Showing posts with label asian cuisine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label asian cuisine. Show all posts

Monday, February 14, 2011

Daring Cooks Challenge: Soba & Tempura (and Sushi too!)

This month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was right up my alley. We love Japanese food! The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and For the official recipes provided, visit the Daring Cooks.

Like any challenge, I like to put my spin on things too. In addition to the soba noodles and tempura, I decided to make some sushi to complete the meal. After a trip to the grocery store for ingredients, I spent a good 3 hours in the kitchen putting together a spectacular Saturday night dinner.

One of the things I’ve learned for big cooking projects with multiple dishes and steps is to take the time to create a game plan before starting. Otherwise things can get messy and out of control. Here is a quick overview of my process:

-Read through the recipes and take note of the prep and cooking times
-Decide what components can be made ahead of serving time and what has to be served immediately
-Create a schedule for cooking the meal (for example, chop first, make sauce next, and fry food last)
-Organize the ingredients by dish
-Take out all the measuring spoons and cups necessary for the recipes (nothing worse than finding out the one you need is dirty when you’re at a crucial moment in preparation)
-Take out the pots, pans, cutting boards, and utensils you will need (no digging through the cabinets with dirty hands)
-Turn on the TV to a good movie or put on your favorite music
-Start cooking!

For this challenge, my schedule was as follows:
1. Pour a delicious glass of wine

Thanks for the great wine Central Bottle!

2. Make the sushi rice
3. While the rice cooks, make sauce for the soba noodles and julienne vegetables for sushi and toppings
4. Blanch sweet potatoes and boil bean sprouts
5. Cook noodles and chill
6. Assemble, roll, and cut sushi
7. Plate noodles, garnishes, sauce and sushi
8. Ask hubby to clear and set the table
9. Make tempura, try not to burn myself
10. Serve dinner
11. Enjoy the meal and another glass of wine!

And now here’s a look at what I made! No recipes in this post, visit the Daring Cook’s link for the recipes for the challenge. But be sure to read through the end for a look at some vintage Good Cook Doris photos and a great story about the last time I made sushi at home.

Soba Noodles with Vegetables
The hubby loves noodles, not just macaroni and cheese. I usually don’t order noodle dishes when we go out because they are one-pot dishes. I love side dishes too much. So I let him choose the soba noodles. There were 5 different types of soba noodles at the store! He selected wheat and buckwheat noodles. Nothing too much to report on cooking here, I followed the directions on the bag and watched carefully to prevent overcooking. I made a simple dipping sauce combining vegetable stock, soy sauce and mirin. For extra flavor and saltiness I added a dash of fish sauce to top the noodles, I honored the challenge and kept it simple. We added julienned cucumbers, carrots, chopped scallions, and bean sprouts. The dish was simple, fresh, and delicious!

Vegetable Tempura
After frying, I found a penguin (my favorite animal!)

This was surprisingly simple to prepare. I chose a small assortment of my favorite vegetables to fry: sweet potatoes, green beans, and shitake mushrooms. For fun, I added a few carrots to the mix. I used raw vegetables, with the exception of the sweet potatoes. I blanched them until just tender.

Timing was everything for the tempura. I got everything ready and fried the vegetables just before we sat down to eat dinner. As with any fried dish, it is important to set up the assembly line and rack for the fried vegetables to rest.

To ensure the batter stayed light and airy, I placed an ice pack in a large bowl and then a smaller bowl on top to mix the batter (we don’t have an ice maker, I had to improvise). I used my trusty kids’ chopsticks to mix up the batter until just combined. I also don't have a skimmer, so I use my stainless steel potato masher to scoop fried foods out of the pot.

The dredged and battered vegetables took a 1-2 minute dip in 320 degree vegetable oil and emerged golden brown and perfectly crispy.

Homemade Spicy Salmon Rolls
The last time we made sushi was in September 2002. We had graduated from college in May and I had moved to Florida. The hubby was still in Boston and we were doing the long distance thing. One of our favorite things to do when he visited was go out for sushi. There was one place, Yoko, in West Palm Beach that we visited on Saturday nights of our weekends together. The owner, Yoko would sing karaoke along with the music videos on a huge big screen TV. If you’ve seen the pictures of the hubby and me, you’ll notice we are not large people. But we have an uncanny ability to consume obscene amounts of sushi.

One particular night at Yoko we placed our order for the Crazy Cat Roll (our favorite) and assortment of other rolls and nigiri, and excitedly awaited the free spicy noodle salad they served before the meal. We watched the waitress walk over to the sushi chef and present him with our order. He read the order and then said something to her. She pointed at us and he looked over with a look of disbelief on his face. He looked down at the order, back at us, and then back at the waitress. Then the waitress came back and told us that the chef wanted to confirm that we really wanted to order so much sushi. We assured her that yes, we did intend to order that amount. She walked back to the chef and relayed the message. He looked at us, shrugged his shoulders and then started rolling. I’m pretty sure he gave us even more rice than usual, but we couldn’t back down and ended up cleaning our plates and leaving completely stuffed.

So when we decided on another visit to make sushi at home, of course we made too much! I was living in my grandparent’s condo when I first moved there and we used her pots and pans. I remember the rice being really hard to make and extraordinarily sticky. When I asked the hubby if he remembered making the sushi, he said “Man that sucked, you can quote me on that. My hands hurt so badly after rolling all of that.” With that in mind, I present you with the pictures from September 13, 2002. You can see we gave up rolling. There is an uncut roll of sushi and two plates of rice with julienne vegetables artfully placed on top. You will also notice one of my grandmother’s favorite flea market finds hanging on the wall – the bag lady! This lovely lady has a porcelain face and an empty skirt into which you can stick grocery bags.

I’ve had the sushi rolling set in the cabinets for the past 8 years, but haven’t used them until this weekend. I was feeling confident and decided to make spicy salmon inside-out maki. I pulled out the “Easy Sushi” book from the back of the bookshelf and reminded myself how to roll properly. This time the rice came out perfectly (thanks to a little confidence and a foolproof recipe from Alton Brown). I mixed smoked salmon, mayonnaise and sriracha for my spicy salmon mixture. With the rolling station set up, I got to work. By pure luck, the package of nori I picked up was pre-toasted and ready to roll right out of the package. Two sheets, cut in half, made just the right amount of sushi for dinner and leftovers.

The Meal
With all of the dishes prepared and plated, it was time to eat! The meal was simple, clean, and flavorful. It was almost like eating out at a Japanese restaurant! The hubby’s cousin Becky got us a beautiful set of Japanese dishes for our wedding and this was the perfect opportunity to use it. Thanks Daring Cooks for such a fun challenge!

And thanks to the hubby for his help! Photographer, moral support, and chief dishwasher.

An added bonus? Lunch the next day! 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guest Post: Renee's Thai Basil Fried Rice

This guest post is brought to you from Renee, my fellow foodie, co-worker, and sorority sister. Thankfully we have similar taste in food. That means a lot of lunchtime leftovers are shared in our office. When we're not bringing in our culinary creations, we can often be found at the local Thai restaurant. Renee decided to try making her favorite Thai dish and this is her recap. You can follow Renee for interesting food, pop-culture, and other tweets at or check out her blog at Without further delay, here she is:

I often get a craving for the amazing Thai Basil Fried Rice from our favorite local take-out joint The Green Pea Pod in Watertown, MA. I am trying to curb these cravings as my new budget means cutting down on take-out. Luckily, one of my favorite ingredients to pick up from my weekly pilgrimage to Russo & Sons is the amazing Thai Basil. I use it in everything! So, improvising I went, and came up with a very simple Thai Basil Fried Rice of my own! It was a great substitute if I do say so myself!

Renee's Thai Basil Fried Rice
3/4 lb chicken breast tenders
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
2 large cloves of thinly sliced garlic (or 4 small cloves)
1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 small red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 small green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 small vidalia onion, sliced
1/2 cup chopped Thai basil leaves
3 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)
Sriracha (Thai hot sauce)
Olive Oil

In a large pan, heat oil and half of the garlic
Add chicken, sprinkle one side of chicken with seasoning salt
Brown chicken and remove from pan
Add remainder of garlic, when it starts to sizzle add onions
When onions become clear, add both types of peppers
Cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until peppers are your desired firmness
Reduce heat to medium
Add basil leaves and continue to brown for 2 minutes

Add soy sauce to veggies
Stir continuously until mixture JUST begins to boil
Add Sriracha to your desired heat (NOTE: It is VERY spicy. Know what you are getting into before you dump some in!)

Optional- Chop your cooked chicken into bite size pieces
Add the cooked chicken to the vegetable mixture
Simmer for 2 minutes
Add the cooked brown rice to the mixture
Let simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes
If mixture starts sticking to the bottom of your pan, add 1/8 cup of water at a time

Serve with a cold beverage and enjoy!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daring Kitchen: Homemade Nut Butter and Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing

This year I’ve been a lot of different nut butters to add some nutrition and variety to my breakfast routine. I was excited to see this month’s challenge – DIY nut butter – because buying it at the store can get pretty expensive!

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

Now I’m no stranger to using nuts in recipes, but I never considered starting with nut butter (even though I probably have without knowing it).

It’s been hot here in New England and with no air conditioning in the house I chose the recipe that involved the least amount of cooking – Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing. We’ve made a version of this before with peanut sauce, so homemade cashew butter dressing sounding like a tasty twist.

We opted for a meat-free version. I was going to include tofu, but it wasn’t on my list which meant it didn’t end up in my grocery cart. Oops! A quick look in the pantry produced a box of Thai rice vermicelli which was perfect for the recipe. To brighten up the flavor of the dish even more, I added some freshly harvested lime basil from my garden. The plants are producing leaves like crazy and the flavor is really delicious.

This was a great meal for a hot night and the leftovers were a perfect lunch the next day. Next time I run out of nut butter, maybe I’ll whip up my own instead of running to the store!

Recipe notes:
I used roasted, unsalted whole cashews and added a little canola oil to smooth out the butter
I rinsed the noodles in cold water and served everything cold

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from recipe provided in challenge

Cashew Butter:
1 cup cashews

Cashew Dressing:
½ inch slice of fresh ginger, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
½ cup cashew butter
¼ cup soy sauce
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons vinegar
3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon water

Noodle Salad:
1 box rice vermicelli
1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh lime basil
Lime wedges (optional)

Make cashew butter:
Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. I added about a half tablespoon of canola oil to help smooth out the cashew butter.

Prepare cashew dressing:
Combine ginger, garlic, cashew butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and water in food processor with the cashew butter. Process until smooth. Be sure to process long enough to puree the ginger and garlic. The dressing should be pourable, about the same thickness as cream. Adjust consistency – thinner or thicker -- to your liking by adding more water or cashew butter. (If the cashew butter was unsalted, you may want to add salt to taste.) Makes about 1 ½ cups dressing. Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator.

Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Rinse and drain noodles. Set aside.

Slice basil into thin ribbons. Combine noodles, bell pepper, cucumber, onions, and basil in a large bowl.

Plate individual servings of noodles and toss each with about 2 tablespoons of dressing. Top with the vegetables and basil and serve with a lime wedge.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: A Trip to Vietnam

At my day job, our students (Executive MBA) headed off to Vietnam for their international trip. While I didn't get to travel with them, I did do some culinary research for them. I also put together a list of spices that I was interested in having, just in case they happened upon a spice market. To pretend that I was sharing in their adventure I decided to make an at home version of one my favorite Vietnamese restaurant dishes.

My favorite dish to get at local places like Pho Viet's (at the Super 88) and Le's is bun with grilled beef. It is a giant serving of vermicelli noodles with thinly sliced grilled beef and ground peanuts. On the side is a fresh cucumber, carrot, and cabbage salad and nuoc chom. To finish it off, I usually throw on some extra peanut sauce from the fresh rolls we order as an appetizer.

As I usually do, I looked to a cookbook for inspiration before creating my own take on the dish. In a previous post, I mentioned the cookbook I checked out from the library called Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I found a recipe for grilled beef and got to work creating.

I wanted to make my own sauce, and there was an easy recipe for vegetarian nuoc chom. I didn't have all the ingredients but this did give a chance to use the lemongrass I recently purchased!

This was a fairly quick and easy meal to prepare. It was flavorful and tasted almost exactly like the number 10 with beef that I usually order! You could also make this with sliced chicken breast or even some grilled extra firm tofu slices. Enjoy!

#10 with Beef and Vegetarian Nuoc Chom

Vegetarian Nuoc Chom
Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet

3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried lemongrass (1 finely chopped teaspoon if you have fresh lemongrass)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 hot chile minced (I skipped this, the hubby doesn't like hot chiles)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (the recipe calls for peanut oil)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar
In another bowl, or on the mixing board, work the garlic into a paste
Mix the paste, lemongrass, cinnamon and chile (if using) into the soy sauce and rice wine
Add oil, sugar and salt and stir well
Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days

Quick Cool Veggie Salad
1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
1/2 English cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch matchsticks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch matchsticks
Rice wine vinegar
Sesame oil

Mix the cut vegetables in a serving bowl
Add enough rice wine vinegar to coat the veggies
Add about 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
Sprinkle with salt
Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve meal

Grilled Beef
Inspired by Grilled Lemongrass Beef Recipe in Hot Sour Salty Sweet

1.25 pounds flank steak
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bird chile finely chopped (or hot chile), optional
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil

Mix the marinade ingredients together and add to a bowl or large plastic food storage bag
Cut the meat against the grain into 1/8 inch slices, then cut into 1.5 inch lengths
Place the meat in with the marinade in the bowl and cover, or in the plastic bag and seal
I only marinated the beef for about 30 minutes at room temperature (You could marinate for up to 1 hour at room temperature or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator)
Prepare the grill pan (or grill)
Grill the meat for about 1-1.5 minutes per side for medium-rare/almost medium

Cook Time:
Sauce: 5 minutes
Veggies: 10 minutes (depending on how fast you chop)
Meat: 10 minutes prep, marinating time, 5 minutes cooking

Cutting board, knives, mixing bowls, grill pan (or grill), serving bowls, utensils

Serve with vermicelli noodles (make according to box). I like mine a little spicy, so I added a generous dollop of sriracha on the side.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Trip to Southeast Asia

I've been looking at cooking classes for the past 6 months and trying to figure out what type of class I want to take. One of the classes I was considering taught recipes and techniques from a cookbook called Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be about and I decided to think about it before signing up. After a few days I completely forgot about it as I got busy with other things.

When I was at the library looking for a good book to read on my holiday travels, I came across a copy of Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet! I checked it out and started reading. What a wonderful cookbook - stories about Southeast Asia, its people, and the food. I have already read through the book two or three times! Sadly the cooking class is sold out, so I started teaching myself the recipes. One of the first recipes to catch my attention was the Silky Coconut-Pumpkin Soup. The recipe is from Thailand and Laos. I've had a red kuri squash sitting on the counter for a while, and decided this would be a good substitution for the pumpkin. The soup was as advertised, silky-smooth and delicious. It was wonderful as lunch the next day.

As a side dish I tried something that I've eaten a lot but never tried to make at home - Vietnamese Fresh Rolls with peanut sauce. For a healthy, vegetarian version I cooked up some tofu and filled them with a pickled cabbage and carrot slaw. I made vermicelli (rice noodles) to add in, but the rice paper wrappers weren't big enough to fit everything in (actually, I forgot until I got to the last roll....).

This was delicious and would make a great party dish after I work on my rice paper rolling skills. The soup is going to be repated often too!

Silky Coconut-Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet
Makes 4 servings

Printable Recipe

3 Shallots, unpeeled
1 red kuri squash, approximately 1.25 pounds unpeeled
1 can light coconut milk (approximately 2 cups)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (the recipe called for coriander)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1 scallion, cut into thin rings

In a small non-stick skillet over high medium-high heat, dry-roast the shallots, turning occaisionally, until blackened and soft
Peel the the shallots, cut in half lengthwise, and set aside
Peel the squash and remove seeds and guts
Cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Place the coconut milk, broth, squash cubes, shallots and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil
Reduce to low, add salt, and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the squash is tender
Stir in the fish sauce and cook for 2-3 more minutes
With an immersion blender (or food processor), blend the soup until it is a smooth consistency
Ladle into individual bowls, garnish with scallions and freshly ground pepper

Vietnamese Fresh Rolls
Makes 5 rolls, with a little extra slaw and tofu
1/2 block of extra firm tofu (make sure it is well-drained)
1/4 of a head of green cabbage, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 scallion, chopped
Rice wine vinegar ( a few good splashes)
Sesame oil (one small dash)
5 Mint leaves
Rice paper wrappers

Note: You'll need to assemble all your ingredients before you work with the rice paper wrappers

Reheat a the same non-stick skillet (from the shallots) over medium heat
Cut the tofu into 1/4 inch sticks
Add to the skillet and cook about a minute or so on each side, until just golden brown
Set aside until assembly

Mix chopped cabbage, carrot, cilantro, and scallion in a bowl. Pour on a few splashes of rice wine vingar (enough to coat everything), one drop of sesame oil and sprinkle with salt
Mix well and set aside until assembly

Set up your assembly line for ingredients - Slaw, tofu, and mint leaves

Microwave a large bowl of water to soften the rice paper wrappers
Take 1 wrapper, dip into the water to soften, and then place on a plate
Put the mint leaf in the middle
Top with 2-3 sticks of tofu
Top with the slaw
Roll the rice paper wrapper like a burrito, tuck in two sides, then roll to close
Repeat for each wrapper

Total prep time (prep the rolls while the soup is cooking): 25-30 minutes, depending on how fast you can peel a squash
Total cook time: 20 minutes
Small non-stick skillet, sharp knife and cutting board, ladle, soup pot, microwaveable bowl, serving dishes and utensils

Serve with your favorite peanut sauce. I made some quick sauce, but it isn't worth reporting on. I'll have to work on a good recipe to share.

Serve with the soup and enjoy! This made for a great lunch the next day. We had the noodles topped with tofu, slaw and the peanut sauce.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Take Out At Home - Egg Drop Soup and Egg Rolls

The hubby offered to go grocery shopping this week while I was in class. I ran out of time and didn't get a chance to send him a shopping list - I told him to get whatever looked good and we could pretend it was an iron chef competition when it came time to make dinner.

I had bought some egg roll wrappers and they had been sitting in the fridge unused for about a week. I kept saying, I'll make something tomorrow... Finally tomorrow came and I decided to just come up with something with the ingredients that the hubby brought home.

For a light dinner, I threw together some chicken egg rolls and egg drop soup. This was my first try at egg drop soup - it sounded fun to make. For the egg rolls, I used some assorted veggies that we had left in the fridge - carrots, red pepper, and onion. I would have loved to add in water chestnuts but we finished off our supply. Instead of frying the egg rolls I baked them. While they were baking I had time to make the soup. You can adjust the ingredients to your taste - all veggie, ground turkey/chicken, etc.

Chicken Egg Rolls
Egg roll wrappers (I used the Nasoya brand)
About 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast tenders
5-7 baby carrots cut into small coins
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 of a white onion, diced
Toasted sesame oil
Tamari (or soy sauce)
A few shakes of ground ginger
Toasted sesame seeds

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Take out a cookie sheet (or baking sheet) to put the egg rolls on
Cut chicken tenders into small pieces
In a skillet over medium heat, cook the chicken until just cooked through
In a skillet over medium heat, saute the carrots, red pepper and onions in a small amount of olive oil until just softened (3-5 minutes)
Pour about a tablespoon of tamari on the veggies and stir
Remove from heat and set aside for assembly
Set up an assembly line with the veggies, chicken, wrappers, and a small bowl with sesame oil
On a wrapper put a small amount of veggies and chicken in the middle
Follow the rolling directions on the wrapper package and roll it up
Place the egg roll seam side down on the cookie sheet, repeat until you use up all the filling
Brush the top of the rolls with the sesame oil and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds
Bake for about 5-7 minutes and then turn the rolls over
Bake for another 5-7 minutes until crispy and brown

Quick Egg Drop Soup
I did a quick Food Blog search for egg drop soup and read a few recipes for tips on making it. I knew there had to be more to it than just drizzling eggs into chicken broth. So here is my version adapted from various sources.

4 cups chicken stock
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in water

Bring stock to a boil
Add in dissolved cornstarch and stir
Reduce heat so that the stock is at a gentle boil
Slowly stir in the beaten egg, making ribbons
I had a little extra sesame oil leftover from brushing the egg rolls, so I added it in to the soup before serving

This would rival any soup in a take-out restaurant. Perfectly salted to my taste!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Noodles with Lime, Peanut, and a Lot of Green Veggies

After coming home from a great vacation, I was too tired to come up with a dinner idea. I surfed over to my friend Amy's blog and caught up on the posts I missed while I was gone. I came upon her regular feature where she cooks an Ellie Krieger recipe. It looked so delicious that I knew we had to try it!

One of our favorite cuisines to eat out is Thai. The hubby loves pad Thai, but I always want something with more veggies. This dish was perfect - it combined sweet and tangy flavors and was nice and healthy. Another bonus is that it was quick cooking and not too messy.

I followed Amy's version of the recipe ( and also included the edamame. Next time I would omit the snap peas and just stick with broccoli, snow peas, and edamame. We wanted whole wheat noodles for this and could only find spaghetti (not linguine). This would also work well with a shorter pasta with lines to hold the sauce.

I won't repost the recipe here, visit Amy for that. Enjoy the photo. This recipe is a definite keeper!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Treats for the Grill

It's easy to get into a routine and eat the same foods each week. In the spirit of grilling diversity, we're trying to add new items to our stable of grill friendly meals. I've posted about grilled portobellos before - this post is more about what went with the grilled portobellos. I get a weekly email from Whole Foods and they always have interesting recipe ideas. The latest edition had a recipe for portobello and pineapple grilled veggie burgers. I printed out the recipe, miraculously found almost the ingredients in our pantry, and got to work! Our burgers were served without buns (I think they were better that way!)

The teriyaki sauce was really tasty. I'd put it up against any bottled sauce at the store. When you can control the amount of salt in your sauces they always taste much better. For an easy meal, I served this on a nice green salad with carrots and green onions. No need for dressing - I just drizzled a little extra teriyaki on it.

I'll write up the teriyaki sauce here. For the full recipe and instructions, click on the link above. I marinated the pineapples and portobellos for about 30 minutes before grilling (we wanted to eat before 10 p.m.). Throw them on the grill and within a short amount of time you are ready to eat. Drizzle with extra sauce and enjoy!

Quick Homemade Teriyaki Sauce (courtesy of Whole Foods' recipe, with a few tweaks)

Juice from 1 (20-ounce) can pineapple rings
3 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (I only had dark)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (I didn't have any, so I added some toasted sesame seeds instead)
Canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Put 3/4 cup of the pineapple juice (save remaining for another use), soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and sesame oil into a small bowl and whisk together to make a marinade

After you put the mushrooms and pineapples on the grill, drain the leftover marinade into a small saucepan
Bring to a boil over medium high heat
In a small bowl, stir together water and cornstarch
Then whisk the cornstarch mixture into the marinade in the saucepan and boil until thickened, about 1-2 minutes
Pour into a serving bowl
Serve with cooked mushrooms and pineapple

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: Sauce - 5 minutes; Full meal - 10-15 minutes
Mixing bowl, bowl to marinate, small saucepan, serving bowl, spoon, whisk

We had more than enough sauce for our dinner. I put the extra in the fridge to save for another use. The next night we grilled some mahi-mahi and the sauce was delicious on top. On the side I made some snap peas and red peppers on the grill. I wrapped the veggies in a foil pack and seasoned them with ground ginger, garlic powder, and a little sesame oil. They only need about 5 minutes on the grill and they come out cooked with a nice crunch.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Trying a New Recipe

I've become a regular reader of, written by my friend Amy. She has a great "Foodie To Do List". I couldn't decide what to have for dinner, so I browsed her list and a link to Sushi Rice Salad caught my eye. Tonight I was on my own for dinner - my dining partner and resident dishwasher is on his way to a work conference for a few days - so I wanted something that didn't require too many dishes! With Grease 2 on the TV (don't laugh at me), I got to work preparing this quick meal.

A note about the rice. I was home sick today and ran out to the closest store (Whole Foods) to pick up a few ingredients for this recipe, including brown rice. Apparently there had been some disastrous spill in the Asian food aisle - also the rice aisle. After waiting for them to finish mopping, which they didn't, the very nice customer service man offered to get me the rice I needed. I didn't know I wanted, so he led me slowly down the aisle to pick it out. Once I was in this dangerous area I surveyed the rice options. Turns out that WF does not have any 10-minute brown rice or any quick-cooking plain brown rice of any kind. Strike! But I felt like I had to pick out something for all the trouble of shuffling down the aisle practically holding hands with the WF man (it was NOT that slippery, guess they are terrified of lawsuits). One of my upcoming meals will be accompanied by sesame ginger rice. I checked out and headed across the street to Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's had a completely opposite rice selection. Almost everything was pre-cooked rice in packaging designed to go in the microwave for 1-3 minutes for instant eating. So, I gave in and bought a pack of plain brown rice that cooked up in 1 minute.

For the recipe, I followed it pretty closely just tweaking the amount of some ingredients. For the original recipe check out I'll retype it below with my tweaks. Next time I'll make sure to get the right rice and will add more of it. Also, I will leave out the pickled ginger. I'm not a huge fan of it, but I left it in for this first try. I also added the wrong measurements for the dressing ingredients (which I didn't realize until I started typing up the recipe for this post). It still tasted great, but could have tasted a lot better. That's what I get for trying to follow a new recipe when I'm in a sudafed state. Next time will be better!

This would also be delicious with some sushi-grade tuna or salmon diced up in place of the tofu. Those are my notes - enjoy!

I love to chop veggies - so this recipe was perfect for me. Here's a shot of my chopping:

Sushi Rice Salad
Adapted from

1 package of pre-cooked brown rice (according to package, 3.5 servings of ½ cup each)
1/4 cup + 3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar, divided
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1 English cucumber, seeded and chopped
8 oz. extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
2 sheets nori (dried seaweed)
1 avocado

In a small saucepan bring 1/4 cup vinegar to boil with sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved and remove from heat
Cook rice, transfer rice to a large bowl and stir in vinegar mixture
Cool rice and drain excess liquid
Stir in sesame seeds, remaining 3 tbsp. vinegar, ginger, scallions, cucumber, tofu, and carrot
Cut nori sheets into 1 inch wide strips
Cut open and pit avocado
Score avocado with a sharp knife, making cubes
Use a spoon to remove from the skin and add avocado to salad with nori
Toss well

2 teaspoons wasabi paste (I accidentally did 2 tablespoons – SPICY!!)
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons ginger juice (from the jar of pickled ginger)

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together
Drizzle dressing over salad and mix carefully.

Serves 4-6

I didn’t use all the dressing I made, partly because I made the wrong amount! Reduce the amount of wasabi if you don’t want it as spicy.

Prep Time: 15 minutes of chopping and assembling
Cook Time: Less than 5 minutes
Cutting board and knife, bowls, sauce pan and spoon, serving bowl and utensils

And of course - fun chopsticks! I got these at Sunfest in Florida a few years back. They make it fun to eat!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Night Stir-Fry...

Tonight's plan was for a fancy stir-fry with pan-fried tofu over rice. I had almost all the ingredients and the best intentions, but it didn't turn out so fancy. Don't get me wrong - it was edible (and tasty) - but it didn't turn out the way I hoped it would.

On some cooking show or in one of my cookbooks there was a tip to dust tofu with corn-starch before pan-frying it to get a nice golden brown crust. I tried it when I first found it and it was great - crunchy on the outside and still tender on the inside. Tonight I either had too much oil or the wrong temperature or I put the cornstarch on too early. My tofu kind of stuck to the pan and the nice crispy crunch came right off. Or maybe I should blame it on my resident dishwasher - the really non-stick pan was dirty so I used a different pan. Either way, it was still tofu and still tasty.

For the vegetable part of the stir-fry I stuck with a pretty basic mix. I served it over couscous (no rice in the pantry). We got a new cilantro plant and have a lot to use so I added that in at the end. Here's the veggie recipe. I'll skip the tofu recipe until I get it right!

Stir-Fried Veggies
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small can of sliced water chestnuts, rinsed
1/4 white onion, diced

Sauce and Spices
Couple tablespoons of Tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tsp. of Thai fish sauce
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of garlic powder
Salt and Pepper
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Handful of cilantro leaves chopped

Heat a large skillet over medium heat
Add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil (enough to cover the pan)
Toss in veggies
Cook for 4-5 minutes and then stir
Cook for another 3-4 minutes until veggies are cooked through, but still have some crunch

Mix all sauce ingredients (except cilantro) and pour over veggies
Sprinkle cilantro over the skillet and stir
Serve and enjoy!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Soy Ginger Flank Steak with Lime-Cilantro Rice

Flank steak was on sale at the store and it makes for a very quick and easy dinner. We paired it with a 90-second rice mix (from Trader Joe's) and some fresh peas. Josh picked up the peas at the store, they were so much better than the frozen peas.

The glaze for the steak was soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ground ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. The whole meal was topped with toasted sesame seeds. I cooked the steak on our indoor grill pan. It is a cast iron pan - smooth on one side and grill lines on the other. It fits across two burners on the stove. Quick and easy to clean - Josh's favorite feature.

Thai Tim's Green Curry Chicken

Tonight's menu was inspired by a nagging request for chicken curry from one our loyal fans (you can sort of make him out in the photo). So Tim - here is a delicious chicken curry recipe for you! I know you were thinking red curry, but this was light, tasty, with just a little kick.

One of my favorite dishes to order at Thai restaurants is Green Curry (with either tofu or chicken). It is usually packed with green peas, green beans, bamboo shoots, green peppers, and sometimes Thai eggplant. I omitted my least favorite veggies and came up with tonight's dish. Instead of rice, I used rice noodles that we had in the pantry.

I used a store bought green curry paste, you could always buy another type of paste and switch the veggies for your own variation. I used the suggested cooking method on the curry paste container and tweaked it a little.

Thai Tim's Green Curry Chicken
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 baby bella (or white) mushrooms, cut into thin slices
1 13.5 ounce can of light coconut milk
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. green curry paste (add more if you want it really spicy)
Handful of chopped parsley (or cilantro)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat
Add vegetable oil and curry paste and stir well, heat for about 30 seconds
Add diced chicken and stir, coating the pieces well
Add the can of coconut milk and stir
Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add all of the veggies and stir, cover with lid (or foil) and cook for 5-7 minutes until veggies are cooked and chicken is done
Stir in chopped parsley

Cook the rice noodles according to the package (boil for about 8 minutes)

Put a serving of noodles on the plate, top with a scoop of chicken, veggies, and sauce and enjoy!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Pasta pot, large skillet, sp
oons, cutting board and knife, serving dishes and utensils

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rice Noodles with Sesame-Ginger Flank Steak

New night, new cuisine! Some of our favorite meals out are Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese cuisine. With another night of hockey on Saturday, we decided to dine in and make our own version. This was budget-friendly and not too unhealthy.

I used to subscribe to Cooking Light and have a lot of recipes that I saved, but never got around to making. Flipping through my binder of recipes, I came across this one for Rice Noodles with Sesame-Ginger Flank Steak. The flavors were delicious - fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and toasted sesame seeds. We had a lot of the ingredients on hand, just had to pick up some veggies, rice noodles, and a fresh container of sesame seeds. We didn't have and sesame oil on hand, so I substituted with vegetable oil. You could easily substitute tofu for the steak to make it vegetarian.

We bought some salmon fresh rolls from the sushi counter at the grocery store. They came with a delicious peanut dipping sauce. The rolls have rice noodles, cabbage, mint, shredded carrot, and sushi salmon all wrapped in rice paper. You'll find these on the menu at most Thai and Vietnamese restaurants with either tofu or shrimp instead of the salmon.

This is definitely a keeper! It was great the next day for lunch. More photos in the album to the right.


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