Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sweet Potato Muffins

From sophisticated desserts to fun and easy coffee cakes or muffins, I try many recipes and because I am not a serious baker, easy recipes are my ways to bake. Sometimes, when some leftover ingredients are not enough to make a complete dish, I then use them for something else. This is especially true with plain mashed potatoes that are easy to turn into bread, cinnamon rolls, or muffins. I love sweet potatoes, and this recipe uses just one cup of mashed sweet potatoes left from the other night. It is now a good time to turn it into a healthy breakfast.

Dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Wet ingredients:
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk*
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
Topping ingredient:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts and coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350°.
Line a 12 muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine the dry ingredients and whisk well.

Combine the wet ingredients and beat well with a handheld electric or by hands.


Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients mixture and pour the beaten wet ingredients mixture into it. Stir gently just until combined.

Spoon the batter into prepared muffin liners two thirds full. Sprinkle with nuts  on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

 After removing from oven, let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then serve.

*If buttermilk is not available, use 1 cup of milk and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. After the vinegar or lemon juice is added, wait 5 minutes before using in the recipe.

Fish Stew with Tomatoes & Cilantro

The question for all cooks is what to do with food items remaining in the refrigerator before they become rotten. Today’s recipe is just the answer to this question. As you know, during summer my family’s garden produced many tomatoes and now when the season is at an end, we have more tomatoes than we can possibly consume in salads. Making soup is always a way to make use of extra produce, which can sometimes include using the ends of some vegetables to create a good broth (maybe at another time). If the soup here is made as a green soup, then feel free to replace the tomatoes with tomatillos. I love to use fresh cilantro for this recipe because it brings out the aesthetics of both the East and West worlds. This soup remains as a low-fat option for its simplicity and fat-stinginess that we all strive for today, well at least some of the time. For me, cooking is a fun thing to play with and there is no right or wrong recipe for you when making a meal for yourself. New cooks should start with simple recipes and gradually advance to more challenging recipes, but do not forget to have fun each time.

2 fish fillets, such as tuna, cod, or tilapia (about 8 oz. each)
4 oz fresh firm tofu
1/2 lb. fresh tomatoes*
5 cups kelp and chicken broth**
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped white onions
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Chili flakes and cayenne for your spicy-loving taste buds
2 tbs peanut oil

Cut fish and tofu into 1 inch cubes and set aside.

In a food processor, blend cilantro into a paste. Remove and set aside.
Using the food processor again, add tomatoes with 1 cup of broth and blend well.
In a saucepan, heat oil until hot. Add onions, garlic, curry powder, and chili flakes. Stir until fragrant (about 1 to 2 minutes).

 Add blended tomatoes and all the leftover broth to the saucepan and bring to boil.

 Season with salt, pepper, and sugar to your liking. Simmer for 10 minutes;  Add the fish and tofu and continue to simmer for 4 minutes.

Add cilantro paste. Make a quick stir and serve.

* Use one 15.5 oz. of canned tomatoes (if fresh tomatoes are not available).
**If kelp broth is not available, use chicken broth or water.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tofu with Ground Meats

Eating spicy, hot food is very healthy and this recipe is all about that. The ground meat used is the choice of each cook who follows this recipe. I normally use chicken for my meal; however, since my neighbor’s husband just returned from a hunting trip in Canada and generously gave me some elk meat, I will use elk instead. Anyway, it will be spicier than most people enjoy. Choose whatever hot, spicy taste that suits you. This recipe is equivalent like bolognese meat sauce for Westerners. Spaghetti or other pasta, noodles, or hot cooked rice can be used. Tofu is added into this recipe to have more protein and uses less meat. Should I name it Asian bolognese sauce?

8 oz. tofu, medium firm
½ lb. ground elk
Sauce ingredients:
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp sesame oil
Other ingredients:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger minced
1 tbs cooking wine
1 cup diced white onions
1 cup diced mushrooms
1/4 cup ketchup
1 to 2 tsp of chili flakes or cayenne
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

Dice tofu into cubes and set aside.
Combine the sauce ingredients and mix well.
In a wok, add 2 tbs of peanut oil or canola oil until hot. Add garlic, onions, ginger, and chili flakes.

Stir and cook until fragrant. Add ground meat. Stir and add cooking wine.

 Stir in mushrooms, ketchup, and sauce. Bring to boil. Cook until meat is tender. Add green onions and tofu. Season with more salt, if needed.

Cook for 2 more minutes or until sauce starts thickening. Remove from heat and pour over noodles.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chicken with Tomatoes and Green Beans

Now that it is at the end of my tomato garden season, I am creating a new dish to use more of the abundant fresh tomatoes that we have been harvesting continuously throughout the late summer and early fall. This recipe is quite simple, and different meats can be substituted instead of chicken. Since my family stays away from the red meats as much as possible, I use chicken instead. I am happy with this newfound recipe to enjoy cooked tomatoes to their fullest health benefits. One study indicates that consuming cooked tomatoes is much better than eating raw tomatoes. So here is how to make this simply delicious meal.

Marinade ingredients:
½ pound chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbs cooking wine, dry sherry or sake
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs cornstarch
Other ingredients:
1 lb. fresh cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cup white onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
½ lb. green beans, slices diagonally
1/4 cup water or chicken broth
1 tbs canola or peanut oil

In a bowl, combine chicken with the marinade ingredients and let sit for 1 hour.

Bring pot of boiling water and parboil green beans for 1 minute.

Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add chicken and stir – separating for even cooking (about 2 minutes or until brown).

Move chicken to the sides of wok (if your wok is large enough) or remove to place on a plate.
Add into wok the tomatoes, ginger, and garlic.

 Cook for 1 minute. Add green beans and stir to mix with the chicken.

 Season again with salt or more soy sauce, if needed. Add water and cook until the beans are tender.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve with hot cooked rice.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Easy Granola Bars

When I first made granola bars and shared them with all my friends and family, they loved it. They keep asking me to make more for them every time I go to visit. The only problem is that my method is a more complicated way to prepare granola bars. However, I did some searching on the Internet for an easier way to prepare the granola bars, and I found a few websites and bloggers that show easier ways to make these wonderful bars. After reading, I developed new ideas from them, especially from the Jenny Can Cook and joyofbaking.com websites. But many bloggers out there will share their recipes as well. The granola bars are a healthy snack or breakfast on the run. It is very much a personal choice of nuts and dried fruits that suit the taste of the individuals who makes them. This newfound technique is a wonderful way to prepare this granola bars. I have found the answer for my own creation here.

Dry ingredients:
2 ½ cups rolled oats
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup sweet coconut flakes
1 tbs sesame seeds, black or white
1/2 cup total of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup total of dried fruits, such as raisins, cranberries, prunes, or apricots*
Wet ingredients:
1/3 cup melted coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 tsp vanila
8 or 9 inch diameter cake pan
Foil or parchment paper

Line the cake pan with foil or parchment paper and grease with coconut oil. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325°.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.

Combine the wet ingredients in an easy pour cup and mix well. Add the wet ingredients mixture into the dry ingredients mixture and mix well.

Pour the wet/dry ingredients mixture into the prepared cake pan and press down well.

You can oil the palms of your hands to do it or cut sheet of a plastic wrap to cover the surface of the wet/dry ingredients mixture and then press down. Choose the way that easiest for you.

Bake for 30 minutes if you like chewy granola and for 40 minutes if you like crunchy granola.

Remove from oven and let cool for 2 hours before cutting into bars or any kind of shape that suits you. Store in an airtight container, but with this amount will probably not last long,

*I only chop the prunes and apricots but leave the raisins and cranberries in their original shape.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pizza in a Cast Iron Pan

It does not seem possible that pizza is a meal that makes everybody is afraid to make at home. I used to work at a California Pizza Kitchen restaurant, so making pizza is not a fear of mine at all. However, when I viewed through many YouTube videos using the following process of making pizza, I decided to give it a try. This recipe is based on the "no-knead bread" recipe to create a pizza dough. The pizza topping possibilities are endless and are very much a personal choice. I like the BBQ chicken pizza on the California Pizza Kitchen menu. This recipe is nearly a mirror image of it, but I created this recipe for busy women who want to make pizza for their loved ones. All the ingredients are store-bought. The pizza dough used is no-knead pizza dough, which is easily made and only requires the time necessary for the dough to rise.

Pizza dough ingredients:
1 ½ cups of bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup tap water
Topping ingredients:
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, homemade or store-bought
1 cup roasted chicken or leftover chicken, cut into cubes
1/4 cup sliced red onions
1/2 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 cup 5 cheese

Green onions for garnish

To make the pizza dough:
Combine all the pizza dough ingredients in a bowl. Stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the countertop for 12 to 18 hours (you can prepare the dough the night before and it will be ready at dinner time). It does not matter how long it sits after rising.
This is how the dough should look after 18 hours.

Use 3 tbs of olive oil to grease well the cast iron pan. Flour the spatula and your hands to handle the dough because the dough is very soft and sticky. Transfer the dough into the greased cast iron pan. Use your hands to stretch dough to cover the bottom of the pan. Do not worry if the dough does not cover the bottom of the pan because it will fit the bottom of the pan later. Cover pan with plastic wrap for another hour.

Before proceeding to the placement steps below, use two tbs of the BBQ sauce and add to the chicken cubes to marinade in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Steps for placement of toppings onto the dough:
Have all the topping ready and preheat the oven to 450° for at least 20 minutes.
Spread the remaining BBQ sauce all over the pizza dough

Half of the cheese

Chicken, mushrooms, and red onions (or other toppings of your choice)

Top with the other half of cheese

Just before placing the pizza pan into the oven, heat the pizza pan on the stove top for 2 to 3 minutes just to warm up the cast iron pan. Then place the pizza pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions just before removing from oven. Serve.