Monday, January 30, 2012

Chicken Biryani

I first heard about biryani when my book club read the book A Mighty Heart, The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Daniel Pearl by Marianne Pearl. This book is a heart wrenching account of Marianne Pearl’s travail when her husband was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists while he was uncovering a story in Pakistan. Biryani was something that this author mentioned in her book numerous times and I had the impression that this was the Pakistani food that gave her comfort and strength in her time of need.   

My friend, Dawn, hosted this book club meeting at her house and served biryani in commemoration of the book. Ever since, I have been meaning to make my own, but because the recipe in my book seemed so daunting, I never got the chance to do it, until Saturday evening.

Warning: When making this dish, make sure you have at least 2 hours before dinner time and it would be ideal to have a dedicated accomplice in the kitchen. It requires a pretty elaborate preparation. DFJ was kindly requested to make this chicken biryani with the promise of me being his assistant. Great teamwork!

The dish is very fragrant and looks so bright and beautiful. Although this recipe gives a robust taste, I somehow feel like it needs something to give it an extra umph. Next time, I will make the following revisions: 1.) use ground coriander instead of whole; 2.) not disembody the star anise; 3.) add an extra dash of cayenne and some smoked paprika to the spice mixture; 4.) season the onions with salt, pepper, and garam masala; and 5.) season the chicken with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and an extra pinch of salt. Our friend suggested adding some saffron too.
I highly recommend that you try making this dish. You can follow my adapted version of the original recipe and make your own additions as you cook, until the flavors suit your taste.       

Chicken and Basmati Rice (Makes 8 servings)
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Asian Cooking)

spice mixture
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
4 star anise
3 bay leaves

onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno paste
2 large yellow onions
4 tbsp ghee
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs
½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3 tbsp lemon juice
garnish... don't forget the raisins
1 ½ cups basmati rice

¼ cup cashews
2 hard-boiled eggs
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup raisins

Put the spice mixture together in a small bowl: cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cayenne, star anise, and bay leaves. Stir well and set aside.

Slice the onions thin and dice ¼ of one onion. Separate the diced onions.

Warm half of the ghee in a large pan over medium heat. Cook the onions until caramelized, about 20 minutes.  

While the onions are cooking, combine the diced onion, garlic, ginger, and chile in a food processor and grind until it turns into a thick paste.  

Cut the chicken into ½ inch pieces. Season the chicken with salt and cook in a large, ovenproof pot, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the onion pan.  

Heat the rest of the ghee in a large, ovenproof pot, over medium heat. Sauté the onion-garlic paste for about a minute. Add the onions and chicken. Then stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, and ¼ cup water. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 4 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add the rice to the simmering mixture in the pot and stir well. Pour in 2 cups water, turn the heat up to medium, and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat off and cover the pan with aluminum foil, then put it in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs. Fill a small sauce pan 2/3 full of water and add the eggs. Cook over medium heat, covered, until the water starts boiling. Remove the cover and bring the heat down to medium low and remove the lid. Let it boil for another minute and turn the heat off.

Lay the cashews in small but deep baking dish and toast in the oven (still at 350 degrees F) for about 10 minutes. Stir cashews after being in the oven for 5 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork. Serve on a platter with a garnish of egg wedges, toasted cashews, cilantro, and raisins.

Serve immediately.

The first night we had this for dinner, the raisins were forgotten. We remembered the raisins the day after and added frozen sweet peas as well. DFJ’s friend recommended eating it with some raita, mango chutney, or onion chutney. As luck would have it, we happened to have a little bit of mango chutney from Trader Joe’s left and the combination was superb.

Happy biryani cooking!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


So, when I went on my big grocery trip Wednesday afternoon, I found some wild caught shrimp on sale. To some, it might seem gross to buy frozen or previously frozen food items on sale. I’m cool with it. My stomach can handle anything! Besides, I’m pretty sure grocery stores won’t make these items available if they have already gone bad and could give you food poisoning.

It is so sad how ridiculously expensive seafood is in Eastern Washington especially since it’s not even fresh. Because of that, I rarely buy it. I miss the fresh seafood of my childhood back home in the beautiful Philippine islands. Nothing beats fresh right out of the ocean!

Anyhoo, I got my hands on the pathetic, previously frozen shrimp on sale and vowed to give it an extraordinary make-over.

At first, I planned on making shrimp penne with Calvados… but someone finished the special apple
brandy off behind my back. Sneaky! What then? Essentials of Asian Cooking by Williams-Sonoma to the rescue! Fried Rice with Pork and Shrimp sounds good, especially because the recipe requires cold, cooked rice, which we happen to have left over from dinner a few nights ago. I didn’t add the pork because that required extra work and I thought it would be too heavy. The rice we had left was not as much as what the recipe required, so I adjusted the other ingredients.

Please trust me when I say that this is something you should try. It is so good! This dish is an awesome combination of specially seasoned rice with chunks of nicely flavored shrimp and bursts of sweetness from the peas. We ate the whole thing and I so wish there was more!     

Here is my version of the recipe…

Fried Rice with Shrimp (Makes 2 servings)
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Asian Cooking)

2 tbsp olive oil
¼ lb medium shrimp (prawns), peeled, deveined, and chopped
juice from 1/4 wedge of a small lemon 
2 cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, crushed in a garlic press
3 stalks green onions, minced
1 tsp rice vinegar

3 tbsp chicken broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
¼ tsp sugar
¼ freshly ground pepper

½ tbsp olive oil
2 cups cold, cooked long-grain rice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup fresh or frozen sweet peas

Peel, devein, and chop shrimp. Squeeze the juice from the lemon wedge over the shrimp and toss.  

In a large pan, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil over high heat. Add the shrimp until it turns a light orange, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions and stir fry for another minute. Pour in the rice vinegar, stir for about 30 seconds, and transfer to a bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together the chicken broth, soy sauce, sugar, and pepper.

Coat the same pan with ½ tablespoon olive oil and heat it up. Add the rice and stir-fry until it gets just hot enough, about 3 minutes. Stir in the egg for about 1 minute or until it is not runny anymore. Add the cooked shrimp and the peas into the pan, and stir for another minute. Add the broth mixture and stir-fry for about 3 minutes until it looks like all the liquid is absorbed.

Turn off the heat and and serve hot.  

Since the shrimp that I bought was more than what was required, I decided to turn the other half of it into this…

This was my attempt at breaded shrimp. DFJ and I were hungry, so I didn’t have time to find a good recipe or make it fancy. It doesn’t look as gorgeous, but it was pretty darn good. The batter consisted of an egg, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, salt and pepper, and 4 tablespoons of Italian style bread crumbs. Panko would have been awesome, but it was MIA in the pantry. Instead of coating the shrimp pieces with the egg batter and then rolling it on the breadcrumbs, I tossed everything together and poured it on a sizzling hot nonstick pan covered in canola oil. Pardon me for being unclassy. When the batter turned a nice golden brown, I squeezed fresh lemon juice over it to counter the greasiness. We dipped the battered shrimp in soy sauce with fresh lemon juice.

You will love the fried rice with shrimp, trust me!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Discovering Quinoa

Man, I was a great teacher yesterday! Totally recovered from my crabbiness last Wednesday. It’s always great to feel accomplished at the end of the day. The only bummer was missing my yoga class because of this…

DFJ wanted to eat dinner at 7:00 instead of 8:30. That actually turned out to be a great idea as I
always feel that eating between 8:30 and 9:00 on a weeknight is a little too late. I tend to snack multiple times after dinner and because of that, I think it’s safer to eat earlier in the evening. An hour later, we ran to the gym and then I did another 15 minutues of cardio, lifted some weights, then we walked home. It was brrrrrrrrrrr! I did some yoga stretches in the living room for about 20 minutes and felt good!  

Quinoa is something I have never heard of until a year ago. DFJ made me a quinoa dish once, and then another time (because I liked it so much), that was cooked with brown rice in chicken broth and sautéed onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers, then garnished with toasted pine nuts. The third time I had it was when my friend Emily invited me over for dinner and we had a side dish of red quinoa boiled in salted water. It was made so simply, but it went really well with everything else we had.  

So, here is a quinoa recipe that I adapted from DFJ’s. It is a very healthy dish, full of good vegetables, the real flavors of each you can taste in every bite. You can eat as much as you want to without feeling guilty!

A note on the pine nuts though… I have mixed feelings about these little white crunchies. Sometimes I like them and at other times, not so much. They do add a nice crunch and a nutty flavor to every bite, so if you’re a big fan, go for it. However, if you opt out on the pine nuts, I won’t hold you back.

Vegetables and Quinoa (Makes 4-6 servings)

1 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water

2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, medium
1 inch ginger root, minced
2 portabella mushrooms
2 carrots, medium
1 bell pepper, medium
5 cups spinach, loosely packed
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ cups toasted pine nuts (optional)

In a small, non-stick pan, toast pine nuts in medium-low heat until they are slightly brown and fragrant. Transfer to a small plate and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, bring water and chicken broth to a boil. Add the quinoa and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

While the water is boiling and the quinoa is cooking, roughly chop onions, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, and spinach.

In a large pan, heat olive oil. Sauté garlic until it is golden brown, then add the onions and ginger. Cook until the onions are almost translucent. Stir in the mushrooms and add ½ teaspoon of the salt. Sauté until the mushrooms are soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in the carrots and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the bell peppers and sauté for a minute. Stir in the spinach and sauté until it wilts. Season with balsamic vinegar, the rest of the ½ tsp salt, and pepper.

Add the quinoa to the vegetable pan and stir together for about a minute. Turn off the heat and add the pine nuts.

What a great day, indeed!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oatmeal Heals

Why is it that on the days when one actually has the luxury of time to do things that need to be done, the brain refuses to function and chooses to stay in a state of constant daze? Nothing is accomplished.

Today was one of those days for me. When an hour passed after my work day was over, I was still sitting in front of my computer, wondering which task I should prioritize. Again, I drew a blank so I shut off my computer and decided to leave work. It was time to get on and do other things that do not involve work but is required for my health and well-being. A big grocery shopping trip, a quick run then yoga, cook a nice quinoa and salmon dinner, and maybe write a post.

I managed to go to the grocery store and because it was going to be a super quick stop, ended up buying more than what was necessary. Drove to the gym with building frustration because there was no time for a run as I was already late for yoga class (no one should feel this way when driving to a yoga class!). When my mat was rolled out, I caught the second part of the warrior pose, which means I only did it on one side and was unbalanced the rest of the time. My legs wobbled during the balance track and were unwilling to stretch. It was amazing how hard it was to achieve calm and relaxation with all the pent-up anger inside me. That was not me and I did not like how I was.

As soon as I got home, I couldn’t smile and be happy. All I wanted was to eat junk… homemade tortilla chips (yes, it is junk food even if it’s fried with less oil) with salsa and Cheetos. These orange sticks coated with fake cheese fairy dust and MSG are my downfall. DFJ hides them from me, but he sensed that I needed them. So I ate handfuls from a huge bag until… well, too late. Quinoa and salmon will have to wait until tomorrow.  Too much junk food ruined my appetite.

Dinner dilemma. What can I make that won’t require too much time and effort? Something light and healthy, but comforting… Ah, oatmeal. Yes, some good ol’ oatmeal! Food made to heal an angry spirit.

Normally, I don’t measure my oatmeal ingredients. However, since I started my blog… this is for you…

Soul Healing Oatmeal (4-5 servings)

2 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
pinch of Kosher salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tsp honey
½ cup milk (non-fat is ok)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp brown sugar, firmly packed
zest of 1 clementine
½ cup blueberries (frozen is ok)

Bring water to a slight boil in a medium sauce pan then add oats. Stir a few times until all the oats are soaked then add a pinch of salt. Stir a few times and then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey. Stir again a few times and when it starts to boil, add the milk. Stir the milk in and then add the sugar. Stir again and add the zest of a clementine. Turn off the heat and stir in blueberries.

Serve with banana slices, apple slices, peanut butter, or whatever your heart desires!

The oats should be ready 12-14 minutes after being added to the slightly boiling water.

If you like your oatmeal sweeter, add more honey or sugar. More fruit? Of course!

Feeling 1,000 times better!  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Inspiration Frenzy and then Disappointment

On Sunday afternoon, after yoga and an hour-long walk on the treadmill with my book, I went home and felt lonely, as I always do when no one else is around. We have half of an 80-piece pack of corn tortillas left and I decided to turn it into tortilla chips. The apartment smelled like grease so I opened the door for a little bit, but only ended up freezing. Greasy smell must go away, ASAP!

What better way to smother this stink than to bake something sweet? I suddenly felt inspired and decided to make something up with the leftover heavy cream in the refrigerator. I was in a frenzy… rushing around, considering this ingredient or that, taking down notes, meticulously measuring, and taking pictures. What was the end product like? Uh, not so great. *sad*

They look promising, don't they? Looks can be deceiving.

While these were baking, I did 100 sit-ups, 30 lunges on each leg, 50 squats, and 20 push-ups. Why? Because I know I will be obsessing about how these thingies will turn out and will taste and re-taste it over and over… as soon as it pops out of the oven, burning hot in my mouth and then again, when it has cooled down a bit, then again just to see if I tasted it right or not. Oh, and one more time after dinner to see if the taste miraculously changed over the past 3 hours. SIGH! Does anyone else do this, or am I alone in this taste-testing OCD?    

I took some pictures right before rolling them into balls and again before popping them in the oven, crossing my fingers and hoping they would turn out good. As I gingerly touched one while it was still hot, I had so much hope… but after the first bite, felt disappointed. They’re actually not that terrible… just not as good as they can be. So, I jotted down notes on how to improve the taste. Perhaps, I will get them right next time and will be able to share the recipe then.

Redemption will come soon (if I don't get too lazy)...

Monday, January 23, 2012

On Refrigerator Finds + Stir-Fried Veggies and Tofu

When I go to the grocery store to get ingredients for some recipes I plan to make, I always see a couple of food ingredients that I think could come in handy when leftovers are done. These are usually pretty basic stuff like broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, ground beef or turkey, chicken breasts, or whatever catches my eye or is on sale.

The weather has been pretty bad in the past couple of days, there is tons of snow and the roads are icy, then it got a little warm and everything started melting, turning everything to slush. I did not want to go anywhere (and I didn’t have to because school was cancelled Thursday and Friday)… except for a short walk to a neighborhood store to buy hot cocoa with two good-looking men on Friday afternoon and some trudging to the gym in the snow (for the love of fitness). No grocery shopping for me. I hate going out and about when the weather is icky.

Saturday afternoon, as I rummaged through the fridge and the pantry to figure out if I can come up with something for dinner with what we had on hand, my brain went click click click. All the vegetables need to be used because they won’t last very long… and there’s that tofu that I randomly picked last week because I am still in a tofu phase. Different sauces and spices were pulled out of cabinets and lined up like eager actors, anxious to land a role in a new show. When the final decision was made, I went with making use of all vegetables and a select few of the sauces and spices. Asian food time with a side of fluffy white rice!        

This is a recipe I made up on my own and it turned out quite nicely (let’s not mention the crushed tofu though, which I will teach you how not to do). Nothing fancy... just a simple, homey dish, with the right amount of seasoning that brings out the true flavors of each vegetable.

ADVISORY: Thou shall not be daunted by the long ingredient list. Most of these, I am sure, are already in your pantry.

Stir-Fried Vegetables and Tofu (Makes 4-5 servings)

16 oz firm tofu

Tofu Marinade
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp chili paste
½ tsp hot chili sesame oil

4 cloves garlic, minced
half of a medium onion, chopped
1 inch ginger root, crushed and minced
1 ½ cups mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bella, but next time I will use shiitake)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped

Stir-fry Sauce
½ cup chicken broth (if you’re vegetarian/vegan, use vegetable broth)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chili paste
½ tsp hot chili sesame oil
1 tsp brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tsp cornstarch
3 whole cloves, ground (about 1/8 tsp)
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp sesame seeds 
6 stalks green onions, minced

2 tbsp olive oil, for frying
½ tsp salt

Drain the tofu by placing it on a plate and putting another plate over it, to remove excess liquid. Give it about 15 minutes then cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes. (Tofu is fragile, even though the container says it is firm. Do not press on the top plate, I used too much muscle and ended up causing it to fall apart.)

While the tofu is draining, mix all the ingredients for the tofu marinade in a small bowl and whisk well. Remove excess tofu liquid from the plate before pouring the marinade over the tofu. Soak the tofu on the plate with the marinade for however long it takes you to prepare the next ingredients. If you work faster, give it at least 20 minutes to sit in the marinade.

Toast the sesame seeds in a small, non-stick frying pan, over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until it turns slightly brown. Set aside.

Mix all the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce and set aside.

Chop and mince the vegetable ingredients.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan, over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until it turns slightly golden, about 1 minute. Add the onions and stir occasionally until it softens, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers and sauté for 1 minute. Pour the stir-fry sauce evenly over the vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce evaporates. Stir occasionally, taking care not to break the tofu into pieces. Add the salt and cook for another minute or two. Turn off the heat and add the sesame seeds and green onions, stirring just enough to spread it evenly.

Serve while hot with white rice.        


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Scones and Alice Waters

Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food is one of my favorite cookbooks. It is somewhat textbookish, written to teach different cooking techniques, explain cooking terminology, demonstrate how to make certain foods from scratch, and so on. She has simple, wholesome recipes that bring out the natural flavor of a particular ingredient. You will enjoy food the way it was meant to be eaten.   

Today, I want to share my own scone recipe, inspired by Alice Waters’ original. What I love about her scone recipe is the simplicity of the baking process, which requires very few ingredients and not too much work, and the light and lovely taste you get from each bite. Her recipe is very foolproof and gives you plenty of room to experiment! I have played with it many times, adding lemon zest, orange zest, chocolate chips, cranberries, combinations of these, adding pumpkin to the wet ingredients, and so on. Miraculously, they always turned out nicely.

One of my successful attempts from playing with the original recipe is my Cranberry Pumpkin Scones. Perfect for cold, wintry days…


Some of the steps:

Bake me now!

Cranberry Pumpkin Scones (Makes 8 servings)
(inspired by Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food)

2 cups unbleached whole-wheat flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp crème fraiche
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/8 tsp freshly ground whole cloves

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp white sugar

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and dried cranberries.

In another bowl, mix together heavy cream, pumpkin puree, crème fraiche, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves.

Mix wet mixture into the dry mixture until the dough just starts to come together. It will be sticky. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead briefly, just enough to bring the dough completely together. Pat it into an 8-inch circle. Divide the dough into 8 wedges.

In a tiny bowl, mix together the cinnamon-sugar glaze: cinnamon, brown sugar, and white sugar.

Brush a baking sheet with some of the melted butter.

Move the wedges on the baking sheet. Brush first with butter and then vanilla. Then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake for about 18-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.

Savor every bite, to the very last crumb!

What are you waiting for? Start making these yummy sconies!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tofu is My New Friend

In the past, I scoffed at tofu… it seems fake, it doesn’t have any taste, it has a weird consistency and a funny texture, IT’S TOFU, it is yuck. (Confession of an ex tofu-hater: I talked smack about tofu even before I actually tried it.)

Just a couple of months ago, I finally decided to give it a try. I had it in a Thai dish with stir-fried veggies and another Thai dish with peanut sauce. *Hmmm… not as bad as I thought… pretty decent... I kinda like it!*

One afternoon, I decided to cook with it and found out that it really is just an edible sponge that absorbs whatever delightful sauces you make it with, and the soft texture is actually quite pleasant. Tofu and I are starting to get to know each other and I’m still embarrassed about my naiveté over my new friend’s capabilities.   

Today, I’m going to share the first tofu recipe that I made… and I guarantee there will be more to come!

I forgot to add the garlic and ginger to this ingredient photo op.

Spicy Braised Tofu with Ground Beef  (Makes 4-6 servings)
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Asian Cooking)

Beef Marinade
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 lb ground beef

16 oz firm tofu
½ cup chicken broth
1 tsp salt

Braising Sauce
½ cup chicken broth
1 ½ tbsp chili paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp cornstarch
dash of freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp minced green onions, include white and pale green parts (you can use more to your liking)
1 ½ tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced

Prepare the marinade in a large, glass or plastic bowl. Stir the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil together. Add the ground beef. Mix well, making sure to coat the meat evenly. Set aside.

Put 1 teaspoon salt and ½ cup chicken broth in a small sauce pan. Add water until the pan is ¾ full. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. After this mixture starts boiling gently, turn the heat down to medium-low and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu and reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 6 minutes. Using a flat and wide slotted spatula, transfer the tofu to a plate. Press out the excess liquid from the tofu by weighing it down with another plate. Set aside for about 30 minutes to make sure most of the liquid comes out and pour off the excess right before stir-frying. Then, cut the tofu into ½ inch cubes.

Prepare the braising sauce in a small bowl, by whisking ½ cup chicken broth, chili paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, and ground pepper. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the ground beef and the rest of its marinade. Stir-fry until it just turns slightly brown, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium then add the garlic and stir it well into the beef, add the green onions and ginger and stir-fry for another minute. Stir in the sauce and simmer until it starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the tofu, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered. Stir gently, occasionally, making sure not to break the tofu into small pieces. The dish is ready when most of the sauce is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and serve immediately.

This is wonderful served over rice and a side of steamed vegetables.

...with leftover potato masala (I overcooked the potatoes, so it was more like an Indian version of mashed potatoes)...

...with delicious stir-fried veggies made by DFJ, basmati rice, and an old sourdough bread... DELISH!

Do you have any delicious tofu recipes to share? I would love to try it!  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Egg Salad Sandwich Nostalgia

My mother is an amazing woman! She was widowed at a young age and had 4 little children to take care of. I don’t know how she managed to do that, but she did.

One of the things I fondly reminisce about my childhood days is my mother’s egg salad sandwich spread. She would make a big batch of it on Sundays and store it in a recycled mayonnaise jar. Then we can take egg salad sandwiches to school to snack on!

Her original recipe used hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise. But, I make mine a little different just because I happened to have this idea one day and decided to try it… and it turned out good. It’s quite different from my mom’s, but very tasty all the same.     

Egg Salad Sandwich
queso fresco

1 tsp olive oil
2 sage leaves, torn
2 large eggs
2 stalks green onions, minced
4 tbsp plain, whole milk Greek yogurt
4 tbsp queso fresco, shredded
1 tbsp cheddar cheese, shredded
dashes of Tabasco (however much you want)
pinch of salt, to taste

Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan. Over medium heat, cook sage in the oil for about 2-3 minutes until they turn brownish.

Crack eggs and sprinkle the top with salt and pepper. Fry eggs in pan until the yolks are well-done, about 6-8 minutes. The bottom will turn brown, but that’s ok. The burnt part adds flavor and texture. Put a lid over pan to help the yolks cook better. Move eggs into a medium mixing bowl.
Return pan to the burner without the heat on and stir the green onions in the leftover heat.

Meanwhile, shred the eggs into small pieces. Add yogurt, queso fresco, cheddar cheese, tabasco, salt, and green onions. Mix all ingredients together.

Use right away...  

Look Ma! My egg salad is in a recycled container too!
Love you!

... or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.   

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mocha Muffins turned into a... Mocha Cake

One of the 4 recipe books I got for Christmas is Best Ever MUFFINS, Cupcakes and Other Baked Treats. So far I have baked out of it twice. Both treats were delish! The post for the other one will be for later because I didn’t take pictures of it. This mochalicious delight has a perfect mix of chocolate and cranberry morsels that adds a touch of sweetness to every bite.

This Mocha Cake recipe is actually supposed to be baked into muffins… but I was in a time crunch and just decided to pour the entire batter into a cake pan. Some of the ingredients required in the original recipe were strong coffee, instant coffee powder, almond extract, and raisins. I substituted them with espresso, cacao nibs, vanilla extract, and cranberries.

When a muffin recipe is turned into a cake, you should not feel unclassy for eating it without a fork during the day… a slice can be treated like a muffin. However, I recommend using a fork if you decide to have it for dessert after dinner.

flour mixture
cocoa nibs, chocolate chips, cranberries
the batter
cocoa topping
ready to be popped in the oven

Mocha Cake (Makes 10 servings)
(adapted from Best Ever Muffins, Cupcakes, and Other Baked Treats)

vegetable oil spray, for pan
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
pinch of salt
4 oz butter, melted
scant ¾ cup raw sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk (I used nonfat and it turned out ok)
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp espresso
1 tbsp cacao nibs (Scharffen Berger)
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
generous 1/3 cup cranberries

Cocoa Topping
3 tbsp raw sugar
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp allspice

Spray the cake pan with vegetable oil. (I coated it with the leftover melted butter.)

Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa, and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Put cacao nibs, chocolate chips, and cranberries in a small bowl.
Add the cranberry mixture to the flour mixture and stir together.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and raw sugar together, then stir in beaten egg.
Pour in the milk, vanilla extract, and espresso.
Gently mix together.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and gently stir together until just combined.
Do not overstir the batter. It’s ok for it to be a little lumpy.
Pour the batter into the oiled/buttered cake pan.

Make the topping by mixing the sugar, cocoa, and all-spice really well in a small bowl.
Sprinkle the topping over the batter and move the pan into a preheated oven, 375 degrees F, and bake for about 28 minutes.

Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle of the cake… you’re all set if it comes out clean. Don’t be tricked if there’s gooey stuff on the toothpick, you might have stabbed a chocolate chip, so try inserting the toothpick in another spot.

I recommend making this recipe into muffins, like it should be. It makes 12. For muffins, pour the batter into a muffin pan, lined with paper liners (or not), and move it into an oven preheated to 375 degrees F, for 20 minutes or until risen.