Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Lesson in Trust

For the past couple of years, my Chinese friend Qi and I would get together once per term to bake. Since I bake regularly but Qi didn't bake much, I usually taught her and walked her through the recipe. After each baking session, I told her that I wanted her to teach me sometime. I wanted to learn to cook some food that reminded her of home.

Given that we're both in town for winter break and cooking for ourselves, I decided that it was the best time to follow through and invited her to come over and cook. I said that I was up for making whatever she wanted.

I imagined stir-fries and egg drop soup, dumplings and spring rolls. I knew that traditional Chinese food was not the same as take-out Chinese, but I figured that she would choose something with a familiar flavor combination.

Qi returned my email saying that she was eager to share one of her favorite recipes that her grandmother used to make her: cucumber pancakes. Immediately, I realized that this must be a translation problem. Cucumber pancakes? Cucumbers are so watery and don't make sense in pancakes. Maybe she meant zucchini? Zucchini bread is delicious, so there could be zucchini pancakes.

That evening, Qi showed up with soy sauce, seaweed, a special ground pepper from China, and sure enough, a cucumber. Given that those and my flour and eggs were our ingredients, I realized that I was going to have to trust. All humans have taste buds, so surely it would taste fine?

Qi proceeded to set me up grating cucumber and beating eggs, and soon enough, we had cucumber pancakes. (I'm uncertain if pancakes is quite the correct word. They were more similar to crepes, except more eggy. So omelet-crepes?) And they were delicious! It seems that I should have more trust in my friends' tastes.

Cucumber Pancakes

4 eggs
1/2 a cucumber, grated
a couple of Tablespoons of water
~3/4 cup flour
Pinch of salt

1. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Gradually, beat in the flour and water. The 3/4 cups flour really is an estimate. There should be enough flour that its noticeable, but the mixture should still be mostly egg. Beat in the salt.
2. Stir in the grated cucumber.
3. Cook like a crepe. (Pour a bit of batter into a frying pan and then quickly rotate around so that you have a nice thin, even layer of the mixture on the bottom of the pan. Then, cook on one side until it can be flipped. Cook the other side until done.)

Cabbage Tofu Soup

Qi suggested that we make this to go along with the cucumber pancakes. It was much more along the lines of my expectations.

1/2 package of tofu
canola oil
green cabbage
soy sauce

1. Chop the cabbage, separating the stem part from the leafy part.
2. In a large saucepan, briefly fry the tofu in the oil, until it just begins to turn brown.
3. Keeping the tofu in the pan, fill the saucepan with water. Cover and bring to a boil.
4. Once at a boil, uncover and add the stem part of the cabbage. Then, season with soy sauce, salt and pepper. Keep at a boil.
5. After the stem has begun to cook, add the leafy sections of the cabbage.
6. Boil until fully cooked.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Is deliciousness! And should be made every fall.

Quarter the apples to fill your pot(s). Add an inch or so of water to the pot(s) and turn on the heat. Medium high.

There were a lot of apples.

Also, the frontier meets alien spaceship thing I'm holding is my apple mill. Ebay sold it to me as "Wearever ~ Sieve & Pestle w Stand."* Because when I moved to the city, I realized there wasn't the grandma down the street who I could borrow one of these from.

If you don't have one, you can peel and seed your apples before you cook them. But using it is so much therapeutic fun.

Stir the apples. Mushy apples. Steamy apples. Apple-scented steam. Personal apple spa...

And then you mush 'em. You mush 'em.

Fill the jars with hot hot applesauce. Follow your canning directions. (Instead of my lax canning directions.)

Voila! Enjoy apples in all forms. Julie and I put up 12 pints of plain applesauce made with Empire and Galas AND 12 half-pints (also known as cups) where we added some grated ginger and cardamom while the apples were simmering. Had not realized it was possible for her apartment to smell even better. But it did.

*Though searching at the moment, I'm failing to find anything like this.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Birthday Pie

The story is that mom put the blueberry peach pie in the oven. And then her water broke. Thus, pie is mandated for my birthday.

Recipes used for today's potluck picnic.

Easy Oil Pie Crust
The family classic.

Stir together:
2 cups flour (we usually use up to 1/4 of it [1/2 cup] whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
Mix into flour mixture with a fork. Shape into a ball and divide into two balls. Make one ball slightly larger for the bottom crust. Roll out between two sheets of wax paper.

Blueberry Peach Pie
Mom won a blue ribbon at the Gilbert Peach Festival for this one.

Makes one 9” pie.
Mix together the pie filling:
   1 c. blueberries
   3 c. peaches
   1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
   3/4 c. sugar
   2 Tbsp. tapioca (or 3 Tbsp. flour)
   1/2 tsp. cinnamon
   1/2 tsp. salt

Make Easy Oil Pie Crust (or other pie crust of choice).
Shape into ball and divide into two balls, making one slightly larger for the bottom crust.  Roll out larger ball between two sheets of waxed paper.

Place rolled out dough into pie crust.  Place filling on top.  Dot with 2 Tbsp. margarine. For top crust, roll second ball between used wax paper. Cut into strips for lattice top, or simply place crust on top of filling.

Making the lattice.

Bake at 400º for 10 minutes; then 30-35 minutes at 350º.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Adapted from Vegalicious

Makes one 9” pie.
Mix together the pie filling:
   2 c. rhubarb
   2 c. strawberry
   1/2 c. sugar
   1/2 c. brown sugar

   2 Tbsp. tapioca (or 3 Tbsp. flour)
   1 tsp. cardamom (I used about 5 green pods worth. Cut them open, grind them up with a mortar and pestle. Or a rock and bowl. Same difference.)
   1 tsp. ground ginger
   1/2 tsp. salt

And the rest is the same. I baked them in the oven at the same time.

But I'll copy/paste here to help us all out later.

Make Easy Oil Pie Crust (or other pie crust of choice).
Shape into ball and divide into two balls, making one slightly larger for the bottom crust.  Roll out larger ball between two sheets of waxed paper.

Place rolled out dough into pie crust.  Place filling on top.  Dot with 2 Tbsp. margarine. For top crust, roll second ball between used wax paper. Cut into strips for lattice top, or simply place crust on top of filling.

Bake at 400º for 10 minutes; then 30-35 minutes at 350º.

Edited to add photos taking on a getaway weekend.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Palak Paneer...of a sorts

This evening, I was craving Indian food and palak paneer is my favorite Indian dish. However, I didn't have all of the ingredients and am heading out of town tomorrow. Additionally, this house doesn't have a food processor or a blender (which is even more of a travesty when it comes to pesto but that's another story). Anyways, I just had to make do. Nevertheless, it turned out well, and I'd make it again.

1. Bring water to a boil. Add in however much spinach you feel like eating/having leftover. Boil for 3 minutes. Then, drain. (Note: nothing was measured. Just done by feel/what looked right, so feel free to adjust accordingly.)
2. Pour a couple of teaspoons of olive oil into a saucepan on medium heat. Briefly saute a bit of cumin and tumeric before adding garlic and ginger.
3. Dice a quarter of an onion, and add it to the saucepan. Saute until it becomes translucent.
4. Add a diced eighth of a tomato, some salt and a crushed red chili. Cook for about 3 more minutes.
5. Add in the spinach, and turn the burner down to 2 on the dial. Add a pinch of garam masala. Simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Turn off the stove, and stir in a spoonful of yogurt and some chunks of monterey jack (I warned you that this wasn't real palak paneer).
7. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Then, serve over rice.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Trail Mix

Since I'm spending this summer in the Rockies, I plan on hiking a lot. My first trip is this weekend to Estes Park, and I realized that I'm going to need something to eat while on the trail.

Trail mix is wonderful. It packs easily, tastes great, and provides energy to help you keep going. However, there are tons of options for what to bring. Nowadays, coops and grocery stores sell premade trail mixes. However, I'm still in favor of buying the ingredients in bulk and mixing them yourself. That way, you get everything you want in the ratios that you prefer.

My general plan for a trail mix is:
-nuts-they provide protein to keep your energy and stamina up
-dried fruit-healthy way of getting simple sugars for a quick energy booster
-something chocolately-another (albeit less healthy) means of consuming simple sugars; plus, chocolate tastes great

That being said here are some of my repeated mixes. I'm sure that my repertoire will have increased by August.

Good Old Raisins and Peanuts is an absolute classic, though it usually isn't just raisins and peanuts. I mean, the M&M's are kind of essential. To be honest, GORP isn't my favorite anymore--the scent of peanuts in the car gives me a headache. However, I have fond childhood memories of eating GORP on family trips and hikes. And you still better give me double the number of peanuts as raisins so that I can make "hamburgers."

-2 part peanuts
-1 part raisins
-1 part M&M's

Almond Craisin Mix
I've never been a fan of cranberries, but during freshman year of college, I discovered that I love craisins with my granola. This is my other favorite may to devour craisins.

-1 part whole almonds
-1 part craisins
-1 part flaked (not shredded) coconut
-1 part semi-sweet chocolate chips

Work in Progress
I'm still figuring the recipe out. I love all of the ingredients but need to fiddle with the ratios. I'm also trying to decide on craisins or dried apples, but I think that I prefer the craisins. Of course, there could always be both.

-pecan halves
-yogurt covered pretzels

Monday, May 3, 2010

Velvety Spring

Two years ago I came across a recipe for "Velvety Broccoli and Feta Pasta." It's on the kitchn blog, which I don't read. That was before Tastespotting went legal and then switched owners, so probably saw it there.

Doesn't matter so much anymore. It's a standby now. I realized tonight how little I follow the original recipe, so thought I'd document the current version. (Sorry no picture. Also sorry, this is a Granny recipe. Pinch of this. Fist of that. Measurements were not followed. Most precise is 2 cloves of garlic. And 1 lemon.)

Broccoli Pasta
1/4 onion
2 cloves garlic
Oil of some sort
Nutriuitional Yeast
Vegetable Broth



Cut the onion into slices. Crush the garlic. Start sauteing them. I used olive oil.

Pull frozen broccoli from the freezer and cut it into some smaller chunks. (I have fresh broccoli, but I save it for munching.) Add it to the saute pan when the onions are getting soft.

Start boiling water for the pasta. Realize you're out of tubes and twists. Debate macaroni or spaghetti. (Spaghetti won.)

Zest the lemon. Freeze most of the zest to have on hand. Sprinkle some in the pan. Juice the lemon and add all the juice.

Let it all sit and cook for a while.

Then dump it in the blender and start blending. Add in some parsley. (2 or 3 stems worth.) Periodically stop the blender and stir it with a cool spatula.

Sprinkle in some nutritional yeast. I don't know. Somewhere between a Tablespoon and a quarter cup.

Taste sauce. Decide it could do with some thinning. Pull vegetable broth from freezer. Melt and add one muffin's worth at a time. (I used two muffins, so about 2/3 cup of broth.)

Test again. Mmmmm.

Dish up pasta. (It's done cooking now, right?) Cover with sauce. Top with chevre. Enjoy.

~At least 2 meals worth. And went from looking up the recipe to sitting at the table in about a half hour.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Dinner

Tuesday last week I realized I didn't have plans for Easter dinner. And, given that I don't have a church home here yet, I wasn't going to be adopted by anyone.


Time to do some growing up and host a dinner of my own.


Sidebar to note that Easter Dinner to me is obviously the big meal after church in the morning. It's up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas for major meals.

Apparently dinner = supper to my friends. (Granted some of the invitees are international students.) Clarification, in my book, dinner is the biggest meal of the day. But not breakfast. Breakfast just isn't allowed to be the biggest meal of the day.



Strawberry Salad
Delicious Co-op bread
Spring Green Risotto
Lemon Cream Tart and Chocolate Bunny Cake with whipped cream and strawberries

New resolution to start taking photos to put up here. Not that I'll be good. But to have something to start from.


Cooking Logistics (because the cleaning logistics don't belong here)

I started the risotto Saturday night.

Spring Green Risotto

Adapted from Annie's Eats who adapted it from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

5 cups veggie broth
1½ Tablespoon olive oil
1½ Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
2 leeks, white and green parts, chopped
1½ cups Arborio rice (medium grain rice)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 lb. asparagus (thin spears preferable), cut into 1-inch pieces and tough ends discarded
10 oz. frozen peas, thawed (or 1½ cups shelled fresh peas)
zest from one lemon
dash kosher salt
dash pepper
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I just used half a lemon)
3 Tbsp cream cheese


Find a pot large enough for your stock and heat the veggie stock to simmering. You really just want to keep it warm, so if you want to put it on medium low heat, cover it up, and call it good while dealing with everything else, it's a good plan.

Pull out your largest saute pan, or at least my largest saute pan. This is the one everything ends up in. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Add the scallions and leeks to the pan and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until tender.  Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat well with the oil and butter.  Add the white wine and turn down to heat to medium-low, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed.  Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more.

Meanwhile, in yet another pot, blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water to stop cooking.  (If you're using fresh peas, blanch them too.)

By this point the risotto's probably been cooking for 15 minutes. Perfect! Add in the asparagus and peas. Stir in the lemon zest, salt and pepper.

*This is where I paused for the night. I had about two ladles of stock left. I added them to the risotto and put them in a medium pot (the one I used for blanching) and put them in the fridge overnight. Please note, the rice will absorb the liquid. It's what rice does. Also, the rice should be pretty much done by this point. Right about at the balance of tender and firm that's good eating.

Coming home from church on Sunday, I put the pot on the stove. Medium-low heat to warm it up. Stirring periodically. (You should stir more than I did because I burned the bottom. Ooops.) Once it's warmed up, mix in the lemon juice and cream cheese. I forgot to mix in Parmesan. It'd be good, but, not knowing better, I didn't miss it.

Salad and Bread

I got home from church. Before I got the risotto back on the heat, I cut two red peppers into halves and popped them into the broiler.

My broiler's under the oven. Since my oven was warming up anyway, I put the delicious co-op bread on a pan and let the muffins and rolls warm up. Fooled people into thinking I made the bread.

About this time was when I figured out the risotto should be heating up too. Done.

Heat up some oil in a pan. Cut up an onion and start sauteing it over low heat.

Open door for first guest.

Wash spring greens mixture. Love my salad spinner. Sometimes Oxo things are weird, but whoever redesigned the salad spinner to be push-button fun is a GENIUS.

Have guest rinse cut up strawberries while I stir everything and check on the red peppers. Oh, black skins. Turn off broiler and pull 'em out. Skin 'em, slice 'em. Spin 'em all around. Put in salad bowl.

Buzz second guest in.

Decide risotto is warm. Stir in things that are supposed to be stirred in. Answer phone. Second guest failed at being buzzed in. Send down first guest to retrieve second while I juice the lemon and measure cream cheese.

Greet second guest and thank first guest. Let first guest stir risotto. Add onions, which should be softened by now, to salad. Mix honey and balsamic vinegar to be dressing.

Sometime in here, set the table. Mismatched silverware. White china. Linen napkins. And all. Risotto in casserole for serving. Bread in bread basket. Just as finishing off table, let third guest in. When he calls back remember that he hasn't been here before. Play Marco Polo to let him in.

Realize people still need drinks. Offer whatever there is. Pour. Serve. And enjoy the fellowship of friends.


The dessert was premade. Lemon creme tart from Dorie. Though I'd make Lemon Curd Tart in the future instead.

Chocolate bunny cake was brought by guest one. If you think eating chocolate bunnies is difficult because they're cute, don't try taking a knife to this cake.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Turning 21...

My 21st birthday was just over a week ago, and despite opposition from friends, I didn't want to celebrate in the usual 21st way. (Yeah, I realize that I'm not a normal college student). Anyways, since I've started the habit of baking something new for my birthday each year, I compromised and used alcohol in my birthday dessert. Plus, creme de menthe squares seem twice as fitting for my birthday as I often paired chocolate and mint for my birthday cakes growing up.

Creme de Menthe Squares
adapted from:

1 1/4 cups butter or margarine
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar -- sifted
1 egg, beaten *
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup creme de menthe
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Base Layer: In a sauce pan, combine 1/2 cup of the butter and the cocoa powder. Heat and stir until well blended. Remove from heat; add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, the egg and vanilla. Stir in graham cracker crumbs. After mixing thoroughly, press into bottom of an ungreased 13x9x2" baking pan. Bake at 350F for 8 minutes.

Middle Layer: Melt another 1/2 cup of the butter. In small bowl, combine the melted butter and creme de menthe. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 cups powdered sugar until smooth. Spread evenly over the chocolate layer. Chill 1 hour.

Top Layer: In small sauce pan combine the remaining 1/4 cup butter and chocolate chips. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Spread over middle layer. Chill for 1 to 2 more hours. Cut into small squares. May be stored in refrigerator.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Foodgawker Obsession: Macarons

In summer 2008, I began to notice Parisian macarons all over the internet. Foodgawker supplied me with gorgeous photos but also tales of how finicky these cookies could be. Still, I decided that I wanted a decadent challenge for my last birthday and attempted a batch of macarons. They ended up with feet, just like they were supposed to! I enjoyed them but didn't make another batch for almost a year.

This weekend, we had Monday off of school, and snow was continuously falling outside, so I decided that spending a whole day baking was a good plan, and remaking macarons sounded like a great idea. I decided to make some plain ones again, but also experimented with some chocolate ones. Both were filled with chocolate ganache.

I must admit that I was lazier this time around. I didn't worry too much about piping them into nice circles, and nearly had a fiasco when the parchment slide off one tray and flipped upside down as I was placing it in the oven. Miraculously, only some of the macarons were messed up and all of them stuck to the parchment paper. Despite all of my carelessness, they formed feet, looked cute, and most importantly, tasted delicious. (The day after I had baked them, I walked into my room and one of my roommates greeted by saying, "Hi! Can I welcome you back to the room by asking if I can have another macaron?" I took that as meaning they're the most delicious thing I've baked all term.)

*Notes: Although I was careless on some things, I do have a couple of suggestions of things not to slide on. First, the eggs work better if they are a few days old and left to sit at room temperature for at least one night. (Or at least, so I'm told. I've never tried with fresh egg whites.) Second, coffee grinders work marvelously for grinding almonds into flour. I buy sliced almonds and then borrow a coffee grinder from a friend. I also tried a food processor but could not get the almonds fine enough.

Macarons (adapted from

4 egg whites
2 ¼ c powdered sugar
1 ¼ cup almonds
2.5 Tb. Granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2.5 Tb. Cocoa powder

1. Prepare sheets and parchment. You may choose to trace circles on the parchment to help with piping.
2. Sift almonds and powdered sugar together.
3. Whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase to high and gradually add sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form.
4. Split the egg whites in two. Fold egg whites in one bowl and half of the almond mixture together carefully. At the desired consistency, soft peaks should dissolve to flat surface.
5. Pipe batter onto parchment. Tap underside of baking sheet to remove air bubbles.
6. In the other bowl, fold in the rest of the almond mixture plus the cocoa powder.
7. Let dry for at least an hour so that the crust will form and you’ll get feet.
8. Bake between 325-350F with the oven door ajar for 10 to 11 minutes. Remember to rotate sheet halfway through.
9. Let cool to room temp. Pair the macarons based on shape and size. Then, prepare ganache and sandwich the macarons.

1. Boil 1 cup cream in saucepan and ½ stick soften butter.
2. Stir cream into 8 oz. chocolate. Let cool for a couple of minutes.
3. Add butter in 2 additions always working from center out.
(As you may guess, this ganache recipe makes way more than you need. However, truffles are always a good option.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Muffins this healthy sounding should definitely taste this good

This afternoon's 30 minute lie-down turned into a 3 hour nap. I made it to my evening church group, but was no where near hungry for dinner.

On my walk to my apartment from the parking lot, I called Vicki. It's a school night, so I wasn't sure if she could talk. "Yeah. I'm making muffins, so I can talk while they're cooking."

Muffins! It's been a long time since I've made you. And the bread I was going to bake today didn't happen. If I get the dishes washed, then I can bake muffins!

I turned to Jane Brody's sugarless blueberry muffins. I didn't have enough white flour, so that got changed. Vicki's a vegan, and while she's not going to eat this batch, I decided to veganize them. And then I went a little bit crazy with the blueberries. The muffins are so much better than I remember them.

I've eaten 4 big ones and 1 small one so far. That counts as dinner, right?

Sarah's New Favorite Blueberry Muffins

3/4 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
.25 teaspoon cinnammon
.25 teaspoon nutmeg
5 Tablespoons applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup orange juice
~ 1 teaspoon lemon zest (I zest all my lemons and freeze it for when I need it. Really does add to this recipe, though they'd still be good without it.)
1 pint blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. I skipped this step. Then as I was spooning out the batter I realized the oven wasn't on yet. The chemistry of muffins is such that they should go straight from mixing to oven, so be better than I was.

Add in the wet ingredients.

Fold in the blueberries. Supposedly they're supposed to be tossed with flour. Whatever. I just used frozen ones and it worked.

Spoon into treated muffin tins. (Treated. You know, greased. Or lined. Or whatever you do so they don't stick like crazy. Cause that's what they'll do otherwise.)

Pop in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve hot.

Makes: 1 dozen baby muffins + 9 big muffins. At least today it did.
Mix the dry ingredients.