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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Funky rice cooker bread pudding

I had whole wheat, multi-grain bread from last week that I put in a sealed tupperware in hopes of slowing down its descent to staleness.  It didn't dry out, but it definitely got stale.  So, I made rice cooker bread pudding.  That's not the funky part, though--I don't have milk and was too lazy to get some, so I used yogurt.

Funky rice cooker bread pudding
Old bread (equivalent to 2-3 cups)
1 cup of yogurt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Cinnamon, nutmeg, a dash of crushed cloves and ginger
1/2 cup of hot water

Break bread into little pieces and put into rice cooker.  Mix in spices, raisins, and walnuts.  Beat eggs and put into bread mix; might as well add in yogurt, too.  Stir.  At this point I noticed the mix seemed a bit dry, so I boiled some water and put 1/2 cup of it in.  Add vanilla extract and sugar.  Cover.

My rice cooker is primitive, so it kept stopping the cooking process and switching to the warm setting.  It'll be done when, after sticking in a fork/chopstick, the fork/chopstick comes out pretty clean.

Serve with ice cream or honey.

The ingredient quantities might need some tinkering--I think I could've added more vanilla extract, but all in all, it seemed to work out ok.  It's pretty healthy (no butter/oil, if you'll notice); all I'd note in tinkering the ingredient quantities is to beware of the sourness of the yogurt.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Crazy congee with chicken stock and fish

I made a very non-traditional congee/jook (粥) last week that I'd like to share.  It was a multi-step process.

I wanted to make a fish congee (魚片粥).  The usual way of making congee is to use the following water:rice ratios:

  • 8:1 for thick congee
  • 10:1 for medium-thick congee
  • 13:1 for super thin congee

But I had leftover chicken bones and skin (courtesy of a roommate of mine) that had been sitting around for awhile.  I couldn't make Cantonese chicken soup (not enough ingredients), so I figured I'd use it to make a simple chicken stock.

Chicken stock
Leftover bones and skin
Shitake mushrooms--mine were dried, so I soaked them until they were soft-ish.
~8 cups of water
Threw all ingredients into a slow cooker and cooked on high for about 12 hours.  Check on it every so often to spoon out the gunk (fat, mostly).  This is done by taking spoonfuls from the surface and blowing across the top over a sink.

Afterwards, I was ready to make the congee.  By the time the stock was done, it was about midnight (I started late).  If I cooked the congee in a rice cooker, I'm guessing I would have needed to stay up to make sure the congee wouldn't overcook.  I wasn't keen on doing that, so I stuck with the slow cooker.

Crazy Congee
1 cup of brown rice (I forgot I only had brown rice, which requires more water.  So, I threw in...)
1 more cup of water
Edamame beans (normally, people would throw in something like bok choy)
Dried beancurd

For the fish: Marinate slices of fish in a touch of soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger.

Dump everything into the slow cooker and chicken stock; it's done when all the grains are broken.  Sprinkle scallions when ready to serve.

My hand slipped and I poured too much soy sauce, so I didn't let the fish marinate too long.  Unfortunately, I probably should've left it in longer--it was a bit fishy :S  That said, the scallions saved the day!  I also threw in peanuts, even, which gave it a bit of a sampan porridge feel.

The consistency was exactly what I was shooting for--thick and with the rice grains broken down.  I left the slow cooker on high so it would be ready in the morning, which it indeed was.  It's lasted me for about a week now.  Happiness!

Advice for next time:
Use a rice cooker instead of a slow cooker for the congee, and maybe even for the chicken stock--it might cook a bit faster!  Also add gingko nuts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Green tea frozen yogurt--suggestions?

Hi boys and girls,

As many of you know, I was in Asia last summer and I miss it very much.  I miss the yummy (and cheap food), and the funky desserts.  Mostly I really want green tea and sesame ice cream (not together!) but I'm thinking more along the lines of frozen yogurt.

I came across this recipe here for green tea froyo and plan on doing without the vanilla, but there are some problems:
  • I do not have an ice cream maker
  • I only have green tea bags
  • I do not know what "fold in" means
To make matters more confusing, I found this factoid:
The casein in cow's milk is thought to inactivate the healthy catechins in green tea. For this reason, it's best to use non dairy milk such as soy, almond, oat, or rice milk when making these products. Start by adding a teaspoonful of matcha green tea powder to a pint of nondairy milk. The matcha green tea powder doesn't dissolve when the milk is cold. Heat the milk green tea powder combination in your microwave for two minutes and stir thoroughly to dissolve the powder. You may need to put it back in the microwave for an additional minute to get the powder to completely dissolve. Add more matcha powder and sweetener to taste, if necessary. To make green tea yogurt, add a teaspoon of matcha powder to a cup of vanilla yogurt and mix thoroughly. Again, soy based yogurt is best since it lacks casein. 
(source: eHow)

Any suggestions, insights, or willing experimenters?

Also, do you think mango and walnuts would go well with this, and in blended or chunky form?  I don't have a blender but I could always try smashing them by hand.

And anybody have any ideas for sesame froyo?  I don't want just sesame chunks--I'm interested in actual sesame flavor--but bear in mind that I don't have a blender...

If either of these pan out I'd consider other interesting desserts.  I just went to Toscanini's with a friend and got goat cheese-brownie ice cream and bourbon ice cream.  It was delicious, but overpriced.



At long last, one of my Cantonese/HK recipes that I made awhile back.  To be honest I think this is a HK dish, but I grew up eating it in Cantonese joints, so what the heck...

Tomatoes and Beef With Rice (番茄牛肉飯)
Beef (I didn't have any, so I used chicken--it still works)
Soy sauce
Garlic (optional)
Onion (optional)
Sugar (optional)
Scrambled eggs (optional)
A touch of worcestershire sauce (optional)
Fermented black beans (optional)

Marinate beef in soy sauce and corn starch; sprinkle sugar if desired.  Cook tomatoes first with ginger, garlic,  onions, and scrambled eggs (if you have those); add cornstarch if you like the sauce thicker.  Add beef and cook until to satisfaction.  Throw in scallions last and serve with rice.

Really simple, really yummy :)

I didn't have a camera, but this is what it's supposed to look like:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

szechuan adventures

Some of you may know about ma la, the numbing feeling that you get from really spicy chinese food. This is a bit of an acquired taste and can be off putting to the relative newcomer to spicy food.

The story: I decided that it would be fun to make real ma po tofu from this recipe. I replaced the hot blackbean with regular blackbean mixed with chilli paste. I also toned down the chili oil and used cayenne instead of real asian chilli powder (assuming that this would be a little less spicy).

It turned out to be pretty much exactly what I was expecting it to be from the times I've had authentic versions of this dish. This turned out to be a bit too much for the uninitiated person I fed it too.


Meatloaf is a great way to make a meat dish that you can keep in the fridge and munch on for lunches.

Here is a slightly unorthodox method for making it that I learned from my mother.

Take a pound of ground beef (try to get relatively lean beef if possible). Add two or three hot italian sausages and an egg. Squish it all together with your hands--the only way to do this!

Add oatmeal (this serves as a high fiber replacement for bread-crumbs). Squish it in.

Add half an onion, black pepper, and various herbs that strike your fancy like oregano and sage.

Also add a few spoons of sour cream (a special touch from Anna de Bakker's family).

Finish squishing. It should hold together pretty well. Shape into a loaf and put in a brownie pan.

Bake for about half an hour in a 350°F oven. It should be firm and with relatively clear juices.

Serve either warm or cold.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Scallop, Mushroom, and Onion Pasta

Seafood and (pasta) sauces seem to be a recurring theme here, so I'll add another recipe for good measure. This recipe was developed by a Japanese man who works full-time, so it's pretty basic but still very good.
1 small onion
mushrooms (any kind, and as much as you want)
4-5 large frozen scallops (obviously they don't have to be frozen, and you can use more)
olive oil
garlic (either chopped or in paste form)

See? Already the lack of actual measurements in the ingredients points to how easy this recipe is.

Getting the timing of the steps in this recipe just right in order to maximize time and energy efficiency can be a little tricky since there are variations on how long the particular pasta you have takes to cook or how fast you can prepare the other ingredients, but here is my interpretation on how things should be done:
  1. Remove scallops from the freezer. To help with defrosting quickly rinse them and leave them out.
  2. Slice the onion and mushrooms thinly, and set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, but cut the cooking time short by 1-2 minutes.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan and cook the garlic until aromatic (that is a term outside of chemistry, right? I'm very serious about this question.) on low heat. Then add the onions and mushrooms, and cook on medium heat until the onion turns translucent.
  5. When the pasta is done, add two ladlefuls of the pasta water (?) to the pan, add the scallops, and continue to cook.
  6. After the scallops are just about cooked, mix the pasta and onions/mushrooms/scallops together, and cook briefly on high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peanut Sauce

I had a bunch of extra coconut milk from making the challenge so I decided that a good thing to do with it is to make peanut sauce. This is super easy and delicious. I made lots and lots of it this summer when I was too overheated (and too temporarily situated) to go buy lots of ingredients and all I had was vinegar, soy sauce and sriracha for seasoning things.

The basic version (all measurements are approximate, it won't matter really) :

Peanut butter: about 2, 3 heaping spoons.
Sriracha sauce (to taste)
Soy sauce (about a teaspoon)
vinegar or tamarind liquid (a few teaspoons) If you know how to deal with tamarind it is totally the way to go.
about cup of water or coconut milk. It's totally fine with water. The coconut milk version is probably too rich to use as say a pasta sauce.

Stir this up in a saucepan. It will look gross and terrible. Don't worry. When the peanut butter is more or less in suspension (there shouldn't be any huge chunks in the bottom of the pan), but it on the stove and bring to a boil. This is the tricky bit. For a while it will bubble normally, but then it will start to thicken and the bubbles will rise in the pan. When this happens be ready to take it off the heat very quickly because soon it will start spattering like a mud pot at Yellowstone. You should preferably have it off the heat right before it starts doing this. It is now done!

Put it on anything you think it will be nice on. The most recent batch I made found its way onto some poached chicken and cucumber slices.

The other dish on the plate was my rendition of the cooking challenge.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Salt-and-Butter Salmon & Potatoes

As long as we're talking about fish, here's an easy recipe for salmon:
(Serves 4)
3 cuts of salmon
2 medium potatoes
1 tbsp butter
100 ml water
  1. After cleaning the salmon, sprinkle both sides thoroughly with salt and pepper, and let sit for 15 minutes.
    Instead of fresh salmon, I actually used leftover smoked salmon, which still turned out perfectly fine and allowed me to skip this step altogether.
  2. Cut the potatoes into sixths (or eighths, if your potatoes are large), and let sit in a bowl of water for 15 minutes.
  3. Fry (pan-fry?) the salmon in butter (margarine), then add the potatoes, making sure to allow the butter to coat everything.
    Using smoked salmon makes the first part of this step pretty minimal.
  4. Add the 100 ml of water and let cook for 10-15 minutes (lid on) until the potatoes are soft and the water is essentially gone.
  5. If necessary, add more salt and pepper to taste.
This is a fast and easy way to prepare salmon, and using smoked salmon not only makes everything even easier but almost eliminates the need to add any salt.

What I cooked in Berlin

While visiting Dustin, we had dinner with friends. I made a Peanut Soup, Dustin made dessert. Perhaps you'll enjoy the soup.

Peanut Soup, Senegalese Style

3/4 roasted and shelled peanuts
2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tablespooon minced garlic
pinch cayenne
salt and pepper
6 cups vegetable stock
2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into thick slices
8 to 12 plum potatoes, cored and halved (canned without their liquid ok too)
1/2 pounds collards or kale, cut into wide ribbons
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

  • Break the peanuts into large pieces
  • Put the oil in a pan over medium high heat. When hot, add onions, garlic, ginger. Cook, stirring until soft, 3-5 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup of peanuts and the cayenne, salt, pepper. Stir in the sock and sweet potatoes, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to medium low so the soup bubbles gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in tomatoes, collards, and peanut butter. Cover and cook until collards are tender, 5-8 minutes. Garnish with remaining peanuts.
Note: You can also serve this with millet for a more substantial meal.

Quick and simple way to cook fish!

I am generally not a fan of seafood, but the one thing I do eat is fish. So I've been trying to come up with ways to cook different types of fish. But, since I have no oven (a very unfortunate thing that I keep complaining about, since it seems like every good recipe I find requires an oven), I'm basically limited to cooking things on the stove (or the microwave), so I can't try baking the fish. But I've realized that I like frying fish, because it is so easy and quick. I've only tried this on two types of fish so far -- salmon and sea bream -- but it's turned out delicious both times.

fish filet
oil, salt & pepper

1. Heat up oil in skillet.
2. Lay down fish filet (skin-side down).
3. Squeeze lemon juice over it. (TIP: Lemons last for a pretty long time in the fridge. To make a lemon easier to squeeze, microwave it for 15-20 seconds first so that it's warm-ish, and roll on the table a bit.)
4. Sprinkle some fresh or dry herbs (I recommend rosemary or dill, or (my favorite) Herbes de Provence mix -- which usually includes rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, lavender, etc). If you use fresh, it's probably better to sprinkle them right before you eat instead of while frying.
5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
6. Let it fry on that side for 5-7 minutes, depending on how thick the piece of fish is. (The skin side should start to get brownish).
7. Turn fish over, repeat sprinkling with the lemon juice, herbs, and salt, and fry another 4-5 minutes, or as long as you need for it to cook through completely.

That's it! Takes about 15 minutes since you need no preparation at all, and tastes great. I like to serve it with potatoes or rice or green beans. As I said, don't know if this works well with any type of fish, but try it!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mission Impossible

I'm finally going to be moving to my new apartment this weekend, which brings with it a new set of cooking challenges: I have a vegan roommate, and so our kitchen is vegan. In general, this works well for me since I'm allergic to milk, fish, and (mildly) eggs. However, I still haven't tried baking without eggs, aside from the things (like most pies) that don't have any eggs in them to begin with.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to discover or invent a recipe for vegan lemon-meringue pie. I understand that this may seem like an oxymoron, and it probably is. But lemon-meringue pie is one of my favorite desserts, but, unfortunately, one that my steadily worsening allergy to eggs has made it impossible (or at least really unpleasant) to eat.

I'll probably try some experiments to this end as well, but at this point I have no idea even where to begin. I look forward to your suggestions.

Toaster-Oven Cookies

On a day I would now very much like to forget, it was discovered that I do not know how to cook in English or in US customary units. This is of no particular concern to my mother, who believes that a very good reason for my learning how to cook is to avoid becoming American, but this does present some challenges to cooking and writing blog posts accessibly.

A challenge of cooking in general, furthermore, is not having all of the necessary materials. It is often said that all of the required ingredients should be assembled before starting on a recipe, but I have realized that it is equally important to have all of the listed equipment. I made cookies from scratch last night, and the recipe calls for a kitchen scale, food processor, rolling pin, and cookie cutters, none of which I own in my incomplete studio kitchen.

The recipe is as follows:
50g peanut powder
20g chopped peanuts
100g flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp milk or water
  1. (Optional) Roast peanuts in a toaster oven for several minutes to give the cookies a more savory taste.

    I actually didn't have peanuts, so I substituted with Unsalted & Dry Roasted Almonds (Sliced and Slivered) from Trader Joe's. Since they were already roasted, I skipped this step.
  2. Chop enough peanuts (almonds) in a food processor to obtain 50g of peanut powder. Also chop 20g of peanuts (almonds) for several seconds.

    Thankfully, the bag of almonds indicated that 30g was equal to 1/4 cup, which allowed me to get around the issue of not having a kitchen scale. In hindsight this method was not altogether accurate, since the bulk of unpowdered and powdered nuts are different and I didn't notice the gram-cup conversion until after I started chopping, but I don't think it matters all that much. As for the chopping itself, I did it by hand, which is not all that fun and results in a somewhat coarse powder.

    Just getting started.
  3. Mix the 50g of peanut (almond) powder, shaken (?) flour, sugar, butter, and milk/water in a bowl. After these ingredients have been kneaded together, add the 20g of peanuts (almonds) and mix. Let the dough sleep (sit?) for 30 minutes. If the dough is too dry or crumbly, add more milk/water.

    I used margarine instead of butter. I also actually added 4 tbsp of sugar here instead of 2 tbsp, because the recipe indicated that the cookies made with 2 tbsp would be barely sweet. The suggestions were to add marmalade (à la scones), honey, or extra sugar, and I went with the extra sugar because I do not have marmalade or honey. 4 tbsp, though, is still probably not sweet enough for most of you. For reference, 200 ml of flour is supposed to be equivalent to 105 g.
  4. Roll out the dough to about 7-8 mm in thickness, and cut with cookie cutters.

    I know that a simple alternative to a rolling pin is a glass, but remarkably I do not have a single one in this apartment. (I do drink things, it's just that I only have mugs.) And so I basically pounded out the dough with my palms to the right thickness, although this isn't particularly recommended because the coarse peanut/almond bits can be a little painful. A glass would also have been helpful as a makeshift cookie cutter, but in true Japanese fashion I replaced that with the bottom rim of a rice bowl. Harhar. This resulted in 38.5 small (~3 cm in diameter) cookies.

    In case you were wondering.
  5. Bake the cookies in a 300-watt toaster oven until the cookies become golden brown, then cool on a wire rack.

    This took about 15-20 minutes of baking, but my toaster oven was too small to accommodate all 38.5 cookies at once, so I had to split it into two rounds. Some of the cookies came out a little harder than the recipe suggested, which leads me to wonder whether the margarine-butter substitution was a bad idea, if I didn't have enough liquid, or what.

The last step was the reason I was initially drawn to this recipe--I do have an oven, but it's not very efficient to heat it for a small batch of cookies, and the baking tray I have is not oven-sized. A toaster oven is really easy to use and the cleanup is minimal.

By the way, this is the original recipe, even though in all likelihood it will not help you:


This blog is growing, and I worry that it may soon become unmanageable. I was thinking about adding tags, but I don't know which ones to add. Perhaps "dessert" and "pasta" and "sauce." And then One-Haw already tagged some posts with "Cantonese," which I think is a good idea. Anyway, suggest some tags in the comments!