Thursday, December 29, 2011

Leftover Christmas Ham, Day 3: Quiche

Quiche, quiche, beautiful quiche, how I've missed you!

I was just going to double up my recipe for Spinach-Bacon Quiche (with leftover Christmas Ham instead of bacon, of course!), but I only had enough spinach for one quiche. However, I also had a beautiful bunch of red chard that I just purchased as a new member of PCC Natural Markets, so why not combine both into something even more flavorful?

Christmas Ham Quiche with Spinach and Chard
Makes 2 quiches
1 stick butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch chard, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch ribbons
1 bunch green onions, chopped
10-oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry with cheesecloth or paper towels
8 eggs
3 3/4 cups whole milk
3 cups grated Gruyere
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cayenne
1 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Paprika, for garnish

Melt butter in a large pan. Add garlic, stir around until it starts to smell, about 30 second, then add chard and saute for a couple of minutes, until it begins to wilt. Add the green onions and continue stirring until the liquid starts to evaporate, another couple of minutes. Add the spinach and stir until well combined, for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in the milk, Gruyere, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare crusts for two quiches. Add spinach-chard mixture to the egg-milk mixture and combine well. Pour the mixture evenly into each of the crusts. Top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes, until you shake it and it doesn't jiggle.

Serve with a salad if you're healthy, or potato wedges fried in bacon grease if you're not!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Leftover Christmas Ham, Day 2: Mac-n-Cheese

Now this is the dish we've been waiting for: Connie's Mac-n-Cheese, spiked with leftover Christmas ham, peas and sprinkled with goat cheese.

I asked Bryan to make it because his just always turns out better. It's so good, in fact, that our friend Leslie gave him a shoutout on her Seattle Weekly "Wino" blog after he cooked her up a batch while she was laid up with a broken shoulder.

We used whole milk to make this creamy deliciousness even more creamy, and for added flavor mixed in a bit of asiago with the cheddar, in addition to the goat cheese that contributed to the crispy topping.

And not to worry, Mom, heeding your wisdom on eating soup before a meal, I whipped up a pot of Stracciatella Soup to help keep our passageways from turning into cheese.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Prime Rib, hot off the rotisserie!

Although Bryan and I spent Christmas Eve alone, we headed to Mom and Charlie's for Christmas Day, where we were greeted by the scent of a prime rib slowly roasting in Mom's rotisserie.

In the past, the rotisserie has "lived" outside, next to the barbecue, which has left much more to the imagination for the olfactory glands. Moving the rotisserie indoors was a welcome surprise on the stormy day that sent us rushing over to Mom's after our power had gone out.

But the prime rib was just the beginning of our Christmas scentsasion!

After I burned my tongue on the baby bok choy Mom told me to try, which convinced her I didn't know how to cook because I should have known it was too hot to put in my mouth, she made me help her make the Brussels sprouts.

Similar to the Brussels sprouts I had made for our own Christmas Eve feast, Mom had parboiled these for 5 minutes, then sliced them in halves or quarters. But instead of roasting hers, we first cooked up two slices of bacon, then added a shallot, then the Brussels sprouts for a quick stir-fry. They were equally delicious, even if Mom thought they were too greasy from the bacon. More for us to take home, woo-hoo!

Mom rounded out the meal with mashed potatoes, gravy and beets, giving it just enough traditional fare to keep it in the Christmas family, but still keeping it Mom style with her version of healthy Chinese cooking.

Honestly, who wouldn't want bok choy as part of their Christmas meal? Thanks Mom, for always being unpredictable!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Leftover Christmas Ham, Day 1: Scrambled Eggs

It's Christmas Day, and we're already digging into our leftover Christmas Ham!

Although we're heading over to Mom's later today for a prime rib dinner, I decided a healthy meal of oatmeal just wasn't going to cut it when we have pounds and pounds of leftover ham calling out to us.

Mom asked me to bring over pretzels, my only contribution to our Christmas feast, so I got up early to get the dough started, then got cooking on the following Christmas Ham Scramble, served with Stephen's roasted potatoes:

Christmas Ham Scramble
1/2 cup ham, cut in small pieces
2 green onions, sliced
1 T. bacon grease or butter
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. Cougar Gold, grated

Saute ham and white parts of green onion in a large skillet until heated through. Remove and set aside, then place bacon grease or butter in same skillet and add eggs. Scramble until about halfway cooked, then add ham and green onions back to the skillet and fold together to incorporate. After eggs are cooked as desired, place onto serving plates, then top with Cougar Gold or any other cheese of your choice. Place in the oven to melt the cheese before serving, if desired.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 pounds of Christmas ham (for 2!)

For holiday meals in the past, I've purchased a small ham for just Bryan and me, thinking a bigger one would just be excessive for anything less than a large family. But we've since discovered how much we love having leftover ham for myriad dishes, including quiche and mac-n-cheese, so this time I went ahead and purchased a 12-pound ham for just the two of us.

This also meant I had to give the side dishes some thought, since normally I'd just serve savory mac-n-cheese or quiche with a honeyed-up ham. But since those dishes will definitely be appearing on our table later this week, starring said leftover ham, it was time to hit my ridiculous stack of cooking magazines for some inspiration.

Baked Spinach and Gruyere was a first choice, but besides the fact it was too similar to quiche, I had just purchased a bottle of white truffle oil that was calling out for potatoes and mushrooms. The solution?: Potato Gratin with Mushrooms and Gruyere from Bon Appetit's November 2010 issue.

For the mushrooms, I used a combination of fresh king oyster and shitake mushrooms purchased during my first outing to Seafood City (which, as a lover of Asian fruits and vegetables, I'm afraid to say did not impress me as much as other area Asian stores). And although I didn't actually cook with the truffle oil in order to preserve its flavor, Bryan and I both enjoyed drizzling just a bit over the potatoes.

Served with Brussels sprouts that I parboiled for 5 minutes, then sliced in half and roasted for another 5 minutes, it was a Christmas Eve dinner I'll never forget (it's quite possible the 2007 Pedestal Merlot - the most expensive bottle of wine Bryan and I have ever purchased - might have played a role!).

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mom's White Papaya Soup for the Soul

I know I said my Twice-Baked Potatoes are worthy of a meal on their own, but, well, we're pigs. Or maybe we just prefer flavor explosions. Needless to say, I actually paired last night's Twice-Baked Potatoes with a plethora of dishes, including the last two leftover pieces of Lemon Chicken from Greg Atkins' "West Coast Cooking," collard greens with bacon and garlic (prepared like Sauteed Kale), and a first attempt at making one of Mom's amazing soups.

Stephen has been bugging me for months, possibly years, to finally share some of Mom's Chinese soups here, but after last night's attempt I'm reminded of why I've been hesitant to go there. As with everything Mom makes, she does not use a recipe for her soups, but rather just uses what she has, much of which I wouldn't even recognize if I saw it in a store.

Luckily, she dumbed this one down for me, because the only ingredient that really matters in her White Papaya Soup is the white papaya, which gives the broth a sweet and smoky flavor. Every time Mom serves this soup, its additional ingredients vary, from Chinese mushrooms and crunchy Chinese peanuts that add nutty deliciousness to many of her soups, to tofu cut in chunks and oozing with the soup's flavor or a chewy bean curd.

However, in addition to the optional ingredients being a bit difficult to locate, finding the main ingredient for this soup isn't so easy either. I've only ever seen white papaya at Asian stores, and even with the photo at right, I'm not 100 percent sure I could find it again, unless by some small miracle the produce is correctly marked in English!

Like your typical, orange-fleshed papaya, white papaya also aids digestion, and Mom serves it or some other vegetable soup every day before dinner to help get the digestion process going. It probably has something to do with the whole yin-yang cycle, but to Mom, it's just common sense to start the meal with a belly-warming soup.

White Papaya Soup
1 white papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size chunks
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups chicken broth

Add papaya chunks and carrots to chicken broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until vegetables are tender and broth has sweetened from the papaya. Add salt to taste before serving.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Twice-Baked Potato Season

There's something about foggy days and being surrounded by sick people that just create a craving for Twice-Baked Potatoes, an ultimate comfort food that is worthy of a meal on its own.

(Not that we would dare eat only one dish during a meal, but I'll share more on that later!)

Twice-Baked Potatoes
2 large Russet potatoes
1 small head broccoli
sprinkling of garlic salt
2-3 T. butter
about 1/2 cup sour cream, more to taste
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3-4 green onions, sliced
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
3 slices bacon, chopped and cooked (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place potatoes right on the rack for about 45 minutes to an hour, until they start to soften. Then poke them all over with a fork to keep them from exploding. Bake for another 15 minutes to 30 minutes, until skin begins to wrinkle.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a microwave-safe container with a couple of tablespoons of water and a sprinkling of garlic salt. Cover and microwave for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes so broccoli is still firm but slightly cooked.

When potatoes are cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Cut a slit in the top, then carefully scrape out the flesh into a large bowl. Mash the potatoes with butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. Add more sour cream if needed to create the right consistency.

Stir in broccoli, green onions and about two-thirds of the cheddar cheese, then carefully spoon mixture back into the potato skins. Top with bacon, if using, and cheese. Return to oven and back for 20-30 minutes. To brown up the cheese, turn on broiler for last 5 minutes or so.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Some serious family time at Thanksgiving 2011!

We returned to Stephen's for Thanksgiving 2011, but this time instead of driving down to Portland, we just added a table to include Tina, Tony, Regina and Erin.

And once again, despite all of my efforts at organization, we failed to put together a new menu this year. Stephen impressed yet again with his tried and true Good Eats Roast Turkey from Alton Brown, and I made the French Bean Casserole recipe that came with the French green beans I bought years ago from Costco and have made every Thanksgiving since.

However, there is a plan in the works for next year. I'm still mulling the Asian-American Thanksgiving, and Koshare has been seriously discussing a Southwest Thanksgiving, so expect a theme that veers away from traditional fare next year! Hopefully!

In the meantime, my Aunt Sandy brought a fabulous Japanese Cheesecake that was a hit, and even if my French Bean Casserole is boring, it also remains a crowd-pleaser:

French Bean Casserole
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 T. butter, divided
1 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. each salt and pepper
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. French beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 T. fresh thyme, chopped (optional)
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 c. grated sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Blanch green beans in a pot of salted water for 3 minutes, then rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, heat 1 T. butter and olive oil, then add garlic and sliced onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms with salt and pepper; keep stirring until soft, about 5 minutes, then add cooked beans, 1 T. butter and combine well. Mix in mushroom soup, thyme (if using) and Parmesan cheese, and season to taste.

Pour into baking dish, then sprinkle bread crumbs and cheddar over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Still learning tricks to good ramen

It's a mystery to me that we don't have a plethora of delicious ramen houses considering the plethora of Asian Americans in the Seattle area, but that doesn't stop me ordering it even when I know it's a total rip-off.

So it would make sense that I would just learn how to make the perfect ramen at home, right?

Let the experimenting begin! I bought soba noodles for the first time I-don't-know-how-many-months-ago, and decided to try them today using the mushroom broth from last night's Polenta with Creamy Mushroom Sauce, with some extra chicken broth I had in the fridge.

With a total of about 4 cups of broth, I suspected I might not quite have enough fluids. I really should have trusted my gut instinct when I read that the recipe called for cooking just one bundle of noodles in 6 cups of water (and I was cooking two bundles). But I wanted the noodles to have the delicious mushroom flavor so I just went with it.

By the end, there was definitely a lack of extra fluid, but there was more than enough to cook the noodles and they were extremely flavorful from the broth. I added chives and a sliced boiled egg to each, and each had a bowl full of ramen sans soup, but just as delicious.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cream sauce doesn't need chantrelles

Instead of taking advantage of Seattle Restaurant Week, we decided to be lazy earlier this week and go to Cafe Piccolo right down the street. Half-price wines, woo-hoo! Plus a few ideas ...

One of the specials of the day was a risotto dish with chantrelles and pumpkin, and though it was tempting, restaurant risotto is always too reminiscent of Minute Rice than the creamy, thick risotto we make at home. But it got me thinking, and craving chantrelles.

But alas, it appears that chantrelles might not be in season, because I was unable to find them at Whole Foods and instead had to settle for a container of what said it was dried chantrelles, but instead turned out to be dry mixed mushrooms.

However, I think anything tastes good when you use heavy cream.

Polenta with Creamy Mushroom Sauce
2 oz. dried mushrooms
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
tube of polenta, sliced in 1/2-pinch rounds
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic, minced
8 oz. heavy cream
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

Place dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Cover bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove mushrooms from soaking water (which you can save for another use) with a slotted spoon to a colander and let cool for a few minutes. Gently squeeze mushrooms dry and slice into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Pour half the bacon grease into another large skillet over medium-high heat. Place polenta rounds in the second skillet and fry for about 5 minutes per side, until crispy.

In first skillet, add shallots and saute for about 1 to 2 minutes, then add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add cream and let simmer until mixture is bubbly. Stir in Parmesan, then add peas and bacon until heated through.

When polenta is finished, lightly blot with paper towels then divide evenly among two plates; pour sauce on top of the polenta.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Of course, Mom's dumplings are better

Why would I listen to some random lady at the grocery store instead of listening to my own mother?

Since returning from a long-overdue trip to Mexico last week, I've been craving nothing but comfort food to warm my bones now that the Pacific Northwest fall has finally hit. Finally, I decided it was time to make chicken soup with Mom's fluffy, delicious dumplings made from Bisquick.

But when I asked an employee at Albertson's where the Bisquick was, she asked me what I was making. "Dumplings," I said, wondering why the heck she was being so nosy. Then she got even nosier. "Oh, you don't want to use Bisquick," she said, then proceeded to tell me that her mom made dumplings with just flour and water and they were absolutely the best, blah blah blah.

Problem is, I believed her. I looked up a recipe for dumplings that used 2 cups of flour, 1/3 cup of shortening, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of milk and they were ... not as good as Mom's. They look good, though!

But I could give a rip how my dumplings look. I want Mom's dumplings! Looks like I'll be heading back to the store for some Bisquick soon!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Happy Birthday Derek!

Who wouldda thought that chocolate and mangoes could go so well together?

I've been contemplating a birthday meal for my co-worker Derek for weeks, and I finally found the perfect cake to go with the luau theme that's been developing.

When we first started working together, we quickly discovered that both got married on and have a true love for Hawaii. And I think the guy might even like food more than me. So what better way to celebrate his birthday than with food?

I made all my Hawaiian favorites: Kalua Pig, Hawaiian-Style Macaroni Salad and Hawaiian Bread. And even though Derek had requested carrot cake when I'd asked him what his favorite was months earlier, I knew I just had to make this recipe for Cocoa-Mango Upside-Down Cake as a logical finale to this meal.

Plus, we had to restore our blood sugar after this strenuous hula lesson:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Got unsightly zucchini? Make fritters!

Once again, I failed to grow anything this summer aside from a yard full of weeds, but that's never stopped me from collecting the kinds of recipes I would need for the garden that I will someday have.

Which means I absolutely had to read the recipe that went along with the Pacific Northwest Magazine article, "Attack of the summer zucchini, and what to do with them," because one of these days, I'm going to have so much zucchini it'll be coming out of my ears ...

But until that time, I have other problems. Like the weeks-old (don't tell Bryan), now unsightly zucchini from Trader Joe's, which I could think of no other way to use than through the accompanying Turkish Zucchini Fritters recipe (scroll down).

Because the zucchinis are grated, I was able to cut off all of the brownish spots and put some use to veggies that I otherwise would have thrown away. Eh, it might not have been the healthiest way to eat zucchini, but it kept them out of the compost and made for a delicious late-summer dinner!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This Bread Pudding was made with love

Last weekend I took Bryan to Eva to celebrate his birthday, and he ended up ordering the Grilled Pork Loin not so much because he wanted pork, but because he really wanted to try the Corn, Thyme and Bacon Bread Pudding that accompanied it.

And as you would imagine, he ended up much more interested in the delectable bread pudding, although the pork also was quite delicious.

And as you also would imagine, I became determined to try to emulate that dish.

I found a recipe on Epicurious for Arugula, Bacon and Gruyere Bread Pudding that looked like a suitable base for my creation, and I ended up with a creamy, smokey bread pudding that might not have been quite as good as Eva's, but somehow still tasted as delicious (because it was made with love, as Mom would say!).

Bacon and Smokey Gouda Bread Pudding
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 day-old (or older) baguette, cut in 1-inch chunks
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/2-3/4 c. smokey gouda cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and butter a small casserole dish.

Cook bacon until crispy, then add garlic and shallot and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, until just cooked through but not burning.

Stir mixture along with drippings into a large bowl with the bread chunks. Mix together eggs, milk, salt and pepper, and stir into the bread chunks along with cheese. Continue stirring until the moisture has been soaked up, then pat down evenly into the prepared casserole dish.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 10 more minutes. Let set for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bacon makes everything better, like grits!

Since we had potatoes for dinner last night, I decided to mix things up a bit and make grits for breakfast instead of the usual eggs, bacon and potatoes we eat way to often on the weekend.

Once upon a time, I ate grits almost every day for breakfast, and that's likely the reason I eat them rarely now. But with gluten now off the menu (except when I cheat), I need to add as much variety to my carb repertoire as possible to keep my taste buds from craving bread and other wheatiful foods.

I followed the package directions, bringing 3 c. of water with 1/4 t. salt to a bowl, then slowly adding 1 c. of grits and stirring continuously for 5 minutes, turning the heat down to low. After removing the grits from the heat, I added 2 T. unsalted butter, about 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese (cheddar is preferred, but I was too lazy to open a new package!) and pepper to taste, then scooped the grits into 2 serving bowls.

Top them with 1-2 eggs each, and chopped bacon, and you've got a flavorful breakfast that'll stick to your bones!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Summed ends with grilled potatoes and broccolini

Not being one to just follow a recipe correctly, I decided to modify Stephen's roasted potato recipe by throwing the lubed-up potatoes on the grill. Bryan was sure they would take forever to cook, but over a medium-low flame, it only took about 20 minutes to cook the potatoes, which is actually how long they've been taking me in the oven despite Stephen's assurance they take only 15 minutes.

Similar to his recipe, I tossed about 1 lb. of potatoes cut in 1/4-inch slices in about 2 T. olive oil, 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning, then placed the potatoes inside of a burger grilling grate — I don't know if we've ever used that thing to grill burgers, but it works wonders for vegetables that too easily fall through the regular grill racks!

I cooked them for about 8 minutes on one side, flipped the grilling grate over and cooked the other side for about 8 more minutes. I gave each side another 4 minutes each, moving the grate around to more evenly distribute the charring, and each piece turned out perfectly cooked.

And also being one to not waste anything, I used the olive oil and seasonings that remained in the bowl to coat a package of broccolini that we also threw on the grill for about 10 minutes. As Bryan put it, "I don't think I've ever had a bad grilled vegetable," but these ones were among the best I've tasted the summer.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'd walk 5 miles for this feast any day

When Mom, Stephen and I get together, it's always all about food. Even if all we do is a short, five-mile hike, in the end we'll feast like we hiked 20 miles.


This weekend was no exception, especially since it was the celebration of Mom's birthday. Pictured, clockwise from the grilled fish: sauteed baby bok choy and curly kale, grilled beets, grilled pasilla peppers, grilled oysters, roasted rosemary potatoes and grilled asparagus.

It was a group effort that only took us about a half-hour to make, and yes, even though it was Mom's birthday, she did the majority of the cooking.

She grilled the tilapia, which she'd sprinkled with salt the night before to tenderize it a bit, and also squirted a bit of lime juice on top before throwing it on the grill for about 20 minutes. Mom also brought the oysters, which were wrapped in foil and seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil, then quickly grilled for no more than five minutes. And she grilled the peppers (watch out for spicy bites!), which were simply rubbed with olive oil before being placed over the flames.

Stephen and I were in charge of the rest. I grilled the asparagus, tossed in olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper, then cooked until tender but still crisp, about 8-10 minutes. And Stephen made the roasted potatoes, which were tossed with olive oil, fresh rosemary and "lots of salt," he said. Although he usually uses red potatoes, this time he used Yukon Golds with much success.

He says the key is to preheat the broiler for at least 10 minutes before placing the potatoes in the oven. Toss them every five minutes, and they should be done in 15 minutes.

As a rosemary hater, I was skeptical of this dish, but it turns out I only hate dried rosemary because the subdued flavor of this freshly snipped rosemary was simply one of freshness rather than pine needles!

Stephen also made mojitos with fresh mint from his garden, and he prepped the beets and greens that he bought the previous day at the Olympia Farmers Market. We simply wrapped the beets in foil with olive oil, and left them on the grill while we were cooking everything else, about 30 minutes. Delicious! And Mom quickly stir-fried the greens with olive oil and garlic, then added a smidge of oyster sauce at the end.

I can't think of a better way to end our weekend!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beet and Kale Salad to support the liver

Although I still haven't managed to give up gluten, I'm nevertheless eating a lot of the high-antioxidant dishes my naturopath has recommended, including the above Beet and Kale Salad.

All of the main ingredients in the dish are believed to be great sources of liver support, including kale, beets, carrots, onions and garlic.

Instead of going on a fast to cleanse the liver, many naturopaths believe you can just as easily and much more safely cleanse the liver by eating such foods. It sure tastes better than drinking water spiked with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne!

Beet and Kale Salad

4 large beets
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 bunch kale
3 scallions
1 medium carrot

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon finely diced garlic

Wash beets and bring to a boil in a large pot. After boiling bring to a simmer, continue to simmer for one hour, until tender. Let cool, then peel beets and cut into 3/4-inch pieces.

In the meantime, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds by placing them in a dry skillet and cooking over medium heat. Constantly stir the seeds to ensure even cooking. When they begin to pop and give off a nutty aroma, they are ready. Set aside to cool.

Wash kale and place in a large pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Place in strainer and cool with cold water, cut into bite size pieces. Finely dice the green onions and peel the carrot. Slice into 1/8-inch rounds.

Place all dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a wire whisk. In a separate bowl place chopped beets, chopped kale, diced green onions, sliced carrots and pumpkin seeds. Add dressing and toss gently. Serve chilled.

Serves: 6

Courtesy Bastyr University

Monday, July 11, 2011

My love for Morbier is stinking up the fridge

Why does Costco feel the need to tempt me with their delicious cheeses? Now they've added Morbier to the selection, and my fridge will forever smell like stinky feet because of it.

But what a great snack, with sliced apples and salami, for "True Blood" night!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sprucing up the classic BLT

Forgive me for slacking off lately, but Bryan's the one who really needs to forgive me because I feel like my culinary skills have just been so boring lately!

Here's what we had for lunch today: Modified BLTs. Is that even a blogworthy subject?

I replaced the tomatoes in Bryan's with a fried egg, and both also had sliced avocado and American cheese to keep things from getting too boring. Served on toasted Dave's Killer Seed Bread, it was certainly a delicious lunch, but hardly an award-winning meal.

Perhaps if I had made a Mom-style BLT, which she always made with a tasty layer of peanut butter, it might not be so boring. Unfortunately, I haven't yet convinced Bryan that PB & B is a tasty combination, but it's really time for him to get on the bandwagon. Everybody else is eating such culinary delights as the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger from The Slip in neighboring Kirkland, and in just a slight variation, there's also the Smokey Bacon Maple Bar from Frost Doughnuts in Mill Creek.

Now that proves Mom's a woman a few decades ahead of her time, so far ahead that I think she may already have retired that calorie bomb and replaced it with tomorrow's more healthy culinary trend. The rest of us will catch up after the bacon catches up with us!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Biscuits and Gravy is better at home

Like nearly everybody who studies or works at Bastyr, I recently wound up giving up gluten — or at least trying to — to see if it would affect my health in a positive way.

There are numerous studies that associate wheat and related products with myriad health problems, and although I completely believe in all of those studies and am not even that huge of a fan of wheat products, it's dang hard to quit gluten and I failed miserably.

I feel like a horrible person for giving up so quickly, especially considering how many of my gluten-free friends have no choice. Eating gluten-free at home was a breeze. Sure, I love pasta and pizza, but I also love polenta and quinoa. However, going out to eat was nearly impossible, even in my neighborhood that boasts numerous gluten-free restaurants.

The laughable part of going gluten-free is that I gorged myself on wheat products both before and after quitting, simply because I knew I was going to have to quit. In the middle of my first week, all I wanted were biscuits and gravy. I tried to think of a way to make them that was gluten-free, but it sounded a little too tough for a novice gluten-free baker/cook. So as soon as I quit that diet, I was determined to make biscuits and gravy from scratch.

My Southern Buttermilk Biscuits were a little on the thin side, so I will have to work on flattening those a little less next time. And the gravy was a bit on the meaty side, so I think I will double the milk next time, and also add some fresh sage as Dan suggested.

Sausage Gravy
1 package Jimmy Dean's Sage Sausage
About 1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
Bacon grease as needed
Salt and pepper, to taste

Break up the sausage in a skillet and stir until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate saucepan or in the microwave. When sausage is cooked, removed with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle some of the flour in the pan to create a roux with the grease. I didn't have much grease in the pan, so I added about 1-2 T. of bacon grease.

Keep stirring roux with a whisk until the mixture is thick, but still somewhat liquid. Slowly add the milk in a steady stream and continue whisking to eliminate any chunks. Bring the gravy to a low boil and let simmer for a couple of minutes, until thickened. Add sausage, then salt and pepper to taste, and serve over warm biscuits sliced in half.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Brined pork chops stay moist on the grill

Bryan lucked out last night. Instead of just making the same old, I invited over Tara and Dan so I could make Lemon and Thyme Grilled Pork Chops from Sunset magazine.

After Greg's Pork Loin turned out so successful on Christmas Eve, I've been meaning to try my own hand at brining pork but didn't quite have the opportunity until now. Since the recipe calls for six bone-in pork chops, it was a bit much for just Bryan and me, but for four of us it made the perfect amount (plus leftovers!).

Bryan was sure he would dry out the pork chops or that they would be undercooked, but we followed the directions and cooked them for about 6-8 minutes per side, and they turned out moist and delicious. I brined them for the maximum time recommended, 12 hours, and they were a bit on the salty side, so I think next time I'll try to cut the brining to six hours tops.

We served the pork chops with cantaloupe and mangoes that Tara cut up for us; roasted fingerling potatoes; and broccoli roasted at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes with olive oil, salt and Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning.

Thanks for sharing the good grub with us!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why we never go out to breakfast anymore

Recently Bryan and I noticed that we haven't been to our favorite breakfast spot, Kona Kitchen, in ages. This morning, I figured out why.

It's just so easy, and delicious, to stay home and eat breakfast. Especially when I concoct meals at the gym, like this one!

Mai Ling's Kitchen Sink Skillet
1 medium eggplant
1-1/2 t. salt, divided
1 lb. fingerling potatoes
1 T. olive oil
8 slices bacon
2 c. arugula
4 eggs

Heat 9-by-13-inch glass pan in the oven at 400 degrees while you prepare eggplant and potatoes.

Cut eggplant into 1-inch chunks and place in a colander. Sprinkle with about 1/2 t. salt and let sit in the sink. Cut potatoes into 1-inch chunks and toss with about 1 t. salt and 1 T. olive oil. Blot eggplant with a paper towel and add to the potatoes.

Place potato-eggplant mixture in the oven in a single layer and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and cook in a large frying pan until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels. Meanwhile, cook the four eggs in the bacon grease.

When potatoes and eggplant are done, stir in bacon and arugula. Serve topped with eggs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

P.F. Mai Ling's Lettuce Wraps!

Why would I ever need to go to P.F. Chang's again? Already I have (kind of) mastered their Spicy Eggplant with Chicken dish that I LOVE. Now I can make their lettuce wraps, too!

I had a heyday with this month's edition of Bon Appetit, and Lettuce Cups with Stir-Fried Chicken was the first recipe I just had to try out. Well, it was sort of a half-try, since I used a rotisserie chicken instead of making the chicken myself, but cutting all that chicken up into tiny pieces takes a long time, so why the heck not?

I got the butter lettuce at Costco: It's "living" lettuce. Isn't that crazy? I wonder how long it's going to "live" in my fridge, since I still have another whole head left!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An anniversary of debauchery

Four years ago, Bryan and I were celebrating our wedding/honeymoon on the beach in sunny Kauai. This year we embraced the opposite extreme on our anniversary by hiking through the snow at Mount Rainier.

But first, we celebrated with a Happy Hour at our home for the weekend, Coho Cabin, that featured triple-cream brie, crusty bread, chile-fennel almonds from Bastyr, strawberries from Full Circle and Cupcake red wine, all topped with an unbeatable Salted Caramel and Pear Jam we got as a wedding favor at Tonya and Seth's wedding.

It was a delicious treat we seriously didn't need after lunch at the Copper Creek Inn. But as soon as we realized how delicious that homemade jam tasted with brie on a slab of bread, there was no turning back.

Somehow, we even found room for a steak dinner. The baked potatoes with sour cream, butter and green onions were a must, but the fava beans I just had to try because I'd never tasted them.

It certainly didn't hurt that the fava beans (made famous by Hannibal Lector) were paired with always delectable pancetta:

Fava Beans with Pancetta
1 lb. fava beans
2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. onion, minced
2 oz. pancetta, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1 c. water

Boil the fava beans for about 2 minutes, rinse under cool water, then extract the beans.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, then add pancetta and continue stirring until pancetta begins to crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Add fava beans and 1/4 c. water, then cover.

The fava beans should take between 8 and 15 minutes to cook; check for tenderness after 8 minutes and stir occasionally. Add water if needed, but make sure most of the water is evaporated before serving.

But that wasn't the last of our debauchery. After a hike on Rampart Ridge Loop that was so snowy we had to turn around well after the halfway point because we could no longer follow the trail, we went back to the cabin for a dip in the hot tub. As we sat in the glorious warmth, cold rain started to fall, which is about as good as it gets for this Pacific Northwesterner.

And after Round 2 of Happy Hour, we still managed to find more room in our bellies for the above meal: Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Cheese Crisps (Cheese Crisps not shown out of embarrassment) with ham and a spinach salad with strawberries, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Not even a sunny beach could have topped this anniversary!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Deformed Maple-Chipotle Salmon still tasty

I realize I'm having way too much fun putting together the Bastyr News e-newsletter, but it seems important that I try out all of the recipes I'm publishing (such as this Carrot Ginger Soup).

Now my version of the Maple-Chipotle Glazed Salmon looked nothing like the beautiful dish that was served at our cafeteria (check out Derek Sheppard's mouth-watering photo), but it was still quite tasty. I should mention that I failed to follow the directions exactly, and I think that was where my recipe went awry. When it says "skin removed," it means skin removed. I couldn't get mine off — didn't try that hard if you want the truth — and as soon as I flipped the salmon over onto the skin side, the middle curled up. Yes, my salmon turned out deformed, but because the sauce is what makes this dish, it was still delicious.

I served the salmon with sauteed red chard and roasted fingerling potatoes, my new favorite potato dish, which I cooked for about 25 minutes at 400 with 1 T. olive oil and 2 t. kosher salt (thanks Martha Stewart!). Make sure to let them get nice and crusty!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday I normally celebrate. But I made an exception tonight when a new local restaurant, COA Mexican Eatery & Tequileria, opened up its doors a couple of weeks early to let its patrons-to-be sample its fare in a dinner-tequila pairing.

This is what we saw when we first sat down at our table.

But we weren't actually allowed to touch it until we were taught what we were drinking and how to drink it from Experience Tequila. Each flute of tasty tequila was paired with one of three courses, including a final drink to top it all off. The main course? Chicken Mole:

Just like the owner's grandmother's. Think I can get the recipe out of him?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Turkish Chicken with Mom's (not) Broccoletti

When I was preparing the marinade for these Turkish Chicken Thighs at 6 o'clock this morning (it's early to me, alright?), I was trying to decide what sides would go with the dish. Couscous was a natural choice, but the vegetable I wasn't so sure about.

So I took the safe route, and simply decided to make what was in the fridge and needed to be eaten. Tonight, it was a bunch of broccoletti, and I put absolutely zero thought into how I was going to prepare it. Turns out I made it Mom style ... kind of.

Moms' (not) Broccoletti
1 T. canola oil
1/4 t. garlic salt
1 bunch broccoletti (or broccoli, just make sure you peel the stalk), cut into bite-size pieces
1 oz. white wine (Mom uses "salted" wine, but I use Chardonnay because it's ALWAYS in my fridge)
2 T. oyster sauce

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat skillet, then add garlic salt and broccoletti. Saute for about 5 minutes, until slightly wilted but still firm, then add wine and continue sauteing until liquid is mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in oyster sauce and serve.

(So what would Mom have done differently? She would have used high heat and, naturally, less time, chunks of garlic as opposed to garlic salt, and she would have made a sauce out of her homemade chicken broth and cornstarch added at the end with the oyster sauce. I know, I know, I ruined it. But the way I made it is so much dang easier! It's a vicious cycle of laziness!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Polenta takes on a Cinco de Mayo spin

One of the reasons I read when I go to the gym is so that I don't get sucked into the cooking shows that are always tempting me. But sometimes, a book just isn't enough to keep my eyes off the screen.

And this time I'm glad. I'm pretty sure I was watching Sandra Lee's "Semi-Homemade Cooking," which didn't suck me in at first because I never trust a skinny cook. But she piqued my curiosity when started frying up polenta, and when she added the black beans, I was sold.

Unfortunately, I can't find that specific recipe, but since I didn't really follow it anyway, I'll just share with you what I made.

Polenta with Black Beans and Salsa
2-4 T. canola oil
1 tube polenta
1 can black beans
1/2 c. salsa
1/2 c. sour cream
1 T. Tapatio or other hot sauce
1 T. lime juice

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Cut polenta into 1/2-inch slices. Coat the bottom of the skillet with oil, then add the polenta. Let cook until crispy, about 5 minutes, then turn and cook until the other side is crispy, about another 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and blot off oil.

While polenta is cooking, drain and rinse black beans and place in a bowl. Add salsa, and mash together until still chunky. Heat on stovetop or in microwave until warm.

Meanwhile, mix together sour cream, hot sauce and lime juice in a small bowl.

To assemble, place three pieces of polenta on a plate, then top with black beans and sour cream mixture.

Sandra Lee topped it all with iceburg lettuce, but iceburg lettuce bores me, so I used Broccoli Cole Slaw instead. Eh, maybe it wasn't the best combination, but it's what was in the fridge and it worked for us!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ruining Easter with German brunch

My friend Lino posted a photo on Facebook of his delicious-looking Filipino Easter:

It made me feel a little guilty about the German feast that I had prepared, and my lack of actually writing about, much less ruining, Mom's recipes. But it turns out I am also talented at ruining Mom's idea of what a meal should be. For instance, our German Easter brunch was seriously lacking of anything of nutritional value.

At the very top, we've got an Austrian Amadeus cheese, which reminded me of one of my favorite German cheeses, Butterkaese. Just below it on the left is Brie de Nangine, which actually relates more to a wine-tasting trip a year ago that introduced me to this earthy, soft deliciousness. Continuing counter-clockwise, you've got your liverwurst, Mortadella and Emmantaler.

And to the left is the reason I even considered making this brunch. Earlier this year, a new cafe opened that I now pass daily on my commute. With an uber-German name like Kaffeeklatsch, I just had to look it up. And lo and behold, I saw photos and descriptions of German treats I've been missing for a decade, especially their Sourdough Rye with Sunflower Seeds. So I stopped by a couple of times to quench my thirst, but it just made me thirstier for German food. So I dove in and started planning an Easter of gluttony.

The only things I spent any time on were even more carbs: German Potato Salad and homemade pretzels. And not shown is the main course, the Weisswurst, whose main ingredient I will not name out of shame. But it tastes soooo good with Hefeweizen and my homemade pretzels!

OK, I gotta be honest. It wasn't completely devoid of nutrition. Mom actually brought a salad, which everybody just picked at, and Stephen and Koshare brought one delicious fruit salad, and another one in honor of Dad that is also delicious ... but in another way (fruit cocktail and Cool Whip, I kid you not).

Feast we did on Easter. Sorry, Mom, if I ruined another holiday!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Arugula helps bring pesto back to the table

I still haven't figured out what to do with all the arugula I keep getting from my CSA, but I think I finally may have found an arugula recipe that's worth trying again.

Tonight I made some arugula pesto, mixed with chicken, asparagus and penne. I'd forgotten how much I've missed pesto until I took my first bite, which was even better than the more typical basil-based sauce because of the spiciness of the arugula.

So, why has pesto not appeared on my menu for so long? Back in the '90s, I think Mom, Stephen and I may have overdone it with the pesto after we discovered how delicious it is. We also soon learned that it's much too rich of a dish to eat repeatedly, and it soon disappeared from the table.

Perhaps it's time for a return.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quiche just isn't as elegant without crust

This may not be as pretty as a real quiche, but it smells just as good when it's cooking and is much easier to prepare than one with a crust. I even prepared it a day in advance so I could just put it in the oven when I got home tonight. Whole Foods calls it "Spinach, Mushroom and Swiss Crustless Squares," but perhaps our version should have been called "Spinach, Mushroom and Swiss Crustless Quarters," because yes, rather than cut the quiche into 24 squares, we cut it into just four!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My first Bastyr recipe: Carrot Ginger Soup

Photo from Derek Sheppard.
Just so you don't get the wrong idea, I'm certainly not complaining about having a full-time job. Especially since the perks come with a whole new set of recipes that I definitely will be experimenting with in these pages.

Over the weekend, the second edition of my e-newsletter went out, and it included a link to one of our cafeteria's favorite recipes, Carrot Ginger Soup. I was hoping to give the recipe a whirl before I actually included it in the newsletter, especially since I was a bit wary of the huge portions of garlic and ginger: 1/4 cup each! But it turned out delicious, tasting just like the soup that's made in a much bigger batch for the Bastyr campus. Well, mine wasn't quite as smooth, since I didn't bother to pass it through a wire strainer after blending it. But it sure went down smooth!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Coconut Couscous with Prawns inspires

I realize that including recipes in Ruining Mom's Recipes that I found in the coupon section of the local paper has absolutely nothing to do with ruining mom's recipes, and for that I apologize. But honestly, since I started working full time again, it's been a bit difficult for me to find the inspiration to make new dishes as frequently as when my workload was a little more flexible (hence the slowdown in blog activity, again, I apologize).

My cooking magazines are stacking up, untried recipes marked and patiently waiting for a second glance. Meanwhile, the recipe I cut out from the Near East coupon page just a few day has been sitting on the counter, calling out to me: "You want Bangkok Prawns With Coconut-Infused Couscous." They are sneaky like that.

So finally, after weeks of tried and true recipes, I gave this newbie a try, and I will definitely be making it again. This is adapted from the Near East website (you have to find the recipe yourself because there's no permalink):

Bangkok Prawns With Coconut-Infused Couscous
For the couscous:
3/4 c. coconut milk
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 T. soy sauce
1/8 t. turmeric
1-1/4 c. couscous

For the prawns:
1 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 t. ginger, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (seeds removed if you're a wussy like me)
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 lb. large shrimp, deveined and shelled
3/4 c. coconut milk
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 T. lime juice
1/2 t. turmeric
1 T. cornstarch mixed with 2 T. chicken broth

Make the couscous: Bring the coconut milk, chicken broth, scallions, soy sauce and turmeric to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the couscous, stir, then remove from heat and cover. Let set for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.

Meanwhile, make the prawns: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno, and stir for about 1 minute. Add the prawns and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the coconut milk, chicken broth, lime juice, turmeric and cornstarch slurry. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, until thick, then serve over the couscous.

(The asparagus was coated with about 1 T. olive oil, 1/8 t. garlic salt, 1/8 t. kosher salt, 1/4 t. Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning and a dash of pepper, then roasted for about 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. It's a no-fail dish!)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gorgonzola Tortellini still a treat despite its ubiquity

When I lived in Munich, one of my favorite non-German dishes was Cheese Tortellini with Gorgonzola Sauce. Because we were just over the Alps from Italy, there was no shortage of amazing Italian food in Bavaria, and I took as much advantage of that as I could. Since returning a decade ago (seriously?!?), a lot of the dishes that at the time seemed like they were only available in Europe since have migrated to Seattle. But I still like to make this dish on my own.

Cheese Tortellini with Gorgonzola Sauce
9-oz. package cheese tortellini
2 T. unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. flour
1 c. fat-free half-n-half (or use cream and forgo the flour!)
1-2 oz. Gorgonzola
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. chopped ham

Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet. Add garlic and flour, and stir with a whisk until thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add half-n-half and continue whisking until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Turn the heat to low, add the Gorgonzola and stir until cheese is melted. Add peas and ham, stir until heated through.

Add tortellini to the sauce. Add a little of the water from the pot to moisten the sauce if it's too thick.