Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Apple Cranberry Bundt Cake

This is a riff on an old family recipe, from my Great-Grandma Susie. She raised her family in a small home in the Alabama swamps. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to spend much time down South, but from the stories that I hear, it was a rare day when you wouldn't find an apple cake waiting on her sideboard for unexpected company. Her cake recipe makes a rich, smooth cake that keeps moist for over a week (thanks to a generous helping of chopped apples and oil).

Today's version included applesauce in lieu of half of the oil (to lighten it up just a smidge), a little extra brown sugar to make things extra sticky, and a few handfuls of fresh cranberries. Topped with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream, this was a holiday winner! I served this cake after our formal Christmas Eve dinner with family.

Apple Cranberry Bundt Cake
Serves 12-20

3 cups flour
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 medium apples (cored, sliced and chopped)
2 cups fresh cranberries*

(These can be washed and thrown in whole, or chopped if you prefer your berries to have a little less bite.)

Preheat your oven to 350.

Grease and flour a large bundt cake pan and set aside. (This is an extremely sticky cake - be generous with the greasing and the flouring!)

In a large bowl, whisk together all your dry ingredients.

In a 2 cup measuring cup, measure out your applesauce, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add enough lemon juice to equal 2 cups of liquid, about 3 tbsp.

Add your wet ingredients to your dry ones and stir to combine. This batter is thick, and that is ok. Just mix it up. Fold in your fruit, making sure it is evening distributed.

Spoon your finished batter into your prepare bundt pan, and smooth out the top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, use a spatula to loosen the sides, and carefully flip the cake out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. If you're lucky, the cake will have cleanly slid out of the pan. If you're even more lucky, there will still be a small amount of cake stuck to the inside of the pan. Scoop it out with a rubber scraper, eat the evidence, and sift a generous amount of powdered sugar onto the finished cake before serving. Nobody will ever know the difference!

Top each slice with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Sticky, Crumby Fruitcake

If you hate fruitcake, you can just go ahead and stop reading right now. Myrnie and I, co-authors on this blog, both happen to adore fruitcake with a passion. We grew up eating our grandmother's fruitcake every Christmas, the "proper" way - sliced thick and topped with a generous slab of sharp cheddar. Grandma's fruitcake was dense and tended to the dry side (since our loaf wasn't allowed to be soaked in rum), but we always thought it delicious as we didn't know any different.

Grandma, rest her soul, has been gone for over five years now. It was time for Myrnie and I to try and bring back the fruitcake tradition. We both started with bargain bin neon fruit assortments and went from there. Myrnie found a copy of what she believes is the recipe Grandma used. I went with a recipe from King Arthur Flour that was titled Fruitcake Even Fruitcake Non-Lovers Will Love. (Now THAT is a mouthful!)

The verdict? We both prefer our versions best. Figures, eh? Hers came out as dense and sliceable and yummy as we remember Grandma's being. Mine came out sticky and soft and delicious and I can't stop eating it.

(Myrnie? This is your cue to get your recipe written down here so we don't lose it!)

My fruitcake, ready to pop into the oven. 

An inside shot of my finished fruitcake. Check out those glorious day-glo fruits! That's my favorite part...

Half of a finished mini loaf. The other half was my breakfast. Just keeping it real, folks.

I give you...my new favorite fruitcake recipe. I made a few tweaks, so I'll go ahead and share my take here. The original recipe includes slightly different spices, a different assortment of fruit, and a lot of nuts. I didn't have all-spice, I prefer the neon fruit from the baking aisle, and I don't like nuts in my cake. So...there ya go.

Aunt LoLo's Sticky Fruitcake
(adapted from King Arthur Flour's recipe here)

As I prepared this, it makes 12 "mini loaves", or it could make one giant 9x5 loaf

2 pounds "fruitcake mix" (sold in plastic tubs in the baking section during the holidays - includes cherries and candied citrus peel)
8-10 (minimum) chopped dates
1/2 to 1 cup of juice (I used a cherry/grape/apple blend)
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tbsp. cocoa
1/4 cup dark corn syrup

Glaze (I used straight agave syrup, but simple syrup is what is recommended in the original recipe) (Simple syrup is made by cooking equal parts sugar and water in a pot until the sugar dissolves.)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a half sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. Set aside.

1. In a medium saucepan, combine your assortment of fruit, and your juice. Cook it over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. The idea is to plump up your fruit. Mine was particularly chewy, so I added a few extra splashes. When you can easily chew a piece of the fruit, you're good to go. Set the pot aside to cool.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine your softened butter and your brown sugar. Cream those two things together until they are nice and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add your salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and baking powder.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape the bowl well after each egg (or use a plastic paddle with rubber scrapers on it).

4. Add your flour, cocoa, and corn syrup. Mix until everything is very well combined.

5. Turn off the mixer, remove the bowl, and dump your batter into the largest mixing bowl you have (at least 6 quarts). (If your mixer has a 6 quart bowl, you're good to go. Just take the bowl off the mixer.)

6. Stir in your plumped fruit and any leftover juice. Make sure everything is combined.

7. Carefully scrape all of your fruited batter into your prepared pan. Pop your pan into the oven, and set the timer for 90 minutes. Start checking it every ten minutes after an hour. The cake is done with a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs, not a smear of dough.

8. When the cake is done, carefully remove the pan from the oven (you have nearly 3 pounds of yumminess there - it's heavy!). Immediately brush the top with your glaze of choice and then set the pan aside to cool. When the cake is completely cool, flip it out onto a cutting board and use a long, sharp knife to slice it up.  I cut mine into 12 "mini loaves". Wrap each piece up carefully and tightly in plastic wrap.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Venison Stroganoff

A generous friend gifted us with a few pounds of ground venison. This is what I came up with! Everyone loved it, which surprised me. I had never worked with venison before, but a quick search gave me the idea to try Stroganoff. I called up my Dad, our family Stroganoff Expert. He instructed me to combine ground meat, onions, garlic, roux, broth, mushrooms and sour cream (plus a few more details as to how to do it). I thanked him, and got to work. I didn't have normal mushrooms...but I did have enoki! I threw some onions into a pan with some olive oil, and unwrapped the venison. Erm. It was frozen. Into the pot it went, with some flour (for the roux bit) and then...some water, because honestly? My roux was burning. (Sorry, Dad. I'm not great at following directions when babies are pulling on me.) 

Anyhow. It came out tasty - that is the main thing to keep in mind here! 

Aunt LoLo's Venison Stroganoff

1 pound ground venison
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. flour*
2 cups water
1 bundle enoki mushrooms, woody end removed, chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups frozen peas
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup greek yogurt

In a dutch oven, brown your ground venison. Add your chopped onion, and sauté until soft. Add your flour, stir to combine, and cook until golden (about 2 minutes). Add your water, mushrooms, garlic powder and frozen peas. Stir. Cook, covered, until the peas are done (about 10 minutes). Uncover and continue to cook until the sauce thickens. Turn off heat and stir in the greek yogurt. 

Serve over noodles or brown rice. 


*This recipe can be made Gluten Free by using cornstarch or a similar thickener, instead of flour. You can make a slurry of the thickener and some cool water and stir it in at the end, when you are cooking the sauce uncovered to thicken it up. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chow Review: Lunchbox Laboratory

Cinnamon Life Crunch and Key Lime milkshakes

Deep fried dork balls

Portabello, goat cheese and balsamic onion burger with sweet potato fries

Lunchbox Laboratory Review
989 112th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA // 425-505-2676

Pros: Really fun flavors, with unique combinations. The burgers are absolutely huge. I chose one with a portabello steak, and finished the whole thing. My sweet potato fries were blistered and crispy and delicious. The dork balls (duck and pork) were tasty, and just really fun to order. (Go on - I dare you. Say "dork balls" and DON'T smile. See? Not possible.) The standout of the night, for me, was my Key Lime milkshake. I love key lime pie, and this was spot on. I also appreciated the long, skinny, rectangular plates. The tables were cozy, and the plate shape shows attention to detail. The restaurant decor was fun, in a kitschy retro/mod kind of way. 

Cons: The restaurant is inside of an urban living/shopping building. The only restrooms are around the corner and down the sterile, empty concrete hall...and they are locked. You need a passcode from the waitress to get in, which you wouldn't KNOW until you actually got down there. Maybe there was a restroom in the restaurant, but I didn't see it. Also, the prices were a bit steep. We had a discount, through a corporate discount card, and still paid $50 for two burgers, two shakes, and an appetizer. Ouch.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Everyday Fettuccine Alfredo

A few days ago, Mr. LoLo and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. (D'aww.) We had already gone out, by ourselves, the previous weekend, so the actual day of our anniversary was spent at home. I tried to choose a menu that would get the whole family excited, but was also not TOO damaging to my post-baby weight loss efforts. This alfredo recipe uses very little dairy, compared to a classic cream based alfredo. In fact, the sauce is almost half vegetables. Not too shabby! Perhaps "every day" is going a little far, but I would definitely put this pasta dish into our regular rotation. I served this with a side of roasted broccoli. 

Everyday Fettuccine Alfredo
(Adapted from here, on FoodNetwork.com)

1 head cauliflower, chopped
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic
2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup cream
3 cups grated aged cheddar
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fettuccine, cooked al dente

In a saucepot, combine your cauliflower and water. Cover and cook over medium for 25-30 minutes, or until your cauliflower is very, very tender. (Add your garlic to the pot as well if you prefer a milder garlic flavor. I added mine later, as I prefer my garlic quite strong.) 

(At this point, you can turn off the stove and set your cauliflower aside until you are ready to get dinner prepared. I did this step a few hours ahead of time.) 

(Time to cook your noodles! Put on a pot of water, and cook your noodles according to package directions while your sauce is being blended.) 

Pour your cauliflower and water into a blender, along with your garlic (if you haven't already added it), and puree until it is completely smooth. Return the puree to your sauce pot, add your frozen peas, put it over medium low heat, and heat until your peas are cooked. Stir in your cream and set aside. 

When your noodles are finished, drain them, return them to their pot, and pour the cauliflower pea mixture over the top. Sprinkle in a little of the cheese at a time, stirring well between each addition. If the sauce is too think, splash in a little extra milk or cream. 


Friday, September 13, 2013

Custard Filled Moon Cakes

I'm going to start off by saying I've never tried these. I came across the recipe on a Hong Kong blog that features videos of chefs preparing traditional dishes. I mentioned the recipe on facebook, and several friends asked me to translate it. This? Is the result.

Translated from here. (There is a recipe written down in Chinese, and a video in Cantonese.)

Kam Sa Lai Wong Yuht Beng (Custard and crushed yolk moon cakes)

Makes 8 55g. mooncakes

Day 1:

84 grams mooncake syrup (you can find recipes on Google - a syrup of sugar, water and lemon juice)
24 grams canola oil
600 grams flour
12 ml. (2 1/2 tsp.) alkaline water (found at asian grocers)

In a bowl, combine flour, oil, syrup and alkaline water. Mix it with your hand, covered in a plastic glove if you don't like getting messy. This will make a glossy, slightly oozy ball of dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:

75 grams flour
20 grams cornstarch
20 grams custard powder (or instant vanilla pudding)
6 eggs
160 grams sugar
20 grams glutinous rice flour
80 grams powdered milk
a few tbsp. of each: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk
100 grams butter
12 grams salted egg yolks, cooked and diced.

In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, flour, glutinous rice flour, custard powder, powdered milk and sugar. Stir until well mixed.

Stir in the 6 raw eggs and then the three kinds of milk. Mix well, and then steam the entire mixture for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the butter on top of the mixture and stir to combine, then mix in the crushed cooked, salted egg yolks.

Pull out your prepared "skin" dough and roll it into a log. Now roll your filling into a log. Cut your skin dough into 15 gram lumps, and your filling dough into 40 gram lumps.

Pick up one lump of skin dough, roll it into a ball, and then carefully squash it into a flat circle. Place your balled up lump of filling in the center and carefully use the skin to encase the filling.

Follow the directions on your mold to shape your moon cake, then place on a foil lined cookie sheet.

Spritz your sheet of shaped moon cakes with water, and then bake at 180 C. (350 F.) for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush each cake with an egg wash, then bake another 7 minutes at 160 C. (325 F.) or until golden brown.

Allow to rest overnight.

Day 3:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nearly Instant Pancakes

Last weekend, I bought a bag of self-rising flour to make these biscuits. Yesterday, my daughter was a sad, moody mess..and nothing could cheer her up except for a plate of pancakes. The morning was simply too busy to make it happen, so I promised pancakes for lunch. 

Silly me. 

Lunch on that particular day came after hours at the gym, spent playing and swimming. Everyone in the house was famished, and fuses were short. I had to get lunch on the table quick, but those silly pancakes...argh! To borrow some old phrases, I cast mine eyes around my kitchen, looking for ideas...and they fell upon the open bag of self-rising flour, still on the counter. It was worth a shot! 

I dumped and stirred and heated up the griddle...and made the fluffiest, silkiest pancakes EVER. Seriously. Here's a pretty close approximation of what went down. 

LoLo's Nearly Instant Pancakes
(Makes 5 large pancakes)

Preheat your griddle to medium low. 

In a medium sized bowl, add 2 cups of self-rising flour, one egg, and about 2 1/2 cups milk. (I used rice milk.) Stir with a wire whisk, and assess. If it doesn't look like pancake batter, add either more flour or more liquid. A few lumps are ok. 

Proceed as normal - grease your griddle, and cook the pancakes. 

Yum! I may never buy a pancake mix again. SR flour, upon consideration, is just about nearly the same thing. 

Cream Biscuits

Are you ready for the easiest biscuits in the world? So simple, you don't even need a recipe, but I'll give you one anyhow. (The beauty of not needing a recipe is that you can eyeball things if you need to make just a few biscuits, or need to use up an odd amount of flour left in the canister. Cool.)

Cream Biscuits
(Adapted from the millions of cream biscuit recipes out there, all of them Southern)

Makes 12-16 biscuits

Preheat your oven to 375.
Lightly grease a sheet pan.

In a medium sized bowl, add 2 cups of self-rising flour and 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) heavy (whipping) cream. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. If it is a bit crumbly, add another splash of cream. Sticky? Add a tablespoon of flour.

At this point, you have two options: drop biscuits and cut biscuits.

If you want drop biscuits, drop spoonfuls of your biscuit dough onto your prepared cookie sheet, 1/2" apart.

If you want cut biscuits, lightly flour your work surface and gently fold/knead your dough two or three times until it makes a sort of smooth ball. Roll it out to about 1/2" thick, and cut with a 3" cookie cutter. Please your biscuit rounds onto your prepared cookie sheet, again 1/2" apart.

Bake 15-17 minutes, or until the bottoms just start to get golden (or a little longer, if you like darker biscuits). Remove to a cooling rack, or straight into your serving basket.

(These biscuits are pretty darn close to what you get with your fried chicken with the eleven secret herbs and spices. Just FYI.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Melt in Your Mouth Ribs, From the Grill

These ribs were pre-seasoned from the meat counter, but any rack of ribs rubbed with your favorite dry rub would be fantastic. I followed directions from Mark Bittman, but am now unable to find the exact recipe. He used a pan of woodchips in the bottom of his grill, to get a smoky flavor - I skipped that step. 

The trick to amazing melt-in-your-mouth-ribs from the grill is to light one side of your BBQ, heat up the grill for about 15 minutes, throw your ribs on the un-lit side, and then turn the heat down as far as it will go. This method takes hours (at least 2.5-3), but the results are ridiculous. So tender, the marrow can be chewed out. So well done, the bones practically fall out of the meat. 

I will definitely be trying this with my homemade "char siu" (Chinese BBQ) rib sauce. I'll let you know how it goes! 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Black Rice and Coconut Milk Dessert

It's hard to know just what to call this - a traditional rice pudding, in America, is a sort of egg and cream custard, with rice cooked into it. This is almost closer to a risotto. A sweet, nutty risotto. This is my favorite dessert to order at Thai restaurants, so I thought I should try and make it at home!

Black Rice and Coconut Milk Dessert
Serves 8

1 cup black rice ("forbidden rice". I've heard black glutinous rice can be used, but I haven't seen that, and plain black rice worked just fine. I think brown rice would work as well, but you'd be missing the classic deep purple color)
3 cups water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar (or more, to taste)
1 can of coconut milk, shaken well and divided

In a saucepan with a good-fitting lid, combine your rice and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer (covered) for 30 minutes. The rice should still look like it's swimming in water, like a porridge, but if you try a bite, it should be soft and ready to eat.

Stir in your sugar and 12 oz. of coconut milk. Return to a boil, and then reduce the heat again and simmer for another 45 minutes. Stir it every 10 minutes or so - you really don't want it to burn! It will continue to cook, and get pretty thick. After about 45 minutes, it will resemble a classic rice pudding - thick and spoonable. Let it cool a bit, then divide it between 8 bowls and top each bowl with a bit of the leftover coconut milk from the can.

Coconut Shrimp with Carrots

Still working through the to-do list on my phone. Here is another great recipe that has been languishing for a while. Use your imagination - pink little shrimp, nestled up against brilliant orange splashes of carrot, all in a snowy, silky fragrant coconut sauce, served over rice. Everyone loves this!

Coconut Shrimp with Carrots
Serves 4, over rice

1 pound carrots
1 pound shrimp
Salt & Pepper
8 oz. coconut milk
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

In a bowl, sprinkle your peeled, deveined shrimp with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Slice your carrots into 1/8" rounds. Doing it on a diagonal instead gets you Pretty Points. Peeling is totally optional. Set aside.
In another bowl, stir together coconut milk and sugr until dissolved, and then add the mayonnaise. Set aside.

Heat up a medium fry pan, and add about 2 Tbsp. of oil. Add your carrots to the pan and stir-fry until they turn bright orange and just start to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add the shrimp and stir those around until they are cooked through. Add your sauce and cook for another minute or two, or until the sauce is hot and smooth. Remove from heat and serve over rice. Enjoy!

Coconut-Scented Black Bean "Brownies"

I usually like to blog recipes when I have pictures to go with them...but I've been sitting on this recipe for about two months, and just need to get it off my to-do list. So. Picture little fudgey bites, completely gluten and flour free. Dairy free. Full of trendy coconut oil. Mmmm. I made these for a girls luncheon, and we ate the entire pan. It's the coconut oil that really makes these babies sing! I used a Vitamix to make these, but other blenders would probably work just as well. Just make sure you get everything completely blended and smooth.

Coconut-Scented Black Bean "Brownies"
Makes 1 8x8 pan

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 pan. Set aside.

In your blender, add these ingredients, in this order:
3 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
1 can black beans, washed and drained

Blend until everything is completely smooth - a few errant bean skins won't ruin these brownies, but too many would be distracting.

Pour your batter into your prepared pan and sprinkle the top generously with semi-sweet chocolate chips. (If you need your brownies to be completely dairy-free, skip the chocolate chips.) Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out batter-free.

Serve warm or cold, but consume judiciously - these are a big ol' pan of magical beans, after all. *grin*

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Raspberry Chocolate Porridge

My family rather enjoys a nice bowl of oatmeal in the mornings. It lowers cholesterol, has loads of fiber, and is one more way to sneak sugar into your morning ritual. (Or maybe that's just me and Siu Jeun...) Our favorite way to enjoy it is topped with loads of huge, sweet blueberries (handpicked by us, each summer, in Chelan, WA.) Unfortunately, we can only fit so many in the freezer and always end up running out a few months before our annual summer trip back to Chelan. So, we get creative in the Spring and early Summer, and bide our time. 

Right now, it's raspberry season in the Pacific Northwest. My mother's garden is positively bursting with them, and the 10 canes I planted in my own backyard are also giving us a few handfuls each day. As it turns out, a few frozen raspberries, a sprinkle of brown sugar, and a handful of chocolate chips on top of a bowl of oatmeal makes an (almost equally) delightful breakfast.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sushi Plates

I simply must share. I stumbled across this lunch earlier this week, by combining a few things I knew about my kids (they love pickled daikon sushi, they love korean salted seaweed, and playing with your food is awesome) and I came up with a lunch that was a huge hit.

 The plate is a hand-me-down from a neighbor, but she said it came from Pottery Barn. The kids loved all the little sections. Clockwise from the top, I have: soy sauce, oshinko (pickled daikon radish), salted seaweed papers, rice sprinkled with sugar. 

Both of the kids had thirds on their rice, and cleaned their plates. Success! I may have to remember this for lunches next year for school...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons...

....you make someone happy. Very, very happy.

Lemonade Concentrate


Juice whatever lemons you have, then measure out your juice. Combine with an equal part sugar, in a small sauce pot. Stir, over medium heat, until the sugar is disolved. Set aside and let it cool. 

When you are ready for your lemonade, spoon concentrate into your cups, over ice, and add water. Presto! Fresh lemonade, whenever you want it. Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Coconut Garlic Tilapia

I have a case of tilapia in my freezer that I bought a few months ago at a seafood dock sale. (Basically, a middleman commits a group of people to spend X amount of money and we get to order seafood straight from the boats, same as restaurants do. Killer prices and really great quality. Perks of living near a port town, eh? Seattle kinda rocks. Yeah, I said it.)

Anyhow, this particular case of tilapia is...fishy. I mean, it's fish, yes, but I was at a loss. I usually just steam tilapia with ginger, top it with soy sauce, and call it a day. I've had to get creative with these filets. In the past I've had good luck with breading and pan-frying them, but I wanted something different tonight. These filets were inspired by this recipe I posted a few months ago. This was a hit with everyone, including the impromptu dinner guest that stopped by "just to say hello."

I served this with leftover white jasmine rice and sautéed romaine lettuce (tossed with 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce and 1 tsp. sugar). With the filets thawed out, and leftover rice in the fridge, dinner took all of 15 minutes from cupboard to table. Easy peasy!

Coconut Garlic Tilapia

8 tilapia filets
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 dashes salt
5 dashes fresh cracked pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange tilapia filets on a baking sheet or 9x13 pan.

2. In a small mixing bowl, use a spoon to combine the (hard) coconut oil, brown sugar, molasses, sliced garlic, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.

3. Top each filet with a heaping spoonful of the sugar mixture, dividing up the entire bowl of the sugar mixture evenly across your filets.

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until filets are cooked through and the topping has melted and started to caramelize.

Serve with rice and a green veggie. Enjoy!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sweet Potato Smoothie

This one comes out tasting pretty darn close to my favorite Thanksgiving side dish. Enjoy!

In a powerful blender (I use Vitamix), combine:
1 roasted sweet potato, skin on
10 chunks frozen pineapple
1 banana, peeled and broken in half
12 oz. milk (I use almond or soy)
2 oz. Pumpkin Pie latte syrup (or sugar and pumpkin pie spice to taste)

Blend well and enjoy!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Busy Meals: Pot Pies over Rice

A few days ago, we picked up a case of frozen pot pies at our local warehouse store. They were on sale, and are fairly tasty. To make a quick meal, I made a large pot of rice and put two pot pies into the oven to cook.

At dinner time, I put the rice on a platter, and upended the two pies over the rice. We broke the pies and dished the meal up. The kids quite enjoyed this! The rice makes the meal a bit more filling, and is slightly healthier than filling up on gravy and pie crust.

(To see more "Busy Meals", find the label in the cloud on the right. Enjoy!) 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Orange Bran Muffins

Brains....Branny, Beautiful brains!

Just me? Really? You don't see bunny brai....oh, never mind.

When I was in my teens, I used to love to visit my Grandma Mary and snitch every last one of her bran muffins. She always seemed to have a container of them, stuck behind the fruit bowl and if I sat at her kitchen table, I could sneak my hand back there and grab a muffin. Or three. Grandma wasn't a baker, per say, but she did have one small drawer in her little 1950's kitchen dedicated to her bran muffins, so I know she took them seriously. Bags of bran, half used bags of cereal, and boxes of dried out raisins. They were perfect. I never got her recipe, but I do remember that it involved bran cereal.

Probably thanks to her, I developed a love for bran muffins. They are always moist and sticky, and I just can't get enough. It's been years since I have been able to sample one of her muffins, and I finally decided to make an attempt to recreate her muffins at home. I didn't have any raisins, but I will add those next time.

The recipe I used came from Better Homes and Gardens, the red and white checked cookbook. I made a few adjustments, and I thought they came out really yummy! I replaced the buttermilk with orange juice, and the white flour with fresh ground whole wheat flour. I really like making mini muffins, so that's what I did here. Mini muffins can be eaten in a single bite, which means fewer crumbs on the floor. They also cook in half the time of normal sized muffins. If you'd like to make normal size muffins, or even jumbo, adjust the baking time accordingly.


Aunt LoLo's Bran (Cereal) Muffins
Makes 6 dozen mini muffins

3 cups bran cereal (such as Kellog's All Bran)
1 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (2 cups wheat berries, ground)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups orange juice (or liquid of your choice, being sure to include a little acidity*)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil

Grease 5 mini muffin tins, and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400.

In a small bowl, combine your bran cereal and boiling water. Stir to moisten everything, and then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients, then set aside. Make sure you get the baking powder and baking soda clumps broken up!

In a large measuring cup or medium sized bowl, combine your wet ingredients. Whisk to break up the egg yolks.

Add your bran cereal mush and your wet ingredients to the large bowl of the flour mixture. Stir until just combined, making sure to incorporate all of the flour. (This is where you could stir in dried fruit or nuts, if you like.)

Spoon your batter into your muffin tins, and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the largest muffin comes out clean. Awesome warm or room temperature.


*This recipe uses two leavening agents - baking soda and baking powder. The baking powder needs heat to work, which is why the muffins rise in the oven. The baking soda needs acid to work, which it would have gotten from the buttermilk in the original recipe. Orange juice is tart enough to make it go off, but a splash of vinegar or lemon juice in whatever liquid you choose would work just as well. Almond milk, soy milk, cow milk...probably even apple juice would be great! By using both leavening agents you get an initial fluff from the baking soda, and the last bit of oomph from the baking powder. This keeps these muffins from being too dense.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Welsh Cakes

Fact: My family has done quite a bit of genealogy, and has turned up ancestors in nearly every part of the Caucasian world. (I'm quite the mutt!) Including Wales.

Fact: March 1 is St. David's Day, a rather important day in Wales as St. David is the patron saint there.

Fact: On St. David's Day, it is traditional to eat welsh cakes.

It probably won't surprise you to know that, prior to seeing a delicious looking pin on Pinterest on March 1, I had no idea St. David had a day, much less a patronage, and I had never heard of a welsh cake.

Being the adaptable person that I am, I decided on the spot that welsh cakes must be a part of that evening's meal. They are absolutely delicious. Moist, chewy, dense, studded with fruit. Picture a pan-fried scone, and you are pretty close. I turned to Joy of Baking to find a recipe, as she has never ever steered me wrong. This time was no different. I made a few alterations, based on what I had on hand and some dietary preferences. While Joy of Baking used sultanas, butter and milk, I used Craisins, butter, and soy milk. (Next time, I think I will try coconut oil instead of the butter.) When you throw these lovelies onto a hot griddle, the butter melts out, frying the exterior to golden perfection. The inside remains moist and toothsome. I'm sure you won't think badly of me if I told you that we ate the entire batch for dinner and when my son asked to have these again the next morning for breakfast, I happily complied.

Welsh Cakes
(Adapted from Joy of Baking)

2 cups AP flour
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 dashes nutmeg
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup dried cranberries (ie - Craisins)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup soy milk, as needed

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in the cold butter until the entire mixture appears crumbly and pebbly (just like making a pie). Add your dried cranberries. Add the beaten egg, and enough soy milk to make a rollable dough.

Sprinkle a countertop or cutting board with flour, and throw your dough down. Knead it into a ball, and flatten it out with the palm of your hand to approximately 1/2" thickness. Using a 3" biscuit cutter or glass, cut out rounds. Cut straight down, without twisting, for the tallest cakes possible after baking. Gather up the scraps and re-roll as many times as necessary to use all the dough, handling it as little as possible each time.

Heat a griddle over medium heat (cast iron is traditional), and cook your cakes until golden on both sides and done in the middle, approximately 2-3 minutes per side.

Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar if desired. Can also be spread with jam, but that is completely optional. Best warm, but also quite delicious after they have cooled down!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Whole Wheat Orange Cranberry Muffins

I woke up this morning just craving a muffin. Something chewy and filling, sweet but not greasy. (Honestly, what I truly wanted was one of my grandmother's bran muffins. I have no idea what she used to put in those things, but they were amazing. Got the job done, you know? Unfortunately, I never got the recipe from her, and I didn't have any bran on hand anyhow. I'll have to see if I can figure those out later.)

I pulled out the recipe book that came with my blender, and came up with these. They use both fresh whole wheat flour and white flour, so they are filling without being overly crumbly. The liquid comes from an egg (fresh from our coop!), a little bit of olive oil, and an entire orange. All of the wet ingredients are combined in the blender and whipped up into an eggy orange smoothie, then folded into the dry ingredients. Finally, cranberries are folded in to give these some contrast. With all the fiber from the whole wheat and the whole orange, these are delicious and very filling!

The original recipe used a loaf pan. I wanted my muffins now, though, so I used mini muffin tins instead.

Orange Cranberry Muffins
(Adapted from VitaMix Orange Cranberry Loaf)

Yield: 1 loaf, 12 muffins, or 3 dozen mini muffins

Grease your pan of choice, and preheat oven to 350.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

In a powerful blender, layer:
1 medium orange, peeled and cut in half, plus a 2" piece of the peel
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large egg

Blend completely, and then pour your egg/orange mixture into your flour mixture. Stir until just mixed, and then fold in:
1 cup dried cranberries (or other fruit/nuts of your choice)

Portion into your pan, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean.
(Bake 10 minutes for mini muffins, or 60 minutes for a loaf. I imagine normal muffins would require about 25 minutes.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chicken and Red Date Soup

This soup is a classic in our house. Red dates are used in Chinese cooking to restore blood and energy, especially in women. If my (Chinese) mother in law has anything to say about it, I eat at least one serving of red dates every day for the first month after I give birth, or for the first week after I finish my monthly date with "Aunt Flo." I used to really detest the taste of red dates, but they have since grown on me. This is a truly simple soup, and pretty tasty!

Ma's Chicken and Red Date Soup

10 red dates (hung jou) (紅棗)
1 chicken breast
3 quarts water (about half of a standard soup pot)

Bring ingredients to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Continue cooking until broth is a rich brown color, dates have burst, and chicken is cooked through and can be shredded.

Salt can be added, but you certainly don't need it. Enjoy!