Comment Stevia Safety and the FDA - 09/6/16

Stevia has an impeccable safety record as a sweetener. There have been no reports of ill effects in over 1500 years of continuous use by Paraguayans. In Japan over 1000 metric tonnes are now consumed annually in countless products.

The Japanese found it to reduce health risks before letting it enter the market more than 20 years past and subjected Stevia to wide-ranging security testing. “Nearly every toxicity test possible has been performed on Stevia previously or another. The effects are almost usually bad,” composes Dr. Daniel Mowry of the Mountainwest Institute of Herbal Sciences.

Why is this kind of good-proven, beneficial, and natural sweetener not more broadly accessible America??? Why are diet plan sodas sweetened with saccharin or hazardous aspartame when this excellent alternative is supplied by the World??? The unfortunate answer to such questions is that Stevia was mired in poor politics for a lot of decades.

Politics

Because the late 1980’s when Stevia joined the US market, the FDA has sometimes conducted raids that were questionable on Stevia product manufacturers and has refused to respect it’s own laws in refusing the plant status as an authorized food ingredient. Petitions for acceptance have actually been sent by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), Celestial Seasonings, and Lipton Tea Co. and have actually all been flatly denied by the bureau. Compare these rejections of an unquestionably safe item together with the contentious FDA approvals allowed to the likes of saccharin, a recognized carcinogen, or aspartame (Nutrasweet), the Monsanto item shown to improve brain tumors as well as the theme of 75 % of all customer grievances to the FDA.

The sole danger Stevia presents is to the billion dollar sweetening agent market. Rob McCaleb, creator of the Herb Research Foundation claims, “Sweetness is big money. No one wishes to see something inexpensive and simple to grow on the marketplace taking on the important things they worked so difficult to get approved.” Now the FDA is in the uncomfortable position of granting Stevia available like a “dietary supplement” while holding it an unsafe food additive when tagged as a sweetener or utilized as a component in foodstuff.

Transcending this seemingly willful suppression, Stevia’s appeal has actually remained to grow. Told mainly by word-of-mouth, Americans have endured in searching for Stevia “dietary supplements” to be used as non-caloric sweeteners. With sufficient consumer momentum behind it, Stevia may oneday suppose it is rightful place in our food ways, supplying a beneficial and natural source of sweetness that is sugar free.

Comment Baking Powder Biscuits - 05/3/16

Making biscuits from scratch, as opposed to popping open a can of refrigerated dough, requires a few more minutes work, but produces a far superior product that keeps well  (so if there are any biscuits left over from dinner, you can enjoy them at breakfast the next morning). If you are new to baking, biscuits are a good place to start. They don’t require special culinary tools or techniques, and they don’t take long to prepare.

Start making your biscuits about 35 minutes before you plan to serve them.  Have a bowl, or bread basket, lined with a clean tea towel ready to receive them when the biscuits are done and another tea towel to top them with to keep them warm.  If you plan to serve butter with your biscuits, you may want to take it out when you start making them to ensure that it’s soft enough to spread well.

This recipe yields approximately 18 biscuits

You’ll need:

 *   2 cups  all-purpose flour

*  1 Tablespoon of double-acting baking powder

*  1 teaspoon of salt

*  ¼ cup of shortening

*  ¾ cup of milk

 Preheat oven to 425ºF.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt with a fork. Cut in shortening*(instructions below) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the milk with a large spoon until the flour has absorbed the milk and has formed a soft dough that comes away from the side of the bowl. 

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to ensure the dough is well mixed. The dough should be moist and pliable, but not sticky to the touch. Unlike yeast breads, biscuits are not improved by kneading beyond what is necessary to form a cohesive ball. In fact, one secret to light, fluffy biscuits is to handle the dough as little as possible.

Roll the dough out with a rolling pin (a smooth, straight glass works well if you don’t have a rolling pin). To keep the dough uniformly thick, you should lift the rolling pin just a bit as you approach the edges of the dough.

With a biscuit cutter, cut the biscuits from the dough, using straight downward motion. Cut each biscuit as close as you can to the previous biscuit.  When you have cut as many biscuits as you can, use a spatula or pancake turner to move the biscuits to an ungreased cookie sheet. Gather the scrap dough and gently knead a few times to form a single dough ball. Roll out and cut the remaining dough until all is used. An alternate method of cutting biscuits is to use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the biscuit dough into squares or diamonds.This is a little quicker and eliminates the need to knead scraps together.

Bake  for 15 – 18 minutes, until biscuits are golden.

*Cutting in shortening is a technique for mixing shortening, or oil, with flour so that the oil or shortening is well incorporated into the flour particles. The desired result is a mixture of flour and oil or shortening that resembles coarse bread crumbs. Stirring will simply result in a blob of shortening with flour stuck to the outside.

The two most common ways of cutting in flour are the “scissors” method and the “fork” method. The first is done using two knives (or a knife and a fork), placing them in an “X” in the bowl and drawing them in opposite directions.  The fork method is to use a pastry fork or a long-tined fork . Scrape the fork or pastry fork across the shortening and into the flour, repeatedly, stopping to scrape the flour/oil mixture that accumulates on the fork. Use whichever method you are most comfortable with. No matter which method you use, the results for properly cut-in shortening are the same:  tender flaky biscuits!

Biscuit variations

Buttermilk biscuits:  Prepare as above, substituting buttermilk for plain milk.  Reduce baking powder to  2 teaspoons, and add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda

Whole wheat biscuits: You may substitute whole wheat for all or part of the all-purpose white flour. Increasing the amount of whole wheat used will produce a denser, less fluffy biscuit.   

Biscuit add-ins

Try mixing in one (or more) of the ingredients suggested below.  Be sure to add these after cutting in shortening and before adding milk.

Cheese: add ¼ to ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (these are also very tasty with melted garlic butter brushed across their tops a minute or two before they are removed from the oven)

Bacon: add ½ cup crumbled bacon

Chives: add ¼ cup chopped chives

Comment Buttermilk Biscuits - 05/2/16

Do you miss the warm, flaky feel of Mom’s buttermilk biscuits, paired with a classic meal like gravy and potatoes or on their own with that buttery, melt in your mouth taste? Re-create those childhood memories – or create them for your own children – with this old-fashioned buttermilk biscuit recipe.

Buttermilk Biscuits (1 dozen)

What You Will Need:

1/3 cup shortening 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon baking soda ¾ teaspoon salt ¾ cup buttermilk 2-inch biscuit cutter Pastry blender (optional) Rolling pin (optional)

Preparation/Cooking Instructions

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, “cut” shortening into flour, baking powder and salt with a pastry blender – alternatively, you can use a fork or two knives to do this – until the dry mixture resembles fine crumbs. Pour the buttermilk into the mixture slowly, stirring in just enough buttermilk so that the dough is able to leave the sides of the bowl and rounds into a ball. If you are using thick buttermilk, you may have to add more than ¾ cup as you deem necessary. It is vital to this recipe to use just the right amount of buttermilk – too much milk makes the dough sticky, while too little milk will make dry biscuits.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface – preferably a finely dusted breadboard. Knead the dough gently ten times. Roll the dough with a rolling pin (or your hands), flattening it to ½ inch thick. Cut dough using a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter until dough is used up. Place cut dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. If you desire crunchy biscuit sides, place dough pieces 1 inch apart. If you prefer soft biscuit sides, allow the dough pieces to touch on the cookie sheet.

Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Oven times may vary, so check the biscuits every now and then. Remove biscuits from cookie sheet immediately, and place on plate or platter. Cover dish to ensure warm temperature.

Serve and enjoy alone, with butter or jam or with a meal. Makes 1 dozen biscuits.

Comment Sour Cream Biscuits - 05/2/16

Everyone knows that one of the most pleasing things to enjoy when eating out at a restaurant is the bread basket. After all, there is no better prelude to a delicious meal than a basket of warm, savory biscuits. If you are looking for a biscuit recipe that will rival the finest biscuits you’ve ever tasted, look no further. These biscuits will likely become everyone’s favorite request. They are so simple to make that you can easily prepare a batch for any meal, including breakfast.

The secret ingredient to these fabulous biscuits is soda…that’s right, soda! Any brand of non-cola soda (such as Sprite or 7-Up) will work just fine. Chances are you have all the ingredients for this recipe already in your pantry. That’s because these biscuits just require four simple ingredients. Are you ready to make some fabulous biscuits? Let’s get baking!

Sour Cream Biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups of Bisquick Baking Mix

½ cup of sour cream (any variety is fine)

½ cup of Sprite or 7-Up

¼ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place 2 cups of Bisquick in a large bowl. Add the sour cream, and cut the sour cream into the Bisquick mixture using a pastry cutter. Next, add the soda (Sprite or 7-Up), and mix together well. The dough mixture will be soft.  Next, prepare the counter for rolling out the biscuits. Sprinkle some additional dry Bisquick mix onto the counter surface and pat dough out onto the counter, kneading the dough gently. Tear off a small portion of the dough and roll into a small ball, about the size of a golf ball. Continue to roll the dough into small balls for baking. Now, melt ¼ cup butter in a 9” square baking pan.

Place the balls of biscuits in the pan and bake at 450 degrees until golden brown.

Comment Jelly Doughnuts - 05/1/16

There is nothing like making your own jelly-filled doughnuts during the winter months. The warm smell fills the whole house and the taste is unbelievable. You will wonder how come you have ever bought doughnuts when it is so easy to make your own.

The recipe for home -made jelly doughnuts is not complicated, but takes a while. Let’s be honest though, it is freezing outside, probably snowing or raining. What else is there to do; let’s make doughnuts!

Ingredients

–          25 gr of wet yeast (half a block, 0.88 oz) or 7gr (0.24 oz) of dry yeast ( one packet)

–          1 ¼ cup of warm milk (300 ml)

–          ½ cup plus 1 table spoon of sugar

–          a pinch of salt

–          5 cups of sifted flour

–          100 gr of melted butter

–          2 eggs, beaten together

–          Strawberry jelly

–          Sunflower oil

–          Icing sugar

–          Plastic syringe

 
Directions for making the dough

Put the yeast in a bowl and add the milk and one tablespoon of sugar and set it aside for about 10 minutes. It is ready when the mixture is bubbly, this is also a sure sign that your yeast active and working. Mix all the dry ingredients, flour, rest of sugar and salt, together in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Now add the yeast mixture, the melted butter and the eggs. Knead the dough together for at least 10 minutes until it “comes” together. It must look and feel like bread or pizza dough. Lazy people may use a mixer or even a bread machine. Cover the large bowl with the dough inside with a plastic bag and let the dough rise somewhere warm for about 1 hour until it doubled its size.

Preparing the dough to make jelly doughnuts.

Place to dough on a floured surface and gently roll it out a bit. Be careful not to flatten the dough completely. Cut out circles of dough with a doughnut cutter or any round object like a little plate or a large cup. But the dough circles on a floured metal tray and place the tray in a very low oven, nothing higher than 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Put a little dish of water in the oven too so that the dough will not dry out.

Frying the doughnuts

Take the circle shaped doughnuts out of the oven after about 30-40 minutes or until they have risen again. Heat oil in a large flattish pan. Canola or sunflower oil is fine. Place the doughnuts in the oil that is not too hot. The doughnut must be long enough in the oil to cook right through, but the outside must not be burnt. The doughnuts must be fried on both sides for about two minutes each side.

Open up the first doughnut, if it is too brown on the outside and uncooked in the middle, your oil is too hot.

5. Shake any extra oil of the doughnuts and place on kitchen paper to absorb the extra oil.

Filling the doughnuts

Heat the jelly (usually strawberry jelly, but any kind is fine) to make it more runny. Suck the jelly into a large plastic syringe, gently poke a hole through the doughnut and squirt the jelly inside. After you have injected all your doughnuts, place them on a nice tray and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Making home – made jelly filled doughnuts requires some work, but it is definitely worth the effort. Enjoy!

 

Comment Recipes Cinnamon Rolls - 04/30/16

These rolls are one of my brunch favorites. Although they require a little bit of pre-planning, the aroma that will fill your house as they bake makes them worth the effort. As for how they taste, you’ll think you’ve gone to heaven! For a more decadent version, follow the variation for sticky buns.

The night before:

In a large mixing bowl combine:
1 package (2 1/4 t.) dry active yeast
1/4 c. warm water
Let stand for about 5 minutes, and then add:
1/2 c. bread flour
1/3 c. white sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
Mix until just blended, then gradually add:
2 c. bread flour
Mix until the dough just comes together, and then knead it by hand for about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Add:
6 T. butter
Knead in until it is completely incorporated and the dough is smooth and uniform again. Place in a large buttered bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume (about an hour and a half).
Punch dough down, knead for a couple minutes, put back into the bowl and re-wrap. Pop in the fridge and let it chill out overnight.

In the morning:
Remove the dough from the fridge- if it hasn’t doubled in size yet, let it sit someplace warm for about 30 minutes. Punch down and roll into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle using a rolling pin.
Mix together:
2 T. melted butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. finely chopped toasted pecans (optional)
Sprinkle mixture evenly over the dough. Roll up as for jelly roll and then cut into 8 pieces. Lay them cut side down in a buttered 9 by 13 inch cake pan, spacing evenly. Cover with plastic and allow to rise someplace warm for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350*F.
Bake for 30 minutes, until buns are golden. Let them cool in the cake pan for 10 minutes and then invert the pan onto a wire rack. These are best served warm, fresh out of the oven.

*For the sticky bun variation, follow the for the night before, and make the sticky bun goo (below). In the morning fill, roll, cut and bake as for cinnamon rolls. Once they come out of the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a baking sheet with sides (so you don’t get goo all over).

Sticky Bun Goo
In a small saucepan, combine:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. honey
8 T. butter
Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the cake pan. Sprinkle with:
1/2 c. roughly chopped toasted pecans (optional)
Cover and set it aside for the morning.

Comment Sensational Moist Fudge Brownie Recipe - 04/29/16

When I need a quick chocolate fix, I will mix up a box of brownies, but when I want a decadent chocolate trea,t then I make my Sensational Fudge Brownies. These brownies are a fudge-like, ultra moist sensation that will please all of the chocolate lovers in your life. Be warned though; once you make them for someone else they will no longer be satisfied with anything else.

Sensational Fudge Brownies

Ingredients:

3 squares of semisweet chocolate

1/2 cup butter

1 2/3 cups confectionary sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

Directions:

1. Grease a 9×9 pan and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate squares and butter.

4. In a mixing bowl beat the eggs and confectionary sugar together.

5. Pour the melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture and stir.

6. Add the salt and flour to the bowl and mix well.

7. Pour into the greased pan and bake for 20 minutes.

8. The brownies are done when a toothpick comes out clean.

These brownies are delightful all by themselves, but for a special treat a warm brownie with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream is hard to beat.

Enjoy!

Comment Recipes Strawberry Nut Bread - 04/29/16

Strawberry nut bread is a delicious alternative when you want something besides the traditional banana bread.

Ingredients

3 cups of flour (all purpose)
4 cups of fresh strawberries (sliced thin)
1 /4 cup of pecans (crushed)
1 egg (beaten)
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of margarine (softened to room temperature)
1 Teaspoon baking soda
4 Tablespoons of milk

Preparation

In a large mixing bowl combine sugar and margarine, cream together until smooth then add the egg mix well. Add the milk, one cup of the four and blend together then add the other cup of flour, the baking soda and the strawberries and mix using a large spoon until creamy then fold in the pecans.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake for about an hour.

Comment Recipes Oatmeal Cookies - 04/28/16

Oatmeal cookies are a favorite in my house. They barely last long enough to make it in to the cookie jar!

Ingredients

2 cup of oats

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Lightly grease cookie trays.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and flour and set aside.

Cream the butter, brown and white sugar in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla slowly. Stir in the dry ingredients using a plastic spoon and mix well.

Stir in the oats. Use a spoon to drop the cookie batter onto the cookie trays and leave a 2 inch gap between each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes

Comment Recipes Banana Bread - 04/28/16

Banana bread is one of those nostalgic things that can instantly transport me back to my childhood. The smell of it baking instantly calls to mind memories of watching cartoons on Saturday morning and waiting for the butter to melt over a thick slice. My mom’s was dense and dark, with a rich banana flavor, heady aroma, and apparently some degree of magic. Her recipe has never worked for me, so I’ve come up with my own that borrows from several recipes. It doesn’t replicate my mom’s, but it comes pretty close.

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. white sugar
4 mashed ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 c.)
2 eggs, at room temperature and beaten
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. white flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 c. chocolate chips, or chopped dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Lightly grease one standard sized loaf pan.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this takes a couple minutes). Add the bananas, eggs and vanilla and beat until well mixed. In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Blend with the wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Fold in the chocolate. Pour mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes; test the middle with a toothpick- if it comes out clean it’s done! Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan, though I just leave mine in it. Enjoy!