Macaroni & Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon (Guest post by my two daughters, again…)

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As I posted on the last blog post, I am smoothly, but slowly recovering from my hysterectomy surgery.  I feel very fortunate to have my 14 and 13 year old daughters take care of me the past few weeks, but they are starting back with their new school year tomorrow!!!  Never have I felt so sad and the feeling of making up some lame excuses to keep them home with me is very tempting… granted, all for selfish reasons.

Last night my daughters cooked Macaroni & Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon (both Giada De Laurentiis’ recipes) and they were absolutely divine!! They were both interested in cooking and baking, but I have seen their confidence grow cooking in the kitchen in the last month.  Well, let me have my daughters tell you about it:

AAfter that chicken jambalaya stunt, I felt a little more confident and willing to try more recipes. I like macaroni and cheese but making it from scratch was a first for me, so I decided on that. And then salmon is my favorite fish (self-explanatory). We started with the macaroni and cheese and used up all the milk in the house. The salmon was all right too, but I was a bit squeamish because I was never comfortable with handling animal protein. But they both turned out fine (actually, more than fine) and I overstuffed myself at the dinner table. I will definitely make the macaroni and cheese again, but salmon is up in the air because I am not a fan of handling meat. But experience is how we all learn, I guess.

JWe’re back! This time my sister and I made Mac and Cheese and Foil Baked Salmon. Luckily, nobody in my family is allergic to anything in these recipes, so we didn’t have to change anything or find different recipes like last time. This time cooking was fairly easy, maybe because the recipes were simple or because I’m getting more comfortable in the kitchen. The Mac and Cheese was pretty straightforward. Noodles + cheesy saucy goodness = majestic heavenly magic. It was  gooey on the inside while the edges were crispy. I believe that there’s no such thing as too much cheese, and this recipe just proves my point. It went very well with the Foil Baked Salmon. The salmon with the tomatoes and onions (the recipe actually called for shallots but we didn’t have any so we just used onions) tasted just as magnificent as the mac and cheese. I will most definitely be making this again, and soon. I think I’ll have to revisit this recipe often to fuel my new cheesy, fishy addiction. Really though, if I haven’t made it clear yet, it’s so fantastical that you’ll have dreams about it so I advise you to double the recipe so you can have some more the next day and relive the dream.  Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. As you can tell, I get very emotional when it comes to food. Maybe I should stop talking now.

Macaroni and Cheese:

6 servings:

  • Butter, for greasing dish
  • 12 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (packed) grated Fontina
  • 3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup (packed) grated mozzarella
  • 4 ounces cooked ham, diced, optional
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

**Ham was omitted from our recipe.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Drain well, but do not rinse.

Whisk the cream, milk, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend. Stir in 1 cup Fontina, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, ham, if using, and parsley. Add the noodles and toss to coat. Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish. Toss the remaining 1 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture. Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Foil Baked Salmon:

4 servings:

  • 4 (5 ounces each) salmon fillets
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sprinkle salmon with 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir the tomatoes, shallots, 2 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Place a salmon fillet, oiled side down, atop a sheet of foil. Wrap the ends of the foil to form a spiral shape. Spoon the tomato mixture over the salmon. Fold the sides of the foil over the fish and tomato mixture, covering completely; seal the packets closed. Place the foil packet on a heavy large baking sheet. Repeat until all of the salmon have been individually wrapped in foil and placed on the baking sheet. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the foil packets to plates and serve.

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Chicken Jambalaya – Guest post (kind of) by my two daughters.

My goodness! It’s been few months since I last posted! It’s been a busy Summer and now we’re facing another school year to start.  We had a wonderful opportunity to visit Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Italy this Summer (we walked a lot, ate delicious food, saw many beautiful sites/sceneries which were true eye candies, and came home satisfied); and we recently came back from our annual South Carolina beach trip (we have grown quite fond of Litchfield Beach near Pawley’s Island and hope to maybe retire there in 20 years?!).  However, the biggest event in between these trips was my hysterectomy surgery; I will not go into details since this is a food blog, but I’ve had this massive fibroid for few years and I finally parted with it.  I am in my 3rd week of recovery and I do have to say it’s been a smooth, but slow recovery.  So many people assume the recovery is the same as C-sec, and many people have different recovery process, but aside from the incision I don’t see anything similar.  With hysterectomy you are taking out organ(s) and re-attaching so many parts (ligaments, muscle, other organ parts) with hundreds and thousands of staple/sutures internally, things are shifting inside of you to adjust themselves, and … ok, let me stop here, this is a food blog!!

For the past 3 weeks my family has been supportive and helpful; my 2 daughters (A – age 14 and J – age 13) have truly risen to this occasion and have been cleaning the house, doing laundry, being my home nurse, giving me pedicures and cooking.  They’ve actually cooked quite a few dishes so far, but I wanted to show case last night’s dinner.  They cooked Chicken Jambalaya and it was de-li-cious!!  They still give me lots of grief, but I am very proud of how they are taking ownership and responsibility so therefore, in my book they are pretty good :)  I asked each of them to write a short paragraph of their experiences so far with cooking:

AI began cooking more because my mum couldn’t. It first started from necessity but as I continued throughout the summer, everything from choosing recipes to actually cooking became more enjoyable. Thus, I have had fun experimenting with different recipes and learning new techniques in the kitchen. I stumbled across this recipe for chicken jambalaya and decided to try it because I am allergic to shrimp and other shellfish, yet have always wanted to taste jambalaya. And it was worth it! The seasoning married well with the chicken and rice and I couldn’t resist second helpings. Although this dish isn’t my all-time favorite, I will most likely make it again.

JAbout three weeks ago, my mother had a major surgery, causing her to stay in bed for about a week after. She became dependent on my sister and me to cook for her. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend anybody even letting me into the kitchen, but I didn’t really have a choice at that point. At first I just cooked anything simple that would feed the family and wouldn’t result in the house burning down, but as the weeks passed I still had to take care of my mother, who can now walk around a bit but still can’t stand in one place for too long, meaning she still can’t cook or clean. As I became more comfortable in the kitchen, as well as more willing to cook for my mother, my sister and I began to look through different recipes that looked interesting to us. My sister found the recipe for chicken jambalaya, and we instantly decided that we wanted to try this one out. Because my sister is allergic to shrimp, I’ve never actually tried jambalaya before. (Sad, I know.) By making this chicken version (which tasted lovely, by the way), I was able to both cook and taste jambalaya while I knew that it was safe for everybody to eat. My sister isn’t a big fan of spicy food, while I, on the other hand, love it. This was good for the both of us because it had a bit of a kick to it without being overwhelming. (Bonus points for Mum and Dad enjoying it too!) Overall, I think we did a pretty good job on this one and I would definitely make it again sometime!

Well, considering they are 14 and 13 I think they did a good job voicing their experiences on their mother’s blog pretty well :)  I would have been so embarrassed at their age!  Well, I’ve enjoyed everything my girls cooked for me so far and they have few more days to cook before their lives will become busy again with school and after school activities.  This Chicken Jambalaya was so flavorful and it truly hit the spot for me!  They found the recipe from a cookbook “The Slow Cook Book” by Heather Whinney, and the beauty of this book is Whinney gives both the slow cooker and traditional ways of cooking her recipes.  My daughters chose the traditional style.

Serves: 4-6

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 boneless chicken pieces (thigh and breast), cut into large chunky pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 red  onion, finely chopped
  • 3  garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1  green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1  red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 7 oz thick slices pre-cooked ham, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups hot  chicken stock for the  slow cooker (3 cups for the traditional method), plus extra if necessary
  • 1 3/4 cups quick-cooking long-grain rice
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh  peas
  • Small handful of cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

**Instead of ham, my daughters used half chorizo and half mild sausages.

Heat half the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high-heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, toss in the oregano and cayenne pepper, then add to the pot (in batches, if necessary) and cook for 6-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the pot over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, and peppers, and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the ham. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, season well, partially cover with the lid, and cook gently for about 40 minutes. Check occasionally that it’s not drying out, topping up with a little hot water if needed. Stir in the rice, turning so it absorbs all the stock, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked, topping up with more stock if necessary. Add the peas for the last 5 minutes.

Taste and add seasoning, if needed, and stir in the cilantro, if using. Try serving with a green salad, green beans, plain yogurt or sour cream, and some crusty bread.

Chicken Jambalaya

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As much as I am looking forward for my full recovery ( I heard it takes about a year for everything to heal, esp. internally) I will be sad for all this pampering to be gone :(

Wasabi and White Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

Yes, you read it correctly – “wasabi” in a cupcake!  Why not? You find all sorts of interesting ingredients in truffles lately so wasabi in a cupcake isn’t too weird, right?  Anyway, this recipe also came from “Saved by Cake” by Marian Keyes.

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Makes: 12

Cupcakes:

3-1/2 ounces white chocolate

7 Tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon wasabi paste

Salted Caramel Topping:

7 Tablespoons butter

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup golden syrup (or substitute with dark corn syrup)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

** Even though substitution for golden syrup is mentioned here, I highly recommend for you to get golden syrup (most larger supermarkets or specialty stores have golden syrup). 

Line a cupcake pan for 12 cupcakes and preheat the oven to 350F.

Melt the chocolate using your favorite method (I used microwave to gradually melt the chocolate), remembering that this is white chocolate and is easy to burn.  Add the butter to the chocolate and stir until everything is melted and combined.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar.  The mixture might look a little strange and “congealy.” Don’t worry, let it all cool for about 10 minutes, ten add the vanilla extract and beat with an electric mixer for a full 3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time; sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt and fold through.  Finally, add the wasabi paste and make sure it’s distributed evenly.  Divide the mixture among the cupcake liners.  Bake for 22 minutes; cool the tray on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the salted caramel topping by putting the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, vanilla, and salt into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt over a gentle heat.  When the butter and sugar have melted, raise the heat.  Whisk like mad until the mixture starts bubbling, but don’t let it boil.  Keep it at that bubbling point for about 5-8 minutes and it should thicken a little.

When you’re satisfied with its consistency, let it cool a little before icing the cupcakes – if it’s too hot, it’s liable to run down the sides.  However, if it cools down too much, it won’t spread easily enough.  So feel free to reheat it a bit if it’s gotten too stubborn and resistant, or let it cool down if it’s gone a little free-spirited with itself.  Finish by sprinkling the top with a few grains of sea salt.

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You can get wasabi paste at any Asian markets.

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We love golden syrup! Great for baking, but also delicious on toasts!

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If you don’t feel like making caramel topping, you can just use a good quality caramel sauce.  We love this caramel sauce from Trader Joe’s (just briefly microwave until the sauce is spreadable).

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My opinion:  Another Marian Keyes recipe for adults!!  Both of my children weren’t too thrilled with these cupcakes; one showed outright distaste claiming she can taste the wasabi, and another was impartial to it but preferred not eating it.  However, once again the adults LOVED it!  I loved the fluffy and dense cake, the subtle wasabi flavor which gave a deeper taste to the cake combined with the salted caramel sauce made this a pure winner!  I really think the combination of wasabi and white chocolate were wonderful!

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Ribs

I do need to apologize for the photo quality on this post;  it’s embarrassing to post this photo, but with my limited ability I am not able to work magic nor would I want to alter the photo to make it look like what it’s not.  However, I do want to say that this is an awesome recipe!!  It reminded me of Korean rib stew “galbi jjim – 갈비찜” – we really enjoyed eating this with short grained rice, just love it when the rice soaks up the sauce, yum!  I altered the recipe from here (if you want to see a good photo, check her photo, it looks very delicious!) to adjust to our “Asian” palate :)  This is a really simple dish to make (no prior braising or any of that), it’s basically “throw all the ingredients together” type of a dish.

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Short Ribs (2)

  • 2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup regular soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 (6-8 ounces) canned crushed pineapples; drained
  • 3 Tbsp. pineapple juice, saved from the canned pineapple
  • 6-7 minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Short Ribs (1)

  • Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.
  • Evenly distribute rib meat inside slow cooker.
  • In a small bowl, combine 2 soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, drained crushed pineapple, pineapple juice, minced garlic, Chinese 5 Spice powder, and black pepper;   stir until evenly combined. Dump over rib meat.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

** I added bok choy into the slow cooker about 1 hour before the ribs were done.  If you want your bok choy to have more vibrant green color either sauté or steam them, but since time was an issue for me I just put them inside the slow cooker. 

My opinion: Oh so yummy!! Melt in your mouth beef ribs and delicious sauce that just soaks into the rice.  I’m a bit of a rice snob, and I do recommend you cooking short grained rice (love the consistency and the ability to really soak in the sauce).  Even though the bok choy came out dull looking I think they also absorbed the sauce and had a wonderful flavor.  This is such an easy slow cooker recipe; you have to try it!  I’m itching to make this again, but since I don’t want to eat too much red meat I’m patiently waiting to cook this again :)

Mango Upside Down Cake

Mangoes are everywhere now! Every year, around this time, I have been buying mangoes every week; there are so many varieties of mangoes out there, but we particularly like Champagne mangoes.  My children have been taking sliced mangoes for lunch snacks almost daily and they don’t get bored :)   Aside from eating fresh mangoes, I also have been baking them and incorporating them into our dinner entrees.  Today’s recipe comes from “Saved By Cake” by Marian Keyes;  I have been waiting for this cookbook to be published in America, so back in April when it finally came out I purchased it!

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Serves: 6-8

Topping:

3-1/2 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup light brown sugar

16 ounce can of sliced mango in syrup, drained (reserve 2 Tablespoons of the syrup).  **I used fresh ripe mangoes instead; enough to cover the top (1 large mango or 1-1/2 mangoes – depending on the size and variety you use).

Cake:

7 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup superfine sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup self-rising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Liberally grease an 8 inch cake pan.  I would discourage using springform pan because the syrup will leak out as the cake bakes.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

For the topping, beat the butter and sugar together, then spread it over the base of the cake pan – it will be a very thin layer so don’t worry.  Then arrange the mango slices on top of the topping (you can cut some slices to fill in the gaps).

Make the cake by creaming the butter and sugar together, adding the eggs and the 2 Tablespoons of reserved syrup (if you are using fresh mangoes don’t worry about this syrup).  Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold through.

Spread the cake batter over the sliced mangoes, covering them, then bake for 35 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack, and invert the cake out onto a serving plate (without burning your fingers!).  Serve warm with a dollop of fresh cream.

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My opinion:  First of all, I was a bit surprised when my children didn’t like this cake; they said it wasn’t bad tasting, but not for them.  Maybe their taste buds haven’t grown into sophisticated palates yet :)  On the other hand, my husband and I quite enjoyed this cake.  I was never into pineapple upside down cakes (I think they were too sweet for my taste), but this mango upside down cake had enough sweetness to qualify as a cake and a very adult flavor.  I also think that not using canned mangoes helped the cake not to be overly sweet.  I think next time I may add a little bit of freshly ground cardamom!

Pineapple Coconut Oil Banana Bread

Summer is not my favorite season; yes, you heard me correct, I don’t like Summer, in fact I actually hate it.  I don’t like the intense sun, I don’t like the humidity, I don’t like how the heat and humidity drain my energy; I don’t like it because I have to temporarily halt major cooking and baking (unless I blast my air conditioner) and I don’t like walking around like a zombie waiting for the Fall to come.  Maybe I will feel differently if my house had central air and a pool in the backyard (but with this 100 plus year old house I strike out on both counts).   However, there is one thing I like about Summer…  (yes, just one thing) I like all the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables I find at the Farmer’s Market and at my local organic markets.  They look so vibrant and alive!  Many of these produce can be purchased throughout the year, but nothing compares with the taste of seasonal produce.

Ironically today’s recipe will remind you of a tropical island with pineapple, coconut and banana.  Pineapples you get at the market now are definitely sweeter than the ones you can get in Winter (I don’t even try to buy tropical fruits in the Winter, seriously, I don’t like how they taste).  I found today’s recipe here and so glad I tried it!

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Makes: two 8-by-4-inch loaves

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (canola or vegetable oil, or browned or melted butter may be substituted)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream may be substituted)
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, optional but recommended
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (2 large or 3 small ripe bananas)
  • 1 cup pineapple, diced (I used frozen; mango, peaches, nectarines, strawberries or blueberries may be substituted)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two 8-by-4-inch loaf pans with floured cooking spray; set aside. (I have not tried it but I suspect you could bake as muffins, mini loaves, or in a Bundt pan, adjusting baking times accordingly).
  2. In a large bowl combine the eggs, coconut oil, buttermilk, sugars, vanilla, and whisk to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, optional salt, and stir to just incorporate; don’t overmix because the gluten will overdevelop and bread will be tougher. Stir in bananas. Stir in pineapple (if using frozen, just add it frozen, no need to thaw it first. If using fresh or canned, make sure it’s well-drained or it could water-down the batter).
  3. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until top is golden and set, a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean (banana bread is gooey and it may not come out perfectly clean). If bread is browning too fast on the top, you may wish to lower your oven temperature to 325F in last 15 minutes of cooking, or tent the pan with foil; although I don’t suspect this will be an issue. Allow bread to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Bread will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container or large Ziplock at room temperature (I wrap my fully cooled bread in Clingwrap, then I place it in a gallon-sized Ziplock). Second loaf may be frozen for up to 3 months.

My opinion: If at all possible, I highly encourage you to use coconut oil and fresh pineapples (even though substitution options are given) – coconut oil gives mild, rounded and deep note (doesn’t taste like coconut so don’t worry), and fresh pineapples give authentic sweetness and texture to this wonderful bread.  I don’t think any ingredients or flavor compete against each other, they kind of all blend really well together.  I didn’t have to worry about storing the second loaf  because we polished off pretty quickly!!

Slow Cooker Thai Curry

I love my slow cooker and I love Thai curry!  I have been trying different slow cooker recipes gearing up for the Summer.  I always associated slow cooker to Fall/Winter, but I realized slow cooker comes in handy (even saved many dinners) during Summer especially when you live in a 100 plus year old house without central air… I adapted this Thai curry recipe from here;  instead of beef, I added chicken; instead of beef stock, I added chicken stock; and depending on your taste adjust the amount of curry paste, sugar and fish sauce.  I also added bell peppers, carrots, zucchini,  and  bamboo shoots; used regular coconut milk instead of light milk, omitted jalapeno,  and garnished with cilantro.  

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Serving: 8

  • 2 pounds lean beef stew meat
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion (1 onion)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk  (** I used regular coconut milk)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 2 cups bagged baby spinach leaves
  • 4 cups hot cooked jasmine rice
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

**See the adjustments I made above (in the introduction).  

  1. 1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Drain. Place beef in a 4-quart electric slow cooker; sprinkle with salt.
  2. 2. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 5 minutes or until tender. Spoon onion mixture over beef. Combine beef broth and next 6 ingredients (through jalapeño); pour over beef. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours.
  3. 3. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook on LOW for 15 minutes or just until spinach wilts. Serve beef mixture over rice; sprinkle with basil leaves.

**There are different types of Thai curry paste; these are the 2 brands I use the most.  In my opinion, the canned paste is slightly less spicy and hot than the paste in a tub.  

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My opinion:  Ohhhh, loved it!!!  My family couldn’t keep away from this curry!!  My children wanted to eat this day after day, but after day 2 we finished it up and they were really sad.  Use the recipe as a base and adjust it to your own taste (as you can see, that’s what I did).

Grandma Sylvia’s Salt Butter Cookie

Another guest post! This time by my 12 year old daughter!  Well, I’m still blogging, but she made the recipe, so does that still count as a guest post??   Today’s recipe is from a cookbook America’s Best Lost Recipes; it has a splash of whiskey in this chocolate filled butter cookies (I know, 12 year old and whiskey don’t mix, but she wanted to bake these and didn’t see any harm in it).

salt butter cookies

Makes about 36 cookies:

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon whiskey

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate

1/4 cup water

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla and whiskey and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the yolk mixture. Add the flour and beat until incorporated. Shape the dough into 3/4-inch balls and place 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet. Bake until lightly browned around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

When the cookies are cool, in a microwave-safe bowl or on the stovetop, heat the chocolate and water together, stirring occasionally, until completely smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

Spread 1 teaspoon of filling on one cookie and top with another cookie, pressing them together. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let the filling set until hardened, about 20 minutes, before serving.

Note:  Using a teaspoon to make balls seemed very effective (I think my daughter made little more than 72 cookies, which easily became 36 sandwiched cookies).  Also, we had a little difficulty with the filling being runny, but chilling the filling inside the refrigerator helped it to firm up.

My opinion:  First of all, I do have to say my daughter enjoyed baking these delicious morsels, but for goodness sake!  she talked and talked throughout this baking process!  Anyway, these cookies reminded me of the cross between French butter cookies and shortbread – I personally liked them without the filling, but my children liked the filling (go figure!).

Berry Topped White Cupcakes

I am going to deviate a bit today and post something that was made yesterday (hopefully my 8 other posts in queue will not revolt!).   For the past few months whenever we have Early Dismissals from school I have been giving baking lessons to my daughters (ages 14 & 12) and one of their friend.  They weren’t quite interested in cooking/baking even a year ago, but now that they are showing active interests I grabbed onto the opportunity.  When I was their age I used to hover around the kitchen to see what my mom was cooking & baking, but she would always shoo me away because she didn’t want to be bothered teaching me (understandably so since she was a single mom who worked 2 jobs).  I kind of resented that and took it upon myself to learn how to cook through experimenting and making lots of mistakes.  I also want my kids to experiment in the kitchen, however, I wanted to make sure I at least teach them the basics.

Anyway, today’s post is something like a “guest post” – because my 14 year old daughter and her friend took some time to bake these delicious cupcakes!  The recipe is from Taste of Home.

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Makes: 22 cupcakes

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk

Frosting:

  • 4 ounces  cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Assorted berries
  • Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In another bowl, cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
  •    Beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Fold a fourth of the egg whites into batter; fold in remaining whites.
  •    With a spoon, gently fill foil- or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  •    For icing, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. Frost cupcakes. Top with berries.

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My opinion:  These are really delicious! The cupcake itself is like Angel Cake (but a bit more dense and moist); we really liked the frosting too! Since it combines cream cheese and butter it tastes and feels lighter plus a hint of lemon juice is refreshing.  More than the cupcakes, it gave me greater pleasure to see the girls feeling more comfortable and confident as they tackled new challenges each time and seeing smiles on their faces!  Job well done girls!!

P.S.  The serving plate I used was designed and made by my friend and her husband!  They run a nice tableware store Antshop in Yokohama, Japan.

Blueberry Boy Bait

I’m seeing more blueberries in markets now (which makes me very happy!).  As much as I love cold weather, I truly appreciate different varieties of fruits and vegetables Spring/Summer offer to enhance our palate and diet :)  Today’s recipe comes from America’s Best Lost Recipes cookbook which I bought few years ago.  This is basically blueberry coffee crumb cake, but the origin starts from 1954 where a 15 year old girl won the Pillsbury Grand National Baking Contest with this recipe.  The cake was  apparently named “for the effect it had on teenage boys – one bite and they were hooked”.

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Serves 12:

Cake :

  • 2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

Topping :

  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
  • For the cake : Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  • For the topping : Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

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My opinion:  I do have to say this is a pretty darn good coffee cake.  It’s not overly sweet, and it’s moist and fluffy at the same time.  I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but I don’t feel guilty eating this, but I’m sure I’ve already paid the price for my delusion…  This is a simply cake and as long as you have blueberries you can whip it up (it tastes good when it’s still warm, but tastes even better the day after!).