Saturday, October 17, 2009


Once the fall/winter hits, I like to make a lot of soup. And I've learned that the best soup is soup made from homemade stock/broth. So I end up making homemade chicken stock probably every other weekend or sometimes more often. It's a really enjoyable process for me. So super simple, super cheap, and I get about 12~16 C of stock out of one chicken, and a whole poached chicken to use in anything and everything. Problem is last time I made it I ended up with a ton of chicken meat that I ended up throwing away because I forgot to use it. So this week I was determined to make good use of my chicken. Tonight, we had one of our favorites, black bean pie, but I changed things up a bit. I made the portions smaller and made 2 small ones instead of 1 big one (my theory is if there's a whole one left over, I won't want to cut into it, but if there's half of a big one left over, I'll be more tempted to get seconds) so we could have a good lunch when we get home from church tomorrow. And of course, this time I added chicken. And honestly, I only used 1 shredded chicken breast for the whole meal and I felt like there was plenty. Might have something to do with all of the black beans in the dish, but I didn't feel like it was missing any meaty-ness. So give this a try at home. Our whole family loved it! And, like I said, I have a whole one waiting for me to eat it when I get home from church tomorrow:)

*of course, if you don't have small baking dishes like these, make one large one in a 9-inch spring form pan. You'll need flour tortillas, though, since you'll never find corn tortillas big enough.

Black Bean and Chicken Pie
makes 2 2-person servings (2 for dinner tonight, and 2 for your lunch tomorrow)

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained, or 1 10 oz package frozen corn
8 corn tortillas, trimmed to the size of the baking dish
2 C cheddar cheese
4 scallions, sliced thin
1 onions, coarsely chopped
bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 poached chicken breast, shredded (you could use a rotisserie chicken, of course)
2 t cumin
1 t chili powder
canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C ~ 1/2 C chicken stock
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a deep skillet, cook onions, cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste in 1 T oil. Cook, stirring often, until soft. Add black beans and stock and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add chicken and corn and heat through. Set aside.
  3. Place one tortilla on the bottom of each baking dish, and place about 1/4 C ~ 1/3 C of the black bean mixture on top and smooth out. Sprinkle with 1/2 T scallions, as much or as little cilantro as you like, and about 3 T of cheese. Place another tortilla on top, and repeat until all 4 tortillas are layered in each dish. I topped mine with the tortilla trimmings, just for fun.
  4. Bake in the oven for 10~15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and browned. Sprinkle with extra scallions and cilantro before serving.
Serve with salsa, sour cream (or greek yogurt), and/or avocados

pasta isn't just for the italians

My friend told me about a Japanese cooking website, cookpad. And I love it! Japanese people are foodies, and they just know good food. I was stumped about what to make for dinner, and I didn't want to run to the store for anything, so I jumped on cookpad, and looked in the pasta section. The thing I love about it is that they have amazing traditional very Italian recipes on there as well as Japanese style pasta. And I don't mean Japanese noodles, I mean spaghetti and penne and such with Japanese flavors. Well, I found this recipe with shiitake mushrooms, tuna, thinly sliced onions, all sauteed in butter and seasoned with soy sauce. And instead of som fresh herb on top, it's served with very thinly sliced nori (delicious, crisp seaweed). If you out there are ready to try something new and different, this is my suggestion. AMAZING!

Japanese Tuna and Mushroom Pasta
serves 6

1 lb linguine (or any long pasta)
1/2 red (or yellow) onion, thinly sliced
1 can solid white albacore tuna, drained
1/2 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 T butter, cut into 1 T pieces
soy sauce to taste
1 sheet nori, cut into very thin strips
  1. In a large pot, bring water and salt to a boil and cook pasta to al dente. Drain, reserving pasta water, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet, melt 1 T of the butter over medium-high heat. Add half of the mushroom and a little bit of salt and saute until browned. Remove cooked mushrooms, add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet, and cook the rest of the mushrooms until browned.
  3. Add the tuna and break up with a wooden spoon, tossing gently with the mushrooms. Toss all together with the pasta, remaining tablespoon of butter, and soy sauce. Add reserved pasta water to loosen sauce if necessary.
  4. Serve with nori on top

doesn't get much better than this

Eggplant Parmesan. You might think "eggplant? I don't do eggplant." You've never had eggplant parmesan. And if you have and you still say that, you've never had GOOD eggplant parmesan. This stuff is beautiful and delicious and smooth and tart and crunchy and everything good. It's a little bit of a process because globe eggplants tend to be a little bitter if they aren't salted beforehand, but it's worth the work. If you don't want to deal with the salting, sweating, cleaning and then breading, go ahead and use Japanese eggplant. They'll be smaller pieces, but VERY tasty. Serve with some pasta and extra sauce.

Eggplant Parmesan (From America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)
makes 1 9x13 pan
2 globe eggplants (2 lbs), sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 C all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
4 C panko bread crumbs (or plaind dried breadcrumbs, but I like the texture of panko better)
3 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (1-1/2 C)
6 T vegetable oil
4 C tomato sauce (homemade, please!), pureed smooth
8 oz mozarella, shredded (2 C)
10 fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
  1. Toos the eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt (easiest if done in 2 batches) and let it drain in a colander for about 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, adjust 2 oven racks to the upper- and lower- middle positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat the oven to 425°F. Combine the flour and 1 t pepper in a large zipper lock bag and shake to combine. Beat the eggs into a shallow dish. Combine the breadcrumbs, 1 C of the Parmesan, 1/4 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper in a second shallow dish.
  3. Spread the drained eggplant over paper towels. Wipe away as much salt as possible and press firmly on each slice to remove as much liquid as possible. Working with about 8 eggplant slices at a time, place them in the bag with the flour, seal, and shake until thoroughly coated. Remove the eggplant, shaking off an excess flour, and dip into the eggs. Remove to eggplant from the eggs, allowing any excess to drip off, and coat evenly with the breadcrumbs, pressing them to adhere. Lay the breaded eggplant on a wire rack. Flour, dip in egg, and coat the remaining eggplant with breadcrumbs in the same manner.
  4. Remove the preheated baking sheets from the oven. Pour 3 T oil onto each sheet, tilting to coat the sheets evenly. Spread the breaded eggplant in a single layer over the hot sheets. Bake until the eggplant is well browned and crisp on the first side, about 20 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices over. Switch and rotate the baking sheets, and continue to bake until the second side is browned, about 10 minutes longer. (Do not turn off the oven.)
  5. Spread 1 C of tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Shingle half of the eggplant slices over the tomato sauce. Distribute 1 more cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozarella. Shingle the remaining eggplant exposed so that it will remian crisp. Sprinkle with 1/4 C of the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 1 C mozarella.
  6. Place the dish on the lower-middle rack of the oven. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and well browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the basil over the top and cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Pass the remaining 1 C tomato sauce and 1/4 C Parmesan separately.

the secret ingredient in my secret ingredient soup

... name that movie.

Ok, so this isn't about soup, and there actually is a secret ingredient. But this comes with a story.

When I was about 17 I had a youth leader who claimed she made this amazing cake. And then she told me she had a secret ingredient. Mayonnaise. Not sour cream, not pudding mix. Mayonnaise! And I wrote her off right there. (Sorry, Jill!) But I have since changed my ways, but not easily. All these years, I kept telling myself I would never try to make that dang cake, but I had a baby-sitter coming over for a service thing (so for free) and I wanted to do something nice for her, so I thought I'd make some dark chocolate cupcakes and orange colored cream cheese frosting so she and my baby could have something fun to do. But the time was coming near, I didn't have a cake mix, and I didn't want to spend a lot of time making cake. I turned to my trusted favorite cookbook of all time and the first cake in the cake section was an emergency chocolate cake recipe. Perfect! So I look through the ingredients and ... it calls for mayo! But America's Test Kitchen is so trustworthy and amazing, so I thought I'd better try it. And holy cow, these were good cupcakes. I'm sure their less-emergency cakes are better, but I'm sold! Jill, you were right. Mayo can go in cakes. And it's good. Even my super anti-mayo husband ate a few of them with great joy.

Emergency Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes
2 C all-purpose flour
1-1/4 C sugar
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 C Dutch-processed coca powder
1-1/4 C water
1 C mayonnaise
1 T vanilla extract
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a seperate bowl, whisk the cocoa and water together until smooth. Whisk in the mayonnaise and vanilla. Stir the mayonnaise mixture into the flour mixture until combined.
  3. Pour the batter evenly into the 12 muffins cups. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 20~25 minutes.
  4. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Spread tops with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles!

Friday, October 16, 2009

for one of those days

Blake was having one of those days. And that's just not a fun way to start your morning. Baby and I felt so bad that we decided to make him some kind of treat to come home to. But since I didn't have the car to run to the store with, I had to come up with something with the limited ingredients we had. I looked on for some ideas and found this. Perfect! Except I didn't have dark brown sugar so I made some, I didn't have chunky peanut butter so I used creamy (and I really like the smooth texture so I think I'll stick to it), and I only had Ghiradelli baking chocolate instead of chips, so I pulsed them in the food processor. And I think I'm in love with chocolate chunks now. Try it out. I've already eaten a few. I think they might bring tears to Blake's eyes;)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

so misunderstood

Tuna. Such a misunderstood and underestimated food. It can so be dressed up from the usual sandwich or casserole (which I love, don't get me wrong). But somehow tuna has been labeled as a poor man's food, which I don't think is right! The other day I was mentioning to Blake that I might make tuna pasta for dinner when a friend was nearby and she made a look. You know the look. The "did she really just say ... tuna and pasta together? Such a contradiction of quality" kind of look. So I find it is my responsibility to introduce to you another side of tuna.

It's a low fat, high protein wonder, and if handled properly, not fishy or tinny at all. It is time, people! Let us go on a quest for a higher standard for tuna cuisine! So to all of you friend out there who have a passion for food, please share with me your favorite ways to use tuna. In a not so blah way.

Here's one of mine:

Simple Tuna Pasta
serves 4~6

*the key here is to use plenty of lemon juice and zest and parsley. Then you'll completely forget your aversion to what you think tuna tastes like. No fishy, stinky, tinny-ness whatsoever.
1/2 onion, diced small
2~3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1 can solid white albacore tuna, drained
1 can petite diced tomatoes
juice of 1/2 lemon (hang on the other half, just in case you want to use it)
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 C super finely minced fresh parsley
1 lb penne
salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Generously salt the water, and boil the pasta to al dente. Reserve some pasta water and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, In a large skillet, heat 1 T olive oil to medium-high. When shimmering, add onions and a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until onions are slightly golden. Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tuna and tomatoes, and simmer until tomatoes thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.
  3. Once pasta and sauce are both to this stage, toss them together with the parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining lemon juice if you'd like it brighter.
  4. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.
I can't wait to read all of your favorite tuna recipes!

something went horribly wrong ...

I love my bread machine. I throw in the ingredients, and I wake up (several times a night since I'm pregnant) to the smell of beautiful, fresh baked bread. And Ella and I have delicious hot bread with our breakfast. I do love making one of my favorite breads and of course my genius Aunt Carolyn's rolls, but sometimes you just can't beat the convenience of a bread machine. And I have a good one. My sister did her research and I just copied her. Well, the other day I awoke to this:
So I guess this is where it's definitely better to make it by hand. You know when to stop kneading. And the bread machine just didn't seem to get it. So it was sad morning for cold cereal for me and the baby.