Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Hard Day's Hunting!

How can you not love this little guy! But for all his smiles & giant slobbery "AWAAA"s, he is somewhat of a Hunter. His exploration phases are always short lived but intense. Ranging from emptying the video cupboard contents into the mikan box every 1/2 hr for 2 days to trying to jump into the kitchen sink via the counter. Examples: I cleaned the house one night & found no less than 12 potatoes around the house in various random locations, two remote controls were found in the garbage.

It's hard to find useful things for a 1 year old to do esp when you have your hands full with 5 others but we're working on it. Here are a few other phases (pics taken in the course of about 5 minutes):

Emptying freezer phase: Involves pinching fingers repeatedly in the door & whinnying about holding "coldie" food for too long.

- "Climbing chairs/tables/shelves & everything else" phase: Usually involves him finding and eating something he's not supposed to.
- "Emptying kitchen drawers" Phase: Varieties like whacking kitchen utensils on the floor, moving utensils to undesireable locations and of course covering the surface of utensils with saliva, are popular.
- "Trying to act like he's the boss" Phase: Always a winner with the big boys. They don't call it LONG suffering for nothing!- "Begging with puppy dog noises" phase: Works best when he sits on my foot with his head thrown back as far as it can go & a positively pathetic look of extreme hunger on his face.
Will I ever make time for posting recipes, I MUST.......bear with me....

Friday, November 28, 2008 be Thankful forrrrr!

People are asking me what I did for Thanksgiving dinner and I must be honest & say that we didn't do Thanksgiving in the conventional way. I got to do what I considered to be a simple yummy dinner for a freezing cold November night.
Now if you get it you get it & if you don't you don't but don't knock nabe-ryori or kimchi, OK? I'm sorry Mr. Kimchi, or whoever I stole this picture from on google, but I didn't take a picture of mine. I was too busy dishing it up & stuffing myself. But I'm telling you, nothings better than your food bubbling away at the table where all you have to do is grab a pair of chopsticks & serve it up.

I guess, I don't feel like I'd have the energy to pull off two big dinners in the course of a month. Besides, which one is supposed to be the one that you go "all out" for? I never did understand the difference between dishes you eat on Thanksgiving & dishes you eat at Christmas? Aren't they the same? Does any one have answers for me? This is a topic that has always plauged me.
Well, in any case this is my awkward thanksgiving post & now that that's out of the way we can move on to Christmas. :)
Stay warm & cozy, Good night!
P.S. Cookie posts coming at you, soon. Prepare a glass of milk!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Happy Little Side Dish!

Oh my here I go again with the deep frying.

"But you don't understaaaaand............this time it's gonna be DIFFERENT.......this time it's gonna be SPECIAL!!!!"

Nope, not really, it's your regular deep frying again! It's just such a simple way to make a really tastey side dish. Check it out:
1 large head of cauliflower
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1 c dried bread crumbs
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste
Wash & cut the cauliflower. (Don't you just hate those little bits of "business" all over the cutting board when you cut cauliflower or brocolli? Cut from the underside not the top of the bunch!) Steam or boil the cauliflower.

Dip in egg/milk mixture, coat w/ bread crumbs & leave to set for at least 1/2 hr. (I do this way in advance & then put it in the fridge till I'm gonna use it)
Deep fry on medium heat till golden brown. Eat salted & HOT!! Or keep in a heated oven to keep them crisp. I'm telling kinda freaks you out how good cauliflower tastes like this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Well, your Pa's full of......."

If I may just say, I'm not sure why anyone would be insulted to have someone say they are "full of applesauce". I personally like applesauce!!I mean, look at that? How can you not like that? It's just simple, friendly, homey & heart warming. So just in case you're stuck w/ a box of apples & are in need of direction, here's some "Little house on the Prairie" advice for you.

Peel & slice 6-7 apples
squeeze 1/2 lemon
3 cloves
1 stick of cinn (or 1/2 tsp ground cinn)
3 whole cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom)
1/4 c of water

Bring to a boil, lower heat & simmer covered for 1 hr or more, stirring occasionally. Take off the lid & simmer for 1/2 hr more (if you want thicker sauce)

You can leave it chunky or blend it to make it smooth. I don't think I like it blended, it reminds me too much of baby food. This makes about 3-4 c. It'll keep in a jar in the fridge for loooong days!!

Now as far as it's uses:

- It's just great as a sweetener
- on yogurt
- on french toast & pancakes
- on toast
- on crackers
- on ice cream
- in muffins
- in sweet breads
- in cakes
- etc etc....

Well, what are you waiting for? Go forth & make applesauce!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Renkon Nimono

I feel kinda bad that my last Japanese food post was so long ago.

So here’s a little simple something that is close to my heart! What my dad calls “wagon wheels”, aka: renkon (lotus root) is just about one of my most favorite root veggies ever. I love the texture, & it’s simple, delicate flavor. The shape is just plain old fun & it’s famous in Japan for being a “beauty food” for women & good for your skin. Regardless, of it's health properties I really like it simmered or fried like chips or in tempura.
This is a super duper simple way to simmer it. And to be honest I use this nimono mix to simmer a whole slew of root veggies together. My favorites being: Renkon, gobo, carrot, sato-imo & konyaku. (Oooh Brotha’ that’s some good winter food) but you can do other stuff like, daikon, potatoes & shitake too, whatever floats your boat.

So here’s how:

4 to 5 renkon roots (about 6” in length each, that’s what I used this day, but you can grab enough root veggies to fill half a 4L heavy bottom pot.)

1 c dashi (you can use instant dashi powder @ 2 tsp for 1 c, of boiling water) or of course traditional (but we won't get into that)
½ tsp goma oil (or vegetable oil)
1 ½ tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake
3 tbsp soy sauce

Mix these ingredients in a bowl, I usually just use my glass measuring cup.

Peel & slice the renkon into 1cm slices (leave to soak in water, if you don’t, it’ll discolor quickly) heat goma oil, drain renkon & saute, mixing for a few minutes. Pour dashi mix into pot & bring to a boil. Turn heat to low & cover with a tin foil covering/drop lid.
(This is a traditional Japanese method of covering simmering food, so it allows the steam to escape slowly. If you're using tin foil, try to make sure you make the “drop lid” just a bit smaller than the pot so the steam can go up around the sides of the pot) Now cook till the dashi is GREATLY reduced (like, nearly gone, but watch out for sensationally bad taste if you burn the dashi right out! Arrgh!) Stir every once in awhile. It should take up to ½ hr or more if you do it right.

NOTE to impatient cooks: Nimono is really no good if the heat is too high, the point is to get the veggies to completely absorb the flavor of the dashi, so that won’t happen if you try to hurry things along, will it? Nuff said?
And you’re done.

Well, that's it I guess. As always, it's better hot. But nothing to wink at cold either. Great for a bento or lunch.

Generally, my kids can’t get enough of renkon or pretty much all root veggies & it’s a very simple method for such a rewarding flavor. :)
PS: Dear gaijins, please use cooking hashi when you make this. You'll feel better about yourself, I promise!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Helping Hands!

So my 2 yr old January girl was crouched down in front of the tupperware cupboard with the rice cooker. My instinct was to get grouched out with her getting into things but I tried to muster my last smidgen of patience & ask her nicely:

"What are you doing, Miss?"
"I'm doing the left-overs".
"That's really nice of you"
"I'm finding a lid now"
"Good idea!"

she then gets a stool to reach the fridge door & put it away, & continues her "play by play" on her helpfulness.

"OK, I'm putting it in the fridge now, Mommy"
"Mmmm-hmmm!" (Notice I'm real big on communicating w/ my kids after a loooong day)

So after finishing up on the rest of the dishes I look in the fridge & find this on the bottom shelf nice & neat..... Yes, that's a total of 37 grains of rice in a tupperware.

I know this is one of silly posts that has absolutely no meaning but I just thought it was the funniest thing at the time.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ashler's Bashler's Birthday Bash!

Oh, OH-MY! This is an "OH-MY" picture & I just feel very "Oh-my" when I see it. If I may just say, I am a cheesecake girl in a cheesecake world! Something about half-eaten food REALLY makes me hungry.

This was supposed to be a post all about my daughter's 9th birthday but it somehow really turned into a mighty "cheesey weezy" cake moment, for me. Partly because of the lack of birthday pics I guess. Well, I'm giving it a try, anyway!

So again, Birthday season strikes & Ashley turned 9. This year she asked for a cheesecake. So it started out a little something like this:
Well no, actually it started with her looking through my totally impractical dessert cookbook looking for a cheesecake I could make. Thankfully she chose something pretty realistic. It was a buttermilk cheesecake with raspberry sauce. I sized up the recipe made my adjustments & went to work. She was tickled to help me here & there & of course take some pictures for me. My mixer (still haven't given him a name) got to do the heavy work of mixing 500g of cream cheese, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp cornstarch 2 egg yolks & 1/2 c of honey & 3/4 c of milk ( 1 tsp of vinegar added to the milk makes a great substitute for buttermilk) . Check out the sticker deco on the top, very "Erika".The cream cheese came with little packs of blueberry jam so I added spread that on the bottom of the (not cooked/now frozen) cookie crumb crust. (grated @ 1 tsp of lemon rind in the crust, I think it helped) For anyone whose interested...I would highly recommend not pre-baking the crust but freezing instead.Now I don't know about yours but my Law of baked cheesecake states: "My cheesecake shall never fall from the balcony & maim a hapless pedestrian, but rather "splat" harmlessly upon their unsuspecting head in a comical manner that shall cause me no negative legal reprecutions whatsoever. Egg whites SHALL be beaten till stiff & folded into cream cheese mixture to avoid "block-of-cheese-disguised-as-cheesecake" type disasters."
Baked for 1hr 15 min at 160c gave it a much darker crust then I'd have liked but it worked. Decorated with whip cream & left over raspberries. Sadly I have no evidence of the raspberry sauce but it was simply blended raspberries, strained in a sieve & mixed with apple sauce (to stretch....come on, do you know how expensive raspberries are?) Tasted great but looked incredibly like ketchup. With all the aunts & uncles coming over, the poor raspberry sauce didn't stand a chance. Tsk tsk!

And here they are now! Here's where the camera gets swept away in the tide of overly enthusiastic children greeting slightly-tired but equally enthusiastic Aunts & Uncles.

Grandpa's I-phone games are all the rage. (And no, I see it too! There is indeed a very large, odd hat upon Uncle Masa's head)Yeah, still there. They were doing unspeakable things to the poor chalk-man stuck in the I-phone!
And of course there were the usual friendly attempts to win Ban-tan's trust. Poor kid, I'm surprised he survived the night.
Here's the Birthday lady! Hmm....I did not have the camera at this point! And who has time for pictures when you have a table of expectant kids waiting for a piece of the action. We had a great time cutting into some pretty light cheesecake, & smothered our ice cream with ketchup (I mean, raspberry sauce). Well, there you have it. I'm always sorry I don't get around to taking more pictures of our birthday get together's but it's near impossible. I guess you have to see it to believe it!

Next up Travster! Poor guy is anticipating it so much he asked the next morning if it was his birthday. (Since he knows his is next).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Search is Over

You know, for someone who doesn't like deep frying, it seems to me that I have a lot of recipes that call for deep frying. But this is Hash-browns.....that's different.

I'm not sure where my obsession with finding the perfect hash-brown comes from, maybe it's part of my genetic make up or maybe I had one too many happy McDonald Morning Egg McMuffin sets with the orange juice & hash-brown when I was a young impressionable child.

In any case, I've been on a quest to make the perfect hash browns for awhile. You know crunchy & crisp on the outside but soft on the inside. I've had some wonderful duds back in the day when I would do things "on the fly" instead of doing a little research first. Everything from frying the potatoes without rinsing the starch out & having some discolored gummy messes, to precooking & frying them & creating a titanic clean up job on the bottom of my pan.

My most used mediocre method involved simply grating potatoes, rinsing & then salting & squeezing out the excess water. It worked OK but depending on the potatoes. Finally I found a recipe that makes sense. The secret (Well, maybe not a secret to you, but to me it was news) flour & egg to bind the potatoes into a batter. By golly, it was pure genius. So, I'm passing the word for all you Hash-brown-junkies! (Come on, I know you're out there.)

The Recipe:

3 large potatoes shredded
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped (the recipe called for 1/2 but it's a bit heavy duty for the kids first thing in the morning)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
oil for frying, or as needed
salt and pepper to taste

The Directions:

Rinse shredded potatoes until water is clear, then drain and squeeze dry. Place shreds in a bowl, and mix in the onion, flour and egg until evenly distributed.
Heat oil till sizzling hot in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. & get your plate & paper towels ready. Now drop them in little piles (OK, the "Al' friendly term" is actually, "Lil' Plops") And fry till they're golden brown on each side. It'll take a little bit of time. Don't get impatient & turn the heat up. And you don't need much oil only about a inch or so.
Ohh.....that looks goooood!!
And the First Law of Hashbrown consumption states: YOU MUST EAT THEM HOT!! That's right scalding HOT, burn-your-mouth-freak-the-kids-out HOT. If not, you can just forget it. Becasue the whole point is to have a crunchy crust. Ok? Mmm--hmm! Enough said!
Salt & Pepper to taste, and defile with ketchup if you feel so inclined (I know I do!!) And it's gonna be a jolly morning, my friends, yes it is!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Our Little Outing!

Hey-howdy-hey! Howz it? Everyone snuggly warm in their fuzziest sockies & totally uncool & comfy PJ pants? I know I am.

I just wanted to put a couple of "happy making" pictures of our visit to my sister, brother in law & darling little niece & nephew.

We had a lovely little late evening dinner with a cozy group of friends who seemed to have stomachs like the bottomless pit. Everyone contributed with the cooking. Aaron made some sweet pizza with stuffed cheese & sausage crust. Fay made some awesome pasta with plenty of hot pepper. Ryan made some uper yummy cream desserts based on the "Grasshopper Pie" method but with different liquor (I forgot!). And I went & experimented on everyone by bringing 2 snackies I'd never made before, Applesauce spice bars & caramel pumpkin pie. They were (in my opinion) mediocre & the only thing that I can see myself making again is the caramel from from the pumpkin pie. It blew my mind with it's awesome burnt caramel taste.

Oh, I mustn't forget that my sister made a grape sorbet that she didn't serve that night. (Sorry, fellas) She served me a nice bowl full before we left. This was some classy well thought out stuff. If I remember correctly, simmered down grape juice, sugar, cream, egg whites....anything else? The home made grape jelly was the clincher. Great Stuff, Elaina! I mused to her that it'll probably become a sisterly tradition to make ice-cream for each other when we have visits. (The last time she came I made her some Olive oil ice-cream)

The kids had a great time with their cousins & the highlight was the animals at "Aguri" park. (love that name) Here are a few pics.
Feeding the rabbits grass.
Bansome feeding the goat leaves. Trav loved the goats, there was nothing those goats wouldn't eat. We had to stop him when he was gearing up to throw cans in there though. Truly animals after his own heart.
Daddy feeding the horrific looking pig smooshy bananas. If you can believe it somehow it managed to only eat the inside & leave the peel. A pig with manners? Groooooosss!
I'm seriously re-thinking bacon & ham now!Shelly & Erika!

A Few Random Cooking Tips for Your Viewing Pleasure!

Simple but deadly snackie to make with cold unappetizing LO french toast: Cut into strips, deep fry & toss in brown sugar & cinnamon. (Don't try it!....I mean it!!)

Too lazy to cut your biscuits or don't have a biscuit cutter, cutting them into wedges or squares is rustic & ridiculously cool looking.

Give the kids something to do by having them roll out Focaccia dough to make bread sticks. (after the 1st rising). Brush w/ Olive oil, sprinkle w/ herbs or seeds. Bake for 10 min (for soft) or 15 (for crusty) at 200c. Give permission for kids to play with their food because they will anyway.

Use a strainer to strain your cream of celery soup & you'll get a clear smoother textured soup. Ohhh...... baby!!
Will post something of worth when I get the time to take a shower & vacuum.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dumplings --- FOR REAL!

Before I get any wise crack comments about Jamaican dumplings let me just say that these are in NO WAY related. This is the real deal. Simple-dimple! Chilly nights are coming & there's nothing better than coming home to a warm bowl of stew & dumplings. Eh, Nina? She knows what I'm talking 'bout!

So gird up your loins of cooking & let's be off. Here are your ingredients:

3 tbsp shortening (if you're in a pinch margarine will do)
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp dried basil/oregano or parsley
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c milk

Assembly is straightforward. Mix dry in a bowl, cut shortening into the flour with your fingers. (NOTE: it's OK if not all the crumbs are uniform in size. STOP obsessing, please!)
Using a spoon very gently mix in the milk. AGAIN, DON'T over mix the batter. Remember.....LUMPS are your friend. RESTRAIN YOURSELF, if you please!

Now I hope you have your soup ready. It should be already thickened & totally prepared, and heated to nearly boiling. The heat should be on low!
OK, no snickering at my stew. This is a genuine "Mommy's-hand- dandy-lunchie-munchie-Chicken/black & green bean/rice/corn & carrot-special-stew-for-sickie-kids" (of science!)

Now, drop the dumpling batter by tablespoon-fulls on top of the stew, it should make about 10-12 dumplings.

(HINT: Be careful of a stew with too little filling & too much soup or your dumplings will sink completely, you want them only partly submerged, same thing with very watery stew as they'll just sink to the bottom)

Wait till your stew comes to a simmer. Be patient, don't give in to the temptation to turn the heat up or you may have to deal with burnt filling on the bottom. Simmer with the top off for about 5 minutes. (It's just coming to a boil in this picture.) Now, cover & simmer for another 10 minutes till they expand & are dry on the top. Resist the urge to check on it repeatedly because you don't believe that this is ever actually going to work! Oh ye of little faith! Just keep the lid on & sit tight.....or go set the table or something.
Here we go. Almost done in this pic. (See the tops are still a bit shiny)
And that should do it. Not the most beautiful of foods but certainly a comforting one.

I have to warn you though, this won't work in much larger quantities than this unless you have a pretty wide soup pot, since you can't exactly make them one on top of the other.

Well, that's it for today! Till next time, be ye warmed & fed!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Scary Business!!

There was a little dress up area where you could take pictures at Harbor City, the kids went nuts there while waiting for me to get my new glasses.

In case you're wondering, no one put him up to this. (But then, you already knew that!) You know what they always say, "Give a kid a pitchfork & the rest comes naturally!" (Well, I don't know that "they" actually say that, but I believe it's true)

Ashley looks genuinely evil...& Laner couldn't be no matter how hard she tried
Looking forward to seeing all your dress up pics! XXX