Sunday, December 22, 2013


I grew up in the South and had never heard of buckeyes until I began celebrating holidays in Ohio. I was so confused by this strange dessert and wondered why anyone would want to eat a dessert made to resemble the eye of a deer. My southern ignorance brought forth some blushing when I eventually found out a buckeye was a nut, not a buck's eye. Where I come from, we just dip the whole ball of peanut butter in chocolate so there is no peanut butter visible, and we call them peanut butter balls. Regardless of how you decide to dip these, they taste delicious!

Buckeyes made by my awesome husband

Buckeyes or Peanut Butter Balls
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup or 192g butter, softened
500g powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate for melting

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until uniformly combined. If the mixture feels too sticky, you can add a little more icing sugar to make it easier to roll. Roll into 1 inch balls and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Melt chocolate and using a toothpick, dip balls in chocolate and allow to set. Keep cool so buckeyes don't stick together. Makes just over 3 dozen buckeyes.

Note: I have not been successful in melting local chocolate chips. The large baking chocolate bars by Selbourne tend to work better. If your chocolate is not quite as thin as you'd like, add a teaspoon of oil or shortening. Avoid adding butter if possible as the little bit of water in butter might cause the chocolate to seize.

Slice and Bake Cookies

Years ago, I stumbled upon this recipe in a list collected by a group of women I had met. It has been my "go to" sugar cookie recipe since then. What inspired me to try these the first time was a little note with the recipe explaining that it came from a woman who always kept these in her freezer so that she could make a few fresh out of the oven cookies if a guest stopped by. She must have been an amazing hostess! You could roll and decorate these, but if you're looking for something super simple, these are great to just slice off and bake.

Slice and Bake Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. This works best with your hands so you can really work it into a uniform dough. Once you have a dough that is not crumbly, slowly roll the dough to form a log shape and place in plastic wrap. I find it easier to get a rough roll first and then smooth it once it's wrapped in plastic. Place the roll in the freezer overnight if you plan on slicing them or in the fridge if you want to roll them out the next day.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Slice cookies with a sharp knife into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rounds. Sprinkle with chunky sugar or other decorations if desired and bake for 8-10 minutes. If you slice thicker, you'll get a more chewy soft sugar cookie, and if you slice thinner, you'll get a more crisp "biscuit" type cookie. You can also opt to roll them out and use cookie cutters, but let the dough rest about 15 minutes after removing from the fridge first.

Dirty Rice

Sounds delicious, right? In the Southern U.S., in the state of Louisiana, there is a creole style of food know as Cajun food that blends flavors from different cultures. While this recipe may not be 100% out-of-the-bayou authentic, it's a tasty take on the original dirty rice that would have been made with livers. For this recipe, you can use just about any kind of smokey sausage, but recently we have really enjoyed the kielbasa made by a Polish couple living in our city. On our long family camping trip, the days we ate this were morale boosting days. If you're looking for a little change in your week, give this one a try. It's a great one pot meal for a week night.

Had to capture the pot quick before the food disappeared!

Dirty Rice
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cups water
1 1/2 chicken broth cubes
1 package sausage or 1 long link, sliced into rounds
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped celery (less if stalks are thin)
2 green peppers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme (2 teaspoons fresh)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chili powder, to taste

Fry sausage in a pan over medium heat without oil until the sausage begins to brown. Remove the sausage and set aside. If there is not a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan, add about a teaspoon of oil and fry the onions, celery, and peppers until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and stir until it is nicely coated with the oil and vegetables. This helps keep the grains separated after cooking. Pour in the water and drop in the broth cubes. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure the cube is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low then add the salt, chili powder, thyme, and sausage. Cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). Turn off the heat and leave covered about 10 minutes prior to serving. Top with sour cream if desired.


Eggnog is one of my husband's favorite Christmas drinks. I can remember seeing him drink it straight from the carton in front of the fridge on many an occasion when we lived in the U.S. With Christmas approaching, I was excited to hear last week of a local dairy making eggnog for Christmas, only to find out Friday that I had likely missed the last chance to order. After some research, I realized making my own pasteurized eggnog was not as hard as I'd imagined. Now you can try it, too! It also doubles as a delicious coffee creamer. Freeze the egg whites in ice cube trays for the next time you need just whites.

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar plus 1 Tablespoon
2 cups milk (pasteurized and cooled)
1 small box (or 1 cup) fresh cream (heavy cream)
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan off the heat, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until the yolks turn a lighter yellow color. Into the mixture, add 1 cup of cold milk and the nutmeg. Over low heat, begin heating the mixture without boiling it until the temperature throughout is 160F/71C. Keep at this temperature for about 30 seconds. This is the temperature just before small bubbles would begin to form. Switch off the heat and chill immediately over an ice bath or in the freezer. Once cooled, use a whisk to stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk and the box of cream until smooth. Keep in the fridge once the eggnog is finished and enjoy!

Note: Some recipes call for the addition of whipped egg whites to the final mixture, but since I can't guarantee the safety of raw eggs here, I would not advise it. Also, if you'd like a thinner eggnog, heat the cream with the milk and the mixture will not thicken as much.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Maple Roasted Pumpkin

About this time of year, pumpkins begin flooding our vegetable stalls in various stages of ripeness. The classic thing to do is turn them into puree that you can use to make cakes, pies, and nutty breads, but if you’d like to showcase pumpkin another way, give this a try. The recipe includes the combination of thyme and allspice, but if you don’t have access to allspice, try substituting nutmeg or swapping for a sage/nutmeg combination. If you don’t have those, just sprinkle on some cinnamon and leave out the herbs. Anyway you do it, these will give you another way to enjoy pumpkin. I think this would look gorgeous if you roasted some beets with the pumpkin for an orange and red combo. 

Maple Roasted Pumpkin 
3 cups pumpkin (or other winter squash), cubed
2 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt (more to taste afterwards)

Place the pumpkin cubes in a baking dish. Sprinkle over all the ingredients and rub with your hands to coat evenly. Bake in a 200C/400F oven for about 20-30 minutes until they have golden edges and are fork tender. 

Note: If you use brown sugar rather than maple syrup, I would suggest placing a sheet of foil in the bottom of the pan for easier cleanup after roasting.  

Faux Sweet Potato Casserole

Ah, the week of Thanksgiving—quite possibly one of my favorite weeks of the year! I dream of all the delicious food I get to consume. Last year, I was just a little too busy to do much posting around the end of November, but I did a quick roundup linking you to some of my favorite recipes for this time of year. This time, I’m going to attempt to share a few in advance to hopefully give the American readers some inspiration for turkey day and others some ideas for Christmas dinner.

Sweet potatoes (the orange-fleshed ones) are a classic this time of year, especially in the Southern U.S. where I come from. I went a number of years going without them and other years trying to make the white sweet ones work for this dish. Finally, I came up with a pretend sweet potato solution that involves blending other vegetables that look and taste similar to sweet ‘taters. This is the result of that experimentation!

“Sweet Potato” Casserole 
3 pounds (or about 1.5 kg) pumpkin and carrots, cooked and pureed
½ cup milk
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup/64g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, cashews, or both)
½ cup marshmallows (optional)
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)

For the puree, you can either steam, pressure cook, or roast the vegetables. Use about half of each kind to make the total amount. Once pureed and cooled, add the milk, brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and beaten eggs to a bowl with the puree and stir to combine. Pour into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top. Bake uncovered in a 170C/350F degree oven for about 25 minutes. If you’d like, you can stop there. For that extra gooey, marshmallow goodness, cut marshmallows into smaller pieces to make mini-marshmallows. Sprinkle marshmallows (and coconut if desired) on top of the nuts, and bake another 5-10 minutes until the marshmallows melt and begin to brown.

This is the PERFECT holiday side because it gives you the excuse to eat dessert twice. After all, this is made of vegetables, right?! Thanks for your inspiration Neely's!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fireside Coffee Mix

My sister-in-law Natalie makes this coffee mix around the holiday season for gifts, and it's perfect for a cozy afternoon drink that feels slightly more grown up than hot chocolate. It uses hot chocolate as its base with a kick of coffee and a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. Dress it up in a pretty glass jar with a ribbon, and you've got a great hostess gift if you're into that sort of thing. Enjoy!

Fireside Coffee Mix
1 cup hot cocoa mix
1 cup powdered creamer or whitener (like Everyday)
1/2 cup instant coffee
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more!)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix all the powdered ingredients in an airtight container or jar. Start with 2 teaspoons per cup of hot water and adjust to taste.

Ranch Party Dip

Ahh, the classic crudite platter with ranch dip. That is a party food staple that could mean reliance on imported ingredients from home, but have you ever taken a look at how little there is in ranch dressing? It's incredibly easy to make, and not terribly expensive either. One thing you do have to have is good mayonnaise to make this taste right--none of that stuff that smells like sour sugar or straight oil--so don't skimp in that department.

Ranch Party Dip
2 small boxes fresh cream (made into sour cream)
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried dill (2 Tablespoons fresh)
1 teaspoon dried parsley (2 Tablespoons fresh)
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined. Chill and let meld a few hours before serving.

Note: You could also do this with plain yogurt if you'd like more of a buttermilk ranch type flavor. Just drain the yogurt over a cheesecloth overnight in the fridge. The key here, whether using yogurt or sour cream, is to keep the main dip base thick and not watery.

Hot Cocoa Mix

I'm feeling festive. Can you tell? I've been transforming my house into a haven of all things fall and cool weather. One of the things my children--not to mention the adults of the house--love this time of year is hot chocolate. While I don't mind making hot chocolate from the local "drinking chocolate", it involves heating milk, not just adding some hot water. Since it's so easy to whip up a batch of your own that is the "just add water" variety, I'd much rather have that on hand for warming up guests or squirmy kiddos on the fly than having to fiddle with milk I may or may not have. Hopefully, you'll enjoy this convenience, too. Plus, you can use some of the mix to make the upcoming Fireside Coffee recipe. Now to earn yourself the parent of the year award, get some wonderful relative to send you a container of those teeny tiny cocoa marshmallows to add to the mix. Or just plop in some big weird pink ones like we did!

Hot Cocoa Mix
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1 cup cocoa powder (100gm local bag)
2 1/2 cups powdered whitener (like Everyday)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornflour

Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and carefully stir with a whisk until uniformly combined. Keep in an airtight storage container. Use two heaping spoonfuls for 1 standard sized mug of hot cocoa.

Recipe adapted from here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fall Fruit Chutney

I've been wanting to post this recipe for a long time, but I never got a picture of the cheese I wanted to go with it. Since it's perfect for this time of year, I'm going to post it anyway, and you'll just have to imagine the delicious locally made cheeses it can pair with! Last year I found a recipe in BBC Good Food magazine for a ploughman's lunchbox. The idea of a chutney with cheese and crackers piqued my interest, and this is the result of my tweaking. I love this chutney because you can change it up with different fruit according to the season. Make this with apples, pears, mangoes, or a combination of some of those fruits. A-mazing!

Fall Fruit Chutney
1 kg fruit, peeled and roughly chopped 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 small to medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup cider or red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped finely
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (or even garam masala)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

Simmer the first 6 ingredients ingredients covered over medium low heat for 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook uncovered until liquid evaporates. Put into glass jars and keep refrigerated. This keeps for about 2 weeks. Serve warm or cold with cheese and crackers.

For a quick, and delicious appetizer, cut a baguette into small toast rounds. Sprinkle or spread some soft cheese like farmhouse cheese, goat cheese, cream cheese, or even feta, over the toast, and top with a dollop of the chutney. Pop into a warm oven and toast just until the chutney is warm and the cheese is melted.

Kitchen Staples: American Chili Powder and Taco Seasoning

Okay. This one won't have a picture, but there are loads of recipes out there calling for chili powder of the American sort. That is not something that's available here, and often my stash runs out before I have a replacement. So, if you've got some that's almost empty, don't toss the spice container so you can fill it back up with your own mix! You can then use this to make your own taco seasoning, too, which you can use in the Green Enchiladas. After cooking with homemade mixes like these, I find the commercial ones to be really salty. This gives you some flexibility in choosing how salty you'd like things and can make you less reliant on imports if you can't buy these things ready made.

American Chili Powder (makes 1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to your liking)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder (local one)

Mix all the ingredients and pour into an airtight container. Make in small batches as garlic powder tends to harden if kept on the shelf for too long.

Taco Seasoning
1/4 cup American chili powder
3 Tablespoons cumin powder
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
2 Tablespoons coriander powder
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1 Tablespoon cornstarch (optional)

Mix all the ingredients and pour into an airtight container. To use this seasoning, add 2-3 Tablespoons of the mix to a pound of browned ground meat and stir in 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. If you like your seasoning to really cling to the meat, you can also add the optional 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch to the batch of seasoning.

Green Enchiladas

As you probably know, I'm pretty crazy about leafy greens. For several years, I have owned this fabulous cookbook called Simply in Season, which in my opinion is a must have for people living where food is very seasonal. I like just about anything I cook from that book, but I've always been a bit nervous to try to the Chard or Kale Enchiladas in the book, just sounded a little too veggie! I finally gave them a go last night, and they were pretty delicious, especially if you're looking for more vegetarian oven meals. My husband ate the leftovers for breakfast so that was a good sign! I've added a few of my own twists to make it easier to make here, but it's very similar to the Spinach Lasagna I posted earlier this year with a Mexican twist.

Super high class on paper plates, eh?
Green Enchiladas
2 tsp oil
2 onions, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb or 500g leafy greens (2-3 large bunches), chopped with stems separate
1 tsp cumin powder
Pepper, to taste
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 - 2 cups paneer (or 1 500g block)
1 can tomato puree or sauce
2 Tablespoons taco seasoning
10 tortillas or thin rotis
1 cup cheese, grated

In oil, saute onions, garlic, and the chopped stems of the greens until onions begin to turn translucent. Add the leaves of the greens, cumin powder, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium low heat until the greens are wilted. You may need to add a few spoons of water to keep them from scorching. Remove from heat and set aside. Crumble paneer into the greens mixture and taste for seasoning, making sure the filling is salted to your liking. Combine the tomato puree, taco seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a container and pour about half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Fill each tortilla with some of the paneer/greens mixture, roll, and tuck ends under, placing seam side down in the baking dish. The tortillas need to be a little warm to be flexible enough to do this. Pour remaining tomato puree over the top, cover with foil, and bake in a 350F/180C oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bake uncovered for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.

We ate ours without anything else, but they would probably taste great with a little sour cream on top!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit

Are you scared? You should be because I love beans, but let's just say they don't always love me. Nor does anyone else after I have eaten them. How's that for brutal honesty? Seriously, though, the dietary benefits of legumes are undeniable, and we eat tons of small lentil-type legumes several days a week in our house without a hitch. It's those other larger beans, however, that are so great if you're trying to eat more meatless meals that wreak some record-breaking havoc on the intestines...even if you eat them all the time. Yes, theoretically, your body is supposed to better tolerate them the more often you eat them, but I've eaten a ton of beans over the past 8 years overseas and my family would argue that nothing has changed. :) So, if you're like me, do you cut out this economical, power-packed nutrition altogether? I haven't given up, and I think I've finally found a solution that everyone around me can live with--sprouting. Not horns, but miniature plants.

Beauties sprouting in my kitchen
There is a ton of very technical research on the internet about the benefits of sprouting which people can get a little cuckoo about, but here's the reason I tried it: The body breaks down sprouts more like a vegetable so it reduces the war that happens in the body afterward. Other research suggests that not pairing beans with meat sources can also help, which I have found to be true. The verdict is that after we tried sprouting in our house this extra step in bean prep seems to make a significant difference. I ate a massive amount of mixed beans in chili and felt great the next day!

Here's how:
  • Soak your dried beans overnight then drain them. 
  • Place them on a cookie sheet lined with a lightly dampened towel. 
  • Cover the beans with another lightly dampened towel.
  • Every evening and morning, give the beans a good rinse in a colander, redampen the towels, and put everything back on the cookie sheet. If your house is hotter than 75F, give them a midday rinse, too.
  • Keep letting the beans go through this cycle until they have tiny tails.
  • To cook them, start with about half your usual cooking time and check them, as they will cook a good bit faster than other soaked beans.
My vegetarian chili with mixed larger beans took about 3 days from the start of the overnight soak. Smaller lentils and dals will take only about a day or so. With short (1/4") sprouts, you get the benefits of sprouting, but your kids won't look at you like you've fed them a science experiment. Given the type of water we have here, I would not recommend eating sprouts raw as some people in other places can do. Happy sprouting!

Change It Up!

Just a quick post to say that the day I tried Megan (and Liz's) Chickpea Curry, I had the thought that it might also work with lots of other vegetables and beans. Of course, other beans are a "no brainer" so you could use whatever you have: kidney beans, brown chickpeas, mixed beans, etc. Today, I decided to try one of my least favorite vegetables--cauliflower. I don't love cauliflower because how could such a white food possibly be good for you?!? I know, I know, it does actually have some nutrition which is why I decided to use it today. It turned out to make a great Cauliflower Curry to have with a mixed veg pulao, plain rice, or even whole wheat roti. You can also use fresh tomatoes, like I did, but extend cooking time until you have them really soft. Experiment! This is one of the quickest, easiest curry bases I have used. Thanks for sharing, Megan!

Just a smidge left of this delicious adaptation

Hot Spinach Dip

Yay! I'm back. I took almost two weeks for some mental recovery, but I've been itching to post some recipes, oldies but ones I've realized I never posted in the past. Before I get to that, however, a HUGE thank you shout out to Megan and Rachel for their posts while I was away! I will say that I have already tried almost everything they posted, and the results have been great on all of them. One more to go this week! I'm so thankful for these wonderful friends who have been in my life at various points during my time overseas.

So, now that the weather has begun to turn cool here (a little later than some of you on other continents), 'tis the season for parties and warming foods. With all the little get-togethers, I like to have some appetizer recipes up my sleeve, but I realized in the history of the blog I haven't actually posted any. This Hot Spinach Dip is probably my favorite appetizer to make here because having something warm as an app just makes it feel extra special and it actually tastes like something I might get at home. This is my adaptation of this recipe from Skinny Taste--since I'm not counting calories and since our local mozzarella clumps terribly in sauces-- but I am quite jealous of those little pretzel-cracker things she's got in the photo! Serve this with tortilla chips, crusty bread dippers, hearty crackers, or even a fresh veg crudite. The measurements do not need to be exact so just go for it.

Hot Spinach Dip
2-3 big bunches spinach, chopped, steamed, and squeezed until somewhat dry
1/2 cup sour cream (here's how)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Parmesan or other salty cheese
1/4 cup onion or green onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup grated cheese
Pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Pour into an ovenproof dish, or if you're lazy like me, just mix the dip in the baking dish to save on washing a bowl. Bake at 375F/190C until everything is melted and the edges just begin to turn golden. Serve hot.

Note: If you're not up for spending the extra $$ for the parmesan, I have done this using 100% local cheese, and it has still tasted fine. It just needs a tiny sprinkling of extra salt if you do that.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chick Pea Curry

This is Liz and her son Will in 2010. Wish I had more photos with/of her!
One of the best parts of living overseas for our family was the tight-knit community of ex-pats we came to know. When we first moved overseas, I felt so lost. In all the typical ways, like language, culture and trying to find our way around. But the most surprising thing to me was that I no longer knew how to cook! I was a pretty decent cook when we lived in the States and even thought I cooked from scratch pretty well, but then I came to a place where even canned goods are hard to come by consistently. This is one of the ways that our community of friends came to my rescue. Lizzy was certainly one of the biggest influences, pointing me in all the right directions for ingredients, blogs that she often referenced and sharing recipes. Another close friend, Liz Watson, was incredibly practical and skilled in the kitchen and today's recipe was one of her go-to meals and now is one of our family favorites as well. I think of her every time I make it and get to share it as a meal, which often leads to me also passing on the recipe. Quite a cooking legacy Liz! I love how quickly this recipe comes together and I generally tend to have all these ingredients on hand, so it's a good recipe when I need a last minute dinner idea.

Chick Pea Curry

Two cans cooked chickpeas (I usually use dried and soak them then cook them)
1 can peeled tomatoes. (Fresh can be used also. I also occasionally add a can of tomato puree if I want a more soup-like curry)
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder (I do much less than this so my kids can eat it, but if you like a good, spicy curry, go for it!)
1 tsp salt
2-3 sliced green capsicum (bell pepper)
Fresh coriander (cilantro)

Fry spices and salt with onions and garlic in oil. Then add chickpeas and tomatoes and capsicums, until boiling. Add fresh coriander right at the end and mix in. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Peanut Sauce Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry is a pretty easy option for dinner, but in trying to add a little variety lately, I decided to try to do a peanut sauce for stir fry.  I found a recipe for this Asian Pasta from Martha Stewart that I used as my starting point and tweaked to come up with something a bit easier and more feasible with available ingredients.  

I knew I wanted to serve it over rice.  We eat a lot of basmati or regular long grain white rice here, but stir fry dishes like this are nice with some sticky rice, if you have it available.  I had to search a bit to find directions for preparing sticky rice on the stovetop, and here is one site that I found.

6 T soy sauce
6 T rice vinegar
3 T honey
½ c natural peanut butter
½ t ground ginger
Pinch of red chili flakes (or more, if you like spicy)

2 small onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
500 g chicken, cut in small strips or cubes

2 cups (approximately) of chopped vegetables (I used green bell peppers, carrots, and cauliflower.)

¼ c sesame oil

(Makes about 6 servings)

Mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar (the first time I made this I didn't have any rice vinegar and tried apple cider vinegar, and it was a reasonable substitute), honey, peanut butter, ginger, and chili flakes in a bowl to form the sauce.  As you might be able to see in the picture of the skillet, this makes a lot of sauce.  When I'm using rice as a base, I really like to have plenty of sauce, but if you decide to serve this with noodles or you just prefer stir fry to be a little less saucy, you could easily half the sauce ingredients.
Saute the onions and garlic in a couple tablespoons of cooking oil for a couple of minutes until the onions start to soften.  Add the chicken and brown on all sides of the pieces.  I used chicken cut into approximately 1-inch cubes, but you could do strips, if you prefer.  Other meats could also be substituted.  Pork or beef also work nicely with peanut sauce.
When the chicken is nicely browned, add the chopped vegetables.  Stir fry is quite flexible with which vegetables to use.  We are always dependent on what is specifically in season, so I like to have recipes that can adjust to what is available.  This time, I used green peppers, carrots, and cauliflower.  Bell peppers of any variety work well and veggies that will stay a bit crunchy after a bit of cooking are good choices.  I would also add that you could easily use less meat and more veggies, if you like a stir fry heavier on veggies.  I was wanting to stretch the servings this made a bit, so I actually added more like 3 cups of veggies this particular time.  
After about 2 minutes, add half of the sauce to pan.  My kids tend to like the veggies a little on the softer side, so I continued sauteing them for about another 5 minutes, but it is a bit of a preference as to how crunchy you want the veggies. The goal is to let the veggies soak up some of the flavors of the sauce but still remain a bit crunchy (and for the meat to be cooked through).  In a perfect stir-fry, the meat and veggies would likely be done in separate rounds or pans, but I was going for simple!
When the veggies and meat are done, turn off the heat, stir the sesame oil into the remaining sauce (can easily be skipped, but I love the taste of sesame oil) and pour in the pan and stir to mix in.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hearty Chili and Cornbread

I love fall, if for no other reason than it seems the perfect time to start pulling out some comfort foods!
Clearly, food photography is not my gift, but it tastes delicious!

A good, hearty chili soup just makes me feel warm and cozy and is really versatile.  It is an easy thing to make for a big group, and even if I'm just making it for our family, I usually make a big batch when I make it.  We usually eat it the first night with some cornbread, and then another night we'll often put a bit of it on a bowl of pasta for some "chili mac" or use some of it as a topping for baked potatoes.  It also freezes really well, so I like having something to tuck away to thaw out and use later for a quick meal.

So, a warning is that this makes a BIG pot of chili.  You could easily half this recipe and still have enough for a family for dinner.

To be honest, this is the first time I've ever written down what I put in the chili, and the nice thing about this "recipe," is that it is really flexible, so if you like to have more or less meat or more or less beans, you can adjust those quite easily.  You can also adjust the amount of broth you add to make it thinner or thicker. Cutting to the chase, when I made it and wrote it down, this recipe leads to a hearty chili that we really enjoy:

Hearty Chili
1 c onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
500 g ground meat (I use beef when available but have made it with buffalo, pork, or chicken, or a mix)
4 c broth 
5 c cooked/canned kidney beans 
1 large can (850 g) tomato puree
1 T cumin
2 T chili powder (American)*
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t brown sugar

Lightly brown the ground meat in your pot with the onions and garlic.  The meat here is usually very lean, so I usually put a few tablespoons of oil in the pan first but did not usually do that if the meat had a bit of fat to it.
Add the broth.  In the States, I would tend to use beef broth or bouillon.  Here I use 4 cups of water and 2 bouillon cubes--usually chicken but only veggie were available this time, and it was fine.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium.  
Add the cooked or canned beans.  I have shifted the kind of beans, depending on what is available.  Here, I usually try to use kidney beans.  If you use canned beans, you don't have to cook them, but I used dried beans this time, soaked them overnight and then cooked them separately in a pressure cooker.  
Add the tomato puree, cumin, and chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.
* I didn't have American chili powder available this time, so I used 1/2 teaspoon of the local chili powder, and it was still a tad on the spicy side for my kiddos. 
Simmer the chili for 20-30 minutes on a medium low heat, stirring occasionally.  If it starts to bubble much, turn down the heat.  In the last 5-10 minutes, add the cinnamon and brown sugar.

Top with sour cream, shredded cheese, or green onions, if you like.

As I said, I like to make a batch of cornbread to go with our chili.
Here is the recipe I usually use:
The only change I usually make is that I substitute yogurt for the buttermilk, and it works great.  This picture is a double batch, but I would recommend just a single batch unless having company.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Easy Pad Thai

 Thai food is one of my all time favorites. The variety of flavors that go into almost any Thai dish is what draws me in. I love the combination of sweet, spicy and savory of a good Thai curry or my go to comfort Thai food, Pad Thai. I found a simple Pad Thai recipe a year or so back and it has become a staple in our house. If you are in Asia (or in my case have an Asian supermarket nearby) the ingredients are simple and inexpensive. If you try and get these same ingredients from a conventional grocery store in the states, you will feel like you have spent a minor fortune. But trust me, do a little searching and you might be surprised that there actually is an Asian market near by. I just discovered a second one in our town just the other day!

I found the original recipe on the Eating Well website. They have quite a few simple and delicious, mostly whole food recipes, I definitely recommend the site. I modified this recipe slightly to suit our family a little better.

Here is my beautiful Pad Thai in my beautiful $3 wok (This can be cooked in a regular pan, but when doubling or tripling, which I often do, a wok is your best friend!)

4 ounces dried rice noodles
2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken (I use thighs because they are so inexpensive. I have also used beef in this recipe)

1/2 cup sliced green onions
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts

  1. Soak rice noodles in warm water to cover in a large bowl until they are limp and white, about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oil over high heat in a wok until very hot. Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 10 seconds. Add the egg and cook, stirring, until scrambled, about 30 seconds. Add chicken (or beef) and stir fry until cooked through
  3. Drain the noodles and add to the wok, tossing with tongs until they soften and curl, about 1minute. Add bean sprouts, green onions, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and chile-garlic sauce; toss until the meat is fully cooked and noodles are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with peanuts and serve immediately.

    The best part about this recipe for me is that it is so customizable. Like more vinegar? Go for it. More veggies, less (or no) meat? It all works. I would recommend that if you are using extra veggies like carrots that might take a while to cook, steam them slightly before adding them in or everything else will be overcooked.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crunchy Coffee Cake

Sometimes I just have a craving for a cake. Baked goods are a serious weakness for me actually. So, in good fashion, around 3 o'clock yesterday, I had a hankering for a cake. That probably explains my expanding backside, huh? This little coffee cake was the result of the limited ingredients I had in the kitchen due to our departure for a trip in a few days. Thank you, Better Homes and Gardens 1977! If you need something slightly sweet for tea or coffee time in your house, give this one a try since it doesn't feel like a guaranteed trip to the dentist. It's super simple with tasty results--and it's Miracle Oven friendly since we're approaching that season of very little electricity.

Give me a C! Since someone couldn't wait before snapping a picture...

Crunchy Coffee Cake
1/4 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine the liquid ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another. Add the dry to the wet and stir just until combined and relatively smooth. The batter will be pretty thick. Pour into a greased 9x9 square pan/round cake tin/Miracle Oven. In the empty dry bowl, mix the topping ingredients together lightly. Sprinkle over the cake. Bake at 375F/190C for about 25 minutes or 30 minutes on low heat in the Miracle Oven. Transfer to a cooling rack after cooling for 15 minutes.

Notes: The cake part is just plain white, especially when cooked in the Miracle Oven. If you want some color, try subbing brown sugar for the white sugar and adding a little cinnamon to the batter. That should get you a more golden cake color even in a stove top oven. Also, just a side note on stove top ovens. I am told that, unlike conventional ovens that start putting out delicious smells right away, stove top ovens let you know when they're done because the smell of a cake won't become obvious until the very end of cooking. In other words, when you smell it, it's probably done. Helpful little tidbit that has been pretty accurate for me in the last 4 years of use.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cheesy Garlic Biscuits

Biscuits – like fluffy American biscuits—that’s definitely something I miss being away from my Southern roots. We’re biscuit people. We can’t help it. If you’re not American, our biscuits are deliciously flaky, savory, crisp outside, soft inside, buttery treats. There’s a seafood restaurant in America that serves a very specific type of cheesy garlicky biscuit as table fodder, and they’re absolutely addicting. This is the closest version I can come up with for them after tweaking several copycat recipes that I found. They’re also drop biscuits so no rolling and cutting makes these easier to prepare for an ordinary meal. 

Golden biscuit goodness!

Cheesy Garlic Biscuits
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk (sub sour milk)
1/4 cup melted (regular salted) butter

1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried herbs like parsley or an Italian mix (x 3 for fresh herbs)

First combine the dry ingredients, including the garlic and cheese. Allow the melted butter to cool for about 5 minutes then add it to the buttermilk, stirring until you start to get little clumps. If you're short on time, just dump these two into the dry ingredients separately, stirring a little after each addition. Mix all the ingredients until you have a uniform, wet dough. Preheat the oven to 225C/435F. Once the oven is hot, the dough should have begun to look more dry and less liquidy. Drop biscuits by the rounded tablespoon onto a flat pan, leaving about 2 inches of space between each. Add the last clove of garlic to the tablespoon of melted butter. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the garlic butter then sprinkle lightly with the dried herbs. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the tops and bottoms just begin to turn golden.

Notes: To make 1/2 cup of sour milk, add 2 teaspoons white vinegar to a 1/2 cup measure. Pour in enough milk (NOT hot or you'll get cottage cheese) to make 1/2 cup. Stir briefly then allow to sit for 5 minutes before using. Also, if you have a little cookie scoop or ice cream scoop, that works great for getting uniform biscuit sizes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Energy Bites

Always on a quest for healthy snacks that will interest my kids, I stumbled upon these from Super Healthy Kids. Verdict = Super kid love. Seriously, they ask for these all the time, maybe because the name makes them think they’ll get super powers. They’re also 100% no cook so the kids can be involved in making them. What’s not to love? And speaking of love, if you have kids, you need to have a peak at all the great things the wonderful ladies at Super Healthy Kids have on their website--all of which are aimed at increasing kids' intake of fruits and veggies along with more vegetarian protein sources. Some of their snack ideas are soo cute and creative! We have made these bites in balls and bars, both of which seem to work equally as well. 

Energy Bites with Chocolate Chips

Energy Bites
1 cup uncooked oats
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter (chunky or creamy)
1 Tbsp chia seeds (not available locally) or flax seed (local)
1/4 tsp vanilla

Mix all the ingredients into a bowl. Add up to a cup of any extra add-ins you want to make them special. You can use M&Ms or Smarties, dried coconut, dried fruit, chopped nuts, etc. Mix everything, form into balls or bars (between waxed paper), and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Notes: I just noticed that on Super Healthy Kids they form the bites after the 20 minutes of refrigeration. It seems to work fine either way, but might be easier to work with once chilled. 

Also, if you're concerned about pesticides, look for a honey variety like rudilo (in beekeeping/honey shops) that is cultivated away from other commercial crops like mustard. There would be a much higher chance of having better quality, uncontaminated honey.  

Catching Up and Chocolate Syrup

Hello again! Yes, it has been a ridiculous long break since my last post, but here's what's been going on since then. At the end of June, I bid adieu to my days a student. Whoo hoo! I am officially, as in on paper, an educator. I decided that after 6 years of nearly non-stop studying I deserved the whole month of July to do whatever I wanted. Obviously, that ended up not including blogging. When August hit, we took the plunge into homeschooling our kindergartener and sort of mom schooling my little man. He mostly just does a little bit then wanders around pretending to be this or that. Anyway, September is literally days away so it's time to get back on the horse.

So, on to the chocolate syrup. My kids drink milk every morning and most afternoons. For a while, they insisted on always having warm milk with chocolate malt powder. When I finally convinced them that it just wasn’t right to drink warm milk in summer, we had the problem of chocolate powder not mixing into cold milk. Yes, it’s possible, but far more work than I like to manage in my foggy morning state...and yes, I realize I could just say no to chocolate, but I think I'm okay with giving in to this one. Chocolate syrup to the rescue, except it comes with a pretty hefty price tag. Then, I remembered seeing years ago how to make syrup yourself on Good Eats. I tried Alton Brown’s recipe, and it totally works to the point that my kids don’t know the difference. I’ve adapted his recipe to be the perfect amount to fit into a recycled chocolate syrup bottle. Now, this does require the addition of corn syrup or Golden syrup to keep things smooth and flowy. I doubt it would work very well without that so keep that in mind if you experiment.

Chocolate Syrup
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Put all the ingredients into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and just boil until all the solids like the sugar and cocoa have melted (use a whisk to keep it smooth). It only takes about 1 minute of rolling boil. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature then pour it into your airtight container or bottle. Keep it in the fridge where it will thicken, and it will last for several months.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Simple Weeknight Dinner: Bean Tostadas

Tacos are a regular feature in our house due the usual abundance of seasoning packets we have on hand. Here lately, however, we never seem to finish our taco leftovers so I started looking for another summery take on Mexican food. These simple bean tostadas are really easy to make, especially if you have someone who can get you ahead of schedule by making tortillas or rotis (non-baking powder version) and salsa. If you've never made salsa, the easiest ones involve simply chopping a few tomatoes, an onion, some garlic, fresh cilantro, and a chili, then seasoning with salt and lime juice. If it weren't for all the chopping, my kids could make it! If you're making tortillas, do a double batch and then freeze the cooled ones in plastic bags so they'll be perfect for quick tostadas.

Bean Tostadas
Rotis or tortillas (1-2 per person)
Fresh salsa
Sour Cream
Grated Cheese
Shredded lettuce or cucumber
1 can refried beans
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
Bacon drippings (optional)

Pop the box of cream into the freezer about 30 minutes before dinner. Then prepare according to this post about 5 minutes before serving. Prepare all your grated ingredients and keep in small bowls. Heat the refried beans with 1/4 cup water, cumin powder, and bacon drippings (if desired). Stir until you have a smooth spreadable consistency. Meanwhile, heat about 1/4" of oil in the bottom of a frying pan. Once it's hot but not smoking, add rotis one at a time. Initially, you need to press down the middle a little to keep it from puffing and to promote even frying. After about 30 seconds, flip the roti and allow the other side to turn golden, too. Drain over paper towels, allowing the tortilla to drip over the pan for a few seconds before transferring to the draining towel. You can also sprinkle with a little salt if you'd like. To build the tostadas place a fried roti on the plate, top with the bean mixture, then grated cheese, and any other toppings you would like. It's a bit messy, but soo delicious to eat!

We only had a couple spoonfuls of beans left afterward so I'd say this one was a winner, especially for the kids who were thrilled to eat a giant tortilla chip!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spinach Lasagna or Rollups

I've been making this dish for a while now for my family and have been actively seeking ways to make it less labor intensive. One day I stumbled upon this Spinach Lasagna Rolls recipe over at Skinny Taste. I thought, "That's something I could totally do here!" Yes, at first glance, you would probably have to make nearly every ingredient from scratch. Let me save you some searching before you think you don't have to--lasagna noodles are a rare find here so just give up on that quest. I did, however, find one short cut... or two. Shortcut one: Don't make cottage cheese. Just buy paneer and squish it into little curds. Shortcut two: Turn yesterday's tomato soup into sauce by adding grated carrots and a can of tomato paste. Shortcut three: Don't pre-boil the pasta. These are totally a hit in our house, but for whatever reason, my daughter seems to eat them in plain lasagna style better than as rollups so I'll go the quicker route from now on. If you've got a day with a little more time and have someone who can help you whip up the individual parts, give it a try!

Spinach Lasagna
9 fresh lasagna noodles (see Pasta recipe below)
1 1/2 cups cooked chopped spinach
Almost 2 cups/425g paneer (check the fridge case or the dairy in your immediate area)
1/2 cup grated cheese (Parmesan or whatever you can get your hands on)
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt (less if you use a salty cheese)
Fresh pepper
3-4 cups your favorite pasta sauce (I LOVE this one!)
1/2 cup mozzarella, grated

Preheat the oven to 170C/350F. In a medium sized bowl, mix the spinach, crumbled paneer, grated cheese (not the mozzarella), egg, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine thoroughly. Pour a small amount of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan just to coat the bottom. If you're doing rollups, place 1/3 cup of the cheese mixture on each noodle and spread it out the length of the noodle. Roll it up and place seam side down on the pan. If you're making plain lasagna, lay out a layer of noodles followed by a layer of the cheese mixture and sauce. Repeat, ending with a layer of sauce over noodles. You should top each roll up with some sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top of the lasagna or rollups, cover with greased foil, and bake for 40 minutes or until deliciously melty.

Homemade Pasta
1 cup flour
2 small to medium sized eggs, beaten.
Pinch of salt

Put the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs which have already been beaten. Sprinkle in the salt and mix by hand until you've got a sticky dough. Turn it out onto a flour surface and knead until the dough firms up. After about 10 minutes you should have a smooth, elastic ball. If it's too sticky, add more flour. Cover and allow to rest at least 30 minutes before rolling. Cut the ball into 4 pieces. Roll each piece paper thin and cut into flat lasagna noodle shapes (go thinner than you think you need). No need to boil. Just use them straight away in the recipe.

Peachy "Poppy Seed" Dressing

One of my all time favorite summer dinner items is a crisp salad that has fruit in it. I know many people might think it sounds horrible, but don't knock it till you've tried it. Right now, we're nearing the tail end of peach and plum season (my favorite!!) so I put together a simple salad of mixed greens, cucumber, toasted almonds, fresh mint leaves, and sweet peaches last night. Refreshing! When searching for a recipe for a sweet poppyseed-like dressing last night, I came across a few and combined them to make this. Now, you should know the "" marks are because I've never actually found poppy seeds here so my dressing did not include them. Sorry for the lack of a photo, but it was already being wolfed down before I remembered! Slightly overripe peaches are great in this because it doesn't matter if they're pretty.

Peachy "Poppy Seed" Dressing
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoon cider vinegar
4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons honey (or less if you prefer less sweet)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1 juicy peach, skin removed (2-3 little ones)
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

Pour everything except poppy seeds into a blender and puree until it is smooth and creamy. Add the poppy seeds if you have them. It almost looks like a mayo based dressing when it's finished. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Top your favorite salad with this.

I think it would also be delicious over fresh fruit.

Note: If you don't have different vinegars around, white vinegar would probably be a completely fine substitute.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

In my years overseas, I have failed to ever bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie, chewy with a hint of crunch. Even the cookies I've eaten at other people's houses seemed to have the same problems that mine did--lots of spread so they were too crunchy. And then, behold, the perfect chocolate chip cookie literally drops right in front of my face (well, in my sidebar) as I was reading another recipe at Family Feedbag. She even has instructions for making these as a dry mix for gifts at the bottom of the recipe. I tried these out for the Mother's Day getaway my friend and I had this weekend. After all, two moms on a break need some cookies! They were good, in fact, that I made them again tonight so I could share photos with you. Look no further for a chewy chocolate chip cookie that takes very little effort. Even though the recipe says it makes 14-16 cookies, I got about 20 out of the batch using my 1.5 oz cookie scoop (makes 2 inch balls).

I dare you not to eat them all!!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour 1 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp salt plus a pinch more 1/2 cup oats 1/2 cup chocolate chips 1/4 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 3/4 cup/192g butter, melted (warm, not hot) 1 egg 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the over to 170C/350F. In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients from the flour to the sugar and stir really well to combine. Melt the butter and add the vanilla to it. Add the butter/vanilla and beaten egg to the dry mixture. Stir to combine until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Roll into balls (don't flatten them) and keep 2 inches apart on the pan because they will spread some. My oven runs hot, and baking for 10 minutes is perfect. Keep an eye for 10-12 minutes until you see the edges become golden, but the top is still soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Try not to eat them all in one sitting.

Note: To make these egg-free, you can use a mixture of 1 Tbs. ground chia seed or flaxseed plus 3 Tbs. water and substitute the mixture for the egg. I have made them without egg both times since I just happened to not have any eggs in the house.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Summer Treats: Cheesecake Popsicles

Here's another fruity treat that you can use to cool off when the mercury rises. You can use any kind of fruit "topping" for the cheesecake popsicles that would make a good flavor combination.

Capture the essence of this in popsicle!

Cheesecake Popsicles
1/2 cup (140g) cream cheese  or thick drained yogurt
1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1/2 cup milk
Splash vanilla extract
Squeeze lemon juice
1/2 cup frozen fruit (e.g. strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
Graham crackers or digestive biscuits

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients but the cookies in a blender. Blend on high until you get a smooth consistency. After blending, add roughly crumbled crackers/biscuits to the batter, gently folding in so they won't turn into powder. Pour into popsicle molds, ice cube trays, or cups and freeze for several hours.

Notes: If you're using yogurt, use plain yogurt drained over a cheese cloth for 3-6 hours. If you use sweetened yogurt, adjust the sugar accordingly. If you're feeling particularly decadent or up for some fancy presentation, you could use canned pie filling in place of frozen fruit and layer it with the cheesecake mix in the popsicle molds. Not really an option for those of us over here, but any readers in developed countries could try it.

This recipe filled my 6-piece popsicle mold and 2 small disposable cups.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Guest Post: Impossible Pie

Yay! We have another guest post from Megan. When she sent me this, it totally reminded me of something I would have had back home. If you're a fan of coconut pie, but don't like all the work, this is the perfect recipe for you! I gave it a try, too, to test my blender and couldn't believe how easy it was. Thanks for sharing this, Megan! She says, "It's so ridiculously easy and delicious (if you like coconut). I've tried making it dairy-free using coconut milk, and it tasted good but didn't look as pretty as the dairy version."

Quality late-night snacking!
Impossible Pie
4 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated dried coconut

Put all ingredients in blender. Put on high speed and count to ten slowly. Pour into well greased pie plate. Bake at 40 minutes in a 170C/350F oven. After it is baked you have a definite crust, a custard filling, and a rich buttery coconut topping.

Megan also noted, "I found that I had to bake mine about 5-10 minutes longer for whatever reason." My oven runs pretty hot so the 40 minutes was sufficient, but just keep an eye that your golden brown doesn't become burned brown.

Notes: If your blender is not of great quality, you might want to grate cold butter into the blender before blending to keep the blob from just spinning and not mixing. You can find dried coconut powder in the spices section of grocery stores, but most small shops also sell whole dried coconuts if you like more texture. You just have to peel the skin off with a vegetable peeler and grate it. To make quick work of it, you could also use the peeler to make coconut shavings since they will get chopped up in the blender anyway. Because the coconut is not sweetened and dried, you might also consider 1/4 cup more sugar, but I found the sweetness to be fine for my taste.

I really liked this recipe, Megan! It was amazingly easy, and the payoff was tasty. That's my kind of dessert. You can find the original recipe and lots more kitchen-spiration here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hello Summer!

As I opened the window in my living room today to let in a little afternoon breeze, I began to feel that familiar warmth of summer. Our house seems to catch the summer heatwave a few weeks later than many other people so it's not yet hot indoors, but this feels like the time of year for barbecues, salads, and cool popsicles. Despite the fact that my glorious spring break will be over tomorrow morning, I will aim to share a summery recipe each week once I'm back at work. If you have a favorite you'd like to share, email me or leave a comment.

First, on the list? Popsicles. My kids think that they should have one every day that it's summer. I fondly remember my dad bringing home these banana "Banjo" pops from the town mini-mart on summer afternoons, and they were glorious. I think my mom hates them, but they were this deliciously creamy combination of fake banana and sweet cream. This comes from a person who otherwise has a general dislike for all fake banana confections. This recipe is my attempt to recreate those afternoon pops with an ingredient list I can pronounce.

Someone is already a fan of these pops.

Creamy Banana Popsicles
3-4 ripe bananas (small local ones or 1-2 big Chaquita style)
1/4 cup cream
1 cup milk
Scant 1/4 cup sugar/honey/maple syrup

Put it all in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds or small cups and freeze until firm. If using cups, add popsicle sticks or spoons when the ice cream is partially frozen then freeze further. Makes enough for a 6-8 piece popsicle mold.

Notes: To save on cream, I strain the thick stuff off our boiled milk and refrigerate it. By the end of a week, I have more than enough for a small batch of popsicles and no waste. I promise it doesn't have any weird smell and has not gone bad in that amount of time. Also, if you plan on cutting back on sweetener, make sure you add enough for the mixture to taste sweeter than you'd like. The sweetener seems to magically reduce during the freezing.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chinese Takeout: Beef with Broccoli

Chinese food is a cuisine we have found to be quite different here than at home. I am fully aware of the fact that most Chinese food in the West bears little resemblance of the real thing, but still some of those dishes are so darn tasty! Here they are usually some kind of interesting "gravy" with globs of cornstarchiness unless you can find a real "no English" kind of place.

A few months ago my husband wanted to make a vegetable side for an Asian dinner and discovered this recipe for stir-fried broccoli. Since that time we've adapted the recipe to make Beef with Broccoli, and it has become a family favorite. It comes together really quickly so you can make dinner in a flash--especially if you're quick at chopping! I think you can probably use this recipe with any combination of vegetables, too.

Beef with Broccoli

Beef with Broccoli
1 large head broccoli, chopped into 1" pieces
500g beef steaks, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup chicken stock (OR 1/2 cup water+1/4 stock cube)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, sugar, salt, stock, and soy sauce. Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat. Stir fry onions and garlic, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes. Add beef and fry until cooked through (about 2 minutes). Put onion and beef mixture into a separate bowl. Add broccoli and a few tablespoons of water. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the beef mixture back to the wok and pour the sauce over. Cook over medium low heat for 2 minutes. Stir continuously until sauce becomes thick. Serve over rice. 

Note: To make slicing the beef easier, cut it when it is still just barely frozen. Also, I use a very salty soy sauce so this amount of soy sauce is enough for us, but depending on your soy sauce brand, you might want to check for seasoning right before serving.