Saturday, December 26, 2009

Clam Chowder

Hubby made clam chowder tonight. In the excitement of someone else cooking, I forgot to take a picture (sorry). Oh, and if you're looking for that abomination with tomatoes in it, you're not going to find it here.

Here's what he did:

Peel and dice 2 large Russet potatoes, along with some onion and celery. Saute everything for a while in a soup pot in some canola oil (I would've used olive), then dump it into a holding vessel. Make a roux with butter and flour in the soup pot (maybe 6T each, I wasn't really watching), then add 2 bottles of strained clam juice and about 1 quart of non-fat milk. Bring to a simmer very slowly, stirring constantly.

When it's simmering gently, add in 3 cans of rinsed chopped clams (liquid saved to add later if you want). Simmer for about 30 minutes, until it's thickened nicely and the potatoes are cooked to the point of almost falling apart. Salt and pepper to taste. We like a lot of pepper.

If it's too thin, add a little more roux. If it's too thick, add some of the reserved clam liquid.

Serve, topped with oyster crackers and crumbled bacon (my contribution - you didn't think I could stay out of the kitchen, did you?).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Non-Food Post - Let There Be Light!

OK, this may indirectly be food-related. Because now that there's light in my kitchen, I may actually be able to take better pictures. Or not.

The lights in my kitchen had been buzzing for quite some time. At first I thought it was the bulbs, since two of them would flicker or not come on at all. So I borrowed a couple bulbs from work to check. Well, guess what? I've probably got the only kitchen in town with 6 foot fluorescent bulbs, instead of 4 foot. So off to Home Depot to buy 6 footers. Apparently 6 foot bulbs are pretty rare, because they had about 10 boxes each of 4 and 8 foot bulbs, and one lonely box of 6 foot ones. Got my bulbs home, got the stupid plastic grates out (what a pain!), new bulbs in, and....still buzzed.

OK, so it was probably the ballast. Bulbs out. Metal cover off (poor fingers). Bulbs in. Switch on. Buzz. Coming from the ballast. Yup. OK, get a new ballast. Easy, right? Nope. This one's 30 years old. Find an equivalent. Not so easy. Find an equivalent of an equivalent and pray it works.

So the "equivalent" shows up, and I'm immediately worried. It's shorter. That's going to be a problem. And the current rating on the new one says 0.91A, the old one says 1.45A. Hmm...And what's this? The new one has 2 blue wires. The old one only has one. Oh well, what's the worst that could happen?

So, armed with wire nuts, wire cutters, pliers, a drill, a screwdriver, and a couple screws, I got to work. Cut the old wires, stripped them back 1/4". Red to red, blue to blue (well, one of them, anyway).

Black to...crap. Can't reach. Black and white weren't long enough to test the new ballast without removing the old one from the fixture and putting up the new one. I grabbed the pliers and removed the screw holding the old ballast to the fixture. Slipped the new one into the metal tabs, marked the points where I had to drill, drilled a couple primer holes through the fixture and into the ceiling, slid the new ballast in, screwed in the screws.

Black to black, white to white.

Bulbs in. The moment of truth...


Hubby came home and said "you're in charge of all electrical stuff from now on."


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Split Pea Soup, Revisited

Every time I cook a ham, I make split pea soup. Which means I make it about twice a year, once after Easter, and once after Thanksgiving and/or Christmas (or both, if I'm lucky!).

With the crappy rainy weather we've been having, yesterday was the perfect day for pulling Thanksgiving's ham bone out of the freezer. Split pea soup couldn't be simpler. You can saute your veggies if you want, but you don't have to. Don't have a carrot? Leave it out. Let it get too thick? Add some water. Not a lot of meat leftover on the bone? Chop up a ham steak, or some kielbasa like I did this time. Easy peas-y. (Sorry)

My "secret" is to add about 1/4 to 1/2 of a teaspoon of curry powder to the soup. Not enough to really taste it, but just enough to give the soup a little something. I also add a little thyme. But shh, don't tell my husband, or he won't eat it.

I have a problem photographing split pea soup in its finished state. So here it is mid-simmer. Pretty colors, huh? It's amazing what a few new light bulbs in your kitchen will do.

Split Pea Soup, version 12/12/09

1 leftover ham bone
1 carrot, diced fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1/2 onion, diced fine
1 clove garlic, diced fine
1/2 t curry powder
1/4 t thyme
black pepper
1 bag of split peas, rinsed
1/2 link kielbasa sausage, chopped into small pieces
a handful of parsley, chopped
a handful of celery leaves, chopped

Place the ham bone in a large pot and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer slightly aggressively for about 30 minutes, skimming any nastiness. Remove the bone, let it sit until it's cool enough to handle, then remove any meat and chop into little pieces. Return the bone to the pot and continue to boil while you prepare the vegetables.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the curry powder and thyme and a lot of black pepper. Scrape the veggies into the pot of water, and add the peas. Bring back to a boil, cover mostly, and simmer gently until the peas are about half-cooked. At this point, add the chopped up ham and sausage, and the parsley and celery leaves, and continue to simmer until the peas are completely cooked and have fallen apart, and your soup is the proper split pea soup consistency.

Taste, add more black pepper if you want (I did), and salt if necessary (it wasn't because of the sausage). Serve with crusty bread or oyster crackers. Or those large gumball-shaped hard crackers you can break a crown on, I think they're called wine crackers - love them in soup.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I finally made Vietnamese Spring Rolls, or Goi Cuon!

I used Youki brand rice paper wrappers, and since this was my first experience with rice paper, I have no idea if that's a good brand or not.  All the recipes I read online said soak the wrappers in water for 2-5 seconds. I did that, and said, "Huh, it doesn't seem soft enough." (As if I had any idea what I was doing.) So I soaked it longer. The wrapper then proceeded to tear, stick, and be otherwise ornery. So then I tried 5 seconds.  Worked like a charm after that, just like making a burrito.

I stuffed them with shrimp, green leaf lettuce (not iceberg!), bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, green onion, cilantro and mint. I also threw in some cooked Mai Fun rice sticks because I couldn't find bean threads. I would've loved some roast pork, but no deli around here has it, and I wasn't about to roast some pork on a Tuesday night after working my ass off all day. More herbs would've been nice, like basil (but my plant died, I'm the only person in the world who can kill basil), or Vietnamese coriander (good luck finding that in a 30 mile radius!).

For a dipping sauce, I made hoisin peanut dipping sauce, courtesy of Todd and Diane from White on Rice Couple.

And who would've thought of this but a 14-year old obsessed with pasta, but leftover Mai Fun is pretty good with garlic, butter and parmesan.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lahmajun (Lamacun)

What is lahmajun, you ask? Well, the simple answer is...there is no simple answer. If you call it an Armenian pizza, you'd be wrong. Because it's also Turkish. And it's not a pizza.

Basically, lahmajun is a flatbread topped with a ground lamb (or beef) mixture, seasoned with tomatoes and various peppers. If you search the Interwebs, you'll find a few recipes that vary widely from each other. You can find a huge lamb:tomato ratio, or a very small one. You can find the addition of pepper paste, which I haven't been able to figure out. Some recipes pre-cook the lamb mixture, some don't. Some cook at a high temp, some low, etc., etc. It's enough to make a person give up.

But I couldn't give up. You see, I promised a friend of mine (hi Sami!) that I'd attempt to make lahmajun for Thanksgiving. And once that promise was made (although in a slight state of inebriation), nothing short of hospitalization or death was going to keep me from fulfilling it.

So, promise kept. My only hope is that it's at least recognizable to Sami as lahmajun. (Heh, I just realized that instead of doing turkey for Thanksgiving, I'm doing Turkish for Thanksgiving.)

I was pretty happy with the results, except for the dough. I have a feeling I can come up with something with a lot less rise/rest time that will be closer to what I want - crispy, only slightly chewy, but strong enough to stand up to the heavy-ish lamb filling.  So for now, I'm only going to give you the filling recipe, plus instructions on what to do with your dough, however you choose to procure it.


1 recipe "pizza" dough
1 lb ground lamb (actually, .91 lbs, since stores around here can't seem to sell in even increments)
4 plum tomatoes from a can (preferably San Marzano), minced
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 t paprika
1/2 t Aleppo pepper
1/4 t black pepper
handful of chopped parsley
1/2 t salt

Sweat the onion and garlic over medium-low heat. When almost translucent, add the lamb and peppers. Mix and mash over low heat. Add the tomatoes, and mix and mash some more. You don't want to cook the lamb completely, as that will happen in the oven. Make sure to mash pretty good, unless your lamb has been twice-ground (and if you have a butcher that will do that for you, can I move in?). An almost-spreadable consistency is what you're looking for. Mix in the chopped parsley and salt. Taste it (half-cooked lamb won't kill you) and adjust the salt if necessary.

Dump the lamb mixture into a colander over a bowl to drain. All that liquid (water from the tomatoes and fat from the lamb) may do horrendous things to your dough later.

Divide your dough into 4 pieces. Roll each one out really really thin. If you're lucky enough to have a pizza stone, use it. I'm not, so I used an inverted cookie sheet. (Watch those buggers, the thin ones like to warp and jump at high temperatures!) Spread 1/4 of the lamb onto the rolled-out dough. I use the word "spread" loosely. Spread is what I wanted. Smoosh and push around until it's even is what I got.

If you're using the inverted cookie sheet, I found that 5 minutes at 450, followed by 2-3 more minutes directly on the oven rack was sufficient.

Let cool a little, sprinkle with lemon juice, a little chopped parsley, and serve. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Roasted Marrow Bones a la Fergus Henderson

I'm sure you've seen Fergus Henderson's roasted marrow bones all over the interwebs these days. Heck, you can't throw a dead cow without hitting a blog post raving about them. I had to do it.

First off, I don't remember where I read about soaking the bones in brine for 24 hours, but I'm glad I did. Every other time I've had bone marrow (in dishes like braised beef shanks), it's been an unappetizing gray. I was assured that the brining, where you change the water a bunch of times over 24 hours, will leech all the blood out of the marrow, leaving you with a nice yellow color.  Definitely worth it, as this dish really needs help in the visual appeal department. It is, after all, the gooey gloppy insides of bones mashed onto toast.

Second, make sure you have some good crunchy salt. And good bread.

Lastly, I left the capers out of the parsley salad because my refrigerator mysteriously ate my jar, and I don't think I really missed them.

Rich, fatty and beefy on a vehicle of hearty and crunchy, topped with green and tangy. Amazing. Definitely not something to have every day (or every month for that matter). But you have to try it at least once.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The $4 Tomato

A long long time ago, I purchased a tomato plant for $4. I put it in a pot, surrounded it with a tomato trellis, and lovingly took care of it all summer. I had three lovely tomatoes, slowly ripening away. Every day I would go out and check on my babies, give them a little squeeze, and determine that they needed just one more day.

And then, without fail, on the morning of each one's perfect ripeness, I discovered its half-eaten remains. Who would have done this? Crows? My chihuahua? Some evil tomato-mauling thief?

Yes, it's sad, and I grieved appropriately, but I still had one tiny tomato left. I cared for it, nurtured it, determined that I would get at least one tomato from this plant. I threw an entire summer's worth of tomato-growing labor into that little green sphere. I watched the tiny fruit slowly turn from green to red, but never get bigger than about an inch in diameter (this is mid-November, after all, and tomato season is a thing of the past).

And then, this morning, I look outside to check on my baby, and.....he's gone! Wait, hold on, calm down. I shifted my eyes down to the ground. There he was. Perhaps he attempted suicide in the night, to avoid the horrendous tomato-eating monster? I quickly rescued him and brought him into the warmth of the house.

For perspective, that's a 5-lb chihuahua sniffing the tomato. Told you he was tiny.

After all he's been through, watching his brothers and sisters get eaten (but being powerless to stop it!), the cold nights, the terrifying fall to the ground...I don't have the heart to eat him.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Coffee Haiku

These are coffee odes.
I hope you enjoy reading
these poems today.

O percolator,
You give that which sustains life.
Life sucks without you.

That is not your cup.
Yours is the green Pokey one.
Hands off my cup, fool.

Coffee is sucky.
I hate it. It is bitter.
Coffee can suck it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Asian Style Kohlrabi Salad

I bought a kohlrabi the other day. It was a monster. Literally, softball-sized. I was a little worried about it being fibrous and stringy, but it turned out to be just fine.

I didn't know what to do with it besides eat it raw, but I figured it would do well with an Asian-style dressing.

So I julienned up the kohlrabi and tossed it with some lemon juice. I don't know if kohlrabi turns brown, but I didn't want to take any chances. Which is kind of funny, really, since I added fish sauce and soy sauce later.

The dressing was a bit of sugar, some rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and fish sauce, nuked just enough to dissolve the sugar. A few squirts of sriracha, and I was ready to go. Dump the dressing on the kohlrabi, toss a bit. Eat. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Yes, I'm a bit late. You've probably all roasted your seeds already, or (sadly) thrown your pumpkin seeds in the trash or your compost heap. But whatever.

Clean your seeds by soaking them, and then running your hands through the seeds, picking out all the pumpkin gack. Drain the seeds, dry them off a bit with paper towels. Dump the seeds onto a baking tray, toss with some olive oil, and some good sea salt. I used a Trapani chunky salt that I found in my cabinet, and ground up in a little dish with my pestle.

Spread the seeds out into as even a layer as you can. Roast at 350-400 until they're done, stirring a few times.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I think my pumpkin's pretty scary...

And you know what? Baby chihuahuas love pumpkin.

Have a happy and safe Halloween! And try not to overdo the candy :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Braised Lamb Neck with Vegetables

Anybody who's been coming here for any length of time probably knows that I love long, slow, braised, stewy dishes. There's oxtails, lamb rogan josh, beef shanks, lamb shanks, and Yucatan pork stew, to name a few.

These dishes should be "one pot", but typically end up using many more than one in my kitchen, because I'm fiddly. I like to separate the veggies from the meat from the broth, refrigerate separately, remove the fat, squish the veggies into the broth through a strainer, etc.

And if I had my way, most of these dishes would be served over buttered noodles or some kind of potato, but given who I live with, it's usually over rice. I'm not complaining, just stating the facts.

Anyhow, today I made what was probably my first original braised lamb dish. I based it on a lot of past recipes, and others that I've seen online and in print, and was extremely happy with the results.

Unfortunately, as with most of my dishes like these, I couldn't get an appetizing-looking picture to save my life. So here's a picture of Little Dog after she had a bite of lamb.

It all started with lamb neck bones that I found at the local market. They reminded me of oxtails in regards to the meat:bone:other ratio, and they were cheap, so I had to buy them. So without further adieu, here's what I did:

Braised Lamb Neck with Vegetables

2 lbs lamb neck bones
vegetable/canola oil
2 carrots, cut in 2" lengths, thicker pieces cut in half lengthwise
3 ribs celery, cut like the carrots
2 parsnips, cut like the carrots
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2-1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
1.5-2 cups chicken stock
1-2 T tomato paste
small handful of dried mushrooms
bay leaves
black pepper
smoked paprika
1-2 anchovies in oil

Pat the lamb dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. Brown over high heat in the oil on all sides in a large Dutch oven. Remove to a plate. Do in batches if necessary.

Remove most of the oil from the Dutch oven, and saute the onion and garlic briefly. Add the wine to deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil and let the alcohol burn off. Add the tomato paste, dried mushrooms, bay leaves, thyme, paprika, black pepper, anchovies, and stocks. Return the lamb to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, covered, for about 2 hours. Add the vegetables to the pot, return to a simmer, and continue cooking until the vegetables are done and the lamb is falling off the bones.

Here's where I had a bit of a hiccup. The veggies were done, but the lamb wasn't. So I removed the veggies from the pot with a slotted spoon, and continued cooking the lamb for another hour or so.

When everything's done, and I hope you should be so lucky that the veggies and lamb are done at the same time, remove all the veggies and lamb from the braising liquid, and refrigerate separately. The next day, remove the fat from the top of the liquid, plunk everything back into your Dutch oven, and reheat gently. Salt to taste, although I didn't need any extra , given the initial salting of the lamb, the the salt in the beef stock.

Serve over buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, or, if your family insists, rice. (I made some barley to go with it, cooked in chicken broth & lamb braising liquid, and it was delicious.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Eggplant Focaccia

Eggplant is one of those things that I try to like, but keep failing (Bloody Mary's are another). I only ever really like it in baba ganoush, and even then I'm not so sure about it.

Wait, I take that back. My friend Tony makes the best eggplant parmigiana sandwich I've ever had in my life. And an Italian antipasto salad with fried eggplant bits on it. That's tasty.

I guess what I mean is that I've never been able to prepare eggplant myself, eat what I've made, and said "hey! that's great! can't wait to make that again".

So here's another one on the list of "meh, eggplant". Not because the recipe has any problems. Think along the lines of "it's not you, it's me." I present to you: Eggplant Focaccia, from Culinary in the Desert Country.

[Aside: Ooh look, a paragraph with a period outside the quotes in one sentence, and inside the quotes in another. I blame the length of the enclosed phrases, plus the fact that the 2nd one can be a sentence in its own right. Yes, I'm a dork. Moving on...]

I bought the pizza dough from Trader Joe's, and replaced the oregano with basil from a barely-surviving plant I have in the back yard. (I kill basil better than anyone.) And I tried the whole heating one pan while making the focaccia on another thing, with the intention of transferring the rested/risen assemblage from the 2nd pan to the 1st (or the 1st to the 2nd, depending on how you look at it). But that was so not working. So on the pan it stayed.

Tasty? Sure. Dough and cheese is always good. I even ate the eggplant. On my first slice. But I confess, I did remove most of the offending vegetable from successive slices. But for a more unbiased opinion, Hubby said "Did you take pictures? You should blog this." So if you like eggplant, this is good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part III


What did you do today? I painted my house. Oh yeah? I was a virgin sacrifice for Jesus. Top that.


It wasn't even funny.

Then why'd you laugh?

'Cause it was funny.


I hope you fall in a hole.


Stop signing things as "Wang Chung".
[ed. note: Hubby's initials are WC]


Japanese women remind me of marshmallow Peeps.


What's the guy with the puppets whose lips don't move? Transfiloquist?


I got this big ol' piece of bread, and this itty bitty little pat of butter. How am I gonna butter that toast? It's up to you what corner you want to butter.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Google Tag

Browsing through my Reader, I came across Betts's Google Tag post over at Damn Yankee. It sounded like fun, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

1. Your favorite beverage

Red wine, preferably something light like a Sangiovese. If wine was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

2. Your hometown

Bolingbrook, IL. Typical midwestern suburb. CNN Money said it was 32 out of the 100 best places to live in 2008. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it was a good place to grow up.

3. Your favorite television show

Not having a television, I don't really have a favorite show. But when we had a TV, I never missed No Reservations.

4. Your occupation

I'm a Quality Assurance Manager for a medical device company. I won't bore you with details.

5. First car

1985 Chevy Camaro. Loved that car.

6. Favorite dish

Sushi, without a doubt. I could eat it every day if I could afford it.

7. A celebrity you've been told you resemble

People always tell me I look like Jodie Foster when she was younger. I don't see it. But it continues to happen, even with random strangers in the grocery store.

8. Celebrity on your "to-do" list

Rodrigo Santoro. He was Xerxes in 300, and Raúl Castro in Che. Please, click on the picture. You'll understand why he's on my list.

9. Favorite children's toy

My favorite, but I bet my parents hated what it did to the lawn.

10. Any random pic

Because they're cute. And I miss my hedgehog. I'd get another, but they're illegal in CA, and very hard to come across.

11. What are you doing tonight?

Reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. Good book.

And watching the Bears game.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cantonese Pickled Vegetables

Months ago, I bookmarked these Cantonese Pickled Vegetables from Caper Berry. I finally made them, and boy am I glad I did.

Crunchy, a little sweet, a little sour, a little spicy. Perfect accompaniment for...well...everything.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Il Primo Giardiniera

Best. Giardiniera. Ever.

That is all.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cornmeal Crunch from 101 Cookbooks

Heidi at 101 Cookbooks posted this Cornmeal Crunch back in November '08. It looked delicious, so why am I just getting around to making it now? Because I currently have 890 recipes in my "Not Tried" folder. It's getting a little unruly, I think I need to weed it out a little. For example, I've got 4 recipes for birria. And nowhere have I ever found goat meat. But that's another blog post for (hopefully) another day.

Back to the Cornmeal Crunch. Basically, you cook polenta stovetop, mix in Parmesan and browned onions, spread into a pan, and bake until the top and edges get crusty. Top with more onions, slice and serve.

Very tasty. It's most definitely crunchy on the edges, creamy in the middle. I'm contemplating making a batch of red lentil soup right now, so I have something to dunk it in. Or maybe cutting it up into cubes and making stuffing.

Bottom line, if you like polenta and caramelized onions, you'll like this.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oxtail Stew

The weather has finally cooled down enough for me to cook the things I like to cook. Long, stewy, braisy things. Like Oxtail Stew from Simply Recipes.

<Aside: My "L" key isn't working properly, and it's seriously ticking me off.>

Recipe summary: S&P oxtails, brown. Saute onion, carrot, celery. Add garlic, seasonings, broth, wine. Simmer for hours. During the last hour, roast carrots, parsnips and turnips (I added celery because I love roasted celery with beefy dishes). Remove the fat, smoosh the broth veggies through a strainer into the liquid. Reduce the liquid. Put the oxtails back in, along with the roasted veggies. Heat through. Better the 2nd day.

If you don't dig on collageny hard-to-eat chunks of meat, I'm sure you could use another cut of beef, as long as it's got a bone in it. But the oxtails add a wonderful richness to the broth that you just can't get with another cut. Unfortunately, they leave you kind of sticky after you're done eating. But it's so worth it.

<Aside #2: I hate my camera. My flash is too flashy:

and no flash is too dark:


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Super Sesame Cookies

I found this recipe for Super Sesame Cookies over at Eating Out Loud, and just had to make them. One, I had everything I needed, and two, they sounded like my kind of cookie. Sesame seeds and tahini in a cookie? Yes, please.

So, here they are.

Delicious? Yes. Nutty, only slightly sweet, crunchy-chewy. Definitely a good cookie.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Doesn't it look delicious?

I can't take credit for it. My good friend Drita made it.

Good bye, Drita, and good luck in your new home. We'll all miss you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lamb Rogan Josh

An employee of mine once told me that I cook lamb more than anybody else he knows. Why not cook lamb? It tastes way better than beef, in my opinion. And you've got all the cool cuts - rack, shanks, chops, neck.

I've been craving stewy braisy things lately, which kind of sucks, since it's in the 90s, and doesn't start cooling down until at least 7pm, if at all. But, screw it, I said, and made Lamb Rogan Josh, from Vikram Sunderam, via Food & Wine.

This is probably the first time I've made an Indian dish that I was happy with. Not just "hmm, it's ok", but completely happy with. Tender lamb, tangy spicy sauce. Good over rice. And pasta. And then use the leftover sauce to dip tortilla chips into.

I'd love to show you a picture, but...I'd hate to show you a picture. I don't even want to try to describe what my pictures looked like.

Just trust me. This recipe rocks.

So, no photo of lamb rogan josh, but here's an egg I cooked for the animals.

Picture me (I'd be interested to know how some of you picture me!), sitting on the floor, surrounded by a yellow tabby,

a tan chihuahua,

and a brown lab/chow mix,

all vulturing for a piece of egg. And I better feed them in the correct sequence (big dog, little dog, cat), otherwise they'll get upset. Just when the kids are almost "all grown up", I realize I have 3 more that never will.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Youngest wanted yakisoba. I had never made it before, so I did a quick search, and found that the big bottle of Bulldog sauce in my fridge would work perfectly.

I cooked the soba noodles that I just purchased 48 hours ago (hint, foreshadowing), then rinsed them in cold water.

I stir-fried up some chicken, removed it to a plate, then stir-fried chopped bok choy stems, minced garlic and ginger, followed by some absolutely gorgeous brown beech mushrooms, and finally the bok choy leaves. Isn't it pretty?

The mushrooms were as local as you can get, grown right here in San Marcos at the Hokto Kinoko facility. Check out their cool shrooms! They're seriously delicious.

To assemble, I heated up a little more oil really hot. Added the wet noodles, a bunch of Bulldog sauce, a little soy sauce, and (of course) some Sriracha. Stir and toss, stir and toss. I was aiming for a little crispiness to the noodles, like you get with fried rice. (Unfortunately, that wasn't happening.) I added back the chicken and vegetables, along with a handful of bean sprouts. More stirring and tossing until everything was heated through.

Topped with sliced pickled ginger and chopped up nori. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to chop up nori? Even my ceramic knife had problems.)

Youngest said it was good, she plans on bringing the leftovers to school for lunch, her only complaint was that the noodles broke easily and she couldn't use chopsticks. I thought there was something off about the noodles as well, not just the breakiness, but also in their flavor. Hubby was super-impressed with the dish (he especially loved the mushrooms)....except for the noodles.

Maybe they were old? You'd think not, since I just purchased them (but dummy me didn't check for an expiration date). Maybe they were inferior? Don't think so, I picked the mid-price-range ones from Marukai market.

This was one of those happy-sad dinners - happy that I was able to cook something so delicious, but sad that it was tainted by crappy noodles. I'm definitely going to try again, I think with udon, but Hubby says I should just cook the chicken/veggies/sauce and put it over rice. We'll see.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Beautiful Food

Since there's not much beautiful food going on around here lately, I thought I'd share this with you. Listening to it makes me hungry.

Beautiful Food, by Edan.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Asparagus, Cauliflower, and a Puppy

Once again, I'm too lazy to take pictures, edit pictures, etc. But "dinner" tonight was delicious. I feel sorry for people who scroll through a post looking for food pictures, then automatically click off if there aren't any. 'Cause they're missing out. 

Update 5/4/11: Added a picture of roasted cauliflower.

First, the happy asparagus. This works best with thin spears.
Soy-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

Snap off the woody ends of your asparagus. Toss with olive oil, a little salt, and black pepper. Roast at 350-400 until it's done to your liking. Throw in a little butter, and equal parts soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.
Next, the cauliflower. My Hubby and MIL who both hate cauliflower love this. Even Youngest eats it.
Roasted Cauliflower

Cut cauliflower into small pieces, thinner is better for good crusty browning. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until almost done to your liking, tossing half way through. Toss through some minced garlic and some grated parmesan, and return to the turned-off oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, add more cheese, and a handful of chopped parsley.

And, finally, the promised puppy. Complete with tiny goggles, tiny helmet, and a satchel to keep him safe. Happy puppy was barking ecstatically the whole way down the freeway. I wish I knew where the owner got the safety gear, because I'm sure my chihuahua would love a ride on our Vespa.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Progression is Lacking...

I'm seriously thinking of changing A Work in Progress to A Lack of Progress.

Tonight was the first time I've cooked anything since I can't even remember when. (Just checked the archives, eggplants and clams from over 10 days ago.)

Ironically, it was more eggplant - I made an eggplant/hummus hybrid, the idea taken from Cooking with Michele, the quantities all mine and not measured. Hubby (eggplant lover) didn't care for it - I think I didn't mash the garbanzo beans smooth enough. His mother (eggplant hater) loved it. Go figure. (Youngest didn't try it, no surprise there.)

To go with the Mediterranean fusion (aka not-so-pretty glop in a bowl), I made tzatziki and toasted some pita bread.

Not only is there a lack of progress on the cooking front, I'm having the same difficulties with my physical ailment, ie. 9 months of chronic pain in my leg that so far has been undiagnosed and untreatable. I think I've tried all the opiates out there, lidocaine, muscle relaxers, nerve blocks, acupuncture, Neurontin, Lyrica, Cymbalta, a TENS unit, nothing works. When I told my doctor that I was wearing a Fentanyl patch and had taken 2 Vicodin (still completely coherent, still totally in pain), his jaw just about hit the floor.

So it's off to the neurologist on Friday, for an EMG and nerve conduction study (ouch) in the morning and then a bone scan in the afternoon. I'm torn between hoping they find something (which will probably be un-fixable) and hoping they don't.

In the meantime, amputation is looking better and better. But then with my luck, I'd have phantom limb pain.

Oh, and I get to have a root canal tomorrow.

So, uh..., yeah...until further notice...A Lack of Progress.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Eggplants and Clams

I bought 2 Japanese eggplants, because they looked so cute, skinny and lighter in color than your typical globe eggplant. I also bought some stuffed clams from Sprouts. Breadcrumbs, chopped clams, seasonings, some minced veggies, stuffed into clam shells. It reminded me of stuffing (heck, it was stuffing), and made me want turkey. No picture, because I forgot.

But here's a picture of the end result. I was pretty impressed with the shell pictures I took - so much so that it was difficult to decide which ones to use. And that never happens to me. It's too bad that the background in the pictures changed color, but oh well. (Anybody know why that happens?)

With the first eggplant, I made Baked Eggplant Chips with Za'atar, from Anh at A Food Lover's Journey. They were delicious, and I think za'atar is my new favorite seasoning blend. Even Hubby liked it, and he hates thyme. I used the proportions from Laurie's recipe at Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. My eggplant slices were a little uneven, resulting in the thinner parts burning and sticking to the tray before the thicker parts were done cooking. So, they weren't very pretty - hence, no picture.

With the 2nd eggplant, because I finally bought a can of tahini, I made Baba Ghanoush (or Moutabal, depending on what country you're in) from Mercedes at Desert Candy. I didn't use a food processor to chop up the roasted eggplant, just chopped chopped chopped until I got the consistency I wanted. I was completely amazed with how good this was! Hubby couldn't stop talking about it for the rest of the night. "This is so good", "can you make it again like this?", "I want this every day". It's a winner, I'd say. Again, no picture, because it was, well, a bowl of greenish-brown chunky mush. Not very appetizing to look at.

I was also going to cook up some asparagus (olive oil, s&p, bake til done, equal parts soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, a little butter), but my bunch had been lounging in the fridge too long, and got a little mushy. Ick.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cheesy Oniony Potato Pierogi

To accompany my wild mushroom soup, I also made some pierogi. I used this recipe from Bake List, which is an adaptation of Grant Achatz's recipe. Other than substituting parrano cheese for the Gruyere (since that's what I had, and my local supermarket doesn't carry Gruyere), I followed the recipe.

Well, I kind of followed the recipe. At the almost-done point in the assembly of the pierogi, I got fed up with the dough - very elastic and sticky. So I made one big-ass pierogi, about 10" across at the widest point. It fell apart into 3 pieces while boiling. But it didn't leak (too much), so I proceeded as normal with the pan-frying in butter. Ugly, but good.

These are definitely not health food - butter, cheese, sour cream, fried in butter. Ironically, I found out that my cholesterol is "slightly high" right after I made these. I think I see a lot of salads in my future. Good thing I made the pierogi when I did.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

For some reason I had a hankering for some soup. Yeah, in the middle of all this nasty humid heat. I had a package of TJ's dried wild mushrooms, and found this recipe from Culinary Disasters.

I followed the recipe exactly, except for leaving out the rosemary and thyme, since Hubby seems to be able to detect it in microscopic amounts. Hell, he thinks it's there even when it's not, sometimes.

Verdict? Definitely not pretty, but very tasty. Earthy, creamy, perfectly suited for a cold winter's night, but not so bad on a hot summer evening, either.