Monday, February 27, 2012

Ginger Scallion Fried Rice

I am branching out from my weekend of exceptional eating to pull in a recipe from earlier in the week.  This one will also be repeating itself frequently in menu rotation.

I remember eating a dish growing up called Vietnamese Fried Rice.  It was made using leftover rice, peas, and pretty much whatever else my mom could find in the fridge.  I had mixed feelings about it.  I think I once loved it, but as I got older, I appreciated it less.  I have never made that recipe myself, despite knowing exactly what cookbook it is in and what side of the page it is on.

Then I stumbled across this recipe.  The pictures promised me amazing things.  If I ate this recipe, it would invoke the setting and feelings represented in this magnificent picture.  Well, unfortunately I was not transported to snowy Yellowstone National Park Lodge in the middle of winter.  However, I did find a new recipe that I love.  It was a hit with everyone in the family and slight step up from the fried rice of my youth.

This is a good recipe to have everything mise en place (also known as prepped and ready to go before you start cooking).

Serves 4 - 5

Ginger Scallion Fried Rice
adapted from The Year in Food

4 T sesame oil
6 scallions, sliced, white and dark green parts kept separate
1 medium carrot, julienned or cut into matchsticks
1/2 c shelled, frozen edamame
3 T minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz mushrooms, shiitakes are preferable, but white button mushrooms will do
2 medium eggs, beaten
3 c cold, cooked brown rice (white will do if you have no brown)
5 T tamari or soy sauce
1 c cooked, shredded chicken or tofu

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the 1 T of sesame oil.  Toss the white parts of the scallions and stir for about a minute.  Add the carrots, edamame, ginger and garlic and stir to combine.  Saute, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In the same pan, add another T of oil.  Add the mushrooms and saute until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Remove and add to carrot/edamame mixture.  Increase the heat slightly, add another T of sesame oil and add the beaten eggs.  Cook as if you were making scrambled eggs.  When just cooked/scrambled, remove and add to carrot/edamame/mushroom mixture.  Add remaining 2 T of sesame oil and the cooked rice.  Spread rice evenly throughout pan and cook, stirring a little.  Sprinkle some black pepper over top.  After about five minutes (if rice seems to be sticking a lot to the pan, you can add some canola oil to the pan), add the tamari or soy sauce.  Stir to combine.  Add the bowl of cooked veggies and eggs and cooked chicken/tofu.  Saute, stirring frequently, until hot, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, sprinkle with dark green parts of scallions and serve.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winter Lentil Stir Fry

The name stir fry is a bit of a misnomer for this recipe.  I am not quite sure what else to call it though.

This meal had mixed reviews from my family.  Curtis and I loved it.  The boys ate it pretty well too, especially the brussels sprouts (Yay for brussels sprouts loving boys).  M refused it on the grounds of being too tired to eat something new.  The original recipe called from a homemade mint sauce to drizzle over top.  We don't currently have a thriving mint plant and buying fresh mint in the stores is a little costly.      We opted instead to pick up some mint chutney at our favorite Indian restaurant just around the corner from us.  It was actually cheaper and quite tasty.  If you aren't a mint chutney fan, you could also top with some olive oil and Parmesan, goat cheese, or another chutney or curry sauce.

This meal will quickly find a place in our menu rotation.  I figure next M may like it better, and if not, that is her loss---and our gain.

This will serve 4 -5.

Winter Lentil Stir Fry
adapted just a bit from

1 c uncooked brown lentils
olive oil
8 - 10 very small new potatoes, cut in half, or fourths if potatoes are on the large side
12 - 16 brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered, again depending on size)
1/4 c almonds, sliced are preferable, but whole will do if that's all you have on hand, toasted

mint chutney
plain Greek yogurt for topping (optional)

In a medium saucepan, cover lentils with about 2 - 3 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 - 30 minutes, until lentils are soft but not mush.  Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 - 2 T olive oil over medium heat.  Put the potatoes in the skillet, cut side down and sprinkle with a little salt.  Cover the skillet and let the potatoes steam for five minutes.  Check the potatoes.     If they are not fork-tender (but not mushy and falling apart), add 1/4 c of water, cover again and let steam for another five minutes.  Once fork tender, stir them about a little.  Add the lentils and cook until they are heated through.  Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same skillet, add a little more olive oil and add the brussels sprouts cut side down.   Over and cook for about 3- 5 minutes, or until the bottoms of the sprouts begin to brown.  Taste a sprout to see if it is tender throughout.  If not, cover and continue to cook.  Once the sprouts are tender, uncover, increase the heat, and cook until the cut sides have begun to caramelize.  Add the lentils and potatoes back to the skillet along with the toasted almonds.  Heat and then put in a serving bowl or platter to serve.  Drizzle with mint chutney and yogurt as desired.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Caramelized Onion Spinach Salad

It was a good eating weekend.  Some weekends are like that, some are more of a flop.  This was a good weekend.  I tried four new recipes over the course of the weekend:  a dessert, a decadent breakfast, a salad, and a vegetarian main dish, plus homemade Hawaiian pizza and homemade beef pho.  Yep, we ate well.  It was one of those weekends that made me wonder why we ever eat out.  I guess because there aren't as many dishes to wash.  However, it's not because the food is better in a restaurant.

My first dish I am going to share from our weekend of blissful eating was the last one I made.  It is also one that fits perfectly with the produce to be found in Central Texas this time of year---spinach.  We didn't offer this dish to the kids, Curtis and I were content to eat it all by ourselves.  It was a side salad for our pizza, but we both agreed it could easily be the main course.  It was also one of Curtis's favorite Spinach salads.  Ever.  That says a lot because that man loves salads.

A few notes on the recipe:  When you caramelize the onions, if possible, don't use a cast iron pan.  I tried out my new stainless saute pan I got for Christmas from my parents (By the way, I love it, Mom and Dad!).  It's easier to caramelize them and a bit faster.  The poached egg is optional.  I am still working on mastering the poached eggs, I overcooked mine for my tastes (but Curtis thought his was perfect).  I also had to throw one out in the process too because the yolk.  Here's a hint:  You can't poach an egg if you accidentally break the yolk trying to get a small piece of shell out of the whites.

Enough said.  My notes are going to be way longer than the recipe itself!

Caramelized Onion Spinach Salad
adapted from coffeefoodwritergirl on

4 - 8 oz spinach, torn into manageable sized salad pieces
1 large yellow, thinly sliced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t ground pepper
one egg per person eating

Wash and dry spinach.  Place in a salad bowl.  Over medium heat in a stainless pan (not nonstick, not cast iron if possible), heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and a 1/4 t salt and saute until they are beginning to caramelize (some will be light brown in color.  They will be very soft and pliable).  Add the balsamic vinegar and continue until caramelized completely.  At this point the onions will be very dark brown, rather shrunken, and very soft.

While the onions are caramelizing, poach your eggs.  I could give you a long detailed explanation on my attempts.  Since I still have varying degrees of success, I thought instead I would provide you to a link with step by step instructions and beautiful pictures.  Here's how to poach eggs, thanks to Deb of Smitten Kitchen.  To serve your salad.  Pour the hot onions and olive oil that remains in the pan over the spinach.  Season with the remaining 1/4 t salt and 1/4 pepper.  Toss completely.  When the salad is tossed, gently lay the poached eggs over the salad.  Eat immediately.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wholesome Blueberry Muffins

There is definitely no confusing these muffins with cupcakes.

I've found sometimes that line is close to indistinguishable.  For example, at grocery stores, I can buy chocolate chocolate chip muffins (and I even make a mean version of these), chocolate cherry hazelnut muffins, strawberry and cream muffins.  They have close to the same, light crumb as cupcakes, they are just missing the icing.  I've also made blueberry muffins which were a nice light yellow in color that my husband harassed me for being cupcakes.  The handheld pastry definitions seem to blur easily....cupcakes masquerading as muffins because they lack frosting,  muffins masquerading as scones because they are triangular.  (I've had these fabulous "scones" at the farmers market that have the texture of muffins, but are triangular.  If Brits saw those, I know they would be appalled and believe even more that us Americans are nuts.)

But I have digressed so far.  These muffins are not cupcakes.  They can not disguise themselves as scone if they shifted shapes.  They are muffin.  They are a little ragged on top.  In my efforts to make my food that I eat matter more, I took a basic Moosewood muffin recipe and changed the grains a bit---substituting part of the white flour for whole wheat flour and hemp seeds.  I used less sugar than most people would.

Verdict.  Pretty good.  Rather addicting in fact.  The first bite is a bit of surprise because these aren't overly sweet and have a very nutty flavor because of the hemp seeds.  However, once we each finished our first one, all four of us (the boys, a neighbor boy, and myself) had a second and a third one.

Of course, you could just use 2 c of white flour or throw in flax seeds instead of hemp seeds or just increase the amount of whole wheat flour.  You could also use 3/4 c of sugar.  Additionally, you could substitute other fillings as you desire--they should just equal 2 cups.  As you can tell, this recipe is more of a template than formula.  Play around until you find your ultimate morning muffin that may even leave you feeling a bit good about yourself.

This makes 12 regular sized muffins.

Wholesome Blueberry Muffins
based off a recipe from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c hemp seeds
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1 c frozen blueberries

6 T butter, at room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 c plus 2 T milk
1/2 t vanilla
1 c pecans and/or walnuts, chopped

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, hemp seeds, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Gently stir in the blueberries (flour on the blueberries before mixing with the wet ingredients prevents them to sinking to the bottom of the muffins).  In a separate medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until smooth, using an electric mixer.  Beat in the egg, then add the milk and vanilla.  The mixture will probably look lumpy and curdled (from the cold milk hitting the warmer butter).  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients  and fold together with a rubber spatula, being careful not overmix and break up those lovely blueberries.  Spoon about 1/3 c batter into each greased or paper lined muffin tin.  Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 30 - 35 minutes.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Vegetable Soup

Sometimes, only sometimes though, I am a bit of a slow learner.

M has been in school for 1 1/2 school years now.  I've packed countless lunches, the majority of them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a piece fruit, raw vegetables or edamame, a cheese stick, and a snack.  I haven't varied much from this, because M is happy with this lunch.  After a year and a half packing pb&j sandwiches for lunch, I've discovered an alternative--the thermos.

I can hear everyone sighing and saying, "Well, duh, Melani. Those have been around as long as sliced deli meat" (I am making this up, by the way, don't quote me!).  However, like I stated in the beginning, sometimes I am slow.

This vegetable soup has been one of M's favorite things to take her new thermos.  She's been asking for me to make it again, both for supper and leftovers for lunches.  Everyone else liked it too.

When I made this, I looked at the recipe and thought, another minestrone recipe just not labeled as minestrone.  I guess it's not though.  There is no pasta or cannellini beans.  It could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the pork listed in the beginning and using a well flavored vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.  I actually didn't have potatoes when I made this, so I left them out and upped the amount of carrots I used.  I also threw in some celery for good measure.  Feel free to use the vegetables you have on hand.  I could see this being a good recipe to throw some kohlrabi in.

I found this recipe at The Year in Food.  There aren't a ton of posts, but when she does, the pictures are beautiful and the layout is uncluttered.  There are usually a lot of vegetables featured, sometimes strange grains (quinoa), and it follows the agrarian calendar.

This recipe will make 8 - 10 servings.

Vegetable Soup 
adapted slightly from The Year in Food

4 oz pancetta or bacon (optional--can substitute enough olive oil to saute onion in)
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
6 c chicken or vegetable stock (or a mixture of either of those and water)
28 oz diced tomatoes (fire-roasted are especially tasty)
4 med potatoes, cubed (optional)
1 -2 sm/med kohlrabi, peeled and diced (optional)
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
red chile flakes, to garnish
Parmesan or cheddar cheese, to garnish

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered and it has browned (especially in the event you are using bacon, make sure it is good and cooked).  Remove excess fat (more than 1 T).    Add the onion and celery and cook until softened and onion is translucent.  Add the stock/water and diced tomatoes along with the potatoes (or kohlrabi).  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes/kohlrabi are beginning to soften.  Add the carrots and continue to cook the root veggies are cooked, but still hold together well (don't cook to easily breakable stage).  Stir in the kale and cook just until kale has wilted and softened.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot.  Top with red chile flakes as desired and a grating of cheese.