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Basic Flan

Basic Flan. Yum!

Flan. Not what most kids want for dessert. But, if you can get them to TRY it, many will like it. As an adult, with more mature tastes, almost everyone will appreciate it. Flan is a custard that is pretty firm, and is baked with caramelized sugar that becomes a syrupy sauce.

Many cultures have a version of flan, especially Latino and Hispanic cuisines. The one I am doing here is a pretty simple, basic Mexican style flan. I ordered a flan pan via the internet to cook mine in; however, you can use an 8″x3″ deep cake pan or something similar, with or without the water bath. Using the water bath, I believe is supposed to give a more even heat and a finer texture.

Here’s the recipe:

Basic Whole Egg Flan

5 whole eggs

1 can of evaporated milk

1 can of condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup granulated white sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to to 350F. Add sugar to a small saucepan, preferably non-stick, over medium heat. Pay close attention and stir often. Adjust heat as necessary.

Starting the caramel.

Sugar starting to melt. Stir!

In a large mixing bowl, add 5 whole eggs. (I remove the little white globs with a fork, or you could strain, after mixing in other ingredients.) Add condensed and evaporated milks and vanilla. Combine well, using a wire whip.

Eggs and milks.

When the sugar is completely melted, it should be a nice amber color. It will burn VERY quickly, so don’t push it too much and pay close attention! It will be extremely hot and sticky, so handle with care! I think I went just a bit too long, as some stuck to the pan and was hardened. (see photo below)

Caramel is ready!

Carefully pour the caramel into the flan pan or baking pan.

Caramel in the pan.

Ladle the egg mixture into the pan. I probably should have let the caramel set-up just a minute or two. We’ll see how it turns out. (see photo below)

Custard mixture added.

If using flan pan and water bath, affix lid to flan pan, place in a larger, oven safe dish, on a sheet pan or other larger baking pan. Add boiling water to the bath pan, coming halfway up the flan pan. Carefully transfer to preheated oven.

In the water bath and oven.

If not using flan pan  or water bath, just put baking pan on a cookie sheet onto the oven rack. Oven rack should be in the center of the oven. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate for a least a couple hours prior to serving.

Out of the oven and cooling.

To serve, run a knife around the sides to release, invert a serving dish onto the flan baking dish. Make sure you have a dish that will hold the caramel liquid, without overflowing!

I used a pie plate to invert my flan onto.

Carefully, but quickly flip over, and then remove the baking dish.

Ta da!!! Looks like I should have let the caramel set for just a minute, but looks pretty good.

Some caramel hardened onto the pan. Next time, remove from heat sooner?

Heading to the fridge for a couple of hours.

Cut into servings, plate, spoon syrup over.

May be served with whipped cream and/or berries, if desired.

You can find versions of flan with various flavors, such as coffee, chocolate, pumpkin, almond, coconut, and more. Once you are comfortable with the basic recipe, try some variations! Enjoy!

UPDATE  (9/2/17)  Since the initial post, I’ve made a couple more flan and experimented a little. First, the hardened caramel kind of bugged me, so I’ve tried to remove it from the heat sooner…just trying to make sure its completely melted. I also have given just a couple of minutes before adding the custard mixture. I’m still getting some hardened caramel, though. But I’ve found that I can break it up, and either eat it like candy, or try to melt it in a sauce pan with a couple tablespoons of water and then pour it back over the flan, after it has cooled. Melting it again takes some time and constant vigilance, though.

Eat it,or melt it?

It has produced a better top surface…nice and smooth.

Nice smooth top.

Other experimentation, has been in flavoring variations. The above photo is actually a coffee flavored flan. I just dissolved some instant coffee, about 1/3 cup, into just enough water to dissolve it. I stirred than into the custard mix until well combined. I think it was very good.

The other variation, that I did today, was chocolate. For this one, I added 1/3 cup cocoa powder directly to the custard. It was a little messy and slow to get mixed in, but I worked at it and prevailed! Here are a few photos of that flan coming out of the pan:

Out of the oven and lid removed.

Smooth, glassy top!

Mmmm…chocolate.

Nice! Definitely has that cocoa powder chocolate flavor.

 

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My New Kitchen Toy: Sous Vide Cooker

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I’ve seen a few people doing sous vide cooking at home for awhile now, on some cooking forums that I follow. I’m not sure of the full potential, but I’m intrigued. With a little Christmas cash to spend, I decided to buy a portable sous vide cooker that I believe was a good buy. After a little research, I settled on a model made by Gourmia that seems to get good reviews. The model number is GSV-140. Amazon was selling it for $99.00…retail is supposedly $199.00, which I probably would not have been willing to pay. A Foodsaver vacuum sealer is handy to have as well, though you could get away with using zippered storage bags…they just would be a little more likely to leak, and the vacuum makes the sous vide process more effective, I think. I’ve had a vacuum sealer for 20+ years. Disclaimer: I am not in any way sponsored by or reimbursed by either Gourmia, Foodsaver, or Amazon.

Okay. So, the sous vide cooker arrived and I unpacked it, and read through the quick start-up guide and some other literature that came with it. I’m not going to cover the definition of sous vide, or all the technical stuff here. You can find tons of information online. This is just to document my experiments and share them, if anyone is interested.

I had a vacuum sealed bag of chicken drumsticks and thighs on hand and decided to make that my first foray into sous vide.

Vacuum sealed chicken pieces.

Vacuum sealed chicken pieces.

It was pretty simple: follow the directions for clamping the cooker to a container (I’m using a stock pot), add water between two marks, using the bagged chicken to get the amount right with volume displacement. Remove the bag. Enter the time and temperature according to the instructions for the cut of chicken I used, and start. When the water is up to temperature, I added the bag back in, and clipped it to the side of the pot.

Dial in the time and temperature.

Dial in the time and temperature.

You will find that sous vide recipes often give a wide range of time for cooking. Without getting bogged down in the technicalities, what you are doing is a long, slow poaching; at a very accurate temperature. You cook for a minimum period of time required, to reach the target temperature throughout the product being cooked. At that minimum time, the food is safe to eat, but you can go to the maximum time in the recipe, without seriously affecting texture and quality of the product. Passed that time, some foods could get overcooked…mushy.

I set the temperature according to directions, at 158F. I cooked it for three hours. I could have stopped at two or gone for five, but I decided to do three hours. It was a bit unsettling that the juices in the bag were not “running clear”, like other cooking methods use as a gauge for chicken being “done”. They were still a murky, dark reddish color.

Chicken, unbagged.

Chicken, unbagged.

Cooked chicken

Cooked chicken

However, when I opened the bag and pulled a piece of meat apart, it was cooked through. It was very moist and had a good texture. At this point, I could have finished on a grill or in a saute pan, if I wanted to brown the meat. I decided to just eat one of the thigh pieces and put the rest into the refrigerator for a later recipe.

Checking to see if cooked through.

Checking to see if cooked through.

Day two, I have done some reading on sous vide cooking eggs. I’m doing four eggs currently at 147F for an hour and a  half.

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The result should be like an over medium egg, or a medium boiled egg. I like a set white…no slime, and a yolk that has begun to gel, but not solid. If I were cooking in a pan, the result should be a yolk that is starting to solidify on the outside and still runny in the middle…so that, when I cut it up, there is enough runny yolk to coat the cut white pieces…but not runny enough to pool on the plate. I get pretty specific about how I like my eggs…I know!  Will update later today.

Egg update: Holy mackeral. The egg yolks are perfect. The texture is creamy and amazing! The whites were a little underdone for my liking, but from my reading, I know that some may remain watery…and I was able to dribble that little bit off. So, now I just need to experiment with adjusting the temperature up a couple of degrees and/or try adding another half hour to the time. It was fairly easy to get the eggs out of the shells. I just cracked them on the large end and removed enough shell to allow the egg to be tipped out into a small bowl.

Tipped out into a small bowl.

Tipped out into a small bowl.

Carefully opening the egg.

Carefully opening the egg.

After I checked the yolk texture, I gently lifted the eggs onto some awaiting toast, leaving that little bit of watery white behind.

Sous vise eggs on toast. Yum.

Sous vise eggs on toast. Yum.

Yolk test...oh, MY!

Yolk test…oh, MY!

I will say that, while the whites were very soft, there were not what I would call “slimy”…that really repulsive stuff on eggs when someone under-cooks the whites. I would just like them set firmer. Overall, I’m very impressed. I have seen sous vide recipes for creme brulee and hollandaise sauce. I haven’t gone through them yet, but I’m betting the texture is remarkable. We’ll see!

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Easiest Dessert Ever!

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

 

I have always been an admirer of Jaques Pepin. The man is a culinary technique master of masters. Today, I happened to catch an episode of his PBS television show “Fast Food, My Way” and watched him prepare the following recipe. It was SO simple, that I had to prepare it immediately! I didn’t catch a name for the dish, but it’s basically a berry crumble. I can’t imagine a dessert being any easier, and still being “homemade”.

Ready to bake...blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Ready to bake…blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

2 small containers of fresh or individually frozen berries, plus/minus (I used frozen blackberries.)

1/3 cup sugar, more or less, depending on sweetness of berries

Your choice of cookies, crumbled. (I used my homemade shortbread) About 1/2 cup plus/minus

4 T. butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. In a pyrex or similar baking dish, around 8″x8″ or 9″x9″, add enough berries to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle cookie crumbles over to evenly cover the berries. Sprinkle sugar over, evenly, Break up the butter into pieces and dot around the top of the crumble. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling throughout the dish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to warm or room temperature.

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Serve with your choice of accompaniment, such as ice cream, whipped cream, crème fraiche, etc. I can see doing these in individual mini dishes for guests. Enjoy!

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Pickled Green Beans, AKA “Dilly Beans”

Dilly Beans (I left out the optional red pepper flakes.)

Dilly Beans (I left out the optional red pepper flakes.)

I didn’t take a bunch of “process” photos, but I made 2 pint jars of pickled green beans, AKA “Dilly Beans”. I think Dilly Beans sounds kind of silly…although, it is quicker to say than pickled green beans. Anyway, I decided to give this recipe a try, because I got some green beans on sale and they looked pretty good. Plus, I have some dill in my garden that needed trimming back. I didn’t measure my beans, but I’m assuming it was a maybe a pound to a pound and a half?

Dilly Beans

Fresh green beans, trimmed both ends. Enough to firmly pack (2) pint jars.

1/8 c. kosher or pickling salt

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled, lightly crushed

2 fresh dill heads/fronds

1 t. mustard seeds

(optional: pinch of red pepper flakes per jar)

1-1/2 c. white vinegar

3/4 c. water

Directions

Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and mustard seeds in a small, non-reactive sauce pan (like stainless steel). Bring to a boil and reserve, keeping hot. Prepare a water bath canner with enough water to cover jars by an inch or two. Prepare two pint jars, lids, and screw rings. Divide the garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes (if using) between the two jars. Trim the green beans to fit the jars vertically, leaving 1/2 to 1/4 inch space from jar’s rim. Pack the jar tightly, so the green beans won’t float.

Ladle the hot brine over the beans, trying to distribute the mustard seeds evenly. Bring the brine up to 1/4″ below the jar’s rim and covering the beans. Use a skewer or a knife to make sure there are no trapped air bubbles and add more brine, if necessary. Using a paper towel or clean cloth, wipe the threads and rim. Place a prepared lid on each jar and install the screw ring to “finger tight”. Add to boiling water bath and process for 10 minutes. Leave jars in the hot water, off heat for another 5 minutes. Remove to a kitchen towel on a counter top and leave for 24 hours. When cool enough to touch, tighten lids. If lids do not “pop” to indicate seal, store in refrigerator. If properly sealed, remove the rings and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use. (I would wait at least 2 weeks and maybe a month before opening.)

I had a little leftover brine and the bean ends that I trimmed to make the beans fit the jars, so I put them in a plastic container and let them sit on the counter for a few minutes, then I popped them in the fridge. I’ll have them as a snack in a few days.

 

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Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

About a week ago, my wife was looking for a box of Crunch ‘n’ Munch Caramel Popcorn that I had bought. I had bought two boxes and she had eaten one over the course of a couple of days. She assumed that the second box was hers, too, since I know she likes it. A reasonable assumption, but one that was proven wrong, because I had a craving the night before. Poor thing was so disappointed!

Never wanting to leave a woman disappointed(*wink, wink*), I decided to pop onto the computer and do a little secret research. Most of the recipes called for corn syrup, which I didn’t have on hand, or exact temperatures and extra steps that I just didn’t want to deal with for a quick recipe to surprise my wife with on short notice. To the rescue came a recipeI found through Pinterest at http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/04/23/peanut-butter-caramel-corn/ . Take a look, if you have a chance, you may find something else you like there as well! I like to give credit, where credit is due, and support those people who have helped me with a great recipe.

This recipe is simple, easy, and can be done in a matter of about 20 minutes with pretty common ingredients and equipment. There’s no need for a thermometer or precision. What you will need is some measuring cups, a small sauce pot for the caramel, a medium sauce pot with a lid for popping the corn (or you can use microwaved or air popped), a large mixing bowl for combing the popcorn and caramel a spoon or wire whip and a rubber spatula.

Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups unflavored popped popcorn (homemade or 1 standard size bag)*
  • 2/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, optional
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
 *I think I use a little more popcorn and stretch the caramel out a little thinner.
Directions:

Pop the popcorn, remove any unpopped kernels, and set aside.

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Line a sheet pan with parchment and a little non-stick spray. Put the sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. You can cover it initially to help it come to a boil, but it isn’t required. Once the mixture comes to a boil, let it go for about three minutes.
Boiling sugar and honey...HOT!!! Be careful.

Boiling sugar and honey…HOT!!! Be careful.

 

Carefully remove the mixture from heat and add the salt, peanut butter and, if using, the optional peanuts.* Stir until well-combined.
Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and, using a rubber spatula, turn the popcorn until the caramel is evenly distributed.
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Pour the popcorn onto the prepared sheet pan and carefully spread the hot mass out evenly to cool completely. (See header photo) When cool, break up the caramel corn into bite-sized clusters and try not to consume it all in one sitting!
*The recipe actually calls for the peanuts to be added after the caramel is poured on the popcorn, I think…but I wanted mine coated with the caramel as well.
So, I dove into the recipe and knocked it out. I have to admit, It wasn’t *quite* completely cool when I broke mine up into clusters and presented it to my wife…so it was just a tiny bit chewy. But that didn’t really matter…my wife was suitably amazed and impressed with my thoughtfulness and effort. Then she tasted the popcorn…amazing! She could not put it down. It was a MAJOR success! Eventually, she made me take it away from her, so she wouldn’t eat it all. Again, being the loving husband, I finished the rest of it. This one really is a winner. I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!
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Soup for One from Home Canned Pumpkin

Home canned pumpkin

Home canned pumpkin

I have several pint jars of pumpkin sitting in my pantry that I canned after Halloween this year. I decided to pop open a jar and make some soup!

First, I drained the liquid from the pumpkin and transferred it to a small saucepan.

Drained pumpkin in a sauce pan.

Drained pumpkin in a sauce pan.

(If you substitute store-bought canned pumpkin, you might need to ADD a little water, as it is “solid pack”, meaning that it has had a bunch of water removed.) Then I added about 1/3 cup of buttermilk and a pinch each of powdered ginger, garlic powder, salt, fresh black pepper, and ground coriander.

Spices and buttermilk added.

Spices and buttermilk added.

I combined those ingredients until smooth, using a hand blender, while I brought the soup up to temperature over medium-high heat. I decided to add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of half’n’half and blend that in as well.

Blended, with half'n'half added.

Blended, with half’n’half added.

To have a little more fun, I added croutons to the glass canning jar that the pumpkin had been in, and topped them with about a 1/4 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese.

Croutons and Gruyere cheese.

Croutons and Gruyere cheese.

I poured the soup over the cheese and croutons and stirred. It was stringy with hot cheese and tasted like a soup and grilled cheese sandwich, all blended together!

Soup!

Soup!

Obviously, you could just eat the soup, without the croutons and cheese. You could vary the flavor by changing the flavor of croutons and/or the type of cheese. Also, you could vary the spices added to the soup. Cumin, instead of coriander; mustard powder, rather than garlic; add some chicken stock for a non-vegetarian option. It’s a versatile little soup that you can spice to suit your tastes, plus it’s quick and easy! Enjoy!

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Finally Made Wrangler Jelly!

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

It’s been about three years ago, that I pinned an interesting sounding recipe on Pinterest to my “MMMFoodies Canning Stuff. https://www.pinterest.com/mattmmille/mmm-foodies-canned-stuff/ Even though the recipe called for canned crushed pineapple, I had a fresh one and I was going to try it. Well, I wound up using that pineapple for something else and that recipe sat there, unused…except that it was one of the two most re-pinned recipes from my collection!  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/516928863450185549/

Well, it’s getting down to freezing temperatures overnight, in my area, and I just picked a few small poblanos and a couple of small, green tomatoes ahead of the freeze. Looking at them, the Wrangler Jelly recipe came to mind. I had the canned pineapple and pectin on hand, so I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe as linked above with the substitution of the poblanos for the jalapenos and the addition of the little green tomatoes. I chopped all of them fairly fine.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

The recipe says to add all the ingredients, except the pectin, and bring to a boil. Then add the pectin and boil for one minute. In my jelly and jam making experience, I always held back the sugar until the boil was reached,

Bringing the ingredients together.

Bringing the ingredients together. (Including seeds from ONE of the peppers.)

…added the sugar, returned to the boil, added the pectin and brought back to the boil for one minute. I don’t know if it makes a big difference, but that’s what I did.

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure... glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure… glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Bringing back to a boil with the sugar added.

Bringing to a boil just before the sugar is added.

After canning, I actually got 4 half pint jars and two 4oz jars. I always prepare more jars/lids/rings than what is called for in the recipe, for just such a situation. (The recipe said it would make the 4 half pints.) I tasted a tiny bit that was left in the pot, and the cayenne pepper plus the poblanos made it plenty spicy! I think the green tomato will add a small citrusy component and a touch of added texture…and probably accounts for some of the excess volume.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

My plans for this batch include a cream cheese and Wrangler Jelly appetizer with crackers at Thanksgiving, maybe some glazed pork chops, and possibly a Wrangler Baked Brie. This may not be the best jelly for your morning toast, but I don’t think I will have any problem finding uses for this versatile little jelly! And I may gift a jar or two. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to make it…it was so easy! If you decide to save this recipe, don’t put it off…make it! And enjoy!

Update: I may have to try this again and add the sugar at the same time as the other ingredients…or something. The jelly didn’t really set and I have more like a candied relish product; sort of like that pineapple topping used on ice cream sundaes. It will still work for some of my intended recipes, but I would still like to figure it out!

Hmmm...still tasty, but didn't gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

Hmmm…still tasty, but didn’t gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

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