Monday, March 31, 2008

Quinoa Salad


My friend Sarah posted this recipe on her blog, and it sounded so good that we had to try it! It's exactly the kind of food we're craving this week -- fresh, light and healthy -- after all the greasy (but delicious!) stuff we ate last week. I've never had quinoa before, but it's something I've been wanting to try for a long time.

The salad was delicious! The flavor is fresh and bright, and it's filling without being heavy. Thank you, Sarah, for a fabulous recipe!


I learned something about quinoa today. Before you cook it, it's like tiny little marbles, and it scatters e v e r y w h e r e if you spill it. Yikes. I bought a bag of it in bulk today at Whole Foods, and in the process of transferring it to a storage container, some of it spilled on the counter, and it rolled all over the place! Consider yourself warned.

Sarah says that the leftover quinoa that you don't use in the salad is great for breakfast, mixed with almond milk, blue agave nectar, raisins, applesauce and flax seed. Guess what we'll be having for breakfast tomorrow?

Quinoa Salad

1 c uncooked quinoa (rinsed)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 c cilantro, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 c green onions, chopped
2 T lime juice
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T grapeseed oil
1.5 tsp salt
15 oz can of black beans, rinsed

Put 2 cups of water and the 1 cup of quinoa in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes until liquid is dissolved. Fluff with a fork. Put in fridge to chill.

Place chopped vegetables in a big bowl. Add oil, vinegar, salt, and mix well. Add 2 cups of quinoa (save the left over for another recipe) and mix. Fold in black beans.

Chill and serve.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pasta with Rustic Tomato, Basil & Kalamata Olive Sauce

[I cooked this again tonight (original post was 2/16/08), and snapped some pictures this time. The store was out of fresh basil, so I just used dried basil and oregano, and it worked in a pinch.]


I almost didn't cook dinner tonight because I'm not feeling great, but Brad was hungry, and I knew this would only take a few minutes to throw together.  I'm so glad I did, because it was delicious!  If you find yourself pressed for time, definitely try this recipe.  It all comes together in the time it takes the pot of spaghetti to cook.  You can't beat that!  It makes enough for 2-3 very hearty servings.


Pasta with Rustic Tomato, Basil & Kalamata Olive Sauce

1/2 lb spaghetti
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 pack cherry or grape tomatoes(about 2 cups), cut in half
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 bunch fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/2 to 1 cup water
salt & pepper, to taste

Prepare spaghetti per package directions.  While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, onion and red pepper; cook and stir until the onion is translucent.  Add tomatoes, cook and stir for several minutes, until the tomatoes break down.  Stir in basil and kalamata olives.  Add water to bring sauce to the consistency you desire.  I prefer a thicker sauce, so I only used about 1/2 cup.  Salt and pepper to taste.

About this time the spaghetti should be done cooking.  Drain it (I use tongs to just grab it out of the water) and add it to the sauce.  Toss to combine thoroughly.  Serve immediately.


Chiang Mai Curry Noodles


Chiang Mai Curry Noodles

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp red curry paste
3/4 lb chicken breast, cut in chunks
2 cups unsweetned coconut milk
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 tsp ground tumeric or curry powder
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup coarsley chopped shallots
1/3 cup coarsley chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
4 to 6 servings hot rice or noodles

Heat the oil in a medium sauceepan over medium heat, and then add garlic. Toss well and add the curry paste, mashing and stirring to soften it in the oil, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook 1 to 2 minutes, tossing now and then to brown it evenly and mix it with the curry paste. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, turmeric, soy sauce, sugar, and salt and stir well. Bring to a gentle boil and adjust heat to maintain a lively simmer. Cook about 10 minutes, until meat is cooked through. Stir in lime juice and remove from heat.

Ladle curry over rice or noodles, and sprinkle each serving with shallots, cilantro and green onions. Serve hot.

Red Velvet Cake

This recipe makes a 3-layer cake, or about 40 cupcakes. You can frost it with a cream cheese frosting, or buttercream frosting.


Red Velvet Cake

3 eggs
3/4 cup butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1-oz. bottle red food coloring (2 Tbsp.)
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. vinegar

Let eggs and butter stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 8 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pans; set aside.

In medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, and 3/4 tsp. salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl beat butter on medium-high 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until combined. One at a time, add eggs; beat on medium after each. Beat in food coloring on low.

Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to egg mixture; beat on low-medium after each just until combined. Stir together baking soda and vinegar. Add to batter; beat just until combined.

Spread in prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until pick inserted near centers comes out clean (cakes may appear marbled). Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool.

To frost, place one layer flat side up on plate. Spread top with 3/4 cup frosting. Stack layer, flat side up; spread top with 3/4 cup frosting. Stack final layer, flat side down; spread remaining frosting on top and sides.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of March 30th

It's time to plan my menu! This week we are shooting for a light, healthy menu. We've eaten way too much heavy, greasy, calorie- and fat-laden foods these past few weeks, so it's time to get into a healthier diet again. Brad has also said that, while it's fine to have a primarily vegetarian diet at home, he'd prefer not to have it feature meat replacement foods like tofu, seitan, tempeh or the like. He just doesn't like the way they taste, and would rather eliminate that portion of the meal altogether. So therein lies my challenge for this week. I've been really craving some salmon lately, so that will be our one non-veg dinner of the week, and I'm OK with that.

Sunday - Pasta with Rustic Tomato, Basil & Kalamata Olives

Monday - Quinoa salad

Tuesday - Roasted salmon, asparagus and rosemary potatoes

Wednesday - Greek salad pita sandwiches

Thursday - French toast (breakfast for dinner, yo!)

Friday - leftovers


This is a Southern style cornbread, made without flour. It's salty, not sweet, and is dense and gritty. If you're expecting a sweet, fluffy, cake-like cornbread, this isn't the recipe for you. But it's fabulous with soup, chili, red beans and rice, and so forth. I made it tonight to go with our leftover gumbo.


4 to 5 tablespoons bacon grease, shortening or vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups corn meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. Place bacon grease, shortening or oil in an 8-inch skillet. Let heat in the oven until it's almost smoking. Meanwhile, mix the batter.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Add the corn meal, salt and baking soda, and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the buttermilk and stir well.

Remove the hot pan from the oven. Swirl the pan to make sure it is coated with oil.

Pour the batter into the pan, and bake 25 to 30 minutes.

What we ate last week

My parents were in town visiting us all last week, and just left this morning.  I hardly cooked at all the whole time they were here, because we were out doing various touristy activities and events with family.  We had so much fun!

Here's a quick photo recap of some of the things we ate while they were here.

Tortellini & peas with garlic cheese sauce. We completely abandoned our at-home vegetarian diet, and added some bacon.


Apple Pie Muffins


I layered and frosted the two remaining layers of Chocolate Guinness Cake with cream cheese frosting.


I made some Chicken Enchilada Dip, which was a huge hit with everyone. This stuff is like crack, I swear.


For Meg's fifth birthday, I made Red Velvet Cake cupcakes, frosted with leftover cream cheese frosting.


In New Orleans, we went to Cafe Du Monde and had some beignets and cafe au lait. Yum!


Dinner in New Orleans was at Brad's favorite restaurant, Cafe Maspero. We all shared a plate of calamari.


Dad ordered what I affectionately refer to as The Louisiana Special: a big plate of FRIED (aka the seafood plate).


As he made his way to the bottom of the fried stuff, we saw that it had been plated atop a couple slices of bread, to soak up the grease. You've gotta love Louisiana, folks!


Brad and I split a muffaletta. Deeelicious!


A close up.


And the aftermath.


And ice cream for dessert! Some idiot had the bright idea to make vanilla ice cream in ridiculously bright colors of red, blue, yellow and green...which, when they begin to melt together, turn black. Great.


So that's what we've been up to! We're eating leftovers tonight (seafood gumbo that Jaimie made), but I'll be back in the kitchen tomorrow!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chocolate Guinness Cake


Chocolate Guinness Cake

2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. If you don't have parchment paper, grease and flour the cake plans.

Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

For a layer cake, stack layers with frosting of your choice between each one. Chocolate, vanilla, or cream cheese frosting would all taste great. Or serve one layer at a time (freeze the others for later) and either frost or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Hoagie Rolls

Ok, so I'm on a bit of a bread baking kick right now. I made these so we could have eggplant parmesan sandwiches with last night's leftovers.  They were fabulous, and by far the best sandwich rolls I've made to date.  

Hoagie Rolls

1 1/2 cup warm water
1 package yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 to 4 cups flour

Combine first 5 ingredients in a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment. Add flour, one cup at a time, while mixing on low. When dough forms a stiff ball, switch to the dough hook, and knead 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. Dough should be smooth and elastic, not sticky.

Grease a medium bowl with cooking spray. Shape dough into a ball and please in bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a dish towel and let rise 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. Shape into rolls of desired shape. Torpedo-shaped hoagie rolls are standard, or you can roll the dough into a rectangle and slice into 6 squares, which are great for sandwiches. Cover and let rise 45 minutes. Slash tops of torpedo-shaped rolls with a sharp knife or scissors, but do not slash squares.

Preheat oven to 425. Bake rolls for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

French Bread

This is an easy, go-to recipe for French Bread. It takes some time to make, but the active prep time is minimal.


French Bread

3 cups flour
1 package yeast
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water

Combine 1 cup of the flour, and the remaining ingredients in a large stand mixer, using the paddle attachment. Mix for several minutes, until well blended. Add remaining flour and mix until it forms a stiff dough. Switch to the dough hook, and knead for 10 minutes, until dough is soft and elastic. Add flour as needed if the dough is too sticky.

Grease a large bowl, form dough into a ball, and place in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. I have mine rise in the oven with the light on.

Punch dough down, re-shape into a ball, then cover and let rise again for 30 to 40 minutes.

Roll/flatten dough out into a rectangle, then roll up into a long loaf, pinching seams to seal. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375. Place dough on a baking sheet (I use stoneware). Brush dough lightly with water. Make 4 or 5 slashes in the top of the dough, using scissors or a sharp knife. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. I like to pull mine out of the oven after 20 minutes and quickly brush with more water.

Remove from baking sheet and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Eggplant Parmesan

Ahhh, eggplant parmesan. One of my favorite meals. I don't often make it because most recipes I've tried have called for the eggplant slices to be fried, and since they act like little sponges, I just can't get behind that. I've baked them without ANY oil in the past, but they were too dry. So this time I found the middle ground, and dredged them in an egg/buttermilk mixture, coated them with bread crumbs, put them on a baking stone, sprayed them lightly with olive oil from my kitchen spritzer, then baked them for about 30 minutes. I figured I couldn't go wrong with buttermilk, thinking of how well it works with fried chicken.


When they came out of the oven, they looked GORGEOUS. I layered them in a large baking dish with sauce and mozzarella cheese, then popped them back in the oven until the cheese was melted and the sauce was bubbly. Awesome.

Eggplant Parmesan

2 batches marinara sauce
2 large eggplants
2 eggs
a splash of buttermilk
2 cups breadcrumbs
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375.

Slice eggplant into 1/2-inch slices. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for several minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and buttermilk in a shallow bowl. Pour breadcrumbs into a separate shallow bowl. Pat eggplant slices dry, then dip in the egg/buttermilk mixture, and dredge in the breadcrumbs. Place eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, preferably stoneware. Spritz with olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven, flip the slices over, spritz with olive oil, and return to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and reduce heat to 350.

In a 9 x 13 baking dish, spread one ladle of marinara sauce across the bottom. Layer half the eggplant slices, cover with half the remaining marinara sauce, and sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat layers one time.

Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Grilled Portabello Mushroom Burgers

Portabello mushrooms took me a long time to try.  I've always loved mushrooms since I was a kid, but those giant mushrooms just kind of scared me.  It wasn't until well after college that I finally gave them a try, and, as you can imagine, I immediately kicked myself for waiting that long.  The trepidation still remains, however, for other "weird" mushrooms.  I've cooked with enokis and shitakes before, but all those other mushrooms out there just seem a little too weird.  I always wanted to get Tyler Florence to come do a Food 911 show at my house, and teach me how to cook the other types of shrooms.  But as I doubt that's going to happen, I'm just going to try to figure them out on my own.


Tonight's dinner was portabello mushroom burgers.  They're so simple that they don't even need a recipe.  I used a spoon to scoop out the stem and the gills, then drizzled them with balsamic vinegar, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, then let them marinate for about 25 minutes.  I preheated a grill pan over high heat and grilled up some sliced onions to go on the burgers, then threw the mushrooms on.  They cooked for about 4 minutes on each side, until they were soft, but not totally shriveled up.

They really look like burgers, don't they?


We put them on toasted buns with a little mayonnaise, the grilled onions, and some crumbled blue cheese, and ate them with roasted potato wedges.  Delicious!  Brad liked them so much that he ate two!  We'll definitely have these again.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Tonight I made gyoza for dinner. Back in Japan we could get it fresh at any convenience store, or frozen at the grocery store or even at the 100 Yen store. Here, though, it's a little harder to find. We all love it, so I decided to give it my best shot making it myself. I found a recipe online that looked like what I had in mind, but it didn't have any ingredient measurements. Lovely. I gave it my best shot, however, and...success! It was a ton of work, but it was worth every minute. It tasted just as good as the best gyoza we had in Japan. Today was the first time I've cooked with meat at home since Brad's birthday in early February, and it was worth it!

Now that I've made it successfully, I'll try it again and get some accurate measurements. In the meantime, though, I'll at least describe the steps. First I made a simple dough of flour and water, kneaded it for about 5 minutes, then set it aside while I made the filling. The filling consisted of ground pork, cabbage and green onions cooked together, and seasoned with sake, sesame oil, soy sauce, mirin, ginger and garlic.

Next, I pulled off little pieces of the dough, and rolled them into circles.


Then I spooned a little filling into the center of each circle, folded it over and sealed it.



The edges are pleated 4 or 5 times. I'm not sure of the purpose behind this, or if it's just for aesthetics.


I heated a little oil in a skillet, and added the gyoza to lightly brown on one side.


Once they were lightly brown, I poured in about 1/2 cup water, then covered and steamed them until the water was gone.



Once they finished steaming, I plated them up and we ate them with a soy sauce and vinegar mixture for dipping. Fabulous! I almost forgot to take a picture before we finished eating all of them. Here's one of the last ones.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shokupan (Japanese white sandwich bread)

Shortly after moving to Japan four years ago, Brad and I fell deeply in love with shokupan -- Japanese sandwich bread. It's soft and light, and makes the most incredible toast you've ever tasted. It all comes in the same size loaf (about the size of a bread machine loaf), as well as varying slice thickness (6 slices per loaf, 8 slices per loaf, and so forth). We tried not to buy it very often, as it's pretty high in fat, but I've been missing it lately, and decided to try baking my own.

I searched the internet high and low, trying to find a recipe. The problem is that they're all in Japanese, and the translations I've found are sketchy at best. I mixed up some dough this morning, using an ingredient list I found on several websites, but there must be something missing, because the dough was super sticky. Having had lots of experience making bread in the past, I just went with my gut and added flour until the texture seemed right. Hmmmm.

It rose until doubled, then I shaped it into loaves and let it rise again before baking. Upon further online research, I learned that Japanese bread is baked in a lidded loaf pan, which gives it its signature square shape, and gives a more even texture with fewer air bubbles. Unfortunately, I don't have the right kind of loaf pan, so I experimented with baking one loaf with a cookie sheet on top, to act as a lid of sorts, and the other loaf just in a standard loaf pan.


The bread is fantastic! I'm so excited! It's soft, light and uniform, and soooo delicious. The bread in the lidded pan was very close to the shokupan we used to buy, although my loaf pan is so short that we ended up with a very short loaf of bread. Each slice ended up being about as large as a half slice of standard bread, but hey, it still tastes great! I ordered a Pullman pan from eBay UK a few minutes ago, so once it arrives, I'll give this bread another go.

Tonight we had tuna sandwiches on the bread, and I swear we were in heaven. I think tomorrow morning we'll make french toast with it. Yummmmm.

Here's the recipe. I'm particularly pleased with myself because I used skim milk instead of the heavy cream that the recipe called for, and it was still great!


6 oz milk
1 package yeast
Just shy of 1 cup vital wheat gluten flour (I filled a measuring cup to about the 6 1/2 oz line)
Just shy of 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz milk
2 Tbsp shortening, melted
additional flour

Heat milk until warm but not hot. Add yeast, stir to combine, and set aside for about 10 minutes.

Combine vital wheat gluten, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in an electric mixer. Add milk and yeast mixture, beating until gluten strands develop. Add remaining milk and melted shortening. Add additional flour until a bread dough texture is reached. Change to a dough hook in the mixer, and knead for 10 minutes, adding a little flour as needed, until dough is soft and elastic, but not sticky. Shape into a ball, and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. I place mine in the oven with the light on.

Punch down dough. Grease 2 loaf pans. Divide dough in half. Divide each half into thirds. Flatten into narrow rectangles, and roll tightly into balls. Place 3 rolls side by side in each loaf pan. Cover and let rise for 1 hour, until dough rises to the top of the pan.

Preheat oven to 400. Spritz tops of loaves with water. Bake 10 minutes at 400, then reduce temperature to 325 and bake an additional 10 to 20 minutes, until loaves are browned and sound hollow when tapped.

Let cool completely before slicing, or the loaves will go flat. It's hard to wait, but you'll be glad you did!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of March 16th

Sunday - tuna sandwiches on shokupan

Monday - gyoza, ramen

Wednesday - eggplant parmesan, french bread, salad

Thursday - Asian noodle salad

Saturday - tortellini with peas and garlic cheese sauce, french bread, salad

My take on tamagoyaki

I started making tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled eggs) last year when I began packing bentos for the kids, and Meg has been hooked ever since!  That girl has an astonishing affinity for eggs, particularly of the hard-boiled, scrambled or omelet variety.  One of her favorite things to eat is a plain egg cheese, no meat, no veggies, just eggs.  Tamagoyaki is great in that regard, because it doesn't have any filling.  Traditional tamagoyaki has dashi stock, sugar, salt and soy sauce whisked into the egg before cooking.  For Lydia I usually just add soy sauce and sugar, for a nice salty/sweet flavor, but Meg prefers hers with just plain eggs and nothing else.


I learned to make tamagoyaki from this tutorial, and have been off and running ever since.  I have a cheapo rectangle pan that I bought at the Daiso in Japan, but I've had the best luck just using a standard crepe pan.  

Meg asked for this for breakfast this morning, so I whipped one up.  I will try to take more photos of the cooking process next time I make it, but for now, here it is:  the finished product!

She likes it!


Updated:  Meg requested this for breakfast again today, so I snapped a few more pictures of the process.  Here's how it looks after several layers, while the last layer is cooking.


Here it is all rolled up.


Then I used a sushi mat to shape it into a triangle, then sliced it and had time to quickly snap a picture before Meg devoured it.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Doctored Take-and-Bake Pizza

Tonight's dinner was super easy. We picked up a thin crust, cheese pizza with light sauce from Papa Murphy's on our way home from class this afternoon, then stopped at the local farmers' produce stand in town and got some mushrooms, red onion, and a head of garlic. I roasted the garlic for 40 minutes, then squeezed the cloves out and put them on the pizza, along with the mushrooms and onion, and some kalamata olives I had in the fridge. Easy peasy!

The pizza was absolutely delicious, and you can't beat dinner for four for under nine dollars! I love Papa Murphy's!


Spicy Grilled Tempeh

Wednesday's dinner was delicious! I marinated tempeh in a spicy sauce, then grilled it in my Le Creuset grill pan, and served it with Spicy Cajun Potato Wedges, and a simple salad with lettuce, corn and Coco's dressing. Brad loved the tempeh, and wants to try making hot wings with this marinade some time. Yum!


Spicy Grilled Tempeh

1 8-oz package tempeh
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup mirin
1 Tbsp Tabasco Sauce
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
salt & pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil; add tempeh and boil 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together remaining ingredients in a wide, shallow bowl. When tempeh is done boiling, cut it in half crosswise, and then cut each half diagonally to make 4 triangles. Add tempeh to the marinade, and marinade at least 1 hour, turning as needed to make sure it marinades evenly.

Grease a grill pan with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Grill tempeh for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Drizzle each side with marinade right before flipping. Serve hot.

Spicy Cajun Potato Wedges

These make a great side dish, and are really easy and quick to throw together.  Just be sure to plan ahead to allow for the baking time.


Spicy Cajun Potato Wedges

2 pounds potatoes, cut into wedges
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp hot chipotle chile powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a large baking pan with cooking spray.

Toss potatoes with olive oil.  Arrange potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking pan. 

In a small bowl, combine cumin, chipotle chile powder, oregano, salt and pepper -- or just short-cut it and use cajun seasoning.  Sprinkle evenly over potato wedges.

Bake in the preheated oven until crispy, turning occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Apple Pie and Vodka Pie Crust

So.  I read about this pie crust made with vodka back in December, and was intrigued.  It's supposed to be the best, most wonderful, flaky, fabulous pie crust.  Humph.  I'm not impressed.  First of all, it was incredibly difficult to work with.  The doug had a completely different consistency than any pie crust dough I've ever used before.  It was almost like a soft sugar cookie dough.  I had to use over a half cup of flour when rolling it out, just so it wouldn't stick to the rolling pin or counter.  Then it was just about impossible to transfer from the counter to the pie.  I tried rolling it around the rolling pin, but it just fell apart.  I tried rolling it in a flour-covered dishcloth, but it all slumped together.  I tried rolling it on the towel and then inverting it over the pie pan, but it fell apart.  Uggggggh!  I finally just ended up patting all the pieces into the pan.  Great.  I had a little better luck with the top crust, but it was still a big mess.

So after all that work, how did it taste?  It was mediocre.  The crust texture is absolutely bizarre.  It's not flaky, it's just super soft and crumbly -- although crumbly doesn't even come close to describing it.  It's just weird.  I would never make it again.  I'm honestly irritated and annoyed that I wasted so much time, and an entire apple pie on this crust.  Grrr.  The filling is fabulous (how can you go wrong with a fresh apple pie?), but unfortunately, the crust is a pretty fundamental part of the pie that can't be ignored.  Meg even hated it and wouldn't finish it.

Oh well.  Live and learn, right?


I'm not even going to post the crust recipe, lest someone feel compelled to make it.  I will, however, post a good, standard pie crust, and an apple pie recipe, which is much better.  I think I might make it tomorrow, and just throw the rest of this pie out.

Pie Crust (for a 2-crust 9-inch pie)

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening, chilled
6 tablespoons ice water

Combine the flour and salt together in a medium size bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the cold shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle ice water over flour, starting with 4 tablespoons. Toss mixture with a fork to moisten, adding more water a few drops at a time until the dough comes together.

Gently gather dough particles together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Apple Pie

Pastry for a 2-crust 9-inch pie
8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp butter

Prepare pie crust, and place one crust in the bottom of a deep-dish pie pan.

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour.  Toss to combine.  Pour apples into the pie crust, and dot with butter.  Roll out the top crust, and place over filling.  Flute edges, and cut a few slits in the top crust.
Bake at 425 for 40 to 45 minutes.  If crust browns too quickly, cover the edges with foil.  Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

To make this recipe vegan, replace butter with non-dairy margarine, or omit altogether.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I've been making my mom's sukiyaki recipe for years, but tonight I tried a vegan spin on it, and replaced the strips of beef with lightly browned cubes of tofu. Overall it was a success, although I wasn't looking at the recipe when I cooked it, and I didn't add enough sugar to the sauce, so instead of it having the usual sweet/salty flavor, it was just plain salty. Bummer. The kids loved it, though, and scarfed down a ton of it. You've got to love it when young kids happily eat spinach, mushrooms, tofu, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, right? This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, so I'm thrilled to see that it's easily adapted to our attempts at a vegetarian diet.


1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c water
2 Tbsp white sugar
2 Tbsp corn starch
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb sirloin steak, cut into small strips (it works best if you partially freeze it first, so it's easier to cut)
12 or so mushrooms, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1" pieces
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 can sliced bamboo
1 bag spinach
Steamed rice (white or brown)

In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, water, sugar and cornstarch, stirring very well; set aside.

Heat the oil on medium-high in a wok or large skillet. Add the beef and cook until it's mostly brown. Add the celery and cook for a couple minutes, until it starts to soften a bit. Add the mushrooms, green onions, water chestnuts and bamboo, and stir-fry till the mushrooms are mostly done. Add the spinach, tossing together to mix.

Before the spinach wilts completely, quickly push all of the beef/veggie mixture off to the sides of the wok, creating an empty space in the middle. Re-stir the soy sauce mixture, then pour it into the middle of the wok. Cook and stir until it bubbles and thickens (this only takes a few seconds), then gently toss it with the beef/veggie mixture to coat evenly. By that time the spinach is completely cooked, and you're ready to eat!

Serve over hot rice.

Note: To make this recipe vegan, replace the beef with fried cubes of tofu, or omit altogether.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Last week

We've been super busy this past week, between studying for exams and prepping for our trip to Texas to visit Brooke and Charlie, some of our great friends from back in Washington. It had been four years since we'd seen them, and we had such a great time at their house!

I didn't do as much cooking last week as I had planned, because we ate leftovers a couple days, and Lydia and Meg cooked a couple of evenings, so we ate what they made.  We're trying to get them more comfortable in the kitchen, and they did great!  Meg always comes scrambling into the kitchen to help me as soon as she hears that I'm cooking, but Lydia lately hasn't been as interested, so we're working on getting her more excited about cooking, and comfortable using the stove by herself.  Hell, at 9 years old I was making cakes, cookies, bread, muffins and entire meals by myself, so it's about time she gets started. 

One morning she and Meg made scrambled eggs (a good start), and in the evenings they made macaroni and cheese, garlic bread, and pasta with marinara sauce. I'm so proud of them!

In addition to those meals, last week I made apple pie muffins, burritos, stuffed bell peppers, Indian chickpea curry, hummus, flat bread, and chiles rellenos. Lots of good stuff! Be sure to check out the recipes. The chickpea curry was my favorite. It's made with tomatoes and tamarind paste, so it has a great sweet/sour flavor. We ate the leftovers for two days, and I can't wait to have it again.

Weekly Menu - week of March 9th

Here's my menu plan for this week. We'll see if I actually stick to it this time! ; )

Sunday - flat bread and leftover hummus

Monday - chiles rellenos, refried beans, tortillas, and green salad.

Tuesday - sukiyaki with rice

Wednesday - grilled tempeh, spicy cajun potato wedges, greens with oil & vinegar

Thursday - pizza

Friday or Saturday - Coco Ichibanya curry, salad with Coco's dressing, flat bread

Sounds like a plan! The Coco's curry is some that we bought in Japan and brought home with us when we moved. By the way, just in case any of you guys in Japan read this and feel compelled to pick up some packages of mild pork curry and mail it to us, we would very, very gladly reimburse you for the cost of the curry, shipping & handling, and your time. I'm just saying... You could not possibly send us too many. ; )

This weekend the kids are staying over one night at David and Jaimie's house, but I'm not sure which day yet, hence the "Friday or Saturday" up there. Whichever day they're home, that's what we'll eat.

The best part about this menu is that I hardly have to buy any groceries for it, and Papa Murphy's pizza is really inexpensive -- cheaper than buying ingredients to make it myself, which is why we're going that route. I think this week's total food bill will be under $30. Sunday's meal was just leftovers, Monday's only required the purchase of poblano peppers, cheese and lettuce (less than $5), tonight's cost us just $10, the pizza should be $10-ish, and the only other thing I need to buy this week is a couple pounds of potatoes. You can't beat that!

Navy Bean Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups ham, diced (I buy it in a pack at the store, already diced)
1 lb navy beans, dry
2 bay leaves
1 ham hock, scored
Tabasco Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
salt & pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; saute several minutes, until vegetables soften. Add ham and dry beans; saute 2 minutes. Add water to make as much soup as you want. I usually fill the pot to about 1 inch from the top. Add bay leaves and ham hock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for several hours (or longer), until the beans are soft. Season to taste with Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.

Flat Bread

This recipe is so incredibly easy, and absolutely delicious! The first time I made it, I rolled it out very, very thin, so it would be crispy. The next time I made it, I rolled it fairly thick, so it as soft and chewy like naan or pita. You really won't believe how easy this is!

Flat Bread

3/4 cup beer
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
olive oil
sea salt, fresh or dried herbs, poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 490 degrees (or as high as your oven will go, if it doesn't go that high).

Combine beer, flour and salt, and stir to combine. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead for 3 to 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and set aside for 10 minutes.

Cut off a portion of the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. For very crispy bread, roll out really thin. For thicker, chewier bread, roll out to about 1/4" thickness (or more, as desired).

Brush lightly with olive oil, and if desired, sprinkle with sea salt, herbs, or poppy or sesame seeds.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes until the bread bubbles up and is lightly browned in spots.

Channa Bateta (Indian Chickpea Curry)

I served this over coarsley crumbled crispy flat bread.

Channa Bateta (Indian Chickpea Curry)

2 lbs of red potatoes (about 3-4 large potatoes)
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
6-7 curry leaves (optional)
1 1/2 Tbsp chickpea flour (also known as gram or besan flour)
2-3 Tbsp of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup water (or more as required)
1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 handful cilantro chopped
1/2 to 1 tablespoons concentrated tamarind paste or 1/2 cup tamarind and date chutney

Wash and boil potatoes until cooked but not soft. Set aside to cool, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Heat oil In a large skillet over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When mustard seeds pop, add chickpea flour and cook several minutes, until light brown. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, red pepper flakes, turmeric and cumin, and cook for several minutes. Add water to thin the tomato mixture. Add potatoes and chickpeas and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add half the tamarind sauce or tamarind and date chutney, and cook for several minutes. Add more tamarind or chutney to taste. The tamarind is very sour, so if you add too much, you can use molasses or honey to balance the sourness.

Stir in cilantro, and serve.

Apple Pie Muffins


Apple Pie Muffins

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
5 Tbsp butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 cups diced apples

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a muffin pan (I made mini muffins) with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate smaller bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla and the 1 cups of sugar. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in diced apples.

Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes for mini muffins, or 22-25 minutes for standard muffins.

While muffins are baking, mix together the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

When muffins are done, remove from the pan, and dip the tops in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.