Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fried Rice

Fried rice is easy. The key, like most Asian food, is in the prep. You want to cut your vegetables (or meat) to similar sized pieces so everything cooks at the same time.

I put white jasmine rice and water (1:1.5 ratio) into a saucepan. Bring to boil, lower temperature, put a lid on it and cook for 17 minutes. Remove from heat, stir and cover. Let rest for 5 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, scramble a few eggs in sesame oil. Cut all of your additions and place on a plate. Set aside scrambled eggs.

For this fried rice I used eggs, fresh pineapple, red onion, red and orange bell peppers, peas, corn, mushrooms and celery.

When the rice is finished steaming. Simmer minced ginger and garlic in a little oil. I like to also add about a Tbl of yellow Thai curry. If you don't like spice, only use a tsp. Add the vegetables which you want to be softer first, lightly sauteing and stirring. If you are using meat, cook it thoroughly first. Push the vegetables to the side of the pan. Add a little more oil and the rice. Begin working the vegies in. Add soy sauce to taste, fish sauce (1-2 Tbl) and half as much sugar as the fish sauce. We call it "stinky feet sauce." This is your main flavoring and it just isn't the same without it. Toss in the eggs and serve.

You can get everything ready early in the day and then cook it just before you want to eat. You can also use leftover rice. If the rice is several days old add a spoon full of water as needed to re-steam it.

I make Spanish rice similarly, heating onion, cumin, garlic, cayenne and chili powder in the oil. Then add the rice and a little salsa and stir well. Top with sliced olives and cilantro. If you want to be heartier, also add a can of drained black beans.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vegie Calzones

I have used up my quick and easy meals over the past week: egg burritos, chili, and a a few salad dinners. So I had to think about dinner tonight.

We are having vegetarian calzones with spinach, portobello mushrooms and onion. I will chop all of those ingredients together and then lightly sauté them. You can stuff them with anything you like.

Sometimes you will convey your feelings about dinner to your family. So if you are not happy about what you are serving, you could say "pizza pockets." Everyone will probably reply. "Oh."

However, you can put them on a pretty plate and say, "Tonight we have homemade calzones with sautéed baby spinach, portobello mushrooms and sweet Spanish onion." Then the response will be more like "ooooh." It is possible to improve mealtime just by delighting in serving your family.

Here is a simple dough recipe for 12 calzones:
2 cups warm water
1 Tbl yeast
1 tsp sugar
Let sit a few minutes until bubbly. Add 1 Tbl olive oil, 5 cups of flour and 1 tsp salt. Knead or mix in your kitchen aid adding up to another 1/2 cup of flour if needed. Rise until double, or about 1-1/2 hrs.

Quick tip for french bread or pizza dough- I have found that a little longer kneading and a little longer rising time (than regular bread recipes) makes better dough.

Punch down dough and roll into a 6 inch circle. Fill the circles, careful not to touch the edge. Fold over, press edge with a fork. Brush with and egg wash. Rise 30 minutes. (I will put mine in the fridge to lengthen rising time because we return late tonight.) Bake. 375 degrees.
A few tips on the stuffing:
  • Portion your dough before you start. Also portion your filling, you want about 1/4 to 1/3 c. filling for each.
  • Sundried tomatoes, fresh or drained/stewed tomatoes are a little easier than sauce because if any of your filling touches the outer rim it doesn't seal properly. If you use sauce, don't let it be too thin.
  • Roll out the circle on a well floured surface so you don't tear the bottom when you transfer it to a baking sheet.
  • Don't leave cheese or vegies too large, they can poke through when you fold over the dough.
  • I like to mix all the ingredients together before I stuff them.
I have had some success freezing the stuffed calzones (don't rise them) and rising/baking it another day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kung Pao Tofu

Tonight our family has a class together and we do not return for dinner until late.

We are still not eating meat, although we did this weekend while visiting family. I was surprised how filling it was after not eating it for just one week.

I have already cubed one package of firm tofu, it is wrapped in plastic , waiting in the fridge.

Also waiting is:
Chopped red and orange sweet peppers
Sugar snap peas, halved
white onion
about 2 Tbl each of minced garlic and ginger

We love this dish, but I guess I say that about everything. I will have the rice and water waiting so I can start that right when I walk in the door. Then I will heat a little sesame oil in the skillet with the ginger, garlic and a 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper.

Before or after that is heating I will mix the sauce in a cup:
1/4 cup of water or broth
1 Tbl of Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl soy sauce
2 tsp honey
2 tsp of corn starch

After the oil and spice smells nice, throw in the onion, a moment later add the peas and sweet peppers and stir. About two minutes later add the tofu and stir lightly so the tofu doesn't break up. Add the sauce and simmer a moment until it boils and looks, well, saucy.

Sprinkle a half cup of roasted peanuts over the top and serve with rice. We prefer jasmine. I don't see why you couldn't try this with cubed chicken breast. Let me know if you do.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Potatoes with Peas

Tonight I am anxious to try out my new Indian cookbook. We will eat potatoes and peas with cumin, and Naan. There are lots of recipes for Naan, and I will probably make it tonight but it is never as good as what you get from a restaurant--or even the store because you just can't simulate a tandoori oven.

That sounds a little starchy so I will also serve a cucumber with a little lemon juice and cilantro sprinkled over it and plain yogurt.

First, I will wash and cube about one potato per person. This cannot be done too far in advance, because the potatoes discolor. You can keep them in a bowl of cold water about an hour before you plan too cook them.

Finely chop 2 Tbl garlic and 2 Tbl fresh ginger together.

For 4-5 potatoes, Add 2 tsp cumin seeds into a large skillet with 2 Tbl of oil. Roast until darkened. Add the garlic and ginger, a sliced chili, 2 tsp turmeric, 1/4 cup of tomato paste and the potatoes. Then cover with 2 and 1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover and cook. Add the peas when the potatoes are almost done. The recipe calls for shelled peas, I am going to use sugar snap. It also cooks them longer but we like crisp vegies. The peas to potato portion is almost equal. Decide what you prefer. Stir occasionally, you may need to add more water. Sprinkle with cilantro. This would also be nice if you substituted spinach for the peas, adding it just at the end to soften.

One reason why this book appealed to me, besides the fact that Kevin and I had one of our first dates at an Indian restaurant, is that all the recipes are quick and easy. Six ingredients. Perfect for busy families.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lentil Tacos

I always seem to have spring blahs. I know many people do and I am not sure if it is the anticipation of summer and the disappointment of lingering cold, or if there is something else.

We plan to try out for a play tonight, it will be just the kids and me this time. But I assume hubby will get roped into it at some point--he did last year.

Hence, we enter our busiest season, where meal planning is crucial. So thinking ahead is mandatory. I guess I assume everyone thinks about the morrow's dinner while they are cleaning up the current dinner, but after a discussion with my sister last night, not everyone obsesses about food like me. Or rather, meal planning is not natural function for every woman.

So the plan for tonight is lentil tacos, we are taking a hiatus from meat for a few weeks and this will be more challenging for me than usual. But as my mom always said, "the less options you have, the more creative you are."

I soaked 2 cups of lentils in cold water for a few hours in a pot on the stove. Next, I sliced onion, bell pepper and a Serrano chili. That combination is waiting in a sealed bowl. Also waiting is a bowl of lettuce, a bowl of shredded cheese and a portion of corn tortillas for everyone.

When I return, I will put a little chopped onion (already waiting) in a skillet with olive oil and spices: cumin, chili powder, garlic and cayenne. Then add the rinsed, drained lentils and a cup of water. Add water as needed until the lentils soften and they have a "ground beef" consistency." It takes about 20 minutes.

While that is going, lightly saute the peppers and onions. Everyone makes their own tacos at the table.

We all love this. A couple of things you can do for the meatless-hesitant: serve with sour cream and use beef broth instead of water.

They way we have grown to love corn tortillas is to spread a scant dab of butter or use a pastry brush with butter/olive oil on one side of each tortilla. Then stack them on a small plate and wrap with plastic wrap. Microwave 2-3 minutes, they will be pliable and not break.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Either way: Choke or Chalk

We love to try new things. Sometimes though, we just can't find the courage.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Walnut Sesame Pie

Undoubtedly, any request for a pie (recipe) I've made comes from this little book I bought when I was preparing to live in Prague.

The cranberry is a standard for us in the fall and the Walnut-Sesame is Kevin's favorite. I made it this week and had to guard the last piece for him. I figured if I didn't he would complain that one of the kids ate the last piece and I'd be obligated to make another.

It is similar to a pecan pie with the gooey toasted nut filling but with a unique sesame flavor. The walnuts perfectly balance the sweet.

It is really hard to tell the kids to eat right when your husband rationalizes that pie has nuts, wheat flour, eggs... and is better than a donut for breakfast! Of course he says that about cake too.

Don't let the length of this post make you doubt that this is as easy as pie.

A fabulous pie crust recipe is:

1 cup of butter flavored crisco
(I am not going to get into butter vs. shortening, I use crisco here because it is easier to work with ,for my schedule, than butter and cheaper. Butter makes a superior pie, if you do it right. OK, so I got into it a little.)
3 cups of white flour
1 cup of sugar

I use a kitchen aid to cut the shortening into the flour. I know gourmet cooks will scoff but I have enough to do and I like the speed. Just be careful that you don't overwork the mixture. Watch it close and run it for the shortest time possible. You don't want any large chunks of shortening left.

Then I freeze the mixture for at least a half hour.

Take the mixture from the freezer and with a wooden spoon stir in a little less than a half cup of water. You just want to pull the dough together. (If my hands are really warm I run them under cold water a minute before I touch the mixture.)

Then lay half of the mixture on a piece of wax paper or silicone mat and roll it out. Here is a little more info about pie crusts from the quiche recipe.

Repeat with the second half of the crust mixture. Use that for a top crust or freeze it for a future pie. It is so convenient to pull out a pre-rolled pie crust when you are short on time! If you get into the habit of doubling what you need and freezing the surplus, you will save time another day.

It is is a warm day I will freeze my crust a little at this point before I bake it.

The walnut pie requires a partially baked crust. Partially baking a crust usually causes it to shrink. So you can make the crust a little long and press the edges up tall and/or place a piece of aluminum foil at the bottom of the unbaked crust and put about 1 cup of dry beans inside to help hold it in place.

Here it is what you waded through all of my rambling to get:

Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Combine in a bowl-
3 eggs
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of corn syrup (dark or light)
4 Tbl. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup white sesame seeds

Pour into the partially baked crust (which has cooled about 15 minutes) Bake about 50 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Do not over-bake it. Serve warm or at room temperature.