Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brown Rice Jumble Bowls

This is an easy, super yummy, weeknight dinner idea.  Everyone in the family enjoyed customizing their own bowl- I set out the rice and bowls of toppings, and let the kids just go to town.  Ernie didn't mix anything at all, just had little piles of everything she loved (rice, parmesan, chicken, and cucumbers) and Mimi just chose rice and shredded cheddar cheese- I didn't list the cheddar below because it doesn't quite fit with the flavor profile, but I knew Mimi would eat it!

  This has unlimited variations, but this is what I used.  You could substitute other grains- quinoa or wheat berries would be amazing, or even pasta!  If the toppings you use are chewy or unwieldy, chop them small- I chose to cut my mushrooms and chicken rather finely, but left the cucumbers and tomatoes big enough to grab with a fork.  An asian-inspired bowl would be delicious, with steamed edamame and a ginger-sesame dressing.

Remember when you cook brown rice that it takes much longer than white rice.  I cooked two cups of brown rice with three cups of water in my rice cooker on the "brown rice" setting, and it took about an hour.  I love the flavor and chewiness of brown rice, but often forget to leave myself time to cook it!

Cooked brown rice
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped cucumber
Finely chopped cooked chicken
Finely chopped white mushrooms
Minced chives
Grated Parmesan cheese
Balsamic vinaigrette

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cheater S’Mores



So…s’mores aren’t exactly rocket science. For those of you that didn’t grow up in America, a s’more is a treat we enjoy as children, usually around a campfire. It is short for “some more” as in “I want some more.” The classic version is a marshmallow, skewered on a long stick, and roasted over a campfire. The crispy, gooey marshmallow is then sandwiched with two squares of graham cracker and a piece of chocolate…almost always Hersheys, because it’s the only chocolate in the right shape.


That’s all very well and good, but campfires aren’t always plentiful around Suburbia. One night, I had the brilliant idea to skewer my marshmallow on a long lobster fork and roast it over an open flame…on my gas stove. Hrm. Well, it was toasty and gooey, but it wasn’t quite right.


Then I figured, as long as I was butchering a classic, I might as well take it all the way.


And my kids’ new favorite treat was born.


LoLo’s Cheater S’mores


Graham crackers


Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread. peanut butter is delicious here, too.)


Spread one square of graham cracker with Nutella, and put the other square on a plate with one marshmallow on top. Microwave your marshmallow clad graham cracker for 15-20 seconds (be sure to watch it – it’s pretty impressive to see a marshmallow the size of an apple!). Take your plate out of the microwave, and smash your Nutella-smeared graham cracker on top.


Hand it to a toddler, stand back, and enjoy the view.


Oh, and you might want to have a wet rag handy. Just in case.



Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Vanilla Cake That Looks Like Cake



My fellow Chow-ians…I give you a vanilla cake. It is not a “white cake”, because it involves egg yolks…so it’s yellow. But it’s tall! And fluffy! And it looks like a cake. My father will laugh when he hears this, but I spent all weekend trying to recreate, from scratch, what would take me $.99 with a box. My father’s grandmother was brilliant, both in the classroom and in the kitchen. Her husband was a scientist. They both appreciated a good cake…and knew that the easiest way to get one was to take advantage of all the science and work that went into the boxed mixes. They drilled that fact into their grandson, who in turn passed the wisdom on to me – Use The Box.


And, can I vent for a moment? Indulge me. Last weekend, I baked four white cakes. Why? Because the second one didn’t turn out how I wanted it to…neither did the third. Or the fourth. The first one was for us, and I used Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake recipe. It makes the most amazing cupcakes – tiny crumb, moist, tender. However, my cake? Didn’t rise more than 1/2”. Not acceptable, but it was just for us, so…what are you going to do, right? (After some research, it turns out that great cupcake recipes don’t often translate to great cake recipes. However, great cakes can usually be made into great cupcakes. Weird, right? It’s sad, too, since Dorie’s cake was intended to be baked as a cake! However, she knows all about the issues with the cake, going so far as to nickname it “The Cake that Won’t Rise.” She has no idea why her cakes work and ours don’t.) The second cake was an “order” from a friend, for her mother’s birthday. It was the same recipe, baked in a 9x13 pan. It hardly rose. I tried again, to make a second layer for the cake (since the first cake couldn’t very well be split). I followed the directions exactly…and got the same results.


The next day, after hours of research the night before, I tried another recipe…just to see what would happen. It was the Cook’s Illustrated White Cake. Not only was the rise as sad as Dorie’s cake when baked in a 9x13 pan, but the texture of the cake was something like sweet, butter-laden cornbread. It was great with strawberries and whipped cream…but it wasn’t the white cake I was looking for. (It was at this point that I started to get just a little bit Mad at The Universe. Seriously, folks – if a white cake should be WHITE, why does it rely on temperamental YELLOW butter??!) (I realize now, after some more research, but I probably could have solved a lot of my problems by just substituting in shortening for the butter. And my cake would have been white.)


Finally, I came across King Arthur Flour’s Golden Vanilla Cake. Not only did it use ingredients I commonly kept in the cupboard (who keeps cake flour around??!), it came with a KAF guarantee, oodles of great reviews, and a handful of horrible reviews…followed by responses from the KAF team with suggestions for the bakers, or offers of telephone assistance, or both. When I found the recipe (in the middle of the night), I very nearly jumped out of bed and baked it right then and there. However, I decided that the quest for a Great Vanilla Cake wasn’t worth a 2 am bed time, so I held off.


Kids? I’ve found My Vanilla Cake recipe. Huge thanks to King Arthur Flour for another great recipe!


To find the recipe go here. And please, if you can, use a kitchen scale and the “weight” option to get the recipe in ounces instead of cups.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hong Kong Egg Waffles (Gai Daan Jai) (雞蛋仔)


(Gai Dan Jai, and the Nordic Ware Egg Waffle Pan. The pan is currently only available in America at Williams-Sonoma, for about $50. Or you could go to Hong Kong and buy one there. Your choice. But going to Hong Kong seems a bit drastic, just for a pan. There are no other American options besides mail-order, so I was pretty thrilled when I saw this pan come through my inbox.)


These were my favorite street-vendor treat in NYC’s Chinatown, and my husband has fond memories of eating these as a child on the streets of Hong Kong. Even my Mother in Law couldn’t contain her excitement when she saw the pan I had brought home from the mall. “My grandpa used to make me gai dan jai every Saturday for breakfast when I was a little girl!” My Mother in Law is a fabulous cook, and nothing I do in the kitchen ever excites or surprises her. When I served her her first homemade gai dan jai in 50 years…her eyes sparkled, and she actually giggled. It was worth every penny for that pan. (Actually, these waffles sell for $3 each on the streets of NYC, so the pan really isn’t that bad of a deal.)


Even though these are technically waffles, in Hong Kong they are hardly ever eaten for breakfast. These are generally served piping hot, in a small paper sack, and enjoyed while walking home from school.


Hong Kong-Style Egglet Waffles (Gai Dan Jai) (雞蛋仔 )

(Adapted from Christine’s Recipes)

(This recipe is in grams, and that is honestly the best way to make it. It’s super easy – put your bowl onto your digital scale, pour in your ingredient until you reach the desired amount, tare off, and do it again! If you do not have a digital kitchen scale, I have included approximate “American” measurements.)


140 g. (1 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour

7.5 g (1 1/2 tsp.) baking powder

1 T. custard powder (instant vanilla pudding will work here, and is MUCH easier to find.)

28 g. (2 Tbsp.) tapioca starch (available at any Asian market for approximately $1 for a small bag)

2 eggs, beaten

140 g (heaping 1/2 cup) white sugar

28 g. (approx. 2 Tbsp.) evaporated milk (coconut milk is also a tasty choice here)

140 ml (2/3 c.) water

2 tsp. vanilla

oil for your pan


1. Sift together your flour, baking powder, custard powder and tapioca starch.

2. Add your eggs and sugar, and beat well to combine.

3. In a small bowl, mix together your milk, water and vanilla. Gradually add to your flour mixture, and beat until there are no lumps.

4. Refrigerate the batter for one hour before using. (This step is not strictly necessary, but I did find that it made a nicer, lighter waffle.)

5. When your batter is done resting in the fridge, pull it out and prepare your Egg Waffle Pan. (Any waffle pan would work, but it wouldn’t make the signature egglet shape that gives these waffle their name.)

6. Separate your pan, lightly grease both sides, and preheat.

7. To make your waffles: pour approximately 3/4 cup batter into one side of the pan, and shut the lid. Wait about 30 seconds, flip the pan over, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Be careful not to get the pan too hot – your waffles will burn before they are finished cooking.

8. Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack. Serve warm. These can be pulled apart and eaten as is, or wrapped up with berries and cream.

Ginger Cookies

I found these while looking for a tasty afternoon snack for the kids and I. Oh boy, were these tasty! My favorite cookie texture – tender and chewy, almost like a brownie, but gingery and spicy. IMG_8979IMG_8982IMG_8985


Ginger Cookies

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

Approximately 120 cookies



4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp. ground ginger

2 tsp. baking soda

1 12 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups shortening

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup molasses


Preheat oven to 350


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat your shortening on low speed for 30 seconds, then add sugar. Beat until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. (You can skip this this scraping step if you have a rubber edged blade, such as the Beater Blade.) Add your eggs and molasses and mix until combined. Add all your flour at once and mix in what you can with the mixer, then finish the job with a wooden spoon if necessary.

3. Use a small scoop to pull out balls of cookie dough approximately 1” in diameter (your hands would work here, too). (Balls of dough can be rolled in sugar at this point, if you like. You’ll need about 3/4 cup total.) Arrange cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets, and bake 8-9 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and just slightly browned on the bottom. Don’t overbake these! Allow to cool on the sheet for one minute, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sweet Potato “Mac n’ Cheese”


This dinner was based off of a recipe found here, at Finding Joy in My Kitchen. It was such a hit, even with the Sweet Potato Haters in the group, that I just have to get this written down for posterity.


I made a huge batch of the sauce (enough for two pounds of pasta) and froze half of it, before mixing the other half with one pound of pasta for our dinner that night. I’m on a freezer-stocking kick, and half of nearly everything I make ends up in the freezer. I have marinated meat, pizzas, spaghetti sauce, etc. YUM. If you do not want this much sauce, by all means, just cut the recipe in half. Oh, and I used evaporated milk, because I had it in the fridge and it needed using up. Feel free to use whatever you like.


Sweet Potato “Mac n’ Cheese”

(makes 2 pounds of pasta)


2 pounds pasta

3-4 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into 2-3” chunks (mine were nearly white inside)

2 medium carrots, cut in 2-3” chunks

1 cup sliced onion (2-3 medium)

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 cup milk, chicken broth or water


Salt, Pepper and Sugar to taste


1. Prepare your sweet potatoes: Place your sweet potatoes and carrots in a soup pot, add cool water just to cover the veg, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare your pasta and onions and garlic. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook your pasta according to package directions, being careful not to overcook. Drain it when it is done, and return it to the pot.

3. In a sauté pan, heat 1-2 teaspoons of oil and add your onions and garlic. Cook until soft, 5-7 minutes.

4. When your sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic are all done in their respective pots, combine all four in a blender or food processor with your milk and blend well. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.

5. Now that your sauce and your pasta are done, it’s time to combine! Dump your delicious sauce over your pasta, and add a few handfuls of cheese. Cheddar would be great, or parmesan. Let yourself go wild here! You don’t need much, so you can splurge here.


Enjoy! My husband enjoyed his bowl with hot sauce on top…whatever floats your boat.