoning front I’m going to continue testing the seasonings I find and report back with any findings worth sharing.  I’m also looking into salt substitutes, but so far they all taste “off” but I remain optimistic that I’ll find a way to make this a healthy snack!

Any suggestions of toppings I should try?  Lets take popcorn to the next level!

Basic Review of Ebelskivers

First of all we want to apologize to all of you for our lack of posting last month, we also want to send a HUGE thank you to John for keeping things going.  Tiffany and I got married last month and it had taken a lot of our free time and unfortunately Lukewarm Legumes suffered.  The great news is we are happily married and have a lot of great posts just waiting to be composed!  Now to your regularly scheduled post about Ebelskivers.

I first heard of Ebelskivers in 2009 from Food Networks “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” series.  Celebrity Chef Aaron Sanchez  raved about this delectable little stuffed breakfast style pastries from Denmark.  I’ve wanted to try them or make them ever since, and recently that dream had become a reality.  Tiffany and I were out shopping and stumbled into Williams Sonoma, and picked up their Nordic Ware Ebelskiver Pan while a little pricey it’s a very well constructed pan.  My only complaint would be the design is not favorable for glass top ranges, which is what we have.  That said, as long as you are careful then I don’t think it’s a huge concern, but don’t come complaining to me if you scratch your glass cooktop.  This is more of a stationary pan, bring it up to temperature and leave it there, the only time it is moved is when you are removing the finished ebelskivers and returning it to the stove.

Before we jump too far ahead we want it to be known that we really enjoy ebelskivers and this is the first of a few posts you’ll see on the topic.  We’ve only made them 6 or so times now and all have been sweet, we have yet to gravitate towards the savory, but we will eventually!

The basic ebelskiver batter we use is very similar to pancake batter.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) Sugar
1/2 teaspoon(s) Baking powder
1/4 teaspoon(s) Salt
2 whole(s) Eggs Separated
1 cup(s) Milk
2 tablespoon(s) Butter Melted and slightly cooled

Combine the dry ingredients, in separate bowl whisk together egg yolks, milk and butter, then combine with the dry ingredients – the batter will be lumpy.

Here is a picture of batter before folding in the beaten egg whites – please note this is a half batch.

ebelskiver batter

Whip the egg whites until stiff, fold in 1/3 at a time.

That’s it!

We typically add an extract to our batter, we’ve enjoyed coconut extract and vanilla extract but your creativity in balancing the filling to the batter is totally in your hands.  If you’re planning on a savory Ebelskiver then don’t use any extracts.

Next comes the cooking part, different people have different techniques but what I’ve found works best is to heat the pan to a med-low heat, have your filling ready, use a nonstick cooking spray or butter in the pan and then spoon in a generous tablespoon of batter into all of the ebelskiver openings. I’ve found it’s much better to under fill with batter than over fill, remember when you add your filling it displaces batter and fills up the rest of the cup.  Once the batter is in the pan quickly get your fillings into as close to the center of the batter as you can.   If you find you’re rushing too much turn the heat down a little.  As I mentioned before it’s much easier to have them a little on the small side than overly huge, however, as you’ll see in the image below the cups do fill up when you add the fillings.

Ebelskivers cooking

Another little trick I’ve been using since our first batch is that once the fillings are in I use my finger and kind of push the filling down and make sure it’s covered with batter.  The reason I do this is it typically produces an ebelskiver that is less likely to leak.  The image above is a cherry and chocolate sauce in coconut extract infused batter.

You’ll notice some bubbles when they are cooking, unlike with regular pancakes this is not an indication that they are ready to turn, even when the bubbles remain.  This just takes a little practice but after your first pan full you’ll have it down.

They sell a pair of sticks to flip/turn ebelskivers at Williams Sonoma for $13, we opted to just use wood skewers, the kind you use for grilling.  We also tried a high temperature slim silicon spatula and it didn’t work at all!  To flip them all you do is gently poke along one side and they should sort of start turning on their own, carefully help it make the complete flip and if you’ve over filled them gently, and carefully squish them into the pan.  You’ll know what I’m talking about if you do it, if you over fill them this is where it will become a problem.  When you try to flip an over filled ebelskiver it doesn’t fit back into the pan, the baking soda reacts and they grow when cooked.  If you do this and don’t squish them into the pan you end up with a most likely leaking ebelskiver that resembles a mushroom – they still taste great but it’s not a great demonstration of the technique used create what should be a uniform and sealed ebelskiver.

I typically plan for a single turn, that’s not to say you can’t flip them back over if you think they need more cooking but it shouldn’t be necessary if you are patient enough.  The finished product looks like what you see below.

ebelskiver's

 

You’ll notice some of these leaked and there is some uneven cooking, this was 100% my fault, this batch is one of our very first batches and we’ve gotten a lot better.  You can dip them in syrup, eat them as is, dust them with powdered sugar, whatever you feel is appropriate.

As I mentioned earlier we have become a big fan of these and we will follow up with additional posts on our success and failures (there have been a few), in the mean time we strongly suggest giving these tasty little stuffed pancakes a shot!

 

 

 

Blk Water – Review

If you haven’t seen Blk Water yet you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Here’s a link to the BLK’s website you’ll notice their slogan “The Dark Side of Water.”  They have a very different take on bottled water than most conventional bottled water.  To give you an idea, the bottles on their home page, they are clear bottles.  There is also a hidden message written in black on the bottle, can you see it?

blk water half empty

You’ll have to find a bottle to find the hidden message! (truth be told I forgot to snap a picture of it and I don’t want to steal someone else’s) The water looks similar to a cola in color, though this is not carbonated.  They claim there are no colorings or artificial ingredients added to create this opaque water, it’s done by minerals left in the water by mother nature.  Sounds kind of gimmicky to me, but it’s not everyday you can drink black water that you literally can’t see through.

blk water bottle

A friend brought this to a party we were having so we decided that everyone should try it, as reluctant as some were!  It tastes confusing, you’d expect it to have a strong taste or smell and it does not.  I think it smells faintly metallic but it could be my senses playing tricks on me. The statements made about it’s taste ranged from, it tastes like regular water, to it tastes like a swamp smells.  I personally thought it had a taste, slightly metallic, slightly like lawn clippings smell with a unique mouth feel.  Though it was far from in your face and pronounced, these were very subtle flavors.  Overall I thought it was an enjoyable water to drink and I’ll probably try it again and do further testing with it.

I’m curious how it is at various temperature extremes, as ice and heated to make tea or coffee with.  If you wanted to go all out you could cook with it, can you image using it in rice or with pasta?  I think they would make great ice cubes, in particular at a cocktail party.

I certainly wasn’t turned off by my experience with it and I would try it again, it’s a great topic of conversation, in particular if you have it on hand to share with people.  The uses as a gag prop are nearly limitless, I think it could be a lot of fun to use as a prank.

Here’s another image of it in a clear glass


blk water in a glass

I don’t think I’d drink it every day, not only would it get a little expensive but part of me thinks consuming abnormally high amounts of any mineral is probably not wise.  That said the company claims it is entirely healthy and they are probably right I am just a little weirded out by black water!  I say that in a good way, it’s a very different take on bottle water and if your curious I’d strongly recommend trying it.

 

New Comments Function

Hello Visitors,  This is a simple update to make you aware of an improvement we made to our site.  We are now utilizing Disqus for our comments, this allows users a much simpler and more interactive way to comment on our blog.  You can now post without entering an email address or name, simply post from a browser that you are logged any of the following accounts Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Google, OpenID or  your own Disqus account.  Your post will show as a signed by which ever account you select after you enter it.

We did this to create a simpler way for visitors to comment and make the experience more social, hopefully easier and engaging.  We’ll be updating the site as we find additions worth adding, if you have any suggestions just let us know and we’ll do our best to make it a reality.  We are committed to continually evolving this site to make it the best possible experience it can be.

Simple Stovetop Croutons

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate waste, in particular with food, it really drives me crazy to see food thrown away.  In light of this I’ll do almost anything to use a product before it goes bad.  A quick side anecdote, I once pulled a turkey burger out of the trash and ate it, in my defense it was only thrown away 10 minutes earlier and it was sealed in a ziplock bag – it was delicious!  I’m not saying eat bad food, or take chances, but try to schedule your left overs so you don’t throw them away, not only is it wasteful of the products it’s also very expensive.

So fast forward to now, I was at my parents house and they had some bread that was sitting on the counter waiting to be thrown out.  It looked like a quality bread and they were making dinner and we were starting our meal with a salad.  I instantly thought, let’s see how quick I can make croutons and use this bread.  First, I closely inspected to make sure the bread wasn’t bad, after it passed that inspection I asked my mother to cut the bread, she chose to cut them in none uniform pieces, which worked remarkably well.

Meanwhile I grabbed a non-stick skillet and got it on the stove at a medium high heat.  By the time the pan was hot the cut up bread was ready, I added a generous layer of olive oil (extra virgin olive oil) and started transforming the boring, stale soon to be wasted bread into a nice addition to our salad.  As they were cooking I seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a little parsley for color.  I would then toss them as it seemed necessary adding additional olive oil as they looked dry.  It took a few minutes but they started to lightly brown up and at that time I added fresh grated pecorino cheese (which is very similar to parmesan, but it’s made with ewe’s milk rather than cow’s milk).  See the action shot below!

stovetop croutons

As you can see they are all sizes and shapes, I was initially turned off by this but it worked out really well.  By having varying sizes we had various levels of crunch with the finished croutons which was very enjoyable.  They ranged from very crunchy to slightly chewy still, I thought it was a very enjoyable combination.

These were incredibly simple to make and made an average salad seem like something special, the best part is they took maybe 10 minutes total to prep and cook – not a bad use of time!  They were a quantum leap better than store bought croutons, these simple quick croutons were in the top 5 I’ve ever had in my life.  If you’re looking to bring new life to a salad or you have some bread going bad it’s a great way to use it and enjoy it!

Below is a closeup of the croutons just before I pulled them out of the pan, just seeing this picture makes me smile, they were that yummy.

croutons

Let me know if you have any crouton ideas or recipes you think are worth trying.

Homemade Corned Beef

As I have mentioned before the bulk of my interest in food comes from my parents, this post is one of their traditions that I tried to capture and share with everyone.  This tradition is a something that developed a few years ago and we’ve been doing every year since.  My family really enjoys corned beef, we also noticed that corned beef’s seemed to be of lower quality year after year, they just weren’t how they used to make them.  So we set out to create corned beef’s that reminded us of the corned beef’s of yesterday, but first a little history on the nobel corned beef.

Before we jumped blindly into this project we were curious on the history of corned beef, so we could better understand the tradition and even the scheduling of when and why they were made.  One of the first things we learned is the exact origins of corned beef has been lost, but it is generally agreed that it was done to preserve the meat and make less desirable cuts of beef more tender and flavorful.  A few hundred years ago there were no refrigerators and if you had to travel or survive a winter when your food supply migrated away from you, you had to find a way to survive.  If you’re optimistic and you or your tribe were extremely successful with hunting you’d want to preserve as much of the meat as possible, creating corned beef would be a great way to do this.

The next is the scheduling, why is it that the majority of American’s who eat corned beef eat it in March?  In most of North America March is the end or near end of winter, in order to make corned beef you need to be able to store the meat in a cold temperature for a long period of time.  Even in this day and age not many people have walk in refrigerators in their homes so that means leaving it in a garage or outside.  The main thing to do is keep the meat as close to 45 degrees F as you can for 10-21 days (different recipes call for different lengths of time, some go for much longer than 21 days).  During this time period you need to make sure the meat stays submerged in the brine and it’s generally recommended to give it a stir once a day.

So what is corned beef?  Corned beef is brined beef, typically brisket of beef.  The brining not only adds flavor, but it also tenderizes the meat and changes it’s color.  Brine is in it’s simplest form a pickling liquid which is made from water, salt, sugar and seasonings.  You probably see where this is going now, in order to make corned beef all you do is create the brine, chill it, place the beef in the brine, keep it cool for a few weeks while stirring once a day, ensuring the beef is submerged and then you have corned beef.  The theory is very simple, making all of these items come together in a way that resembles corned beef is a little trickier.

The exact recipe for the brine we use I do not have, Alton Brown has a good basic recipe for you to start with, after that batch you can start tweaking the ingredients to suit your needs.  One of the tricky items to find is Saltpeter, which absolutely must be used when making corned beef.  In addition to adding preservation to the meat it is responsible for the pink hue of the meat which is a staple of corned beef.  The ratio of seasonings, salts and sugar you use varied depending on the size of the batch you’re making.  It seems every year we make a larger and larger batch which is another reason I don’t know our ratio’s.

We start by grinding pickling seasoning, along with black peppercorns and other seasonings using a mortar and pestle.

Grinding Pickling Seasoning

Then we add them to the brining liquid which we are heating on the stove to help aid in dissolving the salts and sugar.

cooking corned beef brine

This is a catch 22 because as soon as everything is dissolved adequately we have to cool it, there is no simple or easy way to cool a lot of water so we just add ice until the temperature is correct.

cooling corned beef brine

Once the brine is brought down to 45 degrees F we then add it to our brining vessel and the brining of the corned beef’s begins!

corned beef in container to be aged

Now we hurry up and wait :( After several years of testing we’ve found that 3 weeks is the sweet spot for us. I cannot stress the importance of keeping them chilled, if you let the temperature increase even a little bit you run a risk of having bacteria enter the equation and the beef discoloring – which happened to us last year.  The outside of the meat turned gray but the inside was still an inspiring hue of corned beef deliciousness.  We ran into the problem because my family moved from NY to NC and winters down here just aren’t as cold so we had to get a cooler to keep our corned beef’s in with ice around it to keep it the right temperature.

After 3 weeks of daily checks and adding ice approximately every 3 days we are ready!  I present you with fresh, just out of the brine corned beef’s!

finished corned beef

We went a little crazy this year so we ended up using a vacuum sealer and plan on freezing the majority of the corned beef’s this year so we’ll have them throughout the year.  Here is the full harvest on my parents stove.

vacuum packed corned beef

We had our first one about 2 weeks ago now and I think this may have been the best batch to date.  The first year they were a little heavy on the garlic and cloves,  then we adjusted on the second year and they came out very good, last year we ran into the discoloration problem, but this year they are spectacular.

Cooking the corned beef’s is about as simple as it gets, simmer it for 2.5-3 (or longer depending on the size) hours and serve with your favorite corned beef sides!  Some people like to add seasonings such as cloves, carrots or other seasonings or aromatics to the braising liquid, we find ours to be so flavorful it’s just not needed.  Great leftovers, or as corned beef sandwich’s – how ever you like your corned beef this is the only way to go.

Below is an image of the first corned beef that we cooked – delicious!

cooked corned beef