Posts Tagged ‘food’

I love that there are still so many things to learn. Take fox nuts, for example (the food, not the, well, you know). If you have more than a passing familiarity with Indian cuisine you’ve probably heard of them, but I had not. I ran across a reference today and thought, “Fabulous! What the heck are those?”

Where do Makhana (fox nuts) come from?

Fox nuts, or makhana, are seeds from the prickly water lily (euryale ferox). When cooked they puff up, a little like popcorn (if all the action happened inside the shell and required a blow with a wooden mallet to release the final product). It is a very popular Indian food for snacking and other dishes.

Fox Nuts: How They Are Grown and Prepared

I wonder what they taste like? Time to head over to the local South Asian grocery and find out. 

And this has been today’s edition of Learning at Lunch.

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This is a different, admittedly more photogenic, type of waterlily. Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash

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I recently tested two new recipes. One worked, one (through no fault of its own) not so much. I’ll start with the less good.

Butterscotch Peaches Recipe – NYT Cooking

The recipe is fine, the butterscotch flavor excellent, and it could have turned out great. Emphasis on “could.”

If you don’t have access to the New York Times recipe collection, here are the ingredients I used:

  • 6 medium or 5 large ripe peaches
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ C. cream
  • ½ C. sugar
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ t. vanilla
  • In sum: peel and chop the peaches, brown the butter and sauté the peaches for three minutes, then let rest. In a second pan, add all remaining ingredients except vanilla. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then raise heat to medium and let simmer/boil for 12 minutes or until browned. Add to peaches and stir to combine.

The result? My peaches were a bit of a disaster. The first peaches of the season often are, but I held out hope. They were beautiful, I‘ll give them that, but after washing and scoring and boiling and peeling (a pain, I’d skip it next time) and slicing, I had to accept the facts.

The peaches were decidedly mediocre. All but two had at least some internal brown spots, and three were nothing but mush. And eaten fresh, even the prettiest fruit was mealy and low on flavor.

I cooked them up and made the butterscotch. Then, as I was nearing the finish line, I waffled over the final product. Should I go ahead with the subpar peaches or skip the fruit and just eat the butterscotch? While I considered my options, the butterscotch started to harden. By the time I decided to say what the hell, I was on my way to Candyland. As in, the butterscotch was hardening into delicious-yet-difficult-to-mix candy.

I went with it in the end. The final product tasted good, actually, but there were chunks of semi-solidified butterscotch throughout. (It would have made for a delicious addition to ice cream, in fact. Maybe next time.)

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On to the good:

So there I was, stalking Felicia Day’s library on Goodreads (as one does), when I ran across this book:

I picked up a copy last week.

I need to start testing some of the thousand (!) recipes here, but if there is a more perfect type of cookbook for me, I don’t know what it is. I love the ease, reliability and reach of books like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, but this new book’s approach not only tests the many (many) variations of each recipe, it also tells you what they tried, why, and with what results. Then you get the finalized recipe.

I made the banana bread. Mr Man’s double helping for dessert say it was a success.

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Photo by Tusik Only on Unsplash

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I recently had a request for an update on the baked milk situation so here we go.

Short answer: The first version was pretty good.

Longer answer, one that will surprise no one who knows me: I made a few tweaks.

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Here’s my previous post with the original recipe link: Baked What Now?

I kept the proportions but used 2% milk and kefir because that’s what I had. It worked fine, but:

  • the final result wasn’t as caramel colored or flavored as the store-bought version
  • it wasn’t quite as thick as I’d hoped
  • with summer on the horizon, I wasn’t enthusiastic about keeping the oven on for six hours at a time.

Over several iterations, I now have a version that addresses these issues and works for me. Between this, biweekly yogurt, and air-quality concerns, we may have used it as an excuse to pick up a portable induction burner (on sale, totally reasonable!).

The new alternative uses whole milk, kefir plus sour cream, and skips the oven in favor of the induction burner. We have a remote thermometer for yogurt so we use that, but keeping it at temperature can be a bit of a hassle. If you have a slow cooker that will maintain a steady ~210F, try that. (I’ll try that next time if I can find my slow cooker.)

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Baked Milk

4L whole milk

  • heat milk to a simmer, then maintain temperature at ~210F for 6 hours
  • let cool to 115F, add:

7 T. kefir

1 T. sour cream

  • mix well, jar and close with vented lid (cheesecloth, fermentation caps, heck, paper towels would work, whatever you’ve got)
  • let sit on the counter at room temperature for 36 hours or until set; I put mine in an insulated grocery bag but it’s not required.

Is it good? Yes. Keeping the milk around 210F using a burner gave me a better depth of caramelization than 225F in the oven. The process is a bit more of a hassle than I’d like so I’ll continue to look for improvements.

Is it even better when mixed with guava juice and lemonade? Yes, it is.

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Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

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My father’s mother baked from scratch, but she always had a container of Cool Whip in the fridge when we came to visit. Did she always stock it? I don’t know, but it was a special treat for us.

I don’t buy it for myself but even now the taste of Cool Whip reminds me of hot summers and warm smiles.

Last week, I whipped up a bit of cream to go with fresh strawberries from a farm down the road. I usually add a bit of Grand Marnier but this time, I decided to try a slight twist. 

It turns out that heavy whipping cream plus vanilla, sugar and a dollop of sour cream creates a thick whipped topping that tastes a lot like Cool Whip. Not as it is, necessarily, but as I remember it. Fun, flavorful, special.

Let’s call it Cool Whip for adults. All of the memories, none of the additives.

Thanks, Grandma.

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Photo by Tangerine Newt on Unsplash

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I took a little time today to test out a recipe for baked milk.

Sounds funny? A little, but I’m hoping it will also be good. Baked milk is one of those niche products that spark my culinary curiosity. We had some a couple of years ago (thanks, Costco!) but haven’t been able to find it since. It’s both fermented and naturally sweet, somewhere between milk and yogurt in thickness, with an interesting caramelized depth and slight tang.

I’m using this recipe via The New York Times as a springboard, but it will be a couple of days before I know if it works. Fingers crossed!

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Friends gave us a batch of chili this weekend and I thought:

1) Thank you! So kind. And spicy, delightfully spicy!


2) Fantastic, an excuse to make my favorite cornbread recipe.

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My Favorite Cornbread

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)


  • 275g / 1¼ C kefir (or yogurt, buttermilk, or 1¼ C milk warmed with 1 T white vinegar)
  • 50g / ~3.5 T butter
  • 183g / 1½ C medium-grind cornmeal
  • 62g / ¼ C all-purpose flour
  • 7.5g / 1½ t baking powder
  • 6g / 1 t salt
  • 50g / ~3 T sugar
  • 2 eggs


  • preheat oven to 375F
  • add butter to an 8×8” pan, put it in the oven to melt*
  • whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl
  • whisk together kefir and eggs, add to dry ingredients and mix well
  • pour the batter into the pan with preheated butter
  • bake 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  • serve with more butter, because delicious.

* Alternately, melt butter and add to pan right before baking but why make more dishes? Getting it hot but not burnt is the goal.

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This is not my cornbread. It may be cake, for all I know, but it looks about right. The important thing is that this is not my cornbread because my cornbread smelled delicious and we ate it before I remembered that I might want a photo. Photo by Jose luis on Unsplash

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My day? Mostly bread and mushrooms.

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Interested in the short and long term future of food? (Of course you are, we all have to eat.) Then you might like this article from Bon Appètit:

Predicting the Future of Food

To take a look at what the future of food might look like, we talked to experts to come up with menu predictions for the future. For the years 2023 and 2024, scientists offered their insights on how food might change. But for 100 years from now—the year 2122—we spoke with people who were unafraid to make some bold claims: science fiction writers. 

Fascinating, sometimes frightening, fun.

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While we’re examining the relevance of science fiction for real-world action, you might also be interested in the next meeting of the Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club. They’ll be discussing All Systems Red by Martha Wells, a.k.a. Murderbot.

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 1 to discuss the novel and its real-world implications.

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Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

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My doctor may not agree* but some days you just need to go all in. This recipe is one example**:

Mom’s Mashed Potatoes

Peel, cook, mash, mix. The secret to success is lots of everything good; more butter, more milk, more salt.

Simple. Good.

* I use this rule in moderation, which makes the times when I do even better.

** Lest one accuse my mother of writing an incomplete recipe, I admit that there was originally more to it than this. I’ve stripped it down to the essentials:)

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Photo by bernard buyse on Unsplash

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It’s Monday and it’s Spring and (despite the fact that we are expecting snow tonight) what better time to direct you to this helpful video about asparagus? 

America’s Test Kitchen reviews the basics and useful methods of preparation, but also busts several asparagus myths wide open.

I know, I’m excited too!

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Photo by Art Rachen on Unsplash

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