Thursday, December 23, 2010

How-To: Keep Brown Sugar Soft

Don't you hate when you go to use your brown sugar, and it is hard as a rock? You try to break off pieces with a knife, cursing the whole time, but no matter what, it is still a sugary brick. BAH!!

So what do you do? Well I have some tricks, some may be a bit crazy sounding (ok.. really crazy) but they work I swear.

But first, ever wonder why brown sugar gets so hard? Well it is because of the molasses in it. Yep, brown sugar has molasses in it, that is why it has such a dark brown color. And the darker the sugar, the more molasses it contains. So the reason the sugar becomes a brick is because the liquid in the molasses evaporates. Go figure.

I know there are multiple ways to soften the brown stuff, but these 3 are ones that I have used multiple times and have had great success with. So lets battle the block together and try these at home.

Trick 1: Zap it Soft. 
This trick is for when you need to use your brown sugar right away. Put some sugar in a container in the microwave and put a bowl of water in the microwave beside it. Zap it on high for about a 1 minute. Still hard? Put it in for another 30 seconds, continue this until soft.

Trick 2: The Pulse and Grind. 
Also good for when you need brown sugar right away. Put some in a food processor/blender/coffee grinder and pulse until it is a usable texture.

Trick 3: The Bread Trick (WARNING: Crazy Alert!)
Yes, extreme warning. This sounds crazy. I honestly didn't think it was crazy the first time I heard it, I thought it was nifty and I have been using this trick ever since. The crazyness comes from my friends reaction when they look at me like I am a nutball for putting bread in my brown sugar jar. Ya that is all you have to do! Put a slice a bread in your brown sugar jar and leave over night, I swear to you it will be soft and luxurious the next morning. Seriously...just try it. Don't hate.

Cheers to soft brown sugar!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly French Toast

French toast is great on its own, but why not jazz it up every once in a while and make your Sunday morning breakfast a treat. I know my goal was to stay away from PB & J sandwiches, but I couldn't help it! It is a classic combination!That is why I needed to add this to the Ultimate Student Collection.  I added fresh fruit to not only make it a bit healthier, but add another level of flavor and texture. 

Want a few tips about how to make a great basic french toast? Check it out here. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly French Toast
2 slices of bread
French Toast Egg Mixture (2 eggs, splash of milk, dash of vanilla... or look here)
2 Tbsp of Peanut Butter (any kind - crunchy, smooth, natural)
2 Tbsp of Jelly/Jam
Handful of fresh fruit

Dip bread in egg mixture and cook in frying pan over medium heat until golden brown. 

While still warm, spread peanut butter and jelly over one slice of french toast. Top with fresh fruit. 
Pour over maple syrup (but be careful because the jam is already really sweet, so you may not want to add to much liquid sugar). 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quick and Easy Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is a classic dessert that I remember having growing up. It is full of rich and creamy goodness. Now this dessert can be made to be devilishly fattening and amazingly delicious, but lets face it, our waist line can't handle it that often. So, I came up with a lighter version using ingredients that I normally have on hand. Such as.... Minute Rice. Yep... I said Minute Rice. Or instant rice. Still the same thing. All those foodies out there are probably cringing horribly right now. But what can I say? I'm a student and Minute Rice takes only.. well..minutes to cook! I bet the majority of students have a bag (or box) of rice kicking around in their pantry. Oh and did I mention I normally use brown rice too? Not traditional by any means, but it is slightly better for you so why the hey not.

Also, I mentioned earlier about how you can use Warm Apple Topping on rice pudding to take it up a notch. But you can top it with many things such as chocolate or nuts (you know, just to add a little twist here and there).

So are you ready for some easyness?

Quick and Easy Rice Pudding

1 cup of Brown Minute Rice
1 1/2 cups of Milk
1/4 cup of sugar  (use less if you want - or use brown sugar)
2 tsp of Cinnamon
Handful of Raisins (optional)
Splash of Vanilla
Pinch of Cinnamon
Glob of butter (optional)
1 egg (optional!!)

Put rice, milk, sugar, spices, vanilla and raisins in a pot and turn on high. (I like to add raisins early because they soak up some liquid and become nice and plump). Bring almost to a boil. But keep an eye on it because with milk, it can go from bubbly to overspill in seconds.

Once it hits high, turn heat to low and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked stirring occasionally. Really, just follow the directions on the Minute Rice box (haha). If you find that the rice is a little dry, you can always add more milk - especially if you like it really creamy.

Once the rice is cooked, the egg can come into play if you like. But you need to TEMPER the egg. (What the heck is that? I will tell you) You need to crack and whip the egg in a separate bowl. Add a spoon-full of hot rice pudding to the egg and stir constantly. This will bring up the temperature of the egg mixture without cooking it. Then you can put that mixture  back into the rice pudding pot and stir until it is all incorporated. Let cook for another 2 minutes. Adding an egg creates a wonderful texture - really light and creamy.

Choose no egg? Just head straight to this step. Stir in a bit of butter (this is optional of course) to add an extra level of flavor and make it more creamy.

Serve warm or cold. 

Add Warm Apple Topping for some extra goodness!

Cooking Tip for 1: This can last in the fridge for a few days and some think it is even better cold. Surprisingly, it actually makes a good breakfast too. It is a good way to spoil yourself with dessert, but not kill your diet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How-To: Make Warm Apple Topping

Sneak peak of topping with rice pudding
Apple season is coming to a close and I decide to stock up while they are still cheap and fresh. With so many apples, I need to think of new ways to use them (such as in my Apple, Raisin, Toasted Walnut and Spinach Salad). Here is a quick an easy recipe that can be used in soooo many ways.

This little mixture of warm apples, spices and almonds can go on many tasty treats to take them to the next level and it is so quick and easy to make. It is a great basic recipe to get started with, and you can add different spices and flavours to make your own variation.

You can use this on top of pancakes, french toast, ice cream, pastries, yogurt, oatmeal and so on and so on and so on. My recent use was on rice pudding when a foodie friend of mine and I put our heads together to make a quick and easy dessert on the spot (more on that recipe later).

Warm Apple Topping

2 Apples
2-3 Tbsp of Slivered Almonds
1 Tbsp of butter
2 Tsp of Cinnamon
1 Tsp of Nutmeg (optional)
Splash of lemon juice (optional)

Pre-heat a pan to medium heat and melt the butter. In the mean time, slice n dice the apples how you like em. Throw the almonds in the pan and toss in butter, slightly toasting them - about 2-3 minutes.

Add your apples and sprinkle spices over apples. Toss (or stir) apples until the are completely coated by butter and spices.

Cook until apples start to get a little soft, about another 5-7 minutes. Take off heat and serve!

I want some right now....

Monday, December 6, 2010

The CAR Sandwich

This sandwich is truly a master sandwich. It is my all-time-favourite-never-can-have-enough sandwich. The first time I made it, my bf acted like he died and went to heaven. Needless to say, it is frequently requested amongst all my friends.

What is CAR? Chicken-avocado-roasted red pepper. But there is also cheese and mayo. Should I have called it the CARMC? CCARM? RACCM? Well it doesn't matter what you call it when you gobble it all down.

This sandwich is kind of like a panini. But I do not have a panini press to properly grill the sandwich, so... I had to improvise. Read on for further instructions!

The CAR Sandwich

1 Chicken Breast
1/2 Avocado
1/2 Roasted Red Pepper
Cheese (cheddar or marble is what I use - and use as much or as little as you want)
1 Ciabatta Bun
2 Tbsp of Mayo
Hot Sauce or Cayanne (optional)
S & P for seasoning

Start off by seasoning your chicken breast with salt and pepper. Feel free to use other seasoning as you please. I usually slice the breast into strips for faster cooking. Throw it in a pan and cook until done.

In the meantime, slice open your ciabatta bun and lay flat. Scoop out the flesh from the avocado and mush it up in a bowl, (it makes it easier to spread). In another bowl, add some hot sauce to some mayo. This is optional, but even for me (someone who has zero tolerance for hot stuff), it adds a pleasant little zip. Avocado on one side of the bun, and mayo on the other side.

By this time, your chicken should be done, so load it on one side of the sandwich. Top with a roasted red pepper. You can use store-bought or make you own. Not sure how to roast a pepper? Check out some instructions here. Top with shredded cheese.

Okay, here comes the creative part. I mimic a panini press by heating up some oil in a frying pan and play the sandwich in the pan. Then I take another smaller pan and put it on top of the sandwich. THEN using a glass or a mug, I put it on top of the frying pan and press. This added weight to the sandwich will press it together to mimic a panini (you may never get your sandwich quite as flat as a real panini but it will be just as good). Another way to do it is to find a brick and wrap it in tin foil and use the weight of it to press the sandwich.  All you need is a hot pan and something to put weight on the sandwich. Sounds funny but once you try it, I bet you will be doing this little trick more often than you think.

Once the sandwich is golden brown on one side, flip and repeat until a nice crunchy crust is formed.

Crunch crunch crunch...Om nom nom...mmmmm
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