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.

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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 😦

Kedgeree

Oh, life! Why are you flying by?!  I don’t even know where the time went (with all the family dramas, obligations and appointments to keep).  Anyway, I’m just going to keep my effort in catching up with my early February posts; so I’m just a mere month behind, that’s pretty good, right?

I always wanted to make kedgeree, and I was finally able to make some over our Downton Abbey finale dinner.  You would think kedgeree for the Edwardian style dinner?  It’s not too weird if you think about it…  Due to the British colonization of India from the early 17th century, this Indian breakfast rice dish called kedgeree became pretty popular in the Victorian era.  There are many variations of this kedgeree recipe, but I adopted Nigella Lawson’s recipe.  It’s pretty straightforward so no need to feel intimidated.

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  • 2 1/4 cups cold water, for poaching the fish
  • 2 lime leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 salmon fillets (approximately 1-inch thick), preferably organic, skinned (about 1 1/2 pounds in total)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, plus more, for garnish
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced plus lime segments, for garnish
  • Fish sauce, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

This is because the easiest way to poach salmon for this dish is to do it in the oven. So: pour the water into a roasting pan, add the lime leaves and then the salmon. Cover the pan with foil, put in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes, by which time the salmon should be tender. Remove the pan from the oven and drain the liquid off into a pitcher. Keep the fish warm simply by replacing the foil on the pan.

Melt the butter in a wide, heavy saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid, and add the oil to stop the butter burning. Soften the onion in the pan and add the spices, then keep cooking till the onion is slightly translucent and suffused with soft perfume of the spices. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon so that it’s all well coated. There’s not enough onion to give a heavy coating: just make sure the rice is fragrantly slicked.

Pour in the reserved liquid from the pitcher, about 2 1/4 cups, and stir before covering with the lid and cooking gently for 15 minutes. If your stove is vociferous you may need a flame tamer.

At the end of the cooking time, when the rice is tender and has lost all chalkiness, turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pan with a dish towel and then replace the lid. This will help absorb any extra moisture form the rice. It is also the best way to let the rice stand without getting sticky or cold, which is useful when you’ve got a few friends and a few dishes to keep your eye on.

Just before you want to eat, drain off any extra liquid that’s collected in the dish with the salmon, then flake the fish with a fork. Add to it the rice, egg, cilantro, lime juice and a drop or 2 of fish sauce. Stir gently to mix – I use a couple of wooden paddles or spatulas – and taste to see if you want any more lime juice or fish sauce. Sprinkle over the zest from the 2 juiced halves of the lime and serve. I love it served just as it is in the roasting dish, but if you want to, and I often do (consistency is a requirement of a recipe but not of a cook), decant into large plate before you add the lime zest, then surround with lime segments and add the zest and a small handful of freshly chopped cilantro.

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My opinion:  First of all, this is a really light and favorful rice dish.  Some people like it more dry and some more wet, but I personally like it more on a drier side; I did end up adding more spices to adjust to my taste.  I love the use of the salmon stock to cook the basmati.  I made just enough quantity and I regretted – next time I’m going to probably triple the amount, because the leftover eaten the next day tastes really good!

Japanese Style Ginger Pork (Buta no Shogo Yaki) and Rice with Green Peas

Today’s post will be a quick one since I’ve been busy cleaning up our soon to be newly renovated bathroom!  Growing up in Japan my mom used to make this (but not frequently enough).  When I came to America at the age of 16 I completely forgot about this dish until now.  I would occasionally remember, but didn’t have to energy to think about exactly which ingredients went in and the quantity until I came upon Harumi Kurihara’s “Japanese Home Cooking”.  This is quite simple and so very delicious!!

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Trim the ends of the bean sprouts.

Mix together the soy sauce, mirin and grated ginger and dip the pork slices into this marinade briefly just before cooking.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Remove pork from the marinade and add to the pan, making sure it cooks evenly and doesn’t stick together or curl up.  Turn over after a couple of minutes and cook until both sides are browned.  Don’t leave the pork for long, as it cooks pretty fast, but make sure it’s cooked through.

In a separate pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over a high heat.  Add the sliced garlic.  When the aroma is released, add the bean sprouts and stir-fry.  Season with salt and pepper.

Put the bean sprouts onto a serving dish and then lay the slices of pork on top.  Pour any remaining juices from the frying pan over the pork.

Rice with Green Peas: serves 4

1-1/2 cups uncooked short grain rice

1-3/4 cups water

1-1/2 cups green peas

1 Tablespoon sake

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Mix all the ingredients together and cook the rice.

My opinion: One of my daughter is not a huge meat eater nor a meat lover; she especially don’t care much for pork, but guess what?  She had healthy servings of both pork and bean sprouts and didn’t complain once, in fact she said she really liked it!  I had enough left overs (because I made enough for 8 servings!) my husband is so thrilled to take this for his lunch tomorrow 🙂   Ginger is not overpowering, but blends so very well with the pork, soy sauce and mirin.  Bean Sprouts amazingly go very well with this pork.  If you don’t want to bother with the rice just make plain brown or white rice, but I think you should try this green pea rice just once.

Gallo Pinto (Rice & Bean with Fried Eggs), and Krazy Kake

I guess today is Cinco de Mayo.  No, we’re not Mexicans, but unknowingly I ended up cooking Latin American food today.  Today’s recipe is Gallo Pinto, which is Costa Rican and Nicaraguan national dish.  It’s basically rice and beans with fried eggs.  It’s mostly eaten for breakfast, but they also serve this for lunch and dinner.  I found this recipe in one of my favorite magazine “Fine Cooking”. 
Another recipe I tried is called “Krazy Kake”, no, I didn’t misspell the name.  My friend Aiko found this recipe in her 6th grade (I think) Home Economics’ class – I saw this recipe on her blog and thought it was interesting. 
On another note, not that I’m patting myself on my back, but I was so darn tired today.  However, dinner had to be prepared, but I resisted the urge to order out,  despite the temptation, and  I pressed on and cooked!

Gallo Pinto: serves 4
This dish uses Costa Rican condiment called “Salsa Lizano”.  I didn’t have time to order this (because none of the Latin American stores had this).  You can substitute with Worcestershire sauce. 
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3/4 cup long grain white rice (I used 1 cup)
Kosher salt
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into small dice
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup canned tomato sauce
1  15-1/2 ounce can black bean, drained and rinsed
3 Tablespoons Salsa Lizano
Freshly ground black pepper
8 large eggs
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Put the rice, a big pinch of salt, and 1-1/2 cups of water (I used 2 cups) in a 3 quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the rice has absorbed the water and is tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside with the lid on. 
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and a pinch of salt; cook stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the tomato sauce and stir for 1 minute.  Add the beans and 1 cup of water and simmer until the liquid reduces to the level of the beans, about 4 minutes. 
Add the rice to the beans and mix well. Stir in the Salsa Lizano and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Keep warm. 
Heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, swirling the pan to coat evenly.  Gently crack the eggs into the pan.  Season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook until the yolks’ edges have just begun to set, 2-3 minutes. (The eggs should cook gently, so lower the heat if needed.)
To serve, put a heaping spoonful of the rice and beans on a plate and slide 2 eggs on top.  Sprinkle with the cilantro. 
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My opinion:  Simple and absolutely delicious!! I also pan fried some plantains (if you are like us and like sweeter plantains, buy it a week in advance and let it sit on your kitchen counter.  I bought the darker skinned ones to begin with). 

Krazy Kake:
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1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar (1/2 white and 1/2 dark)
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extrace
3 Tablespoons vinegar
5 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Sift first 5 ingredients into an 8 inch round cake pan.
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Make 3 wells and put vanilla in one, vinegar in the 2nd, and oil in the 3rd
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Pour water on everything and mix well until smooth
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Bake 350F for about 30-35 minutes
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** Note: I didn’t grease the pan.  The cake came out fine after letting it cool down a bit.
Make the cream topping:  whip 150ml heavy cream with 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar.  Melt 100 gm dark chocolate and drizzle in the whipping cream.  Let the topping set in the fridge and ice the cake. 
For melting the chocolate,  you can carefully melt  it in the microwave, however, I used the double boiler (simply cut up a good quality dark chocolate and put in a smaller pot, in a slightly larger pot, add water and let it come to boil.  Put the smaller pot in the boiling water and carefully watch and stir until the chocolate melts). 
**Instead of making single cake, I made double cakes and layered them.  I also added cherry jam in between the layers (along with some of the cream). 

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My opinion:  I am soooo glad my friend found this recipe and posted on her blog!!  I think we all agreed this is one of the best chocolate cake we had!!  Despite not adding eggs, and adding vinegar instead, the cake came out fluffy, but with substance.  I don’t particularly like buttercream icing, so melted chocolate added in the whipped cream was perfect for me!  It’s a simple recipe and it’s definitely a keeper!

Kim-Bap

Kim-bap is a Korean version of sushi roll. It literally means “dried laver” (kim) “rice” (bap).    To be honest with you, I don’t know which came first, the Japanese version or the Korean.  I’m tempted to say Japanese, but you never know.  Kim-bap tastes drastically different from the Japanese sushi rolls.  While the Japanese prefer subtle and almost bland flavours (which isn’t necessarily bad), Koreans like bold and almost punch in your face flavours.  Kim-bap definitely has more flavours depending on what you put in as fillings.  I’m not the best kim-bap roller, but my children love kim-bap.  I rarely make this because it’s a bit time consuming, but when I make these, I make extra so the left overs can be made into Kim-bap Tempura!
Word of advice, kim-baps and any other sushi rolls are best when eaten on the same day when they are made.  During Winter time, you can keep them in a cool place (not in the frig because the rice will become hardened) until the next day, but that’s it, after the 2nd day, it won’t taste the same.  Also, there are many variations of kim-bap and how to make these delicious rolls, this is just one way of making it, and even though it’s a bit time consuming, it’s a simple version.

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4 cups of short grained rice
4-1/4 cups water
5 eggs
1lb spinach
2 carrots
Takuan (pickled radish) – you can buy this at Korean/Japanese markets
2 cans tuna
8-10 sheets of sushi nori (seaweed sheet)
mayo, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and salt
(** the amounts shown here are not the exact amounts, you’ll have to play with the amounts, use this as a guideline).

Rinse the rice and soak for about 30 minutes. Either cook the rice in the rice cooker or in a heavy pot over medium low heat.  For sushi style rice, I prefer the rice cooker. 
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Beat the egg, and make 2-8 inch size omelets
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The fillings I chose are spinach (wash and blanch the spinach. Drain the water and squeeze out extra water out from the spinach.  Add about 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and sprinkle sesame seeds).  Eggs (cool down the folded omelets and cut them into finger size slices).  Julienne the carrots and sauté few minutes.  Slice the takuan the same size as the eggs.  Tuna (drain the water and add about 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise – instead of tuna, if you prefer non-vegetarian filling, you can add ham, bulgogi – Korean style grilled beef, or other meat filling).
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When the rice is done, add about 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and about 2 teaspoons sesame oil.  Gentle mix (don’t press on the rice when you mix).  Let it cool slightly and spread some rice over the nori sheet leaving about 1/2 inch space around the nori.  I usually use the sushi roller (the bamboo slate you see under the nori), but you don’t need one.
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Arrange the fillings as shown on this photo.  You probably will have to practice couple of times until you can roll so that when you slice the rolls they look semi decentSmile Slice the roll into 1/2 inch slices – it helps to wet the knife and slicing into kim-baps. 
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My opinion: As you see in the photos, I mostly used mixture of brown/white and red rice.  The very first photo, I arranged the kim-bap using the mixed rice, but also white rice (I guess for presentation purpose).  Kim-bap is one of my comfort food, I can easily buy kim-bap at the Korean market or at the Korean restaurants, but as always, food tastes better when made at home.

Sweet Pepper Vegetable Omu Rice

Yesterday, my youngest daughter turned 10 years old.  I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, she’s double digit!!  Pretty soon she’ll be graduating from high school, college, grad school, work, getting married, and I’ll be a grandmom!! ” She specifically requested for one of her favorite food “Omu Rice” which is Japanese version of fried rice nestled inside the omelet with ketchup on the top, and Strawberry Tiramisu for her dinner and birthday cake. 
We had abundant sweet peppers (courtesy of my friend who went to a farm in NJ and picked plenty of peppers and tomatoes) so I decided to incorporate this into the fried rice.  I once saw on a Japanese TV show how they used bell peppers for children who didn’t like the taste of peppers.  Basically you roast the peppers and once cooled, you puree them and add them to the fried rice.  In this way kids don’t taste the “bitterness” of peppers (as they claim) and still get tons of vitamins.  My girls will eat the yellow and orange bell peppers, but they always have issues with the green and the red, so for us, this was a very good use of the red peppers!!

Here, I have 5 bell peppers (washed, dried, cut into halves and deseeded) – Lightly coat them in olive oil and sprinkle sea salt
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Bake in 450F for about 25-30 minutes; let them cool completely
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Puree in the blender
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I diced carrots, zucchinis and onions; added frozen corns and peas, cook them until softened, and just add black pepper a little more salt to taste
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I usually cook the rice a day ahead and have the rice chill in the frig (it’s easier to make fried rice this way); make sure the veggies and rice are fully mixed well
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Add the bell pepper puree and mix well
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Serve the fried rice on the plate, drape the omelet and tuck in the edges, pour ketchup and dig in!  For us grown ups, we like to put sriracha  (Thai hot sauce – in fact, one of my friend’s grandmother, who is a Thai,  is said to be the creator of the original Sriracha recipe! ) and ketchup for the zing!
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I only put salt and pepper for the fried rice seasoning (to keep it simple), but you can add other seasonings too!

Yasai Ita-meh (Vegetable stir-fry), Baked Tofu and Easy Kimchi Rice

So, we came back from our vacation yesterday and I think I’m officially in the Summer time cooking slump.  The heat and the lack of motivation to cook will probably last until early September-ish.  I’ll still be cooking here and there but not like before, but who knows, maybe I’ll even surprise myself.  Also, I’ll resume cooking from the Moosewood cookbook in the Fall (since most of the recipes now are stew and soup type of Fall/Winter dishes).  After about a week of vacation and eating out (we tried our darnest to eat healthy but we did eat some meat during the trip), it’s time to get back on the bandwagon.  Today, I cooked a really simple meal for my family. 

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I made this for my kids.  Basically it’s Yasai Ita-meh (Japanese stir fried vegetables) using cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, red bell pepper, onion and broccoli.  It’s minimally seasoned with salt and pepper; I minced and sliced garlic to add different types of texture and flavours.  With the Baked Tofu, just slice firm cake of tofu and pat them dry with paper towel.  Place them on greased baking pan and drizzle sauce (which consist of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, sugar, cooking wine, canola oil, and chopped green onions –  the measurements are up to your taste).  Just arrange the finished products as you like – for mine, as you see in the photo, I shaped the rice in a small square ramekin, put baked tofu on top, put the veggies on the side, and egg over easy. 

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For the grown ups, I chopped “just right” good quality kimchi and mixed in hot steaming white rice and drizzled some sesame oil.   Fried a sunny side up egg and all done:-) 

Note:  Some times, minimal seasoning is the best way to go;  you know how the expression goes “Less is More”.   Anyway, because I had fresh kimchi I didn’t have to mess with it too much by adding other spices and seasonings.  Same goes with the vegetable stir fry, just the taste of garlic, salt and black pepper was simple but “enough” for us – plus you’re getting all these delicious flavours from different fresh veggies!

Pineapple Fried Rice with Tofu, Sesame Broccoli, and Chocolate Ricotta Pudding

I’m staring at the computer screen as I sip mojito (yes, we have tons of mints growing in our yard now)…  Well, it’s not exactly staring (I was staring before), but now I’m getting a little idea as to what to type here:-)  So far, I liked the recipes I have tried from the Moosewood’s “Simple Supper”.  Some I liked more than the other, and some I liked enough but will not try again.   For tonight’s dinner I knew I had to put pineapples in the fried rice.  I’m not Chinese, but I know my fried rice, and I know what I like in my fried rice, so I was a bit hesitant about the pineapples.  It took a while for me to like the Hawaiian pizza, I think it’s okay, but I won’t order that for myself.  So, with some reluctance I proceeded to prep for tonight’s dinner. 
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Pineapple Fried Rice with Tofu: serves 4
1/2 cake firm tofu (about 8 ounces)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tablespoon grated peeled ginger root
1/2 teaspoon Chinese chili paste (optional)
1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 scallions, minced
1 – 20 ounce can of unsweetened pineapple chunks, drained, or 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
4 cups cook jasmine, sushi, or brown rice
toasted cashews

Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and place them in a bowl.  Pour the soy sauce and sesame oil over the cubes and stir gently.  Set aside. 
In a wok or large skillet, heat the vegetable oil.  Add the garlic, ginger, and chili paste and stir-fry on medium heat for a minute.  Add the peppers, celery, scallions, and the tofu with the marinade, and continue to stir-fry until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the pineapple and rice and stir-fry until the rice is hot, about 3 minutes.  Serve topped with toasted cashews. 

Sesame Broccoli: serves 4
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bunch broccoli (about 1 pound)

In a small bow, whisk together the vinegar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and salt.  Cut the broccoli head into florets.  Peel the large stems and cut them crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.  Steam or boil until crisp tender.  Toss the warm broccoli with the dressing.  Serve warm or room temperature. 

My opinion: I’m sure some people will like pineapples in their fried rice, I wasn’t too keen on this.  However, my youngest daughter, Jana, like the taste of pineapple in her fried rice!  I highly recommend adding in the chili paste, it adds such flavour to this dish.  I especially loved the taste of tofu in this fried rice, I can taste it if I close my eyes now.  I like using jasmine rice for my fried rice, and since I didn’t have scallions, I added onions, and used the mixture of orange and yellow bell peppers.  I also omitted adding celery, since I’m not a huge celery fan:-)  I will definitely make this dish (minus the pineapple next time).  The sesame broccoli went really well with the fried rice.  I loved the taste of vinegar and sesame oil here, you can actually taste both at the same time when you bite into the broccoli.  I also added the red pepper flakes, but I had little pineapple juice left over so I added the juice in the dressing. 

Chocolate Ricotta Pudding: serves 4-6
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6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (1 cup of chips)
15-16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Melt the chocolate in a small pan, on a very low heat, taking care not to scorch it.  Or melt it in a microwave oven.  In a blender or a food processor, whirl the ricotta, vanilla, and melted chocolate until smooth and evenly coloured.  Pour into dessert cups (leave space for whipped cream).  Refrigerate until ready to serve. 
When you’re ready to serve, in a small bowl with an electric mixer or a whisk, whip the cream and the confectioners’ sugar until stiff.  Mound the whipped cream on top of the pudding and serve cold. 

My opinion: Rich but absolutely yummy dessert!!  I put my pudding in port wine glasses (it’s smaller) so it was just the right amount to serve.  Definite keeper for our family!  Since you are using semi sweet chocolate, you are not overwhelmed with sweetness.  You can definitely use dark chocolate if you’re a dark choco fan.  Personally, I would steer away from milk choco, since it’ll make this pudding sweet and rich.

Black Beans with Pickled Red Onions, Yellow Rice, Chipotle Scrambled Eggs, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Caramel Custard

Hot and humid… I’m sorry that’s all I can talk about as of late… Seriously, I just don’t do well with heat and humidity, my dream is to move to the Northwest US or the Lowlands in Europe.  Anyway, but I can’t just feed my family peanut butter sandwiches and cereals all the time, so here I go!!
Before I start writing down the recipes, did I tell you how my body is appreciating the recent change in our vegetarian lifestyle?  Oh no, I don’t think I lost weight, but recently, I told my cousin how my heart and mind just seem to love this vegetarian diet.  As the sunflower faces up towards the sun, my heart and mind also open up towards this new found lifestyle! Yeah, call it whatever you want, tacky, corny, mushy, etc, but I’m loving it, and my family is also loving this!

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Yellow Rice: serves 4
1-1/2 cups white rice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric or a generous pinch of saffron
2-1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rinse and drain the rice.  Heat the oil in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.  Add the rice and turmeric or saffron and stir on high heat for a minute or two.  Add the water and salt, cover, and bring to a boil on high heat.  Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook covered for 12-15 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed.  Fluff the rice with a fork, cover, and let sit until ready to serve. 
Note:  Brown rice is fine in this recipe; it just takes longer or cook, about 40 minutes of simmering. 

Black Beans with Pickled Red Onions: serves 4
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Pickled Red Onions
2 large red onions
3 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce (optional)

Seasoned Black Beans
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 – 15ounce cans of black beans, undrained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Slice the onions into rings.  In a heatproof bowl, cover the onions with the boiling water and set aside for 10 minutes.  In a separate bowl, combine the salt, sugar, allspice, vinegar, lime juice, and Tabasco.  Drain the onions.  Combine the drained onions and the pickling ingredients and mix well.  Set aside. 
For the beans, warm the oil in a saucepan on medium heat and then add the garlic, cumin, and oregano.  Cook for just a minute and then add the beans.  Simmer for 5-8 minutes, until the beans are heated through and have absorbed the seasonings.  Stir in the cilantro. 
Serve the rice topped with beans and pickled onions. 

My opinion: Loved the tastes of yellow rice, black beans and the pickled onion, loved how they all blended together, each with their own distinct flavours.  I kept on heaping pickled onions, it’s almost addictive:-)  After you make it the first time, you can adjust the taste by adding more of vinegar or less, and doing the same with other ingredients.  Black bean and yellow rice themselves seem perfect for comfort food!

Chipotle Scrambled Eggs: serves 2-3
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1/2 cup minced onions
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
6 eggs
1 Tablespoon minced canned chipotles in adobo sauce
salt and pepper
1 ounce cream cheese, cut into small pieces, or 1/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

In a large skillet on medium heat, cook the onions in the oil or butter until golden, about 4 minutes.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with the chipotles and adobo sauce and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Add to the skillet and cook, stirring to scramble, until the eggs are nearly set.  Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the eggs.  Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet until the cheese melts, about a minute. 

My opinion: By adding more or less of chipotles and trying out different cheeses you can almost have different scrambled eggs every time.  This dish paired really well with the above dishes, I’m also thinking it’ll go great as breakfast food!  I added Gruyere cheese and it brought good mildness in contrast to the chipotles (you would think all cheeses would do that, I have to disagree). 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes: serves 4
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2-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
black and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into rounds about 1/2 inch thick.  If the potatoes are large, cut them in half lengthwise and then into half-rounds.  (You should have 7-8 cups.)  In a bowl, toss the sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 10 minutes.  Stir, and return to the oven until they are tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. 

My opinion: Another great accompaniment to the foods prepared here.  I actually think this is also a nice snack food (I snacked on them while I prepped).  I used the Korean/Japanese sweet potatoes (they have whiter flesh and firmer even when cooked), and I left the skin on because I love the skin and the nutritional value that comes with it. 
Realistically, even though this is a vegetarian meal, you want some fresh salad to go with this meal.  I drizzled extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and tossed with lettuce, tomatoes, radish, cucumber, cilantro and avocado.
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Caramel Custard: serves 6-10
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1 – 13.4 ounce can of dulce de leche
6 large eggs
2 cups milk
pinch of salt
sprinkling of nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Arrange ten 4 – ounce or seven 6 – ounce custard cups in a baking pan(s) at least 2 inches deep.  Bring a teakettle of water to boil. 
In a blender or with an electric mixer, beat the dulce de leche, eggs, milk, and salt until smooth and evenly coloured (about 10 seconds in blender, or 1 or 2 minutes with a mixer).  Pour into the custard cups.  Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon. 
When the water boils, pour it into the baking pan to come three quarters of the way up the sides of the custard cups.  Carefully place the baking pan in the oven and bake the custards for about 35 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of a custard comes out clean.   Remove the custards from the water bath so they won’t continue to cook.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. 

My opinion: You can buy dulce de leche in the Latin American section at the supermarkets, however, I bought few cans of sweetened condensed milk and boiled the cans under low heat for about 1 hour to 1-1/2 hours to make my own dulce de leche.   This is a rich dessert, a great dessert after Mexican or Indian foods.  This reminds me of flan but with deeper and heavier flavour, wonderful taste!  I will recommend using 4 ounce custard cup since this dessert is packed with deep and intense flavour.  I sprinkled with nutmeg, cinnamon will definitely go well, but I prefer nutmeg with this dessert.

Scrambled Tofu with Greens & Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, Green Rice, and Mango Coconut Sorbet

It’s been merely 2 weeks since I started this vegetarian blog.  For some reason it seems longer… I’ve been enjoying planning the dinners from the Moosewood cookbook, prepping and even food shopping for various ingredients.  My children have been enjoying the foods also, and they’ve been saying it’s like going out to different restaurants!  Well, in that case, I’m the waitress, the cook, dishwasher, and the cleaner…
Well, last night menu was a bit unusual for me.  I don’t do much Mexican and never felt like I craved for Mexican foods.  The food I made isn’t Mexican but used chipotle sauce (chipotle in adobe sauce).  Isn’t this experience all about learning new ingredients, eating healthy and trying something different that you’re not used to?  So, most of yesterday was chopping veggies and fruits.  I chopped for last night’s dinner and prepping for the menu later.  I chopped and chopped and chopped, most of the day I chopped… well, you get the point.  I’m not complaining, it’s actually therapeutic for me:-)

Scrambled Tofu with Greens & Raspberry Chipotle Sauce: serves 3-4

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2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups chopped kales, chard, or collards, rinsed and lightly drained
1 cake firm tofu (about 16 ounces)
3 Tablespoons soy sauce

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce:
1/3 cup raspberry fruit spread or jam
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotles in adobe sauce
1-3 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Sauté the onions in the oil for a couple of minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Stir in the greens, cover, and steam until the greens begin to wilt. 
While the greens steam, in a bowl, use a fork to mash the tofu with soy sauce.  Uncover the skillet, increase the heat to high, and cook off any remaining water.  Stir in the mashed tofu and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  With a spatula, turn over the tofu mixture and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the tofu just begins to brown. 
While the tofu cooks, make the Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.  In a small saucepan, stir together the fruit spread, chipotles, and 2 tablespoons water.  Simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes, until hot and saucy.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.  Add more water if the sauce is too thick.  Add more lemon juice to taste. 
Serve the scrambled tofu topped with sauce. 

My opinion: First of all, let me tell you that we really loved this dish! How do I describe it…  it’s like a nice fusion between Asian and Latin American.  You can taste mild soy sauce taste in tofu (and btw, tofu is so soft and browned, it almost doesn’t taste like tofu), I used collard greens and that adds to the flavour too, and the sauce almost taste like BBQ sauce but not really.  It’s pretty spicy so see if kids can tolerate hot spiciness.  Chipotle in adobe sauce comes in can under different brand names.  Here in America, you can get this at Mexican store, Asian store, or some supermarkets.   If you cannot find this please let me know, I can send you how to make this on your own.  

 Green Rice: serves 4
1-1/2 cups white rice
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil
2-1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 scallions
4 cups loosely packed spinach (about 3 ounces)
pinch of black pepper

Rinse and drain the rice.  In a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, on high heat briefly sauté the rice in 1 teaspoon of the oil, stirring to coat each grain.  Add the water and salt, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to very low.  Cook until the water is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. 
While the rice cooks,  coarsely chop the scallions and rinse the spinach.  In a large skillet, sauté the scallions in 2 teaspoons of the oil for a minute or two.  Add the spinach and pepper, cover, and cook until just wilted and still bright green, about 2 minutes. In a blender, purée the spinach and scallions until smooth, adding a little water, if necessary. 
When the rice is done, fluff it with a fork, stir in the spinach  purée, and serve.

My opinion: This rice was a good complimentary dish to the scrambled tofu dish.  This green rice reminded me of fried rice (not the greasy kind, but the light, homemade kind).  Kids really enjoyed this rice too!  Think about it, between this green rice (with spinach) and the scrambled tofu (with collards), you’re packing in a lot of good nutrients!

Mango Coconut Sorbet: serves 4-6
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2 ripe mangoes
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar

Peel and pit the mangoes and cut them into chunks.  Place the mangoes in the bowl of a food processor, add the coconut milk and sugar, and whirl until smooth.  Ladle or pour the purée into two ice cube trays.  Freeze for a least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, release the frozen cubes and allow them to soften at room temperature for about 5 minutes.  (They should be soft enough to facilitate puréeing, but not melted).  Purée in a food processor until smooth, in batches if necessary. 

My opinion: What a nice treat this was!  We’re try this again during the hot Summer months, this brings so much flavour oh fresh ripe mango infused with coconut milk!   Things I did differently are :  instead of putting them in ice trays, I poured it in freezer proof container.  After it froze sufficiently, I let it thaw out for a while and then scraped the sorbet into a glass and sprinkled with toasted coconut.