Monday, December 29, 2008


Last week we had a couple of friends over for Christmas Eve dinner. I was on the phone around the time I knew I needed to start on the rolls, so I attempted to get them started while talking ... and ... they looked weird when they came out of the oven. So I ate one and realized I forgot to add the salt! So, I had to start all over again, and thankfully, things turned ok. But I felt like it was such a waste to throw away these rolls, so I let them dry out a little for a couple of days and froze them, thinking maybe I'll make croutons or panzanella with them. But today I suddenly felt inspired to make some savory bread pudding for dinner, and I'm so glad I did! And I still have plenty for some croutons for later. Anyway, this recipe will work really well with some left over dinner rolls from all of your festivities, or use some day old bread from the store. I liked it with the dinner rolls because it was a nice combination of slightly sweet and salty. If you're going to buy bread at the store, I recommend croissants or a nice hearty crusty bread like ciabatta or french. Or, if you happened to have messed up your Aunts beautiful dinner roll recipe, feel free to use those, too. Don't throw them out. It's too much of a waste to throw away bread that you used over 7 C of flour on ... But maybe I'm the only idiot that forgets to add salt to rolls.

Savory Bread Pudding

serves 6~85 large eggs
2 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste (I had to use a little extra salt because the bread was tasteless ...)
1 t fresh rosemary, chopped fine
4~5 day old dinner rolls, cut in half or into big pieces
1 C freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, salt, pepper, rosemary, and cheeses, until combined.
  2. In a small skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  3. In a 9x13 baking dish (or I used a 7x11 or 2.2 qt baking dish), place the bread in a single layer, equally spread out. Spread the bacon around evenly. Pour the egg and cheese mixture on top, and with a fork or spoon, gently press down on the bread to make sure the eggs get absorbed.
  4. Bake in a 350° oven for 40~50 minutes until the eggs are set and the top is browned.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


When I was a kid, my sister made Spaghetti alla Carbonara for us, and I took it down like I had never eaten good food in all of my life. And then that night I got the stomach flu, and I'll spare you the details, but it was a bad situation. Unfortunately, that tainted my view of Spaghetti alla Carbonara, and I couldn't even think of eating it again. Until one day a bunch of my friends and I went out to eat at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo that serves their pastas family style. I loved that place! One of my friends had ordered Carbonara without my knowing, and when it came out, it looked good so I ate some and thought it was perfect! I asked what it was and they told me, and I was shocked that I enjoyed it so much. Anyway, ever since then I've been a little afraid to make it myself, but have always wanted to try. So tonight, i finally decided to give it a shot, and I'm kicking myself for not trying it sooner. SO yummy, SO easy, So affordable! I used mostly staples that I already had in my pantry or fridge. If you like bacon, cheese, and pasta, you're going to LOOOOOOVE this dish! And you'll love making it because it's so easy.

The key is the keep your serving bowl warm, and to toss the pasta with the eggs immediately after the pasta is done cooking. That makes sure that the eggs are fully cooked, and not curdled. And it turns out so creamy without the heavy cream that a lot of other recipes call for.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
serves 4
3 large eggs
3/4 C parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 C pecorino romano cheese, grated (or use a whole cup of either cheese)
3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
8 oz bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C dry white wine
1 lb spaghetti (or linguine or fettucine)
  1. Preheat oven to 200°. Place an oven proof serving bowl in the oven. Meanwhile, bring quarts of water to a boil in a large pot for the pasta.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese, and garlic. Set aside.
  3. Cook the bacon and olive oil in a large skillet until crispy. Add white wine and simmer until it is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.
  4. When the water is boiling, stir in 1 T salt and pasta. Cook, stirring often, until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes.
  5. Reserve 1/2 C pasta water then drain the pasta, leaving it slightly wet. Remove the serving bowl from the oven and add pasta. Immediately pour the egg and bacon mixtures over the pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and a lot of fresh ground pepper to taste. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce before serving.
  6. Serve with some more freshly grated cheese.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Eve Tradition

My sister and her family have always watched "Scrooged" on December 23rd and ordered Chinese take-out (if you've seen the movie you'd understand), and I've always joined them. But this year I'm obviously a little too far away to make it, so we decided to continue that tradition ourselves. Except I don't know any good Chinese places around here, and I didn't want to risk ordering from a gross place on such a special occasion;) so I decided to make some cashew chicken myself. It was so easy and so tasty that I can't wait to make it again!

Cashew Chicken
Serves 4
1-1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 T cornstarch
salt and pepper
2 T vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, minced (NOT grated this time)
8 scallions, white and green parts separated, each cut into 1 inch pieces
2 T rice vinegar
3 T hoisin sauce
3/4 C raw cashews, toasted; or roasted salted cashews (much cheaper option, usually)
white rice, for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with some salt, pepper, and the cornstarch until coated.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 T of the oil over medium-high heat. Cook half of the chicken, tossing often, until bronwed, about 3 minutes. Transfer to plate.
  3. Add the remaining chicken to the skillet along with the garlic and the white parts of the scallions. Cook, tossing often, until the chicken is browned, about 3 minutes. Return the first batch of chicken to the pan. Add the vinegar; cook until evaporated, about 3 seconds.
  4. Add the hoisin sauce and 1/4 C water; cook tossing, until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the scallion greens and cashews. Serve with white rice.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This one's for Marie

... if you still like Thai food.

Tonight I decided to make some coconut shrimp and chicken soup. I got the recipe in my Everyday Food cookbook again, but I added chicken and fish sauce and used chicken broth instead of water. I also would add cilantro next time I make this. Of course, if you would rather, use a full pound and a half of chicken or shrimp instead of combining the 2. I just liked the combination. (Plus, chicken is cheaper than shrimp, but I definitely still wanted the shrimp in there) It was a really easy and tasty soup. Perfect for a freezing cold night like tonight.

Coconut Shrimp and Chicken Soup
serves 4 1 T vegetable oil
1 T grated peeled ginger
2 cloves garlic cloves, minced or grated
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 carrots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 can coconut milk
1 T cornstarch
4~6 oz rice noodles
3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
3/4 lb chicken breast, sliced
2 C low-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 C water
1 T fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
4 scallions, thinly sliced
cilantro, finely chopped
  1. Fill a large bowl with hot water and add the noodles. Let sit until softened (about 10~15 minutes), drain, and set aside.
  2. In a 3.5 quart or larger saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken on both sides until almost cooked through and lightly browned. Add carrots and cook until they start to wilt. Add ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, and water. In a small bowl combine corn starch and 2 T water; add to the pot, and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add shrimp; stir until shrimp is opaque, about 1 minutes. Add noodles, remove from heat and add lime juice; season with salt. Ladle into serving bowls, and garnish with scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I used to improvise a lot for dinners, but one day Blake kindly told me that maybe I should make it a goal to use the recipes in my collection of cookbooks before I buy anymore, and now that I have the time, I follow recipes more and I do a lot less of the on-the-spot improvising. Well, tonight I realized at 6:30 that I was hungry and it was time for dinner and I didn't have things thawed or ready for my meals I had planned for the week, so I decided to just wing it with what was in the fridge, and to my surprise, I made a new favorite! It was so easy and so tasty, and it really surprised me how different my style has become since using other people's recipes more. I like it! I think I've really expanded my repertoire. Anyway, here's my simple improvisation dinner. Basically a combination of a bunch of things that were on sale this week:)

Mushroom and Leek pasta
serves 4~6
3~4 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 carrot, cut in half (and in quarters at the thickest parts) and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces, on the bias
1 medium leek, cleaned and sliced thin, discarding the green parts
1 8oz package of baby bella or white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lb pasta
finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook pasta to al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserve some pasta water, drain and set aside. (Do not rinse pasta)
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the carrots with 1/4 t salt for 5 or so minutes, or until they are tender-crisp. Add leeks and cook until softened.
  3. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a small skillet over medium heat until crisp. Reserve 1 T of bacon fat and discard the rest. Drain the bacon over paper towels and set aside.
  4. Add garlic to the leeks and carrots and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and 1 T reserved bacon fat and cook until softened.
  5. Add bacon and pasta to the pan and toss together. Use a little of the pasta water to loosen the sauce, if needed. Serve with freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese.

Tasty Treats

I stole this off of my sister's blog from last Christmas, and it was SO GOOD I had to share. I bought Blake some yogurt covered pretzels the other day, and was thinking of buying more and remembered this recipe and thought I'd make some for him. And boy am I glad that I did! Although I ate like 20 of them so I guess I'm not that glad. Anyway, here's the recipe.

Holiday Chocolate Pretzels
1 bag of Hershey's Hugs
enough little pretzels for the hugs
enough Christmas m&ms for the tops
  1. Preheat oven to 200°. Place the Pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet and place one hug in the center of each pretzel. Bake for 10 minutes.
  2. Pull them out of the oven and place 1 or 2 m&ms on top of the melted hugs. Place in the fridge to let them cool and enjoy!

Light Lunches

This week my friend Lori had all her last big final projects for school, and she was crazy busy. I thought I would help out a bit and bring her a nice brain food lunch. She loves feta cheese and Greek food in general, and I had just bought some feta at the Amish grocery store (and Blake won't eat it with me so I needed someone to share it with:)), so I took her a little Mediterranean platter for lunch. I made a simple tomato and cucumber salad, some home made hummus, and bought some kalamata olives, and fresh pita bread. Later that day I wanted a snack so I made a leftover pita with some tuna, and it was a great protein packed snack. I was in heaven.

Mediterranean Platter
1/2 block of feta cheese
kalamata olives, drained and pitted
pita bread

tomato & cucumber salad:
3~4 Roma tomatoes
1 seedless or English cucumber
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 T fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
  1. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and then cut them again into quarters lengthwise and cutting them into 1/2 inch pieces. Then take 3-4 roma tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and cut them into similar sized pieces. Toss together with some finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, juice of 1/2 a lemon, and a little salt and pepper.
1/4 C tahini (which I made with some sesame seeds, water, salt, and sesame oil)
1 clove garlic
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed (with 1/4 C liquid reserved)
1/4 t ground cumin
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for serving
  1. Combine ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

On Sundays I always have a hard time thinking up something for lunch that's quick enough but satisfying. But today was definitely and exception. We had bought a day-old baguette at the grocery store for $0.95, so I thought I would make good use of it. I took a third of the baguette, sliced it in half (to seperate top and bottom), put some mayo and coarse dijon mustard (only on mine, not Blake's), ham, arugula, and some yogurt and butter cheeses from the Amish store and had the best Sunday lunch ever. I had some left over curried carrot soup that I had left in the freezer from a few days ago to complete my comfort food.

Curried Carrot Soup
makes 6-8 servings
2 T butter
1 medlium onion, chopped
2 t curry powder
1/8 t cinnamon
1/4 t cumin
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
3-1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (or just buy baby carrots if they're on sale and don't worry about cutting them)
1~2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T coarsely shopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  1. Heat the butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the onion, curry powder, cinnamon, cumin, 2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant, aout 30 seconds.
  2. Add the brother, carrots, and 3 C water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover; and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Either use an immersion blender and blend until smooth or use a standing blender and blend the soup in small batches until smooth.
  4. To serve, stir in lemon juice and sprinkle with cilantro.

Homemade Noodles

I recently watched Kung Fu Panda for the first time, and craved the amazing-ness of the Chinese noodles shops. But it also made me crave the rich smell in a traditional Japanese noodle shop. Last week, some friends from church invited me to go to an Amish store, and there I found pure buckwheat flour! And even better, it was $3 for 5lb! I was so excited, I had to buy some and see what if I could make homemade Japanese soba noodles. Now, I wasn't about to go through the whole extensive process that the real deal soba chefs in Japan do, but I thought maybe I could possibly replicate it with a simple pasta maker. And it actually turned out quite well! I was really excited. The noodles were more brittle than they usually are in the shops in Japan, and of course they weren't perfectly rolled out and cut by hand, but I thought it was a great substitution. I made my own soup, and we had a fantastic dinner last night! In Japan, we eat soba on New Year's Ever to "pass on to the New Year" so I can't wait until New Year's Eve to make it again! But this time with some mochi:)

2-1/4 C buckwheat flour
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C water
  1. Mix together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Once combined, switch to a dough hook attachment, and continue to knead until smooth. Cut the dough ball into quarters, and then again into quarters (so you should have 16 equal portions) and roll out using a pasta roller up to #4 thickness. Use plenty of all-purpose flour on the sheets to avoid sticking. Cut using the spaghetti noodle attachment. Lay noddles flat and straight. Discard very short pieces.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Pat off excess flour and boil for up to 1 minute, no longer.
  3. Gently rinse under cold water to remove excess starch. Serve cold with dipping sauce or hot in soup.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A nice change

Whenever I make lasagna, I always make lasagna bolognese. I really think it is the best kind of lasagna. But I found a yummy-looking recipe for a spinach lasagna, and decided it was time to venture outside of my comfort zone. I changed a few things about the recipe, mainly for cost purposes, but it was still SO YUMMY! And don't settle for jarred lasagna sauce in this recipe, it is SO way and worth it to make your own.

Spinach Lasagna
makes 1 9x13 lasagna or 2 8x8 lasagnas
2 (9 or 10 oz) packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess water
4 C whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
salt and fresh ground pepper
6 C tomato sauce*
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 C grated mozzarella cheese
1 C fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, whisk together rocotta cheese, eggs, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper. Add spinach, and stir well to combine.
  2. Spread a small bit of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 inch aking dish (or 2 8x8 dishes, adjust accordingly). Spread 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture on 4 pieces of lasagna noodles and place them on the tomato sauce. (I promise this is way easier than putting the noddles down and then trying to spread the ricotta cheese on top of them in the pan) Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce on top, and sprinkle with 1/3 of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat to make two more layers, ending with the cheese.
  3. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 15 more minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.
*Home made tomato sauce for lasanga: (makes 6 cups)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28 oz can) diced tomatoes
1/8 t red pepper flakes
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1 t salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, and red pepper flakes. Simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can definitely add 1/4 t dried oregano to this recipe with the redpepper flakes. I don't really like the taste of dried oregano, so I just omit it or add herbes de provence.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Family Tradition

As I mentioned on my my other blog I started my own family tradition, and I thought I would share the joy of it with all of you. When I was in high school, my mom and I used to cook together a lot in our little apartment. And around Thanksgiving one year, my mom decided to put a layer of sweetened cream cheese on the bottom of our pumpkin pie, and that was the best pumpkin pie I have ever had! I can't remember where she got the idea, but I loved it. Isn't everything better with cream cheese? So I think it was for a friend's bridal shower when I invented this apple and pear crostata. I peeled and thinly sliced a granny smith apple and a bosc pear, lined them up in a pretty way on top of cream cheese mixed with brown sugar and cinnamon. And then just a couple of years ago, my sister asked me to make it for Thanksgiving with her in-laws, but suggested adding some cranberries to it to make it more "festive". I thought I would give it a try and have never looked back. It's such a nice unique yet somewhat familiar taste that I can't go without during the holidays now. See, Lisa, you are totally always my inspiration. Anyway, here is the recipe.

Holiday Crostata
1 pie crust (I always used store-bought ones. Saves on time and they are great)

for the cranberry mixture:
2-1/2 C fresh cranberries
3/4 C granulated white sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 C water
1/4 t salt

for the cream cheese mixture:
1 8 oz package of neufchâtel cheese (or cream cheese, of course), at room temperature
3 T brown sugar
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t cinnamon

1 granny smith apple, peeled and sliced very thin
1 bosc pear, peeled and sliced very thin

2 T granulated white sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t salt

2 T butter, diced small
  1. for the cranberry layer: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the sugar, water and salt until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add cranberries and stir constantly until cranberries all pop and the sauce thickens, about 10~15 minutes. Take off heat and let cool at least 30 minutes.
  2. for the cream cheese layer: Using a hand mixer, mix together the neufchâtel cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Place the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat oven to 375°.
  4. Place the pie crust in the pie plate and using your knuckle, press it in to the edge. Spread the cream cheese on the bottom of the pie crust. Place 3/4 C of the sauce on top of the cream cheese. (save the rest for your dinner. Sorry, I haven't figured out how to make the right amount) Place the apples in a slightly overlapping circle, starting from the outside. Place the pears in the same pattern, with the skinny part pointing to the middle. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of pears and a little on top of the pie crust. Dot with butter. Bake for 45~50 minutes, until the sugar is caramalized and pie crust is slightly browned. Let cool and serve:)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter Feast

I think during the cold Winter months, there is nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of hearty soup. I found this recipe for Lentil Soup and have been meaning to learn how to use lentils in my cooking, so I thought I'd give it a try. I was expecting a simple, decent soup, but I was so pleasantly surprised with how yummy it was! And it was even better on day 2, so it's the perfect meal for us since I always make double for dinner so we can have lunches. I made a batch of my Aunt Carolyn's famous dinner rolls, and it was the perfect Sunday dinner/leftovers.

Lentil Soup
serves 4~5
3 strips bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch half moons
3 garlic cloves, grated
2 T tomato paste
1-1/2 C lentils, picked over and rinsed
2~3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 t dried
3-1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth (or 2 14.5 oz cans)
2 T red-wine vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper

parmesan cheese to serve.
  1. In a large pot with a tight fitting lid or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until browned and crisp, 8~10 minutes. Pour off all but 1 T fat.
  2. Add the onion and carrots; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for 1 minutes.
  3. Add the lentils, thyme, broth, and 2 C water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cover; cook until the lentils are tender, 30~45 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick during cooking, add up to 1 cup more water.
  4. Stir in the vinegar, 1-1/2 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper, or to taste. Serve soup with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pizza can be healthy?

Blake always says that he could have pizza everyday and he would be a happy man. I, on the other hand, need a break from it once in a while. So last night I said I was making pizza and he was practically jumping for joy. I decided since I don't have a pizza stone yet, and I'm sick of trying to balance the pizza on the bottom of a cookie sheet, I would make deep dish pizza. And since deep dish pizza has such a bad reputation (well, pizzas in genenral) of being junk food, I thought I would try to prove everyone wrong. Yes, deep dish pizza has a lot of bread per serving, so you can't eat a whole pizza if you're trying to watch your weight. But I made my own dough, so I know what goes in it, my own sauce, which has little oil in it, and I used Italian turkey sausage, green bell peppers, sliced black olives, broccoli, and 2% milk hormone-free kraft brand mozzarella cheese. I sprayed a round cake pan with canola oil spray, and formed the dough into it, some sauce, some cheese, lots of toppings, 450° oven, 12 minutes. Perfect deep dish pizza. Not greasy. Not bad, right? And it was TASTY! So I'm really enjoying my leftovers right now.

Snack Time!

The other day while I was making Chritsmas cards and presents I made myself a happy salad. Baby arugula, baby romaine leaves, campari tomatoea, pecorino romano cheese, sliced almonds, salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil. Served with homemade whole wheat flaxseed bread. It was a good snack that got me back in the mood to work hard.

Have you done something happy for your tummy today?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Recently I opened up my very own etsy shop! I'm really excited about it, but a little nervous. I've never run a business before! I decided to do this because I bought from a girl a couple of months ago, who makes the cutest plate. We actually sort of became friends. She is a stay-at-home mom of 2 girls (and her oldest is Ella, if you can believe it) and she had always dreamed of opening up a studio for her ceramics, a coffee shop, or a flower shop. Other than the ceramics, I was exactly the same way in high school! Well, I loved the atmosphere of a coffee shop, though I probably would have made it a hot chocolate shop or something like that;) Anyway, she was telling me how great it is for her to be able to have a creative outlet during nap time. So finally the other night I decided to try it out myself. So I started inventing new recipes, and posting old successes. This is one recipe that I am IN LOVE WITH! I wasn't going to share it on the blog because why would anyone buy it if they can make it themselves, right? But then I thought, why withhold this information from my beloved friends and family? I don't want you all to pay me for cookies! And I figured, nobody is going to take the time to shell, roast, peel, and grind their own hazelnuts. So I'm pretty much safe. But if you want to, please by all means go ahead. It is SO worth it!

Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache Cookies
Makes about 12~13 sandwiches
For the Cookie:
2/3 C toasted ground hazelnuts*
1/3 C cocoa powder
1-3/4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 t koser salt
2/3 C sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, cocoa, and hazelnuts and combine. Add salt and flour in small increments until fully combined.
  3. Scoop by the rounded tablespoon and flatten to about 1 inch in diameter. Bake at 325° for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
for the ganache filling:
2 oz chopped (60% or more) dark baking chocolate
1 T nutella
  1. In the top of a double boiler, melt the nutella and dark chocolate until melted. Make sure the water underneath isn't boiling, just simmering.
  2. Place about 1 t of chocolate on the bottom of a completely cooled cookie, and place another one on top (so that only the tops f 2 cokies show). Let cool completely.
*Buy shell-on hazelnuts (or if you can find shelled ones, use those!), crack them open and roast them in a 350° oven for 7 or so minutes. Until the centers are light brown and very fragrant. Let them cool and rub the skins off with your fingers. It won't all come off, so don't be discouraged. Place in a food processor and pulse until coarse and let it run until very fine.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another Take

I was watching Rachael Ray and she made a "spaghetti alla carbonara frittata". Now I'm not a huge fan of her ideas when she starts mixing genres and such, but this one reminded me so much of a pizza I loved in high school from pizza shmizza that had spaghetti on it, so I thought I'd give this idea a try. But I don't think I'll call it spaghetti alla cabonara frittata because it doesn't really taste like carbonara at all. I don't want to take away from the perfect goodness of that dish. But it was good and really easy and nice and cheesy! You can't go wrong with eggs, bacon, and cheese, right?

Pasta breakfast frittata
serves 6
4 strips bacon, cut small and cooked until almost crispy
1/4 lb spaghetti
1/2 onion, sliced thin
olive or vegetable oil
1/4 C grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 C grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
6 eggs
1/2 C ricotta cheese (optional)
1/4 C milk
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Turn on the broiler.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until just short of al dente. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile in a medium oven-proof oven, add about 1 T oil and sauté onions with a little salt and pepper until soft and slightly golden.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese (if using), eggs, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Once onions are golden, add the speghetti to the pan and cook until golden and slightly crispy. Add bacon, and if necessary, a little more olive oil to coat the pasta. Pour in the egg mixture and pull in the sides once in a while, leaving the pasta and bacon evenly distributed throughout.
  5. Once the eggs seem mostly set on the bottom, top with cheeses and place under the broiler for 5~7 minutes, or until eggs are set and cheese is browned and bubbly.
  6. Pull out of the oven (using an oven mitt!) and let cool for 10~15 minutes before carefully releasing the frittata from the pan. Place on a cutting board and cut into 6 wedges. Serve warm.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween-ey cookies

I saw these sugar cookies on Martha Stewart's website and thought they were so cute. I don't even like candy corn so I don't know what got into me. And instead of making her sugar cookies, I just borrowed the candy corn in the middle idea, and made my shortbread cookies again. You press the candy corn in the center right as you pull them out of the oven. This time I made chocolate ones and vanilla ones. For the vanilla ones you use 1/4 C more flour and obviously don't add the cocoa powder. I added orange food coloring to my vanilla ones and in an attempt to keep them from turning neon orange, I didn't add enough and they didn't turn out very orange. Oh well. Still tasted great!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Serious Comfort Food

Lately I've kind of been into trying things I've never done before but always wanted to try. So today, I made chicken soup (which was supposed to be chicken noodle soup, but there wasn't really any space. I made on girth-ey soup!) and crusty bread ALL FROM SCRATCH! No chicken broth added, no bread machine. And let me tell you, it might be the yummiest soup I have ever made. Yay for a huge slow-cooker.

Homemade Chicken soup
1 whole chicken, 3-5 lbs
5-6 stalks for celery, cut into 1/4~1/2 inch pieces
5-6 carrots, peeled and sliced at an angle (and cut in half at the bigger end)
5-6 parsnips, "
1 large onion, large diced
salt and pepper to taste
heavy cream

Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese
crusty bread
  1. In the bowl of a large slow-cooker, place the whole chicken, add a little salt and pepper, and cover with water. Set the slow-cooker to high, and poach the chicken until completely cooked through, 4-5 hours.
  2. Remove the chicken and let cool. Skim the fat from the broth and add vegetables.
  3. Once chicken is cooled, pull off the thighs and wings, cut apart the breasts, and place in a baking pan (this part is optional). In a 400° oven, roast the chicken pieces, skin on, for 30~40 minutes until skin is crispy and browned. Let the chicken cool again. Once cooled, take off the skin and shred the meat into medium pieces. add a little of the broth from the pot and scrape up the drippings from the bottom of the baking pan. Place the scrapings and shredded chicken into the pot and let cook with the vegetables for about 1~2 more hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, add 1/4~1/2 C heavy cream and in each bowl grate some fresh parmesan or pecorino romano cheese. Place a piece of crusty bread in the bowl and enjoy!
I made some Irish Soda bread (which was very very dense and tasted almost like pancakes--very similar ingredients) with this, which was really simple, but some ciabatta (which has a good crust and is chewy inside) or good french bread (whcih is much lighter in the middle) would be great, too.

Treats Wednesday

Last night I altered an old favorite. My chocolate shortbread cookies are pretty good, but wouldn't they be even better with chocolate cream cheese frosting sandwiched in between them? So I added an egg as a binder and mini chocolate chip cookies to the recipe, and instead of 2 big cookies cut into wedges, I decided to make them into little cookies. They're about 1 T each of dough, flattened by my fingers, and then baked for 8 minutes. And then chocolate cream cheese frosting. They were pretty much perfect:)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Slow Cooker Success

So I've rarely had success with the slow-cooker. Once in a while I make something wonderful, but I've never been able to improvise with it. This time was no exception. I followed the recipe perfectly. I found this recipe in Cook's Country Magazine, and actually made it a long time ago and absolutely loved it! And Blake has been talking about it since. But for some reason I never got around to making it again. But while we were planning our menu for the week, Blake mentioned that it was getting cold (it was raining like crazy yesterday), so he wanted something warm and comforting. And I thought I should finally make this chili again. So here is the recipe for the world's best slow-cooker chili. (eat it sparingly though ... this stuff is HEAVY!)

Slow-Cooker Chili
serves 10 to 12
1/2 C chili powder
1 T ground cumin
2 t ground coriander (a.k.a. dried cilantro)
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t cayenne pepper (use less if you like it less spicey)
1/2 t red pepper flakes (")
6-8 oz bacon, chopped
2 onions, chopped medium
2 red bell peppers, chopped medium
6 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 lbs 85% lean ground chuk
salt and pepper
1 (28 oz) can tomato puree
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 (15.5 oz) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  1. Toast chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, cayenne, and pepper flakes in deep pan or large dutch oven over medium heat until fragrant, about 2minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add bacon to pan and cook over medium heat until crisp, about 8~10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and discard all but 1 t of remaining fat.
  3. Return pot to medium heat, add onions and bell peppers, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add beef, 2 t salt, and 1 t pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, using wooden spoon to break up the beef unto 1/2 inch pieces, until slightly pink, about 5 minutes. Drain beef and vegetables in a colander.
  5. Add tomato puree, diced tomatoes, and toasted spices to empty pan and bring to simmer over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return beef and vegetables to pan. Stor to combine, and bring to a simmer. Transfer contents to slow-cooker insert.
  6. Set slow-cooker to low, cover, and cook until tender, 6 to 8 hours, stirring in beans during last hour of cooking. Adjust seasonings and serve.
Left overs can be stored in fridge for several days, or in the freezer for several months.
Also, you can do all through step 3 the night before, simmering for an extra ten minutes. Then simmer everything for 10 minutes in the morning, and then throw everything in the slow-cooker for the day.
Also, I recommend using a slow-cooker liner when making this dish, otherwise your slow cooker insert will probably stain orange.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another accomplishment

I finally roasted some bell peppers! I've always wanted to try, but bell peppers are expensive, and it's time consuming, so I always avoided it. But baby bell peppers were $2.50 for 2lbs at Sam's club, so I decided it was time to try. And ... don't ever try this with baby bell peppers. It was even more time consuming! What was I thinking? But in the end it was so worth it! I tossed the penne with garlic and lemon zest infused olive oil (just heat some olive oil and lemon zest on low heat and let it warm through until the garlic is golden brown). Added the peppers, chopped fresh parsley, salt & pepper, and fresh lemon juice. It was so good!

Roasted red, orange, and yellow bell peppers
Just turn on the broiler and let it heat completely. Place the peppers on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast under the broiler until the skin is blistered and black. Repeat for all sides. Pull out the peppers and place them in a plastic bag and let cool. Once they cool you can easily peel off the skin. Slice or chop and add to salads, pasta or whatever:)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New Invention

I started bringing cookies every Wednesday for the youth in Blake's class. I guess they were having a hard time with making it a priority to come, so I thought I would try to bribe them with treats. And it worked! I don't think these boys have missed a week since I started this thing! And it's been a lot of fun for me to come up with treats to try out week after week (and not have to eat them all by myself!!!) Anyway, tonight I thought I would be creative and invent a cookie. One reason is because I love chocolate chip cookies with nuts and Blake thinks the texture of the nuts is a distraction. So to compromise, I added sesame seeds. They provided a really nice nuttiness without the distracting texture (which I think is just nice ... but people have their preferences;)). And I added a little whole wheat flour just to make me feel a little better about myself, and took out some or the butter and sugar. So in the end, this is an attempt at a healthy chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie
makes about 3 dozen cookies
2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C butter (1-1/2 sticks)
2/3 C rolled oats
1/4 C whole wheat flour
1 t cinnamon
1 T toasted sesame seeds
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 C light brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T milk or half-and-half
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, cinnamon, sesame seeds, band baking soda.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (with the paddle attachment), cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add the eggs and mix until fluffy. About 30 seconds.
  3. With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture. It might be a little stiff, so add the milk or half-and-half. The dough should be a big lump but still sticky.
  4. With a wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Drop by the tablespoon on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8~10 minutes, until lightly golden on the edges. Let cool for 10 minutes.
store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

HUGE accomplishment!

Now I'm not the biggest barbecue fan, but since it's Blake's favorite thing, I thought I would be a little self-sacrificing tonight and go ahead and make it. And besides, Blake is always willing to try new things, even if they "scare" him. (except anything with mayo, feta or goat cheese)

I learned 2 very cool things tonight. I learned how to properly cut a whole chicken into 4 parts (thanks to this amazing book I bought at Borders for a ridiculous $6.99, Essentials of Cooking by James Peterson.), and I learned how to make my own barbecue sauce! (and I found out that barbecue sauce--yes, Blake's favorite and basically only condiment--has plenty of vinegar and mustard in it ... interesting) I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself. I served it with oven baked steak fries, and I had cole slaw. And even if I'm picky about barbecue, I was actually ok with this meal.

Barbecued Chicken and Oven Baked Steak Fries
serves 4
1 cut up chicken, about 3 lbs

1 t hot sauce
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
1/2 C light brown sugar
1/4 C molasses
3 T dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1/2 C ketchup

vegetable oil
salt and pepper

2-3 small~medium russet potatoes
olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Wash potatoes and cut into 6 long wedges, or spears. Place on parchment lines baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil (I use an old cleaned soy sauce bottle to drizzle olive oil, works really really well) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Coat the 2 breasts, thighs, and wings of the chicken with vegetable oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in one large or 2 medium oven-safe skillets, leaving enough room to be able to pick up and flip over each piece of meat. Cover with foil or oven-safe lids.
  3. Meanwhile, simmer the hot sauce, vinegar, sugar, molasses, mustard, garlic, and ketchup, stirring periodically until sauce is reduced to about 1-1/4 C. Set aside.
  4. Place chicken and potatoes in the oven. Let the chicken cook for about 25 minutes and remove from the oven. (using an oven mitt!) place the skillet(s) on medium/medium-high heat. Coat with barbecue sauce and flip over. Continue basting and cooking both sides until sauce is caramelized on the chicken but not charred, about another 20 minutes.
  5. Pull the potatoes out of the oven, about 40 minutes or until golden and puffy.
  6. Serve with remaining sauce on the side.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Yummy and easy Ideas

I was looking through my cookbooks again and found a recipe for spinach and pine nut pesto. Now, I'm not the hugest fan of pine nuts (only sometimes) so I decided to use roasted almonds instead. And then because raw spinach doesn't have the strongest flavor, I added parsley. And I think it was perfect! And super easy if you have a food processor.

Spinach Almond Pesto
enough for 2 lbs of pasta
4~5 oz baby spinach leaves
3/4 loosely packed parsley leaves
1 garlic clove
1/2~3/4 C parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 C olive oil
1/2 C almonds (I used slivered almonds because they were on sale, but use whatever kind you want)
  1. Place the almonds on a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Let them cook, tossing occasionally, until almonds are golden and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add spinach, parsley, garlic (I recommend grating it to avoid big chunks of garlic), parmesan, toasted almonds, lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse, scraping down the sides periodically, until a chunky paste.
  3. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until the pesto is smooth.
  4. Serve half on 1 lb of pasta, freeze the rest for another day.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tasty tasty!

Recently I've been looking through my Everday Food cookbook and discovered that there are a few very reasonable and yummy-looking meals. This one only took me about the time it takes to cook the pasta. Amazing. And one thing I love about this book is that they have nutritional information in the back. So I can tell you that this meal is actually good for you. I used Barilla Plus spaghetti instead of linguine and it was really really good. And good for you!

Spaghetti with sausage and peppers
serve 6
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 lb long pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti
1 lb Italian sweet turkey sausage (about 4 links), casings removed
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 yellow, orange, or red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
4 T butter
4 C baby spinach leaves (they used arugula and that would be really really good, too. I just had spinach at home)
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserve 1 C pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the sauve and 2 T water in a large covered nonstick skillet over Medium heat about 5 minutes. Uncover and raise the heat to medium-high. BVrown the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, bell peppers, and 1/4 C of reserved pasta water; cook until peppers soften, about 6 minutes. Add 3/4 C water and butter, swirl until encorporated.
  4. Transfer everything to the pot. Add to spinach, season with salt and pepper. Toss; add more pasta water if needed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Blake!

Since it was Blake's birthday today, I decided to follow the tradition my sister has with her family, and let the birthday boy decide what we're having for breakfast. Blake asked for Cinnamon Rolls, which I have actually never made before. So I set out on a search for a good cinnamon roll recipe when I remembered my sister telling me that my Aunt Carolyn's dinner roll recipe works well for cinnamon rolls. And for the filling, I turned to my favorite America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. And I made my own cream cheese frosting for the top. I added just a teeny bit of cinnamon just for looks.

Carolyn's dinner rolls recipe makes 24 rolls, and since I didn't want 24 cinnamon rolls sitting around our house, waiting to join my love handles, I decided to make 12 cinnamon rolls and 12 dinner rolls. We had Blake's favorite "chicken cheese sandwiches" with the rolls. And though my rolls didn't turn out quite as well as when Carolyn or Lisa make them, I think they were the best sandwiches I've ever had!

*Thanks so much for sharing your amazing talents, Aunt Carolyn!*

For dinner, Blake requested one of his favorites, かつカレー (Pork cutlet and curry rice), and for dessert, a moist chocolate toffee caramel cake, which actually has another name I won't bother mentioning. So here are some of the recipes from my busy day in the kitchen.

(... does anyone want to come over and help me do the dishes and eat some left over cake and cinnamon rolls? Please?)

Carolyn's Dinner Rolls:
2-1/2 C warm water
1/2 C sugar
2/3 C powdered milk
1/3 C butter
3 T rapid rise yeast
1 egg
2 t salt
7~7-1/2 C flour (all-purpose or bread flour, either works just fine)
  1. Pour water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add powdered milk, sugar, and yeast. Mix with whisk attachment until combined. Let the yeast proof.
  2. Add egg and cooled melted butter. Mix.
  3. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add 5 C flour and mix for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides, and add salt. Beat for another 4-5 minutes until the mixture is smooth and very elastic. Add 1 more C of flour. As you beat the dough, comtinue adding flour a little at a time until the dough is still slightly sticky.
  4. Cover and let stand until double it's size.
  5. Punch down and divide into 2 parts.
  6. For the dinner cresent rolls: Roll each part into a circle 18 inchs in diameter. Butter with a thin coat. Cut into 12 pie sapes. Roll into a cresent shape. tucking the ends as you roll it up. Place on a buttered cookie sheet with the little point down. Let rise in a wamr place until double it's size. Place in a preheated 350° oven and bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Brush with butter when done.
  7. For the cinnamon rolls: Roll one ball into a 16x12 inch rectangle. Sprinkle with cinnamon roll filling. Roll up tightly and pinch the end seam. Slice into 12 equal pieces and place in a 9x13 metal baking pan (I used ceramic and it was fine) and let rise to double its size. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely and spread cream cheese frosting on top.
Cinnamon Roll filling:
3/4 C packed light brown sugar
2 t cinnamon
pinch salt
  1. Mix ingredients in a small bowl.
Cream Cheese frosting:
1 package cream cheese
2 C confectioners' sugar
1/3 C butter, softened
1/8 t cinnamon, optional
  1. mix ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth and completely combined.

Chocolate Toffee Caramel Cake:
1 box devil's food cake mix
1 container whipped topping
1 jar caramel sauce
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 bag of heath bar toffee bits or 2-3 heath bars, crushed
  1. Bake cake in 9x13 pan according to directions on box.
  2. Once the cake is done, let cool for a few minutes, and while still warm, poke hole with a fork throughout the cake. Drizzle contents of the caramel sauce jar and sweetened condensed milk can all over.
  3. Once completely cooled, spread whipped topping on top and sprinkle heath bar toffee bits on top.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Exciting New Recipe

As I was blog surfing, I came across a recipe that fascinated me and I thought I should give it a try. I was nervous to break the news to Blake because he's not too huge of a fan of "weird" food, but he said he trusted me, and even said he was pleasantly surprised and liked it a lot more than he expected. So here is my new favorite sandwich.

Asian/French Sandwich?
Makes 2 servings

1 baguette or artisan loaf
1/2 block of extra firm tofu, sliced into 4 pieces
1/4 C soy sauce
3 T rice wine vinegar
1/2 t chili oil (or as much or as little as you want)
fresh ground black pepper
2-3 crushed cloves of garlic
1-2 large carrots, grated lengthwise
1 long seedless cucumber, sliced thin lengthwise
1 large handful of cilantro
mayo or herb aoli (optional)
  1. In a large container, pour the soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, black pepper, and garlic. Stir to combine. Place tofu slices and let marinate for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Slice the bread to seperate top from bottom and then cut into 2 large sandwiches. Toast bread, if you want.
  3. On one half of the loaf, place the mayo, 2 tofu slices cucumber, carrots, and cilantro. Cut the sandwich in half to make it easier to eat and serve.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Super Dinner

Last night we had a get-together with some friends from church and we made pizza. I made the dough and sauce and each couple made their own pizza with whatever toppings they liked. There was a whole lot of extra sauce left over so I decided to use it for our dinner tonight. I added tuna and spinach to it, and tossed it with whole wheat spaghetti, which makes it my super heathy dinner. The sauce already had a ton of garlic in it, which is another super food, I think ... so I'd like to say I'm pretty proud of my dinner tonight. Whole wheat pasta isn't my favorite, but I still think it turned out really well. I think I would have preferred normal pasta or multi-grain, which has less of a distinct flavor to it.

Super-food Pasta
enough for 1 lb of pasta
1 lb whole wheat, multi-grain, or traditional spaghetti
2 C home made pizza sauce
3 big handfuls of baby spinach
1 can of solid white albacore tuna, drained
  1. Boil pasta short of al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserve some pasta water.
  2. In a skillet with high sides, combine the tuna, spinach, and sauce and heat on medium high heat. Stir to combine until spinach wilts. Set aside.
  3. Once sauce is heated through and toss the sauce with pasta (and add some pasta wter to loosen the sauce a little) and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens a little more. Serve hot with finely grated Parmesan cheese if you want.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 28

We are leaving for Utah tomorrow, so this will be my last of the month-long recipes. Sorry I didn't do a real month, but I did do 4 full weeks. But since we're leaving tomorrow and I didn't want to mess up the kitchen or take too much time on dinner since we still have a lot of cleaning and packing left to do, I shamefully succumbed to the temptation of convenient McDonald's. So, I'm sorry but, not recipe today. Fast food has always seemed like a bit of a treat for me, but I have to admit after a month of home-cooked, (attempting to be) healthy meals, it was a little ... disappointing.

Thanks, Rebekah, for encouraging me to do this. It was so fun to come up with semi-balanced, yummy meals every day for a whole month. It was helpful to document what we eat everyday and make some adjustments here and there. I had so much fun! I can't wait to get back to cooking when I get back next Saturday. But until then, I look forward to feasting on my sister's much better home-cooked meals. Mmmm!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 27

Every issue of Cook's Country magazine has a section called "recipe make-over" where they challenge themselves and re-make a traditional recipe and make it lower in fat and calories without compromising taste or looks. One month in particular caught my attention: meaty lasagna. I am a big fan of a good meaty lasagna bolognese, but I can't make it all the time because it is a guilty pleasure for me. So I read the article and recipe thoroughly to see what they did to make it good. And I used a lot of their ideas and can I tell you I think this is the best lasagna I've made yet! They only put the bechamel sauce on top because I guess since it's not made of beef, when the bolognese sauce was alternated it didn't have enough of a meaty taste to it. I thought I would miss the creamy layers, but it actually was just fine. So I suggest giving this recipe a try. It's basically the same as my lasagne bolognese recipe but instead of ground beef I used ground chicken and 1 lb of white button mushrooms chopped really fine in a food processor. I added both of those after the onions, garlic, and carrots were soft and cooked through. And in all the layers I used the bolognese except for on top I did the bechamel and cheese on top. You can add cheese in the bolognese layers if you want, but you don't have to. I used Pecorino Romano cheese because it has a strong, salty flavor so I wouldn't need to use as much to have a good cheese flavor. Overall, I think this is a good alternative to the traditional lasagna bolognese without tasting like an alternative "light" meal. Blake said he couldn't tell the difference, really. And by the way, I know there are a ton of mushrooms in it, but it doesn't taste mushroom-ey at all, for those of you who hate mushrooms. It just adds to the meaty texture without altering the taste. So tonight's dinner was definitely a success!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day 26

Today we celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary, so I thought I'd better make one of Blake's favorites: ぎょうざ (gyo-za), or potstickers. These things are amazing. I could honestly eat like 40 in one sitting! And once you get the hang of the crimping, they're actually pretty easy.

For dessert, I was going to make something I've made before, but as I was looking through Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook, Blake mentioned that he had never tasted Creme Brulée before! And that made me feel so guilty because whenever anyone asks me what my favorite dessert is, my answer is always Creme Brulée. So I HAD to make it for him. Ina says that Creme Brulée is the ultimate guy desssert, and I didn't know what she meant until I handed the blow torch to Blake and let him brown the top himself. He looked like a little kid in a candy store and even said, "this is perfect! It's the perfect combination of good food and danger." So now I believe, Ina. This IS the ultimate guy dessert!

ぎょうざ gyo-za
makes about 45-50
1 lb ground pork
1/2 head of nappa cabbage, chopped fine
2-3 scallions, chopped fine
1 T fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
3 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
6-7 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped fine
1 package gyoza skins (round dim sum skins)
  1. Combine the pork, cabbage, scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and mushrooms in a large bowl.
  2. Take one skin, place about 1/2 T of the meat mixture in the middle, wet half of the edge of the skin, pull the dry side over the wet side, and make little "pleats" (I usually do about 6-8 mini folds). As you get used to this part, you can add more meat into the middle, but until then, start small. Put corn starch on a baking sheet and place the filled gyoza with the crimped side up on the baking sheet. (the corn starch will make it extra crispy on the bottom)
  3. In a non-stick skillet with a lid, pour about 1 T canola oil and heat to medium-high. Place the gyoza in a line on the skillet with the crimped side up and cook until the bottoms are browned. Once browned, pour about 2 T water into the pan and place the lid on top and cook for about 5-7 minutes until they are cooked through. Serve hot with rice.
for the dipping sauce (this is the traditional Japanese version, the Chinese version has a totally different dipping sauce):
soy sauce
rice wine vinegar
chili oil
  1. Combine ingredients to taste.

Ina Garten's Creme Brulée
makes 5-6 servings3 C heavy cream
1 extra-large egg
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 C sugar, plus 1 T for each serving
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 T Grand Mariner (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the eeg, yolks, and 1/2 C sugar on low speed until just combined.
  2. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until very hot but not boiled. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. Add the vanilla and Grand Mariner and pour into 6- to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
  3. Place ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until custards are set when gently shaken. Remove ramekins from the water bath, cool to room temp, and place in the fridge until firm.
  4. To serve, spread 1 T of sugar evenly on top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly. Allow to sit at room temp for a minute until the sugar hardens.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day 25

Tonight's dinner was a bit of a disaster, so if it wasn't for Rebekah's challenge, I definitely would not have bothered taking a picture of it and posting it. It was really yummy, but I guess the pan I used to make the omelet part wasn't non-stick enough. So it's a rustic version of my favorite オムライス (rice omelet) . I used lil' smokies instead of the chicken since I had those on hand (I actually bought them for this recipe because a Japanese cookbook I have suggested that ... ), and this time I didn't use corn. It was really yummy:)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day 24

Because we took a long nap (miraculously Ella let us) and we went to the dog park laste this afternoon, I didn't get to start on dinner until 6:30, which means I had to make something fast. So unfortunately I didn't get to make lasagna like I had planned, and I made creamy tomato sauce with whole wheat penne instead. And some shaved Pecorino Romano on top. It was definitely a pleasant, quick dinner:)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 23

I was craving frittata again, so I had to make it again. This time I used 5 whole eggs and 5 egg whites, like the recipe actually called for and it was so much lighter! I was impressed. And I used lil' smokies instead of bacon and I actually thought it went better with the potatoes. I sliced them really thin so their smokey flavor wouldn't take over, and I think that was a good choice. Any bigger and they would have been distracting. I just made it on August 15, and it was worth making again.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day 22

Since I'm going to be gone the whole first week of September, I had to make some easy re-heatable dishes for Blake to eat while I'm gone. So I made the classic Bolognese sauce. And I wasn't about to make a whole batch and put it all in the freezer and not let myself enjoy some! So we had some for dinner. Yum yum!

Bolognese sauce
makes enough for about 2 or 3 lbs of pasta, so use some tonight and store the rest for a lazy day
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
equal amount of carrots, chopped also (I use my food processor)
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
vegetable or olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef

  1. In a large pot, cook onions, garlic, and carrots on medium-high heat until soft and slightly browned, stirring constantly. Once cooked, add beef, breaking up as you go. Cook through. Add tomatoes and cook until slightly thickened.
  2. Reserve 1/4 C of sauce and toss the rest with the pasta. Place the tossed sauce and pasta on a plate and top with reserved sauce and freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 21

When I was a kid, I have a memory of our family often going to a special Italian restaurant in Tokyo, and my favorite dish there was salmon in cream sauce with fettuccine. I remember as a child always wishing I could find it on other menus, but I never did and I felt like I had lost something great.

A few years ago during the winter, I had made a white stew with salmon instead of chicken or pork, and I remembered my favorite pasta dish. And that was when I fell back in love with that cream and salmon combination. So tonight, even if it's a little heavy for Summer, I decided to reminisce a little. I used 1% milk because that's what we had in our fridge, but I recommend using whole milk. The lower the fat content in a white sauce, the gluey-er it will seem. Also, use good quality salmon or the whole sauce will taste a little fishy. If you can find really wide fettuccine (they come in little nests), use that. The normal long strands of fettuccine they sell in most grocery stores here isn't as wide as I think fettuccine should be. But I had to settle for the normal stuff tonight:(

Salmon cream sauce with fettuccine
serves 2
1 large fillet of salmon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 T flour
2 T butter
2 C milk
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4~1/2 C grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/8 t nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb pasta

  1. Boil the pasta very al dente. You want to take them out of the water a couple of minutes before they're done cooking so they can continue to cook in the sauce for a couple of minutes.
  2. In a sauté pan with high sides, cook the garlic and butter until garlic is fragrant and butter is completely melted. Add flour and stir well. Gradually add milk, about 1/4~1/2 C at a time, whisking to avoid lumps. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  3. Add the pieces of uncooked salmon into the sauce and let simmer. The salmon will cook quickly. Add more milk if the sauce gets too thick.
  4. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Top with lots of cheese.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day 20

I made my "wannabe Asian" again, but this time I added grated fresh ginger and thinly sliced nappa cabbage. I thought it worked a little better. If you want the recipe, you can check out my original attempt at generic Asian-American from July 26.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 19

Tonight I made からあげ, one of my favorites. And this time I didn't burn it! Woo hoo!

It's a tasty Japanese fried chicken with ginger and soy sauce as the seasonings. Definitely worth a try. If you want the recipe, go to my May 14 post. Yay fried food! ... so much for healthy, huh? I've been bad this week!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Day 18

This is a French Lasagna with a bechamel sauce and portobello mushrooms. I really enjoyed it! It was a nice change from the usual Lasagna Bolognese that I always make. Remember when making this dish to use a good quality strong, salty cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.

Portobello Mushroom Lasagna
makes 1 9x13 inch pan
1-1/2 lbs Portobello mushrooms, stems removed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 C butter
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 t ground nutmeg (I always grate whole nutmeg cloves)
2 C freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
1 t freshly ground pepper
4 C milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium sauce pan melt 6 T of butter. Add the flour and whisk together. Gradually add the milk, about 1 C at a time, and remember to add to salt, pepper, and nutmeg after about the first cup of milk. Once thickened, remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan, melt 2 T of butter. Take half of the mushrooms and cook until softened and slightly wilty. Transfer to a bowl and cook the rest of the mushrooms.
  3. In a 9x13 inch baking dish, spread some sauce on the bottom. Arrange a layer of noodles, some more sauce, 1/3 of the mushroom, and 1/2 C of the cheese. Repeat two more times and then add noodles, sauce and the remaining cheese on top.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Take the foil off and bake another 5 minutes or so until the cheese is golden-brown. Let rest for 10-15 minutes, serve hot.