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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sushi @ home - the Wallace Roll

As I have said before, we love making takeout at home. And as much as we like going out for sushi, it is also one of our favorite weekly dinners at home.  On one of our first sushi @ home nights, we created what is now one of our favorite rolls and we named it the Wallace Roll. Cute, right? 

On sushi night, we usually make Wallace Rolls, California rolls and edamame.  We even plate it up pretty with little dipping bowls for soy sauce, chopsticks, etc.  I haven't found a commercially available pickled ginger brand that we like, so we usually just skip that.

Give it a go! The preparation isn't difficult, but is admittedly a bit fussy.  But if you're in the kitchen with someone you love making tasty food - who cares if it is fussy??  Missing Wheel of Fortune won't kill you, I promise!  ;o)

Wallace Roll

1 cup of white rice (makes enough for 4 rolls)
sushi vinegar (if you can't find this in your Asian foods section, you can mix rice vinegar with sugar and salt)
frozen breaded shrimp
cream cheese
hoisin sauce
sweet & spicy crab
sweet wasabi sauce
nori sheets

Cook rice according to package directions and put shrimp on to bake.  While rice and shrimp are cooking, make the sweet & spicy crab and the sweet wasabi sauce.

Sweet & Spicy Crab:
1/2 cup very finely diced crab
2 tbl. sweet chile sauce (in the Asian foods section)
1 tbl. mayo
siracha to taste (we use about 1/2-3/4 tsp.)
Mix all ingredients together and set aside

Sweet Wasabi Sauce
2 tsp. wasabi paste
2 tbl. mayo
2 tsp. sugar
Mix all ingredients together, adjust according to your taste - it should be very hot and very sweet.  Thin to drizzling consistency with water.  Set aside.

When shrimp is done, set aside to cool.  When rice is done,  pour into a large bowl and toss lightly with several generous splashes of sushi vinegar.  Stir occassionally until rice is almost cool.

While rice is cooling, prep the other ingredients.  Seed, peel and slice the avocado.  Slice cream cheese and roll into strips the thickness of a pencil.

When rice is cool, sit out a bowl of water for dipping your hands and start rolling!

For each roll, lay out a nori sheet.  Wet your hands, get a good handful of rice and spread it thinly and evenly over the nori, covering all but an inch-wide strip of the end furthest from you.  Rewet your hands as needed to keep the rice from sticking. 

One third of the way from the edge closest to you, lay out your fillings in a line from left to right.  Lay down a line of avocado slices beside a line of cream cheese, then top it with crunchy shrimp.  Squeeze several strips of hoisin sauce over the shrimp and top with 1/4 cup of sweet & spicy crab.  Roll tightly, slice into 8 pieces, and arrange on plate.  Drizzle with the sweet hoisin sauce.

Palimers - only the world's best cookie

Tis the season for holiday baking!! 

My mom and I have baked together for as long as I can remember. While her iced sugar cookies are my favorite Christmas cookies from my childhood, palimers are my favorite Christmas cookies from my adulthood! 

These look and taste impressive.  They are more or less heart-shaped with flaky layers and are covered in a thin crisp layer of lightly caramelized sugar - kind of like what is on the top of creme brule.  Sooooo good! 

The recipe below is the one that I make.  It is super-easy!

Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

One of my favorite cooking experiments is to try to recreate our restaurant favorites at home.  We discovered coconut sticky rice at a local Thai restaurant and I have to admit that I refused to look for any recipes for it for several years.  I was certain that we would fix it *too* often and end up regretting it.  For the first month after I nailed down the recipe, we actually did fix it far too often.  But now that it is more familiar to us, we can control it more.  ;o)

The sticking point (pun intended) with making sticky rice in the average American home kitchen is that we don't have the equipment or the time to do it properly.  Authentic sticky rice involves soaking the rice for a long time, then steaming it in a special bamboo steamer.  Not gonna happen in my kitchen.

The recipes below are my take on this classic dish.  I am very sure it isn't Thai-approved, but I am equally sure it is DELICIOUS!! 

The first is more authentic; but the second is my favorite because the first place I tried this dish used jasmine
rice, so that is what tastes "right" to me. 

Additionally, this is just thick rice pudding.  So you can make it with whatever
rice you have in your cabinet to see if you like the base flavor before buying a
package of foreign rice. If you want to try the authentic rice, the only place
I've been able to find it consistently in Louisville is at the Asian grocers.  Ask for sticky, sweet or glutinous rice - it is very short
grained, almost like a pearl. You can *sometimes* find it at Meijer or Whole
Foods....but you can ALWAYS find it at the Asian market. Also, some rices are
less sticky than others, so if it turns out too loose (it is supposed to set up
into a solid mass), just call it coconut rice pudding and go with it - it really
is delicious even if it doesn't set.

My favorite topping is salted coconut milk and canned mango. The canned variety
creamier, milder and less acidic, which is more like the actual Thai mangoes
than the fresh mango we can get a the grocery. Thai places around here
apparently special order Thai mangoes, but they are only available for a short
period.  You can have canned all year long! But you can also top it with
custard, banana, other fruits or nothing at all.  You can also play around with
the spices. 

The only thing I would recommend NOT to play around with is the coconut milk. 
Light coconut milk really isn't a good substitute in this recipe.  Get the real
full-fat coconut milk (canned, in the Asian foods aisle).

Traditional Recipe
OK, strictly speaking, traditional sticky rice is steamed in a basket.  This is
the microwave version.  :o)

1/4 C sugar
1C sticky rice
2pinches salt
1 C coconut milk

Put sticky rice in a glass or ceramic microwaveable bowl and add enough warm
water to just cover the rice.  Let soak for 10 minutes.  After soaking, put the
bowl on a place to catch spills and cover the bowl with a dish (plastic wrap
will melt) and cook on high for 3 minutes.  Carefully remove and stir the rice -some will be translucent and some will still have a white uncooked center. Cook
covered for another 3 minutes and stir it again.  The rice is cooked when all of
the grains are translucent.  Depending on your microwave, you may have to cook
it a few more minutes.

Heat the coconut milk over medium heat until it simmers, stirring frequently. 
Add sugar and salt.

When the rice is cooked through, pour 3/4 of the coconut milk mixture over it
and let stand 5 minutes.  Stir and spoon into small dishes, ramekins or forms. 
Cool to room temperature and serve drizzled with the remaining coconut milk.

**Tip**  I line my dishes with Saran Wrap before spooning in the coconut
mixture.  It sets up as it cools.  When ready for service, I unmold them onto a
plate and top with coconut milk and mango.  Very pretty!!  They keep fairly well
in the fridge if you top them with plastic wrap.  Just warm them up a bit before
serving - you want them room temp or barely warm.  The perfect serving size is
about 3/4 if a cup, (about a handful).  It looks small, but this is a very
thick, sweet and rich dessert.

**Jen's Favorite**

After trying many variations, this is the one we prefer.

1 C jasmine rice
1 (14oz) can coconut milk
1/2 C white sugar
1 can mango, sliced

Reserve 1/4 cup of coconut milk in a small bowl.

Put 1 cup of the coconut milk in a small sauce pan with the sugar. 

Cook jasmine rice in a pot according to the package directions, using any
remaining coconut milk place of some of the cooking water. 

While the rice is cooking, salt the small bowl of coconut milk.  It should taste
noticeably salty, but not quite as briny as sea water.

Heat the sugar and coconut milk over medium heat until the sugar is melted.  Do
not boil.

When the rice is cooked, stir in the sweet coconut milk and spoon into serving
dishes (same as the recipe above). 

Once it has cooled to near room temperature, it is ready to serve.  Same as
above, you can serve it in the bowl or you can unmold it onto a dessert plate. 
Either way, cover the top with sliced mango and drizzle with the salted coconut

I realize after typing all this that it sounds fussy. You do have to learn to
finesse it, but you really can't screw it up...and after the first couple times,
you will be a pro.  :o) 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mini-Jell-O Molds

I know, I know...The thought of Jell-O molds conjures up images of old-fashioned housewives at best, and that horrible cat-food-laden lime mold from Nat'l Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at worst.  But I am making individual Jell-O molds for Thanksgiving this year and I promise they are good!  And they are pretty.  :o)

Here's the recipe:

Cranberry-Pineapple Minis

1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple, in juice, undrained
2 pkg.  (3 oz. each) raspberry or cherry Jell-O
1 can (16 oz.) whole berry cranberry sauce
2/3 cup  chopped walnuts
1 apple, chopped

DRAIN pineapple, reserving juice. Add enough water to reserved juice to measure 2-1/2 cups; pour into saucepan. Bring to boil. Add to dry gelatin mixes in large bowl; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved.

STIR in pineapple, cranberry sauce, nuts and apples. Spoon into 24 paper-lined muffin cups.

REFRIGERATE 2-1/2 hours or until firm. Remove desserts from liners before serving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Love

Below are some of my very favorite pumpkin recipes of all time. That is a pretty big honor, considering how much I like pumpkin and how much of it I have eaten over the years!  Enjoy them in good health. 

...and speaking of health, did you know that pumpkin is good for you?  It is.  And so is the cinnamon and nutmeg that are usually paired with sweet pumpkin desserts.  But these recipes include enough fat and sugar to negate any possible health benefits.  Sorry!!

Ginger Pumpkin Tart
This dessert is as impressive as it is delicious.  And it is worth buying a tart pan if you don't already have one.  Seriously.  But you can make it in a pie pan if you don't have a tart pan and don't want to buy one.  I will add that you can use regular gingersnaps if you can't find the recommended ones from the recipe.  ALSO, if you like plain simple desserts, leave the filling as-is.  But I find it benefits greatly from a capful of pumpkin pie spice stirred into the filling.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
This one is something else.  A real crowd-pleaser and quite simple to make.  And NOT as gooey as you would think.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies
If you have one of those small ice cream scoops (about the size of a ping-pong ball), that is perfect for dishing these out.  Two words of warning:  1.) These are absolutely addictive.  2.) Do not store these is an airtight container; they are very moist and will turn into cake within a couple of hours.  Just loosely cover them.

Pumpkin (pie filling) Love

Ok, as much as I say that you need to cook your own food and as much as I *abhor* most prepared foods and canned products, there are a few canned products that are absolute winners.  Canned pumpkin pie filling is one of them.

It is cooked, pureed pumpkin that has been sweetened and spiced. But it doesn't have any dairy or eggs, so you can use it a MILLION different ways and don't ever have to cook it. And I love every single one of them!  Below are a few of my very favorites.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

1 cup pumpkin pie filling
1 cup milk (skim, 2% or whole)
1 cup cream (fat free, 1/2 & 1/2 or light cream)
1 capful of pumpkin pie spice

First of all, by choosing the milk and cream options that you prefer, you can customize the recipe based on your taste and your nutritional needs...or whatever you have available in the fridge.  However, I don't recommend a completely fat free version because it tends to go icy.  Likewise, I don't recommend the use of heavy cream because it has a tendency to coat the tongue - not delicious.  At any rate, combine the ingredients, pour into your counter top ice cream maker and churn until it stops.  **If using a larger ice cream maker, just triple or quadruple the ingredients. 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Waffles

cinnamon or plain waffles (frozen is absolutely fine)
cream cheese
pumpkin pie filling
powdered sugar

Toast waffles until they are crisp.  Smear with cream cheese and top generously with the pumpkin pie filling.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Straight Outta the Can

pumpkin pie filling
gingersnaps or soft molasses cookies

I bet you can put this one together yourself:  it is good scooped straight outta the can with gingersnaps!  But unless you are alone, you might want to put it in a little bowl - for appearances.  ;o)


Several of my friends have suggested that I start a food blog.  I never imagined that anyone would want to read about my take on food, but maybe this will be a good outlet for me either way.

So, hi!  My name is Jennifer and I am passionate about food.  And I am passionate about the idea that in this post-modern world, we need the satisfaction, nutrition and peace that comes only through cooking your own food.  I am disturbed by how disconnected we have become from our food supply and think that regaining that connection could be the key to more centered, healthy, happy lives.

And I have a pretty radical foundational belief:  everyone can cook.  I know too many women who graduated from college and think that they cannot cook.  It may be a skill that they haven't set forth to master yet, but they have the ability.  Cooking your own food is as rudimentary and essential as personal hygeine or balancing your checkbook.

That said, I also *love* to go out to eat.  Trying new restaurants and new food preparations is a form of entertainment for me and one which I enjoy very much.  I am fortunate to be married to a man who is as much a foodie as am I.  He wasn't when we got married, but he has caught on quickly.  :o)

So, come with me as I share my passion!!