Friday, February 27, 2009

Berry-Berry Yummy Cobbler

Dear Sister that I love,

This post is for you! You know who you are, because you're the only one whose trying to click on that picture to enlarge it & then make it your wallpaper. You're also the only sister that's capapble of doing this:

to a raspberry cobbler.

So, I hope you don't mind if I share your secret with the world. Because simple things in life that make you cozy your knees up under your massive sweater while you swivel around on Daddy's big chair & giggle with our cornball brothers, while slooooooowly enjoying this cobbler -- should not be kept secret. Besides, the more people who we can pass the word to, the greater the chance of you walking into some stranger's home & having them shove a massive cake pan of crispy/gooey warm fruity goodness under your nose for you to cherish. Can't argue with those kinda odds.

So here we go:
I know you're partial to raspberries but since we happened to get mutant strawberries for very cheap & frozen blueberries (non-mutent, I think) we'll go with that. Chopping them up just seemed like the right thing to do. Since I think a "whole strawberry" would just be too much "gooo" for me.
I got myself 4 cups of fruit. I didn't forget to rinse the frozen blueberries since the last time I didn't they turned my muffins positively greenish black with all the icy blueberry juice surrounding them.

Now, since you know I ain't a rocket scientist & I don't do this from scratch, lemmie just give you the specs on the "drys": 1 1/4 cup of flour, 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt.

I gave them a little whisking around because it also made me feel good. And this is a "feel good" kinda snack. (truth: Erika wouldn't leave me alone unless I gave her something "useful" to do)

Now since you're preheating your oven to 175c anyway, throw in 1/2 c or 1 stick or 113 grams of butter into a 9" cake pan or casserole dish.

Look, I know you're thinking, "Butter, Margarine, same thing!"

To that I say, "SILENCE or VIOLENCE"!

If you've gone as far to get a 380Y bag of raspberries, go over to the dairy section & get a 370Y block of butter. After all, this is cobbler!

Give it a few minutes in the oven & swirl the butter around a bit. Not because it needs it as much as it's sort of a little game I play to see how close I can get it to the edge of the pan without spilling it........yeah, that's the kinda game you'd play too isn't it?

Your wets: 1 cup of milk & 1 tsp of either almond essence or vanilla essence! Let's walk on the wild side & use almond. I know you wanna! Could it possibly get any easier? Just pour it into the dry & blend till just combined. I know you're not the type to over-mix but still I have to warn you anyway. Tough cobbler is just not romantic in the slightest bit.

And now for the fun part! (as if up until now you haven't just been a blasty-blast) The part where I pour with my left hand & simultaneously take pictures with my right hand & try to do it artistically at the same time. Whatever that means.....I think it means, just plop that batter in there already.

Now take a moment to observe. See the ring of butter around the edge?

I think it's time for a "moment".

That sweet sister, is sheer goodness & love in a cake pan. I tell you things just don't get any better.

Well, now............I think they just did. Things got much much better!

There's nothing like a massive pile of berries plopped on top of your batter of goodness. And no, you may not snitch more than 5 pieces of fruit. Stop it already! I think I could've stood to spread it out more evenly but I have a certain fondness to the crusty edge so I kept it to the middle & pressed it down into the batter a bit.

Let's just have another moment shall we?

................. still my beating heart!

Now it's time to put our baby in the oven. Surprisingly long cooking time (50-55 minutes) gives you plenty of time to clean up, change into your jammies or go get yourself an ice-cream to top it with. You thought I forgot that? NEVER!!

Now, let's see how things went.

Well now, if that doesn't just beat all. The edge should be browned crispy and the cobbler gets softer & softer as you get nearer to the center it may be somewhat soft or gooey looking. So, there you have it. If you've got any shread of sanity (of course you do) you'll do as I say & consume this after it's cooled down for about 10 min & top it with ice cream.

Well, that's it, sister! You know that bite there has your name on it. The one where the ice cream is melting down the side of the cobbler & is silently begging you to save it before it all melts away!

I love you & when you come by this way, there will most certainly be a healthy bowl of this "berry good cobbler" waiting for you.

Mucho love,

Your silly big sister

PS. I'll bet this cobbler would be just as good with any juicy fruit, mango, kiwi, peach, nectarines or even apple.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Quick Tuna Pasta

If there is one word I love to hear in a recipe's title, it's the word "QUICK"!

For "quick" is most often the only thing I have time for. The good news is this beautifully glistening pasta sauce is among the fastest 3 pasta meals I know how to make. (and by meals, I'm not talking about something that comes in a can or plastic package from the store) So, lend me your metaphorical ear & we will throw it together.

I must warn you, I've always had a bit of a a paranoia about posting pasta recipes. There's a lot of mystique surrounding the method for making "perfect" pastas & I sure wouldn't want to bust anyone's bubble about the "proper"" way of doing things. So let me just say this recipe is a 100% "Al'-wings-it-big-time-pasta-QUICK-recipe-of-science"! OK? Soooo, now that your mind is at ease, run to the kitchen NOW!!! Not a moment to loose!

Here's what we need:

400 g. of canned tuna (how many cans that is you'll have to figure out yourself, I use about 3-4)
600-800 g. canned tomatoes (again, I use 3 2oog cans)
1 large onion
5 cloves of garlic
a bottle of E.V. olive oil
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary from the back yard (or 1 tsp of dried)
2-3 sprigs of fresh basil (or 1/2 tsp dried, personally I just skip the basil if it's not fresh)
2 dried peppers
salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese to top & basil
700g-1 kg pasta noodles

Now grab a heavy bottom pot for the sauce & a large pot for the noodles, QUICK, go to work, you need about 1 hr flat starting from 5 minutes ago so PANIC! (just kidding, we never panic in the kitchen).

Fill the large pot with water & throw in 2 handfuls of salt till you're pretty sure it tastes like the ocean. Dump the canned tomatoes into the saucepan & bring them to a boil then lower the heat & simmer. You'll need to simmer the tomatoes till they are about 1/2 the amount you started with. It'll take about 40 min.

Meanwhile peel & slice the garlic, slice the dried peppers & wash & chop the rosemary. Put them all in about 1/4-1/3 c of olive oil in a small skillet. Leave them to soak while you chop up the onion & open & drain the canned tuna.

Saute the garlic/olive oil mixture on low till the edges of the garlic are just starting to brown then add the onions & saute for another few minutes till they're translucent. Shut the heat off. Add a little salt & pepper to taste.

Now you'll probably have a bit of a window of time here if you've timed it right. So twiddle your thumbs, run around naked (yeah, you didn't think I knew about that did you?) or restore order to the chaos that has just ensued from you deserting your kids for a full 15 minutes. Most likely though you'll just have time to throw together a salad & dressing or what have you.

If your tomatoes are starting to look thicker & more like "sauce" & less like "tin tomatoes" then chuck in the garlic & onion oil & add a little sugar. "Little" is of course open to interpretation. I usually add about 2 tbsp. You just want to offset the acid not turn your pasta into ketchup. Let the sauce simmer for a few more minutes before adding the tuna. Don't over mix the tuna. I like a few chunks not a mass of blended tuna business, you know what I mean? You also might want to throw in a few more tbsp of olive oil. Because as we all know the secret to any yummy pasta is the oil.

By this time the water should be boiling & you should be counting down to dinner. So boil your pasta al dente. And if your in a real hurry forget the pasta plate, just strain the pasta & dump it straight onto the hot sauce (key: the sauce should still be very hot) into the sauce pan. Toss till you've got an even sauce/noodle ratio & sprinkle with Parmesan & serve to the hungry masses IMMEDIATELY!

TA-DA!!! There you go!
I don't mean to be a finicky whiny cook, but since you've lent me your ear I'm gonna go ahead & "whisper-breathe" into it. I firmly believe that timing is everything when you cook. The pleasantness of a meal is increased at least 50% if you serve the food HOT HOT HOT!! So be prepared to man your station till the last possible second. Better yet, have people already there with their plates. They'll thank you for it. A tip, if you have a ceramic pasta dish, place it in a pre-heated (NOT RUNNING) oven for a few minutes while you're waiting for the pasta to finish cooking. Keep the sauce hot till the last minute.

I can't aptly express my disappointment at the times I made a fantastic pasta too early & then waited 15 minutes because people were not ready to come to the table yet & watching TIME turn it into overdone bloated sad pasta fiasco. Or worse yet making it on time & then having it get cold because you didn't come. So be a pal & come to dinner on time! (eh-hum!) That is all, thanks for the ear.

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Japanese Foodie Fails

I really love spotting gems of food "fails". I'm somehow still shocked by the combination of foods they come up with. I don't often snap a pics of them but every once in awhile there's something too ridiculously "Japanese" to pass up. So here are a few I've snapped here & there. Have any good ones, send them to me & I'll be happy to postm'.

Yes, you read it right, it's a "Pita-Mac" with karage, (deep-batter fried chicken) teriyaki sauce, with renkon (lotus root) and lettuce. This was the big Christmas "Surprise item" (Go figure!)

How can one not act like little foolish gaijins with these "ill proportioned" giant karinto!! I'm just not sure I could walk down the street with a clear conscious munching on one of these. Ewwww!

I'm trying to think of something stunning to say, but really......I'm still just snickering like a pre-schooler about these.
Bluefin Tuna Otoro. I squeezed into a curious crowd watching a guy buy this slice of tuna for 45,000Y, it was about the size of the palm of my hand. Only in Japan!
What everyone needs at the end of a long day. Yakisoba donut.
Follow that with a tuna tomato donut & you're all set.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sitting on a rock eating..........

My Dad emailed me this picture. It's a long standing joke in our family. Dating back to when the kids (primarily, I) whine about what we're going to eat & the daddy suggests we sit on a rock & eat hard boiled eggs.

Well, Dad, with our ever growing family, I think you've found the perfect solution for our exciting family picnic fare........

Now that, dear friend, is "Boiled egg surprise!!" Really now, who wouldn't want a shrink-wrapped-sausage-log of boiled egg? I'm telling you, this pic just encapsulates the spirit of the shockingly fearless and occasionally hilarious inventiveness of the Japanese. I bet they even made a reeeeeeally long egg cutter to cut the thing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exploding Carrot Surprise!

No, this is not a new recipe for you. To be honest if a recipe has the word "surprise" in it, you should do two things:

1) laugh sadly, with one hand pointing to the offensive recipe & the other covering your brow, as you shake your head sadly in, shame.

2) Make a special "note-to-self" to NEVER make it.

I vote that the word "surprise" be stricken forever from recipes. If there is one thing you do NOT need in your meal it's a "surprise"! Believe me!

I have digressed quickly.

So one evening I'm patting myself on the back feeling like a real pro whipping up this yummy whiskey glazed carrots recipe. I made it once following the recipe & this time I decided to just wing it. Of course everything was going great guns until I got to the whiskey part. The truth is I have a tendency to use " too much of a good thing" when it comes to alcohol in the cooking, if you know what I mean. And in my vigor to quickly whip up the final touches on this meal I liberally doused my butter/brown sugar mix with whiskey and gave the frying pan a massive shake. (anyone who has the tendancy to act like their frying pan is a Chinese wok will know what I mean)

I know what you're thinking, "I can tell you what's going to happen next". I'm betting somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew it was going to happen too. But I was expecting a sort of cute little blue flame. You know the kind you get when you light the Absinthe soaked sugar cube on fire. "Awww, look it's a fire." But I ended up with something a bit bigger.

A burst of flame shot up all the way up into the exhaust & ignited the already greased soak exhaust cover. Thankfully it only consumed the cover & put itself out in a few seconds. I swear.......someone should have taken a picture of me at that very moment, it would have been classic.

You know how my hair looks when I wake up in the morning? Or when I'm standing there at a soccer game trying to look cool but my hair has an agenda of it's own (to make me looks like I was electrocuted) or when I'm trying to talk to you about something really dear to my heart & your trying to not notice the aura/fuzz of life bursting forth from my brow. Well, not my brow, but near my brow? Come one you know what I'm talking about? I'm sure there's a name for it and I'm sure it's not complementary. Well, anyway, for once my hair matched the scenario perfectly. For 2 seconds I was the cover girl for Kitchen Hazard Magazine, AGAIN!. My exhaust ended up looking like this.

It was actually quite interesting. BUT........instead of snickering about it like a pubescent pyro, I shall do the mature thing & tell you to BEWARE! Yes, beware of the use of whiskey or other alcohol in your cooking! AMEN?

As for the carrots themselves, they were unharmed and were quickly devoured by my 6 hungry munchers. And that's pretty much the end of the story.

PS. On a totally different note. I'd like to give a shout out for variations/suggestions & "pssssh....I could do better than that" comments on my recipes. There are two readers who often give me suggestions or other recipes to try. One is Aussie, the other is in Aussie. (could this be a pattern?) I LOVE THIS BEHAVIOR!! If you do it different, lemmie know please. I am a vacuum for cooking knowledge from which there is no escape. This is not a blog to celebrate culinary sucess (quite obviously) but to share what I've tried & how it went). So hope to see you round!

Thank you!!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

This is a gooood Muffin. It took me a little by surpirse when it was done. As they seemed so crisp on the outside I was almost sure they would be dry inside. But they were oh-sooooo soft & moist

I was in a hurry & didn't add any rasins or nuts but if I make them again, I think I will for sure. Acutally when I was eating them I was almost sure I heard rasins soaked in rum whispering in my ear "You should've put me in.....nya ha ha!!" Well, OK, next time! I think it would've been the clincher. So again from Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From My Home to Yours" here they are: (My comments in blue)

Serves 12

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature (Please use butter!)
1/2 cup sugar (I just used 1/2 a c of brown sugar & nixed the other 1/2 c)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree, about 1/2 a 15-ounce can (Fresh is best!)
1/4 cup buttermilk (Whole milk is fine)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch allspice
1/2 cup moist, plump golden raisins (If I had time I would've soaked them in rum for about 1/2 an hr)
Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter till soft with an electric mixer. (I used my stand mixer, worked great) Add the sugars and continue to beat til smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the vanilla, pumpkin and buttermilk. (Don't worry, the 'curdled' look is natural)

Now use the mixer to combine the dry ingredients and wet batter but just until barely combined. (Too much mixing will create small holes in the muffins while baking.) (Again, I caution you to NOT OVERMIX, just till barely mixed) With a spatula, stir in the raisins (and the toasted nuts, if you prefer them inside versus on top, as the recipe specifies).

Spoon batter into lightly greased/sprayed medium-size muffin trays (papers work fine too) and fill. Sprinkle chopped toasted nuts on top, pressing gently into the batter.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a test muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and the baking tray, let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from the baking tin and serve. Best served warm for breakfast on a cold morning.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Oh my, will you look at that. Lookie there? (pointing invisible cyber-finger to the top right sidebar.) Lookie, you're FOLLOWING me! .........................Sigh!

Now I feel like I must produce something worth following after.

I love the" following" feature for foodie blogs I follow. It would be a great way to avoid having to come back to a certain blog & see the same picture of carrot soup again & again till you can't stand it any longer and hate carrot soup forever (a crime). Instead you can just wait around till said blogger is done figuring out how to get the 2 DVD cases & one car out of the video machine.

You can also follow anonymously if you must (but honestly, let's not be ashamed of wanting to STUFF OUR FACES WITH MUNCHIES GALORE!!! MWAAHAHA!!)

Awwww........I literally want to cook something yummy and totally extravagant for every one of my followers! Sigh!

The End!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Winter Carrots: Carrot Ginger Soup

A few weeks ago I shared this great carrot soup recipe with you and extolled the virtues of winter carrots. Which (I am not joking) my 5 year old boy is peeling one for his snack as I blog.
That one was simple & something you would most definitely eat with a Japanese meal, a favorite with my kids.

I found this Carrot soup recipe & the picture was so great I had to try it. But looking at that 1/4 c of fresh ginger sorta freaked me out so I adjusted it out a bit AKA: throwing all caution to the wind & acting like I was following a recipe. Obviously, I was surprised at how much my DH liked it. I thought it had a more gentle feminine like blend of flavors but, brother.....I received a series of many happy variations of the "Grunt of Approval" from my DH.

Come on ladies, you know what I'm talking about, the "Grunt of Approval" is the true proof of culinary success with the man in your life. Try it & see, set before your man his favorite meal or snackie & then pretend like you're busy on the computer or something, guaranteed you'll hear a "Rrrrmmmph". Hey, throw in his favorite beer & you'll hear that extreme rumble of approval from the depths of his.....soul! (or somewhere??). Aaaaaanyway, enough about that. Here's the recipe of which I speak.

I halved the recipe & adjusted it & this is how it went for me:

3 tbsps butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups chicken stock & 1 c milk
1/4 cup cheapo white wine
200g (5 small) carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp lemon juice

pinch curry powder & nutmeg (and by "pinch" I do mean, a pinch)
salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste

heavy cream
snipped ko-negi

Saute the onion, garlic & ginger in butter on low heat for 10-15 min. Bring the carrots to a boil in the chicken stock & wine & boil for 20-30 min till the carrots are very tender.

I added the onion/ginger/garlic to the stock & blended it in my handy dandy blender of science. And then added the cup of milk. And seasoned with a curry powder & nutmeg & salt & pepper & lemon.

The taste is hard to place but the the sweetness of the carrots was contrasted nicely by the very slight tang from the wine & lemon. Personally I thought it was pretty classy looking & mysterious enough to keep your table talking about what the ingr. were.

NEXT UP: Carrot related explosion. (I can't help but was pretty darn funny