SMORGASBOARD: How sweet it is... Frozen meals... ‘Vintage Cakes’You may notice a new sweetener next to the sugar in the baking aisle. It’s called agave nectar. But what is it?
By: Herald Staff and Wire Reports, Grand Forks Herald
How sweet it is
You may notice a new sweetener next to the sugar in the baking aisle. It’s called agave nectar. But what is it?
Agave nectar comes from the same plant that is used to make tequila. Sometimes called agave syrup, it is a liquid that resembles honey. But it has a cleaner, sweeter and fruitier flavor.
Agave nectar has the same calories as sugar, but it tastes sweeter, so you can use less of it. When substituting, aim to use about 25 percent less than you would with refined sugar.
Also, agave syrup is believed to have a less intense effect on blood-sugar levels.
When shopping for agave, if you don’t see it in the baking aisle, check the honey or natural-foods section. It usually is sold in squirt bottles.
Light agave syrup is highly filtered and lightly heated. Amber syrups are less filtered and heated slightly more. The latter also has a more robust flavor. Think of it this way — light agave is to amber agave as honey is to maple syrup.
Light agave works well with light, fruity desserts. Amber agave is good for pumpkin pie or as a topping for pancakes or waffles.
Maybe you’ve mastered a recipe for chicken tikka masala or veggie burgers. Or not.
If not, Tandoor Chef’s line of frozen foods offers a tasty assist. Tasters especially enjoyed the spicy vegetable masala burgers (potatoes, carrots, green beans, turmeric, etc.) that grilled up hot and crisp in a skillet. And the halal-certified, richly flavored chicken tikka masala with basmati rice was ready to eat after a short heat in the microwave.
The suggested retail prices: A four-patty box of masala burgers is $2.99; the chicken entree is $3.99. A store locater is at tandoorchef.com.
“Vintage Cakes” by Julie Richardson (Ten Speed Press, $24): These are the cakes your grandmother used to make — or would have if she had really known her way around the kitchen: mouth-watering, masterful and emphatically unfussy. Having acquired a treasure trove of recipes dating to the 1920s, Julie Richardson, who owns a small-batch bakery in Portland, Ore., went on to examine old cookbooks and poll family and friends about childhood favorites.
She tested the most promising recipes and revised them for the modern palate (less sugar, more flavor). The results include old favorites (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting) as well as twists on the classics (angel cake with chocolate and orange freckles) and temptations for the more adventurous baker: Peppermint Patty flourless chocolate cake.
Like her cakes, Richardson’s book is simple and beautiful. She insists on quality ingredients, as well as the wide range of recipes (Ozark pudding cake, anyone?) and the winning-back stories (Bess Truman, wife of President Harry Truman, put Ozark pudding on the menu for a dinner with Winston Churchill).
In an era when too many too-perfect confections look and taste like plastic, Richardson is keeping it real.
General Mills’ Progresso has introduced a line of five canned Recipe Starters cooking sauces, sold next to its canned soups. They are creamy Parmesan basil, creamy roasted garlic, creamy three cheese, fire-roasted tomato and creamy portabella mushroom.
The price of an 18-ounce can is essentially the same ($1.99) as an 18- or 19-ounce can of Progresso soup.