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A Pleasant Little Lesson | Simple Syrups

soda-trio-croppedPlease put this ratio to memory: 1 part water to 1 part sugar.

Combine this ratio into a sauce pan (or better yet, the microwave when you’re short on time), and you will have created a simple syrup.

Now that this ratio is set to memory, there is the second part to remember: infusion.rosemary-ss-iFlavor infusion is an additional (and easy) step to implement within the simple syrup concoction.

To extract flavor from a certain ingredient, like herbs, add it to the syrup while it’s slowing heating. If there is an extract you love, like rose extract (that’s my favorite), add it to the syrup while it’s heating as well. syrup-iWhat about citrus? Add the zest while the syrup is heating, then add the juice at the end of the process. Strain (to remove pulp) and chill. Perhaps you desire a tea infused syrup? Place the tea in with the syrup, and it will infuse the sugary liquid (don’t over steep, you would hate to have a bitter syrup!).

Now the world of homemade drinks, non-boozy or boozy, is at your fingertips.cup-vi-croppedNext time you are at the markets and see endless rows of simple syrups infused with the most basic of ingredients (vanilla) to a more difficult to find (elderberry), be assured of your ability to make it at home.

Below are a few infused simple syrup recipes just waiting to inspire your next drink.ingredients

Lavender Orange

Lemon Ginger

Rose

Sage

Vanilla

lavender-orange-fizzy-iHappy cooking!

Best,

Rebecca

How-To Make Ice Cream

ice cream spoons i cropped“I wish homemade ice cream wasn’t so difficult to make.”

It’s time to remove this thought from your mind. Homemade ice cream is more attainable than you realize.

With just a few ingredients and the proper equipment, homemade ice cream is actually a cinch to make—and it’s fun. It’s one of those recipes that the whole family can participate in.

vanilla bean ice cream one scoop iiThe key to making ice cream is to have a solid base recipe. Once this recipe is established, adding ingredients, flavors and toppings is up to you.

The necessary equipment

ice cream maker

sauce pan

large mixing bowl

whiskingredients blogThe base ingredients

egg yolks

cream

milk

sugar

vanilla extractice cream blog_ice cream blog iiNow, it doesn’t seem so intimidating.

Once everything is acquired the ice cream making is ready to begin.

The base for ice cream is five ingredients. Be sure to save the egg whites, they can be used for other recipes, like meringue cookies or egg white drop soup (click here for more egg white recipes).egg white drop soup blogThe beauty of a base recipe is that there is room for creativity. Vanilla beans might be perfect for one batch, or a squeeze of lime juice and a few cookie crumbles could be perfect for the next.

When making ice cream, get people involved—spouses, children, friends.dark chocolate and cherries iGetting creative with ice cream will escalate this sweetie to a unique treat and increase your confidence in the kitchen. Now it’s time to get started with these APLK recipes:

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream

Vanilla-Lime Ice Creamaffogato ii

A Pleasant Little Hint:

Before making this sweet treat, be sure to read the directions for your ice cream maker. Some makers may have an attachment that needs to be frozen prior to using.

The ice cream mixture takes about 20 minutes to make and 2 hours to chill.

The ice cream mixture can be made 24 hours in advance.

Save the egg whites to be used in additional recipes (click here for recipes).

Get creative with the toppings (click here for ice cream topper ideas).

cherry sage sangria sundaeThis story was published in March of 2016 in The Dallas Morning News. Click here to read the full story.

How-To Make Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup

soup and toppings iv

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup  is packed full of vegetables and protein. The flavor is rich, the soup is comforting and the toppings are complimentary. This soup needs to be on your recipe rotation.

There are only three major steps to the recipe: boil, roast and puree. If this meal wasn’t already a winner, guess what? It’s freezer friendly too.

soup

Now that you’re ready to make the soup, watch this video to demonstrate how easily it can be made.

click here to watch the instructional video on how to make butternut squash and red lentil soupsoup ii

Interested in making more delicious soups? Click here to read a pleasant little story in The Dallas Morning News.

Roasted Butternut Squash Red Lentil Soup (click here for the full recipe)

Author note: Vegetable or chicken stock is an acceptable substitute for the beef stock. This soup is freezer friendly. To make prep time easier, purchase pre-diced butternut squash in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle at your local market.

for the soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 bay leaves

3 thyme sprigs

3 cups beef stock

1 cup water

1 cup red lentils

4 cups diced roasted butternut squash (see roasting instructions below)

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

pomegranate seeds, for topping

goat cheese, for topping

cilantro, for topping

  1. Rinse the lentils with cold water.
  2. Add the oil and garlic to a large pan and cook over medium heat until the garlic becomes fragrant.
  3. Meanwhile, heat up the water and beef stock.
  4. Add the lentils to the pan and stir to coat with the oil, let cook for about 1 minute. Pour the warmed water and stock over the lentils. Add the bay leaves and thyme.
  5. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the heat. Cover the pan with a tilted lid. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils have softened.
  6. Remove the bay leaves and thyme. Add the roasted butternut squash.
  7. With an immersion blender (or a food processor), puree the mixture until it is smooth.
  8. Serve warm topped with goat cheese, pomegranates and cilantro.

for the roasted butternut squash

4 cups diced butternut squash

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 thyme sprigs

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine the squash, oil, thyme and salt. Mix well to coat.
  3. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. After roasting remove the thyme leaves.

What to Make with Leftover Egg Whites

vanilla bean for blog i

What to do with leftovers? This is the song that never ends in A Pleasant Little Kitchen. In this case, it’s not about a leftover meal. It’s about a leftover ingredient.

You’ve been there–a quarter of an onion, half a jar of tomato paste, a mostly filled carton of buttermilk. There is a longing to keep these leftover ingredients and a guilt if it’s just tossed away. So the question is: What can I make with ______?

Today, egg whites will fill in that blank.

vanilla bean for blogEgg yolks are required in several recipes (ice cream, pudding, mayonnaise, salad dressings, custards, pasta) and if you need an egg yolk, there will always be an egg white that remains.

Stop throwing the white away and start using it. Enjoy this pleasant little hint and start using all of that leftover ingredient.

What to make with egg whites:

Egg White Drop Soup with Radishes, Arugula and Chives

Angel Food Cake with Strawberry-Cinnamon Mascarpone Spread

Buttermilk, Arugula and Shallot Frittata

Rose Meringue Cookies

Egg White Drop Soup with Radishes, Arugula and Chives

egg white drop soup blog soup ii

Angel Food Cake with Strawberry-Cinnamon Mascarpone Spread

cake blog

Buttermilk Frittata with Chives and Arugula

buttermilk shallot and arugula frittata blog

fritatta aplk

Rose Meringue Cookies

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How to Stuff Kale Leaves

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Stuffing a kale leaf might sound like a tremendous task. However, with the proper technique, it is actually quite easy.

This quick video shows you the basics of Oven-Baked Rice and Sausage Stuffed Kale Leaves (click here for recipe)

Now that your feet are wet, take a glance at this longer, more in-depth lesson.

How to Stuff Kale Leaves with A Pleasant Little Kitchen and The Dallas Morning News

There it is–how to stuff kale leaves. Take this new knowledge to your kitchen and start stuffing.

Happy cooking!

click here for the original post

How to Cut a Bell Pepper

Green, red, yellow and orange; bell peppers are popping out of summertime gardens everywhere.

Whether they’re from your garden or the local market, it’s time to get a handle on cutting these bad boys.

Sometimes during the cutting process a bit of core and seeds come away with a slice or two.

No big. Here’s a simple solution:

Apply this method to all sorts of peppers (serano, jalapeno, poblano, anaheim, etc). Just be sure to adjust the knife size to fit the pepper (big pepper, big knife; small pepper, small knife).

Now that cutting a bell pepper is no longer an obstacle, tackle Cornmeal Chicken Pepper Soup (click here for recipe) or Gazpacho (click here for recipe).

Happy cooking!

click here for the original post

How to Cut an Avocado

The avocado: thick skin, soft interior, giant seed. Some find this friendly fruit difficult to break into. Let this no longer be the case.

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Enjoy this quick video and learn how to cut an avocado.

P.S. Pardon some of the baby noises in the background.

Hurrah! The avocado is no longer an obstacle. Now, try these recipes:

chilled avocado and cucumber soup

avocado crema

creamy avocado chicken and bacon sandwich 

click here for the original post

The Four Basics to Avocado Crema

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There is no exact science to avocado crema. It sounds like a difficult task, but in actuality it can be as simple as a refrigerator clean out.

What you need:

  1. avocados
  2. salt
  3. creamy dairy product (whipping cream, sour cream, crème fraiche, plain yogurt, etc.)
  4. fresh lime juice

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To make the crema, first add the avocado and mash with a fork or potato masher. Then combine the remaining three ingredients. Once the four items are thoroughly mixed, add these extras if more flavor is desired.

Optional additions:

chopped cilantro

chopped serrano or jalapeno peppers

cayenne

cumin

chili powder

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Avocado crema is a versatile condiment. It can be paired with a variety of dishes, such as:

avocado toast

leftovers taquitos

tacos

dip with tortilla chips or vegetables

cornmeal chicken pepper soup

sandwiches (turkey, chicken, vegetarian)

runny egg

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The possibilities with avocado crema are endless. All that’s left is the confidence to walk into the kitchen, combine the four basic ingredients and experiment with the components available. Taste that bad boy until you can’t stop eating it, because that’s when the avocado crema is finished.

click here for the original post

How to Broil Hatch Green Chiles

chiles ivAugust is Hatch green chile season and is the only time to purchase these chiles fresh. They are available throughout the year in a canned option, but those leave a lot to be desired when compared to home roasted Hatch green chiles. There are several ways to prepare Hatch chiles, but the goal of each of them is to remove the skin. This is my method for broiling Hatch chiles. You can get a similar result with a little extra flavor by doing this on the grill, but this broiler method is quick and easy.

for the Broiled Hatch Green Chiles recipe click here

When choosing green chiles to purchase, look for chiles that are a bright green color, flat and symmetrical shape, heavy in weight, firm to the squeeze and smooth to the touch.hatch chiles panHeat the broiler to 500 degrees.

Wash and dry the chiles. Then place the chiles on a foil lined baking sheet on the top rack. Broil for 6 minutes

After the allotted time, check the chiles. If blackened and blistered, flip the chiles over and continue to broil for an additional 5 minutes. If not blackened enough, broil for an addition 1 minute.roasted croppedOnce the chiles are well blistered (the chiles need to be blistered all over, this helps to loosen the skin) place in a airtight container (or zip-close bag) and let cool for about 15 minutes. This process captures steam and continues to loosen the skin from the meat.chiles blogchiles container wood iOnce cool to the touch, remove the chiles from the container and peel off the skin. For a mild heat remove the seedscutting board iPlace the chiles in an airtight container and place in the fridge to use throughout the week.

If your intention is to freeze the hatch green chiles, place the skinned and seeded chiles into a plastic bag (zip lock or vacuum sealed works). roasted blog iiiRemove as much air from the bag as you can before sealing. Lay flat in the freezer.

Come January when you crave the unmistakable Hatch flavor, forage in the freezer, thaw and enjoy with these recipes:

Beer Braised Pork Shoulder with Hatch Green Chiles

Hatch Green Chile Jam

Hatch Green Chile Meatloaf

How to Boil an Egg

Today, free yourself from consuming poorly boiled eggs.  No longer settle for a tough, dry, discolored egg, but demand the delicate, rich and vibrant flavor of one well boiled.

Place your eggs in a  pan and cover with water.

Turn the heat up to high and quickly bring to a boil.

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 Watch the eggs carefully and at first boil cover the pan. Then, remove from heat. Set a timer for 12 minutes.

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After 12 minutes, pour out the hot water and cover the eggs with cold water (sometimes I add ice to guarantee very cold water). This is to stop the cooking process.

Peel the eggs, slice in half and sprinkle with salt.

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