Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blogging with a Purpose Award

Liz has awarded me with Blogging with a Purpose, thanks Liz! If you haven't seen her cooking blog yet, you should definitely check it out. She's got some really great recipes and wonderful pictures!

Now for the blogs I'd like to pass this along to. There are so many blogs that I love, but here are a few:

1. Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats - The name says it all. This blog is filled with TONS of good eats and sweet treats, as well as gorgeous pictures. It's truly an inspirational blog.

2. Blazing Hot Wok - This is one of the first blogs I started stalking when I discovered food blogs. She's got lots of scrumptious Asian recipes, great Western ones, and a super cute kid too.

3. Canary Girl - I love this blog. It's filled with great food and great pictures. I love her descriptions and stories. It's such a fun blog.

4. Culinary Kicks - This is a great blog to visit with the cutest ideas for feeding her family. Everything looks delicious and I can't wait to try out some of her recipes.

5. Foodie Fashionista - Another one of my first food blog discoveries that inspired me to start my own. Most of her recipes are WW friendly and all of them are yummy.

Award-winners, here's what you should do:
1. nominate 5 blogs which haven't had this award before
2. each of the blogs must have a purpose
3. the nominated blogs must make a link back to this page
4. the logo from the award must be put on their blog and it must link back to this blog!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Kimchi Fried Rice

Fried rice to me is one of those things that you make to get rid of leftovers or when clearing out the fridge. It's so versatile that you can put more or less anything you'd like.

This was not one of those times. My friend had a craving for kimchi fried rice, so we made it! Kimchi is the main component, and I paired it with spam. I'm embarrassed to say, I love spam. But any other meat, or no meat at all would work too.

As usual, no real measurements, just do it to taste.

- Kimchi (chopped into bite-size pieces)
- Rice (I used brown rice this time)
- Spam (cut into small cubes)
- Juice from the Kimchi
- Soy and/or fish sauce for flavoring if necessary
- Egg(s)

- Heat the wok until almost smoking.
- (Optional) Add oil to the wok and heat the oil. I skipped this step because my wok is already nicely seasoned and the spam has plenty of oil in it already.
- Fry the spam. I like to fry it until there is a bit of color.
- Push the spam to the side. Crack the egg in the middle of the wok and scramble until mostly cooked.
- Add the rice and heat it through.
- Add chopped up kimchi and some of the juice (to taste).
- Add more soy/fish sauce if necessary
- Add frozen veggies (peas, carrots, etc) if desired.

Garden Update

The first strawberry of the season! Nice, bright, red, and hopefully delicious. Our strawberries were very sweet last year, so I expect the same this year.

Look how many are on their way!!!

The previous owners really had a green thumb and left us with lots of goodies (like these strawberries).

My thumb however, is not quite as green. Here's an update to my previous post. My tomato and basil "sprouts" were actually weeds =( Our gardener accidentally kicked over my planter with the mint and I think I overwatered (and killed) the garlic chive. *sigh* But I have one redeeming plant - my cilantro! Yay!

I'm going to attempt the basil again by starting them indoors this time around and bought some already started seedlings for the tomatoes.

Now, if I could just get rid of those darn gophers... any ideas?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Grilled Salmon and Mango Salsa

We bought two mangoes a while ago but they weren't ripe yet, so I've been waiting to make this for a while now. I still have one more mango that I haven't decided what to do with yet. Any suggestions?

Anyway, with our first mango, we made grilled salmon with a mango salsa, baked sweet potato fries and a sugar snap pea stir fry. The mango salsa was great and could be used on so many things. Grilled chicken, pork chops, a nice salad. So many possibilities!

The sweet potato fries were REALLY sweet. A bit too sweet in fact. Next time I'll probably make regular potatoes and save the sweet potatoes for "dessert".

Overall though, it was a great meal.

Mango Salsa -
- 1 mango diced (like the picture below)
- a few super thin slices of onion diced
- a pinch of salt
- a squeeze of lemon or lime
- chopped parsley (optional)
- a pinch of sugar or honey if necessary (for mangoes that aren't quite ripe enough)

Mix all the ingredients together and let it sit for a while for the flavors to infuse each other. If you'd like, you can obviously add other diced fruits to the salsa. Pineapple or tomatoes come to mind a some good additions.

Salmon -
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill for a few minutes on each side until the light pink comes up about 1/3 of the way. I prefer the center to be slightly raw but warmed through, but feel free to cook it more or according to your own preferences.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries -
Peel sweet potato and cut into matchsticks. Put in a bowl and drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt, pepper, paprika and cumin (or whatever spices you like) and toss to coat. Lay it in a single layer on parchment paper or a silpat. Place it in a 400deg oven until cooked through (maybe 30 minutes? I wasn't really paying attention). You can also put it in the microwave for a bit before putting it in the oven to speed up cooking.

Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry -
Heat some oil in a pan. Add crushed garlic, add sugar snap peas, add a few pinches of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir until warm and cooked but still crunchy.

Friday, April 11, 2008

cheater's pho

After weeks of gorgeous summer-like weather, it rained today!* Grrr. Cold, gloomy, it puts me in the mood for a nice, hot soup, so I made some pho (the cheater's version).

This recipe is faaaar from authentic but it's still tastes good and it's MUCH faster, so I'm calling it "cheater's pho". Authentic pho takes hours of simmering beef bones and spices and then ideally refrigerating overnight to make fat removal easier.

I usually don't like to go out to by stuff for one particular dish, so my garnishes aren't traditional either, but they are what I had in the fridge/pantry already. Typically, your garnishes should include thinly sliced onions, bean sprouts, mint, lime, cilantro, and thinly sliced rare beef (or meatballs or beef tendon, etc).

*Note: I started this post a while ago and now the weather is back to being sunny and gorgeous. Yay!

Ingredients: Soup -
- 1 can of beef broth (or chicken broth if you want to make pho ga - chicken pho)
- 1/2 onion quartered (and a few thin slices set aside to add into the noodles)
- 1 star anise
- 5-10 thin slices of ginger
- a pinch of cinnamon
- 5-10 coriander seeds
Noodles -
- 1.5 cups of thick, flat rice stick noodles
Garnish -
- 4 slices of roast beef (because it was the closest thing I had to rare steak in the house)
- a handful of spinach (becuase I had none of the proper veggies)
- 2 thin slices of onion

- Boil all the broth ingredients for ~10 minutes to extract all the flavors. The longer the better, but at least 10 minutes.
- Boil the noodles according to the package directions.

- Strain the broth.

- Put everything in a bowl - broth, noodles, garnishes into a bowl and slurp it up!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Soft Pretzels

Soft's one of those things that were always special because you could only get them at the fair, ballpark, and now at home! yay! Next I need to learn how to make funnel cakes and deep fried twinkies!

This recipe is from Cooking Light, except I skipped the egg wash part.


1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
6 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon water
1 large egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt


Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends. Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle. Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal. Place pretzels on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).

Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a nonaluminum Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer. Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.

Place pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


12 servings (serving size: 1 pretzel)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 141(12% from fat); FAT 1.9g (sat 0.2g,mono 0.6g,poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 4.3g; CHOLESTEROL 18mg; CALCIUM 8mg; SODIUM 541mg; FIBER 1.1g; IRON 1.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 26.8g

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mapo Tofu

I bought some szechuan peppercorns and was so excited to use them. Alas, they were weak or imitation peppercorns and just not up to par. I was so disappointed. Szechuan peppercorns are supposed to literally make your tongue numb when you bite into them (usually accidentally since you're not really supposed to eat them). The "Ma" part of mapo tofu actually means "numb". But even without the proper spices, this dish is always a good one.

There are so many ways to make mapo tofu and as usual, I pull my recipes out of my ***, so this is by no means the only or best or traditional way of making it. In fact, almost everytime I make it, I make it a little differently. This is what I put into it this time around....

- 1 block of soft tofu cut into cubes
- 1/2 pound of ground pork, turkey or chicken
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- 2 tbsp of hot bean paste (if you don't have this, you can use a regular chili paste)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- cornstarch slurry (~1-2 tsp cornstarch mixed in a tiny bit of cold water until dissolved)
- 1 tsp ground szechuan peppercorns (optional)
- 1 scallion sliced for garnish (optional)

- Heat up your wok/pan and put enough oil in to coat the bottom
- Put the ground meat and the minced garlic and the soy sauce and cook until most of the pink in the meat is gone.
- Add in the tofu, chili paste and peppercorns. Stir gently to avoid breaking the tofu. Taste and adjust accordingly. Sometimes I'll add a bit more chili, salt, or even some sugar, depending on how it tastes.
- The tofu should release some water. If it's pretty dry, feel free to add a bit of water or chicken stock. Then add the cornstarch slurry to thicken the liquid. If it doesn't thicken up immediately, don't worry, it will thicken more after you turn off the heat. Or you can always add more cornstarch slurry. This step is actually completely optional, you'll just get a more watery sauce.
- Add the scallion
- Eat over rice!