Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fried Rice

Yesterday I started dinner by making the jasmine rice. Then, my husband came home and announced he wasn't hungry. And, to tell the truth, I wasn't either. I ended up eating a yogurt and an apple before bed but no dinner (except for the little person) and no dishes was fine by me. So, today I went to make the rest of that dinner and was looking at cold white rice. I don't have a microwave and was thinking about the best way to reheat it when I decided to make fried rice instead.

A couple of things that I know about fried rice - day old cold rice works best, you can tailor the seasoning and vegetables to your likening, and it's better if you don't stir it too much but spread it out in the pan and stir it a little less than you probably want to.

It turned out great - I didn't have green onion but it's better with it and I'll put that in the recipe anyways. We had it with grilled tuna and some green beans. Even the little girl ate her dinner tonight!

Fried Rice (2-3 servings)

1/2 cup rice cooked in 1 cup of water (forgot to measure the cooked rice today), refrigerated overnight.

1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup diced carrots
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 egg
1 -2 T soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper

Cook the frozen peas and diced carrots in a little boiling water for a couple of minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Set aside. Beat the egg with a fork, season with salt and pepper and stir in the green onion. Heat a wok or saute pan over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and scramble it until it's almost cooked through.

Add the cooked rice to the pan and spread it so it covers the whole pan. Drizzle the soy sauce and the sesame oil over the top. After about a minute, stir it all up and spread it out again. Repeat it once or twice until the rice is just looking a little crispy and the texture you want (may need to taste it to see).

You can adjust the flavors after it's done cooking by adding a little more soy sauce or pepper (or red pepper flakes).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Breaking the Rules

The other night, I wanted cookies. But, I didn't really want to do more dishes. And, I didn't want to eat too many. I had set out a stick of butter that afternoon and it was nice and soft. So, I broke some rules and made a batch of one-bowl chocolate chip cookie dough. I usually combine my dry ingredients separately and use a stand mixer, but tonight it was just a little elbow grease and one dirty bowl. Totally worth it!

Tips: Use really soft, room temperature butter. Don't melt it or try it with cold butter. If you're only going to eat a few cookies, make them big ones :)

Chocolate Chip Cookies in One Bowl (about 20)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together one stick of softened unsalted butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup white sugar until creamy. Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and stir really well until combined and smooth.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of salt over the top and mix well. Stir in 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour and stir until just combined into a smooth dough (don't overmix).

Add 1/2 - 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chip and stir to combine. Drop rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Broccoli Beef Stir Fry

I don't do a lot of stir fry at home but when I do, I always think, "I should do this more." Tonight, dinner was ready, from start to finish, in 15 minutes. I like the combination of flavors in the stir fry sauce that I've come up with and I've learned from reading lots of other recipes, that cornstarch is key in getting a thicker sauce. If you need a little extra incentive to buy the chili oil and toasted sesame oil, you can also make this soba noodle salad.

You could substitute the broccoli with another green vegetable (zucchini, asparagus) and add some steamed shelled edamame at the end for some extra protein. I also think that chicken would work fine, just make sure it's done all the way through before you add the sauce and vegetables to the pan. My daughter gobbled up her steak but needed a little encouragement with the broccoli. I served it over quinoa but steamed rice would be a perfect accompaniment as well.

Broccoli Beef Stir Fry (2 or 3 servings)

2 teaspoons of cornstarch
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger (peeled)
1 garlic clove minced
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 tsp chili oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
About 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1 lb of steak, sliced into thin strips (I used a London Broil cut, flank steak would work well)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (and then I cut the strips in half)

Dissolve the cornstarch into 3 Tablespoons of water. In a separate small bowl, combine the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, onion, chili oil, and sesame oil and set aside. Drizzle a little vegetable oil in a wok or heavy skillet and heat it over high heat. Add the broccoli and stir fry for 1-2 minutes or until softened. Remove from pan.

Brown the beef in two separate batches, just so the outsides are nice and browned but it's still red in the middle. When the second batch is browned, add the first batch back to the pan with the red bell pepper and stir fry until the red bell pepper is a little soft, about 1-2 minutes. Add the broccoli, the sauce, and the cornstarch to the pan. Stir fry until the sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maison Akira

I have heard about this restaurant many times, l lived within a few blocks of it for 7 years, and until this past weekend, I had never eaten there. Wow. Was I ever missing out! The menu was amazing, the house smoked salmon and soba noodle salad that they gave us as a pre-meal treat was out of this world, and I'm seriously in love with their green tea baked alaska (photo above). I was inspired to start making baked alaska again but in individual sized portions (more meringue, the best part!).

Maison Akira offers several tasting menus where you can pick a few courses, with or without wine. I did the "menu of the month" which featured lobster and had a lobster corn chowder as my first course and a Maine Lobster Gratin as my entree. The lobster meat was removed from the shell and cooked then topped with an amazing cheese bread crumb mixture and served back over the shell. It came with steamed vegetables and quinoa. The other cool thing about the menu is almost everything comes in two sizes - entree and tapas. The tapas portions were perfect for trying a couple of things and my husband had the lobster shrimp ravioli and the Kobe Beef.

We have a few local restaurants that we love and this will join the ranks - how great is it to be a foodie and live in Pasadena?

Maison Akira
713 East Green Street
Pasadena, CA 9110
(626) 796-9501

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lemon Icing & Baby Elephants

Last week I wanted to make some lemon muffins. I didn't know it would be hard to find a recipe for what was in my head . . . something lemony with fresh ginger and a glazed topping. I bought the ginger, picked some lemons, and didn't find a recipe I was crazy about so I ended up basing my muffins off the recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. I didn't follow it exactly (added zest, fresh ginger, substituted the lemon yogurt in the recipe with plain) but the ratio of wet to dry ingredients seemed off and the muffins were almost like biscuits or scones and not the muffin texture I was looking for.

I was going to put the recipe on here, but honestly, with the lack of flavor, bad texture, all that white flour - they weren't worth it. Don't get me wrong . . . we still ate the whole batch . . . but I won't make them again and you probably don't want to.

Then, we went to visit our friends in Escondido and Lori made the most amazing lemon cookies ever! Forget muffins . . . these Lemon Ricotta cookies are what you want to make. Waiting for them to cool before glazing them seemed to work well (I only observed. And ate. And ate.) and the glaze was divine. My husband was trying to come up for other glaze delivery options (can we put it on waffles? on bread? can we make a little well in the top of the cookie and fill it with glaze?)

So, these are what you should make. Right now. Step away from the computer and go buy some ricotta cheese.

Thanks again to Lori for a wonderful weekend. Other than her hospitality, getting to catch up and relax, and our adorable children, a highlight for me was seeing a 3 day old baby elephant at the Wild Animal Park. This is the 3 month old one:

Lemon Ricotta Cookies (makes about 3 dozen)
Recipe from Giada deLaurentis

For the cookies:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before glazing.

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread.

Giada says to wait about TWO HOURS to let the glaze harden, but if you're like me, just eat them warm with the glaze on them.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New summer side dish

We grilled steaks the other night and I was thinking of making a caprese salad to go with it. I don't like to eat a lot of cheese with meat so I was trying to think of another idea when I remembered seeing this recipe on Blue Kitchen. It's similar to a caprese salad but with thin slices of cooked potatoes (served cold) instead of the cheese.

It came together really quickly and my husband actually ate potatoes! It's not that he hates them, he just doesn't prefer potato side dishes. Occasionally, mashed potatoes are fine, but in general, he'd prefer rice or bread or some other starch. I'm planning to make this a bunch this summer - cold side dish with summer flavors.

A couple of recipe notes: I think kalamata olives would work well in place of the capers, don't skimp on the basil, and I used heirloom cherry tomatoes which were great (but tomatoes fresh from the garden would be even better!). I made the full amount of garlic olive oil and then used it to make pasta the next night. It would be an awesome dipping sauce for bread!

My husband thought that if the potatoes were diced or sliced like matchsticks, it would be better / easier to eat than the rounds. I used two small russets instead of one big one and I thought the small rounds were just fine.

Deconstructed Italian Potato Salad (2 servings)
from Blue Kitchen

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove
freshly ground black pepper

1 large russet potato
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 T chopped red onions
4 tsp. capers (chopped if large)
2 T chopped fresh basil, divided
salt and pepper, to taste

Make garlic infused olive oil: Peel the garlic clove and bash it with the side of the knife to break it up. Put it in a jar with the olive oil and grind in some black pepper. Seal jar and shake it up. Let it set for a few hours (or make a few days ahead and refrigerate). Bring it to room temperature before using.

Make potato salad: Peel the potato and slice into 1/4 inch slices, discarding ends. Add to a rapidly boiling pot of water (salt the water). Cook the potato until it just loses that raw taste but it still firm, no more than 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the slices to an iced water bath to stop the cooking and once cool, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Combine the tomatoes, onions, capers, and half the basil in a bowl. Dress the mixture with 1 T of the garlic-infused olive oil. Spoon 3 T of that oil onto a serving plate. Arrange the potato slices in a single layer on a serving plate. Scatter the tomato mix over the potato slices. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of basil over everything and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What's for meat? Good question.

I'm struggling these days to have any creativity in my cooking(hence, no new recipes here). I even bought a cake for my sister's birthday party last week which I felt lame about. I guess I could blame it on being pregnant while taking care of a 2 year old and working, but lots of people do that and I'm not really looking for sympathy. Last night I made egg salad sandwiches for dinner even though I had groceries to make "real food."

So, thanks for still reading.

Here ae a few of the treats I have been eating lately (and I wonder why I'm gaining so much weight this time around):

Balboa Bar (happy Mother's Day mom!)

Starbucks Oatmeal (breakfast on workdays)

Patticakes Carrot Cake (happy birthday T!)

And, the weekly menu:

Sunday - Chicken parmesan, caesar salad & garlic bread
Monday - Egg salad sandwiches and greek salad
Tuesday - Grilled steaks, Italian potato salad, and spinach
Wednesday - Nero Pasta and salad or green vegetable
Thursday - some kind of salad and maybe soup?
Friday - date night!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cuatro de Mayo

It just occured to me that tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. Now, I'm not of Mexican descent and have no legitimate reason to celebrate this holiday, but it's sort of like St. Patrick's Day for me - all about the food.

I even had a chance to make Mexican food but I blew it - tomorrow night I'm hosting a celebration (baby shower for friends with 30 adults and lots of little kids) and planned a whole non-Mexican food menu because I forgot about Cinco de Mayo. If you're coming to the shower, don't expect Cinco de Mayo fare!

In case you're not coming to my house and you still don't have something planned for dinner tomorrow night, here are some ideas* from past posts:

Chicken enchiladas
Vegetarian enchiladas
Chili Verde
Chile Relleno Casserole (read the comments!)
Spanish Rice
Black Bean Soup
Tres Leches Cake
Mayan Cocoa Brownies
Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

*The recipes in these post are not intended to be "authentic" Mexican food in any way nor does the author intend to be any kind of expert in Mexican food. But, the baby in her belly sure does love burritos!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Happy May . . . my daughter learned the months of the year so I could explain when August is (the month of baby girl #2's expected arrival). Yesterday morning, she kept saying, "It's May now? Now it's May, mom?" 15 more weeks to go!

On to the food . . . I read in Russ Parson's book "How to Pick a Peach" that more than 6 million tons of summer squash are grown every year and that zucchini has only really been in the US since World War I. I know a few friends with gardens who tell me that they aren't hard to grow and usually bountiful. I'm not a gardener but this year (maybe it's that nesting thing?) I find myself wishing I had room to have a vegetable garden. Maybe next year in our new house!

I buy zucchini often and grate it or thinly slice it and add it to pasta sauce, lasagna, muffins, even cupcakes. When I serve it by itself, it's usually the boring way: steamed with a little salt and pepper. But, here are two delicious, easy ways that I've learned to prepare zucchini where it's the star of the show, not just those little green flecks in another recipe.

Braised Zucchini (quoted directly from How to Pick a Peach, p164).

Cut it up and cook it with a little olive oil, about 2 tablespoons water and some garlic in a covered skillet over medium-high heat. When the squash begins to become tender, remove the lid and increase the heat to high. Cook, stirring constantly, until the squash begins to glaze.

Lemon-Ricotta Zucchini with Pine Nuts (4 servings)

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lb zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 oz ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the zucchini with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast until crisp tender and slightly brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Sprinkle with nuts and scatter dollops of ricotta cheese on top and serve.