Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chicken Udon

This is one of the meals I remember eating as a kid.  My dad was in the Navy. We spent quite a bit of time in Japan.  I saw the Udon noodles in the supermarket awhile back and decided to find a good recipe so I could share Udon with my kids.  As a kid, we just called this dish Udon.  On a menu you will likely find Udon called Pork Udon or Chicken Udon depending on how it is prepared.  I've even seen it called Chicken and Udon noodle soup. In Japan it is understood that Udon is a noodle soup so adding "noodle soup" seems a bit redundant, in my opinion.  Whatever you call it, it's a delicious meal.

1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 chicken breast
4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
2 Tbsp dried shiitake mushrooms
600g udon noodles
2 bunches of baby pak choy, rinsed and trimmed
1/3c mirin
1/4c soy sauce
green onion, rinsed and sliced

In a soup pot, add the chicken breast, shallot, ginger, and mushrooms to 7 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer (covered) for 10 minutes.  Skim any scum that appears on the surface.  Remove from heat and stand (covered) for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.  Transfer the chicken and mushrooms to a plate.  Strain the chicken stock, discarding the ginger and shallot.  Return the stock to the pot.

Shred the chicken.  Slice the mushrooms into thick slices if necessary.  (The mushrooms I used were already sliced.) 

Reheat the stock over a high heat.  Add the noodles.  Cook for 2 minutes (or until the noodles are tender).  Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan.  Add the pak choy.  Cook for another 2 minutes. The leaves will have just wilted and the chicken will be heated through.  Stir in the mirin and soy sauce.  Garnish with green onion.

Alternatives: Fresh cilantro leaves are also a tasty garnish for Udon, but my family doesn't really care for cilantro so I pick my battles.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fruit Plate

I started with a dinner plate and small bowl for the center.  I sliced up some cantaloupe, pineapple, and kiwi.  I layered the fruit around the bowl.  Then I added some strawberries for color and filled the bowl with blueberries.  Watermelon slices would be lovely, too.  This is a nice addition to the picnic table (or any pot luck).

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

3/4c plus 2 Tbsp all purpose four; divided
3/4c cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter; at room temperature
3/4c plus 2 Tbsp sugar (will use all in same step)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 plus 2 Tbsp milk; at room temperature
1c fresh blueberries

About an hour before you begin baking, Measure out your milk, butter, and eggs.  Put them on the kitchen counter and allow it to come to room temperature.*

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Line cupcake tin with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour (just 3/4c), cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk and set aside.  In a mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and lemon zest.  Beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  Beat in eggs one at a time, blending well after each egg.  Beat in vanilla and lemon juice.  On a low speed add 1/2 of dry mixture.  Blend.  Add milk.  Blend.  Add the second half of dry mixture.

In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 2 Tbsp of flour.  Using a spatula, gently fold berries into batter.  Divide batter evenly between the cupcake liners filling each about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick pulls clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack.

*Chemistry in the Kitchen:  At room temperature eggs, butter, and milk bond and form an emulsion that traps air. During baking, the air expands, producing light, airy, evenly baked treats.

Buttercream Icing for the Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

1c solid white vegetable shortening
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp lemon extract
5-6 tsp milk (add one or two more tsp of milk if needed)
1 lb pure can confectioner's sugar

Cream shortening, flavoring, and milk.  Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients are mixed.  Blend an additional minute or so until creamy.  Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Homemade Bagels

I've been living in the outback of Australia for about 10 months now.  While there are loads and loads of great things to eat, from time to time I miss a certain food from home.  Today I decided to try my hand at homemade bagels.


3 c plain flour
3 tsp yeast
1 1/2 c warm water
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
extra 2 Tbsp sugar
Sesame Seeds (optional)

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, yeast, 3 Tbsp sugar, salt, and warm water.  Beat with an electric mixer. Add the remaining flour and mix on low for 1 minute.  Raise mixer speed one or two speeds higher and continue to mix for 3 minutes using a spatula to get the dry ingredients off the side of the mixing bowl.

Sprinkle some flour on the counter top.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes.  The dough should be smooth and elastic.  Cover the dough and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 12 portions.  Shape the dough into smooth balls. Poke a hole in the center with your finger and gently enlarge the hole while working the bagel into a uniform shape. 

Cover the dough and let it rise for about 20 minutes.
While your dough rises, bring 4 liters of water to a boil.  Stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar.  Reduce to a simmer.
Put 4 or 5 bagels into the water and boil for 7 minutes, turning the bagel once.  Drain.  If desired, dip boiled bagel in sesame seeds to make 'em fancy.  Place on a greased baking tray and bake at 375°F (190°C) for 30-35 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit.  Eat hot or cold.

I served these bagels with cream cheese and chives as well as smoked salmon.  Allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature.  Mix in chopped chives.  Store in refrigerate until needed.  The smoked salmon came prepared, but I rolled the salmon and added some chives for a lovely presentation. Yummo!  It was a hit!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Spinach Frittata

A frittata is an Italian-style omelet.  I only recently learned of the concept of the frittata, but it's been a huge success with the kids, especially in the "breakfast for dinner" category.  As with omelets, you can enriched your frittata with any number or combination of ingredients. This is one of our favorites.

7 eggs
chopped spinach leaves
diced ham
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
Heat oven proof skillet on med heat with olive oil.  I use my cast iron skillet, my mother would be so proud! Turn down lead to med low. In a bowl, scramble the eggs.  Add the chopped spinach, ham, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, and a dash of nutmeg.  Salt and pepper lightly.  Pour egg mixture into skillet and cook (without stirring) for 5-7 minutes.  It will still have some liquid.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan to the top.  Put skillet int eh oven under broiler for 3 to 4 minutes until puffy and golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes before serving.

Roasted Beets n Sweets

My kids long ago declared a fatwa on beets as a source of enjoyment or even nutrition.  I suppose they do not appreciate the color or texture, but I haven't given up.  I continue to introduce this vegetable into the household menu hoping to broaden their horizons.  The original yummy recipe was shared with me by one of my girlfriends, but I'm tweaked with it a little just because I didn't have garlic powder.  Also, where I live, beets are sold in bundles of four instead of six.  Here's what I did.

4 beets, peeled and diced
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 sweet onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 1/2 Tbs of olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp on course salt (cooking salt or kosher is fine)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).  Toss the beets in 1/2 Tbs on oil to coat.  Spread in a single layer in a large casserole dish. 

In a resealable plastic bag, combine the remaining olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Add the sweet potatoes, onion, and garlic.  Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat the sweet potatoes.

Bake the beets for 15 minutes in the preheated oven.  Add the sweet potato mixture and continue baking for 45 minutes or until all the vegetables are done, stirring the mixture after 20 minutes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ginger Cookies

These cookies are a variation of the Ginger Snap.  They are amazingly chewy and have a huge ginger flavor that is not too sweet, but just right for a cuppa tea.  The candied ginger is the secret ingredient.  It adds an little bit extra that make these little babies just awesome!

4 1/2 c all purpose flour
4 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c shortening
2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c molasses
1/2 c finely chopped candied ginger
1/4 c granulated sugar

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, ginger, soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, bleat shortening until softened.  Gradually add the 2 cups granulated sugar.  Beat until fluffy.  Add eggs and molasses, beat well.  Add half of the flour mixture and beat until combined.  Stir in remaining half of flour and mix with a wooden spoon.  Add the finely chopped candied ginger and stir until combined.

Shape dough into little balls and roll in the remaining 1/4 c granulated.  Place on an ungreased cooking sheet.  Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes.  Do not over bake or the cookies will not be chewy.  Let stand for two minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Yum. Yum.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Butternut Sweet Potato Soup

Let's talk vegetables for a bit.  In my opinion, the butternut squash is an under appreciated vegetable. I think it gets the bad squash rap, but really it tastes more like a pumpkin than a squash.  When you are choosing a butternut squash, the skin should be a golden tan in color and matte (not shiny). A ripe butternut squash feels solid and heavy for its size. It will sound hollow when you tap it. It should feel firm and smooth.  It fact, a butternut squash can be difficult to to skin and chunk up when it's completely raw.  Sometimes I cheat, I will stab the squash a few times and roast it in the oven for thirty minutes or so until it is easier to skin.  You need to stab the squash so that the steam can vent while it's cooking.  If your forget, it may explode in your oven and that is no bueno. 

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chunked
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
2 onions
4 garlic cloves
1/8 c fresh ginger, shredded
8c chicken stock
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp nutmeg
Low fat Greek-style yogurt

Coat the bottom of your cooking pot with cooking spray.  Add onion and saute for about five minutes.  Add garlic and ginger.  Cook for about 1 minute.  Add squash, sweet potato and chicken stock, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are done.  Using a blender (or food processor), process soup until smooth.  Return soup to the pot.  Heat soup on med low heat until heated through.  Serve topped with black pepper and a dollop of yogurt.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hummus with Carrot and Ginger

This is a fun recipe to make for a get together.  It beats the boring old chips and ranch dip I usually end up serving.  It's also a little healthier, too.

1 carrot
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh grated ginger*
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 can chickpeas
1 Tbs tahini**
2 Tbs low fat natural yogurt

For dipping:
extra carrots, sliced
celery stalks
cherry tomatoes

Thinly slice a carrot.  Boil, steam or microwave the carrot until tender.  Drain.  In a frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Cook ginger, garlic, cumin,  and coriander for about one minute or until fragrant.  Add cooked carrot and stir to coat evenly.  Remove from heat.  Allow to cool.  Stir in chick peas, tahini, and natural yogurt.

Using a food processor, process this mixture until smooth.  You can add a little water if the mixture becomes too thick.  Season with salt and pepper (to taste).  Serve dip with tomatoes, celery, carrots, or any other veggie that you like to dip.

*Don't substitute ground ginger or that ginger paste nonsense.  This is a recipe that you should definitely use the real thing otherwise the recipe is rather bland.

**Tahini is a Middle Eastern paste made from ground sesame seeds.  You can usually find it in any Middle Eastern or Indian grocery store.  You might even be able to find it at your local grocery store.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Grandma Nelson's Chocolate Chip Cookies

There is nothing yummier than or as comforting as Grandma's cookies.  It doesn't matter if she is using an original recipe, the recipe from the back of the Toll House Chocolate Chips bag, baked them from scratch, or bought the dough in the dairy department...just as long as she hides the evidence in the trash before the kiddos come running.  This is my mother's chocolate chip cookie recipe.

3/4c sugar
3/4c brown sugar
1c shortening or butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4c flour
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream sugar, brown sugar, and shortening.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Beat thoroughly.  Gradually add salt, soda, and flour.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Drop rounded ball of dough onto a cookie sheet.  Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 9-11 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK!

This last bit is just my opinion, but it is VERY important that you cook up this dough as quickly as possible.  It is absolutely delicious raw and disappears more quickly than you realize.  So far, I've been able to keep the kids' paws out of it citing salmonella poisoning and raw eggs, but they are getting older, quicker, and smarter. This reasoning will not hold them off much longer.  Soon I'll have competition for the raw cookie dough...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Creamy Italian Chicken

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 envelope Italian Salad Dressing mix
1/2c water
1 pkg. cream cheese
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

Put chicken, dressing mix, and water into crock pot.  Cover and cook for three hours.  Combine cream cheese and soup until blended.  Stir in mushrooms.  Pour over chicken.  Cook for one hour longer. Serve with rice or pasta.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Homemade Ranch Dressing

We live in a remote location right now.  Don't feel sorry for us.  We live in the beautiful Australian outback.  (By the way, I have not seen a Bloomin' Onion since we moved here.  I don't think anyone from Outback Steakhouse has ever been outback. Just saying.)  We wake up to this every morning:

Well, actually this is from our camping trip last weekend, but again...don't feel too sorry for us.  We actually LOVE where we live.  It's just that you can't find real Ranch dressing in Australia.  You can't ship it in because customs considers it a dairy product and will confiscate it...or so I've been told.  So I had to dig around and find a recipe that I could make here with ingredients that are available locally.  I noted the substitutions I made next to the original ingredients.  Many thanks to The Crafty Blog Stalker for saving my sisters a trip to Walmart and the Post Office for the store bought powder.

Dry Ingredients:

1/4 cup Black Pepper
1 1/2 cup Parsley Flakes
1/2 cup Garlic Salt
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt (I substituted Cooking Salt)
1/4 cup Granulated Garlic
1/4 cup Granulated Onion (I substituted Onion Flakes)
2 Tbsp Dill Weed

Wet Ingredients:

1 cup Mayonnaise
1 cup Buttermilk
1 1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 tsp Lemon Juice

Start by putting all the dry ingredients into a gallon sized Ziploc bag.  Close the bag and shake to combine the ingredients.  This makes about 3 1/2 cups of Ranch Dressing Mix.  I am storing the mix in dry canning jars.  Any dry sealed container will work just fine.

Put all the wet ingredients in a bowl with 2 Tbsp of the dry mix.  Whip with a whisk until it is well combined.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (the longer the better) to let the flavors marry.  (That's really a cooking term.  I just looked it up on Google.  Everything on the Internet is true.)

This makes a lot of fresh Ranch dressing.  Since it doesn't have all the preservatives, I'd only suggest keeping it until a few days after the expiration date on the Buttermilk or Sour Cream, whichever expires first.