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July 22nd, 2009:

Super Smoothies: Break Out the Blender

minty fresh

I don’t know why I have the books Smoothies and Super Smoothies, but I do. I might have picked them up at Powell’s, or gotten them through the cookbook club. They’re slim paperback volumes, each containing 50 recipes for drinkable fruity concoctions. Which means, yes, I have 100 recipes for smoothies in my possession. And I’m pretty sure I’d never used either book until today.

The books are very prettily designed. Really, really designed, with gorgeous color photography, though the designer got a bit enthusiastic with the typography and use of color too, and some of the pages are not that easy to read. It’s lucky my eyesight isn’t any worse than it is, or I’d need a magnifying glass and a floodlight to deal with the minimal contrast on some of the pages. I lean toward pragmatism in design — a book should be not just pretty but functional.

Of course, if I regularly made more of the smoothies listed, maybe my eyesight would improve. The Super Smoothies volume focuses on “recipes for health and energy,” and includes offerings such as “fountain of youth” (cherries, cranberries and blueberries for Vitamin C and antioxidants), “cold flash” (dried apricots, tofu and peaches for the relief of menopausal symptoms — I’ll be looking that up in about 10 years), and “cholesterol cleanser” (red wine, cherries and blackberries for vascular health).

For today I opted for “minty fresh,” which offers hydration and fresh breath. Preparation is simple. Put 1 1/2 cups of diced honeydew melon and 1/2 cup of low-fat lemon yogurt into a blender, then add a tablespoon of chopped fresh mint leaves and a cup of frozen green grapes. Blend, pour and drink. Serves two (or one very thirsty person with very bad breath, I suppose).

Verdict: Success. The smoothie tasted great and was a refreshing part of a summer morning breakfast. I’ll have to start making more of these, at least while the weather is warm. Given my nearsightedness, I should probably start with the “14-carrot” (does not actually require 14 carrots).

Tempting Low-Cost Meals for 2 or 4 or 6: My First Real Challenge

glazed orange muffins

This is the first of the Recipes of the Damned cookbooks that I’ve used for this project. I have two more slated for the month, What Mrs. Dewey Did With the New Jell-O and Metropolitan Life Cook Book, and I expected the Jell-O book to be my first serious challenge. I am not a Jell-O person. But then I opened Tempting Low-Cost Meals for 2 or 4 or 6, a pamphlet of recipes from 1940 using Pet Milk, and yowza. Turns out that regardless of whether I’m a condensed milk fan, I am decidedly not a fan of creamed dried beef in a molded noodle ring, frankfurter vegetable salad, or “economy drumsticks” (molded ground meat filled with cheese, dredged in corn flake crumbs and fried). I had promised myself that as I got into the scary cookbooks I would rise to challenges, but this one smacked me down instantly. Part of it is seasonal: it’s too hot to do things with cream sauces, especially when the cream sauce is adorning cabbage, or is mixed with deviled ham and poured on toast with peanut butter on it. (Seriously! I kid you not!) So after much thought I settled on the fairly harmless glazed orange muffins.

These might be more accurately dubbed orange-glazed muffins, as the muffin itself is a very simple flour-butter-milk-egg combination. You beat an egg and add about a cup of the condensed milk and a cup of water. In another bowl you combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder, then work in shortening or butter. Well, the recipe said shortening, but I don’t have shortening, so I used butter; I’m not sure if that made a difference to the texture but it has to have helped the flavor. When the dry mixture is the consistency of cornmeal, add the liquid and stir just until combined; if you overmix, as I did, you will get a bit of tunneling in the finished muffins and they may not rise quite as much as you wanted them to, but the flavor shouldn’t be affected. (I do know not to overmix, but¬† I was surprised by how quickly the dry ingredients took up the liquid — two stirs too late I realized I was no longer dredging up large amounts of unincorporated flour. Oops.) Pour the batter into muffin tins or papers and bake.

While the muffins bake, make the glaze: about a tablespoon of orange zest, one and a half tablespoons of orange juice, and 6 tablespoons of sugar. After the muffins have baked 15 minutes, pull them from the oven and spread a bit of the glaze on each, then pop them back in for another five minutes.

They tasted good, in a perfectly satisfactory but not dramatic way. They were rather cute, too, which made them a nice part of the presentation for breakfast — an anniversary celebration. (Quite the 107 Cookbooks festivity, this meal, featuring the blueberry jam and the minty fresh smoothie as well.)

Verdict: Success. The muffins were tasty, and I suppose that if you had a good reason to stockpile condensed milk you would be better advised to use it for these than for creamed vegetables or toasted ham fingers. Plus I’ve rediscovered a treasure trove for Recipes of the Damned.