Thursday, July 22, 2010

Homemade Root Beer (for a crowd)

Ok, there are all sorts of root beer extracts out there. I've tried a few. And while one was sort of bitter tasting (wal-mart store brand), the others were all pretty good. My favorite bottle of extract is Big H. There is a local drive-in chain here in the SLC metro area called "Hires". Hires is known for their "Big H" just like McDonald's is known for their "Golden Arches", if that makes sense. Anywho... At Hire's they serve their own draft-style "Big H" Root Beer. Sooooo good! I realize they might not have this extract in other states, so I guess what I am saying is you get what you pay for :)

4 - 4 1/2 gal water
5 lbs sugar
1 bottle root beer extract
5 lbs dry ice

In a 5 gal cooler mix together the water and sugar till the sugar is somewhat dissolved. Add the bottle of extract and mix well. Using tongs, carefully place dry ice in cooler. Mix and let the dry ice do it's magic. Stir every once in a while to keep ice from sinking to the bottom and blocking the spigot.
*since it's hard to get exactly 5 lbs of dry ice, I usually tell them it's better to be a little over 5 lbs than under. No one like flat root beer... =D

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shrimp & Spinach Salad

There is a little shop around the corner from my work that has this salad on the menu. It is to-die-for. My mouth waters just thinking about it! They also happen to serve it with a crusty roll and real butter, which just makes it heaven... Anyway, I love this salad so much, I wanted to recreate it at home. After a few tries with the vinaigrette, I finally have it to my liking! It's refreshing and light and I never feel guilty eating it :)

1 bag fresh Spinach (9-10 oz)
1 small yam
1 C {Candied Pistachios}
1 1/2 C cooked shrimp, chilled and tails removed
{Lemon Vinaigrette}

Rinse and dry spinach leaves; place in salad bowl. Peel and slice yam into thin slices. Toss in pistachios and shrimp. Just before serving, pour vinaigrette over top, and toss well to coat. Store leftovers in refrigerator, covered.

Candied Pistachios

2/3 C cinnamon & sugar mixture*
3 Tbsp warm water
2 C pistachios, shelled
1 or 2 sprinkles of cold water
Line baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. In saucepan over medium heat mix together cinnamon-sugar mixture and 3 tbsp warm water. Stir until combined. Add nuts and stir to coat. Bring to boil, stirring frequently, until there is no excess mixture left on sides of bottom of pan. Add splash of cold water with fingertips, give it another good stir and quickly spread on prepared baking sheet. Allow mixture to set and cool on nuts. Break into pieces.
Try this with other nuts too! Makes great holiday gifts!
*The first batch I made of this, I used just under 2/3 C sugar and made up the difference with cinnamon. I think next time I will use maybe only 1-2 tsp cinnamon and the rest sugar. It was still good and very easy!

Lemon Vinaigrette

I was searching the store shelves for lemon vinaigrette, but couldn't find any. I found a few recipes online, but none tasted like I "envisioned" them tasting like. So, finally I experimented and came up with my own.

Fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons (about 4 Tbsp or so)*
2 Tbsp sugar, more or less to taste.
1 tsp honey mustard, or Dijon style works too
1/4 C olive oil
2 - 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar**
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp thyme, optional
1 tsp coarse salt

Squeeze the juice from 2 lemons; strain for seeds. Add sugar to lemon juice and stir well. Add mustard and oil and continue stirring. Add remaining ingredients, stirring until well blended. Chill covered until ready to use.

*Using the juice from fresh lemons really makes this dressing flavorful. I highly recommend this over using the bottled lemon juice.

**I love balsamic vinegar, so I have only ever tried it with this. I imagine you could use white vinegar, although I would probably only add a tbsp at a time and taste as I go.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rhubarb Pie

1 - 9" pie shell*
1 tbsp flour
3 1/2 C chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 C sugar**
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup half & half
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
Ice Cream or Whipped Topping, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle flour evenly over the bottom of the unbaked pie crust.
In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, sugar, eggs, half & half, nutmeg, & salt. Pour into pie shell.
Bake 45-60 min until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting. Top with Whipped Cream or Ice Cream, if desired.

*When I made this the last time, I used a Graham Cracker Crust (as seen above) because I had one on hand and was in a hurry. Although it tasted okay, it was not nearly as good as the regular pastry crust. There is just something about the tartness of the Rhubarb with the sugar-cookie like crust that compliments each other nicely.
**I have made this before with a cup-for-cup sugar substitute (like Splenda or Stevia), and it tastes just fine. You can also use the Fat Free Half & Half for a reduced calorie pie =D