As you may know, some of my new year’s resolutions involved trying new foods. I figured that it would be easier to wait til the end of the month and give you a rundown of what I tried and how it turned out.
Let’s start with some movies that I found quite enjoyable. The first one is similar to He’s Just Not That Into You. The similarity is that it’s the type of movie where multiple story-lines cross over each other to form a larger picture. I thought this latest one, New Year’s Eve, had some of the best story lines and the least amount of undesirable elements (not too much cursing or talk about sex). My husband and I also watched Hotel Transylvania. I didn’t expect too much from it, but it turned out to be a hilarious family movie. We both really enjoyed it and were laughing all the way through.
On to the excitement of new foods. I’ve pledged to try at least one new food and one new type of produce per month, but I’m trying not to limit myself by that. I would also like to give some foods that I’ve previously shunned a second try. So far on that front, I’ve been trying to find affection for bananas. I’ve already talked about the banana breads that I’ve tried, but I also wanted to try some other ways to eat bananas. I bought some with the intent to try freezing them and drying them out. Well, one out of two’s not bad. This is what I got when I tried drying them.
I thinly sliced a couple of bananas and dipped them in lemon juice. I put them on my silpat and had them in the oven for a couple of hours at 200 degrees. It didn’t seem to be doing anything, so I just bumped it up to 250 degrees for half an hour. Oh well! I’ll try again some time, and maybe I’ll have more patience. 🙂
Thankfully, I had also sliced another couple of bananas, topped them with peanut butter, and dipped them in chocolate. Then I put them on a wax paper lined tray and stuck them in the freezer. They were delicious, cold, and creamy with a great taste of peanut butter and chocolate. Now I understand why so many people use frozen bananas in smoothies and ice cream. When frozen, they do have a wonderfully creamy texture. Still, I find their taste can easily overpower the other components, so if I was using them in a smoothie I would cut back until they were just a hint of the flavor. As to the banana bites, I will be making them often. They are an easy, nutritious frozen treat. Next time I will slice the bananas thinner and put the peanut butter between them, so that they’ll be easier to dip in the chocolate. I might also put a pretzel stick through them for a handle.
(Update: Thinner slices with more peanut butter is better, but pretzel handles aren’t a good plan, they get stale in the freezer. However, if you freeze the bananas, then top the frozen slices with peanut butter, then freeze that, they should be much easier to dip in chocolate cleanly.)
My produce for this month was squash. At the beginning of the month, I found a good deal on an acorn squash. In general, it tastes similar to a butternut squash, and could probably sub in for it in recipes. We had it roasted with some spices, but I think I just haven’t found the recipe for it yet. It wasn’t hard to roast, but I wasn’t blown away by it. Of course I’ll let you know if I find that perfect recipe.
I also got to work with a spaghetti squash. I’d had a bite of one before, but I hadn’t tried cooking it or really making a meal out of it. I decided to roast it simply (30-45 min. at 375 degrees) in halves then serve it topped with some store-bought pasta sauce. Overall, I think it’s a somewhat crunchy vehicle for pasta sauce that’s a nice change if you can get it for a good price. My hubby was very skeptical, but even he was okay with it. I don’t think either of us will claim it as a favorite, but it is good for you and not a bad dish overall. Last night I added a wedge of laughing cow to my portion of it and it really made it taste good. I think creamier sauces might be the way to offset its unusual texture, so I might try an alfredo next time I find the squash for a good price. Isn’t that just like girl math, balance out a fatty sauce by subbing a squash for the carb-laden pasta. By the way, using a fork to shred the squash’s flesh is kind of fun.
I also got to cook up the extra millet from my crackly banana bread. It has a somewhat gritty texture, but a good chew. I cooked it like rice then prepared it like oatmeal with some maple syrup, cream, craisins, and walnuts. The taste (at least with those add-ins) was very nice. If it wasn’t so hard to find, I would certainly use it more often.
As grains go, quinoa is easy to find and is fast becoming a favorite of mine. I prefer it to oatmeal for a warm breakfast. I sometimes dawdle about my breakfast, and oatmeal has a tendency to get gluey after a little while. Even after sitting a bit, quinoa stays separate and retains a nice, chewy texture. It doesn’t have a lot of taste by itself, just a bit of nuttiness, so it does nicely about taking on the flavors of what you put it with. Because of this, I was able to fix a fantastic dish that my mouth is still watering after. One night, I wanted to have some quinoa, but I didn’t feel like the oatmeal version. We had some enchilada filling in the fridge, so I mixed a couple of tablespoons in with the quinoa. Then I heated a frying pan up with a little oil in it, put some corn tortillas in it (softened in the microwave), filled them with the quinoa/enchilada mix, topped it with cheese, and cooked it like a quesadilla. With the bit of oil, the tortillas got nice and crispy. The tacos were amazing!! The quinoa makes them filling with good texture, but the enchilada filling gave it the great flavor. I loved it so much, that my best friend and I had it again a few days later. I will probably try using quinoa to bulk up many more meals, so get ready to hear more about it.
But by far, the best thing I tried this month was making my own funnel cakes. Again, my best friend and I were just talking, they came up somehow, and we decided to try making our own, but to shallow fry them instead of deep fry. We found a recipe online, whipped the batter together, and made them that same night. The batter isn’t that different from pancake batter. Then we just put it in a funnel, drizzled it in the oil, topped the finished product with powdered sugar, and ate too many of the adorable little things. It was loads of fun and so tasty. And I love knowing that I can satisfy my craving for fried dough without going to a crowded fair and paying loads of money.
Funnel Cake (tweaked from Cooking Bride)
2/3 c. milk
1 1/4 all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
1. Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. (We used a cast-iron skillet and put in only a 1/2 in. of oil.) Once the oil is ready, reduce the heat to medium to maintain the heat.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the egg and milk. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet.
3. Pour the batter into a funnel with your finger over the tip. Pour the batter in a squiggly design into the oil and fry two minutes per side. Remove the cakes from the oil and drain them on paper towels; sprinkle them with powdered sugar.