This is a blog for people to discuss what they are eating. There is a theory that by journaling eating habits, people will eat healthier. I am trying to cook more at home and feed my family a wider variety of foods. People can just read or join as co-authors. Topics don't have to be recipes with nice photos. You can write about eating habits, special diets, culinary cultural differences, etc.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dad's Turkey

Thanksgiving just happened, here. I succeeded in re-creating my Dad's turkey recipe perfectly, which made me SO happy. I made the house smell JUST like Thanksgiving (it's not really Thanksgiving unless the house smells like Dad's turkey). I'll share the recipe here, in case you care (I even took pictures like a nerdgrrl). You can make just a few pieces of turkey, too (which is what I did) & it'll still be awesome.

Dad learned his recipe from his father. My grandfather was the Vanderbilt family's little French chef. He and his family traveled back and forth between NYC and Newport Rhode Island, and he kept a HUGE book of rercipes (all written in French) which my Dad inherited. Of course Dad never translated any of the recipes... We have this great book of culinary genius but it's pretty much useless (I am SO not proficient in French).

However! I am resourceful and I'm an instinctual cook, so I decided to try to make Dad's famous turkey anyway from memory. He always called it "dark turkey" because that's how it looked. All I knew was that red wine and crushed black pepper were the main ingredients. I decided to try Dad's favorite wine (to drink), which was almost always a nice cabernet sauvignon. BINGO!

Charlotte is a vegetarian so I didn't bother making a whole turkey for just myself and Greg. Two turkey thighs are plenty big enough for two people. I bought a small cheap aluminum roaster pan. This is important 'cause roaster pans have those grooves in them that raise the meat above the juices, so they don't stick or get soggy. It's a very simple process; rub cracked black peppercorns into the meat and pour a liberal amount of wine over the meat & into the pan. I used about a cup and a half. The chef gets a taste!

Here's what a lot of people don't know about cooking with wine; the alcohol all cooks off so there is no alcoholic content in the food. The reason you cook with wine is that it breaks down the fibers in poultry meat and allows the flavor to permeate the entire dish. It also enhances any spices & herbs you use. Be careful with wine & red meat though; alcohol actually tightens the fibers of red meat, making it tougher. If you use wine in red meat or pork dishes, you have to pound the meat with a tenderizing mallet first. But I digress!

So the roaster pan goes into the oven, center rack at 375 degrees. Dad's rule was 20 minutes per pound of bird. Since I didn't have to worry about a whole bird (full of stuffing) I decided to just treat the thighs like a big roaster chicken, so I kept them in there for about an hour and a half. Dad cooked his turkey breast side down, lightly covered with a sheet of aluminum foil, until the last hour when he removed the foil & turned the bird over to brown. The breat meat was always tender & never dry because he did it that way. However, since again I was just doing a couple pieces I left it uncovered the entire time.

The first thing you notice is the smell which is GREAT...Dad's turkey is very aromatic. As it cooks it darkens dramatically. You have to pull out the pan every 20 minutes or so and baste the meat...I just used a spoon to dump the wine juices back over the bird. You can see, even half-cooked the meat already looks purple-ish. That's the wine.

More for the chef! Cabernet is a great sipping wine. About a half hour before the turkey is done, my Dad had a little trick; he'd put a small pat of real butter on the skin, so it would glaze and crisp. Yes, you most definitely eat the skin with this kind of turkey because it is DELICIOUS. I did the butter thing too and was sinfully wonderful.

So here is the finished turkey dinner. You can see the turkey has a deep burgundy color...that's not just because this is dark meat. With the entire bird, the interior parts of turkey breast meat were still always white but the rest of the meat is rather dark. If you've cooked it right, it falls off the bone easily and is very juicy. I totally cooked it right. ^_^

Just so you know Charlotte wasn't left out, here is her Thanksgiving dinner. I made her a cheddar and spinach omelette with hollandaise sauce...her favorite treat. Even Kiba had a special treat; a Thanksgiving cow cookie. Everybody gets to be thankful!

I was SO thrilled to be able to make Dad's turkey. Really. When a person is gone from your life, there are a thousand things you miss but sometimes it's the funniest little things that sting the most. I never thought I'd ever taste Dad's wonderful turkey again. I'm glad to be wrong. He'd have been proud of me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

RECIPE - The Ultimate Comfort Food..Made Easy

I probably won't post much about cooking because I try not to cook. This is the easy way to make Mac and Cheese. Several months ago I bought a Wolfgang Puck 7qt. rice steamer. In the instruction book there is a recipe for this mac & cheese. It does call for heavy cream but I make it with 2% to save on calories because I always add extra cheese ... we all know how I love cheese.

1 1/2 C. elbow macaroni
1 1/2 C. chicken broth
good quality chicken bouillon cube
1 C. heavy cream
3/4 C. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 C. shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1. Combine macaroni, broth and cream in rice cooker. Press cook. Stir occasionally. I discovered that when I use the 2% it boils over so I add it a little at a time while it is cooking to prevent the mess.

2. When machine switches to Keep Warm, add remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly until cheese is melted.

3. Press Cook again. When cooker switches to keep warm let is sit for a minute. This is when the top turns a pretty crunchy brown.


Feeding picky eaters

Just found this story about trying to feed vegetables to Rio. I sure sound hysterical. I actually write so many articles, I forget about some of them. Listening to Meri recall how she made an "Under the Sea" meal for her daughter made me think of this one. Her Under the Sea meal includes cutting slits into weiners so the ends curl up like an octopus (it's a Japanese standard called tako-san weiner), she cuts carrot slices as seaweed? and have WHOLEWHEAT goldfish crackers swimming about. I loved the way she emphasized the wholewheat to ensure it's healthy. I am totally into buying frozen WHOLEWHEAT waffles, WHOLEWHEAT English muffins, etc. Parents will sell their souls to put something healthy into the bodies of picky eating children...

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Two Tricks

Hey all,

Now that the holidays are upon us, I thought I would pass on a nifty trick my MIL told me about a few years ago.

I love homemade Red Velvet Cake. I get one every year from my MIL as a birthday cake and even at holidays, she makes one for me.

The only bad thing about Red Velvet Cake..It's bitter.

No matter if it is made homemade or not..It's bitter.

Her way around that..

When you mix the cake batter, add a tablespoon of mayo. The Mayo exits out the bitterness, which is the food coloring in the mixes. You can't tell the mayo is there. It's great.

Second trick..Again from my MIL

When you make Cornbread Muffins, add a half a cup to cup of sugar to the mixture. It makes a sweet cornmeal muffin...YUMMY!!!!!!

Reason I said half a cup to a cup, it depends on how sweet you want the muffins.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


"I'm not the dashimaki maker, I'm the dashimaki maker's son. I'm just making dashimaki 'til the dashimaki maker comes."

Okay, so I AM the dashimaki maker, & I'm nobody's son. Ahem.

Anyway...I love dashimaki. LOVE IT. Couldn't get enough of it on my first trip to Japan, & no one at home or in any of my American Japanese restaurants has any idea how to make it or what it is. So! When a certain person found out how much I loved the stuff, she presented me with a gift of hon dashi and a tiny dashimaki/tamagoyaki pan! Yay! I put everything in my Muscle Park pail, because I am a huge nerd and it made me happy to do so.

Dashimaki is just eggs, dashi (bonito soup base), starch (I use corn starch but I guess you're supposed to use potato starch, but anyway it still works) & soy sauce. I measure NOTHING. Measures are for girls. Pfft.

A big part of mixing it all together is just being smart. I use warm water to dissolve the dashi powder, because it works best, so first I put about a teaspoon of dashi powder in a Pyrex cup with a spout & add maybe 1/4 cup of warm water, & mix it up well. Then, 4 eggs. Then, a dash of soy sauce (probably a teaspoon). Then in a separate cup, I add a teaspoon or so of corn starch powder to just a little COLD water & mix it. That way, no lumps! Mom taught me that... Anyway, once that's all dissolved it goes into the egg mixture & you whip it all together a few times. Use chopsticks! It's fun! Dashi smells fishy....

So, you oil the pan well, & keep a oily paper towel all folded up small, right next to the pan, so you can re-oil it between layers of egg. Heat up the pan til it's very hot (but not too don't want smoking oil)...pour a thin layer of egg in (it should sizzle) and when it sets up enough to lift away from the surface, start rolling it with your chopsticks.

You should end up with a little egg roll at one end of the pan. Oil the end you started from, slide the egg back to that end, pour a small amount of egg mixture into the other end of the pan. Lift up the edge of the egg you already rolled, so some of the mixture adheres to the rolled egg (this is so you can continue to roll the egg unbroken). Then, just keep rolling up the egg layers!

It takes practice. Chopsticks really are the best tool for the job, so you better have mad chopsick skills. It's tricky because you want the egg to not get too brown, & you want to roll fast enough that the egg is still soft when you start to roll (but not runny). I find thin layers work best because that way you can roll it up fast.

When your egg log is all rolled up, you are supposed to tighten it by rolling it in a makisu (bamboo mat)...I am not brave enough to do this yet. Perhaps someday...

Anyway I let it cool a bit & then slice it up. In the picture (above) I laid the pieces flat so you can see the layers.

My daughter Charlotte is CRAZY about dashimaki! I make it for her with a little bowl of sticky rice flavored with salty nori flakes, & some edamame. It takes me about a half hour from start to finish. I'm getting better each time I make it, too, because it does take a bit of practice.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Olive Rosemary Spiral Rolls

I made these last year for Thanksgiving and the wonderful thing about them is that you can leave out ingreadents and they still come out wonderful. I'll write the orginal recipe and then my own I use.

Olive Rosemary Spiral Rolls

Things needed

1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped, (about 2 oz)

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsely

1/2 tsp. dried crushed rosemary

1 pkg (16 oz) hot roll mix ( such as Pillsbury's)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1/4 tsp. coarse ground pepper

1 cup hot water
(120 to 130 degrees)

2 eggs divided

2 tbs. butter or margarine at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375. Coat 12 muffin pan cups with cooking spray.

Combine olives, parsley, and rosemary. Reserve.

In a large bowl, combine mix with yeast packet from mix, Parmesan and pepper. Stir in hot water, 1 egg and butter until dough forms.

On lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic, 5 minutes. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into 15"x 10" rectangle; sprinkle with reserved olive mixture to within 1/2" of edges.

Starting from long side, roll up dough.

Using a serrated knife cut dough roll in half. Cut each half into six slices.

Place rolls spiral side up in muffing cups. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place until doubled, 30 minutes. Remove plastic.

Beat remaining egg, brush over rolls. Bake 18 minutes until golden.

Now my way I revised this is great if you have people in your family, like mine, that don't like olives. And are pressed for time as well.

Instead of getting the hot roll mix. Purchase the spiral dinner roll dough ( comes in the same packaging as premade bisquits.). This omits the yeast. While you have to unroll each individual roll to put the mix in, it's worth the extra time if you have those that don't like olives but can have the rest of the taste.

Unroll the rolls and place a small amount of mixture inside. Roll back up and place onto a cookie sheet. Cook the rolls as the package states. You also omit the egg part of the recipe but everything else is the same.

Doing it my way allows you to have both olive rolls and regular rolls. Just remember which ones are the olive. I do a mixure of black olives with green olives. Have fun and experiment.

This recipe can be used all year round.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

War wounds -- should the uncoordinated be allowed in the kitchen?

Last week, I sliced my thumb with a grater. It was a deep gouge that made tying knots and other normal manual tasks difficult. Just as I've gained my evolutionary advantage again, I burned myself yesterday. I scalded myself transferring boiled pasta to the saucepan. I treated myself pretty well. My stomach was a disaster but I tended to it well with ice and ointments so it's now left only with some light redness. My inner right thigh was less victimized and received less attention, so now there is a blister. Will NOT post a picture. This blog is meant to be appetizing...

Sometimes I wonder whether the likes of uncoordinated me should be in the kitchen much, utensils are weapons of self-destruction... (Just kidding. My mom wanting to try my pasta recipe alone makes it worthwhile!!)

What I was cooking at the time was my favorite pasta sauce which is 2/3 any kind of tomato sauce with 1/3 pesto sauce. Love pesto but the taste by itself is too strong. This combination gives tomato sauce more life. We've done this plain, with bacon, with clams -- everything works!

Sambar & Roti

... is a very traditional Southern Indian dish. Roti, is the staple bread of the region, so I was taught by my ex-mother-in-law. Sambar and roti was a part of nearly every meal she served. I am quite partial to it myself. If I don't have it for a long time I start to crave it. There are few ingredients involved and all of them can be changed to suit individual tastes.

Channa Dal is pretty much just yellow split peas. They have a very mild flavor. Toor Dal is a bit darker yellow and has a more nutty flavor. You can make Sambar with either one. This particular day I used the Toor Dal. Because I had them and because I could. lol That is to say, I had no particular reason to use one or the other. It just happened to be Toor Dal today. Please note that it says you should soak the Toor Dal for several hours before cooking. I find that this is not necessary if you use a good heavy pot and a tight lid.

The other ingredients I used today are:
whole dried red chili peppers
cummin seeds
mustard seeds
baby spinach

So, I put one cup of Toor Dal in a 2 qt. pot and covered with water until the water was approximately one inch above the Dal.
Turn the heat to medium and cook until the pot starts to sing. Watch it and make sure you turn the heat down to low and slant the lid a little before the thing boils over. This stuff dries like cement if it does boil over. Once it stops boiling and foaming you can close it back up and let it simmer for an hour or so.

Most of the true Indian recipes I've seen for this dish say to cook the Dal in a pressure cooker, but my MIL never did. I've always used a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid and that's always been good enough.

Once you have your split peas/Dal on the heat you can start prepping your other items:
Heat a non-stick saute pan and heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. The original recipe would actually use ghee, but to make it a tad healthier I use a couple T of canola oil and add about a tsp of butter for flavor.
When the oil is heated put in the chopped onion, saute until nearly translucent. Put in the minced garlic and the red peppers. As soon as the garlic begins to turn golden add the mustard and cummin seeds. Keep a lid handy because the seeds will pop. As soon as the seeds begin to sizzle and pop, remove the pan from the heat and cover.

Close up of whole mustard seed and whole cummin seed.

Once the Dal stops boiling and foaming you can close it back up and let it simmer for an hour or so. This is the time when I usually pull the red peppers out of the sauted onions and put them in with the Dal.

Once the Dal has nearly dissolved you can add the other ingredients. First add the sauted onions and garlic...

... then chop the spinach roughly...

...and stir it into the Dal.

Now you have delicious, mellow, tasty Indian Sambar. Lets make the roti now. The Sambar will taste better after it sits a while.


Lets start with the flour. For roti you have to use whole durum wheat. Its sort of creamy yellow in color and has a different texture than regular white flour. You can make a passable variation with regular whole wheat flour but it just isn't the same.
I've been known to use several types of flour for making flat breads which I and my son just call roti. A particular favorite is made with whole grain rye flour mixed with the whole wheat flour. Really, it's good.

Left to right: Hodgson's Mill brand whole wheat flour, Nirav brand whole grain durum wheat flour, Pillsbury's all-purpose unbleached white flour.

Mix 3 cups of durum wheat flour and 1 cup of all-purpose white flour with 1/2 tsp. salt. To this add, 1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 T ghee or oil. I find that if I use 1/2 cup of buttermilk or yogurt for the liquid I get a softer roti. I like the flavor better, too. But you can use just plain water and it will be fine.

Knead the dough a few times until all the flour and liquid are incorporated. Let the dough sit 10-15 minutes to rest. Then pinch the dough off and roll into approximately golf ball sized balls. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness.

Heat a non-stick, flat bottomed pan, or a nice heavy cast iron pan to medium high heat. Place one roti in the pan and press lightly with rubber spatula. After about 20 seconds flip the roti and continue pressing lightly. You may have to turn a time or two more to get the proper doneness. Your roti should puff up somewhat when it's done. It may not puff up as much as the one shown here, but it should show some bubbles and lightness.
This one was terrific! I always get such a sense of accomplishment when one blows up like this one did. I usually get about one third of them in a batch of 13-15 rotis to do this. Its really exciting. Okay... I know... I lead a very boring life, but this is... LOL


Along with these two items I also made a couple of other dishes. Which I will describe briefly:

Spicy Potatoes
Diced white potatoes
half the sauted onion/garlic mixture described above
tumeric about half a tsp.
garum masala about one tsp.

In the pan I sauted the onions in I cooked the potatoes until tender. To the potatoes I added half the onion mixture and then the tumeric and garum masala. Once the spices had cooked for about a minute I took it off the heat.

I did use a few spoons of this potato mixture to make a couple filled roti (paratha) for Thomas. They were a pain in the patoot and I would only ever do them for him EVER again. This was my first try at it, and I didn't have fun, altho I have to say they were quite tasty.

Burmese Chicken Curry
Cook chicken pieces in a few T oil.
To this add:
2 T Madras style curry powder
2 T Paprika
1 T turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili powder
After about one minute add
One medium tomato, chopped

Once the tomato starts to wilt add one can coconut milk

Let this mixture simmer until it starts to turn red on the top. Then it's done. Garnish with french fried onions and garlic, lemon and fresh cilantro. (Bunny, you should know this one. I blogged about it a while back.)

Then I had this for supper:

It was delicious and Thomas and I enjoyed it emensely. I hope you guys will too, someday.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

FOOD DIARY - Japanese & Pizza nights

Hubby's homemade pizza
Remember that I'm totally not the baker in my family.. so hubby totally does this for me all the time :) We've tried a BUNCH of recipes for the crust. Quite frankly if the crust sucks.. I won't like it.. so imagine trying pizza over and over trying to get it right. Too much sauce, not enough sauce, there's no such thing as too much cheese.. LOL nvm.. Either way he finally settled on a recipe we got from a Jewish Baking book. Lemme run over to the Library to see which one. Okay it's called "Secrets of a Jewish Baker". Hands down it has the best pizza dough I've ever tasted out of a home recipe using a real oven. My favorite still is "mafia style" pizza but I don't have a brick oven that goes to 700-900°F.. Ever since hubby got that new stand mixer he's been very happy to bake again since everyone knows how tiring making your own dough can be over an extended period of time. The bigger the batch as well the more it takes from you. This recipe does 3 pizzas.

Leftovers from Tokyo Mandarin - Seafood Yaki Udon

Over the weekend we went with friends to eat at our favorite Japanese Food restaurant - Tokyo Mandarin (Chinese/Japanese food heaven). I wanted to try out something different this time but still have a slice of what I like normally.. I mean.. I was sooooooooo created for the Buffet it's not even funny.. Hubby laughs at how much I like "a taste" of something and I take a bite from his plate... of course proceeds to laugh at me as I go to a buffet and eat 1 thing off each container so I can try it all.. At least I don't get sick like he does so there! P.S. his sesame beef was fantabuloso...

Leftovers from Tokyo Mandarin - Chicken Tempura Rolls

As you can see from the menu - I tried something new and something old :) New was the Seafood Yaki Udon (and to think THIS was my leftovers.. the plate was HUGE!!).. It also came with my favorite salad (Tokyo salad which is tossed lettuce with carrots, cucumber and tomato (I take out the tomato) in a light orange ginger dressing that's actually pretty sweet and not hot at all! Other restaurants versions are much more "ginger".. (to quote Andrea's brother John.. "In an F' you Italy kind of way".. ). I ate my gyoza as well.. sorry... I had to.. and even ordered my favorite Chicken Tempura Rolls (believe it or not out of all the restaurants they have associated with this franchise.. the one I go to is the ONLY restaurant to offer this and also has the largest menu to pick from). I knew I was doggie bagging most of this so I just ordered it all.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Recipe: Southern Fried Pork Chops


Boneless pork loin chops (approximately 1/4" thick)

3 to 4 cups all purpose flour
1 to 2 tsp ground black pepper
1 to 2 T onion powder
1 to 2 T garlic powder
1 to 2 T rubbed dried parsley
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1 to 2 T paprika
salt to taste

1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 T hot sauce

1 to 2 quarts cooking oil

First things first, I allowed my hubby to slice the loin into chops for me, which meant that I had to then pound them out to get the proper thickness (or thinness, as it was). This was easily accomplished by placing the chops, one by one into a plastic baggie and pounding them with a mallet. If you don't have a meat pounder/tenderizer a small iron skillet or heavy bottomed pot will work just as well (believe me, I've tried both, they work).

Next, assemble your other ingredients.

In one large bowl mix together the flour and dry spices/herbs.

In another large bowl beat together the buttermilk, eggs, and hot sauce. (remember that if you don't have buttermilk on hand you can make a passable substitute by putting one teaspoon of lemon juice or distilled vinegar into one cup of regular milk and letting it sit for 5 minutes before using) The hot sauce I use is like Tabasco, I just prefer the flavor of Texas Pete brand. You can leave this out if you don't like it or don't have it on hand. You can tell by the size of the bottle that I use it quite frequently. :)

Ooo, I almost forgot the paprika and chili powder (see the previous picture)

Next step: Pour cooking oil into a large, steep sided frying pan or dutch oven. Use a good, heavy bottomed pan for this, or cast iron. A thin bottomed pan will not work right and your stuff will scorch. If you have something like a Fry Daddy, that will work too. Also, use a quality cooking oil for deep frying. I personally prefer Wesson brand vegetable or canola oil but I will use Crisco brand if it is on a really good sale.

Anyhoo... heat the oil over a medium flame. You will just have to experiment with your own stove to get the heat right. I don't have a clue what the temperature is supposed to be, I've never tested it. I just hold my hand over it until it feels right, then I do a drop test: Test your oil for proper heat by dropping a pinch of flour into it. If it hisses and bubbles up you're ready to rock-n-roll.

Now then... dust a chop with the flour mixture, then dip into the egg mixture, then back into the flour mixture. You will have to turn it over several times and press the flour into the meat. You can fry the chop now or give it another turn in the egg mixture and then back into the flour for an extra crunchy coating. (I wanted to get a picture of this for you, but it's hard to snap pictures when your fingers are all covered in flour/egg mixture.

Carefully place your coated chop into the hot oil. Do not over-crowd your pan or you will cool your oil too much and the thing won't fry properly and you'll have a greasy, icky, yucky... um... thing.

When your chop begins to look a little browned on the edges turn it over. You may need to flip it more than once until you get the level of brownness and crunchiness you desire on both sides. Remove from the oil and drain on several sheets of paper towel or use a draining rack. (I find that draining on paper towels gets more oil off)

Ta-da! You now have a sinfully delicious, totally unhealthy piece of deep fried heaven. Every Southern cook has their own variation of this recipe. Personally, I think my version is one of the very best I've ever tasted and believe me I've tasted a LOT of fried foods in my lifetime. This is the basic recipe that my Grandmother used, although she didn't use the chili powder or the hot sauce. You can use this technique to fry most anything. Chicken, shrimp, fish, veggies, cheese... just alter the seasonings to suit the food. I use this to make fried chicken for chicken parmigiana, only I use Italian herbs for the seasoning.

Thomas had his chop over a green salad with Caesar dressing.

My hubby had the full traditional Southern meal: Chop, mashed potatoes, mixed greens.

And of course... he had to have gravy all over it:


Myself, I had a chop, sans mash & gravy, with the rest of the greens. I don't much care for mashed potatoes. I know, I know... mashed taters are an American tradition. But growing up rice was cheaper and flour, so we ate rice a lot as a staple and also biscuits. Lots and lots of biscuits... I think mashing is a horrible thing to do to a perfectly good potato. But that's a whole other blog post...


BTW, deep frying is a thing you have to commit to. You need to prep your stuff, hang up the phone, make sure you have a tall glass of iced tea nearby, and just do it! You can't worry about making a mess, or getting your hands all icky. If you try to keep your counter all neat while you do it you will fail. If getting your hands all covered in flour and raw egg and just, just... goo, disturbs you, you won't do it right. You have to forget all that and just be in the moment. Like I said, you have to commit to it. Totally.

Also, don't be stingy with the flour mixture or the egg mixture. If you worry about all the flour you will be throwing away when you're done and try to use less, you won't get a good coating and you will fail.

Another thing, please don't use store brand oil. Use the good stuff. And don't be stingy with it, either. I don't advocate eating fried foods very often, so... if you're going to do it, you might as well do it right.

I learned this way of coating foods for deep frying from my Granny, my mother's mother. She was the champion deep frying pro of the Universe. No kidding. The skill eluded my mother. She wasn't good at it at all (mostly because of the warnings I posted above). But I, thank goodness, inherited my Granny's knack for it. Yes, I am bragging on myself. Everyone has certain skills they are proud of and the fact that I can make deep fried foods (chicken especially) that everyone raves over is one of mine.

Let me know if you guys try this or if your methods are different or similar.


Soy sauce cream pasta -- with matsutake mushrooms

I have seen soy sauce cream pasta at restaurants but being a tomato sauce gal, never thought of venturing there. But last night, didn't have enough rice in the cooker for myself and had a tupperware of leftover pasta. Wanted to try something different from the pasta I made with the lemon pork loins. (Like cooking for one, it's challenging to figure out different recipes with similar ingredients.) My mom brought over a ton of British Columbia grown matsutake mushrooms,, and before she left, she boiled a jar. She makes these jars to enjoy matsutake all year around because the mushrooms are only available in the fall. (Mikey, get your hands on a jar. You will LOVE this recipe!)

Matsutake is a delicacy, kind of like French truffles, very expensive because it is only grown wild. Mom tells the story of how her and three friends went to Whistler, spent the day looking for them and between the four of them, found one!!! Still, they rejoiced and together made a meal of matsutake soup and rice. This particular recipe with matsutake mushrooms is for my family because no one else will probably get their hands on them, and they are frightenfully expensive as well. But soy sauce cream as a pasta sauce is now officially tried and very tasty, according to my entire family. I've seen offered at restaurants with spinach and bacon, chicken and mushrooms, etc. A little on the exotic side, but will not push people's comfort zones.

Prep time: 10 mins. (since my fettucine was already boiled)
Health meter: 7 (matsutakes are rich in all sorts of minerals, according to Wiki)
Tasty test: 9 (everyone liked it!, saving 10 as an out of the world experience)

1) Put butter in skillet to melt.
(If you are using fresh ingredients, put in now and sauteed, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of soy sauce.)
2) Put in cooked noodles (spaghetti will do just as well as fettucine)
(If you are using Mom's matsutake, put in it after the noodles, before the cream.
3) Put in dash of cream and gently mix everything together. It becomes a nice light brown color.
4) I shaved some Gruyere cheese on top. Parmesan or another hard cheese will do just as well.

Okay, Pam. I'm not asking you to try this at home. Chances are Texan supermarkets won't ever be selling Pacific saury (WTF???) in any form. But just so people will know what a typical Japanese home cooked is like, I'm showing it here. This fella should have been presented nicely on a better plate and I do have grilled fish plates I never use. Fall is sanma season, a fish that is rich in Omega oils and other good stuff, but in season, it's available dirt cheap. On special yesterday, they were 50 cents each, not frozen, fresh enough to eat raw. (Only the freshest fish are eaten raw.) It is served whole and can be tricky to eat. The kids don't like the part next to the guts because it's a bit bitter. Dealing with the bones can be challenging as well. What I usually do is pick out the tasty morsels and mix it into their rice. Other day, I'll show photos of the horse mackerel (aji) that our favorite fisherman specializes in and show various ways of eating mackerel (saba) the other fish he catches.
How to make:
Make a X cut on both sides of the fish (so the thickest part cooks easier). Salt on both sides. Salting the skin makes it crispier. Put on grill. Grilled fish in Japan is usually served with grated raw radish and some lemon.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Growing up Rican

Map of Puerto Rico - all following ©unknown.. I got them from
I'm first generation "American". I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My parents from Puerto Rico (Mom from the Mayagüez area (West of the Island) and Dad from Juncos (East side of the Island (just east of Caguas on the map). I went to school in Caguas (11th grade) during my parents divorce back in the late 1980's. Although I grew up here.. I was still firmly entrenched in the Puerto Rican culture. For all intents and purposes I thought I grew up "normal American". It's only after years of comparison with other people who grew up in this country did I realize how different I grew up. Everything from what I listened to in music, to ate every day for food. Even our living arrangements were strange. I've moved 22 times in my life.. not too far but still moved a lot. During those times it was with 3 generations living at home. My Mom's Mom (whom we always call Mamá - maternal grandmothers are giving that name while paternal grandmother's are given "Abuela" - which literally means "grandmother") lived with us during the late spring - early Fall every year. It was during the colder months where she'd run back to my other Aunt's house in Puerto Rico since she just could not tolerate the winter months anymore. During those times she lived with us she shaped a lot of what I know today as my "style" of cooking.

A painting on the side of a building "HERE we sell PORK 100% from the "country" or to say homegrown or even "island bred". And yes they mean the WHOLE pork on a spit..

My Grandmom raised my sisters and I VERY different from my Mom. Without going into extreme detail she changed how she viewed children in the kitchen. In Puerto Rico you have only one person in the kitchen (unless it's a large holiday gathering and you need the manpower to create so many meals).. Unless you wanted to get hacked by a machete.. you did not go into the woman's realm... Unfortunately, Mom didn't get the benefit of learning from her Mom how to cook and since she was on her own very early in her life she had to learn almost painfully. If ya know me by now.. I'm inquisitive.. well I was just like that as a kid. Half the time I swear Mamá was just keeping me in the kitchen just so I won't get in trouble outside beating up kids.. From there I learned a lot about Puerto Rican Cuisine and Spanish Cuisine (Mamá is Spaniard). She was the mother of all inventions. We grew up dirt poor and had to improvise a LOT to get food on the table. I learned how to improvise with 3 things in the pantry LOL. As any good Puerto Rican family though.. we always had rice. And.. even though we lived in the inner city.. we always had some sort of garden. Lord help us if we couldn't get sofrito done.. the world would end..

Long live mangoes.. food of the Gods I swear... Fruit is a huge part of our diet

My oldest sister also had a very large role in my life when it came to not only cooking but even upbringing. Mom always came home late so it was my sisters who raised me during the months Mamá was on the Island. Dad was the disciplinarian.. we didn't exactly get along all that hot. He did however make sure we knew how to cook. You would know a man's wrath if the man doesn't have his rice and beans.. Being by far the youngest (I'm 7 years younger than my oldest sis and 3 1/2 years younger than my middle sis) I benefited not only education wise (my sisters taught me everything they learned in school so I could read and write (in 2 languages) by the age of 3) and taught me how to cook (by the age of 4 on my own). Going back and forth from the US to Puerto Rico (we visited a LOT.. it's sorta a Rican tradition.. even if we didn't have the money... we HAD to go back to the Island.. almost like getting air to breathe long enough to go back to the US and hold our breath).

Pasteles (recipe here).. pain in the nards to make.. usually people do this as a massive Christmas-time project.. imagine 40 people (including kids) making several hundred of these.. mmmmmmm I love them.

Food in Puerto Rico is a form of social networking. People practically judge how good of a host you are by the amount of food you serve... and trust me we are not talking about chips and salsa and a glass of water.. we are talking about full course meals. Not hungry? THEY DON'T CARE! Anyway.. food holidays.. nothing and I mean absolutely nothing beats the Christmas Holidays. We don't even celebrate Thanksgiving.. that's a speed bump to Christmas. The first time I ate a "Thanksgiving turkey" was over a "white person's house" when I was a teenager. I didn't even know what Roasted turkey tasted like until I had that meal (and I thought I died and went to heaven.. though I admit.. I hate cranberry sauce..). What is common in Puerto Rico from about Thanksgiving all the way to Three Kings Day is something called Parrandas. Unlike what the wiki says.. it's an all out excuse for partying in the wee hours of the morning with neighbors. How it works is that a group of people carrying musical instruments go to a house (not designated.. they decide that night) and camp out in front of that house singing songs that kinda go "WAKE UP AND MAKE ME FOOD" and in return they will serenade you. If you did this in the USA.. you'd be promptly shot and the Police called for disruption of the peace.. most of this stuff starts around 10PM and can go on to 4-5 AM (depending on how many people fell asleep from the liquor and over eating)...

Minus the beans I'd totally go for this.. (L-R), Pastelillos (IMO doughier than an empanada), Rice and Beans (red kidney beans), tossed salad and .. I think that's stuffed peppers of some kind. Definitely a meat mixture on something..

Cooking during the holidays was a lot of work. Between all the unexpected guests (the idea of R.S.V.P. is so foreign to them.. knocking on your door is R.S.V.P. to them.. seriously..) and the expected parranda drop in .. many people on the Island did most of their cooking in advance. Doing Pasteles was a big chore so when people came over the head women in the household would take advantage and put EVERYONE to work. Make the men go out and climb trees to get the banana leaves and have the kids grind the plantains for the base of the patty. Everyone else was dicing ingredients or cooking the mixture or finding someplace to assemble the whole friggin' thing.

Couldn't find a wiki thing for this.. but it's meat stuffed ripened plaintains (platanos madúros).. mmmm...

Baking was always left to the professionals. I don't ever remember anyone outright using an oven for cooking (usually it was storage for all the pots you couldn't find a spot for earlier..).. There were the panaderías (bread bakeries) and the pastelerías (pastry bakeries). Each had their own clientele but man EVERYONE used a panadería. Funny story.. whenever anyone who now lives in the USA goes "home" we all go from the airport to some bakery.. for bread.. a whole friggin' loaf of bread. It reminds us of French Bread but a whoooooooooole lot better. My Aunt (Dad's sister - the one I lived with) finally had enough of the mystery and in exasperation asked "wtf is up with the bread you friggin' Yankees.. you don't HAVE bread in your country???".. (obviously paraphrased :p ) and we'd all go "nope not like this".. we finally figured out. it's a different yeast.. the outside is this really thin crunchy coat and the inside is so soft it melts in your mouth.. Dad would just haul out and get a loaf for him and me with just a little bit if melted butter in it. We'd eat it in the car from the airport :) My uncle always got a loaf of bread daily from the bakery.. when I lived there.. they had to get 2 loaves.. I was quite the hog.. what did I use it for? SANGUICHES....

THIS is a sanguich.. a wha??? Sandwich.. yep.. Friggin' ricans have to americanize words.. this I think is a simple ham and cheese sanguich (check out the bread.. THAT is the loaf I'm talking about..) I made sandwiches of everything if I could.. still do..

Religion also has a funny way of getting into food :p I grew up evangelical Christian but when I lived with my Aunt she was Roman Catholic. They had fundraisers for everything and I swear everything was always a food sale. No one did bake sales.. they did food. One of the things they sold were Pastelillos.. I've mentioned them before.. but they are to die for.. Empanadas are altogether different.. the picture below is an actual Pastelillo..

I haven't had a REAL pastelillo of these in about.. hmm.. 15 years? Oh I miss these so...

When I did fundraising events in this country I'd laugh because I'd inevitably run into another Rican and we'd smile.. both going "we'd make a killing if we can make this into a bacalaito (fritters made with codfish pieces) sale" LMAO THAT was a typical cheap dish to make and sell for fundraisers on the island. Fish in general is big in Puerto Rico.. after all it's an island only 100 miles by 30 miles.. that's a lot of coastline..

Parting dish.. I .. love. Tostones......

All in all despite my unhappy childhood I do cherish a LOT of wonderful memories when it comes to food. Food done right or with a group of family members all chatting is like comfort to me. These days living alone while hubby works I think of what I can do to relive those moments. Even here some of my happy moments are cooking with hubby. He's a fantastic cook and I learn a lot from him. Lately I've been finding more and more recipes that remind me of my upbringing. Being a good husband he eats everything :) I like that.

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FOOD DIARY -- International school food booth

This is just a section for people who write down what they are eating. Ramblings are very welcomed.

Yesterday was a ridiculously satisfying day because we went to Reina's friend school bazaar. International schools have amazing food booths because of the variety of ethnicities attending.
In my hometown of Vancouver, they now have these Nibbles and Bites fairs where various restaurants sell sample dishes. Food booths are like that except the food is made by parents. It will cost as much or even more (depending on your level of self-control) but the money goes towards buying playground equipment for kids and stuff. Donating money never tasted better!

What I had: 1 stick of Filipino barbequed pork, 1 bowl Korean barbeque beef bowl with kimchi, Filipino sticky rice with brown rice dessert, 2 vegetable samosas.

Hiroshi had the Italian plate combo: lasagna, ratatouillle with Italian sausage, foccacia with onion and tuna and a fig tart. He went back for a second place (substituted the retatouille for an extra slice of foccacia) and a paper cup of white wine.

And the kids, what can I say about them. Reina had some fried yakisoba noodles and popcorn. Rio had an All-American hot dog, cotton candy, Rice Krispy squares and some Filipino rice steamed pudding. (Kid's got a sweet tooth.) See how we all naturally gravitate towards different foods which makes cooking a meal for the family so tricky....


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Soup for thought

(Abalones, especially dried abalones are a Chinese delicacy. Its essences provide a rich flavor. This shellfish must be cooked for a long time before it reaches a firm, chewy texture some find addictive.)

Groan, groan. snicker, snicker. "A food blog!" goes someone's husband with the initials DR. Yes and no. I prefer thinking of this as a virtual communal kitchen where people can cook and learn from each other, support each other through special diets, encouraging each other to eat healthier foods. For some people (myself included) accomplishment is simply take the time to cook a meal when it is so much easier to just zap one. "When I make something, it always tastes so good," my daughter said one day when she cooked for us.

My father instilled in his family a love of good food. Although his family business in Hong Kong was construction and he studied civil engineering, when he decided to emigrate to Canada, he trained with the top dim sum chef at the Miramar Hotel. It was common knowledge that for a Chinese to make a living abroad, cooking was your only meal ticket. Indeed, Jackie Chan once considered being a cook in Australia before making it big. My father could carve carrots into exquisite phoenix.

Cooking was my father's expression of love. Director Ang Lee's second critically acclaimed film (after The Wedding Banquet) was Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. I saw the film in Tokyo and encouraged my father to watch it and upon doing so, he triumphantly declared, "That's me in that movie." In wikipedia, it is summarized as: "Since the family members have difficulty expressing their love for one another, the intricate preparation of banquet quality dishes for their Sunday dinners serves as a surrogate for the spoken expression of their familial feelings."

The one meal my father made that I will never forget was the one before my sister's wedding. His brothers from Hong Kong and Los Angeles were there. My husband and I am were there. And so rarely was everyone he loved at the same place, so he pour his heart into preparation.

I still remember standing over the sink scrubbing the abalones with brand new toothbrushes he bought specifically for this occasion. He had watched over the soup from the day before, the stock made of one whole chicken (not just bones thank you) and two lean pork tenderloins. Then the abalones, then the shark's fin on the morning it was served. He wagered each serving was about $50 in cost alone. He made 12 bowls for only his side of the family. There were sauteed greens and creamy garlic lobster, but never have I tasted such wonderful soup and never will I do so.

My father loved making soups and eventually I did too. Soups are the most miraculous of dishes. When you throw in the meats, the vegetables and the seasoning, there is absolutely no taste in the beginning. But as you wait, the simmering draws out the best in all the ingredients. You wait some more, and it becomes tastier and the more you wait, the more flavor you get back. It can be just bone scraps and wrinkles veggies, yet with time, you have created the most marvelous concoction. I am not a patient person by nature, but making soups made me realize the importance of just giving things time. In raising my children, I often remind myself about the miracle of making soups.

My father has now passed away and while he has left a legacy of appreciation for good eats, his love of cooking has not quite passed onto his children, none of us really enjoy cooking the way he did.

In popular culture like Ang Lee's movies and the exquisite Like Water for Chocolate, cooking has been elevated to a higher realm, yet we all know that the daily chore of it can be most tedious and unrewarding. My husband and my children are expressive and loving everywhere else except at the dining table. Picky eaters all of them, each with a set of distinct dislikes. But right now something in me is trying to reach out to them through more homemade dishes. To get everyone on the same plate. To get everyone to expand their palates. To get everyone taking turns and appreciating each other's efforts. As my kids get older, I sense that doing this will keep our family closer.

In the 1970s, my mother's friend and a popular Japanese writer published a trendsetting book called "The Good Cook is a Wise Woman." At a time when more women began entering the workforce, Yoko Kirishima argued that a housewife who cooks well is creative, expressive, has wonderful fine motor skills, has a good sense of economics by budgetting well, knowledge about nutrition, etc. But no need to elaborate because I think we all here know that already! Bon appetit. And see you in the kitchen!


Friday, November 7, 2008

FOOD FANTASY -- The Exotic South

Confession. I am obsessed with Southern cooking. Holly asked what do I usually cook. But I'd rather answer with what would I RATHER cook... Oh, and so I let my fantasies run lose. Rather of sweets, I found myself hunting down pictures of gumbo, pulled pork and catfish. Yum, yum, yum. Been to the south only once and that was New Orleans 17 years ago. But Cajun food seared my heart. The fact that I can't get most of the spices here I think fuels the fantasy. Kenny Rogers once had a chain of his BBQ chicken restaurants here. Did I go crazy on the southern side dishes too, the potato casseroles, the hush puppies!!! Indeed, southern cuisine is exotic to me. Once late night surfing on the Internet, I found myself obsessed with southern cooking and wanting so badly to go to Dollywood amusement park for their best BBQ sauce competition....
So ready to try my hand or learn more about different styles of cooking.
My other fetish is barbequed meats -- kebabs, Jamaican jerk chicken, because again we don't have a BBQ at home. Just reading about it though makes me happy!!!