Monday, June 23, 2008

i haven't forgotten, nor have i stopped cooking

The kids are out of town until Friday. Its very strange and we miss them very much. Cooking for three boring ole grownups who eat things without hesitation and have typical reactions is honestly kind of, well... boring. I love the way my kids eat. Elliot's favorite food when he was a baby was lima beans. He called them "yummy" beans. He now, at 12, loves pho with the whole of his heart and practices eating skittles with his personal chopsticks. Isabella never did eat baby food. She nursed until she was a year old and ate tid bits from my plate and then one day before we knew it she was chomping jalapeno's dipped in sri racha. Ethan. Oh, Ethan...the whitest child I ever did have. I really thought he was going to be my picky one, what with his undying love for candy and bread. I figured out at a very early point that with him you just need to tell him that he likes it. For example, "Mommy, do I like Pad Thai?" as long as I respond, "Yes, remember?" he'll try anything. So without them around to cook for, I find myself wondering what is the point?

That and I broke my finger. I will go to the Orthopeadic surgeon this week and see if they want to put the bone back where it belongs or just let it heal since its the little lesser used finger. Why is it everytime I break bones I have to extra break them? No hairline nonsense for me. So thats where we're at and thats why I haven't posted for a few days. I made a delightful chicken Milanese last night that you'll like. The spinach and shallot salad was an easy bed for it. I was all hopped up on a pain pill and starving, otherwise I probably would have shared it with you. I'll certainly make it again this summer. So please stick with me. I'll be back in a day or two.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

yummy baby bok choy

I have been cooking up a storm since last Sunday. I really nailed slow roasting pork loin for Fathers day... dry marinated overnight and stuffed with garlic cloves then thinly sliced and topped with roasted leeks, vidalia onion, and sliced provolone on grilled sourdough
Monday I made my first ever barbeque sauce and turned it into delightful pulled pork sandwiches.
On Tuesday I didn't really cook up much of a storm as we went out to celebrate the last day of school, however we did stop at the Vicala market to purchase pickled quail eggs ( the kids' new favorite snack), pickled mud fish( Ash is asking for it), and lychees in heavy syrup. The produce they have is perfectly bagged for a family this size so I also grabbed a bag of baby bok choy and some lovely green beans. I would love to be able to prove to you that I have accomplished all of these beautiful things, but I can't. I screwed up the camera. I fixed it just in time to get a few shots of what I did with the bok choy so I will share that with you. And maybe a few other things. Like a picture of the peonies that Ash bought me at last weeks farmers market up there at the top. Pretty, yes?

I cut the bottoms off the baby boks and soaked them in cold water for about a half an hour to get all of the dirt off. I lay them all out between two kitchen towels and dry them up before putting them on a grill pan. I took a picture of this happening but you cannot see it because its gone. Gone where you ask? I don't effing know, I respond. But here is a picture of Isabelle showing you how much smarter bok choy will make you.

So, bok choy is spread out on a bbq grill pan, the kind with all the holes so you get a grilled effect without losing your greens through the grates of your grill. I drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and five spice. I also added a little coarse ground coriander here, but its not necessary. Toss and grill checking often and tossing occasionally. These will be done when the white part of the bok choy at the base has become tender looking...a little translucent. Take a Beano and eat these while they're hot. Seriously finger looking good. And once again, sigh.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

saturday spring rolls

The kids were gone this Saturday. One would think that cooking for fewer people would be a relief...but its not. No folks, not a relief at all. It was actually kind of daunting to rifle through and figure out what I could make that could still be applicable on a larger scale. At one point I threw up my hands and whined, " I want Le Le!" ( Our favorite Viet/Thai cuisine in the area) Thats when I had a stroke of genius. Well, actually thats when I saw the spring roll wrappers under the loaf of wheat bread. Spring rolls!!! yum.

Spring rolls are Ashley's favorite food. He loves them almost as much as he, oh! chocolate cake and cheeseburgers! We first attempted these at Sylvia's birthday feast. I set them up as a build your own buffet and it actually went over really well with everyone young to old. Start by soaking your rice noodles for ten minutes in cold water and then boiling for ten more, rinsing in cold water to stop the cooking process. During this time you can start soaking your rice papers, about 4-5 per pie plate ( I use a pie plate to soak my papers) in lukewarm water for about 6 minutes. These can be stacked and covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Julienne or chop or just sort of cut some carrots, an english cucumber, scallion, mint, thai basil, cilantro, and maybe a little bit of lemon verbena ( which I have in abundance if anyone would like some). Lay out some bean sprouts and maybe a little bit of BBQ pork or shrimp. The rolling part is really, really a huge pain in the butt. Its also a lot of fun to keep attempting. I have found that the husbands love of the roll has translated into an expert ability at handling it, so he is my designated roller. For a dipping sauce I cut some hoisin with low sodium soy sauce and added a tad anchovy past and some scallions. 3-4 spring rolls make a nice cool dinner on a warm summer evening.


Monday, June 16, 2008

no guilt ,have an extra glass of wine, friday night pasta

I love this easy, tasty, veggie filled pasta for a couple reasons. Not only is it easy to throw together, but its so low in fat and calories its virtually guilt free. I doubled this once for a Sunday dinner with friends and it just didn't work out... I totally effed it up. So I went back to making the smaller version, which easily feeds six, and it came out just fine. This originally came from the Julee Russo, Fresh Start Cookbook ( her version serves 2).
I start off boiling a box of linguine in some well salted water.
I steam broccoli florets and green beans for a few minutes (4-6) until done and set aside, and then steam asparagus cut into two inch segments and snap peas until done (2-3) and throw in with your broccoli and beans. ( You can use good quality frozen vegetables for this if you like. As far as amounts per vegetable, use the amounts that you think will really fill out one box of pasta maybe using a little more of your favorite vegetable.) Reserve about 1 to 1 1/2 cups steaming vegetable broth. We didn't have any snap peas this week so we steamed some edamame and popped the seeds out of the pods and mixed it in. Chop up 1/4 cup dill, 4-5 garlic gloves, and 6-7 scallions green part only.

Drain pasta put back on heat, add vegetables, garlic, onions, dill, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper,
a dash of olive oil, salt, black pepper, the reserved broth, toss to coat, and serve.
Some folks like to add a little parmesan...some folks like me.



Thursday, June 12, 2008

because its f'n cold lentil soup

I may have figured out something important yesterday when I was so into my lentils that I forgot to get the photographs I wanted. I think I love them. I do. I love lentils. Not quite enough to marry them, but enough to spend some time getting to know them a little better. I would let lentils take me out, totally. I think this must be why I have never really changed a lentil recipe. It must be purely because the lentils are just sooo damn good. This is another everyday food recipe I found last fall and we used all winter...(which we appear to still be in the midst of) So here goes the perfect easy 25 minute lentil soup. In a heavy stock pot with a little bit of oil cook up 1 onion and 3-4 cloves garlic. I toss in bit of salt, pepper , and 1 teaspoon of cayenne after the onions are translucent. When all smells yummy, 3 carrots diced very small, add 1 (32 oz) box of vegetable stock, 1 bag of lentils, 1 bay leaf (remove before serving), and 3 cups water. Bring all of this to a simmer and cover half way. Cook until tender (about 25 minutes) and then add a little more salt to taste. I top these with homemade sourdough croutons. I cut day olds and butts into 1 inch cubes and toss with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This gets baked on a sheet for about 8 minutes at 375, tossing once half way through. Serve to your starving family with a dash of parmesan.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Red Beans and Rice for Riah

This is probably the closest thing my family has to a "family recipe". My parents started making it when I was a teen and it has gone through many incarnations since. While making this last night I had to do something I had never done before while cooking red beans and rice, I had to measure.
It was a little discombobulating and it totally slowed down what is normally a super fast weeknight meal, though I think it was worth it. For I had a goal, folks. Yes indeedy I did. I wanted to get this recipe out for Mariah so maybe she could make it for her mom, Annie. See Mariah professes to love my version and compares her mothers and mine on a regular basis ( which I confess I find endearing and flattering). I thought I could kill two birds with one stone and feed my family and pass on this recipe to someone who loves it as much as I did at her age. One of the really great parts about this recipe is that it feeds about 10 people. (Which means we have lunch leftovers, Yay!)
I start by dicing one whole onion and 4 cloves garlic. I heat a big cast iron skillet add a little oil and toss in half of the onion and garlic, adding a little salt and pepper. These will cook until the onion is translucent and then you'll add 1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey, cooking it through. Now, I add half my onions and garlic instead of all for one very specific reason...I like the crunch of the second half of onion in the overall texture at the end. After the turkey is cooked through add in one large can dark red kidney beans, two small cans light red kidney beans(all drained), 1 tablespoon grasshopper spit, 1 teaspoon dried oregano crushed in fingers, 1 teaspoon garlic chili paste, a bit of salt and pepper keeping in mind you can always add more later so don't over do it, and the second half of your garlic and onions. stir this up, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. When your beans start to split and everything tastes good add 6-7 scallions whites and greens chopped, and about 1/4 cup fresh basil. Mix all of this together and serve over basmati rice. Top with a little sri racha and grasshopper spit if you like and eat.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

you're gonna need a bigger bowl noodle salad

Alright, this one seems a little complicated but I promise you its not. I make a huge batch of the necessary marinade/sauce because I use 4/6 chicken breasts and a half a block of very firm tofu. The Vicala market on MLK is, so far, the only place near us that sells Tacoma Tofu. Tacoma Tofu is a tofu wholesaler on MLK as well. It has always seemed a little strange to us that this product isn't abundant in the area. Perhaps more people have wondered the same thing?
Anyhow, the marinade...I use about a cup of low sodium soy sauce, 1/2 cup lite rice wine vinegar 3 tablespoons organic brown sugar teaspoon anchovy paste or fish sauce 3-4 green onions, 3-4 garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes a teaspoon and a half give or take. This recipe would typically call for lime juice but I ALWAYS forget it (though I find a place for it later). I chop my chicken breasts very thin and marinate in a plastic bag using about half the marinade. The tofu get diced and marinated in a small glass or metal bowl. I let these sit at room temperature for a half an hour to 45 minutes.

In the mean time I soak my noodles for ten minutes in cold water, and then boil for ten minutes. When I remove them from the heat I rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and set them aside. I use a vegetable peeler to get my carrot ribbons. I cut my english cucumber into strips. I spend a little time chopping up cilantro, mint, and lemon verbena ( all grown in my flower beds alongside my pretty things, though I can never seem to produce enough cilantro to make it worth our while) I pull my bean sprouts out of the fridge and cut up some limes and a few more scallions if I feel like it. Usually, with kid, dog, cat, and husband interruptions this keeps me busy until its time to get everything cooking.
I throw Isabella's marinated tofu into the wok first, cook it up for a few minutes and set aside covered with foil. I the cook the chicken in batches ( in a little oil) until I can't help but burn my fingers and mouth stealing tastes. This is where the lime juice I forget in the marinade comes in. As the chicken is about to leave the wok, hit it with some fresh lime juice and then set aside in a covered bowl until everything is done and you are ready to compile. The noodles go into a bowl, followed by everything else in any order you like. Topped with a couple spoonfuls of the sauce and maybe a little sri racha, this dish is unstoppable. No kidding. Unfreakingstoppable.

Monday, June 9, 2008

amazing spicy asparagus

What you see above is a wok full of the most amazing smells you have ever smelled.
It is 2 tablespoons of peanut oil, 1 trimmed and chopped stalk of lemon grass, 1 inch of galangal which is easily found in our local thai markets,( it is a cousin of ginger, a bit firmer and a little more lemony) 2 chopped serranos stir fried until golden.
Add one pound of asparagus and cook for about 3 minutes. Stir in one teaspoon sugar, 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce,1 tablespoon plus a dash of fish sauce and toss together. Just before removing from heat toss in a hand full of chopped cilantro and crushed roasted peanuts.

Plate and serve with a squeeze of lime juice.

Weep with joy at how wonderful this tastes and smells.


anti headache chocolate cake

My mother in law turns 60 today. ( Happy Birthday Sylvia!)
I made a Vietnamese Feast on Saturday which I will be outlining for you very, very soon.
However, its early in the morning and I'm still kind of dragging so I thought I would start us off with cake.
This cake is so stupidly good. This cake is even more stupidly easy.
A friend tipped me off to the diet cake awhile ago and its really the only way I go for most occasions. It eases up the cake calories so I can have more delectable topping calories.

A diet cake is a box of your favorite cake mix and a can of diet soda.
Thats it. I have mixed chocolate with diet cherry coke, diet root beer, regular diet soda... I have done spice cake with diet ginger ale and diet seven up. The options are endless, really.

So this one was diet cherry coke and chocolate.
Mix them together for a couple minutes with an electric mixer and pour into a greased bundt and cook as per instructions. ( my oven and bundt call for about 35 minutes)

After you remove the cake from oven and its sits for a few minutes to cool, invert onto cake plate and set aside. In a double boiler melt 2.5 ounces chopped dark chocolate lavender bar and 1 ounce dark chocolate. Melt nice and slow stirring gently. Drizzle with a spoon over the top of cake.
Stick the whole thing into the fridge until the chocolate is hard again. While this is happening whip some heavy whipping cream to form stiff peaks. Before serving dollop some cream about the top, garnish with a few heads of lavender from your (or your neighbors) garden, and sprinkle the whole thing with a little bit of dark chocolate bits.

Stick a few candles in and sing a song.

Keeping in mind as you eat, the delightful soothing headache relieving benefits of lavender.
And then go do the dishes.


quick clean quesadilla's

I grew up hating quesadillas. They were oddly goopy tortillas filled with waxy cheese globs...bland flavorless pockets of grease.
I started making my version about a year ago for Ash and Ethan, mostly...though even I will eat them. The options for the quesadillas are pretty much endless. My first attempts were made with some canned chicken my mother in law had brought over. ( I didn't know chicken came in a can like tuna fish until that was a little scary but worked out beautifully) Since Isabella decided to become a vegetarian I have found myself replacing 2-3 meals a week with vegetarian alternatives. No one seems to mind...(actually, no one seems to have noticed.) So read on and keep in mind you can add whatever meat you like if you want.

I start by heating my skillet on medium while I chop my tomatoes, cilantro, Serrano (or any kind you prefer) chilies, and scallions. I heat up a can of black beans and a can of refried beans. You can of course use dry beans and make your own refried's...but that sort of defeats the purpose of a quick quesadilla. The market had Weight Watchers brand Mexican cheese on sale and I was surprised by how melty it got...a little flavorless compared to Sargentos , but it worked and it was cheap. On a plate layer 1 tortilla, 1/4 cup cheese, sprinkle of cilantro, 4 slices roma tomato,
pinch of scallions, a scattering of chilies, and a dash of your favorite hot sauce. I use a red sauce and a golden habenjero. Top with another tortilla and slide into a heated skillet that has been hit with some olive oil spray. Cook on each side until its puffed a little bit, crispy and golden.

Remove from heat and set back onto your plate.
I like to cut mine into quarters before I top with a spoonful of refried beans, a spoonful of black beans, cilantro, salsa is an option if you have any and a dash of Parmesan or Asiago if you like. This last bit is really open to whatever you have and whatever you like. I want to point out that I don't use a lot of cheese. I think that the 1/4 cup is really enough to provide you with the melty cheesiness without overwhelming the crispy tortilla and the fresh tomato and cilantro flavors.

(Dad, do not put anything resembling sour cream on this...I will consider it blasphemous.)
Serve this up with a cup of tomato soup and it's a perfect quick lunch or dinner.
Before Elliot had braces and peanut butter was out of the question I used to make him and Ayva a peanut butter, banana, fig jam version that I dusted with a little bit of confectioners sugar before serving. Yum.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

tuesday night turkey meatballs

How I love thee... and the ease with which you manage to top off my boring leftovers so appropriately on a typical weeknight.
I had leftover vegetables from Sunday dinner, a can of good quality spaghetti sauce, and about a pound and a half of ground turkey. What was I to do?
( aside from go out to eat) Make meatballs, duh.

In my mortar I combined 1 Tablespoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried fennel, 1 teaspoon garlic granules,1/2 teaspoon kosher salt,1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. I mashed all this up until the fennel was broken down nicely and I added it to my turkey along with 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1 egg, and 1 Tablespoon chicken stock. ( I actually used no-chicken chicken stock which we seem to have in the house often now that Isabelle is a vegetarian)

I mixed until well combined,( I confess that I at times ask Ash do this because my hands get too cold and I always end up touching the faucet in an attempt to warm my freezing meat fingers, and poultry faucet is gross, you know?) form into little balls and cook at 375 for about 30 minutes. check one about 20 minutes in to be sure you're not over cooking.

Add these to whatever you want.



Monday, June 2, 2008

wedding day dal

Its not often that I make a recipe that I don't eventually end up changing. This weekend we had a wedding with a potluck dinner and then a couple of friends over for Sunday dinner( we'll get to that one later) These are times when I generally stick to family favorites or quick classics...that usually just happen to be recipes that after my first attempt I have never felt a need to change.
I chose this dal for the wedding because its good, its easy, and it needs very little explanation or time. I originally found this recipe in everyday food.

If you can find canned lentils for this it will only take about twenty-twenty five minutes to make.
If not, go ahead and cook your lentils, I use the whole bag, for about twenty minutes until tender.

In a large heavy pot heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
Add one whole onion chopped and about 2 inches of grated ginger.

Cook these up with a little salt until the onions are translucent.

Add 1.5 tablespoons garam masala ( I prefer mixing my own, I'll get to that another time)
1 tablespoon curry powder ( mild to hot its up to you)
1 teaspoon cayanne

Cook all this up for about a minute or so, it will make a beautiful smell.

Add lentils and one big can of your favorite tomato sauce plus one cup water.

Stir it all together and let it simmer for about 15 minutes or so...

Toss on some fresh chopped cilantro and the juice from half a lime.

Serve with basmati rice and lime wedges.




( I have at times topped this dish with thinly sliced grilled pork loin, its nice...but unnecessary)

This dish helped us meet some really great local folks whom I hope we will be seeing again.

Congratulations Nate and Lori!