Friday, September 5, 2014

Spicy Kabocha Squash and Potato with Thai Curry

This summer has been an amazing summer so far for me. I have grown all the herbs that are needed for the Asian dishes. I tried to plant squash. A kabocha squash is also called Japanese squash. I did not expect it could grow in my garden this year. However, it took me by surprise, and I have been using the squash vines most of the time and also the plants produced quite a few squash for me now to use for this dish. The dish that I am introducing here today is and aromatic Thai curry dish. It requires a few spicy herbs, such as lemongrass, galangal, or ginger. The Kaffir lime is another herb that is used frequently in all the Asian soups.  Even though that I do not have the exact Kaffir leave, but I grew a couple of lime trees in the pot. They look pretty and the leaves are fantastic for flavoring the stock. I hope they will survive this winter. At this time of the year, the red and yellow small potatoes are very sweet, and they are ingredients that go well with Kabocha squash. This dish is delicious as is, or it can be served with Jasmine rice or rice noodles.

Broth ingredients:
6 cups water or vegetables broth
2 lemongrass (cut the root off and bruise)

5 sliced fresh galangal, or ginger
3 Kaffir lime leaves

2 garlic cloves, smashed
Curry ingredients:
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups above broth
1 Kabocha squash – peeled, seeds removed, and cut into big chunks

1 1/2 lb. red and yellow small potatoes, washed and cut in half
3 carrots, cut into big chunks
1 small white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 dried hot chilies
1 cup long beans
2 tsp red curry paste
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup lime juice
Soy sauce, salt, pepper, sugar or fish  sauce to taste
Garnish ingredients :
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil, julienned

Cilantro and green onion, chopped.

In a pot over medium heat, add broth, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and lime leaves. Bring to boil and simmer for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and discard the solids.
In another pot, add oil and sauté the garlic and onion until fragrant.

 Stir in red curry paste, curry powder,  and chili. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until the aroma is released from the spices. Cook over low to medium heat and make sure it does not burn.

 Add the kabocha squash, potatoes, and carrots. Stir in the spices. Add the broth and bring to boil.

Cover,Simmer for 20  minutes and add the beans and cook for 5 more minutes or until all the vegetables are fork tender.

 Season with soy sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Add coconut milk and heat through. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. At this point to thicken the soup(if you desire) by using 2 tsp of cornstarch mix with 1/4 cup of water and add to the pot;cook until the sauce is thickened. Add a final touch with green onion, cilantro, and basil before serving.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Easy Italian Chicken

The following recipe makes a dish with maximum taste and nutrition with just a few ingredients. I am lucky to be able to grow most of my herbs that I use for this dish. However, Italian seasoning can be substituted for all the fresh herbs. I try my best to create flavorful recipes that require as few ingredients as possible. The key to enjoying cooking is always keeping things simple and easy to follow directions.

Two chicken breast halves
1 tbs butter and olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: oregano, thyme, parsley, and basil
One 14 oz. can tomato stew
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken broth
1 cup white onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
Chili flakes
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked pasta, your choice

In a medium sauté pan, add butter and oil. Heat butter and oil until foaming. Add chicken breast halves and brown all sides.

 Add garlic,  chili flakes, and onions and cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant.

Stir in fresh herbs and bay leaf (cook for 1 minute). Season with salt and pepper.

Add tomato stew and chicken broth. Bring to boil.

 Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour or until chicken breasts are tender.

 Add sugar and season with more salt, if needed. Serve on top of pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Asian Stir-Fried Tofu with Vegetables

This is another healthy dish that I like to make once or twice a week. I ordered the soy beans from Laura Farms so that I can make my own tofu because I do not live near an Asian market, and also it is fresher and healthier if we can grow things at home. Making homemade tofu sounds complicated to some cooks, but for me it is quite simple with a soy milk machine. I also grow my own bean sprouts at home. In the Asian world, stir-fried vegetables always need bean sprouts. However, whatever vegetables are on hand are still good. For the stir-fried vegetables dish, the more different kinds of vegetables that are used, the merrier the dish will be. I do not like to use firm tofu even though firm tofu makes it easy for stir-frying. My tofu is soft to medium firm. For this recipe, choose any tofu and vegetables that are appealing to the taste. The bean sprouts add to the natural sweetness of this dish and does not need to cook long, so throw them in at the last minute. This dish can be made as a gluten free dish using gluten free soy sauce.

8 oz medium firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
1 tbs soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbs peanut or canola oil
2 cups frozen vegetables (Costco brand)
1/2 cup white onions, thickly sliced
1/2 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 asparagus, cut diagonally
1 cup bean sprouts
Sauce ingredients:
1/2 cup water
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1 tsp chili sauce or chili flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbs cooking wine or Sherry
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp cornstarch

 Garnish with chopped green onions and basil

Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch vegetables (except the mushrooms and bean sprouts) for a couple of minutes and drain.

Heat wok over high heat and add oil. Stir in onions, ginger, and garlic. Cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).

Add tofu to wok in a thin layer and fry the tofu. Season the tofu with soy sauce and salt. Stir and cook until the tofu begins to brown.

Move tofu off to the side of the wok. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms wilt (about 2 minutes).

Add blanched vegetables and the sauce.

Mix well and bring to boil and cook until the sauce starts thickening.

 Season with more salt, if needed. Add bean sprouts and green onions and remove from heat.

Serve on a plate with cooked rice and sprinkle with julienned basil.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rhubarb, Blackberries, and Strawberries Pie

After a first-attempt and successful rhubarb pie, I felt more and more confident to make a second one. However, my rhubarb plant has not grown quickly enough to make the same pie immediately. All my friends were surprised that my garden still has rhubarb. I must have done something right with this vegetable. Anyway, I want to thank my friend, Melodee’s, mother, Mrs. Eleanor Smith. She is in her mid 90s and still makes pie whenever events happened in Melodee's house. She told me that her pie making dated back to when she a young women. Most women her age know how to make pies for their churches, who sell them to make money for the church. She was the one who taught me how to make pie dough, the traditional way using 100-year-old recipe, when all the modern kitchen gadgets were not available. After just one lesson from Eleanor, my fear of making pie dough is gone. I add some sugar into the recipe to sweeten the dough a little. Also, I replace some of the Crisco vegetable shortening with coconut oil. I believe this oil is so healthy, Eleanor did not know that coconut oil is very healthy to eat; otherwise, she would agree with me about adding it into the dough. It turns out well – the pie crust is crispy and the coconut oil adds flavor to the crust. Living in the North-West during summer time is wonderful, especially for people like me who love to cook, bake, and do gardening. I picked the blackberries from my backyard. I only add frozen strawberries into this pie because with all my attempts to grow strawberries, the birds are faster to consume these strawberries than I am to harvest them. Oh well, we cannot have everything. Right? My recipe for this pie is also quite simple to put together. I believe that cooking is fun and simplicity is the way to be happy every day. In the afternoon, after this pie is baked, I will gather all my friends to gather to try this new recipe with an afternoon cup of tea.

Mrs. Eleanor Smith’s pie crust ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted together
1 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
1 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
1/2 cup coconut oil
14 to 16 tablespoons cold water

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the cold water.

Use the pastry blender or a fork as a pie dough making tool to blend the flour until it resembles a course grain.

Add cold water a few tablespoons at a time until the dough can be held together in a ball. Divide dough into two portions, shaping each into a ball.

 Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Eleanor told me that the dough does not need to refrigerated, but I did it any way, and it turned out fine

Pie filling ingredients:
2 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup strawberries, sliced, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp agar powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out one dough ball to fill the inside of a 9 inch pie pan(mine is 10 inch).

Pour the filling into the dough-lined pie pan. Dot with 1 tbs of butter.

Roll out the other half of the pie dough ball to cover the pie filling and overlap the sides of the pie pan.

Trim dough 1/2-inch beyond edge. Fold top crust under bottom crust edge to seal. Crimp and flute edges. Cut slits in top crust or prick with fork to allow steam to escape.  Sprinkle one more tablespoon of sugar over the top, if desired, and dot with more butter.

Place the pie pan onto a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350° and bake for another 50 minutes or until the center is bubbly. Remove and let it cool completely before cutting and serving.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Asparagus and Mushrooms

A stir-fried dish is one of my quick and healthy meals. I am introducing here another recipe for stir-frying. Asparagus and mushrooms go well together in this dish. I have posted quite a lot of stir-fried dishes on my blog, and this one will make a wonderful recipe contribution to my collection of stir-fry dishes.

1/2 lb. chicken breasts, sliced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs cornstarch
1 tbs cooking wine

Sauce ingredients:
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chicken broth

Vegetable ingredients:
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch slices
1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
1 tbs fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp minced garlic

 Oil for stir-frying

Other ingredients:
Chopped chives , basils
White rice

Combine salt, pepper, cornstarch, and cooking wine in a bowl. Stir in chicken and marinade for a few hours.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the asparagus for a couple of minutes. Drain asparagus under running cold water to stop the cooking.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add oil and swirl the wok around to distribute the oil evenly. Add chicken and cook for a few minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Add ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes.

 Add some sauce to the mushrooms. Cook the mushroom until soft. Add asparagus, and sauce.

 Stir all together to mix with sauce.

Cook until the sauce thickens. Add chopped chives. Pour onto a serving plate and serve with rice.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blackberries & Sour Cream Cake

During summer, my friend Pamela and I picked so many blackberries. Besides making sauce and jam, I like to make cakes, muffins, or other desserts that can include blackberries that I always have available. Today, I will introduce a simple recipe but still has an excellent result. The cake is moist but not too sweet. This cake can be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1/4 cup chia seeds gel
1/2 cup soft butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups blackberries
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9 inch cake pan and set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a KitchenAid or other stand mixer, beat the cream, butter, chia seeds gel, and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and continue beating for a couple additional minutes. Add vanilla. Alternatively add flour and sour cream –starting with flour and ending with flour.

Pour half of the batter onto the cake pan, and then add half of the blueberries.

Pour the remainder of the batter onto the cake pan and top with the remainder of the blueberries.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool and then serve.