Friday, December 19, 2008
Thanksgiving was a great time for cooking from scratch. I have learned everything I need to know about roasting a turkey from my mom. She learned from her mom (who actually hated cooking and was always looking for shortcuts), but expanded upon what my grandmother did to create her own traditions.
Unfortunately, I didn't participate in preparing the turkey for roasting since I was working that morning. However, I did all the shopping for the ingredients so I got to choose what we would eat this year. And, I did get to prepare the mashed potatoes and a "new" way of preparing yams using fresh ones instead of canned yams. More to come on that later.
Here's the menu of our traditional Thanksgiving feast:
Roasted Turkey (Norbest) - roasted with the stuffing inside the bird
Stuffing (though I never eat my mom's) - white bread torn into small bits and mixed with the turkey's inards that have been cooked with onions and celery and lots of poultry seasoning
Mashed Potatoes - I wanted to use broth, but was overruled and used milk and butter with salt & pepper to taste (should have used my Cambodian pepper)
Yams - I prepared these on the stove top in a skillet
Creamed Corn (a recipe given from a longtime family friend) - canned corn & whipping cream, 'nuf said!
Cranberry Sauce (homemade from whole cranberries) - we prefer this to the canned stuff, hands down.
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (not my choice, but there's been an excess of these in the fridge.)
Recipe for Skillet Yams
(as half-heard from a morning news show while I was getting ready for work)
4-5 medium yams (the red/orange ones), peeled and cubed
1-2 cups chicken, turkey or vegie broth
1 cup brown sugar
2-4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
Place oil in bottom of large skillet (cast iron is preferred, though any will do). Add cubed yams, broth, butter and brown sugar. Stir and cover. Cook on medium heat until bubbling, then turn to low to simmer until the liquid becomes a thick brown sauce. Remove from heat and serve.
The first time cooking these for Thanksgiving this year I got caught up talking with a dinner guest and they overcooked, but were still very tasty!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I have modified my mother's original recipes for both of these sweet breads (cakes are a more fitting description). Instead of white flour I used whole wheat flour. Instead of milk, I used soy milk. Instead of candied Maraschino cherries, I used dried Goji berries (it was either those or dried currents). Everything else was more or less according to her recipes.
The result is a denser, less sickeningly sweet bread, though still sweet because of those chocolate chips that must go into the Banana Bread. Once you starting using chocolate chips, you'll never go back.
My sister modified the Banana Bread recipe by adding cocoa powder to it. It was different from my mom's, yet tasty, too!
[I'm tired and will post the recipes later.]
Other people brought over the fixings and sides to go along with the chili such as: corn bread, grated cheese (a luxury in China!), vegetables, drinks, etc.
Beans are not for "hurry up and eat" kind of people. This takes time: at least 4 hours must be set aside for the process.
I generally like to use black beans, but a variety of beans can also be fun. More recently I used a combination of black, red and Peruvian dried beans.
Be sure to wash and pick through the beans to take out any non-beans (such as pebbles).
For this recipe I used 1 cup each of the black, red and Peruvian beans and used the quick cooking method. Place the dried beans in a really big soup pot and a good 6-8 cups of water. Bring the dried beans to a boil for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour.
During this 1 hour wait time I like to prep my add-ins.
1 1/2 - 2 bell peppers (capsicum): green and/or red, diced
1 onion, diced
2-3 large tomatoes, peeled* and diced
1 can tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
Chili powder, to taste
Garlic powder and/or freshly minced garlic, to taste
Salt, to taste
*To remove the skin from a tomato, stick a fork in it and hold it over open flame if you have a gas stove. You will hear the tomato hiss and pop. If you're unfortunate enough to have only electric, gently drop them in already boiling water, remove quickly and place in ice water. The skins will be ready to slip right off!
Back to the Beans
When your 1 hour is up, pour the beans and water into a colander (which is already in your sink). Rinse well, then put back into your big soup pot. Add all the above ingredients except for the spices as that can be done later. You can add a little water to this if you think it's too thick.
Boil the mixture for up to 2 hours, or until the beans are softened (you can tell by tasting), stirring occasionally. In the last 1/2 hour, add the spices and make sure you taste it until you have the right combination.
Some other stuff
While the beans are cooking you can bake some cornbread, prepare some garlic bread, grate some cheese, cook up some rice or spaghetti.
In China we ate a lot of rice and since there were 11 mouths to feed (plus 3 young men), we prepared a lot of rice to put in the bowl of chili to make it go farther.
My mom likes to have chili over spaghetti for some reason. I grew up eating it that way, too, and now it's kind of like a comfort food.
Once your beans are finished, you will have tons to eat! Why not make your chili into an event or special day and invite people over to enjoy the fruit of your cooking. Maybe even ask them to potluck the fixings and sides? Or, bring over 1/2 the pot to a neighbor (that's what we do!) Otherwise I recommend freezing at least 1/2 of the pot to savor later.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake
1 pkg. yellow cake mix (I used white)
1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding
3/4 c. canola oil
3/4 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or any other baking nut)
1 cup cinnamon and sugar mixture
Mix together all ingredients at high speed for 8 minutes (this just seemed too long, so I only mixed for about 4 minutes). Grease bundt pan well with a pastry brush (or a good 'ol paper towel with butter smeared on it). Sprinkle 1 cup chopped nuts into pan; spread around. Nuts will cling to grease! Place 1/3 batter in pan; sprinkle with connamon and sugar mixture (and I added some of the nuts). Place another 1/3 of mixture in pan; sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar (more nuts). Place remaining 1/3 of batter in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or more, until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and turn over onto cake plate.
I really wanted to keep the chocolate cake to eat myself, but knew that I would eat the whole thing. I'll just have to make another one.
They were both easy to make, though slightly modified from their internet recipes, as usual.
Monday, October 20, 2008
As I sit here I can smell the stock cooking. I should probably go check it to make sure it's not bubbling over. My mom hates when I let things spill then forget to clean up the burners.
Ingredients for Chicken Stock
1 whole chicken
1/2 celery bunch, chopped
1 onion roughly chopped
In a very large stock pot, place the chicken, celery and onions with water to cover it. Boil until the chicken is tender and pulls easily from the bones.
Remove chicken and let cool. Pour the water (now chicken stock) through a sieve into a bowl to remove the pieces of celery, onion and any chicken. Keep the chicken, toss the veggies.
At this point you can either freeze the stock for later use or keep it to make a giant pot of soup now. (I froze half of mine for later.)
For the chicken, remove all the meat from the bones. Throw away any remaining bones, cartilege and any other undesirable parts. Cut or tear the meat into more bite-sized pieces to use in your soup (or freeze for a later use).
Chicken and/or Vegetable Soup - use only veggies if you like
1 quart soup stock/broth (use your chicken stock from above or any box/can broth)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 med potatoes, chopped; and/or rice; and/or noodles; and/or cooked beans
any combination of chopped fresh, canned or frozen vegetables (I know, but sometimes I use them), but I prefer to use seasonal veggies
2-3 chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
chopped, cooked chicken; or sausage; or ground meat; or cooked turkey
1 Tbsp oil (olive is my choice)
salt, pepper and other favorite seasonings to taste (I like lemon pepper)
Prepare all your veggies in advance (cause it makes it easier when it's time to add them to the soup).
Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in bottom of soup pot. Add chopped onion. Let cook until translucent (so that they turn from yellowish white to clear and shiny). When onion is ready, add all of your veggies and meat (except noodles), then cover with all of the broth. If the broth isn't enough, add water to top off but not more that 2 inches from the rim of your pot.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 miinutes until all the vegies are cooked. Add your seasonings towards the end of cooking along with the noodles, so that the noodles don't get overcooked and become paste.
Turn off heat and enjoy with some fresh bread (you choose!). Grated parmesan cheese is also very lovely on top of the bowl of soup, too!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Merrie's Banana Bread
3 ripe mashed bananas
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine (or 1/2 stick)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour (I sometimes use whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup milk, soured (add 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar to the milk)
1/2 cup nuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, vanilla and mashed bananas and mix well. In a separate bowl add the flower, baking soda and salt. Add to the wet mix along with the sour milk. Mix well. Add the nuts and chocolate chips.
Prepare 1 large bread pan (5 x 9) or 2 small bread pans (5 x 3) by buttering and flouring (or use a flour spray). Pour in the mix and tap lightly to smooth.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned on top and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before removing the bread from the pan to cool on baker's racks.
Enjoy! I like spreading some butter on the bread, but it's good plain, too.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Firm tofu (I like Trader Joe's brand Extra Firm)
6-8 leaves of collard greens (or substitute kale, spinach or chard)
1/2 yellow onion cut into slivers
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
salt & sugar to taste
1 Tbsp oil
1. Begin cooking rice in an electric rice cooker or on the stove-top.
2. Heat wok with 1 Tbsp oil. Drain and cube tofu. Place in oil, salt and sugar, then cover. Cook until golden on one side before turning and cooking some more. Add minced garlic and stir in. Continue browning.
3. While tofu is cooking, separate collard leaves from stems by slicing down each side of the stem. Slice stems into 1 inch pieces. Fold leaves over onto each other and slice across the bundle to create thin slices. Slice onions. (If desired, other dense vegetables can be added to the stir-fry mix such as broccoli, cauliflower or cucumbers.)
4. When tofu is slightly crispy on the outside, add the collard stems and any other vegetable you'd like. Don't add the onions or leaves just yet. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan. Stir this together. Cover and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook another 2 or so minutes covered. Finally, add the collard leaves, mix in and cover for about 1 minute. (You can also leave off the cover and stir with a spoon.) Turn off the heat. Serve with steamed rice.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
My vegetable garden Squash uploaded by Nikkster
I am beginning to enjoy the fruits of my labor of a small home garden that I put together in my backyard using half wine barrels and other large terra cotta pots that were free.
My vegetable garden Collard Greens uploaded by Nikkster
I have enjoyed two yellow zuchhini squash so far, by steaming them and serving with steamed rice. Also enjoyed were several tender leaves of collard greens stir-fried with tofu and onions. In addition, my Bibb lettuce leaves have been a tender addition to my daily salads I take to work.
My vegetable garden Squash & Beans barrel uploaded by Nikkster
Soon the tomatoes will be producing as the first flower buds have appeared. There are also some beans just now growing. I don't think they get enough sun because the squash leaves have taken over. My peppers are slow but steady. I think they'll be late bloomers.
I can hardly wait for the tomatoes to start producing as I have high hopes for doing some canning of homemade spaghetti sauce.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite-size florets and stalks peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound whole wheat elbow pasta
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 3)
3 tablespoons flour
3 1/2 cups low-fat milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
12 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
1 cup white rice, long grain (not instant)
1 1/2 cups water
1 small can tomato sauce
1/2 a yellow onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
OR, 1 small can diced green chilies
1 tomato, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp oil
Saute garlic, rice, onions and bell peppers (but not green chilies if using) in a large, deep skillet until onions and peppers are soft.
Add water, tomato sauce, tomato and green chilies, if using. Stir then simmer covered for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for another 10 minutes.
Stir and serve!
1-2 sliced bell peppers (I prefer red or yellow or both), sliced in strips
1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained (or cook up your own!)
12 oz of shredded cheese (you pick the type; I like white cheddar or Monterey Jack), leave some extra for topping
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp oil
1 can of enchilada sauce, red or green (or make your own!)
12 or so tortillas (I like flour, but corn is just fine, too; I've even used wheat)
Warm the enchilada sauce if not already warm while preparing the vegies.
Add garlic to oil in a large skillet. Heat until slightly golden then add the onions and peppers. Stir fry until onions are transluscent.
Remove from pan adding to the black beans and mix.
Warm tortillas before adding a couple of tablespoons of the black been mix, cheese and a tablespoon of sauce. Roll and place in baking dish with some of the sauce spread on the bottom.
When baking dish is filled, top with the remaining sauce and cheese.
Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.
Serve with Mexican Rice.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I love lasagna when it's so tasty and not dry. Even more so when it is meatless. And the spinach was so yummy being that it was fresh and not frozen. This will be made again and again. Who knew lasagna was so easy.
I would really like to try this sausage lasagna that I saw made on an old run of Martha Stewart's tv show. It was piled and stuffed full of 3 kinds of sausage and lots of cheese using sheets of lasagna instead of just the noodles. Wow! That would be a feat!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
*Note: In Cambodia Morning Glory is not a flower, but an aquatic vegetable with a hollow stem, sometimes called Water Spinach.
For a picture of what it can look like go here.
Step 1: Remove leaves from the Morning Glory. A few smaller ones can be left on the ends. Using the flat side of a knife (preferably a cleaver) flatten the Morning Glory stocks, then chop into 1.5" pieces.
Step 2: Add 5-6 garlic cloves and pieces of galangal rhizomes to a mortar, then smash them together. Add the "kroeng" mix (pounded lemongrass and tumeric root and other things) and continue pounding. Add some finely chopped kaffir lime leaves (or add some sour tamarind paste later) to make it sour.
Step 3: Cut up the meat into small bite-sized pieces.
Step 4: Heat some oil in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add the pounded mixture along with some "prahok" (Cambodian fish paste) and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the meat and cook until it's browned. Cover with water and bring to a boil then simmer. Once it's simmering add the Morning Glory pieces. Cook until those are soft.
Eat with steamed rice.
Day #1: Fried meat and vegetables (aka stir-fry)
Now I already know how to do this, but was told I needed to know how to make it tasty.
Step 1: heat oil (any kind will do).
Step 2: add freshly minced garlic to cook until golden, then add a spoonful of sugar.
Step 3: add chopped meat. We used pork, but beef will do just fine, and of course tofu. Let cook thoroughly so there's no pink in the middle.
Step 4: when meat is cooked, add the vegetables. We used sliced onions and angle-sliced cucumber, but you can choose you can choose your favorite. I think using onion is a must, and you can choose carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or any other vegetable. The key thing, however, is to pay attention to your chosen vegie's density to determine cooking order and time. Cauliflower takes longer so it should go in first. Onions and cucumbers tend to be softer so they go in later.
Step 5: I think there is some salt added to taste, but I must have been looking away when it was added. Very important: check the taste of the dish using a spoon. If it isn't salty enough, add salt. If it's too salty, add water and/or sugar. Finally serve it in a serving bowl alongside steamed rice for your meal.
[sorry no pics for this one as I didn't have the camera with me.]
Saturday, January 12, 2008
According to my roomie, she had papusas in Ecuador. I just had to try them, not only cause they were homemade compared to the Subway, Taco Bell, Quiznos, Dominoes and so on, available to us in the food court, but they were also inexpensive!
The woman was so delightful and patient, always making sure she had the order correct, since I was speaking in a second language.
They are more or less pancake-like. She started with a ball of dough, then pushed a hole into it in which the fillings were added. With only 3 choices of cheese (the fresh kind: think queso fresca), frijol (bean) and chicherrito (meat) filling. I opted for the beans and meat fillings either separately or combined (mixta).
They are then flattened and placed on the griddle to cook for 5-10 minutes. It's worth the wait. Believe me! These suckers filled me all day.
After served, you had your choice of toppings: a cabbage mixture, various spicy levels of salsa, guacamole and onions.
I ate these 3 days in a row. I loved coming here. I still crave these things to this day. I need this recipe for myself.
Friday, January 11, 2008
These were salivated after by my mom, so much so that she called me up from work to tell me to me to bake more 'cause she couldn't stop thinking about them.
Here's the recipe:
2 3/4 cup walnut halves (9 oz.) - toasted, then chopped
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I used the Bourbon kind from Madagascar)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. (Parchment paper is very important here as I tried without and they were very hard to remove from the pans.)
In a large bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar with the cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in the chopped walnuts. Add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until batter is moistened (be careful not to overbeat or it will stiffen). Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds.
Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes (shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through), until the tops of the cookies are glossy and lightly cracked and feel firm to the touch.
Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks to cool completely before serving.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days (but it's highly unlikely they'll last that long).
Recipe by Francois Payard was found in the January 2008 issue of Food and Wine. (page 48)
I used a recipe from cooks.com, but modified it slightly as I usually do when I don't have the exact ingredients. Here's the recipe:
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
8 oz. plain yogurt (I used a soy yogurt from Wild Woods)
1 clove garlic (I used 3 cause I love the stuff)
1/2 cup tahini sauce
salt & pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
(I skipped the water and salt & pepper as I felt it was thin enough already)
Mix tahini sauce, salt, pepper and lemon juice separately in a mixer. Add a little water to thin. Mix with eggplant mixture.
Eat with pita bread and salad. Garnish with parsely.
Yummy, yummy! I love eating this with the baked pita chips from Trader Joe's. But it would also be nice over a cucumber, onion and tomato salad, too.