Friday, February 27, 2015

Crispy Beer Battered Fish

Do you ever get a craving for light and crispy, delectably fried food?  Sometimes I feel like eating perfectly fried fish-- firm, tender, moist fish nestled in a golden brown crispy crust.
I don’t often fry things but I tried out a new recipe for battered fish that was just so very good!!!  If I am going to fry fish I want it to be crunchy and crispy and this recipe creates fried fish that is golden, light and crispy.

The other day, I saw a TV cooking show, called Cook’s country, which showed how to make delicious fish tacos. I learned some things about frying that I could try on other things too, like chicken, shrimp,  veggies or tofu. They used a beer batter which was a big part of why this fish turned out so well.

I recommend looking at this recipe
 because we made the fish tacos and 
they were awesomely good!  

Today I want to share the cook’s country method of frying up perfectly battered fish, just slightly modified, because it was amazing how well this turned out. I think the batter is a big reason why it turned out so well. I love the inclusion of corn starch because it makes the fish nice and crispy. The batter is just thick enough to form a protective barrier around the fish, keeping it moist. The beer gives everything such a nice flavor! I also think that allowing the oil to get very hot (350°) and stay at that temperature kept the fish from getting greasy or heavy.  This fish is great as fish and chips, fish sandwiches or fish tacos.

I was thrilled that I was able to fry up something that was not greasy or heavy and that tasted so good. I might not make this too often, as I don’t eat much fried food, but every once in a while this is a perfect comfort food.

Crispy Beer Battered Fish

1 ½ to 2 pounds firm,white fish such as cod, haddock, halibut, unfrozen,  skinless*

Salt and pepper
¾ cup flour
¼ cup corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
Salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne or Cajun spice
1 cup beer, dark porter works well

About a quart or so of peanut or vegetable oil.

If desired,  cut clean, fresh or thawed fish into smaller serving size pieces and dry each piece with paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Pour oil into a Dutch oven or deep  pan to the depth of at least  1 inch or more . Heat on medium high heat until oil is 350° or so.  (Use an electric skillet with programmable  temperature or use  a thermometer)

Blend the flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt, pepper and spice in a large bowl. Mix well and whisk in beer until batter is nice and smooth.

Drop the fish in to batter. Once oil is hot enough remove fish from batter, one piece at a time, letting  excess batter drip back into bowl.

Gently add fish to hot oil, one piece at a time with tongs, briefly dragging it through the top of the hot oil to set the batter. Let it drop and add next piece. Adjust the burner to keep temp at 350°—this is very important.

As fish is nicely browned, remove it to a wire rack placed on a baking sheet in a warm oven, about 200 degrees. Continue cooking fish until it is all done.

You may use this for fish tacos, fish and chips, fish sandwich…so much better than frozen and no preservatives or additives!

* Try this with chicken, tofu or veggies, etc

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tasty And Nutritious Bran Muffins

Tasty And Nutritious  Bran Muffins

There are so many food fads that come and go. It seems that at this time, Bran muffins, which were a popular healthy muffin choice a decade or two ago, are not so popular right now. But these muffins could bump up Bran muffin's popularity—seriously they are so delicious and they have all kinds of healthy stuff in them!

So  why is it that Bran muffins one of those things we seldom see now?  For one thing, Bran has somehow fallen out of favor , perhaps as part of the gluten free craze. Yet there is still a large body of evidence that shows eating a diet that is sufficiently high in fiber is a huge health plus in fighting disease and weight gain. Some people cannot eat gluten but for those who can, bran is a great source of fiber!  Carbs are seen by some people as the enemy of weight loss and healthy eating and while we should curb our intake of things like white bread, pasta and refined flour, whole grains continue to be a good carb and part of a healthy diet.

 I think muffin themselves have become less sought after since some muffin recipes,especially commercially prepared muffins, can be deceptively high in sugar and refined flour with very little nutritional value.
If it was not bad enough that bran and muffins are less popular than they were a decade or two ago, in addition many bran muffin recipes create dry, bad tasting muffins!

 So why am I including a bran muffin recipe here? Because I want to introduce you to a wonderful little snack that is both tasty and nutritious!
My mother loves sweets and donuts and I wanted to find a tasty treat that is good for her. We could all use more fiber according to some recent research. I used to make a delicious bran muffin that everyone loved but as I looked at the recipe I realized it had more sugar and fat than I wanted. So I looked up some healthful recipes on line and then morphed them a bit with the sweet treat one I had from 25 years ago.

I found several bran muffin recipes on line that use mashed banana, and while I wanted to try that, I did not want it to taste like banana. I saw one,(which I did not keep track of where it was so I cannot post a link here) that used softened, pureed dates, which is a favorite technique of mine for sweetening cookies and cakes. Date puree also substitutes for some of the fat. I also threw in some ground flax seed  and walnuts for their nutrient value.
I had to look around to find Bran in the store but Vitamin Cottage had a nice sized bag for sale. I used some and will freeze the rest.
If you want to be cut out more sugar feel free to skip the Tablespoon of sugar and some or all of the molasses. I prefer these as mini muffins. It is easiest to use muffin liners but if you don’t have them just make sure to liberally oil the muffin tins.

Tasty And Nutritious  Bran Muffins

1 ½  cups wheat bran
¼ cup flax seed ground
¾  cup whole pitted dates
1/2 cup  orange juice or water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup low fat buttermilk*
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium banana)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3  cup molasses
1-2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 TBSP  brown sugar, date sugar or coconut sugar, optional

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour, Or unbleached white OR whole grain flour  or a mix of two
1/3 -1/2 cup walnuts chopped
Other add ins- shredded carrot, raisins or other dried fruit, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger

Cooking spray

*If you don’t have buttermilk, mix 1 tsp vinegar into milk and let it satnd a few minutes. Or use ½ cup milk, ½ cup plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 350°.

 Combine dates and juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10minutes. Remove from heat and mix in baking soda and let it sit for 5 minutes then uncover and let stand 5 minutes.

Place date mixture in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. Add buttermilk, eggs, banana, vanilla, butter, oil, molasses, sugar …(everything except flour, soda baking powder, spices or  nuts or add ins.) Blend on low until well mixed.

 Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour, bran, flax, baking powder, salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add date mixture to bran mixture, stirring just until moist. Add any nuts, seeds, dried fruit, shredded carrot  or other add ins.

Place 24 mini muffin liners into mini muffin pan or 12 muffin cup liners in muffin cups.   Coat liners with cooking spray or light oil. Spoon or use small scoop to put batter into muffin cups.

Bake at 350° for 10- 12 minutes for mini muffins or 22-  25 minutes for full sized muffins, until a wooden pick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean.

Remove muffins from pan; cool on a wire rack.

Almond –Raspberry Shortbread Cookies

So yes, Christmas is long gone and I did not put this perfect Christmas cookie up on the blog as I promised but better late than never!  I first tasted this delicious Almond-raspberry thumbprint cookie at a potluck at my friend’s house. They were such a hit and the lady who brought them told us she got the recipe off the Land O lakes website. I looked at the recipe there and made a few changes to it and here it is, a very delicate and delicious cookie that looks nice enough for parties, wedding/baby showers, teas or Christmas cookie plates!

One thing I did a little different was to add cornstarch. I like to add cornstarch to my shortbread but this is totally optional. I think it improves the texture. If you do not have corn starch, add a bit of powdered sugar which can also make the bite a bit more tender and delicate.

I also like to add almond meal for flavor and for crunch. You may omit.

Almond –Raspberry Shortbread Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (Land o lakes is perfect for this) softened
2/3  cup sugar, may use up to ¾ a cup if you prefer sweeter cookie
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 2/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup fine almond meal OR 2 cups all-purpose flour 
1-2 TBSP cornstarch, optional
2 TBSP powdered sugar, Optional
Tiny pinch of salt
1/2 cup raspberry, apricot or other jam
1 cup powdered sugar
3 teaspoons water or milk
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1/3 cup or so sliced almonds, lightly toasted for best results (7-9 minutes at 350 degrees)
Using mixer at medium speed, Blend together softened butter, sugar and almond extract. Beat until very creamy, scraping down the bowl several times.  Add flour, corn starch and almond meal one cup at a time, and then beat at low speed, scraping bowl often. Continue to beat dough until it holds together somewhat…The dough will be dry and crumbly for a bit then become well mixed and hold together when press into ball. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm.
Heat oven to 350°F. I like to line cookie sheets with parchment paper or sil-pats.
Use small scoop or spoon and shape dough into 1 inch balls. You may  Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Make indentation in center of each cookie with a rounded ½ tsp measuring spoon or finger. (edges may crack slightly). Fill each indentation with about 1/4 teaspoon jam. Do not use more jam. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.
Bake 14-16 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let stand a minute or two on cookie sheets; then carefully remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.
Combine all glaze ingredients in bowl with whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cookies.
Immediately sprinkle with sliced almonds.