Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tapioca Time!

From my earliest days growing up I hold memories of a simple dessert treat that my Grandma used to make for me. The treat was tapioca pudding, and she would almost always have some made up for me when I visited. Even as time went on and I grew up, spending less time at Grandma's, she would still always remember my favorite dessert over the many years when I returned for a visit.

As I set out on my own and started taking note my favorite foods and investigating a bit, I found that my Grandma’s wonderful tapioca recipe turned out to be the recipe and ingredients from the Kraft Minute tapioca. And here I thought it was some age-old secret handed down from my ancestors... She got such a laugh out of the fact that I thought that instant stuff was so amazing. But you know what? I still remember that tapioca pudding like yesterday, and the Cool Whip she put on it too! I cannot replicate that experience now, especially without my doting Grandma around. So, I'm left with the memories of that dessert and all the other amazing things she cooked, and the afternoons spent with her cooking in the kitchen and me playing on the floor with my matchbox cars. And you know, what that's OK!

Today, my tastes have evolved a bit and I usually choose to go the more traditional homemade route when crafting my meals and dishes (especially since I will never match the experience of Grandma's Tapioca if I followed the box recipe to the fraction of a gram...). So, as it is obvious this whole post is going somewhere towards my favorite simple pudding dish, here's my tapioca pudding recipe. I'm not exactly sure where it originated, but it looks very similar to a recipe I once saw on a Reese’s Medium Pearl Tapioca box. Enjoy!

½ cup pearl tapioca (I use Medium pearls)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs – separated
2½ cups milk
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Soak tapioca overnight in 2 cups of room temperature water.

In double boiler, heat milk just until no longer cold.
Add salt and tapioca.

Continue to heat until small bubbles appear at sides of the pan.
Cover, turn heat very low and cook for one hour. Make sure that the mixture does not simmer or boil!

Mix egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and creamy. Add small amount of the hot mixture to the mixture, and quickly blend thoroughly.

Add the egg yolk mixture to the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly.

Place the double boiler over medium heat and cook until the tapioca mixture is very thick (about 15 minutes).

Beat egg whites until stiff (may use ¼ teaspoon of Cream of Tartar).
Slowly fold the hot tapioca mixture into the egg whites and stir in vanilla.

Serve warm or chilled.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Granola Bars

In a continuing effort to enrich food enjoyment experiences, I have started to make more of the foods I eat. This past weekend I made homemade granola and granola bars. My idea to start making my own cereal and snack bars came to me along with the idea to make homemade yogurt. The thought of eating another bland, boring individually wrapped, stay fresh until sometime next year product was something that I could no longer endure.

So, I set out to make a change, and I am so glad I did! Aside from being much more economical, making your own food products such as yogurt and granola allows you to be in control of what goes on your plate. You can decide the sweetness level, flavor, texture, size, color, ingredients (or lack thereof), etc. And the fact that it is your creation, born out of your own efforts, makes is so much more enjoyable!

There are many recipes out there for granola and granola bars, and many ways to customize once you find a base recipe you like. I used this recipe for my first run and it turned out great. I thoroughly enjoyed my mid-afternoon snack today!