Archive for October, 2010

Pumpkin seeds

Posted in Uncategorized on October 31st, 2010 by admin – 2 Comments

Last year I had the “great” idea to go to the store on November 1st and grab up any clearance pumpkins to harvest the seeds. Turns out there aren’t any leftover pumpkins after Halloween and in fact there aren’t any even a couple days before. Luckily I grabbed one up this week before it was too late.

I tried to pick a pumpkin that was on the ugly side so other people could have the nice ones for jack-o-lanterns but I drew the line at one with an actual fuzzy, moldy stem.

pumpkin with knife

As the knife went in I suddenly thought… wait, aren’t sharp objects and I supposed to be kept away from each other? No fingers or toes were harmed in the carving of this pumpkin.

(The answer is no, of course I wouldn’t hurt myself with something so obviously dangerous. It’s the more innocuous ‘the blade was nowhere near my hand… now it’s in it’ that got me banned from my old roommate’s best sushi-cutting knife.)

pumpkin guts

There is something wonderfully visceral about scooping out pumpkin guts with your bare hands and picking off the seeds. Strange coming from someone who, according to my mom, didn’t like to finger paint as a kid because my hands would get messy.

bowl of pumpkin seeds

I rinsed the seeds off in a colander but I don’t make a big deal about getting all of the pumpkin goop off. I used this basic recipe for inspiration and some of the commenters go as far boiling the seeds first but I remember doing this as a kid and intentionally leaving some for flavor.

pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet

I left the seeds to dry on a cookie sheet for a couple hours and then put them back in the bowl to mix with some melted butter, garlic powder, more garlic powder, salt and more garlic powder. In the oven at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or so. Stirred the seeds and put them back in the oven for a while. The recipe said 45 minutes but they seemed ready long before that.

roasted pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet

They taste even better the next day, and have never lasted longer than that.

I Only Changed Everything

Posted in Pasta on October 27th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I’ve noticed a trend on Allrecipies where someone reviews a recipes based on their own changes, good or bad, or straight up gives a low rating because of their own mistakes. (When yours is the only 1-star on a page of raves, you might want to look at your cooking first.)

This isn’t an actual review for mashed potatoes, but it might as well be:

    Two stars out of five
    I ran out of sour cream so I used mayonnaise, and I don’t like potatoes so I used squash. I substituted margarine for butter, and used garlic powder instead of fresh garlic. It was pretty good but tasted too much like squash, so I’m only giving it two stars.

This one is an actual review for a grilled steak which said to marinade for about three hours:

    One star out of five
    I marinated this meat overnight and it was much too strong and overpowering.

So if I was to write my own review on this Fettuccine with Garlic-Herb Butter I’d say,

    Five stars out of five
    “This was great! I only changed almost everything.”

In fact I just let myself be inspired by the recipe, and didn’t read it through until I came back to write about it.

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces dry fettuccini pasta
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

I started with fresh fettuccine, not dry, and cooked until done. Then it sat in a strainer while I reused the pot the pasta cooked in to save on dish washing.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 teaspoon butter. Add garlic and cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until garlic begins to turn golden.

I melted a small, health-conscious amount of butter in the pot and added a couple cloves of chopped garlic. Then added more butter when it became clear what I started with wasn’t going to cover the noodles. I let the butter brown while the garlic cooked.

In a small bowl, combine parsley, basil, marjoram, thyme, 1 tablespoon butter, salt and ground black pepper with cooked garlic; mix well. Toss with pasta and serve.

Wait, the herbs were supposed to go in yet another bowl? And butter in two places?

I mixed some freeze-dried parsley into the garlic-butter on the stove, a sprinkle of thyme, and may or may not have added a dash of Italian seasoning. Marjoram was optional and I don’t have basil. Then the pasta goes back into the pot and “toss” with a wooden spoon.

Top with fresh parmesan and I guarantee it’ll come out better than the first reviewer’s:

    Two stars out of five
    This recipe was ok.

Scrambled Cod

Posted in Cod, Fish on October 24th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Normally I can find new recipes by putting a couple ingredients that I have on hand in into Google. Well no one’s seems to have thought to combine cod and wasabi, other than some guy with a MySpace profile under the name “Wasabi Cod” (not what I was looking for), and come up with a recipe for me. Lots of mentions of (probably the same) cod with a side wasabi mashed potatoes however.

Thoughts of attempting to come up my own by making a wasabi butter sauce were abandoned due to a lack of ingredients – just got back from the grocery store but I forgot buy a shallot. No green onions for another.

It was just a passing thought, after realizing I had wasabi in the kitchen after all, and cod to make for dinner, so I moved onto an easy-looking Pan Seared Cod With Balsamic Thyme.

Ingredients:

  • 500g fresh cod fillet
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

I didn’t even look at the size of my cod and just cut everything in half as usual, and used a couple sprinkles of dried thyme instead of fresh.

Directions:

Sprinkle fish with salt and freshly ground pepper on both sides. Heat a large skillet for which you have a cover over medium-high heat. When hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, place the fish in the pan, lower the heat to medium and cook for five minutes or until the underside is brown and a crust begins to form.

No problems up to this point…

Carefully turn the fish over, turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the skillet.

Andrew looked at my pan and said, “So you’re making scrambled cod?” It didn’t just break apart but completely crumbed in the pan.

Cook for about 5 minutes more. Fish is done when it flakes with a fork. Remove fish from skillet and place on a plate.

Additional cooking was probably unnecessary for me but I wanted to pretend I was still following instructions. There’s a note at the end that says, “fish should cook for about 10 minutes for each inch of thickness”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen cod that measured more than a fraction of an inch in thickness.

Bring the heat back up to medium-high, add the balsamic vinegar and cook quickly, scraping the pan with a spatula.

Turn off the heat, put the fish back in the skillet and turn over to coat both sides with the reduced vinegar. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and serve immediately.

 

I thought it tasted pretty good despite appearances but I’ll recommend it with a caveat, I like eating my fish & chips doused in vinegar. Andrew said it didn’t smell very appetizing.

scrambled cod
I almost had an adorable picture with Morgan’s face but my strange cat just sniffs at fish and walks off.

That plate needs something green on it to look more appealing, but I’m going to make wasabi mashed potatoes instead.

Scrambled not-an-omelet

Posted in Breakfast on October 23rd, 2010 by admin – 2 Comments

Since I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis this week I’m overwhelmed with the idea that I can eat. It’s not a food allergy, and while I plan to experiment with food triggers in the future, I’m confident that the meds will help and what I eat today isn’t going to affect how I feel tomorrow. I was never able to find a connection there but still felt compelled to avoid the common ones like dairy (and avoiding dairy makes me sad.)

I’ve wanted an omelet, but I don’t know how to make omelets. I’m paranoid about my eggs being fully cooked so the concept makes me nervous, at least in my unprofessional hands. This How to Make a Basic Omelet says, “It can be a little tricky at first, since the process goes very quickly, but a few tries are really all it takes.” A few tries, well, I don’t have the spare eggs for that!

So I made the next best thing – “deluxe” scrambled eggs with ham and cheese(s). I didn’t take any pictures because I’m a little embarrassed–both that it looks suspiciously like something that would come out of a MacDonald’s breakfast (although much higher quality) and because my kitchen needs a good cleaning before I can take any in-progress shots.

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs

I never make more than two eggs at a time but then find myself wandering back to the kitchen. Three turned out to be too much. Can’t win there.

  • Two (thin) slices of ham, sliced into squares

This wasn’t lunch meat, but the sliced ham they sell in a package next to the “real” hams in the meat section.

  • Grated cheddar cheese

Then I had the idea to add more cheese and took a slice of pre-sliced swiss, meant for sandwiches, and cut it into fine strips so it would melt properly.

(This certainly isn’t gourmet cooking today.)

Directions:

Melt some butter in a frying pan. (I should really use my olive oil spray, but I’ve always associated cooking eggs with butter.) Toss in the ham to fry first, then the eggs and start scrambling. When the eggs are close to fully cooked, add the cheese(s) and turn down the heat so they it can melt properly without overcooking the eggs.

Too bad Andrew was in the middle of band practice so I couldn’t show off my inspiration. I know in his mind the only thing better than two cheeses is more cheeses.

Banana French Toast

Posted in Breakfast on October 17th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

A long time ago I remember a friend couldn’t believe I didn’t know how to make French toast.

I know how to make French toast now, and I don’t even have to look up how to do it each time (like I still do with hard boiled eggs). I’m not sure where I got the inspiration for banana French toast but once I did I looked online just enough to make sure it could be done, but I didn’t want to follow anyone’s recipe in particular so I could claim this one for my own.

This makes one two-piece serving so multiply by the number of people you’re feeding.

Ingredients:

  • Half a ripe banana

I know half a banana in a recipe is cruel, but at least it’s easy to eat the other half, unlike say half an egg.

  • 1 egg
  • Splash of milk
  • Cinnamon (lots)
  • Two slices of bread

Bananas are one of the most annoying fresh fruits to work with – if you want to buy one to eat right away, they’ll all be green in the grocery store. If you want one to brown to use in baking, you have a one or two-day window to happen to want banana toast or feel like baking. (Here we’re always one overripe banana short for banana bread too.) As long as it’s ripe enough to eat it’ll work – you’ll just have to do more smooshing.

Directions:

  1. Smoosh the banana with a fork into a bowl until it’s completely… smooshed.
  2. Stir in the egg, milk, and cinnamon (lots) until completely blended.
  3. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, trying to pick up as much banana as possible. (It won’t stick naturally while much of the egg soaks through instantly. Use the fork to help out.)
  4. Re-cinnamon the bowl if desired, before dipping the next piece of bread.
  5. Fry on a medium-hot skillet, buttered or oiled, until browned on each side.

Each egg will make enough for two pieces of toast… although sometime two and a half, which is unfortunate.


A random fact about me – I don’t like syrup. This pretty much extends to all syrups – pancake syrup, coffee syrup if used too heavily, high-fructose corn syrup. I gave maple syrup a chance since Andrew is Canadian and it seemed beneficial for me to like it but no luck. So pancakes and French toast have always been eaten with butter and powdered sugar.

Well, while visiting home as an adult, I found out from my mom that she had me use powdered sugar as a kid because syrup was too messy. So here is proof that the things you do to your kids really will affect them for life!

Taro (with cat)

Posted in Breakfast, Taro on October 14th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I found a new frozen taro product in Uwajimaya today. “Handmade Shredded Pancake with Taro (For Vegan)”.

The top line says “Bring vigor to your lift and give meals the wholesome nutrition”.

Handmade Shredded Pancake with Taro (For Vegan)
Ingredient:
flour, water, vegetable oil, taro, sugar, salt

Cooking method:
Spread the tear pastry (oil and defrosted unnecessarily) and keep on turning to the other side of the pastry till the cake crust is swollen and the surface of the cake crust turns golden brown.
Remarks:
This product has been added with moderate seasonings; soy sauce paste, chili sauce, and other sauces can be added depending on personal taste and flavor.

I’ll give another report when I’m brave enough to open the bag and figure out those instructions. In the meantime, here is Merlin licking the bag.

Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon

Posted in Fish, Salmon on October 10th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Well my dinner didn’t look like the recipe picture whatsoever.

Broiled salmon out of the oven

First of all, I can’t properly deskin a piece of fish with the tools I have any more than I could peel a potato with a butcher knife. I see from the ads on the page that there is such thing as a salmon slicer, a very indulgent sounding $100+ knife solely for the purpose of cutting the skin off of salmon. (I’d assume it works all fish since Google isn’t being too helpful on ‘halibut slicer’.) While I can think of plenty things to spend $100 on first, let’s just say it’s on my Christmas wishlist.

Ingredients:

1 scallion, minced
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound center-cut salmon fillet, skinned (see Tip) and cut into 4 portions
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (see Tip)

While the sesame seeds might look like a throwaway ingredient, please don’t leave them out if you can help it. I feel like they really complimented the taste and made it work.

Directions:

Whisk scallion, soy sauce, vinegar, honey and ginger in a medium bowl until the honey is dissolved. Place salmon in a sealable plastic bag, add 3 tablespoons of the sauce and refrigerate; let marinate for 15 minutes. Reserve the remaining sauce.

Preheat broiler. Line a small baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray. Transfer the salmon to the pan, skinned-side down. (Discard the marinade.) Broil the salmon 4 to 6 inches from the heat source until cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes. Drizzle with the reserved sauce and garnish with sesame seeds.

The site also gives a tip on how to skin a salmon (good luck) and how to toast sesame seeds (my tip: buy them pre-toasted!).

I hoped that cutting the single piece of fish into slices like the recipe instructs would cover up the butchering job I did trying to deskin, and it did somewhat. In the end looks aren’t everything and I ended up with a pretty tasty meal.

Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon

Dirt Tilapia

Posted in Fish on October 7th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

I felt like we had it made a while back when Andrew and I discovered the cheap, easy, and usually available at the nearby Safeway, tilapia fish. A simple dish for two would be like this, Lemon Garlic Tilapia.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • pepper to taste

All staples in our kitchen, even down to the dried parsley. Bake until done.

Then I bought my first tub of miso to play with, and broke it in with a Pan Seared Tilapia With Miso and Ginger Glaze.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C miso paste
  • 1/4 C mirin (rice wine)
  • 2 T Kikkoman Soy Sauce
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1/2 T freshly grated ginger
  • 1 t sesame oil

Besides the miso these were all ingredients I’ve worked with before. So when the glazed fish came out tasting mostly good, but slightly off… specifically with a slight hint of dirt, I panicked. Is miso supposed to taste like dirt? Does miso go bad? Mold tastes like dirt – could I be eating mold!?

I sent out a call for help on the internet and tracked down my former mad (food) scientist roommate. If anyone would know, Jason would!

“Tilapia’s always tasted like dirt to me,” he said.

The Internet agreed. “Earthy” was a more polite way of putting it. On his suggestion I cooked up the rest of the fish with the old recipe and there it was, the same “dirt” taste that had always been there but I hadn’t noticed under a pool of butter and garlic.

I haven’t eaten tilapia since, but now I understand how people will eat anything, as long as you can dip it in garlic and butter.

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Posted in Soup on October 5th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

Vietnamese Chicken Pho sounds redundant to me because I always thought this was specifically a Vietnamese dish, but please correct me if I’m wrong. This one seems to be part of a contest but I’d been looking forward to making it for myself for quite a while.

So it might be because I used ground coriander when the recipe called for whole…  or might be that I just don’t like coriander that much…

It doesn’t help that I used regular anise seed, hoping it was the same thing as star anise (until I saw the picture again), or that I also don’t like anise to begin with.

And then there was the fish sauce.  I like fish, I like sauce, and I’m all for putting them together but the smell wasn’t something I was ready for on top of the overwhelming amount of spices.

Needless to say, this recipe started out bad.  Luckily the broth tasted better than it smelled, probably because most the coriander settled to the bottom and was strained out, because I was on the verge of searching for last-minute recipes to use up a bowl of shredded chicken. I do wish I had gotten around to buying a cheesecloth at some point to strain it further.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce
1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)

 

The great thing about the Pho place I pick up lunch from sometimes is they give you all of these in a separate little baggie, which I can throw right in the trash instead of having to pick the bean sprouts out of my soup. I used the cilantro, and if I had planned ahead I’d also keep the lime and onions.

Accompaniments:

2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

Directions:

To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.

In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.

Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.

(Or use a fork and save your fingers.)

Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.

Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.

An important note here… make sure you test your noodles to be sure they’re done! I had a beautiful bowl of soup at the end, with half crunchy noodles.

Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Or, you know, dump it all into your bowl and enjoy.

Chicken Pho

Taro Pancakes

Posted in Breakfast, Taro on October 2nd, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I would best describe taro as an awesome purple potato, that’s neither potato or purple. it’s a root vegetable, and while there is a purple hue to the inner flesh, taro dessert products are dyed to the purple color people expect the same as mint flavor is expected to be green.
When I found out that Uwajimaya had fresh taro root I had to find a recipe to use it. Had I known there was such a thing as taro pancake mix I may have never started this project but instead I jumped straight into How To Make Your Own Taro Pancake[s].

Every time I read about cooking with taro there’s a warning not to eat it raw, and be careful touching the raw flesh because it can be irritating. Luckily I’ve never had a problem with touching it bare-handed but gloves are recommended if you do.

taroI sliced off the ends and chopped away at the skin with a large kitchen knife. (I don’t think you can call this “peeling”.) Then I cut it into pieces and boiled as if I was making mashed potatoes. Unfortunately I ended up with much more taro than the recipe called for, and without anything else to do with it much of it went to waste. I’ve been really happy to see that QFC now sells what looks like mini-sized taro.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 1 or 2 cups mashed (steamed or boiled) taro
  • 1/3 cup corn oil
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups water (or milk)

And then,

  • A pinch of yellow food color (optional)

I don’t understand this last one – if you wanted to dye your pancakes shouldn’t it be purple?

Directions:

Sift together the first four ingredients twice.

Don’t tell anyone, but I only sifted once!

Add the eggs and the corn oil to the sifted dry ingredients. Mix together until moistened. Add the mashed taro, and again blend together. Gradually add the water (or the milk) to the mixture. Do not try to smoothen the lumps in the batter.

Pour batter unto hot skillet and cook until golden brown turning once when top begins to bubble slightly. Serve with syrup of your choice.

I love breakfast for dinner which is what these were. These pancakes were sweet enough on their own to not need any toppings, which is great because I can’t think of what would go on taro. (I’m not a syrup person myself.)