Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Is This Good?" Non-Mexican Beans and Rice

Dear Turkey,

Sometimes I make something and my constituents say things like, "that was really interesting/original/filling" and then I know that they didn't like it. Sometimes they say things like, "that was really interesting/original/filling" and then they get seconds (this is what happens with Kasha and Bowties). This was one of those times. I usually make beans and rice with Mexican flavors, but I am an equal opportunity beans-and-rice-er, and I am on a small white beans kick.

Yellow Tomato and White Bean Beans and Rice (is it permissible to use beans twice in one title?):

For the beans, saute a few T of oil AND butter (sound familiar?), along with 1 clove of garlic and one small onion (sliced). When it starts to brown, add a sliced serrano pepper (I wanted all of this to get a little brown, but also nice and softy and saucy), a few chopped tomatoes, a few T of white wine and the juice of one lemon.

Add one regular can of small white beans (drained and rinsed). Cook on low/medium heat until Things Fall Apart (at least a little), and then throw in a big handful of sliced green olive with pimentos (trust me).

For the rice, add a few healthy spoonfuls of butter AND oil, along with a generous pinch of salt (like if you were wearing a baseball glove), and teaspoon or so of turmeric to the rice cooker before cooking.

Top with sour cream; this will increase the chance that people will ask for seconds.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yellow Heirloom Tomato Pasta Master

Dear Turkey,

Let me introduce you to one of the best pasta dishes that I have ever made. Since I'm the pasta master, that's saying something. This is totally an after-work quick dinner. I know because I made it after work. I'm sure this would be good with regular or even canned tomatoes, but the yellow and orange tomatoes were really meaty (like, not too seedy or watery) and their mild flavor and smooth texture just melded into umami-awesomeness with the other ingredients.

Yellow Heirloom Tomato Pasta Master:

Heat a few T of butter AND oil with 1-2 t of minced garlic and a big sprinkle of salt. Then add a regular-size can of small white beans (drained), and two big tomatoes, roughly chopped (I liked the contrast of the big tomato pieces and the small beans) and cook on medium until everything starts to soften (I kept the heat a little bit lower than I normally would so that it didn't get too brown). Add a few T of white wine and a T or so of lemon juice and cook for a few more minutes. You'll see everything start to get nice and saucy. Microwave some frozen peas and throw them in at the last minute so they stay nice and green. Serve on top of pasta and underneath some grated parm.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Now My Custard Is Really Awesome

Dear Turkey,

Now that you know how good my custard is, you are probably too embarrassed to read my blog. Now you I can be even more ashamed with this awesome addition:

Grated chocolate. Grating chocolate by hand is really easy (you just say, honey, will you grate this chocolate?).

The small pieces make it that much fluffier/more interesting/delicious. I put them in right at the end, when you think your ice cream maker can hardly take it anymore.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Heirloom. Tomato. Caprese.

Dear Turkey,

I am a snob snob. Meaning, I don't like snobs, and that makes me a snob. This sentiment extends to tomato snobs, at least the ones who pay $3.99/lb for "heirloom tomatoes" from Wegmans in January. This is different (because if it weren't then I would be a snob, too). These heirloom tomatoes are so real that I can't even tell if they are all tomatoes. (You should be happy that I resisted the urge [haha] to arrange them in a naughty configuration for this picture.) 

Don't forget the heirloom (licorice flavored -- it's good, trust me) basil:

Also, that bread knife is an heirloom because it was my grandma's and my mom continues to use it despite the fact that it's broken.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Nuh Muhs

Dear Turkey,

At my house, granola bars are called "Nuh Muhs." Try it -- it's catchy. Usually I make my mom buy them for us from BJs (I am ashamed). I feel like it's too much work with all the toasting/cooking/greasing pans/baking. But I saw this recipe in this cool article about things that college students can make in their dorms (a subject close to my heart), and the recipe had none of those things mentioned above (which I usually love to do, except, apparently, when it comes to Nuh Muhs). It won an award in a peanut festival. I was sold. I am going to reproduce the recipe below, with my substitutions in parentheses:

  • 1/2 cup (60 g) salted dry-roasted peanuts (chopped pecans)
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) roasted sunflower seed kernels, or use more peanuts or other nuts (sesame seeds)
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) raisins or other dried fruit (mini chocolate chips, duh)
  • 2 cups (160 g) uncooked oatmeal, old-fashioned or instant
  • 2 cups (50 g) toasted rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies (honey nut cheerios)
  • 1/2 cup (130 g) peanut butter, crunchy or creamy (creamy, natural)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Optional: 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ (I didn't use this)
Mix together the first six ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine peanut butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in a large bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and stir until blended. Add dry ingredients from medium bowl. Stir until coated. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square pan coated with non-stick spray. Press down firmly (It helps to spray fingers with nonstick spray). Let stand about 1 hour. Cut into bars.

I used parchment paper, as you can see below. 

It did turn out a bit crumbly, which doesn't bother me because I ended up with a nice bowl of chewy granola ("Nuh"). However, I'm going to try doubling the "glue" portion next time and see if that makes them too chewy (impossible).


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Make Your Own Chocolate Milk

Dear Turkey,

I never really thought it was worth it to make my own chocolate milk until I read this blog post. This blog has never failed me (except that I get carpal tunnel syndrome from having to scroll through all of the pictures [which, admittedly, are way better than mine]), so I was kind of won over by her argument that homemade chocolate milk is way richer and creamier than the store bought version.

This is really like a smoothie with no ice, which was nice for a change. I blended up 2 c of vanilla soymilk, 1/2 c frozen raspberries, dates (just 4 or 5 -- that's enough), and 1/4 c cocoa. Make sure you blend it until it's really smooth (which will take like 5 seconds if you have a Vitamix -- I wouldn't know).

It really did turn out thick and creamy, kind of like a cross between a smoothie and a milkshake. The raspberry/chocolate flavor was awesome. I couldn't really taste the dates, but they added sweetness and made it a little thicker while counteracting the powdery-cocoa-thickness. It was so satisfying that I turned down a trip to the ice cream store right after I drank it. True story. Space placemat optional.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Custard Is As Good As Yours

Dear Turkey,

Now that I have your attention, I'm going to tell you how I made frozen custard that's as good as yours. It's probably better. We should have a competition.

First of all, my recipe came from a famous, old, French person. The day before, I gently heated 4 egg yolks (save the whites!), 1 c milk (you could scald this milk with a delicate flavoring agent, like an herb, beforehand; since I was using strong flavoring agents, I waited until later), a pinch of salt, and 1/2 c sugar (that's it!) until it reached 165 degrees. Yes, use a thermometer. I stored this in the fridge overnight.

If you are using a kitchen-aid ice cream maker like I do, make sure that it's been in the back of your freezer for over 24 hours, and that your freezer is on the coldest setting. Also, freeze the bowl that you plan to store the custard in when you're done. When you're ready to make the ice cream, pour in the batter, 1 pint of heavy cream, and any strong flavoring agents (I used a T of vanilla extract and a few T of coffee liqueur). When it's almost done, add anything chunky (I used mini chocolate chips).

Eat it right away for that custard-y feeling, or freeze for a couple hours for maximum scoop-i-ness but optimum softness. In other words, you are trying to optimize taste and texture. As you know, custard with no artificial stabilizers won't keep for weeks in the freezer. 

For dessert, you will probably want something healthy, like iced coffee with foamed milk, coffee liqueur, whipped cream, and cinnamon:

And now for something actually healthy: Cornspacho. It's gazpacho made out of corn. Just boil or steam some corn for 1 minute (or microwave it with the husk on for 1 minute), cut it off the cob, and blend it with just enough water to make it soupy and salt to taste. If you still don't believe me about how good this is, try it.

Also, another awesome recipe from Smitten Kitchen: roasted tomato salsa. Just broil some salted tomatoes, jalapenos, and garlic until you start to see brown spots. Then blend it up, adding water if necessary.  

Oh, yeah, those egg whites. Mix them with a pinch of cream of tartar, a pinch of salt, 1 T vanilla, and 1/2 c or 1 c (depending on how sweet you like it) sugar, until stiff peaks form. Spoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 200 degrees (this will take several hours if it's humid).


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Unhealthy Banana Bread (and other stuff)

Dear Turkey,

Sometimes I get tired of healthy, vegan baking. But I do think it's true that if you're used to stuff that isn't full of refined sugar and fat, it's easy to think that stuff is too sweet (M&Ms excepted), especially baked goods. Like, baked goods from the store are generally gross (HoHos excepted).

This is a chocolate-y, dense banana bread that is made with whole wheat flour and doesn't have tons of sugar, for when you just want something with that butter-and-eggs springy-ness. (For example, when I feed my child my usual healthy banana bread, I have to dustbust the floor because it's just that much more crumbly.)

"Unhealthy" Banana Bread (I wouldn't go so far as to call this a cake):

Ingredients (mix in this order):

1 stick butter, melted (use some to grease a loaf pan)
1 c sugar
a generous splash of vanilla
2 eggs
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 c whole wheat flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t allspice
1 scant c soymilk/milk of your choice mixed with 1 t lemon juice
1 c mini chocolate chips

Mix it all together, stirring a lot after the first few additions, less when you add dry ingredients. Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 degrees for 45 mins-1 hr.

While we are on the subject of making things more delicious with just a little of the "bad stuff" (note: M&Ms are not bad), here is a beans and rice update. You probably know that I love to not stir my beans while they are cooking. so that I can get a nice honey-y crust on the bottom for ultimate umami-ness. I just heat some olive oil, garlic, honey, jalapenos, cumin, and lemon juice, and then pour in the beans (undrained). I cook them until most of the liquid is gone and I'm scared that they are about to burn. Then I wait 30 seconds. Then I turn off the heat. 
It turns out that I can apply the same technique to the rice, too (this is easy at my house where I just leave the rice cooker on "warm" for a while). After cooking the rice, I saute it a little in some olive oil or butter, lime juice, salt and turmeric. Then I let the bottom get a little brown. Not as brown as for paella, but brown enough that meat eaters still think my cooking is delicious.



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sweet AND Savory Onion Bread

Dear Mark Bittman,

Thank you for inventing this sweet AND savory onion bread. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical when I saw the recipe, because I am lazy and I didn't want to pre-cook the onions, but I trust you, and, once again, you didn't let me down.

First, I cooked 2 c of onions (sliced thin and not too long) in 2 or 3 T of butter until they were clear and soft but not too brown. Then I buttered a pie plate and sprinkled 2 T of brown sugar on top of the butter. I poured the onions on top of that.

Then I mixed 2 c flour, 1 T baking powder, 1 t salt, 1 t sugar, 1 egg, 1 c milk, and 1/4 c oil. I poured that whole business on top of the onions and baked it at 350 degrees for 35-40 mins (it won't take as long as you think, but, then again, I guess you would know).

While it was baking I cooked some eggplant, carrots, zucchini, garlic, and potatoes in sesame oil, butter, brown sugar, tamari, and rice vinegar. It was kind of like an Asian stir fry/stew. I poured it over the bread and ate it with a fork and lots of hot sauce.

Good job, Mark,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sundried Tomato Pesto

Dear Turkey,

Sundried tomato pesto: umami taste sensation, full of good healthy fats, a little bit sweet so when you eat it with salty chips you can't stop, a good way to stretch those expensive sundried tomatoes. 

I used to make this all the time, and then I kind of forgot about it, but it's really good. And if you have weird friends who don't like sundried tomatoes, you might be able to trick them with this if it's a texture thing.

In your vitamix blender that will be smelling hot by the time this is over, blend:

1 jar (8 or 12 oz) sundried tomatoes and their oil
1 c pine nuts or pecans if you're cheap
1 regular-size can black olives (pour off about 90% of the brine first)
1 c italian parsley
1 T salt
2-4 T lemon juice, or however much you need to make it blend-able (you can also add water if it's getting too lemony)

If you run out of chips, it's awesome on pasta or in a wrap.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Spring Rolls Help You Gain Friends and Influence People

Dear Dale Carnegie,

Have you ever just wished you could gain friends and influence people? Well, I have. That's when I discovered spring rolls.They are cheap and easy to make, but, because restaurants charge you $5 for two of them, many American people of non-Asian descent can be tricked into thinking that you're an amazing cook if you make spring rolls for them. This simple trick has allowed me to make friends with and influence my family many times, even though they have happily fallen for the same trick many times before. For example, last night I made the spring rolls, and I then influenced my family members to do the dishes (by leaving right after dinner, another famous trick). 

These spring rolls are really awesome because of the tofu. I've been trying to make crispy, saucy tofu for a long time (kind of like how I imagine General Tso's Chicken would taste like, minus the chicken). This time, I actually followed the directions and drained and pressed the tofu (under a plate with some stuff on top of it), before I cornstarch-ed it, and I think it really made a difference. Also, frying scares me, but I knew that I needed to use enough oil to necessitate a lid on the pan, the exhaust fan, and a long-sleeved shirt; otherwise it won't work.

I followed the recipe from this cool blog, but I'm going to copy and paste it here because
1) I'm lazy
2) I actually DID follow the directions, so you should, too

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Crispy Tofu:

Spring Rolls
  • 1/2 cup each julienned carrots, red pepper and cucumber
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 4 ounces vermicelli or rice noodles (the thinner the better)
  • 8-10 Rice Spring Roll Papers
Almond Butter Dipping Sauce
  • 1/3 cup salted creamy almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce (GF if gluten free)
  • 1-2 Tbsp brown sugar, agave or honey if not vegan (depending on preferred sweetness)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • Hot water to thin
Crispy Tofu
  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and thoroughly dried/pressed
  • 4 Tbsp sesame oil, divided
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2.5 Tbsp almond butter dipping sauce
  • 1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar or agave nectar
  1. Start by preparing rice noodles in boiling hot water for about 10 minutes (read instructions on package), then drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and cut pressed tofu into small rectangles. Toss in 3 Tbsp cornstarch and flash fry in ~3 Tbsp sesame oil, flipping on all sides to ensure even browning – about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  3. Prep veggies and prepare almond butter sauce by adding all sauce ingredients except water to a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add enough hot water to thin until a pourable sauce is achieved. Adjust flavors as needed (I often add a little more chili garlic sauce and brown sugar).
  4. To add more flavor to the tofu, transfer ~2.5 Tbsp of the sauce to a small bowl and add an additional Tablespoon each of soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar (or agave) and whisk to combine.
  5. Add tofu back to the skillet over medium heat and add “sauce/glaze,” stirring to coat. Cook for several minutes or until all of the sauce is absorbed and the tofu looks glazed, stirring frequently (see photos). Set aside with prepared veggies and vermicelli noodles.
  6. To assemble spring rolls, pour very hot water into a shallow dish or skillet and immerse rice paper to soften for about 10-15 seconds.
  7. Transfer to a damp cutting board or damp towel and gently spread out edges into a circle. It may take a little practice, so don’t feel bad if your first few attempts are a fail!
  8. To the bottom third of the wrapper add a small handful of vermicelli noodles and layer carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, fresh herbs and 2-3 pieces of tofu on top (see photo). Gently fold over once, tuck in edges, and continue rolling until seam is sealed.
  9. Place seam-side down on a serving platter and cover with damp warm towel to keep fresh. Repeat until all fillings are used up – about 8-10 spring rolls total.
  10. Serve with almond butter sauce and sriracha or hot sauce of choice. I like to mix mine and go dip happy.
  11. Leftovers store well individually wrapped in plastic wrap, though best when fresh.

I used unsalted almond butter and non-reduced-sodium tamari, and that worked fine. I also increased the amount of noodles and that made enough to use a whole package of wrappers. I used brown sugar for all of the sweeteners. (So much for following the directions.)

If you are lucky enough to have a spouse who is a better cook than you are and doesn't want to embarrass you by letting you put his stuff on your blog, you could ask him to make a Korean BBQ dipping sauce to go with these as well. Hypothetical situation. 

Good luck, Dale,