Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DB Challenge - Lavash Crackers w/ Vegan Dip

I am sorry this post is a little late! I could give you the usual list of excuses...but, really, I'm just proud that I got this done before October 1. :-) Rejoice with me!

On Monday, we had a dinner with 10 heads at the table. It was Lo Gung's parents' last night here in town, and there was a Chinese family in the Stake that wanted to meet them, and Will's aunt and uncle. So...we were 10, plus BBJ. Quite a feat to fit us all around a table that usually seats 6!

MaMa made pigs tongue, pork and carrot soup, bok choy with ginger, tofu with ground beef and green onions, and curry potatoes and chicken.

I made crackers. Oh, and a dip. Aren't I amazing? Thanks - I thought so, too.

Luckily enough, our guests brought some delicious oatmeal cookies. After dinner, we all snacked on crackers, cookies and apples (fresh picked yesterday afternoon). The apples were the first to go, followed shortly thereafter by the crackers. I think I was the only one who ate a cookie.

The Moral of this Story is: If you want something salty to be snacked up, serve it to a bunch of Chinese people! As Lo Gung so sweetly pointed out last night - I was the ONLY "white girl" at the table, and now I have that whole plate of cookies to myself. I guess we all come out happy in the end!

For our September Daring Baker's Challenge, we were challenged to make Vegan and/or Gluten-Free crackers, with a Vegan topping or dip. (Really, I was just excited to see a recipe whose every ingredient was already a staple in my pantry!)

The crackers were not my favorite thing, and I don't think I'll make them again. However, the 8 crackers that were left over after last night's dinner party were scooped up by my mother in law this morning to snack on during her flight home. (Did you SEE the menu from last night's dinner? I assure you, the compliment was not lost on me!) I topped my crackers with kosher salt and some sesame seeds. I rolled my dough out on a Silpat and then transferred the whole sheet to the baking pan, and I got it nowhere NEAR thin enough to be a cracker. These came out more like Pilot Crackers than Saltines. If I wanted to make it any thinner, I would have had to divide the dough into two parts and cooked it on two sheets. There was no "snapping" going on with these crackers. They came out of the oven still a bit soft, kind of like a hard pita bread. After the crackers had cooled completely, however, they were very snappy and cracky.

I made a Peanut Orange Dip to pair with the crackers. It turned out fairly well, but I have so much left over...I think I see chicken satay in my near future! The orange juice added a really unexpected zing to the dip - very nice!

Peanut Orange Dip:

1/2 cup creamy Peanut Butter

5 T. Orange Juice

2 T. Sweet Chili Sauce (sold as a sauce for chicken in Asian grocery stores)

2 t. soy sauce

2 t. tamari (dark soy sauce, or "louh chau")

2 t. white sugar

1 t. sesame oil

Mix together until smooth.

Lavash Crackers (Vegan, not Gluten Free)

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour

1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt

1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast

1 Tb (.75 oz) sugar

1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil

1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bread-Dough-Has-Been-Mixed-Long-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

7. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

MKMW- Indian Week

I was honored when Susie Homemaker of My Kitchen My World asked me to choose the country for this week's journey. China, of course, was my first choice, but it was a very sneaky one. My (Chinese) Mother in Law is visiting this week, and it would have been super easy to snap a picture any evening this week and have a fabulous record of authentic Chinese food!
Since China has already been done, I consulted with Lo Gung (the Reigning Stomach) and we came up with India. We haven't had good Indian food in a while, so it seemed worth a shot!
(We still haven't had good Indian food...but at least there was lamb involved. Even BBJ liked this, so it's earned the Toddler Food label.) I still have most of a jar of Tikka Masala, and another pound of ground lamb in the freezer, so I think this dish will be making a comeback. Next time, I will leave out the coconut milk and use cream, instead, if I still want it creamy.)
If you'd like to see more Indian Offerings, head over to My Kitchen My World and check out the blogroll!

This makes a fairly hot Tikka Masala dish. If spicy isn't your thing, cut the Tikka Masala paste way, way back. Start with about 1/2 a teaspoon and work up from there.

Tikka Masala -

1 lb ground lamb

1 onion, diced

2 tsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. Tikka Masala paste (Maggi Brand works well)

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

4 T. tomato paste

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup coconut milk

3 tsp. white sugar

handful of fresh basil, chopped

Brown lamb in a skillet, breaking it up with a spoon. When lamb is cooked all the way through, remove to a bowl. Discard the oil in the skillet, leaving 1 T.

Saute the onions in the reserved drippings until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 1 minute.

Add the Tikka Masala paste and kosher salt and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste, water, coconut milk and sugar. Simmer to combine. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Add the basil.

Serve with rice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cha Siu Ribs

(Originally posted on 9/1/08) *Picture added 9/22/08
**This picture is chicken. Yeah, chicken. The ribs, like I said below, weren't that photogenic. Chicken thighs, though...good heavens. These pictures out to be outlawed! The sauce is awesome on just about anything - steamed-on-the-grill fish, ribs, chicken thighs, etc. I boiled these thighs, just like the ribs, but not as long - just until they were done. They were then marinated in the sauce for a little over an hour and cooked on a low, low grill. I basted them and flipped them every 5-10 minutes for about half an hour, or until the sauce is all used up. The skin on the chicken thighs was like BBQ caramel.

***If you MUST have these ribs, but don't have all the crazy Asian ingredients in your pantry - drop me a line. For a few bucks, I'm pretty sure I could figure out how to can this stuff and ship it across the country. ;-) Yeah, it's that good. Or maybe I'm just that prego. Either way - I'm just sayin'.

I've asked Lo Gung, and he said that these were still considered "authentic" Chinese food, even with the few modifications that I made. These were served tonight for our Labor Day BBQ, along with a MULTITUDE of side salads, chips, fruit, veggies, rice...and some yummy homemade ice cream for dessert. (Thanks, Megan!)

(This sauce was inspired by the Cha Siu sauce that Ma makes, plus a little touch of Southern flair, to make it better suited for a BBQ.)

Pork ribs (I used pork spare ribs)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (See how Southern I am?)
3 T. honey
2 T. hoisin sauce
2 T. Cha Siu sauce (a Chinese BBQ sauce, available in jars in Asian supermarkets)
2 T. minced garlic
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. dark soy sauce (sometimes this is called tamari. It's just soy sauce that's got extra color and tastes like molasses)
1 t. hot chili sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground (dried) ginger (it's all I had.)

Submerge the ribs in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and begins to pull back on the bone (you'll see more of the rib sticking out of the meat than was there when you began boiling). There will be plenty of grey gunk floating in your water, and lots of oil - that's fine. I had to boil my uncovered, so it didn't boil all over my stove.

While the ribs are boiling, mix together the rest of the ingredients, adjusting to taste.

When the ribs are tender, lift them (carefully!) out of the water and put them in a baking dish or a large ziploc bag. (You need something you can cover, and something large enough to hold the juice and sauce you're about to douse the ribs with.)

Spoon on your BBQ sauce and start rubbing! Massage the sauce (it will feel like a sugar scrub) into both sides of the meat. Cover and let it marinate in the refrigerator until an hour before dinner. (The meat ought to marinate at least an hour. I made mine in the morning and let it marinate all day.)

An hour before you want to serve it, remove the ribs from the refrigerator and let them warm up a bit. Half an hour before dinner, heat the grill to low and start grilling! Since your meat is already THOROUGHLY cooked, you just need to crisp up the sauce. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn't burn! This should take about half an hour. Keep basting with the sauce from the pan, layering it on as the sauce caramelizes on the meat, and turning the meat to keep it from getting to crispy (read: black and nasty) on the corners.

This is delicious with rice and vegetables. Enjoy!

(Sorry there aren't any pictures - boiled ribs just aren't pretty, and the ribs didn't stick around on the table long enough for me to pose them for a beauty shot!)

MKMW - Lithuania Week

I know what you're thinking - what on earth does a Lithuanian eat? What could Aunt LoLo have possibly made that would represent the cuisine of such a culturally rich place?

The answer? Not much. After a quick perusal of the Lithuanian recipes Google had to offer, I discovered that Lithuanians like soups...using lots of root vegetables that have not yet come into season in my part of the country.

However, since I have a reputation to keep up (do what you promise, but never less than three hours after you promised to do it!), I give you - My Lithuanian (Inspired) Soup!

I knew I was craving potatoes...and I knew that I had very little in the way of soup-fixin's in my refrigerator. This is what I came up with. It was a little salty, but overall quite tasty! (I think I overdid it with the chicken base.)

Aunt LoLo's Potato Broccoli Cheddar Soup

In a soup pot, melt 1 T. butter, then brown 1 T. minced garlic.

Add to that:
5 smallish potatoes, peeled and chunked
2 cups raw broccoli florets
2 teaspoons Chicken Base (my answer to chicken stock - it has no MSG, and I can make my stock as salty as I like it.)
Enough water to cover all the vegetables, plus a few inches. (I wanted to have enough left overs to feed my in-laws when they get in tonight from a long airplane flight!)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I read that Lithuanians like mushrooms :-))

When all the vegetables are tender, blend the soup. (I used an immersion blender, but a normal blender would be fine, in small batches.)

Add in about 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese and 1 c. whole milk. (Next time, I think I'll use Velveeta or American - the cheddar had a rough time melting into the soup.)

Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper, kosher salt and Worcestershire Sauce.

Even my toddler loved this! Then again, it's rare to find a soup she doesn't love.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Crockpot Chili

This is my second chili recipe posting, not the last of my bean dishes! I've eaten this for three days, served over rice and topped with cheddar and sour cream. It is with sadness I can see the bottom of the serving dish.

Also, Ernie has eaten second helpings of this two nights in a row. Major bonus points for this recipe!

My changes are in parentheses

Slow-Cooker Hearty Beef Chili
from Fall 2008 Kraft Food and Family

1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef (I used about a cup of cooked ground beef, from the freezer)
1 can each dark and light kidney beans, 15 oz. each (I used two cans dark)
1 1/2 cups "Taco Bell Home Originals Thick n' Chunky Mild Salsa" (I used large jar of spicy)
1 can tomato sauce, 16 oz.
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 onion chopped (I used a few good shakes of dried)
1 cup frozen corn (didn't include this)
(I added about a cup and a half of water too, because it looked dry)

Brown meat and drain. Add to slow cooker with remaining ingredients. Stir and cover with lid. Cook on low 5-6 hours, or high 3-4 hours. Stir just before serving. Serve topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Pot Pasta

Last night found BBJ and I home, alone, with not much energy for cooking or scrubbing. I wanted to make something that I knew BBJ would eat, so I turned to an old standby - LoLo's Pasta. I made it up a few years ago, but I'm sure it's not an original idea. This can, of course, be doctored up to suit a more adult palate, but I aim to please here in Casa LoLo. I served this with a very simple salad of torn romaine leaves and lots of ranch dressing. (Not healthy, but again - a favorite with my toddler!) (To see a video of my toddler eating salad, go here to my BBJ Blog.)

LoLo's Pasta Bake

1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 jar Pasta Sauce (I had a can of very salty Hunt's Pasta Sauce that wasn't good for anything else, so I used that - this method of preparation mellows out any saltiness in the sauce.)
1 lb pasta (I used a pound of dried tortellini that was languishing in my pantry)
1 can of mushrooms, drained

Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven and add the garlic, stirring to make sure it doesn't burn. When the oil and garlic are fragrant, add the pasta sauce, pasta and mushrooms - stir to combine.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until pasta is tender.

Top with grated parmesean or cheddar cheese. Enjoy!

*This could very easily be "adultified" with the addition of caramelized onions, other cheeses melted in (ricotta or bleu cheese would be nice), or other vegetables. Consider this a skillet version of lasagna, and you're on the right track.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kraft Food and Family

Do you receive the Food and Family publication from Kraft? If not, go here to sign up. It's free, and comes once a quarter. If you want to check it out first, go here to see archives. It's hit and miss sometimes (I didn't mark any recipes in the Summer edition, but found at least 20 recipes to try in the Fall.) We haven't noticed any new junk mail coming through, so I think they're good about not selling your address, etc.

Basically, it's a 60 page-ish magazine/cookbook using lots of Kraft products. So it's an advertisement in a way, but has some great ideas.

Soo...look at these lists. Wonder Daddy's is funny. I had him look over the cookbook on a Sunday afternoon...a FAST Sunday afternoon. (For the non-LDS, we set aside the first Sunday of every month to fast (not eat) and pray, and usually don't break the fast until Sunday evening's dinner.)

A few recipes I'm looking at:
Chicken and Biscuits
Tater-Topped Casserole (in homage to a childhood favorite of my husband's)
Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing
Easy Chicken Bake with stuffing
Triple-Layer Peanut Butter Brownies (like grasshoppers, but peanut butter)

Wonder Daddy's Selections:
Easy Layered Taco Bake
Panini Florentine
Rustic Spinach Salad
Chicken and Biscuits
Cheesy Chicken and Salsa Skillet
Tater-Topped Casserole
Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing
Easy Chicken Bake with Stuffing
Bruschetta Chicken Bake
Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Chili (tonight's dinner)
Ham and Cheese Calzones (with deli ham, refrigerated pizza crust in a can, ranch dressing...oof)
Foil-Pack Chicken Fajita Dinner
Fettucine Alfredo with Chicken
Boston Cream Pie
Cheesy Spinach and Bacon Dip
Hot Parmesan-Artichoke Dip
Unbeatable Sloppy Joes
Quick and Easy Chicken Cacciatore
Mini Meatloaves (made in muffin tins)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

MKMW - Indonesian Weeki

I have have this funny feeling that my manu choices for this week's MKMW - Indonesia challenge were a total cop out. Mixed rice and chicken satay? Really? (Is there anyone on the blogroll that didn't make some sort of satay? No? I didn't think so.)

Here's how it shook out - I made about 12 cups of rice for a Labor Day party on Monday. At the end of the day there were exactly 11 cups left. (Yeah...really. I know.) I also had about 2/3 of the pepper and tomato salad that I had mixed up. I cooked up the peppers and tomatoes in a large dutch oven, added all the rice, and then added Yoshida's Marinade (a sort of teriyaki sauce) to it until it tasted right. TOTALLY not Indonesian, I know...but Indonesia is in Asia, and we all eat rice. I figured my little version of "lo faan" could slide by.

My chicken satay was even more of a scramble. (Have I ever mentioned that I really don't like following recipes the first time I cook them? Baking is a different matter...but cooking gives me so much FREEDOM. If I had all the ingredients on hand, I wouldn't have to wing it. Oh well.)

The chicken started out as a marinated chicken thigh, based off of a recipe from Pioneer Woman's site here. Basically, I marinated the chicken thighs, overnight, in a mixture of equal parts milk and plain yogurt, with a little salt and minced garlic thrown in for flavor. When I realized that I wanted to make them into satay, I sliced the thighs into strips and threaded them onto pre-soaked bamboo skewers. I grilled those over medium heat and then basted them with honey at the end to give them a sweet crunch.

I served my skewers with a peanut sauce loosely based on a recipe I found here.

Umm...wow. On second thought, don't even compare my sauce to that recipe. I didn't realize I had strayed SO far from the path! I mixed, in a bowl (to taste) the following ingredients: smooth peanut butter, Thai sweet chili sauce (I'm a pepper wuss, so I like to keep things mild!), coconut milk, brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, tamari and a little hot water.

And that, my friends, is a true and faithful account of how I chose to cook my dinner during Indonesia week. Judge me as you will. (However, if you had tasted my peanut sauce on my FANTASTICALLY tender chicken...you might not be inclined to judge so harshly! I'm still trying to finish off th0se 11 cups of rice, though - maybe that is my penance.)

Monday, September 1, 2008


It's another Vitamix recipe! I'm in the final days of pregnancy, and craving sweets. It's fierce, I tell you! Luckily for me, we try not to keep too much prepared food around the house. It's better for us, but stinks when I go out of town and come back to...nothing, until I cook it. It's much easier to convince myself to NOT make that batch of cookies, than to tell myself to leave them in the cupboard. (Will you look at those hands? I've had the hands of an old women since I was 10. No joke. Oddly enough, they haven't GROWN since I was 12, either!)

The craving became too fierce the other day, and I wondered if it would be possible to make my own rice flour at home and create a passable mochi. For those who didn't grow up in a dense and vibrant Asian community, mochi is a rather traditional kind of Asian sweet- sweet sticky rice, mixed with a little water and sugar and pounded into a gummy dough. The dough can be rolled into balls and coated with various powders, or wrapped around fillings. My mom's favorite is mochi dough wrapped around mango ice cream. It seems that each country treats their mochi a little differently.

I started by grinding 2 cups of regular sticky rice in the Vitamix. All the recipes call for "Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour" (or glutinous rice flour.) I think Mochiko is the brand...but I was willing to give my rice flour a shot! The vitamix isn't the machine for making powder-fine flour- it left little bits and bobs behind.

The first recipe I tried is here. It was kind of a disaster- way too sticky to handle, and the larger bits of rice flour sunk to the bottom making a kind of crust. The top was yummy and smooth, though. It might have worked better with a finer flour.

My second recipe can be found here. It used about half the amount of water, so the dough was fairly pasty before being put in the microwave, rather than a liquid. I think this recipe is the keeper! I've included it below, with my changes. Basically, I've doubled the recipe, increased the sugar a tad, and changed the handling instructions slightly.


14 Tablespoons Rice Flour (1 cup less 2 Tbsp)
3 Tbsp sugar
10 Tbsp boiling water

  1. In a glass dish (I used a 4 cup pyrex cup), mix rice flour and sugar.
  2. Heat 11 Tbsp water in a pyrex cup in the microwave, and add 10 Tbsp boiling water to flour-sugar mixture. Stir two minutes.
  3. Cover with saran wrap and microwave 2-4 minutes. I cooked mine 3.
  4. Pour a small amount of oil into a large Ziploc bag, and coat inside thoroughly. Scoop hot dough into bag and start kneading. You might need to cover the bag with a towel, this is hot! Use the heel of your hand to push the dough out, then grab a bag corner and shake back into a ball. Eventually, dough will form a solid (and cool) enough lump where you can just mash it in your hands like play clay. Knead for 7-10 minutes, until kind of springy and chewy.
  5. Grab off teaspoon-sized chunks and roll into balls. You can put filling inside (red bean paste, guava jelly, etc. were all suggested), and you can roll these in powdered peanutes, more rice flour, toasted sesame flour, etc. I left mine plain.
Here is my dough ball. It's only out of respect for YOU that this wasn't consumed as-is! It's much prettier rolled into balls, don't you think?