Miracle berry sweetened dinner

Any Top Chef fans out there? Do you guys remember a few weeks ago when the chefs had to study up on Modernist Cuisine and then cook a quickfire meal with modernist techniques? Chris Jones started his meal with a miracle berry tablet, which reminded me I got these babies in my Christmas stocking last year (from Adam of course)!!!

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Have you heard of miracle berries before? Wikipedia tells me it’s also called synsepalum dulcificum (way harder to pronounce!) which is a plant with a berry that makes sour things taste sweet. The tablets are basically ground up miracle berries – all natural Smile

Last night we had our friends Jim and Liz over for dinner to experiment with this “mysterious fruit tab.” We started the dinner by dissolving a tablet on our tongues and then dove into lemons, limes and grapefruit. Not gonna lie, it was a little scary to take the first bite! Would it really work?

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Action shots!

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Wow, guys. This was crazy. Seriously insane. Everything was SO SWEET – I honestly had no idea how sweet they’d be (and started getting a little nervous that our whole dinner will taste like pure sugar). Biting into a lime and being overwhelmed by its sweetness was surreal (the limes were the sweetest – almost inedible at first because of how sweet they were).

We calmed our palettes for a minute with these clover rolls, which had nothing to do with our experiment but delicious nonetheless. Definitely a must-make again recipe!

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Aside from the rolls which were a last minute decision (a brilliant last minute decision!), the rest of the dinner all centered around citrus. I looked for recipes that utilized oranges (already sweet) but used lemons and grapefruit instead, knowing they would be made sweeter because of the tablets.

Grapefruit and avocado salad with a citrus dressing (here is the base recipes, I subbed grapefruit for oranges in everything)

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Jalapeno citrus salmon (based on this recipe, I used half grapefruit, half lemon juice for the glaze)

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My plate:

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My beverage of choice for the night – it had citrus notes which turned sweet. The beer tasted kind of like a beer cocktail as a result. I liked it Smile

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The effect lasts between 30 minutes and 2 hours and over the course of dinner we definitely felt it fade. The citrus still tasted very sweet but we could start slowly also tasting mild sour notes. Luckily non-citrusy components made the meal a real dinner – salmon, avocado, jalapenos all stayed true to themselves Smile

Of course we had to finish the meal with some lemon sherbet. This particular brand was super creamy – the perfect ending to a sweet citrus meal!

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This was super fun!! Apparently hot sauce and radishes should have been part of our experiment too. I may just have to keep playing around with this stuff. It’s sort of trippy in a good way Winking smile

Would you want to try this stuff? What would you make? I may use these for nights when my sweet tooth won’t stop nagging. A wedge of lemon would totally do the trick!

Homemade Italian bread with leftover whey {+survey}

Have you tried making ricotta yet? As I’m sure you could tell from my previous post, despite it being super easy – I felt pretty proud of making my own cheese. It was delicious! And do you know what I’m proud of now? Turning the leftover whey into some pretty fantastic homemade bread! It doesn’t seize to amaze me how simple ingredients like milk + cream can turn into cheese… and then with addition of flour, butter and yeast, you get bread! Totally incredible!

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So yeah, I couldn’t bring myself to toss the leftover whey from making ricotta, so with your suggestions I decided to google some bread recipes. This recipe for Italian white bread looked super easy and I figured was the perfect way for me to try my hand at homemade yeast bread (yup, it’s my first!).

I used the Kitchen Aid with the hook attachment to make the dough – it came together in no time.

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And then I split it into 2 sections, rolled them up (hoping that’s what I was supposed to do)…

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… and let these 2 guys rest.

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1 hour later, it was time to bake some bread! Seriously, doesn’t it sound easy?

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It was! Smile

Adam was actually sick that day so I left for the gym and told him to pull the loaves out after 25 minutes of baking. I got home to the most amazing smell of freshly baked bread… with Adam jumping all around it, waiting for me to give him the ok to rip off a piece! DO IT!

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The bread had a tight crumb and a mildly buttery taste… it almost melted in your mouth, sort of like brioche bread would except it didn’t have eggs. I kept catching Adam sneak “just one more piece”… he could not get enough!

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I normally prefer whole wheat bread for my sandwiches, but this made for fantastic French toast one morning…

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… and excellent stuffing for a little Thanksgiving potluck dinner with Shannon, Katie, and our significant others.

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I have a few more slices left which I plan on turning into croutons. Yum!

I highly recommend making some ricotta and then this bread. You’ll thank me, I promise Smile

Oh, one more thing. As I’m sure you know, I’ve been also writing Russian Bites where I share recipes from my childhood as well as other fun-sounding recipes from the former Soviet Union region. I’m toying with the idea of combining the two blogs since I’m often conflicted about who I should be… the “Healthy and Sane” girl or the “Russian Bites” girl when I comment on other blogs or otherwise engage in the blogging community. So my question is this – would you be interested in reading about Russian recipes here on Healthy and Sane?  Please let me know in this 1 question survey below. Be honest!! I promise you won’t hurt my feelings if it’s something that just doesn’t excite you. I will still keep writing, I’ll just keep it separate.

Thanks!! :D

Making pretzel sandwich buns (+Christina’s spice shop)

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Last month, Rachel of Boston Food Bloggers organized a tour of the Taza chocolate factory, followed by a trip to a few of her favorite spots in Somerville. I’m rarely in the area so I took up the opportunity to not only meet a few new blog friends but also check out some of Somerville’s hidden gems.

Christina’s spice & specialty food perfectly fit the bill.

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The shop is small but is jam packed with spices, sauces, and… specialty foods (yeah, I’m original like that). The photo above depicts tables full of spices, alphabetically organized (!!). This makes it really easy to find that spice you’ve been looking all over for… and a few others you didn’t know you needed but could not walk out of the shop without having.

The shelves were full of other fun goods…

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…like every kind of salt imaginable…

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How cool are these long peppers?

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I’ve heard a lot about preserved lemons lately. I will be definitely picking up a baggie next time!

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Spices and herbs as far as the eye could see…

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It was exciting and overwhelming. They had sumac – a spice I often see in my Please to the Table cookbook. I also picked up a few kinds of paprika (again, the book always calls for smoked, sweet or spicy and I just had the generic “paprika” from Whole Foods before). Then pretzel salt and fleur de sel caught my eye and of course I had to grab those (btw, everything is available in little baggies or in bottles. They also have empty bottles if you need them – pretty awesome!). And then it was time to cut myself off before too much damage could be done! Winking smile

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I’ve been using the paprikas ever since. I think sumac will first go into a traditional plov (I’ll blog over at Russian Bites when I make that). And pretzel salt of course had to be put to use over some pretzels. Actually better than pretzels – pretzel buns for pretzel sandwiches. Oh yes!!

I used Alton Brown’s recipe for pretzels but instead of twisting the dough into the traditional pretzel braids, divided it into ten 3.5-3.75oz balls.

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With the help of instant yeast and my trusty KitchenAid mixerwith a hook attachment, this dough came together in about 5 minutes. 50 minutes later it doubled in size and was very easy to work with. As I said before, I divided it into 10 balls for large sandwich buns.

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After a quick dip in a baking soda bath, an egg wash…

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… and a sprinkling of salt, they were ready to bake!

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Quick tip – don’t be shy with the salt. Your buns will further grow in the oven so the salt will spread out. I could have probably tripled the amount I used!

Hello gorgeous!

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The whole thing came together so quickly, this little experiment for sure was the beginning of something beautiful. A pretzel filled beautiful life! Smile I will no doubt will be making mini ones for sliders or any time a pretzel craving or an amazing-bun craving hits!

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Fresh fig buratta, tomato, basil and dijon mustard sandwich = heaven on earth

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Incredibly soft on the inside, chewy on the outside. These were out-of-this world amazing… and easy enough even for a weeknight project. Seriously!

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Make them now. They will change your life. They changed mine! Open-mouthed smile

Where do you go to for hard to find spices?

Ever made pretzels?

How should I use my fleur de sel?

Tell me, tell me, tell me!!

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