Chocolate Almond Biscotti

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Right out of the oven

Right out of the oven!

I know I’ve already posted my recipe for our favorite dark chocolate chip biscookies, but truth be told, I prefer these chocolate almond biscotti.  They taste chocolaty, my fave, and not too sweet so they pair well with coffee, tea or even simple hot water with lemon.

I have been making these for as long as I can remember – at least ten years.  This recipe is straightforward, easy and the finished cookies freeze for up to six months.  Needless to say, you can root around in my home freezer and almost always find a stash I’ve hidden away.  I often pack these for an airplane ride in case I need a chocolate fix, too.

I’ve made these with pecans or walnuts, but almonds are my favorite – there’s just no nut quite as crunchy IMHO.  By all means, you can substitute any nut of your choosing.  And I’ve been partial to Scharffenberger cocoa powder but I’m sure this would work well with any high end type of chocolate.  So without further ado, I present to you….

Chocolate logs - just baked

Chocolate logs – just baked

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Makes 30-ish

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Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup Scharffenberger cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ tsp ground black pepper (You can omit this if you have eaters who don’t like extra pepper.  I love the zing it adds but some of my family prefer the cookies without)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ stick melted salted butter 
  • 1 ¼ cups toasted chopped almonds or hazelnuts or pecans or walnuts (I chop and toast these the day before)
Instructions

Put rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Line an unrimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Melt butter over low heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, soda, salt and pepper.

In another bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Add cooled, melted butter and continue whisking.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in your bowl and add the liquid mixture, then stir in the nuts.

With barely floured hands, (some may prefer damp hands) roll two 14-inch logs on a floured surface (I use my handy dandy silicone mat) and space evenly on your baking sheet.  Make sure the rolls are even on the sides on on top.

Bake the dough for 25 minutes, until firm.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes on a rack.  Slice on the diagonal width into ½ inch slices with serrated knife (I use my electric knife) and arrange on the parchment lined sheet on their bottoms with both cut sides exposed.   Bake another 20 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheet from oven and let the cookies cool and store at room temperature in a jar for up to two weeks.   Or store in the freezer for up to six months – but believe me, they will never last that long!

 

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Cauliflower Pilaf

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Colorful Cauliflower Pilaf

Colorful Cauliflower Pilaf

Truth be told, most new recipes or foods I try in my kitchen are inspired by restaurants or food trucks that serve something I eat and then hope to replicate.  Often I do a little online investigating then devise a formula that is similar to what I have in mind, then I start and tweak until I am satisfied that I have created something delicious.  

Not this time.  I truly concocted this pilaf in my head – simply basing it on what I had in the refrigerator at the time and CA CHING!  I hit the jackpot.  I was on a mission to incorporate additional vegetables and lentils into my diet too so I was doubly pleased.

Just to be sure I wasn’t delusional, I made this shortly thereafter for two of my kids on separate occasions without a lot of explanation and they both LOVED it.  Of course they asked me how I made the pilaf… how much of this and that … and of course I didn’t know at the time because I cook with my eyes. Regardless, I’ve made it almost daily now as part of my lunch, followed by a homemade salted chocolate chunk cookie. Perfection.

As it turns out, this is vegan, gluten free, dairy free..not anything I started out to do but hey, it’s tasty and easy.  What I do is keep the chopped cauliflower and cooked beluga lentils (It could have been beans too) and cut-off-the-cob sweet corn ready and waiting, and it literally takes me minutes until I am chowing down.  I pretty much always have cherry tomatoes and tahina and lemons and cilantro in my house too. After all, I cook daily.

I don’t know that this recipe is that exact.  I plan to change out things depending on what I have around too: today I’ll add sliced asparagus spears, diced red pepper, diced sugar snap peas and yellow cherry tomatoes for example.  Use your imagination!

Cauliflower “Pilaf”

Serves 1

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Salad Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cauliflower “rice”  (cut cauliflower in flowerettes and whirl to make it rice – like in the food processor.  Easy instructions are explained well here. Alternately, you can buy this at Trader Joe’s.)
  • ½ cup cooked and drained black or regular lentils (Garbanzo beans are a good substitution)
  • ½ cup sweet corn kernels, uncooked
  • Chopped cilantro if desired
Dressing Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp tahina (Soom is the best!)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbsp water to thin the sauce
  • Dash of curry powder or cumin if you like
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions

Heat a 10-inch fry pan, add the olive oil, and when it is hot dump in the cauliflower “rice”, lentils and corn.  Saute for a few minutes until the cauliflower is cooked a bit.  

Whisk together the dressing ingredients, taste and add more water/lemon juice as needed.  Stir this into the cauliflower mix, top with fresh herbs and serve.  

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Simply Rhubarb

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Rhubarb Sauce

Spring means rhubarb, and just that word RHUBARB conjures all kinds of memories for me.  In Iowa where I grew up, we had stalks of rhubarb that grew abundantly without tending in our yard.  My mother simply stewed it or served it fairly plain.  My Aunt Esther, however, made THE most delicious rhubarb pie on the face of the earth; even though I have her supposedly authentic recipe, my pie never tastes the same as hers did…  I love pie, but it takes a lot of forethought and a bit more effort than my simple rhubarb dessert.  My family has left the nest so an entire pie doesn’t work for us unless we have company.

So, I’ve concocted a simple stewed, reduced rhubarb sauce that I serve topped with sweetened, rich, full fat (YAY) Greek yogurt.  Ellenos yogurt is king – or should I say queen – at our house in Seattle.  It’s a local company and they have a counter at my fish market, Uwajimaya.  I make the trek there weekly not only to purchase fish but to replenish yogurt and I prefer the plain, unsweetened variety so I can add pureed fruit or honey or vanilla myself.

This recipe begins with a simple, honey-sweetened, stewed rhubarb – reduced to thicken it a bit.  I refrigerate the thickened sauce and later add some lemon juice and pomegranate molasses.  

When ready to serve, I whisk some plain, unsweetened yogurt with a bit of powdered sugar – another sweetener would make it beige and I like the white color.   I don’t make it too sweet.   I’m ready to use this whisked, sweetened yogurt for my crisps and pies as well.

For some reason the play of the tart rhubarb against the creamy, not-too-sweet yogurt is perfect for me.  I often slice fresh seasonal strawberries on top, add a mint leaf and VOILA. This is my kind of dessert: not too sweet, not too rich, but just right.   Trust me, this is better than a scoop of ice cream.

I’ve posted many rhubarb recipes in the past – mini gallettes, rhubarb salad dressing, even rhubarb “crack”, but this recipe is the easiest yet!

Stewed Rhubarb with Yogurt and Berries

Serves 8

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Ingredients
  • 4 cups of rhubarb (discard the leaves) chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp of water
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup full-fat plain unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, add slowly to taste
  • Fresh berries of your choice
Instructions

In a medium saucepan, stir together the rhubarb, honey and water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat.  Stir every five minutes until the rhubarb softens for a total of about 10 to 15 minutes.

Uncover the pan and cook for 10 more minutes, until the sauce is thick.  Transfer the rhubarb to a glass bowl, cover it  and refrigerate until it is cold.

Before serving (you can do this the day ahead) dump the yogurt in a medium bowl, and quickly whisk while slowly adding powdered sugar.  Stop and taste it so it is to your liking – a little sweet but not cloying. You can add more powdered sugar if you like it on the sweeter side.

When ready to serve, add the pomegranate molasses and lemon juice to the refrigerated  rhubarb.  

Spoon a half cup of the rhubarb into the bottom of a saucer, top with a half cup of the whipped, sweetened yogurt and top with sliced berries and garnish with mint leaves if desired.

PS: I recently read that yogurt can be frozen and I tried it out the last time I left for a long trip.  By Jimminy, it was thawed and stirred and consumed and tasted as good as the fresh.  Useful information I just had to pass along!

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Kal’s Spicy Chicken Chili

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Chicken Chili

Comforting Chicken Chili

I have already published a fantastic traditional meat chili, but I have been meaning to write about Chicken Chili too because A) it’s quite different and B) it’s the chili we always have before Thanksgiving at my brother Kal’s cabin and C) said chili always always disappears.  

To me, a chili recipe is a template and this one is no different.  The basic ingredients are good, but you can change the flavor and texture of the formula below by adding in some corn kernels, or topping the finished dish with some full fat plain yogurt, chopped cilantro and possibly even some pickled purple onion.  The possibilities are endless!

Cooking away...

Cooking away…

I make this chili several times a year now, and I always always double the recipe, reserving a huge tub for my freezer.  Because I am somewhat of a food snob, I use my freshly cooked beans along with their cooking liquid in place of those from a can.  I realize most of you aren’t making beans from scratch, so cans work as well, but please, rinse the beans.  Go for it!

Kal’s Chicken Chili

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Prep time:        30 minutes

Cooking time:  1 hour

Servings:         10-12

(Kal always starts his recipes with the prep time, cooking time, and number of servings.  He’s more top of his game than I am!)

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded then finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced ⅓ inch
  • 2 poblano peppers, diced (when I made this recently the poblanos were almost as big as my hand so I used just one)
  • 1 large brown skinned onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 15-ounce cans of cooked beans such as garbanzo, pinto or kidney.  Rinse and drain. OR 3 ½ cups freshly cooked beans in their cooking liquid.
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato juice
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

Toppings you might like for the chili: chopped cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese, pickled onion, hot sauce — the sky’s the limit.

Instructions:

In a large soup pot, heat oil, brown chipotle peppers whole for three minutes, turning them over halfway through.  After the time is up remove them and discard the chilis but leave the oil and any brown stuff on the bottom of the pan.

Before you cut or seed the fresh peppers, put on disposable kitchen gloves or you’ll get nailed if your hands accidentally touch your eyes.  You do NOT want that to happen.

I cheated here and coarsely chopped then put the garlic, onion, and all the peppers in my Nutribullet in two separate batches to pulse instead of chopping them by hand.  Really, it turned out fine and saved me tears and time.   Add the chopped garlic, onion, chopped peppers and raw ground chicken and cook, stirring, until chicken is browned.  Reduce heat to medium, add salt, cumin, and chili powder, stirring until soft, about six minutes.  Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato juice and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  Taste the chili and add more salt and chili powder if you like – I always do.  

Ladle into bowls, garnish as you wish and enjoy.  Homemade corn bread drizzled with honey is a wonderful accompaniment to this chili…just sayin’.

Serving suggestions for the leftovers:

  • Combine chili with frozen peas and corn and carrots, and top with mashed potatoes for a sort of shepherd’s pie.
  • Try a poached egg on top!
  • I love making twice baked potatoes, scooping out some of the potato and replacing it with chili
  • Use chili to fill omelettes
  • And so forth and so on!
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Addicting Granola Bars

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Gratifying Granola Bars

Gratifying Granola Bars

I’m starting a “Granola Bars Anonymous” organization of which I will be president.  To join, you must be unwilling to eliminate granola bars from your household, ever.  HA!  

My original granola bar recipe from King Arthur Flour was one of those concoctions I tried on a whim. I expected them to be better than average but not anything I would make every three days for more time than I can recall.  And yet…my husband and my daughter became hooked on them and I now feel obliged to bake a batch every few days, place them in the freezer, and remove a few every morning for that day’s consumption.  My family has declared that these rather bland-looking bars are their new favorite food. Every morning I put them inside a decorative jar on my kitchen island, where they have become known as “island food” and quickly disappear.

Of course I didn’t leave the recipe as it was written.  I played around with the nuts, seeds, and other add ons to get what I thought tasted best. No, I did not add chocolate of any kind to these.  You could do so, but a few in my family do not like mixing fruit and chocolate.  Personally, I decided that there is enough chocolate in my life. Plus, I pack these bars “to go” so filling them with fruit, seeds and nuts rather than gooey chocolate just makes sense. Honestly – I think they are perfect. And I happily added them to my “Things I Love” folder.

Beautiful Bars ... but they go so fast!

Beautiful Bars … but they go so fast!


Bukkah’s* Granola Bars

Makes 16 pretty substantial bars that you could cut in half again, but trust me you’ll eat an entire bar!

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Ingredients:
  • 1 ⅔ cups old fashioned oats – divided one cup and ⅔ cups
  • ⅓  cup raw turbinado sugar (I prefer this more granular sugar for texture)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 oz dried cherries or dried cranberries
  • 6 large pitted and chopped medjool dates
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • Scant cup of finely chopped pecans (I put whole pecans in the Nutribullet for a few seconds to really chop them finely but you can do this by hand too)
  • ¼ cup untoasted white sesame seeds
  • ⅓ cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ⅓ cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • ⅓ cup chunky peanut butter or sunflower butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 6 tablespoons melted salted butter (cool briefly)
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease then line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ brownie pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Place one cup of the oats in a mixing bowl. Place the other ⅔ cup in a blender or Nutribullet and whirl them briefly to make oatmeal flour.  Then add this to the bowl with the other oats.   Add in all the other dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts, and stir well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, peanut butter, honey and water. With your hands or wearing disposable gloves, mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  The raw mix will be like thick, wet oatmeal.

Spread in the prepared pan, pressing down firmly all over, into the corner too, to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. I use the flat part of a  bench scraper and really push hard to pack the bars.

Bake the bars for 35 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges and top. They’ll still seem soft in the center of the pan but will firm up when cooling.  I press everything down firmly again in five minutes after they sit on the counter in the pan. Again, I use my palms. After you push the bars down, go around the perimeter with a knife to loosen.

In 30  minutes, cover the pan with a cutting board and flip it over so the bottom side of the bars face up.  The parchment will keep them from sticking.  Peel the parchment paper off the top and put the cutting board and bars into the fridge for another half hour.

Once the bars are totally cold, use a  serrated knife to cut the bars into 16 squares. Do this carefully so they don’t crumble apart.

To store, I put the cut bars in glass or plastic airtight covered containers and I usually keep mine in the fridge or freezer.

It surprises me that my grandkids,  who are highly discriminating eaters,  didn’t really think these were worth ooing and ahhhhing over.  Fine, more for us.  In a scientific controlled study of 25 Seattle and San Francisco relatives and friends, 100% of participants were crazy about these bars.

For me, it’s going to be a recipe I rotate through on a weekly basis until I get overdosed.  When I’m starving  or in a plane, these are fantastic.  And they are hands down superior to commercial granola bars with a long shelf life that come in tiny plastic bags with words like food coloring and high fructose corn syrup high up on the ingredient list.

These follow my own food rules: they contain whole foods, lots of seeds, nuts and whole grains, and dried unsweetened fruit.  Perfect?  Of course not. They contain sugar and honey and butter.   But in my world when I start with mostly whole foods and make something that has a freezer life and is so satisfying when I’m on the run, I’m happy.  

* In case you’re wondering … Bukkah is the name my grandkids all call me.  My daughter Rachel came up with it – it’s what she called her grandmother. No “grandma” or “Bubbie” in our family. Bukkah all the way!

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Hail Caesar!

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Caesar Salad - Simple & Satisfying

Caesar Salad – Simple & Satisfying

I’ve been on a Caesar Salad binge for about a month now…crispy heads of Romaine, salty homemade croutons, and creamy dressing: what could be bad about this?  I have all the fixins prepared ahead of time, and most days I indulge shamelessly and consume a nice amount of Caesar.  Lettuce counts as a vegetable in my eyes.

From what I can remember, Caesar salad has been around as long as I’ve been an adult – in other words for a long, long time.  Other salad trends come and go, but Caesar is a staple and beloved by so many young and old.  And it seems like everyone has a favorite Caesar salad recipe.  Many cooks love the drama and flash involved with making this tableside with a wood bowl, a whisk and elbow grease.  But me?  I’ve never been a showman, I should say show-woman.  All I care about is that the final creation I make brings joy to me and to those I am feeding   

This is one of my recipes I made by the gallon back in my catering life.  Everyone asked about our Caesar, and ironically I landed a few jobs just because of this simple salad.  While I was a business person, I never dared divulge my tried and true catering recipes.  And now?  If you ask me for a recipe, I’ll gladly share with you!  

I simplified my catering recipe even further since I now own a Nutribullet – although a blender works just dandy too.  I don’t even bother to grate the parmesan cheese, but weight out what I need and let the blender do all the work.  And everything goes in at once, making this a breeze. The version I’m sharing has anchovy paste because I love the salty flavor, but if this doesn’t float your boat just skip the anchovy and add Worcestershire sauce.  

It's all about the dressing...

It’s all about the dressing…

Blender Caesar Dressing

Makes 1 ¼ cups dressing

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Ingredients
  • 1 whole egg (supposed to be coddled for a minute – I used a pasteurized egg instead but you can read how to do this here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coddled_egg)
  • ½ cup high quality grated Italian Parmesan/Reggiano cheese-eyeball it or if you have a kitchen scale,r simply weigh out a  2 ounce chunk of cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon + add unseasoned rice vinegar if you don’t have quite enough juice from one large lemon)
  • ½ teaspoon anchovy paste (If you don’t like anchovy, use one teaspoon Worcestershire sauce)
  • 2 whole cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp fresh black pepper ground
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup salad oil (not olive oil – I use canola oil)
Instructions

To begin with – HAVE EVERYTHING (eggs, lemon, cheese and anchovy paste)  AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!  If the ingredients aren’t at room temp, you’ll have to slowly drizzle in the oil at the end.

Add all the ingredients including the oil to a Nutribullet or whirl using a blender, run the motor until everything is smooth.  This takes me about 20 seconds.      

Pour into a glass container and refrigerate at least an hour or up to a week.  Let stand at room temp 15 minutes before serving.

To compose the salad, use chopped or whole leaves of Romaine lettuce and fresh croutons too.  

Cook’s notes:  

Be sure to make homemade croutons! Just cube up a denser (usually leftover) baguette bread into ¾ inch pieces (I use a small loaf from Macrina bakery from my beloved neighborhood Metropolitan Market called “Giusseppe Roll”).  Coat the cubes with half a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then bake 325 for ten minutes – or until the cubes are brown.  Cool and store at room temperature.  I usually make a bunch of these for the week and briefly pop them in the toaster oven at 300 degrees for a few minutes to freshen them up before I toss my salad. I’ve also made the salad a bit unique by using leftover rye bread for croutons.  It’s surprisingly great.

It’s not traditional, but I often add halved cherry tomatoes and avocado to my Caesar.  Or I add cherry tomatoes  along with fresh mint and oregano.  I”m shameless.

And finally, if you aren’t into cheese, you can make this eliminating the parmesan — you’ll end up with a creamy, garlicy lemony dressing that is mighty fine.

And finally finally: my grandkids love this salad!

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Consummate Chinese Chicken Salad

As spring approaches it’s getting to be salad time again! So I’m re-posting one of my most beloved recipes … a real crowd-pleaser! (Originally posted in August 2012)

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Colorful Chinese Chicken Salad

The popular dish Americans label with the name “Chinese Chicken Salad” has absolutely no ties to China and does not resemble the food found anywhere in the Far East. Because most Chinese Chicken salad dressing recipes include “traditional” Chinese ingredients (i.e. soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and sesame seeds), I suppose I understand my countrymen’s insistence on the name. But when it comes to incorporating ingredients like ramen noodles or fried won ton wrappers (no thank you) or mandarin oranges (double no thank you) – I draw the line.

Regardless of my reservations about the title of this dish, I must admit that this salad is a “go to” item to have on hand for the summer – especially for large groups or visitors who tend to arrive without much notice. I have the greens, the peppers and such in one bag, the nuts and sesame seeds and herbs and chicken ready to go, the dressing pre made. And voila! It takes me exactly one minute to either pack a lunch or to serve this to anyone who drops by. Everything stays fresh as can be for five days or even longer, and those who have had this salad at my home rave about the unusual flavors.

Fresh Ingredients

It is pretty much a no brainer – not really “cooking” per se but toasting nuts and seeds, and preparing everything else in advance…chopping – lots of chopping. Whenever I roast or make rotisserie chicken on the BBQ, I do an extra bird so I can save it to shred for lunches. If  I am feeling very lazy or haven’t planned ahead, a store bought rotisserie chicken works too. Just remove the skin and take the meat off the bones. The carcass can always be used for stock that same week or frozen for items like risotto.

Note: Really anything fresh and seasonal could be added to this mix. The other night I added sliced fresh radishes, leftover roasted green beans, farmers market English cucumber batons, and some tiny cherry tomatoes from my rooftop garden. I put the salad ingredients in a 6-cup sealed container, poured some dressing in a repurposed bottle, stuck in a plastic fork and a few napkins and when noon rolled around I merely poured the dressing on top, sealed the container and shook the whole thing. Such a lunch!!

Handy Dandy Container for lunch

The recipe below originated from a friend of a friend and many changes have been made from my global kitchens.

Consummate Chinese Chicken Salad

Makes 10-12 large servings

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Ingredients for the dressing:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • ½ cup tamari
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 ½ tsp. fresh ginger-peeled and grated on a microplane grater
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • ½ cup canola oil
Instructions:

Heat sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved, then add the rest of the ingredients and keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The salad has a kick to it from the mustard, pepper and ginger, so back off on these ingredients if you like milder flavors.

Ingredients for the salad:
  • 1 large head or two regular size heads of Napa cabbage, sliced 1/8 inch
  • 1 large head romaine, sliced the same as the cabbage
  • 3 julienned carrots, 1 ½ inch, done on a hand held peeler like you use for green papaya
  • 2 red peppers, cut into matchstick pieces 1 ½ inch by 1/8 inch
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut like the red one
  • 2 cups edamame beans, cooked (I buy them frozen and already shelled – just defrost them)
  • 4 cups snow peas, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 lb. shredded cooked chicken
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¾ cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup toasted slivered almonds (I bake them at 350 for 3 minutes in the toaster)
  • Optional: sunflower or bean sprouts, sliced radishes, halved grape tomatoes or anything else you like

I keep all of this separate from the dressing with the lettuce/cabbage mixture in a huge bag, and another container with veggies etc. That way at the last minute you can make one or two servings of salad. OR you can make a huge bowl of this for company.

You can easily make half of this recipe if you wish.

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Super Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cake

Want your house to smell insanely decadent in the morning? Whip this one up! (Originally posted in November 2013)

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Click here to view recipe.

Piece of cake!

Piece of cake!

This is another special recipe from  my “favorites” category.  This old fashioned, rich coffee cake frequently appears for brunch or breakfast celebrations at my home, and when it bakes in the oven the entire house smells like butter and vanilla.  I’ve had numerous requests for this particular coffee cake over the years.  Nothing could be easier or as foolproof as this formula!

The next time you have company for brunch, serve this with coffee or tea.  It makes a large cake pan full and I often freeze half of it.  Just a sliver of this perfectly balanced cake satisfies anyone’s sweet tooth… I’ve even been known to serve this for dessert following dinner!

Pan full of goodness - ready for the oven

Pan full of goodness – ready for the oven

Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cake

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Cake ingredients:
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
Topping ingredients
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped  pecans
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Instructions:

Have all ingredients at room temperature.  Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease with butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9 x 12 cake pan and set aside.

Combine flour, soda and salt and stir well and put aside.

Cream butter and sugar for four minutes, then add eggs one at a time until well blended. Add vanilla and then the sour cream, making sure it is incorporated.

Quickly add the flour mixture in two batches and mix until combined.  Put batter in the cake pan, evening out the top.  The raw mixture is thick and can be a bit difficult to spread.

Combine topping ingredients, mix thoroughly and evenly sprinkle on top of the cake.  Press down lightly with the palms of your hands all over the top so the sugar-nut mixture doesn’t come off.  Bake for 30+ minutes.  BE SURE IT IS DONE by testing with a toothpick.  Remove to a rack and cool completely.  Covered, this stays moist at room temperature for 4-5 days or can be frozen for up to two months.

 

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Perfect Poached Eggs (by request!)

The Perfect "Poached" Egg

The Perfect “Poached” Egg

There was a time back in the day when eggs were pretty much forbidden for having saturated fat, raising cholesterol, all of it.  Yet I’ve always loved eggs.  My late father used to drive an egg truck, and he adored eggs;  he instilled in me and all of my siblings to this day an appreciation for fresh, amazing eggs. In fact, one of my sisters raises chickens that lay beautiful, colorful, scrumptious eggs just so she can enjoy the freshest of the fresh.

My favorite, simple way to cook eggs is to poach them – well, technically I guess I actually steam the eggs since they aren’t cooked directly in the simmering water.  For years I  struggled to make the eggs look more professional.  Vinegar or salt in the water, swirling the boiling water so the egg whites would form a neat disc.  AND THEN, about ten years ago I was in Vancouver, British Columbia, in an Asian market no less, where I saw these silicone “pods”.  Hmmmm.  I usually don’t go for cooking gadgets or unnecessary paraphernalia, but I bought them, I tried them, and out came the most perfectly done, gorgeous eggs I have seen.  Now these pods have morphed into a  gift for friends and family who happen to be egg lovers.

The Poaching Pod

The Poaching Pod

It’s so easy.  Using a shallow sauce pan, put about 1 ½  inches of water inside and bring it to a boil.  Meanwhile, butter the inside of these pods and crack an egg inside each one, then carefully lower the pod into the simmering water.  Cover with a lid, set the timer for four minutes (that is, if the eggs are taken straight out of the refrigerator) for soft yolks (or more or less depending on your taste).  Then remove the lid, and lift each pod out carefully using tongs.  I tilt the pod the get rid of water condensation, then go around the rim of the egg with a spoon to loosen it.  Slide the egg into a saucer and voila!

This has been an easy project I do with my seven year old grandson.  I do the stove part but he greases the pod, cracks the egg into a measuring cup (keep it close to the bottom of the cup, not in the air).  He then pours the egg into the pod.  Of course we had one egg land on the counter and one land on the floor, but that is part of the learning curve.

Zay Helping Out

Zay Helping Out

An adult needs to lower the pod into the water to cook and remove the lid and pods after they are finished.  I had him loosen the egg around the rim and slide it into the saucer.  My grandson pronounced this the best egg he has ever eaten!  The egg white is cooked, the yolk is runny.   This goes along with my mantra that food you make yourself always tastes better.

Think about getting a couple of these silicone pods as gifts for nieces, nephews, grandkids, spouses.  I don’t buy my grandkids clothing or fru fru things, but I love to find kitchen tools or interesting craft ideas for gifts.

My neighborhood grocery store carries these in the kitchenware department, or you can order them on Amazon.com, 2 for $ 6.49.

Now get crackin’!!

 

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Luscious Lamb Shanks

SUCH a delicious winter meal … I just had to share again! (Originally posted in January 2013)

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Click here to view recipe.

Lamb Shanks, Sweet Potatoes & Vegetables

We have been to New Zealand twice: the first trip we covered parts of the North and a few areas of the South Island — and didn’t feel like we’d seen nearly enough. Two years later we returned and spent two weeks in the South Island and this time we knew the ropes and decided to do things a little differently. We rented a Mauri camper van for travel and lodging, staying in motels only two times. The campgrounds were not crowded and featured nice bathrooms with showers, washers and dryers and hook ups for electricity and sewage as well. Oddly we did not see even one other American in the campgrounds!

New Zealand Sheep! (the little white spots in the background)

I make no apologies for the fact that I love lamb – lamb shanks, lamb stews, ground lamb, lamb chops, leg of lamb. And New Zealand is the “Land of Sheep” – they are everywhere and so it made great sense that lamb shank was on the menu of every single pub we visited. I venture to say that during our trip we had lamb shanks at casual eateries at least five times a week. Each preparation was different but I cannot tell you that any of the dishes were less than wonderful. In New Zealand, shanks are traditionally served with various vegetables and a heap of mashed “kumara,” a term they use for sweet potatoes.

While I was there I picked up three cookbooks by a New Zealand cookbook author and TV show doyenne, Annabelle Langbein; her name consistently came up when I asked natives for a good New Zealand cookbook author. Indeed! She is the equivalent of the Barefoot Contessa in my book, and I have used Annabelle’s books not only for lamb recipes but for inspiration when making vegetables, salads and other dishes. The only caveat is that I need to convert grams to ounces and oven temperatures from Centigrade to Fahrenheit. I love mathematics so it makes it challenging for me! (It’s easy to convert via the internet though)

The lamb shank preparation I love the most began with a recipe from Annabelle’s cookbook Assemble. I had to search in Seattle for lamb shanks that we not enormous (fore shanks are smaller and I greatly prefer them). I also found it interesting that lamb from Australia and New Zealand is grass fed and most likely organic – and I found the perfect shanks at … Safeway! Go figure…

Make these on a cold Sunday, and mash some sweet potatoes to soak up the savory juices. Roast some Brussels sprouts, green beans or brocollini and you will have a filling, beautiful plate of food. Invite some friends over, and pretend that these were very difficult and time consuming to prepare! You’ll be a star, I promise.

Key Ingredients

Luscious Lamb Shanks

Serves 4

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Ingredients
  • 4-5 lamb shanks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ⅓ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced* (I always keep these as a kitchen staple in my fridge. Mine are in oil so I drain them and use these)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste (a good reason to have a tube of this in my fridge)
  • 1 Tbsp pesto (I keep this frozen in my freezer in 1 Tbsp quantities for cooking, but jarred pesto is fine too)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp each fine sea salt , ground pepper and sugar (remember the sugar combats acidity from the tomatoes)
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 3 cups chicken broth-homemade or canned is fine too
  • 1 cup dry vermouth or white wine (again, I always keep vermouth in the fridge since I do not drink white wine)
  • 2 cans white butter beans, drained or 3 cups home-cooked white beans (any variety except garbanzo)
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and put oven rack close to the bottom. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper (for easier clean up). Dry the shanks very thoroughly with a towel, then rub the shanks all over with the salt and pepper. Place in the roasting pan in the oven uncovered for about 40 minutes until shanks are a little browned. Remove and pour off fat at the bottom of the roasting pan (mine had about ½ cup of liquid I poured off). Turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle diced sundried tomatoes around the shanks – tucking them in so they are evenly distributed. Then mix together all the rest of the ingredients, then pour everything else over the shanks. Cover the roaster and keep cooking for three hours, basting every 45 minutes or so until they are fall-off-the-bone-tender. I often take the lid off the roasting pan 15 minutes before it is done so that the lamb browns a little more and the juices concentrate.

Serve in a large bowl on top of a heap of mashed sweet potatoes and steamed or roasted vegetables around the lamb for color. In a pinch I have even used frozen veggies (a mix of corn, carrot and peas).

If making this ahead – and I often make the lamb the day prior to serving – the lamb fat can be removed then the lamb and liquid can be reheated in the roasting pan at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

FYI, cooked lamb shanks freeze quite well in a little of the juice for up to 3 months.

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