Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lettuce wraps

Iceberg lettuce doesn't have much of a use in my world, but it was available at such a ridiculously low price in my supermarket that I had to try to do something with one. It turns out, I would have done better with a Boston lettuce for this use as well. The outcome was nevertheless tasty.

8 leaves of Boston lettuce
1 large chicken breast
1 tbsp starch
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
0.25 tsp baking powder
8 oz can of water chestnuts
1 small yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Sambal chili sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
4 oz dehydrated shiitake mushrooms
0.5 cup chow main noodles

Soak the dehydrated mushrooms in warm water for 2 hours, ensuring that the mushrooms are under water (cover full bowl with a plate). Dice the water chestnuts and the onion.

Grind the chicken breast. Best done with a mostly frozen breast cut into 1-inch cubes and pulsed about 10-12 times in a food processor.

Mix the ground meat with the starch, baking powder, cooking wine and one tbsp soy sauce. Set aside.

Mix the remaining soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, chili sauce, and hoisin sauce. Set aside.

To a large skillet add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat until near its smoke point. Add the chicken and brown it, breaking it up with the spoon. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes. Press in the garlic and add the ginger. Stir for 30 seconds. Add the re-hydrated mushroom caps sliced and the water chestnuts. Cook for 3 minutes.

Add the sauce mix and the chicken. Cook until sauce thickens. Serve with lettuce leaves and chow mein noodles.

Bacon and bean tomato soup

A hearty winter delight. Packed with energy and warmth for the season. An absolutely devourable dish in our current -25C weather.

8 oz applewood smoked bacon
28 oz worth of canned pinto beans
28 oz if diced tomatoes
0.5 cup quinoa
4 cups chicken broth
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika
0.5 tsp oregano
salt and black pepper

Dice the bacon and add to a pot. Cook on medium until the fat renders from the bacon and it's becoming crispy. Remove bacon onto paper towels. Decant most of the bacon fat, leaving only one tbsp in the pot.

Dice the onion and add to the bacon fat. Saute until translucent. Be prepared, for your kitchen will smell so amazing at this point that you will be highly tempted to eat all the bacon bits.

Add the minced garlic, paprika and oregano. Cook for 30 seconds.

Add the can of diced tomatoes, the beans and the stock. Bring to a simmer and add the quinoa. Cook until quinoa is done. Season with salt, black pepper and sugar is needed (this will depend on your tomatoes).

Serve and garnish with bacon.

Maple-strawberry milkshake

I haven't had too many experiences with milkshakes before. I had some leftover vanilla ice cream and a bunch of individual-serving frozen strawberries and this is what came of it. No artificial flavorings or food colors. Fresh and tasty!

0.75-1 cup frozen strawberries
1 large scoop of vanilla froyo
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp maple syrup

Microwave the frozen strawberries on high for 25 seconds.

Add ice cream, milk, maple syrup and strawberries to blender. Blend until smooth. Serve!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hungarian chimney cakes

A childhood favorite of mine, this yeasty dessert called "kurtos kalacs" is usually prepared outdoors over the embers of a dying fire. Dough flavored with lemon and vanilla is rolled onto a buttered wooden cylinder, coated with sugar and cooked until the dough is soft and tender and the outside is coated with crisp caramel. The hot product is then rolled in flavored sugar again and served immediately. One could also buy these cakes from various street vendors, but sometimes they are rolled too thin and become overly crispy, other times they are made ahead and become stale. Making the dessert at home is not as hard as it may seem, and this way one can optimize it to their taste.

250 g flour
0.25 tsp salt
1.5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 egg
120 mL milk
1 tsp yeast
25+ g butter
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the warm milk with the sugar, sprinkle the yeast on top. Bloom the yeast. In a mixer with the dough hook add the flour, salt, vanilla sugar and lemon zest.

Melt the butter and mix with the egg. Pour into the flour mix. Add the yeast and the milk as well. Knead until a smooth, elastic but not sticky dough forms. It should be on the harder end. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile, take three beer cans and pierce them with skewers through the center. Coat with aluminum foil or baking paper.

Cut the dough into three portions and roll out into a 3/4-inch-thick circle. With a pizza cutter cut into a spiral. Roll onto the beer cans, leaving minimal space between the dough strips.

Roll the dough-covered beer can until the dough strips press together, sealing. Brush with butter and roll into sugar to coat the entire surface. Place onto a 9x11 inch baking shape, suspending the dough roll in air. Allow to rise for 15 minutes.

Set the oven to broil and broil until outside is light brown, caramelized. Rotate regularly, be careful to ensure sugar does not burn. When ready, immediately roll in sugar again and slide off onto a cookie rack. The sugar for this second step may be flavored with cinnamon.

We also tried a flat version, and it worked out even better than the chimney ones. However, the fun shape is of course lost.

Mushroom panini

For a quick and tasty vegetarian option along with the ham and brie panini, this thyme and mushroom panini was tested. It proved to be a good competitor, though not as tasty as its goat cheesy version with homemade garlic flatbread.

8 oz mushrooms
4 slices of deli sourdough bread
4 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
4 oz cheddar cheese
4 slices of red onion

Spread the mustard onto the bread slices. Brown the mushrooms and toss with the minced thyme. Distribute onto the two sandwiches. Sprinkle with onions and add the cheese slices. Cover with the other slice of bread and toast in a panini oven.

Game supper

In the Northeast game suppers are abundant during the fall hunting season. For just $10, one can taste all sorts of game donated to churches, volunteer fire departments, etc. Any group of people willing to take donations and prepare a varied and exciting meal of wild meats.

On the above plate you can find bear, goose, pheasant, deer meatballs and meatloaf, bear gravy, venison sausage and squirrel meat. With a side of mashed potatoes and butternut squash. A delicious combo. My favorites were definitely the bear and goose meats. Dark and flavorful, rich proteins. The squirrel meat was kind of like chicken thighs, but the pieces were smaller.


This was a simple yet delectable Belizian treat found on every street corner in San Ignazio. I'm fairly sure the refried beans in Belize are not vegetarian, they can be created or purchased in the meat-free form in your kitchen. Top with the simple ingredients used here, or add a fresh salsa with hot peppers, cilantro and lime. I eat it with Marie Sharpe's habanero sauce for the best outcome.

10 corn tortillas
14.5 oz can refried beans
0.5 lb young cabbage
1 red onion
4 oz cheddar cheese
hot sauce
oil spray

Spray the tortillas with olive oil and brown in a skillet held at medium-high. Set aside on paper towels.

Mince the cabbage and onion.

Spread the bean paste onto the torillas. Sprinkle with cabbage and onion. Add cheese on top.

Broil until cheese is lightly browned and cabbage and onion smell fragrant. Serve wit hot sauce.

Jalapeno vinaigrette

Seared scallops are my current favorite appetizer, and while their cost can be rather exorbitant, you don't need more than 4 per person for a wonderful, filling appetizer. This vinaigrette balances their meaty flavor with a fresh zing and orange supremes can complement is beautifully with their sweetness. Thanks Chef John over at Foodwishes.

0.5 jalapeno pepper
2 tbsp rice vinegar
0.25 tsp sugar
0.25 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil

Dissolve sugar in vinegar. Add to blender. Add washed and seeded jalapeno, oil and mustard. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over seared scallops with supremed orange slices.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Shrimp and asparagus udon noodles

I love udon noodles. My favorite type of these plump, Japanese noodles is the thickest, almost dumpling-like version. They are very simple to use and delicious in a quick stir-fry.

0.5 lb shrimp
0.5 lb asparagus
0.5 lb mushrooms
8 oz udon noodles
0.25 cup mirin
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp sesame oil

Mix the mirin, soy sauce and sugar until sugar dissolves. Mince the garlic and grate the ginger.

Boil the udon noodles until tender, per package instructions. Drain into colander and toss with 1 tsp sesame oil.

While the noodles are boiling, heat a large skillet with the canola oil. Add the mushrooms and brown, add the  asparagus and salt lightly, cook until vibrant green and slightly softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook until no longer translucent. All of this is done on high heat, do not overcook the food. Add the noodles and pour in the mirin mix. Cook until the sauce is absorbed. Serve with hot sauce.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ham and brie panini

With my favorite little panini press, warm sandwiches are a simple comfort. This brie and ham panini is a delicate combination of flavors that work well.

2 slices of sourdough bread
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 slices of virginia ham
2 tomato slices
2 oz brie cheese

Spread the mustard onto the bread slices. Cover with ham. Add tomatoes and thinly-sliced brie. Cover with second bread slice. Spray with olive oil and toast. Allow to cool for 4-5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Berry chia pudding

Chia pudding is my new breakfast favorite. The chocolate chia pudding by Chef John at foodwishes was a hit in my family. But after I got introduced to this fun thickening agent, I can't help but try other combinations.

3 tbsp chia seeds
4 oz berries
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp maple syrup
pinch of salt
1 cup milk

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and mix again.

Add milk to adjust consistency if needed.

Blend with an immersion blender. Scoop into individual ramekins. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Freezer burritos

While I like to cook fresh food every day, it frequently doesn't work out due to time constraints. To stick with healthier fast food options, I prepare a variety of fast foods. Freezer burritos and veggie pockets are my husband's favorites. Prepare a large amount and just pop them in a bag in the freezer. They thaw and taste like fresh. An added benefit is the lack of meat in these.

10 large burrito-size tortillas
4 cups of black beans
4 cups of jasmine rice
4 cups of Mexican cheese mix
3 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
salt to taste

Cook a large quantity of black beans (4 cups) by soaking them in warm water overnight, then simmering them in a large cast iron pot for 5 hours with the water seasoned using cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and some salt. Drain, freeze the excess in a bag.

Prepare two cups of jasmine rice in a rice cooker. Mix rice with beans and cheese. Stir in salt and hot sauce.

Fill a cup of bean and rice mix into each burrito. Roll up tightly and wrap in aluminum foil. When reheating, place in 400F preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Swedish meatballs

These were really delish. The sauce is beefy, dark, full of Maillard reaction flavors.

small yellow onion
1 tbsp butter
0.25 cup milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
0.75 tsp black pepper
0.25 tsp nutmeg
0.25 tsp allspice
1.5 tsp salt
0.25 tsp cayenne
0.25 tsp paprika
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork

2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3.5 cup beef broth
0.5 cup heavy cream
0.5 tsp sugar
0.5 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and black pepper

In a large skillet add 1 tbsp butter and the minced onion. Cook until translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add contents to a large bowl. Also add the milk, breadcrumbs and eggs. Mix well.

Add the spices and meat. Mix in. Make sure the meat contains some fat, so the meatballs are tender after baking. Refrigerate for an hour.

In the same pan, prepare a roux from the 2 tbsp butter and the flour, cook until golden brown. Add the cold beef stock and whisk it in, start with a little and add more. Turn the heat to medium high, add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 6-7 minutes to thicken it some.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray and form about 1-inch balls. Roll them smooth with wet hands.

Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 20-25 minutes, until brown. Simmer i the sauce until the sauce is the right consistency. Serve with lingonberry jam and mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chocolate chia pudding

Chef John turned me in the direction of chia pudding, and since my encounter with his recipe, I've tried many different versions. The original, chocolaty is still the best. Even if you don't like chia pudding, this is something of a fun food science experiment in thickening.

0.25 cup chia seeds
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
0.5 tsp instant coffee
1 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients. Add the milk and whisk thoroughly. This will take a while, as cocoa doesn't like to mix with cold liquids.

Set aside for 5 minutes, then mix again. Give it another 5 minutes and mix one more time. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold as a healthy, nutritious alternative to pudding thickened with flour or starch.

Spicy paneer

So, mustard greens are out of season and I still had a chunk of paneer in my fridge. With a little bit of improvisation, it turned into a rather tasty spicy paneer dish.

8 oz paneer
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp ginger paste
2 tbsp tandoori marinade
1 tsp cayenne
0.25 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp sugar
0.25 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tbsp garam masala
handful of fresh cilantro

Mince the onion and saute in a tbsp of vegetable oil. Add the crushed garlic and the ginger paste. Sautee for 30 seconds.

Add the spices and sautee for a minute, make sure they do not burn. Pour in the canned tomato. Simmer for 20 minutes. Blend until smooth.

Add in the chunks of paneer and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt. Serve over steamed rice with minced cilantro.

Perch fillets

I haven't tried these small but tasty fish fillets before. They were rather delicious, and very quick to prepare. I served them with some spicy coleslaw, arugula and toasted pumpkin seeds. But they were perfect without a side as well!

4 perch fillets
0.25 cup flour
0.25 tsp cayenne
0.25 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp butter

Pat fillets dry, salt and drench in flour, cayenne, and black pepper mixture.

Heat pan to medium, add butter and wait until it melts. Add coated fish fillets and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Serve with a bit of fresh lemon. Delicious!