Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Granola

I recently had a very sweet new friend haul a big can (2 actually!) of pumpkin over in her luggage to give to me.  After 2 recipes I was dying to make, I still had just a little bit of the pumpkin left, and I wanted to use it nobly! 
The recipe that Lizzy had posted awhile back for Banana Bread Granola (which I have had lots of compliments on when given to people) came to mind, and I thought, mashed bananas and pumpkin puree are probably around the same consistency.  What if I just subbed pumpkin for the banana and tweaked the spices?!  (You can tell by my enthusiasm over this minor notion that I am not the creative genius in the mix here!)

Anyway, I basically did just that.  I considered also using maple syrup instead of the honey because I actually had some (people are good to me in their gifts!), and doesn't that sound yummy?  But, given that I was aiming to see whether it was worth reproducing HERE (where maple syrup isn't available), I decided to stick with the honey.

My tweaks are VERY minor, but to save you a smidge of effort, I've copied and pasted the recipe from Lizzy with the few adjustments I made.

3 cups oats (GF if you need it)
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
3 T mineral sugar (I don't even know what to generally call this stuff, but we can find it here at times, and it is basically an unrefined, darker sugar, giving it some decent nutrients.  If you don't know or have this stuff, I would suggest using brown sugar, as I think a darker sugar goes well with pumpkin.)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used the Himalayan pink salt and put in a generous 1/2 t.)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t allspice
1/8 t nutmeg
1/4 cup coconut oil 
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (I was just a bit short on this, but with increasing the honey a bit and being generous with the oil, the consistency still was great, and the pumpkin flavor was still good, though I look forward to making it again with the full dose!)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir until they are uniformly combined. In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine the coconut oil, honey, and vanilla just until the coconut oil and honey have melted to a liquid. Turn off the heat and add the pumpkin puree. Slowly pour the liquid over the dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients look moistened with the banana mixture. If it looks too dry, mix a little more or add a little more oil. Spread the granola over two baking sheets and place in an oven preheated to 170C/350F. Bake for 20 to 28 minutes, stirring once or twice halfway through baking to get even browning. In the last 10 minutes, watch carefully to ensure it doesn't burn. When it's done, allow to cool and then place in an airtight container. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Master List for Meal Planning

Rachel here.  I am not as good as Lizzy at writing recipes!  But, I find that sometimes it can be helpful just to know some recipes that work here or that are easily adapted to life where the ingredients sets are a bit different than what you might be used to having in your home country.
So, I wrote up a post on my blog, sharing my "master list" for fall that helps form my base for meal planning.  Hope it might be useful to some, so feel free to pop over and read the original post to see the list with lots of links for recipes (many of them back here on this blog!).

Also, I have a pinterest board where I collect recipes that I know would work where we live here in Nepal (and probably much of Asia) and usually make some quick comments on my pins as to what I would need to change, if anything.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

French Dip Subs

Only one meat dish in the past 12 posts! Can you see that I prefer the vegetarian diet? I think it's time for one though. I will apologize in advance for my hastily snapped photo. This is because I have made these twice and gobbled my food so quickly I forgot to take a picture. This time, mid-scarfing, I snapped a photo of my husband's plate. These are so good I have literally come home so excited to make dinner both times! The recipe is from a 2004 Country Woman that really a real magazine?!

French Dip Subs
2 Tablespoons oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
500g tenderloin steaks or chuck roast, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 chicken bouillon cube (or 1 1/2 cups stock)
Hoagie rolls, toasted

Begin by slicing the beef thinly. Partially frozen meat tends to slice thinly the easiest because it doesn't move around. Heat the oil in the bottom of an open pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the onions, sauteing until golden brown. Toss in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Next, add the dried herbs, salt, and pepper, crushing them slightly in your hand. Add the sliced beef and brown in the bottom of the hot pressure cooker. Once browned, pour in the liquid and chicken bouillon. Stir, then clamp on the lid of the pressure cooker. Cook over high heat until it reaches pressure (first "whistle), turn the heat down to medium, and cook for about 30 minutes or 20 minutes more if you have a thick or tough cut of meet. Turn off the heat and allow the pressure to release naturally. Serve on toasted hoagie rolls with toppings of choice. Scoop the liquid from the pressure cooker into little dipping bowls to dip the subs as you eat.

Veggie Pancakes

I've been searching for more ways to incorporate vegetables in our diet. Sometimes I feel like I go through days where I hardly eat any vegetables other than tomatoes and legumes, which feels pretty ridiculous and bad for me. I had the thought, "I wonder if you could make a savory pancake out of vegetables?" Turns out that you can, and they taste pretty good. Since there is only a little flour in these, you could easily make them gluten free by substituting something like chickpea flour or another gluten free blend in place of the white flour. This recipe is a mishmash of a lot of ideas I find on the internet and can be customized with whatever vegetables you want. I used finely chopped cauliflower and leafy greens, but broccoli, cabbage, peppers, and even green beans would probably also work if you really chop them finely.

Sometimes white plates are good. Sometimes they're just not. Sorry!
Vegetable Pancakes
1/2 cup flour (white, wheat, chickpea, whatever)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1 cup mixed vegetables, finely

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients, including vegetables, in another bowl. Add the wet to the dry. Using a non-stick or well greased skillet, fry as you would normal pancakes, but using only a heaping tablespoons or so of batter at a time. Use the back of a spoon to flatten the batter some so the vegetables cook through. Cook over medium-low heat, flipping once the first side is browned and browning the other side.

You can eat these plain, with gravy, or with cheese sauce. We opted for a cheesy bechamel, and it was a fun savory twist on sweet pancakes.

Lunchbox Love: Pancakes or Waffles

This one is not so much a recipe as an idea. My kids love pancakes. We recently bought a waffle iron, and they love waffles equally as much. While I'm still experimenting to find the perfect waffle recipe, any waffle or pancake recipe will do for a kid's lunch. You can send 2 pancakes with syrup, peanut butter, hazelnut spread, applesauce, or anything you come up with. My daughter loves cinnamon-spiced waffles with applesauce for lunch.

1 1/4 cups flour (I mix 50/50 white and wheat)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons oil
1 cup milk + extra for thinning pancake batter
1 egg (2 for waffles)

Mix all the dry ingredients well. Add all the liquid ingredients. If making pancakes, add up to 1/2 cup extra milk to thin the batter. Then, stir just to combine (10-15 times around bowl) and leave it to rest 10 minutes. Cook pancakes on griddle or waffles in waffle iron.

For the lunchbox, freeze individual pancakes or waffles on a cookie sheet for 1-2 hours. Then package in a ziptop bag all together. Place in the lunchbox in the morning, and they will thaw by lunchtime.

Lunchbox Love: Corn Dog Bites

While making lunches in developed countries can still be a challenge or at least annoying, those challenges are much more complex in the undeveloped world because, unless you always want to fill a lunchbox with junk or spend a ton of money, you really have to work at it. My daughter recently started going to a school rather than homeschooling, and I knew she wasn't always going to like the options the cafeteria offered. These corn dog bites are a huge hit with her! They were inspired by the easier, packaged mix version at Renee's Kitchen Adventures.

Corn Dog Bites
1/2 package hot dogs/sausage, cut into smaller pieces
1 egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons oil

Preheat oven to 200C/400F, and line a muffin tin with papers. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients, using only 1/3 cup of milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir just to combine. If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more milk. Fill each muffin tin just shy of 1/2 full. Top each muffin with several pieces of hot dog. Pop into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool. Freeze on a cookie sheet for 2 hours, place in a ziptop bag in the freezer, and take out in the morning while you're packing lunch. It will thaw by lunchtime.

Note: If you omit the sausage, this is a recipe for 1 Jiffy corn muffin box mix. Substitute sugar for the honey and leave out the wet ingredients for long-term storage of the mix.

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

Let's face it--whole wheat anything here tends to be crumbly or tough or just not quite the same as at home. I think it's the absence of vital wheat gluten in baking supplies or something different in the milling. Well, these rolls are anything but. They are fluffy, soft, and delicious! I wanted a roll that reminded me of those soft buttery ones my school cafeteria made when I was a child, but I wanted a whole wheat alternative. I found this recipe on An Oregon Cottage, and it is a real winner. I only altered the mixing method and the option to use milk, as my take 2 using kefir was much fluffier than the first ones I made. Yes, this one takes a little time, but patience, Grasshopper. Your efforts will be rewarded!

The back ones have caramelized onion filling.
Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
2 Tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup (or 128g) butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk, sour milk, or kefir
4 1/2 to 5 cups wholewheat flour (atta)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the honey. Set aside. Cream the butter in a bowl. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition to prevent separation. Next pour in the buttermilk and yeast. Add 1 cup of the flour to create a sponge and stir until relatively smooth. Add in the remaining flour and salt, kneading just until the dough begins to spring back when poked and is no longer tacky. Do not add too much flour, or you'll get a tough dough. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise in warm place for 1 hour or until doubled. Once doubled, knead on a lightly floured surface to release air and allow to rest several minutes. Shape into 24 equally sized balls (see tutorial) and place in a greased 9x13 baking dish. The pieces should be touching. Cover and allow to rise again for 1 hour.

Bake in a 170C/350F preheated oven for 15-30 minutes. Brush the tops with melted butter before serving and enjoy warm!

Note: These freeze really well. Just wrap in plastic then foil once cooled. To reheat, thaw, remove plastic, wrap in foil and bake 10 minutes. Also, yeast can be a bit problematic here as far as blooming/not blooming. I have found that buying smaller packets more often (check for expiration) alleviates this problem to some degree.

Black Bean Taquitos

Over the summer, I was trying to think of ways to change up our traditional southwestern style dishes that we eat at home. Tacos, taco salad, enchiladas, and even bean tostadas are classics in our house, but still I want more variety! I remembered seeing taquitos in America, which are basically just a crispy rolled up tacos, and thought they might actually be easier my small kids to eat. Filling and delicious, these are a great weeknight meal, especially if you've cooked some black beans in advance. Serve them with fresh salsa and sour cream for dipping. If you flash freeze these on a cookie sheet for a couple hours, then bag them, they also work great for lunches! No need to thaw in advance.

Pardon their slight burned color! Priorities, people...
Black Bean Taquitos
1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons taco seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup cheese, grated
6-8 tortillas or thin rotis

Heat oil over medium heat and saute onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Sprinkle in taco seasoning and salt, stirring about 30 seconds. Add in the black beans with 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in cilantro in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat. Into each tortilla, spoon about 1/3 cup of the bean mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Carefully roll each filled tortilla to look something like the photo and place seam side down in a baking dish. Preheat oven to 225C/425F. Prior to baking, brush each rolled taquito with some oil. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the tops of taquitos begin to turn golden.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Caramelized Onions

A few years ago, Megan's husband used to make this delicious crusty French boule bread to bring to gatherings. Well, this recipe is unfortunately not about artisanal bread -- you can buy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for that -- but it is about this delicious caramelized onion topping that "Bob" would occasionally bake on top of smaller boule loaves. These onions are divine. Amazing baked into bread, spread on a little crostini with a slice of cheese, on top of steamed vegetables, pretty much just amazing. I love them! They also make your house smell wonderful when you're cooking them.

Caramelized Onions
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2-3 onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon white wine (omit if you don't have it)
1 teaspoon cider or red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 Tablespoons water
Pepper, to taste

Heat the oil on medium-low. The key to caramelizing onions is low heat, time, and moisture. Add everything the pan at once. Cook for about 25-30 minutes on low until the onions have a nice golden brown color. If the pan is getting dry, add another spoon of water to keep them moist and prevent burning.

This the perfect relatively hands off recipe that you can do when you're washing dishes or working on something else in the kitchen. A little work for a lot of flavor!

Miso Noodle Bowl

I'm back after a long silence! Although our weather has alternated between hot/summery and rainy, something about monsoon rain makes me want that occasional bowl of soup--even when I'm sweating. This soup, inspired by a recipe from Mushrooms Canada, can be made in under 15 minutes so it's a definite winner for easy weeknight meals. If you want it to be extra special, soak some dried black/Shitake/Chinese mushrooms in the morning to give you delicious natural mushroom broth in the evening. Just make sure you don't pour in the dredges from the bottom as they may contain grit.

Miso Noodle Bowl
1 Tablespoon oil
2 small onions, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
3 Tablespoons miso paste
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
4 cups water + 2 vegetable bouillon cubes or mushroom broth
2 cups mixed mushrooms or bok choy, chopped
2 scallions, chopped finely
200g noodles (soba, ramen, or chowmein)
Sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar, to taste

Heat oil over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute, but do not let them brown. Stir in the miso paste and soy sauce, making sure the onions are coated with the mixture. Pour in the broth (water + bouillon) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the vegetables, cooking over medium heat just until they are al dente or the greens are wilted. Add the noodles and cook another 4-7 minutes until they are also al dente. Remove from heat. Ladle into bowls, top with chopped scallions, and sprinkle over sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar to taste.

To add more protein content to the meal, you could also drop in cubed tofu toward the end of the cooking process.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Monkey Breakfast Cookies

I don't know what these cookies should be called, but being loaded with bananas for my little monkeys made me think they should be called Monkey Cookies. These are seriously some of the easiest cookies to make ever! Only 4 ingredients. These are something I can feel good about giving to my kids for breakfast or any other time of day for that matter. Use up those ugly bananas sitting on your counter to make these cookies from The Sweet Life. These are completely safe to eat raw, too, if you're starving while you're making them!

Monkey Breakfast Cookies
1 cup ripe mashed bananas
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1/3 cup peanut butter (try them with crunchy!)
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Combine the bananas, oats, and peanut butter in a bowl. Once the batter is roughly uniform, fold in the chocolate chips. Preheat oven to 170C/350F. Drop cookies by the tablespoon onto the pan, flattening just slightly to help the centers cook more evenly. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool and enjoy!

Note: If you are gluten-free, you should buy oats specifically marked as "gluten free" and not assume that locally packaged oats are. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's on Our Plates?

I am not the best at coming up with or writing recipes, but I told Lizzy maybe I would post some meal plans on here, as I do enjoy finding recipes that work well here or can easily be adapted and making a plan for the week.  I put my original plan here and noted a few changes that I ended up making.  Seems that the end of the week usually brings some changes in plans!

Dinner--Moroccan Chickpea Stew (with leftover chicken pieces, green beans, and carrots added in and no greens)

Breakfast--oatmeal with bananas
Lunch--egg salad and crackers, cucumbers, fruit
Dinner--One Pot Spaghetti, roasted vegetables
peach crumble

Lunch--Cheesy Beans, fruit
apple muffins
On Wednesday evenings, we meet up with our team, and we bring a snack to share and pack dinner for the kids and then eat a quick dinner of leftovers when we get home because my husband has to jump into work calls.

We had to wait on a plumber and ended up at home with leftovers instead.
Dinner--Spanish Bean and Rice Casserole with a can of corn added in, served with tortilla chips and some leftover roasted veggies.  I cooked a bigger batch of black beans earlier in the week to use for the cheesy beans and for this.

Breakfast--eggs and toast
Dinner--miso-glazed tofu with udon noodles and veggies (with different veggies subbed than the original recipe)
Friday got a little strange for us.  Our kitchen wasn't really available at lunch, so we ended up eating cereal!  :)  And, we didn't make it to get the miso paste I had hoped to use, so for dinner, I cobbled together some bacon, veggie, cheese skillet stuff and made some quick biscuits.  If I had the ingredients around, I had been meaning to put together a batch of Lizzy's bisquick mix, which would have made the biscuits even easier, but this biscuit recipe was fairly quick and easy to pull together as well.


Breakfast--french toast
Dinner--macaroni and cheese--the Kraft stuff from a care package! :), salad

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cheesy Beans

Lizzy asked me if I would post this, as it is an easy fix for a meal like lunch, and I really didn't know what I did before, so I made them again today and now have a rather rough "recipe."  I originally saw something like this in my More with Less cookbook, which is a great one for life overseas or just simple and frugal living anywhere.  I actually gave my copy to someone, but I think the recipe in there was called Monterey Beans.
This is one of those foods that really was just a matter of trying to give a little variety to the amount of beans we eat!  So, here is the basic run-down of what I did and a quick photo (clearly, food photography is not my calling) of the cheesy beans over some rice with some leftover veggies and olives for an easy lunch.

Cheesy Beans
You could use canned beans or dried and really any variety of beans.  I like black beans, but kidney beans work well with it as well.  Once the beans are cooked (or if you use canned ones), put them with a little bit of liquid.  I just kept some of the cooking water with mine right in the pressure cooker, but if you like to drain that off (especially if you are a bit prone to gassiness--ha, the things you say freely from life overseas!), just add in a bit of water until you can see liquid among the beans but they are not totally covered.  Kind of a preference thing on how liquidy you want them.  I probably had about 1 1/2 cups of beans and maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup water today.
I added 1/2 of a bouillon cube and some seasonings.  This is pretty flexible, but I put in a dash of onion powder and garlic powder (though, if you don't have them, I sometimes skip these, and I don't actually like having chunks of onions or garlic in beans this way, but you could put in fresh garlic and onions), and about 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.  If your family has a higher threshold for spiciness than mine, a dash of chili powder or sauce is nice in these.  
I then added...ugh, not loving admitting this...processed cheese!  You could try it with actual cheese, but I think it would get a bit stringy, and what I like about these is the smooth, sort of creamy texture.  So, yeah, I did it.  I tend to use whatever is available.  The slices actually work really well and melt much faster.  Despite one of the only actual advantages of processed cheese being that it melts well, some of it here really takes a long time.  Today I used 3 of the Britannia brand of cheese cubes.  Anything would work (think Velveeta or Amul or whatever you have available).  If you have something that melts faster, though, wait a bit to add it.
I brought the liquid to a boil and then simmered it all together, stirring occasionally because the cheese starts to burn before it actually melts!, for about 10 minutes.

That's it.  My super gourmet dish. :)  It's nice to have as a quick lunch to add a smidge of variety to the parade of beans and lentils that we have, though, so there you have it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Black Bean and Corn Salad

This is one of my go-to favorite salads when the mercury rises. It's less of a recipe and more of an "add a little of this and a little of that" kind of thing. Make it as spicy as you'd like, use whatever beans you like, and if you have access to some good avocado, please add it for me! Serve it as a salad or a Texas Caviar-type dish with tortilla chips. It's also delicious on top of Spanish Beans and Rice. When you want to keep your salad cold, use frozen corn kernels or beans. They will thaw in about 20 minutes, and you'll have a nicely chilled salad.

Black Bean and Corn Salad
2 cups black beans, cooked, rinsed, and drained
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
2 cups frozen or 1 can sweet corn, drained
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 fresh chilies, seeded and chopped finely
1 large handful fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 to 2 limes

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, starting with the smaller amount when a range is suggested and adjusting to your liking. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld for at least 30 minutes. Serve chilled.

Note: For perfect pressure cooked black beans (in 1st gen. pressure cooker), start with the quick soak method (boil 2 minutes, switch off, and cover for 3-4 hours). I don't have the forethought to do overnight soaking. Rinse and cover beans with water again in the pressure cooker. Clamp down the lid of the pressure cooker and bring to pressure (first whistle), then turn to low and cook for 10 minutes. Switch off and allow pressure to release naturally.

Rolled Biscuits

This will be a quick post because this recipe is so ridiculously easy. In a hurry? Need a bread for the breakfast or dinner table? Biscuits to the rescue! Pull out your homemade baking mix, and get going.

Fancied up with a sausage patty and cheddar cheese!

Rolled Biscuits
2 1/4 cups baking mix
1 cup cold milk

Mix the two ingredients together, pat into a large lump with your hands. Try not to get the mixture too warm with your hands, or you'll get flat biscuits. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until they are about the thickness of the first joint of your pointer finger (3/4 - 1 inch). Using a drinking glass, cut out circles from the dough and place them on a baking sheet. Continue to re-roll the scraps until you get as many biscuits as you can out of the dough. Bake in a 220C/425F oven for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden. Eat while they're warm!

To make scones, the process is the same, but you might want to apply an egg wash or some milk to the tops to allow for more browning.

Kitchen Staples: Bisquick

I am generally not a fan of boxed mixed for baked goods since I've learned out of necessity how to make many of those from scratch, but this one from Kitchen Simplicity...what a time saver! For our non-American readers, Bisquick is an all purpose baking mix that already has butter, salt, and baking powder mixed in. You can use it to make pancakes, a flaky topping for a pot pie, dumplings for soups, American-style breakfast biscuits (similar to scones), crescent rolls, and more. On a crazy weeknight when I had guests coming over and just needed one extra item, I had hot biscuits in under 20 minutes. I make a large batch of the mix, place it in a ziptop bag, and keep it in my freezer with my favorite recipes written on the bag.

Bisquick Baking Mix
5 cups flour
1/4 cup baking powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup/~260g butter, straight from the fridge

Food Processor Method:
Sift all the dry ingredients together and pour into the bowl of the food processor. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add to the processor. Pulse until you have something that resembles corn meal. Pour into an airtight container and store either in the fridge or freezer.

Hand Method: 
Start by making sure your butter is frozen or you have a hand pastry blender. Sift all the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into the mixture. If you're using it from the fridge, cut it in using two forks or a pastry blender. If it's from the freezer, you can use a cheese grater to accomplish this quite easily. When it has reached cornmeal consistency, pop into an airtight container and store the same as you would in the food processor method.

To turn these into fluffy pancakes, take 2 cups of mix, add 1 cup of milk and 2 eggs. Mix just until it comes together (lumps are okay!). Cook pancakes on a hot griddle.

For drop biscuits, 1 cup of mix needs about 1/3 cup of milk. Stir until it comes together then drop by spoonfuls onto a pan. Bake in a 230C/450F oven for 10-12 minutes.

For rolled biscuits, see my next post! Get creative. Look up Bisquick online, and you can probably find hundreds of recipes that call for this mix.

Best. Granola. Ever.

Okay, seriously. I've tried different granola recipes over the years for breakfast cereal, but sometimes they're hit or miss. I like mine a bit chunky and crunchy, and sometimes homemade granola comes out more crumbly than the boxed varieties. I started my quest for this recipe when I was packing for an extended family trip to an area where cereal can be quite expensive and was looking for a low sugar variety for me. When this was baking, I knew I had found a winner. The smell was DIVINE--just like banana bread! And the taste...wham bam, thank you, ma'am! No joke. I hope you enjoy my slight twist on this fabulous recipe from Minimalist Baker.

Banana Bread Granola
3 cups oats (GF if you need it)
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1 1/2 sachets stevia (or 3 Tbsp raw sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon flax or chia seed
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (use those black ones!)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir until they are uniformly combined. In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine the coconut oil, honey, and vanilla just until the coconut oil and honey have melted to a liquid. Turn off the heat and add the mashed bananas. Slowly pour the banana liquid over the dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients look moistened with the banana mixture. If it looks too dry, mix a little more or add a little more oil. Spread the granola over two baking sheets and place in an oven preheated to 170C/350F. Bake for 20 to 28 minutes, stirring once or twice halfway through baking to get even browning. In the last 10 minutes, watch carefully to ensure it doesn't burn. When it's done, allow to cool and then place in an airtight container.

Now seriously, after smelling that divine goodness, you need to sit down and enjoy a bowl or few handfuls at least! With cold milk, warm milk, plain, or on yogurt, this will be a treat any way you enjoy it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sausage and Veggie Bake

I’ll just start with the fact that this is one of my favorite go to meals for pretty much any occasion. It’s simple, versatile and quick, and every time I take it somewhere I get heaps of compliments on it!

The original recipe (check it out here) was meant to be in foil on the grill which would be amazing, I’m sure, but I had to modify it to feed a big group of people and put it in the oven instead of on the grill, and it’s fantastic. I also tend to modify the ingredients as the seasons change and use what is in season and fresh at the time.

Sausage & Veggie Bake (or grill, or sauté, whatever works for you)

1 package Kielbasa sausage, sliced (or sausage of choice)
2 sweet potatoes, cubed
5-6 red potatoes, cubed (I only use these b/c they cook faster, any will do)
1-2 crowns of broccoli
1/2 a medium onion
Olive oil

Toss all the veggies and sausage in a baking dish or in foil packets or even a sauté pan, give a good dousing of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. In my oven it takes about 30-40 minutes at 400 F/200C.

Added note from Lizzy: If you're in our neck of the woods and thinking, "Wait? We don't have kielbasa?," think again! You can buy kielbasa from a Polish couple at either of the large farmer's markets in our area.  If you're not up for the splurge (which is SOOO worth it), you can experiment with other local sausages, too.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Stuffed Cabbage

Although my husband and I married someone who shares the same nationality, ours was a cross-cultural marriage of sorts as North merged with South. Their ways, their food, their behaviors, etc. were quite different from mine. I learned of all kinds of strange and new types of food when I moved into his area, cabbage rolls or stuffed cabbage being one of them. I like to think of cabbage rolls as being a marriage between Polish and Italian food, both with large numbers of people in the Cleveland area. Really, I have no idea where they originated. These cabbage rolls were adapted from a recipe by Michael Symon, one of our favorite local chefs. This recipe makes 6 rolls so double all the ingredients to get 12-13 rolls.

Stuffed Cabbage
1 small-medium head cabbage
500g ground beef/buff
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 can tomato puree/sauce (smaller size)
1 cup water + 1/2 chicken cube
Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it with a heaping teaspoon. Core the cabbage the best you can without cutting it apart. When the water is boiling, drop the head of cabbage, core up, down into the boiling water. Boil 3-5 minutes or until a leaf will easily peel off when pulled with the tongs. You need 6 whole leaves. Remove the head from the water and set aside. Making sure the meat is not too wet, in a bowl combine it with the chopped onion, white rice, thyme, parsley, and 1/2 cup of tomato puree. Salt with approximately 1/2 teaspoon salt and add pepper to the mixture. In a small pot, heat all the remaining tomato puree with the water and chicken cube. The consistency should be almost as runny as water.

Separate all the additional cabbage leaves from the head and layer them on the bottom of an 11x7 baking dish. To assemble the rolls, open one of the large leaves and fill with 1/3 cup of the meat mixture. Carefully, fold the ends and sides up to form a roll and place seam-side down in a pan. Once all the rolls are assembled, sprinkle any extra meat mixture down into the pan and pour the liquid tomato sauce over the top of each roll. It should fill up the bottom of the dish.

Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 170C/350F degree oven for 1.5 hours. If you want to speed it up, you can brown the beef first and raise the temperature to 190, cooking just about 1 hour.

**Note: This recipe is gluten-free ONLY if you use a chicken stock or cube that is MSG free.**

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fermented Radish Pickles

Another of my secret loves is naturally fermented pickles. I love dill pickles, pickled beets, kimchee, tsukemono, and most other pickled foods save for pickled meats. There are many health benefits from eating vegetables pickled through lacto-fermentation, too, (think probiotics and healthy bellies) and these pickles fit the bill. I was also told that once you've mastered this concept, you can use almost any vegetable. Now, local people generally make these during the cooler months because it is a slower, easier to control process, but they work just fine anytime that you have sun. Different people will tell you different things to add, too, but these are just right for my taste and that of my children.

Fermented Radish Pickles
1 kg (or 2.2 lbs) daikon radish, peeled
1 cup mustard oil (probably won't use all of it)
4 Tablespoons mustard seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon red chili (or cayenne) powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

Once you have peeled the radish, cut the radish into small rectangular sticks about 2" long and 1/2" wide. Lay them on a tray and place in the sun with a light cloth on top to keep dust and bugs away. They need to dehydrate until they feel somewhat bendy, not dehydrated. You can also do this in your oven in a couple hours at low temp with the door open. The key is to get some of the water out, but not all. Once your radishes are sufficiently "bendy," place them in a large bowl. Pulse the mustard seeds, 1/4 cup of the oil, salt, chili powder, and turmeric in a blender until you have a nice paste. I used a mortar and pestle this time to crush the seeds then mixed the rest in the bowl. Place all the ingredients in the bowl with the radish and rub so that the radishes get evenly coated. Add another 1/4 cup of oil and mix together. In a sterile jar or plastic container, pack the radish down into the jar(s), trying to avoid big air pockets at the bottom. Using a wooden spoon handle, you can really pack the mixture in well. Pour a little more oil on top of the jar so that all the radish is under oil. This prevents mold growth on top. Close the lid, and keep in a sunny, warm spot for 5-7 days before opening to check if they've reached the desired level of pickling. If not, let them stay in the sun a few more days before checking again.

I like mine on the tart side so I lean more toward the 7+ day mark. In colder winter months, you'll need to let them sit up to a month, but at least 2 weeks. They will continue fermenting after you take them from the sun so when they reach your desired level of sourness, start storing them in the fridge to slow further fermentation. These are sooo good with rice and lentils!


These are one of my favorite little Tibetan treats. I seriously could eat a ton of them. They are like the meeting of Asia with cafeteria rolls. You need a steamer basket of some kind to make these. I have a tall momo stack, but you could also use one of those foldable flat steamer inserts. My kids like them with sauteed greens or peanut butter and jelly so the sky is the limit there. There are just about an equally large number of possibilities when it comes to the design of your little rolls, and I have no clue how to do any of them except a simple round bun or a cinnamon roll-type swirl.

1 Tablespoon yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon oil

Combine yeast and sugar in a bowl. Add the warm water and allow yeast to bloom until bubbly for about 5-10 minutes. To the foamy yeast mixture, add the flour, baking powder, and oil. Knead on a lightly floured surface until you have a dough that is smooth and elastic. Place in an oil bowl, cover, and allow to rise until almost tripled in a warm place. Punch down the dough and roll it out into a rectangle shape. Roll it up like a jelly roll then cut into equal sized portions (10-15 pieces). Twist the bun into the shape you want then place each bun on a greased steamer basket. Allow to rest 15 minutes, and then place the basket over boiling water, cooking the buns covered for 15-20 minutes. 

These are best enjoyed hot as a sort of fork to soak up whatever you're eating, but they will stay soft after they have cooled if you keep them in an airtight container. You do have to eat them quickly as their steamed "moistness" causes them to mold faster than other breads.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cheeseburger Casserole

Don't hate me for indulging a little in my childish side. I was just thinking about different ways to use ground beef and thought, "How about a cheeseburger in a pan?" Neither of my kids is crazy about cheese, and they both ate a lot of this if that is any indication. What would win you the "Best Parent Ever" award is if you could figure out how to put crispy french fries on top! I'm pretty sure your kids would do whatever you asked (for at least an hour) after that. This recipe has lots of inspiration, from Paula Deen to her son Bobby, who tried to cut some of the fat, to Gina at Skinny Taste who made further adjustments. Then, I added some more. The pickles are a bit of a splurge, but they take it from "tomatoey pasta" to "Oh yeah. I'm getting the cheeseburger taste."

Cheeseburger Casserole
2 cups uncooked pasta (rotini or farfalle)
2 teaspoons oil
2 medium-sized onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
500g ground beef or buff
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
3 Tablespoons mustard
2 cups grated cheese
1/4 cup chopped dill pickles

Cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions. While you're straining the pasta, use the same pot to heat the oil. Cook the onions on medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant, stirring often. Add the ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Saute until the meat is browned and liquid has evaporated. Drain off any fat (usually not necessary here) and add the tomato paste, tomatoes, and mustard. Cook for about 2 minutes just until the sauce thickens a bit. Turn off the heat. Add the noodles to the meat mixture and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a greased 9x13 casserole or deep dish pie plate. Top with grated cheese. To make it extra "cheeseburgery," add a few cheese slices to the top, too. Bake at 170C/350F until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow to rest a few minutes before sprinkling the pickles on top and serving.

Note: If you hate having to save leftover tomato paste, look for the little tiny cans available here. They are about 2 Tablespoons' worth and perfect for this.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What's On Our Plates?

I haven't done one of these posts in a long time, but sometimes it's helpful for people to see what other people are eating for some inspiration. Saturdays and Sundays are usually pretty laid back as far as meals go, often the day dedicated to cleaning out fridge leftovers.

Day 1:
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Spanish Beans and Rice with Salsa and Roti

Day 2:
Lunch - Sandwiches, Chips and Salsa
Dinner - Panzanella Salad + Fridge Cleanout

Day 3:
Lunch - Rice, Sambhar, and Coconut Green Bean Fry
Dinner - Mexican Chicken Casserole

Day 4:
Lunch - Egg Fried Rice
Dinner - Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes, Texas Caviar, and Oven Fries

Day 5:
Lunch - Roti with Soy Bean Soup
Dinner - Vegetarian Pad Thai

Day 6:
Lunch - Indian Fried Rice (recipe to come) with Chickpea Curry
Dinner - Steak, Sauteed Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes

Day 7:
Lunch - Tingmo with Sauteed Greens (recipe to come)
Dinner - Lentil Tacos

So there you have it. A week's worth of meals. Hopefully something in there will inspire you, too!


I love this salad. It is seriously one of my favorite salads in the world! I learned about it a few years ago from Barefoot Contessa when I was trying to find a way to use up some stale bread leftovers I had. You can pretty much use any salad vegetables you want, which is perfect for those seasons when the lettuce doesn't look great. Any kind of crusty bread will work for this, but sandwich bread would be too soggy for this salad. This dressing is also the base for most of the vinaigrettes I make, too.

1 loaf day old crusty bread (boule, baguettes, foccacia)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 large cucumber, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, cut into small cubes
Handful salad greens or other salad vegetables
3 Tablespoons capers (optional)
1 red onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon mustard, Dijon preferred
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (AKA "grape" vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon mixed herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

Cut bread into chunky crouton-size cubes. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and when warm, add the bread and 3/4 teaspoons salt. Toss to coat the bread evenly with the olive oil. Saute, shaking the pan often, until the bread is toasty and golden. Remove from heat and cool. In a salad bowl, toss together all the salad vegetables, pulling apart the red onion so slivers mix throughout. In a small jar, combine all the ingredients from the garlic cloves through the pepper. With the lid on, shake to combine the dressing. Toss the bread cubes and about 1/2 the dressing into the bowl with the salad. Allow the flavors to meld about 30 minutes before serving, adding more dressing according to individual tastes.


The perfect pick me up snack for an afternoon slump. My favorite hummus recipe is Emeril Lagasse's, but I've tweaked it some more to make it even cheaper to make locally. You can occasionally find good quality, shelf-stable tahini here, but more often you can find small pots here with a shelf life of less than 2 weeks in supermarket freezers. For that reason, I have figured out how to make it work with toasted and ground sesame seeds. Play with this one, adding roasted garlic, roasted peppers or eggplant, etc. to see what flavor you like best. I'm a purist so I just go for plain old hummus.

2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 teaspoon cumin powder
3 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons ground toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
Drinking water
Salt, to taste

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Start with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth, add additional water until you have something slightly softer than what you want the dip to look like. It will firm up some upon chilling. Add additional salt as needed, noting that home cooked chickpeas are far less salty than those from a can. Place in an airtight container and drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

Friday, March 7, 2014

No Bake "Cheesecake"

This is not an actual cheesecake as it requires none of the expensive imported cream cheese, but it is such an easy, beautiful, and refreshing dessert. I used to make this a lot when my kids were babies and had gotten out of the habit of making it. Last week I made it again for the first time in years and remembered why I like it so much. This can be 100% no bake, but I personally like the baked version of the crust better than the unbaked version because it holds together better when you cut the pie. Top with whatever seasonal fruit you have. Pureed mangoes look gorgeous on top!

No Bake "Cheesecake"
1/2 to 3/4 box McVities digestive biscuits, crushed
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 to 1 1/2 liters yogurt
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk (see notes)
Fresh fruit

Overnight, drain the yogurt in a cheesecloth or dishtowel in the fridge, making sure the drained liquid does not touch the yogurt. In a bowl combine the digestive biscuit crumbs with the melted butter and sugar. It should look like damp sand. If it looks too wet, add some more biscuit crumbs. Using the bottom of a glass, press into a pie or tart pan. For the no bake version, chill the crust for 45 minutes before filling. For the baked version, place in a 190C/375F preheated oven for 6 to 9 minutes or until just golden. Cool. Place the drained yogurt in a mixing bowl with the lime juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. If using unsweetened yogurt, whip in the sweetened condensed milk, too. Pour the yogurt filling into the pie crust. At this point, you can either chill for about 1 hour in the fridge or pop in the freezer until about 30 minutes before serving. Top with fruit, cut and serve.

Notes: Only use the condensed milk IF you start with unsweetened yogurt, otherwise the pie will be too sweet. The more watery the starting yogurt, the more you'll need to use to have enough after draining. I have made this with many different kinds of yogurt, but it is definitely worth spending a little extra to buy a liter of "special yogurt" called juju dhau. It has a greater cream ratio so it's not as watery. The final product has a really creamy texture and is not overly tangy.

Spanish Beans and Rice

While I was searching for some new meatless meal inspiration for observing Lent, I came across this website which you should totally check out if you live where packaged goods are harder to come by. Most of the recipes use things we have readily available to us here, and they're vegetarian if you're trying to watch your budget or health. Now I cannot claim any authentic "Spanish"ness about this rice, but where I come from tomatoey rice dishes are usually called Spanish Rice. The original recipe from My Plant-Based Family had a couple things we don't have readily available so I just subbed in what we do have plus a little extra flavor. I love how you could play with this dish. We had ours as a stuffing in whole wheat roti with cheese, salsa, and sour cream on top. Delicious and something I can feel good about!

Spanish Beans and Rice
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon oil
1 cup brown rice
3 cups warm water + 1 chicken bouillon cube, dissolved
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon American chili powder
2 cups cooked beans (kidney, black, etc.)

I cooked mine in a Miracle Oven to make it a true one pot dish. Heat the oil in a pan (or bottom of Miracle Oven) oven medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until lightly golden. Add in the rice, allowing the oil to coat the grains. Add in all the remaining ingredients. It's a squeeze in the Miracle Oven, but it does fit. Keep the heat high until the sauce begins to bubble. Drop the heat to low, cover, and cook until rice is soft and sauce has absorbed into the rice. Whether in the Miracle Oven or in a 175C/350F preheated oven, it should take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Note: If you need a short cut, you can drop the liquid in the recipe to 2 1/2 cups water and cook the rice (no beans) with seasonings on the stove top on low for about 45 minutes (according to the original recipe). At the end of cooking, you add in the beans and heat through.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Kitchen Staples: Kidney Beans

I have been meaning to post more of these for a while and just have not yet perfected the timing for each kind of bean. Pressure cooker times for beans will vary a bit according to the size, soak time, and age of your beans. I've noticed that the older the beans are the less evenly they tend to rehydrate so you tend you get some overcooked beans and some tough ones all in one pot. I am not entirely sure how to correct that aside from regularly changing the water during the pre-soak. That said, here's the approximate timing I've figured out for kidney beans if you want a big batch to keep in the freezer. You can use them for soups, refried beans, Spanish rice, etc. So much more convenient when you already have them cooked!

Pressure Cooker Kidney Beans
Dried kidney beans

Soak the kidney beans overnight in water. Whenever the beans start to stick out of the water, that's a sign that you need more water. Switch the water and refill the container so you have a few inches over the beans. I would not soak more than about 12 hours, otherwise you'll get mushy beans that fall apart. Pour the soaked beans into a pressure cooker and fill will water until you have a few inches over the beans. Clamp on the lid and turn the heat on high. Once the pressure cooker reaches full pressure (first big "whistle"), drop the heat to your lowest setting and cook for 15 minutes. Switch off the heat and use the rapid release method before opening the cooker.

Cool the beans (a cookie sheet works well) and divide up into the quantities you use most often.

Note: If you're in the Western world, do not follow this pressure cooker timing. Second generation pressure cookers are more efficient than these so look for a pressure cooker times chart for II gen. cookers.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Pani Puri

This is a fun one! It may not be a recipe that you can implement unless you're in this part of the world or you have an Indian grocery store in your vicinity. My family loves Indian food, even the street snacks, and while my husband with his stomach of steel can actually come out unscathed after eating from a pani puri cart, I fear that I would not. That means I basically never get to eat these fun snacks. On top of that, even those sanitary restaurants serving them tend to make theirs on the side of too spicy for my children. I was introduced to the possibility of making these at a friend Esther's home and have been looking for the puris ever since, while trolling Padhus Kitchen for ideas. You can buy them ready-made in some bakeries, but here's a little packet you can make at home. You will find these usually in the section with lentils, uncooked papad packets, and little fryable things that look like pasta. The unfried puris look something like this.

Pani Puri
500g potatoes, peeled and chopped
1-2 green chilies, seeds removed and chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
Pinch of chaat masala (or some black salt)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander/cilantro, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Sev or bhujia (little crunchies)
3/4 cups sprouted moong dal or cooked chickpeas (optional)
1/2 packet unfried puris or 1 bag ready-made puri
Jal Jira masala

Boil potatoes until fork tender. While they are boiling, heat 1-2 inches of oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Drop the heat to medium, and add a few of the unfried puris at a time. They will puff, but you'll need to turn them to cook both sides. Once puffed and brown, remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Mash the cooked potatoes, adding the green chilies, chili powder, cumin powder, chaat masala, onion, and cilantro. Add the salt to season, starting with just shy of 1 teaspoon. Add more until the potatoes have enough flavor to stand on their own. According to packet directions, mix the jal jira masala in drinking water. You'll want to make at least 250 ml for this many puris. The little unfried puri packet actually comes with its own water masala that you add to 1/2 liter of water.

It's a messy job, but when you are ready to eat, assemble like this:
  1. Take a fried puri and poke a small hole in it with your finger. 
  2. Poke some of the potato mixture into the hole. Fingers seem to work best here...see why the street version can be ugh! 
  3. If desired, poke in some chickpeas or sprouts and some of the bhujia.
  4. Finally, dip the stuffed puri into the spiced water mixture so it gets a little pool inside. 
  5. Pop into your mouth and repeat.
There you have it! Street food under sanitary conditions. And no, I would never go through all this trouble for a snack. We ate it for lunch.

Rice Cooker Barbecue Chicken

Yep. I really did it! I have been wondering how well a rice cooker could be used for traditional slow cookers so I finally tried it with a saucy chicken recipe. Since they heat a little hotter than a slow cooker on low, I figured you need to have more liquidy dishes in order to avoid burning the rice cooker. Turns out it is possible and easy to use a rice cooker for some of those dishes! Thanks to power cuts, you would need to carefully plan to have enough time, but the results are worth it. For this one, you only need an hour, and the rest of your stove top is free.

Rice Cooker Barbecue Chicken
1 Tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
1/2 chicken bouillon cube
1 teaspoon American chili powder (optional)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons vinegar
2 Tablespoons mustard
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
Black Pepper, to taste
500g skinless chicken (with or without bones)

Place the butter, onion, and garlic in the cooker, and switch it to the cook setting. Depending on the cooker, it may not work until you add more weight, but if you can melt the butter and soften the onion a bit, go for it. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir. It won't take long for it to boil. Cut the chicken to whatever size you want, and add it to the sauce. Stir to coat the chicken. Pop on the lid, and set a timer for about 40 minutes. In the last 20 minutes, you need to stir the chicken occasionally to prevent too much browning of sauce on the bottom. After 40 minutes, switch the cooker down to the warm setting for 20 minutes so the sauce can cool a little and thicken (not much longer or your chicken will get dry).

P.S. If you're sick of barbecue, don't fret, I'm trying to think of some other rice cooker meals.

Note: I put my chicken in partially frozen, and it still only took 1 hour so if you're pressed for time, it still works. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Garlic Sesame Green Beans

Tonight we had these as an accompaniment to a Thai Chicken Curry, and they were such a huge hit with my kids I wanted to share them right away. If you like super soft green beans, you'll need to increase blanching time as these are deliciously crisp. To save time, you could blanch your green beans in advance and store them in the fridge. If you're not much into clean up, you can blanch the beans, toast sesame seeds, and fry the beans all in the same pan like I did.

Garlic Sesame Green Beans
500g/~1 lb green beans, ends trimmed
1-2 Tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Salt to taste

Drop trimmed green beans into salted boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the beans (using the pan lid) and drop into cold water to stop cooking. Toast the sesame seeds over medium heat in the dry pan until they are crackling, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burning. Set the seeds aside. Heat the cooking oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, stirring constantly to prevent burning. As soon as you see a little gold, toss in the beans and sesame oil. Fry for several minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally. Add the soy sauce near the end of cooking. At this point you should have crispy brown garlic clinging to the beans. Turn off the heat and toss the sesame seeds into the beans.

Loaded Potato Soup

This is one of those "stick to your ribs" recipes that I have been meaning to post for ages. In fact, I have come to my blog to look it up before cooking on more than one occasion and realized I didn't actually have it on the blog. If you're not familiar with Gina and Pat Neely on Food Network, they are a couple famous in the barbecue world who make "down home" kind of food. This is one of theirs that I have fiddled only slightly with. Serve alongside a green salad.

Loaded Potato Soup
1/4 cup/ ~60g butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1 large onion, chopped finely
1/4 cup flour
3 cups water
1 1/2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups light beer (any local beer is light)
500g or 1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup cheese, grated
Dash hot sauce
Dash Worcestershire sauce

Melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, carrot, celery, and onion, cooking until they are soft and translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the butter to make a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes then whisk in the water, milk, and beer. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add in the cheese, hot sauce, and Worcestershire. Taste to adjust seasoning then blend the soup (or just part of it) in a blender or with an immersion stick until smooth. It should be thick and creamy.

Grated cheese
Fried and crumbled bacon
Sliced green onions
Sour cream

Sprinkle any desired toppings over the soup and enjoy!

Healthy Homemade Crackers

Good multigrain or multiseed crackers are something I miss whenever I'm trying to be more healthy here. The choices are quite limited in the whole grain, unsweetened biscuit department, and sometimes we get delicious choices that seem to disappear for good. My body's current blood sugar instability means I have been needing more high protein snacks to feel decent during the day, and let's be honest, you can only eat so much peanut butter or nuts before you feel like loosing your mind. I remembered making crackers when my children were babies, and decided to give that a go again. The beauty of these crackers is that you can make them with just about any grain, add-in, and oil you'd like so you can make them different every time and avoid any allergens your family might steer clear of. These are delicious with cheese, hummus, peanut butter, or just on their own.

Pardon some of the burned ones!
Basic Homemade Crackers
3 cups flour (white, wheat, oat, buckwheat, whatever)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water

Add-ins (aim for a 1-2 Tablespoons total):
Flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, rosemary, thyme, whole oats, cheese

Combine your dry ingredients into a bowl, making sure they are uniformly combined. If you want the add-ins in the crackers, add them now. Otherwise save them until the end. Mix together the water and oil just before pouring into the flour. Add a little at a time until you get a dough that you can knead without sticky fingers. Roll out the dough (on a floured surface) in small batches to about 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch. Place in a pan. If your dough is gluten-free, it may be easier to just press into the pan directly. Score the crackers into the size you want and dot the tops with a fork. If you want add-ins on top, brush with the crackers with water and sprinkle them over. Bake at 225C/450F until crisp (12-15 minutes). Cool and store in an airtight container.

Note: The crackers at the edges may brown more quickly. I remove those and let the rest of the pan cook longer to ensure all the crackers get browned and crisped. Also, to make oat flour (one of my favorite grains for these), just put quick cooking oats in your blender's grinder jar and blend until you have something resembling a flour. To keep them from sticking, use a good non-stick pan or line with parchment paper before you put the crackers on the pan.


Yes, in our house, we like to model our meals off of children's movies. Actually we recently watched the movie Ratatouille, and it got me thinking about this recipe that is usually comprised of summer's bounty. I realized though that actually all the things you need for this are available here in winter, especially if you prefer the long zucchini to the fat, round variety. I loosely based my recipe off of this one from Emeril Lagasse, but tweaked it significantly to avoid spending lots on the beautiful imported peppers and lack of yellow squash (corgettes). A trick to getting this to cook up nicely is uniformity in the size of the vegetables. Serve this alongside pasta or with crusty bread for a light meal that helps get you further in your five a day!

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups eggplant, diced skin on
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup green pepper, diced
2 cups zucchini (corgettes)
1 can peeled tomatoes (or 1 1/2 cups fresh)
1 Tablespoon fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried
1 veg or chicken bouillon cube
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. After they begin to turn golden, add the eggplant and thyme. Cook about 5 minutes before adding the peppers and squash. Cook another 5-7 minutes. Then, add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, and bouillon cube. Cook 5 more minutes and taste to adjust seasoning. If it tastes like nothing, add some salt to bring out the flavors more.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Peanut Butter Bites

Picture this: You've got dinner guests coming over in a few hours, and you forgot to plan a dessert. Only now the power is off and will be until after they arrive. Yes, you could skip dessert, but who wants to?! In walk these delicious little beauties to your no bake repertoire. You can make them sweeter or saltier according to your taste by interchanging the kind of biscuit you use. That's my own twist on the original recipe from Spoonful. These even work with the local unsweetened peanut butter if you're trying to pinch your pennies. Just a quick note on the chocolate though. Don't try this with the little packets of chocolate chips, as they do not melt easily. Go for one of the generic blocks of "dark compound" chocolate. Your results will be much better!

Peanut Butter Bites
6 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup peanut butter (crunchy, creamy, whatever)
1 cup digestive biscuits or salted "Ritz" type crackers
1 cup powdered/icing sugar
1 cup chocolate for melting

Heat the peanut butter and butter together over low heat until melted. Crush your biscuits or crackers in a plastic zip bag with a rolling pin. A few chunks are okay. To the peanut butter mixture, add the crushed biscuits and powdered sugar. It should be nice and thick. Press the mixture into a greased 8x8 or 7x11 pan. I line mine with greaseproof (waxed) paper to make lifting them out easier. Melt the chocolate (adding about a teaspoon of oil for shine) and spread over the top of the peanut butter mixture. Refrigerate for about an hour or pop in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Take out about 10 minutes prior to serving to make slicing easier.

Notes: Don't fork out your $$ on Ritz crackers unless you need a very specific flavor. Brands like Monaco and Time Pass salted biscuits work just the same in recipes like this for a fraction of the cost.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Granola Bars

Keeping healthy snack foods around is one of my challenges.  There are seasons when fresh fruit and vegetable options are pretty limited, and there certainly aren't many healthy ready-made snack options to purchase.  I was looking for a low-sugar snack to make when I had a group coming over this week, and I found a great recipe for Grab'n'Go Granola Bars at Southern Distinction.  I tweaked them a bit based on what I had around and what is available here, and I was really excited with how they turned out, so I thought I'd share.

Granola Bars
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans from my stash I had from the States, but I think almonds would also work nicely in these. Any kind of nut you enjoy would work but would just change the flavor a bit.)
1 cup oats (I used the quick-cooking ones, as those are all that is available here.)
1/4 cup flaxseeds (These can be hard to find here but are available.)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup unrefined sugar (I used a brand of "mineral sugar" that is sometimes available here, and I've included a photo below. Demerrara or even the local brown sugar would work. Really, regular brown sugar would work as well. I was just trying to go for as unrefined of an option as possible to maximize the "healthiness.")
1/2 cup honey
3 Tablespoons molasses (I kind of just dumped a bit in, but I think around 3-4 T.)
50-60 grams butter (3-4 Tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Himalayan pink salt because it is easily available here and much healthier than regular table salt.)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups puffed rice cereal (This is sometimes available here but there is also a local puffed rice that would easily work.)
1/2 cup dried fruit (I had planned to use some apricots which are available here now, but they were bad when I took them out, so I ended up subbing dried blueberries that I had on hand. Many options could work well for this, even raisins.)
1/4 cup shredded coconut

(Mainly from Southern Distinction but edited slightly for what I did.)

Preheat oven to 350°F/175C. In a large bowl mix together nuts, oats, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds. Spread mixture onto a baking sheet and bake until fragrant - about 5 minutes. (The quick-cooking oats start to burn if left much longer, but if you are using regular rolled oats, you could leave it a couple extra minutes to give the nuts and seeds a more toasted flavor.) Transfer the mixture back to the large bowl. If you don't have an oven, you can put the mix in a large pan over low heat on the stovetop and shake occasionally until it starts to become fragrant.

In a medium sauce pan combine sugar, butter, honey, molasses, and salt. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until sugar has dissolved and a light brown caramel forms - about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour caramel all over oat-and-nut mixture. Stir in puffed rice, dried fruit, and coconut and mix until evenly coated.

Line an 9x13 baking pan with foil, extending a bit over the sides. Lightly oil the foil with a bit of cooking oil so that the mixture doesn't stick. Scrape granola mixture into the baking pan in an even layer. Use a second sheet of lightly oiled foil (or waxed paper would work well, I think, but I didn't have any), and press down to compress the mixture. Let it stand for 2 hours or until firm. Using the overhanging foil, lift out the cereal square and transfer it to your counter top or work surface. Cut into bars or squares. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lip Smackin' Ribs

Now I know this is not an everyday meal for most of us, but when you want to do something special for your family or guests, it’s an easy knock-your-socks-off main dish. So few ingredients to produce something incredibly delicious and tender! I had been planning on experimenting with my rice cooker as a slow cooker for making ribs, but an extended nap in the afternoon left me with less than 2 hours for braising. Most recipes I came across suggested a minimum braise of at least 2 hours so that was out of the question. Out came my pressure cooker to the rescue, and in an hour I had mouthwatering, fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs. You’ve seriously got to try this! I bought my ribs from a cold storage meat supplier, but they are the local ones—not the crazy expensive imported ones. I would imagine you could just point to your own ribs at a local butcher and get the same thing, too. It might just require some trimming of skin and excess fat at home—from the pork, that is, not you. 

Barbecue Pork Ribs 
1 slab pork ribs, cut into smaller sections of 2-3 ribs
2 Tablespoons oil
¾ cup brown sugar
2/3 cup barbecue sauce (homemade or bottled)
1 ½ cups liquid (broth, red wine, beer, etc.)
Salt and Pepper

Once you cut the ribs apart, lightly cut an X into the back of them to keep them from curling during cooking. Heat the pressure cooker over medium heat and add the oil. You’ll need to vent your kitchen as this next part may get a little smoky. Sprinkle the ribs with a small amount of the brown sugar and season liberally with salt and pepper on one side. Lay the ribs sugar side down (do two batches) into the pan, allowing them to get some brown searing. Seasoning the other side while they are in the pan. When the ribs lift easily from the bottom, flip them and sear the other side. Remove from pan and sear the second batch. Once you’ve removed all the browned ribs, add your liquid to the bottom of the pan. As it heats, scrape the browned bits off the bottom to flavor the sauce. I used ½ cup red wine for this deglazing and 1 cup chicken stock. Add all the remaining brown sugar, barbecue sauce, and liquid. Keep on medium heat, stirring until the brown sugar has dissolved. Add the ribs to the pan, and clamp on the pressure cooker lid. Bring the cooker up to pressure on high heat, and after the first “whistle” or reaching of pressure, reduce the heat to low. That’s it! Wait 1 hour with it on low, release the pressure, and enjoy. The sauce will thicken some on standing. Serve with something that can soak up all that delicious sauce like roasted or mashed potatoes, rice, or bread.