Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vegetarian Quiche

Looking for some iron packed vegetarian food, naturally spinach came to mind. Quiche seems to be the thing to try.  After reading through some online recipes and the reviews, here is what I came up with a little Asian twist.

1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 medium-small onion, chopped
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well

1 9-inch frozen pie crust
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup straw mushrooms, roughly chopped *
4 eggs *
1/2 cup low sodium cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon dried dillweed
1/2 tablespoon flour

Half eaten quiche.

The lighting in this one isn't super, but I want to show the cut side of it.
* Straw mushrooms can be found at Publix or Asian food markets.  Try to find the ones with no salt, but if you can't, water and salt is ok.  Just remember not to add as much extra salt when seasoning the dish. Also, other types of mushroom will be a good addition too. I sometimes add dried shiitake mushroom (yum!). Soak the shiitake in hot water first then slice or chop however you want them.

* You could substitute half of the eggs with egg white to cut down the cholesterol level. Personally I think whole eggs add tastiness to the dish, so not using all egg white probably will be all right.

Melt butter or heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute until translucent. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper in. Add spinach and the mushroom; stir until spinach is dry. Cool the mixture a bit.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Dust the bottom of the pie crust evenly with flour and add a little bit of both kinds of cheese to the bottom. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, cottage cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg and dillweed together. Stir in half of the remaining cheese in the mixture. Pour the spinach mixture into the pie crust. Then add the egg/cottage cheese mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese evenly on top.  Cover the pie crust edge with foil to prevent from being burnt.  Bake until the filling is set and the cheese is golden, about 50 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Cut and serve.

I like the slightly crisped cheese on top and the straw mushrooms really enhance the flavor.  My daughter was so excited to have the leftover for lunch two days in a row after having it for dinner, if that says anything about the dish.  I also made it for our family Christmas gathering this year, as there were a few vegetarians in the family. It was a tasty addition for some protein and vegetable intake.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baked Vegetarian Sausage with Cannellini Beans

I went to a demonstration & dinner class at Williams-Sonoma the other night.  The chef made a casserole dish with Italian sausage and cannellini beans.  It was quite tasty.  It gave me an idea for my own vegetarian version of it since the rest of my family are active vegetarians.  Here is how it goes.

Olive oil
Good thing I made skillet full of it, almost forgot taking a picture.
4 Morningstar breakfast original flavor sausage patties
2 veggie smart dogs
1/2 cup meatless crumbles
1 medium onion, diced or thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps fresh thyme, chopped
1&1/2 tbsps William-Sonoma mushroom demi glace *
2 cans cannellini beans, mostly drained *
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup bread crumbs *
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

* The original uses the beans with the liquid, but I thought it wasn't necessary to have that much sodium in my food and it turned out very good.  But I did add the water in the cans to get some flavor.

* I use Panko Japanese style seasoned bread crumbs.

* When you put the demi glace in, need to stir and break it down to mix in with the rest of the ingredients because it's very congealed together.

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large, ovenproof pot or deep skillet, warm 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage patties and smart dogs to brown them a bit, about 2 minutes on each side.  Transfer to plate.  Roughly chop the patties and smart dogs.  Add a bit more oil and the onions, saute until softened.  Add the garlic, carrot and thyme, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Put the demi glace and 3/4 cup water in and bring to a simmer.  Add the crumbles, drained beans and tomato paste with 1 cup of water in the bean cans (1/2 cup in each can to get some flavor without all of the sodium content). Cook until the liquid begins to thicken, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped sausage patties and smart dogs in.

In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, Parmesan and a little olive oil.  Sprinkle the mixture over the top and bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

The result was phenomenal.  In other words, yummilicious!  It's substantial and flavorful, a dish the whole family can enjoy.  That prompted me to take a picture for the blog, so I won't forget to make it in the future.  We had it with some chips.  I imagine it will also go well with toasted bread of some sort.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mini Sesame Seed Balls

Ever since I repinned a picture of sesame seed balls from Pinterest, I wanted to make these yummies myself. Gosh! It's been almost 6 months now (had to go to my Pinterest board to check when I pinned it). I bought the ingredients but hadn't got to making them. Finally, today I had the time and determination to do it.

The bare ball before the sesame seeds.
2 + 1/4 cups glutinous rice flour *
3/4 water
1/2 cup brown sugar
About 1/3 cup untoasted sesame seeds
Red bean paste *
Oil for frying *

* For some reason, I couldn't form a dough with the amount of the flour in some of the recipes I found. It was too soupy. This is what I came up with through experiment. Red bean paste is available at Asian supermarkets. You can use peanut oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil for frying.

Heat the water in the microwave for 1 minute, mix the brown sugar well in the hot water. Place the flour in a big bowl and create a well in the middle. Pour the sugar water into the well and mix it well to form a dough. The dough should be moist and smooth but not too sticky to pry your fingers away from.

Ready for frying
Pinch some off the dough to form a ball about an inch diameter big, make an indentation in the ball, big enough to scoop the red bean paste inside, then pinch the dough to cover up the paste and roll it in your hands to form back the ball shape. Roll the ball in the sesame seeds, make sure it's covered with seeds evenly all around. Line the seed-covered balls up ready for frying.

You can use a wok, a pot or a fryer to fry the balls. Cover the pot with a little over an inch of oil. I find that amount of oil is enough to do the job since the balls aren't that big. Heat the oil up to 350 F. Gently lower the balls into the pot. The number of balls to fry each batch depends on how big your frying vessel is, the rule of thumb is not to crowd it. Also, be aware of the oil temperature will heat up above 350 F, so it's a good idea to turn the heat down and keep an eye on the temp to make sure not to burn the balls!

Floating on the surface
Let the balls stay in the pot about 3:50 to 4 minutes. When they are ready, the balls will float on the surface. Ladle them out and put them on paper towels to drain off some of the extra oil. The whole batch makes about 32 sesame seed balls. They taste best when they are just cooled off, but still taste good even after the crispiness goes away. I don't recommend storing in the fridge however, it will get too chewy I imagine. They are what I call "yum yum". Enjoy!

This is also a good family activity with kids. I bet they will have fun forming the balls and rolling them in the sesame seeds. Of course, they will certainly enjoy eating them, like mine do.

One side note, I recently prepared the balls at night but didn't have time for frying, so I stored them in zip lock bags in the fridge overnight and fried them the next morning. They still tasted good. However, I'm not sure what the maximum of time you can store them in the fridge since the glutinous rice flour will get drier over time.
Ready for eating

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Orange Mango Cream Ice Pops

This one was filled a little skimpy. It's frozen.
Since I made key lime pie earlier, I had some sweetened condensed milk left over. What to do with that little bitty condensed milk? Hmm... popsicles? Sure, the girls would like them and I've always wanted to try to make my own. With that in mind, I was trying to find a small size popsicle mold, but no luck, they were all kind of big for preschoolers. So I bought some plastic shot glasses and 4 inch bamboo skewers. Now let's make the ice pops.

5 ounce sweetened condensed milk*
1 cup Orange mango juice
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice
10 one ounce plastic shot glasses
10 four inch bamboo skewers
10 two inch square foil pieces

* The amount is an estimate since that's how much I had left of the condensed milk. It was a little beneath halfway mark between 1/2 cup and 2/3 cup.

This is what it looks like when holding the bamboo skewer.
Mix the ingredients well, a creamy yellow mixture. Pour it evenly into the shot glasses, cover them with the top with foil, pierce the foil with the bamboo skewers in the middle. Put them in the freezer overnight or until firm.

The portion was perfect for after meal dessert for a young child. When the girls were eating my ice pops, they said: "Mommy, the kind that the company made is not as good as yours." We buy the non-creamy fruit popsicle, so the creaminess is not there. Still, it's hard not to feel accomplished somewhat after hearing that from your kids, wouldn't you say?

With the success of the first try, maybe I'll venture out to try some other flavors.

By the way, the plastic container is easy to crack if you aren't careful when squeezing it to wiggle the ice pop out, after it's thawed a bit. I know 'cause I've cracked 3 so far. I think a paper form of the container would be more ideal, but it might be hard to find it in such a small size. Well, good luck with your endeavor and wish you success!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chinese Pumpkin Cake

I made a pumpkin pie a couple weeks ago. The inevitability of the pumpkin leftover going bad has loomed over my head ever since, but I kept forgetting to do something about it. Of course, the container sitting at the back of the fridge didn't help me to remember it either. Today, I finally remember to make some Chinese pumpkin cake.
This is part of the dough. Remembered to take a picture halfway.

1 cup mashed pumpkin
1 cup glutinous rice flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
Red bean paste for filling
Extra flour for rolling
Oil for frying

Frying on the bottom sides.
Mix the pumpkin, flour and sugar well together to form a stretchy dough. Add a little water if it gets dry. Put hands on the extra flour so when your hands roll the dough, it won't get sticky. Form a dough ball with a generous inch diameter. Make an indentation in the middle while holding it in one hand, scoop some red bean paste in there, say 1 to 1&1/2 teaspoons full depending how sweet you want it to be. Pull the edges of the dough to wrap the filling inside, make sure no filling is showing. Apply more flour if it gets sticky to the hands (you don't want that, it'll be a sticky mess). Flatten it to a small round shape. The batch makes about 15 little cakes.

Heat oil in the pan, fry each side of the cakes for a few minutes until they are golden brown. Drain the oil off the cakes a bit on a paper towel. Let them cool. Voila! They are ready to eat. Good stuff!

I used cashew butter as filling for some and the rest was the traditional red bean paste. My family members prefer the bean paste ones. I think it's because they are sweeter than the cashew butter ones. I like both kinds. I can imagine experimenting with other food as fillings, sweet or savory, creamy or crunchy, whatever floats your boat. It might turn out to be a pleasant surprise.
Nicely browned and ready to be eaten.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Key Lime Pie

On a recent Saturday morning, we took the kids to the Fernbank Science Center for the first time. By the time we got to the vicinity, it was close to lunch time, so we opted to get lunch at Mellow Mushroom before heading to the center. After finishing a pizza, we shared an order of key lime pie. Everyone agreed that was quite good. Somewhere during the conversation, it was hinted that such pie would be a welcomed item at home (*wink wink*). As I was trying to expand my recipe repertoire, I did an online search to see how complicated to make a key lime pie, for I was not about to take on any dessert recipe with more than 8 steps. It turned out the complexity level was acceptable to my simple mind. Once that was settled, I set out to buy the ingredients that I hadn't had in my inventory. From my past experience on many recipes I came across, I adjusted on the sweetness to my family's preference. Here is my take on key lime pie.

For crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs*
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 1/2 can (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons key lime juice*

For topping
Whipped cream

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, the press mixture evenly onto the bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake crust in middle of oven for 10 minutes and cool it on a rack.

* I used Back To Nature honey graham crackers as the regular graham crackers contain partially hydrogenated oil. I apologize I didn't count how many sticks of honey graham I used (maybe next time when I make the pie, I'll count it and update this post), but I think to start with 1/3 of the package is a good bet; then you can add a little more if needed. Or you could use 9 (2 1/4" x 4 3/4") regular graham crackers if you choose to.

As usual, I have extra cracker crumbs left, so I used two 3/4" tart/quiche pans to make 2 small crusts. I baked those for about 6 minutes.

Buttercup and Bubbles were good sports.
My kids helped me ground the crackers with their Powerpuff Girls characters, Buttercup and Bubbles. As you can see in the picture, the back of their heads don't seem to have any apparent damage from the repeated pounding. The insides, I can't say the same;-).

Make filling and bake:
This is one of the two tarts. By the time I took this picture,
the other one had already been consumed.
Whisk together the condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until well combined and the mixture thickens slightly.

* I used the regular bottled lime juice out of convenience. Some suggest using Manhattan brand bottled key lime juice if you are picky about this kind of thing.

Pour filling into crust and bake in oven at 350F for 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack, then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

I just used the store bought whipped cream for the topping as I didn't feel like making my own whipped cream. Or you could beat heavy cream until it just holds stiff peaks.

The result was excellent. The pie is plenty sweet and you can still taste the tartness from the lime juice. Some of the reviews from recipes with 1 can of sweetened condensed milk suggest 2 cans of milk, I suspected it would be too too sweet for my taste and it turned out I was correct. One and a half cans was just the right amount. The pie doesn't have a fancy look (my food usually don't anyway), but it sure is scrumptious! As my kids put it: "the best ever, mommy!"

Uh, once again I forgot to take a picture before the pie was sliced (*sigh*), but at least I remembered after a small serving was served.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pineapple Fried Rice

Recently when dinner time draws near, I've had a hard time to come up with an exciting meal idea. Yesterday afternoon after I went back and forth a couple times with my family on what was for dinner, fried rice was finally decided. It was almost 6 o'clock, so I removed myself from the couch and set to start dinner. Good thing I have instant brown rice in the fridge to cut down the cooking time.

1/2 cup unprepared instant brown rice
This is probably one serving worth.
Olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/3 cup chopped onions
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 green onion, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup roasted lightly salted cashews
2/3 cup diced red bell pepper
2/3 cup diced yellow bell pepper
12 pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons raisins
Tamari sauce or salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the instant brown rice in the microwave according to the package instructions. At the same time, chop the other ingredients and beat the eggs. Heat a large skillet or wok with olive oil in, put garlic, onions, carrots and white parts of the green onion in until the onions are translucent. Then put the green parts of the green onions and cilantro in. I don't like the green parts of the vegetables get overcooked. Dump the rice then stir in the eggs. Season with either Tamari sauce or salt and pepper to your taste. I put about 1 heaping tablespoon of Tamari sauce. When the eggs set in, add the cashews, bell peppers, pineapple pieces and the raisins. Mix everything well to serve.

Some fresh basil would be an excellent ingredient for this too. But I didn't have it on hand, so I used cilantro instead.

I used Uncle Ben instant brown rice. I like the texture of it, not as chewy like the regular brown rice, or as mushy like the instant white rice. I just bought some store brand kind but haven't tried it yet. We shall see how it'll turn out when I try it next. Don't forget to store the brown rice in the fridge after the package is opened.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini with Bread Crumbs

Friday was last day of school for the kids. I signed up to make some sandwiches for their classes' last day celebration. Since I'm a sucker for cuteness, I decided to go out of my way to cut the sandwiches in heart shapes and flower shapes with cookie cutters. In result, there were lots of bread crumbs piled up in the kitchen from 2 loaves of bread. Two days later, some of the bread crumbs got stuffed into the zucchinis and squash as part of the dinner (I didn't have enough zucchinis, so I used a yellow squash).

Serves 4

4 small zucchinis
1&1/4 cup of bread crumbs, cubed
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 small stalk of green onion, chopped
Black pepper to taste
Tamari sauce / salt to taste
Canola oil
Four cheese Mexican blend

Cook the zucchinis whole in boiling water for about 8 minutes, then take them out to cool a bit. Cut them in halves lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp and chop them. Saute the garlic, onion and green onion until tender in canola oil, then add the pulp and bread crumbs. Add tamari sauce (or salt) and black pepper to taste. Stuff the zucchinis with the bread mixture. Put them on a baking dish lined with foil and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

Before the cheese was added to the top.
At about 15 minute mark, sprinkle the Mexican cheese over the top until it's melted, then sprinkle another layer of cheese over. You can turn off the oven at this point and let them stay in the oven for the remaining 5 minutes to let the flavor set in. Take them out and serve.

In the end, the bread crumbs I used in this dish barely made a dent on all those bread crumbs I had, but the dish turned out to be flavorful, thanks to the Mexican cheese. I think the cheese on top needs to be a kind that has some punch to it. Also the zucchinis and the onion added a nice soft crunch to it. By the way, I used a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the pulp. I found it was easier than using a regular spoon.

Oops, almost forgot to take a picture before it was all gone.

We had fried eggs with it, quite a good combination.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Quinoa Burger Patties

It was a Sunday afternoon. I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner. My family was not much of help, one said "French Toast" as usual, another said "Soup" (didn't sound too good on a warm day)... So once again, I turned to the good old internet for answer. I had quinoa in mind and was wondering what else I could do with it beside the usual cooking method. Inspired by the quinoa burger patties recipe on, I decided to make my own version. It's a simple one. Here is how I did it.
The first batch of the patties.

Makes about 8 patties

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 to 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 to 2 skinny stalks green onion, chopped
1 egg + 1 tablespoon egg white or water
1 cup bread crumbs (about a slice of bread)
roughly 1/2 cup shredded cheese*
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce*
2 teaspoons Italian salad dressing*
Black pepper to taste

* I used Organic Valley Mild Cheddar cheese. This cheese is pretty mild, so it doesn't overpower the flavors of the other ingredients, but you can use a stronger kind if you prefer some cheesy taste. On the dressing, I used Newman's Own Lite Italian Dressing. The tamari sauce was the low sodium kind. You may substitute it with soy sauce.

Cook quinoa with liquid ratio of 2:1 (2 liquid and 1 quinoa that is). I used 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of vegetable broth as my liquid combo. Bring the quinoa to a rapid boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. When done, the grain appears soft and translucent and the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of the grain. Sorry I didn't measure how much 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa made after it was cooked.

Put the cooked quinoa into a mixing bowl to cool a bit. Meanwhile, chop up the cilantro and green onion; tear up some bread. Mix them in the quinoa, then add the cheese and the egg. I added extra egg white to make the mixture give more moisture and adhesiveness for the patties. You can add water instead if you don't have egg white readily on hand to use. Or you can just dump another whole egg in it. I happened to have a small carton of egg white in the fridge. Personally I don't like to crack an extra egg just to use the white or yolk. You'll need some extra moisture for the cooking process, otherwise the patties will be too dry. You can adjust the amount of bread crumbs and egg white or water whichever you choose as you go along.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix them well. Form patties about 2 to 2 1/2 inches diameter and 1/2 inch thick. The mixture make about 8 patties. Heat up the skillet with some olive oil and put the patties in over medium-low heat, cook about 6 minutes or until the bottom sides are sturdy enough to be flipped over. By the time the patties are flippable, the bottoms are probably browned adequately. Then cook the other side until golden brown as well.

When I cook any kind of patties, balls or whatnot that contain raw eggs or meat in the mixture, I'm always afraid that they aren't cooked all the way through enough, so I tend to cook them with the lid on at a low cooking temperature for a little while and check to make sure it's not burned or overcooked. Sometimes I also add a tiny bit of water. That way the bottoms won't get burned easily and the whole thing get cooked through.

The flavor of the patties turned out to be surprisingly delicious. It was savory but light. Hubby usually is not a big fan of quinoa but he loved the patties. The kids liked them too. We had avocado slices and zucchini fries with it in a bun. Quite a burger, wouldn't you say? Yum yum!

The latest quinoa burger meal, with corn.
On a side note, you could make the patties in different shapes with cookie cutters; just to make it more interesting to eat for kids.

Friday, May 4, 2012

French Toast Bake

I got the idea for this dish from another blogger's post, Rach's Blog. Her post details each step of making the french toast bake. My kids love french toast and they ask for it as dinner often. When I came across the picture of Rach's dish on pinterest, I thought 'hey, I can make this version for dinner.' Her recipe was for more people than the four I feed at home, so as usual I cut down the quantity and it turned out scrumptious and everyone loved it.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 packed light brown sugar
6 to 7 slices of bread
3 eggs
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon almond milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Grease all sides of the baking pan. Mix the sugar in the melted butter well. Spread the mixture onto the bottom of 2-1/2 quart (2.3L) baking pan (or you can use 8" x 8" pan but it may only hold 6 slices of bread). Beat eggs, milk, vanilla and salt.

Brown sugar and butter mixture spread on the bottom of the baking dish.
Lay single layer of bread in the pan and spoon about 1/2 the egg mixture on the bread layer. Add second layer on, then pour the remainder of the mixture over. Make sure every bit of the bread is covered with the egg mixture. Cover and let chill overnight.

Before putting it in the fridge to chill.
Bake at 350 F degree for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

The brown sugar on the bottom was the best part after it's baked. Flip the toast upside down to serve, so you can get all that yummy brown goodness into your tummy. MmmMmm (*rubbing tummy in circles*)! Hubby commented that was the best french toast he's tasted. Of course, my kids asked for seconds.

The bread I used was home made so the shape and size were a bit different than the store-bought ones. I think they were a bit bigger than store-bought bread. It was kind of fun trying to fit all the bread pieces into one layer at a time, like working on a puzzle. Also, I use 3 tablespoons egg white to substitute the 3rd egg. I think using egg white makes the dish less eggy and cut down the cholesterol a bit. I suppose you could use all egg white if you prefer. I still like some yolky taste in mine plus the nutrients from the yolks. The almond milk I used was the Original flavor of Blue Diamond Almond Milk. If you use unsweetened kind or plain soy milk, you might want to add more sweetness to the mixture. I got the dish ready the night before and took it out of the fridge the next day to bake for dinner. It worked out great while giving the kids a bath or spending extra time with them before dinner.
This is what it looks like after the dish is all assembled before baking, a self-made jigsaw bread puzzle.
You don't want to not have enough batter to soak in every inch of the bread, so making it a bit more batter is better than not enough. I find neither syrup or powder sugar is necessary when eating unless you like super sweet stuff. Adding a bit of cinnamon in the mixture would be good too, or you could sprinkle it on top when it's served.

Since I covered the pan with foil while baking for the first 30 minutes, the top wasn't as brown and crispy as Rach's. I always has this fear of burning the pie crust or any toppings for baking, so I usually cover it with foil  the whole time or at least for part of the baking time.

I knew this was going to happen some day and it did. I forgot to take a picture before the dish was served! At least I remembered it after I put the servings on my kids' plates and took pictures of them. Well, you get the idea of the brown goodness here. Hope you get to try it too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chunky Salsa

Nowadays it seems every eatery has salsa on the menu in one form or another. However, I haven't come across one that is close to the salsa recipe I've used. It might be because mine is home made and it's very chunky, just the way I like it. I got the recipe during my brief stay in Arizona when I first moved to the States. After moving to Georgia, I took it to my workplace Thanksgiving potluck feast one year. I know I know, it was not a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but at the time I was new to the whole Thanksgiving theme and I hadn't cooked much western dishes, so I figured it would add a new zest to the feast; plus I didn't have to worry about someone else bringing another salsa dish. The salsa surprised everybody, pleasantly of course, not only because people liked it a lot, but also because it was from me, an Asian chick who brought such a non-Asian dish. As a result, the recipe was emailed to many at request.

Here is the original recipe I made my famous salsa from:

2 14.5oz cans of diced tomatoes (or equal quantity of fresh diced/mashed tomatoes)
2 small cans of diced green chilies
1 mid-large onion, diced
6 stalks of green onions, diced
6-8 stalks of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Garlic salt to taste
Ground lemon pepper/pepper to taste
Jalapeno pepper (optional)

Mix all the ingredients well together and it's ready to serve.

I've always used much less onion (not a fan of raw onion), more cilantro (love cilantro) and left out the jalapeno. I was also careful with the garlic salt since it had more salt than garlic taste. It was not super spicy, but has enough to wake up your taste buds to dance a bit.

As good as it was, strangely enough, I haven't made it at home much. The culprit was probably my laziness. For a while, we kept buying it from a local restaurant that had a booth at the farmer's market in town. Years went by, one day dear hubby was having a hard time to think of a dish to take to Thanksgiving potluck feast at work. So I offered my salsa recipe but suggested he should put it together to make it his own. He did it with a few tweaks. The dish was consumed and it was a hit. Everyone was asking him for the recipe. He was quite pleased and proud as he should be. From then on, he became our family salsa man. He has made salsa regularly for two of us to enjoy while we are watching movies or anime at night. Here is the updated recipe (hubby halved it as our own movie snack).

2 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chilies
1 medium-sized onion, diced
6 stalks of green onions, diced
10 stalks of cilantro (leafy parts), chopped
2 medium-small fresh jalapeno peppers, diced
Add the following to taste:
Sea salt
Garlic powder
Black pepper
Lemon juice

Vege-Sal package looks like this. It can be found at health food stores.

Mix the ingredients well together. Voila! Hubby often uses less onion to accommodate my taste. The two recipes each hold their own. Depending on your personal preference, one might taste better than the other, but I like them both. Perhaps, I like the new one just a tad more, because hubby makes it and you don't have as many cans to open. If you want you can try both versions, and/or make your own adjustment to get the best taste to your liking.

This is about half of the recipe amount as our movie-time snack.
Oh, by the way, for the chips to go with the salsa, we usually get Tostitos Natural Blue Corn Tortilla Chips. Yum!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Apple Sauce Pumpkin Pie

My family requested the pumpkin pie as their choice of dessert for some reason. Although it's no where near Thanksgiving or Christmas, it actually sounded good to me too, so I made my version of pumpkin pie. The original recipe was from Paula Deen's show, it was called apple butter pumpkin pie. It might very well have been the only dish featured in her show that is not super fattening and rich. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed her show. I like this recipe because of its simplicity and ease of making it. In the beginning, I made the pie just as the recipe instructed and it always turned out very good. After the kids came along, my husband and I became more conscientious than ever of the ingredients in the food that we ate daily. From reading the label on the jar of the apple butter, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was one of the ingredients. I couldn't find any apple butter that didn't include HFCS. Hence, apple butter was shunned from our house.

I started wondering if I could substitute it with apple sauce. Apple sauce usually is not as sweet as apple butter, but who to say we can't tweak the recipe and make it just as tasty. With that thought in mind, I made one to try it out and was pleasantly surprised. Tweaking was not really necessary. It did taste less smooth than using apple butter, well, as we all know, apple sauce has a natural grainy texture, but when it was baked in the pie, the graininess was barely noticeable. The apple sauce didn't take away the sweetness of the pie. It was still yummy. And since apple sauce and apple butter were both made from apples, the pie still has the same taste. From then on, I've used apple sauce to make the pie. So here is the recipe, you may use apple butter as it was originally intended.

1 cup apple sauce
1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (note: packed!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine apple sauce, pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Stir in eggs. Gradually add milk and mix well. Pour into pie shell. Wrap the crust with foil. Bake for about 40 minutes or until set. I always have to stick a toothpick in the middle to test for sure.

On a side note, I always find it impossible to fit all the filling into a 9-inch pie shell. I either end up put the rest of it into small tart shells (like the ones you make fruit tarts with) to make mini-pies (yum!), or use less amount of the ingredients. In addition, in case you can't digest cow's milk (I think that's what evaporated milk is made from?), you can make your own evaporated milk with whichever kind that suits your fancy. At a 3:1 ratio, after a rapid boil, cook the milk down to the right ratio with constant stirring. Let chill in the fridge before usage.

One more thing, the 9-inch pie shell I use is the Publix store brand. Out of the regular frozen isle, this is the only brand of pie shell that doesn't contain hydrogenated oil in its ingredient listing (hopefully it's telling the truth). I didn't go search high and low to see if there is another kind somewhere else.

A tiny bit of the pie came off when I was taking the foil off the crust.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The origin of my blog name

This post is to explain how I came up with "suchandsuchonfood" just in case anyone out there is wondering. In my family, sometimes my husband and I say "such and such" to generalize a subject in the conversation when we can't think of anything specific, but mainly just to be playful. One day I asked my kids what they would like to have for dinner, my daughter said: "I want such and such, mommy." I guess she picked up from the grownups in the family and applied accordingly. When I had to think of a name for my blog, I recalled the conversation and liked the phrase, so "such and such" it was. And since it is about food, I added the latter part to be unique and more specific.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cranberries-chocolate cookies

Good Friday, bored at home but wanted to do something, naturally my mind went to food. Hmm...what should I make? I thought of looking at the flour packages to see if there is anything I want to try this time. After glancing at the ingredients and the cooking instructions, I found one! It was on the side of King Arthur's unbleached whole white wheat flour package: cranberry-chocolate cookies. It was a little before 10:30 in the morning, perfect time to try something new. I changed the amount on a few ingredients to accommodate my family's taste. The recipe is as follows:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (I used only 1/2 cup and it was plenty sweet)
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used about 3/4 cup chips)
1 cup dried cranberries (I used a scant 2/3 cup)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used 1/2 cup walnuts)

Yield: 2 dozen

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, orange juice, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Beat in the egg until combined. Add the flour, mixing until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips or chunks, cranberries and nuts. Drop by the tablespoon onto the foil-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for about 12 to 14 minutes, until just beginning to brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool. My leaky old oven took about 16 minutes on the baking, but they were mighty tasty. Hubby even made a comment that the cranberries and walnuts added complexity comparing to the plain chocolate chip cookies, and he rated these as his top choice.

All right, here comes the hard part, posting a picture of it. I'll have to stick a post-it note to remind myself as I have no doubt I'll forget to take pictures of the food I intend to share. Fortunately this time I remembered before the cookies are gone.
Cranberries-chocolate Cookies