Saturday, May 31, 2008

Making it up as you go ...

Today we went on a huge grocery shopping trip because we were going to go all the way to Mishawaka (about 20 minutes away) and I thought I might as well take advantage of shopping in a "real" town while I had the chance. And with gas prices so high these days I had to take advantage since I doubt we will be going out there again too soon. Anyway, I made a big list for the week and got a lot of other things on sale (so I may have overbought), and we headed home. But when I got home I realized I hadn't planned for dinner tonight! So I had to be creative without using too much of the ingredients intended for other meals. So ... this is one of my make it up as I go meals that worked out really well. It's essentially a combination of some of my favorite pasta dishes that are easy and quick and take few ingredients. Well, that and it had to satisfy my spontaneous cravings. I wanted to use the whole wheat spaghetti I had in my pantry for a couple of months, but it's kind of a brittle pasta and has a slight bitter flavor to it, so I knew the sauce needed some punch to it. So I thought lots of herbs, garlic, and lemon would do the trick, and it definitely did. I didn't even notice that it was whole wheat. So it's kind of a combination of ideas I took from shrimp scampi (without the shrimp ...), aglio e olio, some creamy-lemony meal, and a health-freak meal:) (I say "health-freak" because of the whole wheat pasta and on they use spinach in basically every recipe! Must be a miracle pregnancy food)

Making it up as you go pasta
Serves 4

1 lb pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti from Barilla)
olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T chopped fresh parsley
3 T chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 C ricotta cheese
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 C spinach leaves, loosely packed
salt & pepper to taste
parmesan cheese to serve
  1. Boil pasta to al dente. Reserve about 1/2 C pasta water, drain and set aside.
  2. In a large, deep skillet, cook garlic and about 1 t salt in about 3 T olive oil on medium-low heat until slightly browned and bubbly. Add red pepper flakes and cook a couple of minutes. Add lemon zest and spinach leaves. Bring heat up to Medium and cook until spinach is slightly wilted.
  3. Add cooked pasta, add about 2 more T olive oil and reserved pasta water 1 T at a time to loosen up the sauce. Add ricotta cheese and carefully stir into pasta until pasta is coated. Add cilantro, parsley, and lemon juice and toss until evenly distributed. Add salt and pepper to taste. (be careful tossing if you use whole wheat pasta because it tends to break a little more easily than normal pasta)
  4. Serve hot or cold with parmesan cheese on top.

Saturday Brunch 4

Blake's favorite foods are anything with peanut butter, anything with caramel, and anything with blueberries. And he's been asking me for a long time to make blueberry muffins and I kept telling him to wait until Summer when I can get fresh ones. But then I found this recipe from Cook's Country Magazine that prefers frozen blueberries. And I had all the other ingredients, so I realized I had no excuse anymore. So for Saturday brunch this morning I made their "Best Blueberry Streusel Muffins", and I have to say, they are pretty much the best blueberry muffins I have ever had.

Best Blueberry Streusel Muffins from Cook's Country Magazine
makes 12

1-1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C packed dark brown sugar
1/3 C granulated sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
pinch salt
7 T butter, melted


4 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for preparing the muffin tin
1 large egg
2 C all-purpose flour, plus extra for preparing the muffin tin
1 t vanilla extract
1 C granulated sugar
1 t grated lemon zest
1/2 C buttermilk
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1-1/2 C frozen blueberries*

* don't take the blueberries out of the freezer until the very last second, otherwise it'll streak your batter too much
  1. For the streusel: Combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Drizzle with melted butter and toss with a fork until evenly moistened and mixture forms large chunks with some pea-sized pieces throughout.
  2. For the muffins: Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and flour 12-C muffin pan. Whisk egg in a medium bowl until plae and evenly combined, aout 30 seconds. Add vanilla, sugar, zest and whisk vigorously until thick, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in melted butter, add buttermilk and whisk until combined.
  3. Reserve 1 T flour. In a seperate bowl, whisk remaining flour, baking powder, and salt. Forl in egg mixture until nearly combined. Toss blueberries with reserved flour and fold into batter until just combined.
  4. Divide batter in muffin pan and top with streusel. Bake until light golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out with few dry crumbs attached, 23~27 minutes. Cool muffins in tin for 20 minutes.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I Finally got it!

So I don't mean to sound like an elitist, but I can never find frozen yogurt here in the U.S. that it quite like what I grew up with in Japan. In Japan, frozen yogurt tastes like ... yogurt. It's not a diet food, it's just another wonderful, creamy dessert to enjoy. Anyway, I've been on a quest to find a recipe for Japanese frozen yogurt or to find a store that sells it. But I've never succeeded. And since being pregnant, it's all I can think about! So finally I broke down and decided to create my own recipe from a combination of recipes I found online. I took out a lot of the sugar and didn't add vanilla and made sure to use decent quality whole-milk yogurt. I don't know yet how this recipe works with low-fat or fat-free yogurt, but I plan to try it sometime this weekend, so I will let you know. I know that the fat in the whole-milk yogurt keeps it from having an icy texture, but straining the yogurt might avoid that. We'll see:) If you have an ice cream maker, you MUST try this recipe. It'll change your world of frozen yogurt forever. Mmm.

Japanese Plain Frozen Yogurt

makes about 1 quart

1 quart plain whole milk yogurt
juice of 1/2 lime (because I've noticed that once frozen, food tastes a little more bland and it needs a tart punch if it's going to be good frozen yogurt)
4 T honey
3 T granulated sugar

Fresh fruit to serve with. (I used Strawberries this time, but I think peaches or orange segments or any berries would be really good.)
  1. In a fine mesh sieve sitting over a bowl, place cheesecloth or a coffee filter, and pour the yogurt into it. (I didn't have a big enough strainer and didn't buy big enough coffee filters, so I had to do it in 2 bowls). Let refrigerate and drain for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  2. Once drained, whisk in honey, sugar, and lime juice (to taste).
  3. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.
  4. Immediately put frozen yogurt in an airtight container with plastic wrap touching the top surface. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer for 4 hours (ish?).
  5. Serve with fresh fruit.

Simple Lunch

So ever since Blake and I have been married, whenever I ask him what he wants me to make, he says "Chicken Cheese Sandwiches" in a funny voice like he's joking. I've kind of gotten to the point where I ignore him when he says that because it's become such habit for him. It's always his answer when he can't think of anything else. Anyway, I decided to just make them for once and see how it goes. So I made an un-breaded Chicken Parmesan kind of thing on top of bread instead of with pasta. It actually was pretty good, so I recommend trying something like this out for your family. Really easy and pretty tasty.

Open-Faced Chicken Cheese Sandwiches
serves 2

2 servings tomato sauce (I just made that easy pizza sauce from May 16 again)
3 slices medium~soft, melty cheese (I used Colby Jack because that's all I had)
2 slices crusty bread
2 medium chicken breasts
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
  1. Pat the chicken breasts dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. In a medium skillet, bring olive oil to medium-high heat and place chicken on the skillet. Cook until golden brown, flip over, cook until done.
  2. Place 2 slices of bread on a cookie sheet and smother with 3 T tomato sauce each. Place chicken on top, cover with more sauce, and top with cheese. Place under the broiler until cheese is melted and a little bubbly. Serve hot. (be careful getting the bread off of the cookie sheet. They'll be a little soggy in the middle after soaking up all that yummy sauce!)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Weeknight Calzones

My friend Joni kept talking about her Calzone and finally I had to make one ... or 4 (2 for dinner and 2 for lunch the next day). I found a recipe from Cook's Country Magazine for a 30 minute dinner for Calzones, but I don't like pepperoni and I wanted to make 4 individual sized ones instead of one huge one. So I took their ideas and changed a few things. And since I've never made them before, the shape was a little ugly, but they were soooo good! And really big portions. And I am so excited to have my second one for lunch today:)

Spinach, Italian Sausage, and Mushroom Calzones
serves 4
1-1 lb ball pizza dough
3 links of Italian Turkey Sausage, casings removed
10-12 white button mushrooms, quartered or sliced.
2-3 C fresh baby spinach
1/2 red onion, diced fine
1 C ricotta cheese
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1.2 C Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 C chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

egg glaze:
1 egg, beaten (optional)
2 T water (optional)

4 small servings of hot tomato sauce (I used the easy pizza sauce recipe from my blog from May 16)
  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Combine Ricotta, Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Parsley in a small bowl. Brush olive oil over all over a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, cut the pizza dough into 4 equal portions and form them into balls. One at a time, roll and stretch them out into flat circles, about 1/4 in thick.
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat some oil and cook the onions until tender. Add the Italian sausage and break into chunks. Once cooked through, drain some of the fat and add mushrooms. When mushrooms start to get a little tender, ad spinach, stir around and turn off the heat. If there is a lot of excess grease that came off of the sausage, drain the mixture and set aside.
  4. Divide the meat mixture into 4 equal portions. Do the same with the cheese mixture. Take one of the flat rounds of pizza dough and place a portion of meat on half of the circle and add a portion of cheese on top. Pull the other half of the dough neatly over the meat and cheese, seal the edges with water and crimp shut. If you want a nice golden crust, brush lightly with egg wash. Repeat with all 4 calzones and carefully place them all on the greased cookie sheet. Cut 3 little slits on top for ventilation.
  5. Place the Calzones in the 450° oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the dough is golden brown. Serve hot with tomato sauce on the side.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Finally got it right!

So a couple years ago my mom sent us an instant pasta sauce packet from Japan called "Pepperoncino". I've looked up recipes and never found quite what I was looking for. Tonight, simply because it had few ingredients, I decided to make "Aglio E Olio" from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and I think I have found my beloved "Pepperoncino" sauce! It's a light, garlicky sauce with just the right amount of bite to it. Anyway, I was so pleased that I had to share this with you. And along with it, I made a really yummy lemon chicken, which worked out perfectly as well. So tonight's dinner was a perfect success!

Aglio E Olio and Lemon Chicken
Serves 4

For the pasta:

6 T extra-virgin Olive Oil
12 garlic cloves, minced (4 T)
1 lb spaghetti
3 T minced fresh parsley
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t lemon zest
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper
grated Parmesan cheese for serving
  1. Boil pasta to al dente. Reserve 1/2 C pasta water and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook 3 T garlic and 3 T olive oil and 1/2 t salt in a medium sized skillet over low heat. Stir often and cook until garlic is light brown and sticky. (If the garlic turns a weird blus-ish color for a few minutes there, don't be afraid. It will still work!) This will take about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Place the pasta in a large bowl and toss with cooked garlic mixture, 2 T pasta water, parsely, lemon juice, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, remaining 1 T garlic, and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more pasta water a little at a time to loosen the sauce as needed. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

For the chicken:

4 small chicken breasts, patted dry and trimmed of excess fat and tendons
1 lemon, sliced
2 T chicken broth
salt and pepper
2 t fresh lemon juice
2 T fresh parsley, minced
vegetable oil for the pan
  1. Heat a skillet to medium/medium-high with about 1 T vegetable oil. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and place on hot skillet. Cook one side until lightly browned and flip over. Add lemon slices to the pan and continue to cook. Once browned, add chicken broth and cover.
  2. Check the chicken periodically to make sure the chicken isn't burning, but just getting a nice dark crust on it. Once the lemon slices are dark brown and the chicken is completely cooked through, take off the pan and sprinkle with lemon juice and serve with minced parsley on top.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Steak Fajitas

I've been on a homemade kick lately, so I figured I shouldn't stop at Mexican food. I looked up a recipe for homemade tortillas and tried it out. It wasn't quite as hard as I had thought, but they weren't quite as good as I was hoping, either. I think it needed more fat. When I lived in Provo, I always bought fresh tortillas at Costco and I remember that they were made with Canola oil. (And now I miss them so much, so if you live where you can get fresh, uncooked tortillas for cheap, don't take them for granted!) So with this recipe, I would suggest experimenting with a little Canola oil if the dough is dry, instead of adding water like I did. That's my only disappointment, though.

Steak Fajitas
serves 4

For the steak:

1 lb flank steak
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Pat the steak dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a medium-hot skillet, cook the steak on both sides to desired done-ness. Take off pan and sprinkle lime juice over the top and let rest. Cut at a diagnal against the grain once rested.
For the onions and bell peppers:

1/2 large red onion, sliced thin
2 red bell peppers, sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 t chili powder
vegetable oil
  • Bring a large skillet to medium high heat with vegetable oil. Place onions and peppers in the pan, season with salt and pepper and spices, and cook until vegetables are softened and slightly browned and caramelized. Serve while hot.
Homemade flour tortillas:
(makes 8 tortillas)

2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 T vegetable shortening
1/2 C water
  1. Mix ingredients well until combined. (If it looks dry, add a little canola oil at a time until the dough forms a nice, smooth ball. But don't over-mix) Let rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Let rest another 10-15 minutes.
  3. Cut the douhg into 8 even pieces and form into little balls. Pat flat and roll out into 9-10 inch circles with a rolling pin. Make sure to continuously coat rolling pin with a little flour or the dough will stick to the pin after just a couple uses.
  4. Heat a large skillet to Medium-high heat. Once hot, place tortilla on the skillet and as soon as little bubbles start to form and it gets a little color on the bottom, flip it over and cook the other side briefly. Transfer to a plate, covered with foil. Serve warm.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday Brunch ... at 2 pm

Since Blake and I decided to be good this morning and go to the gym, I didn't have a chance to get started on our Saturday Brunch until about 11 am (yes, we slept in until about 9 and took it easy until we went to the gym around 10). And today I was determined to try making my own pie crust because I found a super simple recipe. I've never had much success with pie crust, and since store bought pie crust is so nice and flaky, I've never really bothered trying. But like I said, I found a "No-fear pie crust" recipe at Cook's Country Magazine and decided to make it today. And boy was it worth it! I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to normal pie crust or store bought. This is just too yummy! And perfectly flaky. Those people are geniuses, I tell you!

So along with the no-fear pie crust, I decided to make a lovely, slightly healthier version than the traditional quiche. And it turned out perfectly:)

Spinach, Mushroom and Bacon Quiche
No-fear Pie Crust
makes 1 9-inch pie platePie crust:

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
1/4 t salt
8 T butter, softened but still cool
2 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened but still cool
  1. Lightly coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
  2. With your electric mixer at medium-high, beat butter and cream together until combined, scraping down the sides when needed. Add flour mixture and combine on medium-low until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Scrape down the sides of the bowl (and if using a kitchen aid mixer, change to the paddle attatchment) and set speed to medium-high and beat until dough begins to form a ball, about 30 seconds. Reserve 3 T of the dough and turn the remaining dough onto a lightly floured surface, flatten into a 6-inch disk. Place the disk to the middle of the pie plate.
  3. Press the dough evenly with the heel of your hand, and when needed with your fingers, until the dough is translucent through the bottom of the pie plate (not opaque). Work the dough up the sides of the plate as well.
  4. Roll the remaining 3 T of douhg into a 12-inch rope. Cut into 3 and make each other those about 8 inches in length. Add the rope pieces onto the edge of the pie plate and press into the dough. Make a fluted adge. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

1 pie crust
4-6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch wide pieces across the width of the bacon
2/3 C half-and-half
1/2 C low-fat milk
4 eggs
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
1/4 C spinach, cut into wide strips
5-6 white button mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 C cheese (I used a combination of Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Colby Jack)
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Cook bacon in a small frying pan until crispy. Remove and let drain on a paper towel. Discard some of the grease and add mushroom and sautée until softened slightly. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, half-and-half, milk, and salt and pepper. Once combined, add cheese, parsley, and spinach.
  3. Pull pie crust out of the fridge and place cooled bacon and mushrooms evenly across the bottom. Pour egg mixture over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown and the eggs are set.
*You might need to put foil along the edge of the crust to avoid burning.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday Kumo!

In honor of our beloved family pet, Blake and I decided we should celebrate with a meal that he could kind of enjoy with us. So we made lettuce wraps and omitted the lettuce for Kumo. Super easy and can be done in about 30 minutes. And, for your low-carb people out there, there only carbs you get in this meal comes from the water chestnuts, red bell peppers, and hoisin sauce (I think ...). So be comforted in knowing that you can still eat decent food once in a while;)

Happy birthday Kumo!

Lettuce Wraps
serves 4
1 head of Iceberg lettuce

1 lb ground chicken

3 T hoisin sauce
2 T soy sauce
2 T water
5 cloves of garlic, grated
3 t fresh ginger, grated
sesame oil
vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 (8 oz) cans water chestnuts, drained and chopped fine
8 scallions, chopped
7 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped

  1. Cut the core of the head of lettuce out and gently run water through the leaves. That will make it easier to pull the leaves apart. Try to keep the leaves intact. Pat dry and set aside.
  2. In a measuring cup, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and water. In a small bowl combine garlic, ginger, and 2 t sesame seed oil.
  3. Heat a little vegetable oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken, breaking up into clumps, until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a bowl.
  4. Add a little more oil to the wok and add bell pepper, water chestnuts, scallions, and mushrooms and cook until peppers soften a little, about 3 minutes. Clear the center of the skillet and add garlic mixture and cook until fragrant, just a few seconds. Add chicken back to the wok and add sauce and stir until sauce thickens a little. About 30 more seconds.
  5. Spoon the chicken mixture into a lettuce leaf and serve.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What to do when you are out of options ...

I was running out of things to make dinner with since it is nearing the end of the week (kind of ...) and we hadn't gone grocery shopping since Friday. I usually try to make a dinner schedule, but I hadn't really thought through tonight's dinner because I was so excited about tomorrow's! (Tomorrow is Kumo's 1st birthday so we decided to make something we could sneak at him a little. You'll see.) Anyway, I was a little short on ingredients so I had to improvise a lot. I didn't have any meat I could use, but I did have tuna in the pantry, so I decided to use that. And I always have onions and garlic and lemons in our kitchen. And I had asparagus from dinner earlier this week, and edamame in the freezer. So where to go from there ... When I added the tuna into the cooking onions and garlic, I smelled a very familiar delicious smell that reminded me of an Italian restaurant in Tokyo that my family used to go to when I was a kid. I always ordered the fettuccini with salmon cream sauce. And since I didn't have heavy cream (nor did I want to pack on those delicious but unnecessary pounds) I decided to use a little reduced fat cream cheese I had. And it worked out great! Not very reminiscent of my childhood favorite, but it worked out to be one of my new at home favorites. So here is the recipe. In general measurements.

Creamy Pantry Pasta Primavera
serves 4

1/2 lb short pasta (penne in this case)
7 stalks of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces, cut at a diagonal
1/2 C edamame, thawed and taken out of their skins
1 can tuna
2 T reduced fat cream cheese
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 can of corn
1 large yellow onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
  1. Boil pasta according to directions, set aside. Reserve some pasta water for later.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat and add onions. Cook until softened. Add garlic and cook until the garlic develops a slight sweet smell instead of a strong, biting smell, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until evenly distributed.
  3. Add tuna and cook for about 30 seconds to a minute, breaking up the pieces as you go.
  4. Add all of the asparagus except for the tops and cook until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Add pasta and stir, adding pasta water to loosen the sauce.
  5. Add asparagus tops, corn, edamame, and lemon zest. Stir everything in. Sprinkle lemon juice on top and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread on the side.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who gets take-out when you can have this?

Chinese food is something that people don't usually attempt at home--the real stuff, that is. But I have this cookbook from Japan that is all authentic Chinese food, and I tried 麻婆豆腐 (often called "Ma Po Tofu" on Chinese menus) because it is a Japanese favorite. And it worked! I had to skimp on a couple ingredients I couldn't find here in the U.S., but it still has the authentic flavor that I grew up with. So here is the slightly Americanized version of Ma Po Tofu. And don't be afraid that there's tofu in it. It is just a wonderful, silky addition to the rich, heavy sauce and meat. mmmm. Can't go wrong with real Chinese!

The thing about Chinese food is, though it is pretty easy to make, it takes a lot of ingredients. That's the only challenge, I think. Good luck finding everything!

麻婆豆腐 (Ma Po Tofu)
Serves 4
4 servings of rice
1 package "silken" tofu, cut into little cubes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T grated ginger
5-7 stalks of scallions, minced
vegetable oil
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 T miso paste
1 T soy sauce
1 T mirin
1/2 t corn starch
1 t water
1/2 lb ground pork
sesame oil to taste

1 T Chili Garlic Sauce:

  1. In a measuring cup, mix the mirin, soy sauce, chicken broth, and miso paste until smooth.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and water until dissolved.
  3. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil and boil the tofu for a few minutes. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a wok, heat vegetable oil on medium high heat. Add chili garlic sauce and cook until it changes in color slightly. Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Add pork and cook through.
  5. Add chicken broth mixture. Add the tofu and stir. (the best way to do this is to use your wooden spoon and push everything from side to side gently).
  6. Add cornstarch mixture and continue to gently stir until slightly thickened.
  7. Sprinkle with minced scallions and sesame seed oil. Serve hot on top of rice.

Memory Lane

When I was in high school a bought a cookie book with an amazing shortbread cookie recipe. It was really simple and had only 3 ingredients: butter, flour, sugar. I like to make my own versions and when I made chocolate ones, I used cocoa powder imported from Holland that my mom always has in her pantry for her bitter hot chocolate. It really is pretty good.

This time I had to use Hershey's cocoa powder since that's pretty much all that's available around here, but it still turned out pretty good. I added cinnamon for added depth and vanilla for intense fragrance and now I'm in the tough spot of not being able to stop!

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
makes 16 cookie wedges

1 C butter (2 sticks), softenend
2/3 C sugar
1/3 C cocoa powder
1 3/4 C flour
1 t vanilla extract
1-2 t cinnamon, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and cinnamon and slowly add cocoa powder.
  2. On a slow speed with your mixer, add flour until dry but still smooth.
  3. Take dough out of the bowl and split into 2 rounds. Smooth out the rounds and flatten onto a cookie sheet. Score the circles into 8 wedges. Bake for 17 minutes. Once cooled, cut through the score marks and serve. The cookies might come out a little crumbly, but it's tasty:)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Dinner!

In our new ward here in Elkhart, there are so many nice people! And we have had dinner invitations every Sunday since we've been here. And as much as I appreciate their generosity and kindness, I have to admit I've kind of missed making Sunday dinner for my own family. And today, for the first time, we were not invited to someone's home for dinner. So I made one of Blake's favorites, enchiladas. Granted, I did not make this recipe up, so I will gladly recognize the help of my favorite book, The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which I highly recommend to anyone. It seriously is amazing and has answers to all of life's cooking questions.

And, when making enchiladas, I really think it's better to make enchilada sauce from scratch as I found out this time. Canned enchilada sauce is just not even near as good and I think ruins the rest of the food. It's so tinny and overly tart and homemade is really really tasty, I could eat it with a spoon just by itself. And it's so fast, there's really no excuse not to.

If you want this full recipe, email me. I kind of feel bad putting their whole recipe on here, since that's how these people make a living ... But I will put the enchilada sauce recipe on here for you since I think it is crucial to good enchiladas.

And my first Summer term at BYU I had a roommate from Mexico, who was totally the mommy of our apartment, and she made us real Mexican food all the time! She was an amazing cook. And ... I think I gained (not kidding) at least 15 pounds in the 8 weeks we were roommates. Gross. Anyway, I'm adding her Avocado salsa recipe because I'm in love with it and can not make any Mexican food without it. Although sometimes, I leave out the avocados and just make a simple salsa. But you will be amazed at how easy and yummy it is!

Fast Enchilada Sauce (from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)
makes 2 1/2 C
1 T vegetable Oil
1 onion, minced
1/2 t salt
3 T chili powder
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 t cumin
2 t sugar
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1/2 C water
  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add onions. Cook onions until soft. Add salt, chili powder, garlice, cumin, and sugar and stir. Cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  2. Stir in tomato sauce and water. Cook for about 5 more minutes or until sauce thickens a little. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Quick and easy avocado salsa

2 large Hass avocados, diced medium
juice of 1 lime
1 vidalia onion, diced small
2-3 sweet tomatoes or 1 whole package grape/cherry tomatoes, diced small
1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine (and I mean FINE)
salt to taste
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Serve.
*If you are including the avocados, this salsa does not last in the fridge even overnight. You have to eat it the day of. The avocados react to the onions and tomatoes somehow and taste really ... carbonated in the morning. But without the avocados, it stays fresh in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple days longer. But I doubt you'll have too much of a problem eating it up the day of:)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Saturday Brunch 2

It's become kind of a favorite family tradition I'm starting with the Saturday brunch thing. This week I was watching Rachael Ray (I know, I know, don't judge me! I get bored right around 3 pm) and she made individual quiches. I've made it before on my own, but she used puff pastry instead of pie crust, which I thought was a great idea! And since I had puff pastry in my freezer, I decided to give it a try. And since quiche can be pretty heavy, I decided to make a couple adjustments (to cut back on the heavy cream) and it actually worked out pretty well. And I served it with a nice yogurt fruit salad on the side. It was perfect.

Puff Pastry Quiche
makes 9 quiche
1 sheet puff pastry dough, thawed
3 eggs
1 C 1% milk (or whatever milk you have)
2 T light sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
4 pieces bacon, cooked crispy and broken into little pieces
1/2 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 T finely grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese
3 T parsely, chopped fine
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a large measuring cup, mix eggs and sour cream until smooth, add milk and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray. Roll out the puff pastry and cut into 9 equal squares and gently place them into the muffin pan.
  3. Place equal amounts of cheese, bacon, and parsley into each pastry. Pour in the egg mixture into each pastry, fold over corners and bake for 25 minutes or until eggs are cooked through and pastry is puffed and golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using a toothpick, loosen the sides and serve warm.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Night Pizza

I haven't had too many weird cravings since I've been pregnant, other than my sudden love for cereal and bananas. I never really liked either before. Anyway, tonight all of a sudden I wanted pizza (thanks to my friend Joni telling me she was making Calzones for dinner) and that's all I could think about. Sure I had left over curry in the fridge, home made bread, pasta galore, and a bunch of different meats in the freezer. But I wanted one thing and one thing only. Cheese Pizza. And I didn't want to spend money. So I looked up a recipe and made it! For the first time in my life! And I must admit it was amazing. The only thing I recommend with this recipe is that because the ingredients are so cheap, don't skimp on good cheese. Get the real deal. Don't do the "great value low fat part skim fancy shredded mozzarella" or "kraft parmesan". Do the real thing. Get fresh mozzarella and a real wedge of parmesan. Trust me, it's worth it. That was my only regret. I did the budget thing. And really, this pizza did not cost all that much so I should have done the real thing:(

Oh, and I made the dough according to the bread machine recipe, so either go to a local pizza place and buy pizza dough or find a good pizza dough recipe. If you have any suggestions, feel free to email me and I will give you a few that I've found that seem fairly easy and really good.

If you don't have a pizza stone, use a rimless or up-side-down cookie sheet in the oven instead.

Home made cheese pizza

serves 4-8 (depending on whether or not you want to eat like a pregnant woman or just a nice lunch)

sauce (SUUUUUUUPER easy and tasty!):
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
4 cloves or garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

enough pizza dough for 2 pizzas

3 C grated fresh mozzarella cheese*
3 T grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese
3 T torn basil leaves or chopped parsley
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° or whatever the dough recipe calls for. Place the pizza stone in the oven and make sure it bakes in there for at least 30 minutes before placing the pizza on it to bake. Make the pizza rounds and let them rise according to directions.
  2. Heat olive oil and garlic in a saucepan until fragrant and sizzling a little. Add crushed tomatoes, heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread about 1 C sauce over the dough, leaving a 1/2 in border. Sprinkle half the amount of cheese on each round. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbling and crust is golden brown.
  4. Sprinkle with herbs and go to town!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I decided it was time for something a little more fresh, but healthy for dinner last night. But I hate all the "health recipes" I get from pregnancy emails and such, so I decided to make my own yummy version instead. And don't be afraid that this dish has tuna in it. The way I prepare it makes the tuna pretty much unnoticeable. There's not tinny fishiness here! I like this dish because it has a lot of protein and vitamins and iron and all that good health-freak stuff without tasting like it came from a diet cookbook.

Fresh Lemon Tuna Pasta
Serves 4

2 handfuls spinach
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
1 small can tuna, drained
1 medium sized onion, diced small
3-5 (depending on preference) cloves garlic, minced
vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 can diced tomatoes (I used petite diced here)
1/2 lb long pasta (I used spaghetti)
handful of parsley, chopped fine
parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino romano cheese (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and boil pasta according to directions to al dente. Reserve a little bit of pasta water and drain. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, add tuna, salt and pepper, juice of 1/2 a lemon, and about 1 T olive oil and mix lightly to combine. This is take out a lot of the fishiness in the tuna.
  3. In a frying pan with high sides bring a little bit of vegetable oil to medium high heat and add onion and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant, but not browning.
  4. Add spinach and when it starts to wilt, add tomatoes and tuna mixture. Warm through.
  5. Take off the heat and add lemon zest, left over lemon juice, parsley, and finely grated cheese, and a coupel swirls of extra virgin olive oil, and toss until well distributed. Serve with crusty bread:)
* you can use whole grain pasta if you want, just don't boil is as long because the texture gets gummy and brittle (sounds like a contradiction, I know. But it's hard to describe) if you're not careful. And don't go with a cheap brand on whole wheat pasta. It's definitely worth it to buy Barilla or a slightly more expensive brand for that. Trust me. I've made the mistake before and I ended up with chewy, brittle, bitter toothpicks instead of nice pasta. With Barilla brand you can barely tell a difference.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So for dinner last night I made the Japanese favorite, からあげ ("kara-age"). It's basically a Japanese version of fried chicken, but it's very different than what Americans think of. It's definitely one of Blake's favorites, and super easy, so I recommend trying it sometime.

からあげ "kara-age"
serves 2-4, depending on side dishes and how much people can eat ...

1 large chicken breast
1/2 T ground fresh ginger
2-3 T soy sauce
1-2 T corn starch
1 T mirin

Oil for frying

thinly sliced cabbage, to serve
rice to serve
  1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl. Add ginger, mirin and soy sauce and coat the chicken. Add corn starch and again, coat the chicken well.
  2. In a large wok, pour enough oil to fry the chicken in, and heat to medium-high. Once oil is ready, cook the chicken until browned and cooked through, and place chicken on a rack with paper towels.
  3. Serve over thin sliced cabbage and with a bowl of rice. It's best to serve it with other side dishes as well, since this is a pretty heavy dish.
*I like to serve it with some light veggies like wilted spinach with soy sauce or something like that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Monday Dinner

This is a Japanese "western food" classic. I grew up always wishing my mom would make it for dinner. I guess I'm kind of a sucker for anything with eggs:) I even went through a phase as a young teenager where I would make it for myself when I got home from school every day. And I think because of that time, I have mastered the omelet part of it. That's the tricky part. Japanese people have titled it オムライス "om-rice" or a combination of "omelet" and "rice". Yummy:)

オムライス "om-rice"
serves 4

8 eggs, beaten lightly

2 C cooked rice
1 large chicken breast, diced small
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced small
2-3 carrots, shredded
1/2 can of corn
3-4 T ketchup
vegetable oil
  1. In a large wok, heat oil on medium high heat. Cook onions and carrots until lightly browned. Add chicken and cook though. And add peppers.
  2. Once peppers are slightly softened, add rice and stir until rice clumps break up. Add ketchup and cook until rice turns a nice orangey-red color.
  3. In a medium frying pan, add oil and heat to medium/medium-high heat. Pour about 2 eggs portion into the pan and swirl around the pan to make a crepe shape. While eggs are still not quite set, place a small portion of rice in the middle of the egg in a long strip and loosen the egg from the pan. Using a rubber scraper, pull 2 sides of the "egg crepe" up around the rice. Flip onto a place. Top with ketchup and serve.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Mother's Day Feast Fit for a Queen

So for my almost first mother's day, I decided not to really celebrate since I'm not a "real" mom quite yet. So it was still ok for me to make dinner but it had to be a special one and I HAD to make a spoil-me kind of dessert. And since the Oriental Market here in Mishawaka (there's nothing like that in Elkhart, so I have to travel a little ways ...) had paper-thin sliced beef, I made the Japanese favorite, 牛丼 ("beef rice bowl" ... though that makes it sound not as good as it is ...). And for dessert I've been craving an old discontinued favorite Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor, "Apple Crumble", so I decided to just make Apple Crisp and home made vanilla ice cream. For the ice cream I used Ina Garten's recipe, but used vanilla extract only instead of both extract and bean. I was amazing ... though quite a guilty treat ... For the Apple Crisp, I completely improvised, and I have to admit I think I'm improving on baked desserts because this turned out JUST as I had hoped. Perfectly crunchy on top and just the right combination of tart and sweet on the inside. You might want to cut back on the lemon to the juice of 1/2 a lemon instead of a whole one ... but I like the tartness of the apples to come through. I thought it went perfectly with the super-rich ice cream.

serves 2
2 bowl portions of Japanese rice
1/2 lb paper-thin sliced beef
1 C water
1 tsp dashi powder
3 T soy sauce
2 T mirin
1 1/2 T sugar
1/2 onion
  1. In a medium pot, bring water and dashi powder to a sinner. Once dashi is dissolved, add onions and let boil until softened. Add beef. Once beef is no longer red, add mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir gently to make sure all ingredients are incorporated and simmer a little longer until onions change to a darker color because of the soy sauce.
  2. Place rice in donburi bowls and spoon on the beef and onion mixture with a little sauce on top. Serve with benishouga (red pickled julienne ginger).

Apple Crisp and Home Made Ice Cream

Makes one pie pan of apple crisp and about a quart of ice cream
Apple Crisp:
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
3 T granulated sugar

crumb topping:
about 1/4 C chopped, roasted almonds
3 T dark brown sugar
3 heaping T all-prupose flour
3-4 T melted butter
1-2 t cinnamon
4-5 T rolled oats
  1. Preheat oven to 375° and place oven rack to middle-low position.
  2. In a medium bowl combine all ingredients in crumb topping and adjust to desired "crumbliness". Put in fridge and chill for at least 15 minutes.
  3. In another bowl toss todgether apples, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  4. In a semi-deep pie pan, place all the apple mixture and evenly coat the top with the crumb topping. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the topping is golden-brown and the juices bubble on the sides a little. Let cool for a few minutes and serve warm with ice cream.
Ice Cream:
3 C heavy cream
2/3 C granulated sugar
2 t pure vanilla extract
  1. Heat cream, sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved. It won't take very long. Strain into a bowl and refrigerate until very cold.
  2. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Spoon into a freezer container and allow to chill freezer for a few hours, until firm.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fabulous Lunch

I decided it was time to go grocery shopping since I couldn't really be creative with the minimal ingredients we had in our fridge anymore. So I was so happy to find some good spinach and deli turkey and low fat cream cheese on sale! So for lunch, I baked another home made loaf (this time I tried the "milk loaf", FYI Lisa. It was really good, you should try it) and spread out an array of sandwich fillers, which I made good use of and Blake used minimally, and we made our own healthy sandwiches for lunch.

2 slices soft white bread
cream cheese
sliced tomatoes
oven roasted turkey breast
1 slice colby jack cheese
sliced avocados (which I wish I had today ... mmm! Nothing goes better with turkey than avocados!)

Saturday Brunch

I decided since Blake has to get up so early every morning with his new job, we would celebrate our second Saturday (and the joy of sleeping in) with a delicious brunch. My sister had a recipe for chocolate croissant bread pudding, but I decided to make a more brunchy version without the chocolate. So I substituted with cinnamon. You can't really go wrong with croissants, heavy cream, sugar, and cinnamon, can you? Anyway, it was delicious! Maybe a little rich for breakfast, so you'd want some kind of fruit on the side and serve pretty small portions of the pudding. Even Blake couldn't pack it down like he can with French toast or pancakes or waffles. But I guess heavy cream is quite a bit richer than milk ...

Croissant Bread Pudding
makes one 9x13 in pan
9-10 small day old croissants (I used "croissant pinwheels", which is why they circles and not crescents)
2 C heavy cream
2 C half-and-half
1 C sugar
6 eggs
pinch salt
2 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the croissants horizontally and layer in the baking dish.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, bring the heavy cream, half-and-half, salt, and cinnamon to a simmer. Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, and sugar. Once the heavy cream mixture is at a simmer, slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Don't let the eggs curdle.
  3. Once combined, pour mixture over the croissants and let the croissants soak up the liquid.
  4. Fill a bread pan with boiling water and place on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the croissants on the middle rack. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until set. Let cool a few minutes and serve warm. If a dessert, serve with vanilla ice cream. If a brunch item, serve with fruit on the side.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Home made bread

So for lunch we just had left over lasagna from another night, but I decided to accompany it with some bread machine bread. Usually I make a nice french loaf, which is nice and chewy on the inside and crusty on the outside. But that loaf takes 5 hours to bake, and it was already 11 am when I decided to bake the bread, so I went for the "quick bake" recipe, which calls for rapid rise yeast instead of active dry. Anyway, I think it's my new favorite and I don't know if I'll ever go back. For those of you who have a bread machine, I will post the recipe. It seriously was my favorite loaf that the beloved bread machine (which has been working hard non-stop for us since we've moved here, I barely every take it off the counter!) has made for me. It was a lot lighter and less crusty and the inside was so moist and light. Just the way white bread should be. Amazing!

Quick baking Bread Machine White Bread
makes 1 small loaf

7/8 C water
2 1/3 C bread flour
2 T sugar
1 1/2 T dry milk
1 t salt
2 T melted butter
1 1/2 t rapid rise yeast
  1. Add ingredients into bread machine in order. To add yeast, just make a little well in the middle of all the dry ingredients and carefully place in there. Don't let the water and yeast touch. Bake according to quick baking directions for your bread machine.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Classic

For Dinner tonight, I decided to make homemade pasta and creamy tomato sauce that my sister taught me how to make back in my early college days. I haven't made it in a long time because though it is my favorite and surprisingly easy, it's not all that good for you ... But I hadn't had it in over a year probably, so I thought it was time! And mmmm there is nothing better in my opinion, than pappardelle.

Home made Pappardelle with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Pasta serves 4, sauce serves 6-8

1 can crushed tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
1 large onion
1/2 C heavy cream
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel and cut onions into half and then quarters. Peel garlic cloves. Toss all in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Or just chop by hand.
  2. In a sauce pan or deep frying pan, heat Olive Oil on Medium High heat. Add Onions and garlic and cook until softened and slightly browned. If it browns too fast with no caramelization, turn heat down a little. You don't want the garlic to burn.
  3. Once cooked through, add crushed tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Once heated through, add heavy cream and turn down heat a little. Sauce should thicken a little, and you're done. Add some more salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve with some grated pecorino romano cheese or parmigiano reggiano cheese if you want.
Pasta: (recipe from "America's Test Kitchen" cookbook. Best book EVER)
2 C all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
3 large eggs
  1. Pulse flour in food processor. Add eggs and process until dough forms into a rough ball, about 30 seconds.
  2. Turn out dough ball and small bits onto a clean surface. Knead dough until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  3. To roll, use a pasta machine. And slowly roll out to thinnest setting. Let dry a little so it won't stick together. Then gently fold pasta width wise and cut pasta to desired thickness. For pappardelle, you want about 3/4 inch~1 inch.
  4. To boil, just toss noodles into boiling salted water and once they turn whitish and start to float, they are ready to be eaten.

Today's food

I was just thinking about how the title of this blog is "My Food Journal" and aren't journals supposed to be more day-to-day than just new recipes I make up once in a long while? So though I will spare all of you with boring pictures of cereal for breakfast, when I have something I like I will post it:) Other than when I go out to eat. That might be awkward, carrying a huge digital SLR around with me. Not that there is much glamorous eating out around these parts. But I meant things I make anyway. So here is my food journal so far today.

Banana Oat Muffins

So I've posted this recipe on the blog before. But I didn't have cream cheese (or baking soda ... so pathetic) and I didn't want to run to the store for one thing, what with gas prices these days! I thought I'd try to be innovative and work with what I already have in my kitchen. I discovered fat free vanilla yogurt, so I replace the cream cheese with that. And what a pleasant surprise! It added a little sweetness and tartness and they turned out SOOOOO rich and moist. So I am even tempted now to say take out the cream cheese altogether and use fat free vanilla yogurt instead. I substituted 1 C for 1 package of cream cheese. And for the crumble, I used one rounded Tablespoon on top or each. I thought I'd try something different by packing the crumble topping and putting a ball of it on top. I thought it looked cool and this way it didn't fall off everywhere, but Blake was disappointed that some bites didn't have the topping. So I don't reccomend this method. Just use a tablespoon of crumble topping and evenly sprinkle it on each muffin.

Power Lunch!
Protein Crazy Sandwiches (that I only get to eat when I'm alone)
Since being pregnant I've tried to eat the things I love and learn to be a little healthier and more balanced as I do so. And since I gave Blake the rest of the ginger chicken from last night, I decided to enjoy food that he won't eat with me for my own lunch. And boy, it was worth giving up my chicken!

This sandwich was inspired by the the sandwich that Adam Sandler makes in "Spanglish". I remember after watching the movie, I couldn't get that meal out of my mind and Megan, my roommate at the time, told me the same thing. So we made similar sandwiches and they were sooooo good! Unfortunately I didn't have parsley, which was sorely missed. So if you try to make it yourself, don't forget to add parsley to your shopping list. You won't be disappointed!

2 slices homemade french bread loaf
2 eggs
light Hellman's mayo (a.k.a. "best food's")
2 slices oven roasted turkey
4 thin slices tomato
2 slices colby jack cheese
a little butter

tooth picks. You will need them!
  1. Cut each slice of bread in half and toast to desired darkness. (I like it pretty crispy) Butter the bread and spread mayo on one side.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the eggs to desired doneness. (I like the yolk pretty runny still)
  3. Layer cheese, turkey, egg, and tomato (I like the tomato to touch the mayo side) on the slices of bread, place toothpicks in place to hold the sandwich together, and cut sandwiches in half.

Financial and Environmental Adaptations ...

Since we just moved and there's no Costco around here (so sad!) I've had to make some compromises when it comes to quality of ingredients for budget reasons. And since I have a way huger kitchen and no job to go to all day, I've really really enjoyed cooking special dinners for Blake. One of his favorites is 豚のしょうが焼き(Ginger Pork), which I used to make pretty often because it's easy and amazingly tasty. But since good pork chops are hard to come by with my Costco close by, and in general more expensive than chicken, I decided to try it with chicken. And I was pleasantly surprised! It was so tender and tasty and for some reason really sweet. I guess that has something to do with the mirin that I put in it. Good stuff. A serious staple for Japanese cooking.

*Mirin is sweet Japanese cooking wine. And it really is used in basically EVERYTHING.

Ginger Chicken (鳥のしょうが焼き)
serves 3-4
1 t fresh grated ginger (with juice)
2 t mirin
juice 1/2 lemon
1 t rice wine vinegar

2 T mirin
1 T fresh grated ginger
2 t soy sauce
1/2 T sugar

1 large chicken breast (or pork chop)
vegetable oil for pan
  1. slice the chicken breast at an angle, across the grain, as thin as possible. Place in a rectangular tray and pour marinade over the top. This takes out the harsh "meaty" smell and tenderizes the meat. Leave in marinade for 5-10 minutes. Wipe off excess moisture.
  2. Meanwhile mix sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium heat and lay the chicken slices in the pan. Flip pieces over once. Once heated through, pour sauce and cover the chicken completely. Once sauce is reduced slightly, you can take it out and arrange on a small platter and serve.

Just a word ...

I had to comment on my new found love for Chinese ground fresh chili paste. I love it. And I've read that this brand with the rooster is the best. FYI. I was using is for some green pepper, scallion, and garlic sauté for dinner last night and had to take a picture. It's really great in peanut sauce also. But use sparingly. It's got a pretty strong kick to it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some Random Updates

Now that I have basically settled in to our new home, I have finally found my recipe notebook and these old photos of recipes I need to include. So it'll be a little bit random, but bear with me. They were all created at totally different times.

Lemon Panna Cotta
4-8 servings (depending on the size of ramekin)

My sister taught me how to make Panna Cotta when I was in high school and it has always been one of my favorite desserts. And one day, she made lemon panna cotta for me when I went over to her and house I couldn't believe how much better it was (if that's possible!), so I decided for Christmas Dinner to try to make it myself. It was a lot easier to adjust than I thought. You can't get much better than lemon and cream. Perfect combination.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 C heavy cream
1/3 C sugar
2 T cold water
1 C half and half
2 t pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (I recommend using a microplane grater)
juice of 1 lemon

*berries or whatever fruit is in season that you think would go well. I added strawberries and blueberries tossed in sugar, lemon juice, and a little cinnamon in this picture.
  1. In a small microwavable bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and let settle until softened. Microwave mixture until gelatin is dessolved. 5-10 seconds.
  2. In a saucepan bring the cream, half and half and sugar to a boil, constantly stirring. remove pan from heat and add gelatin, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla until combined.
  3. Divide cream into 4-8 molds and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
*To un-mold, dip mold into hot water for 2-3 seconds and invert onto a plate and serve. I like to serve it in the ramekin that it's molded to so I never worry about that. But if you like fancier presentation, go ahead and un-mold it:)

Thai Coconut Curry
serves 4

I got this idea from Everday Food by Martha Stewart Living. I love Thai curry but had never made it before, so I decided to give it a try. I took a few liberties, though, and made it more authentic than her recipe seemed to be. If you don't like shrimp, I think this will help you to like it, or if you hate it that much, you can always use beef or chicken. But I really think Thai coconut curry is best with shrimp.

salt and pepper
about 2 T vegetable oil
1 lb shrimp (or chicken or beef tenderloin, cut into thin strips)
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 bell peppers (I used red here, but I think green would also be great), thinly sliced
2 small Japanese eggplant or 2/3 of a big eggplant, diced
1 T Thai red curry paste
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
1 C Thai basil leaves, torn into little pieces
1 T fresh lemon juice

Rice to serve it with
  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 T oil over medium-high. Season shrimp (or chicken or beef) with salt and pepper and add to skillet until almost cooked through. (For shrimp, that is when it starts to get pink and opaque, but don't let it got cooked all the way through or it will be over cooked and rubbery later)
  2. Put Eggplant in skillet and cook until slightly softened. Add onions, bell pepper, salt and pepper and cook until crisp-tender. 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add curry pastes, cook scraping the bottom of the skillet, about 1 minute.
  4. Return shrimp to the skillet and add coconut milk. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in basil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with Japanese white rice.

Chunky Banana Oat Muffins
makes 12 muffins

I got this idea from Ina Garten's cookbook. I can't remember which one. Since I've been pregnant I've been craving bananas like crazy and we always have bananas in our house. So I thought I'd try out her chunky banana bran muffin recipe, but I ended up changing it a lot because I like oat-ey muffins instead of bran-ey ones and I like a good crumb topping on them. So here is my successful experiment. And just to let you know, this is where I got the idea of the strawberry white chocolate muffins for Lisa Hall's shower. I just took this recipe and altered the add-ins.

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 C rolled oats
1/4 C honey
1/4 C brown sugar
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 C melted butter
1 egg
3/4 C milk
2 t pure vanilla extract
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softenend
1 mashed banana
3 bananas, cut into 1/2 in chunks

Oat Crumb topping:
1 C melted butter
2-4 T cinnamon
about 3 C brown sugar
2 C flour
about 2 1/2 C oats

  1. Combine flour, oats, sugar, bakindg powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg slightly. Stir in milk, melted butter, vanilla, and honey. Add the mashed banana, and combine thoroughly. Gradually stir in flour mixture until just combined. Once batter is combined, carefully add banana chunks.
  3. Line a 12 C muffin pan with paper baking cups and divie batter among them.
  4. Generously sprinkle crumb topping on all muffins.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Japanese Cucumber Salad
Serves 2
1/2 onion, sliced very thin, soaking in water
2 T dried wakame seaweed
2 Japanese cucumbers, sliced thin at a diagnal
1 T rice wine vinegar
2 T sesame seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
  1. put the wakame in a bowl with warm water until reconstituted. Drain.
  2. Add cucumber, wakame, and onion and toss with vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.
  3. serve cold.