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.