Friday, April 29, 2011

End of Semester Coconut Rice Pudding


When I lived in Maryland I worked with a lot of Philipino people and they made something like this. I never got their recipe, but when I had this one the Philipino dish was the first think I thought of. I have topped mine with fruit, but they usually topped theirs with some maple syrup and that was also delicious. I am not claiming my recipe is the authentic one, but it certainly reminds me of the Philipino food I had.

This is a great recipe because it is super simple and really diverse because you can put different toppings on it, so you could make it 100 different ways and impress people every time!

I made this one for an end of semester potluck, also known as a final, but in the English department once you get to a certain level there aren't really finals, just celebrations of the work done that semester. So, I made this for my creative writing final, in which we ate food and read and talked about each others' work. Quite nice.

Coconut Rice Pudding
1 3/4 C dry rice
1 can coconut cream (not milk, cream)
1/2 - 2/3 C sugar
Dash of vanilla
Fruit for topping

1. Cook the rice in a rice cooker, or however you do it. I used Jasmine rice, but any stickyish rice will do.

2. Right before the rice is done, mix the coconut cream, sugar, and vanilla in a sauce pan. Cook until the cream is about to boil.  *A note on the sugar. You can serve this dish warm or cold. If you are going to serve it cold, use a bit more sugar, if warm, then you don't need as much. You can taste sugar better when it's warm.

3. Once the rice is done and the cream has just about boiled, mix together in the sauce pan and cook for about 3-5 more minutes, until the rice has soaked up the cream mixture. If you are going to serve it hot, then you're done! Place on a place and serve with fruit on the side.

4. If you want to serve it cold, then press the remained into a 8in pan and chill in the fridge. Top with fruit just before serving. Once it is cold, it cuts nicely and you'll be able to serve it in small squares.

A note on fruit: this dish is best with fresh, ripe mango. I didn't have any fresh mango on hand, so I served it with some frozen mango and strawberries that I had in the freezer. And, like I said before, you could use maple syrup or any other topping you might like on this.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Garden Lasagna

I got this idea from Organic Gardening, but now you can know about it, too.
Since the weather is warm and the sun in sunny, I have the gardening itch again. I'm so glad, too, since last year I was so pregnant I didn't really have a desire to do anything that required bending over, thus my garden didn't go over so well.

Back to gardening lasagna style... This is also called the no dig gardening. If it works, I'm not going back. Start with your gardening space. I have a 4x8 foot space I bordered with 2x6 foot non-treated wooden boards and rotate the crops between 3 patches every year. Every winter I don't clear them out, so early each spring they get filled with grass and clover and other inedibles. So take that space and cover it with lots of newspaper, about 7 sheets deep. Sprinkle bone meal and blood meal then water thoroughly. The bone and blood meal is suppose to aid in decomposition. The second layer is alfalfa hay, do the same thing with the meals, and water. Put straw on top, then meal and water, finish with compost. I got my alfalfa and hay at AGWAY, just make sure they aren't for feed, you don't want any seeds in them. One bale of each gave me more than enough for 2 garden patches.
I bought a lot of spring crops since my little seedlings weren't growing as fast as needed, although I still planted them. I have red cabbage, green and orange broccoli, and brussel sprouts. I also put my honeydew and tomatoes in the ground. I added carrot and spinach seeds to the soil, let's see how the carrots do in this lasagna!
I already had a patch of garlic and salad greens growing, that I didn't weed very well but wasn't in the mood to deal with a lot of tiny, tiny purple clovers (I'm sure I'll pay for it later), but in the spirit of science, I put one broccoli plant in the middle of that to see if there really is a difference between my regular method and the lasagna method. I'll keep you posted!


I've had a recent realization: enchiladas are easy!

I don't know why I didn't know this before, but they are. You can put pretty much anything inside, cook it in almost anything, add some cheese, and you're good to go!

I made these ones using a recipe very similar to Sweetlynne's Stuffed Shells, except instead of Italian seasonings, I used cumin, garlic, green onion, oregano, thyme, and tahini in the chickpea mixture. Once I had that, I put a bit of cooked rice, a bit of the beans, and some cheese inside a small tortilla, then tightly rolled them and placed them in a pan.

Once the pan is filled with tightly rolled tortillas, I covered it with cilantro ranch dressing, covered that with cheese, then baked on 350 for 45 min.

I didn't have enough tortillas to fill the entire pan, and I wasn't feeding that many people, so with the rest of the space I put extra rice and pinto beans, then covered that with the dressing and cheese as well. It tasted similar too, but not the same as, the enchiladas, so there was an instant side dish.

Bread of Life

I was attending a class on cooking with wheat and the teacher said something that made me smile. "When the Lord said I am the bread of life, he wasn't talking about white bread!"

Growing up, every Easter my mom would make 'Easter bread' it's nothing more than sweet yeast bread twisted to look like a braid, shaped into a circle, with dyed hard boiled eggs nested inside. A glaze is put on top and it's enjoyed for breakfast. This year the yeast smiled on me and I got a beautiful loaf. I used a hot cross buns recipe that included cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of ground cloves. I substituted half the flour with wheat flour. I cooked this the night before and we ate it Easter morning before leaving for church.

I flavored the glaze with lemon extract so decided to tint the glaze yellow. But, I added too much coloring and instead of getting a soft yellow, I got this neon. It fit the flavoring, I added too much extract as well. oops.
Sometimes my mom put colored sprinkles on top, I added those cool edible pearls. They don't taste that good, I'll leave them out next time and go back to colored sprinkles.
Being overly zealous since the yeast was happy with me that day, I decided to use part of the ham as a braided stuffed loaf for Easter dinner. I used a standard dinner roll recipe with half wheat flour. After letting it rise I rolled it out (it was huge, I should have split it into 2 pieces) I cut at least a dozen slits 1/3 into each side.

For the filling I sauted onion and mushroom, added cooked broccoli and chopped ham. I stirred mozzarella cheese into it and spooned the filling into the middle of the dough and 'braiding' the stripes over the top. I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight so I could cook it right before dinner. It got happy reviews from the participants.
On an end note, I used Splenda since I didn't feel like going downstairs to get more sugar. The box says you don't get as much browning with Splenda, and they were right. I'm sure adding egg white before baking, or using regular sugar would have gotten a better browning of both loafs, just make sure you don't over bake them!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cashew Shrimp with Rice Noodles

This was WAY easier than I thought it would be. Seriously, I think this, or something like it, might become a staple of my cooking from now on, especially as summer comes along and vegetables are super fresh.

The inspiration for this came when a few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were at a local Chinese restaurant. We tried the "Almond Chicken" and really liked it. Essentially, it was chicken and vegetables in a clear, savory sauce. We liked it enough that we asked the cook how to make it, and got what was a much simpler answer than I anticipated.

Then, a few days ago we decided that we wanted something light for lunch. I remembered the dish we'd had a few weeks before and came up with this. Not the same thing that we had, but close enough.

Cashew Shrimp with Rice Noodles
3 Tbs olive oil
1/2 Large Onion
3 Tbs minced garlic
2-3 julienned carrots
1 C cut green beans
12-15 jumbo, pre-cooked shrimp (can replace with thinly sliced chicken)
1 C raw cashews
2 healthy dashes celery seed
2 shakes of caraway
3 Tbs corn starch
1 1/2 C water (or chicken/vegetable stock)
3 Tbs sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Thin rice noodles, cooked according to package directions

1. Sautee the onions and garlic in the olive oil in a large frying pan. Once the onions are caramelized, add carrots.

2. Add the green beens. (Really, you could use any vegetables. Celery, broccoli, peppers, or asparagus all might taste good.)

3. Once the vegetables are pretty much cooked, add the shrimp, cashews, caraway and celery seeds.

4. Meanwhile, mix the corn starch, sugar, and water in a separate cup. Pour into the pan with the veggies, and stir until boiling. Boil for about 1 minute. Then add salt and pepper to taste. This is a light, mild dish, so it shouldn't need too much salt or pepper.

5. Serve over rice noodles, or over rice, for a delicious lunch or dinner.

This whole thing was really simple. Basically, you could mix whatever vegetables you want, then add any sort of seasoned corn starch and water for a light syrupy gravy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Perfect Root Beer Float

This is John Morris, our dad:

When he was a teenager, my dad worked in a soda shop, making him a "Soda Jerk." While he was there, he gained a deep and abiding belief that there is only ONE correct way to make a root beer float. You would think that with only two ingredients, a root beer float would be pretty simple, and that it wouldn't really matter which way or in what order you mixed them...but, nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps I have just been raised with my dad's biases, but there is no doubt in my mind that his method makes THE BEST float.

This is also John Morris, the oldest Morris brother. He's laughing at all the poor souls who don't make their root beer floats in the approved method. (Actually, he was just being silly for the camera; he's just like that.)

This is yet another John Morris, John's son. Here he can be seen enjoying his root beer float in the tradition manner of children: through a straw.

The appropriate method:

1) Put just a little bit of root beer and just a little bit of ice cream in the bottom of the cup. Mix them together.
2) Repeat the above. Seriously, just a little bit. You really don't need too much yet.
3) Add the ice cream, almost as much as you think you'll want.
4) Add the root beer that you'll want. Stir gently, but don't mix the two.
5) Add just a bit more ice cream for the top.

Yeah, it takes more time, but it is worth it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lisa's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last week I was at Kirsten's aunt's house with her and with my sister Amy. Amy and Kirsten were busy making jewelry, and I was just sitting there watching them make jewelry, and then decided that in order to make something useful, I should make cookies. Kirsten's aunt Lisa shared her recipe with me, and we make Cazookies, also known as Pizookies (pie + cookie). That night we also named them Souflookies (souffle + cookie) all really strange ways of saying that it's cookie dough cooked in a ramekin. Amy said that we should call it something more elegant, since all of the others sound ridiculous. So, I came up with "cookie en cocotte a la mode" which sounds much more elegant, but means the same thing: cookies in a ramekin with ice cream.

Anyways, here's a dynamite recipe for chocolate chip cookies that taste AWESOME as just cookie dough, or as a regular cookie, or as cookie en cocotte a la mode.

Lisa's Chocolate Chip Cookies
⅔ C Shortening
⅔ C Butter
1 C Brown Sugar
1 C White Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Tbs Vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
2 C White flour
1 C whole wheat flour
Chopped Nuts
Chocolate Chips

1. Beat together shortening, butter, sugars, and eggs.
2. Stir in vanilla, salt, and soda
3. Slowly add the flours. (The original recipe called for all white flour, but all whole wheat is good, but the mix above give the cookies some lightness, while maintaining some of the nutty color and flavor of the whole wheat).
4. Stir in as many chopped nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, old fashioned oats, or anything else you like in your cookies. The ones pictured above had dark chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and chopped walnuts.

Place on cookie sheets, and bake at 375 for 8 minutes, or until slightly golden brown.

To make Pizookies/cookies en cocotte place cookie dough in a small ramkin and bake for about 12 minutes, or until the top is entirely golden brown. The center will still be gooey, but that's the point. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream on top. (as pictured below, still cookies in cocotte, but a different patch).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seared Salmon with Lemon-Pepper Roux

Salmon is Kirsten, my girlfriend's, go-to meal when we want to make something quick. She loves salmon and I love pepper, so it is a good combination. Seriously, it only takes a few minutes to cook, so even if you're cooking for a large crowd, it is a good choice. Kirsten pretty much always has salmon on hand, so when its her turn to cook, or when we don't have a lot of time, we make the salmon. Well, she cooks the salmon, and I make the sauce and the soup (we generally eat this with Asparagus soup).

For the Salmon:
Dry defrosted salmon fillets with a paper towel,
But freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea/kosher salt into the fish. Kirsten's grandma says you should have enough pepper so that you can't see the fish underneath.
Cook on medium heat in a skillet with generous helpings of butter. When the fish is cooked about halfway through, flip it over. You can tell when it is done because it will change from pinkish to more orange and bold.

If you're making a lot, place the cooked fillets on a baking sheet and warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Garnish with thin slices of lemon for a fancy touch.

For the Roux:
1/2 C butter
2 Tbls flour
3/4 C Milk
4 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more if you like spicy
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pan, then stir in flour to make a thick paste. Gradually stir in the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from hear and stir in lemon juice, salt, and peppers.

If the roux seems to tart for your taste, melt in some more butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the roux on the side or directly on the salmon. The roux also tastes great in the asparagus soup or over rice.

Asparagus Soup with swirls of Lemon-Pepper Roux

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

My favorite quick but still fancy food is grilled cheese sandwiches. They are easy, because they're just a sandwich, but they are classy, too, cause it's easy to add a few things in the middle the give it a different flavor. Last summer I discovered the easiest way to spruce up a grilled cheese, without any special ingredients or fancy cheeses: jelly.

Strawberry, apricot, peach jam or jelly spread thinly on one side of a sandwich adds a sweet kick to the sandwich, and complements the cheese really well. The best jelly I found for sandwiches is jalapeño jelly (though the apricot is a close second) which you can usually find at farmers markets, if you don't know someone who makes it at home. Contrary to popular belief, jalapeño jelly isn't that spicy, it leaves a little tickle in the back of your throat, but the flavor for the most part is a mellow sweetness.

This sandwich has:
Thin layer of jalapeño jelly, which I got from a classmate who makes it every year
Thin layer of cream cheese
Generous portion of Fontina cheese
Sprinkling of Parmesan cheese
Healthy dashes of basil
A bit of crushed red pepper

But, seriously, it's easy to be creative with grilled cheese. You can put some herbs in the butter or olive oil brushed on the bread, and then even a sandwich with nothing special in the middle with have a bit of extra flavor.

Behold the power of cheese.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meatless Monday (or any day of the week)

I like to not cook with meat. One, I think it's more sustainable, two, it's healthier (except when you're using a ton of cheese like this recipe), and three it's easier to make without planning (I always have frozen meat in the freezer, so that takes time to defrost-a blog on that is forthcoming).
My oldest son doesn't really like meat either, so when I asked him what he wanted me to make for dinner, it wasn't a surprise he asked for stuffed shells. I didn't have any jumbo shells, but I had some lasagna noodles which make great rolled lasagna and perfect individual portions.

Vegetarian Stuffed Shells (or rolled lasagna)

Cook your choice of pasta until soft, but not al dente (it will soften up more when cooked in the oven)
Saute onion and garlic. If you really like vegetables and no one else will complain, add finely chopped mushrooms, bell peppers and zucchini
Puree 1-2 cans chickpeas in blender or food processor then add defrosted spinach (well drained) and fresh or dried Italian herbs
Mix 1 egg, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and any of the following:
cottage cheese
Parmesan cheese
Romano cheese
add the sauted mix and chickpea mix

Spray a large casserole pan and pour a small amount of red pasta sauce on the bottom.
Stuff the shells and layer them in the casserole pan. If you have enough for 2 layers, make sure you pour more pasta sauce over the first layer before adding the second layer on. If using lasagna shells, spread the mixture along the noodle, leaving about 1/2 an inch empty. Start with the empty side to roll up. You can lay the lasagnas either flat or with the rolls facing up, on it's side.
Once all the stuffing is used up, pour enough sauce to cover the noodles, then top with more cheese as desired.
Cook at 350 for 30-45 minutes until you're hungry and your salad is ready.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Grilled Pineapple and Brie

Andrew actually made this, but I thought'd I'd be the one to blog about it since 1) it was my idea, he just perfected it, 2) I ate it, 3) I took the picture. Those are good reasons, right?

This, actually, is usually the way it goes with Andrew and I, who still live together in our college bachelor pad. Since Andrew generally follows recipes (though well and with improvisation), I tend to follow whims and fancies. But, Andrew also cooks more than I do nowadays, what with all the papers I have do at the moment. So, sometimes when we have some ingredients in the house that I think would go well together (pineapple and brie, panang curry and dried blueberries, apples and basil, strawberries and cilantro) I am usually the one to come up with the strange combination of the two. Sometimes Andrew looks at me funny and says no, which means I have to do the combination myself later (pictures of the strawberry salsa to come...), but sometimes Andrew actually thinks it's a good idea, and when I come home from school one night I will find something like grilled pineapple and brie waiting for me.

1. Melt butter and mix it with brown sugar to make a glaze.
2. Brush both sides of slice of fresh pineapple with the glaze, and bake at 350 until the pineapple is soft and the glaze browned. This will work best in a roasting pan, or some other way of having the pineapple not be right on the bottom of the pan.
3. Places slices of brie over the pineapple and put back in the oven until it is melted and gooey.

That's it.

And, from now on, be brave in your combinations!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

White Chili

Since winter has refused to leave us in these 'northern parts', there's only one thing to do. Make soup. I have many favorites, and white chili is one of them. I usually use ground turkey, but I didn't have any and there wasn't any on sale so I just cut up chicken into really small pieces. It's easier to do if it's still partially frozen. One of the recipes I've used in the past call for a jar of salsa verde. It's tasty, but very spicy so my kids don't like it. This one is more mild, if you or your kids are sensitive to spice, reduce the cayenne pepper, or add it after you serve them. But if I do say so myself, that flavor really makes the dish!

White Chili:
Saute onion, garlic, red pepper (I think you could use green pepper as well for more color and veggies, I just didn't have any). When all is soft, add chicken stock, 2 cans of white beans, up to a full can of chopped green chili and chicken. Cook until chicken isn't pink. Add salt to taste, coarsely crushed black pepper, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper and parsley for color. Serve with chopped cilantro as desired. Easy, beautiful and so good! If you have a nack for making rolls, that's a great addition as well. I do so love soup. That's one of my favorite things about living in a place that has a winter. Maybe my only favorite thing...