Browsing Category: Lactose-Free

Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash & Carrots

April can be a dreary time of year in the Pacific Northwest, when the reason behind the existence of a cozy coffee shop on every other street corner becomes apparent. This Sunday afternoon’s anticipation of spring warmth was salved with trying out this lamb stew recipe, with a side of netflix marathon. I don’t think I’ve ever tried cooking lamb at home, but starting with it in cubed stewed form seemed a good way to start. Got a chance to break in a recently acquired dutch oven (ostensibly bought for car camping cake purposes).

Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash & Carrots
Altered a minuscule degree from: Food 52’s Lamb Stew
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pound lamb shoulder, in 1-inch cubes
Salt
1medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped carrots (added more, I lurve stewed carrots)
2 4 cloves garlic, chopped (anything with 2 cloves of garlic, is worth making with 4!)
28 ounces chopped tomatoes (I cheated with canned. In the winter they seem to have more flavor than fresh tomatoes..)
2 cups beef stock
2 sprigs thyme 2 tsp dried thyme
1 sprig rosemary 1 tsp dried rosemary
2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/2-inch)
1/2 tsp butter

Ingredients marshalled: sear meat, set aside, saute other stuff, pour on tomatoes and herbs, simmer 2 hours, add butternut squash.
Ingredients marshalled: sear meat, set aside, saute other stuff, pour on tomatoes and herbs, simmer 2 hours, add butternut squash.

Procedure
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a Dutch oven or saucepan with a lid heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the lamb with salt, and when the oil is hot, brown half of the cubes on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove lamb to a plate with a slotted spoon and add more oil if necessary. Brown the rest of the lamb and then set aside.
2. On medium low, add butter, the onions, carrots and garlic to pot. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
3. Add the tomatoes, stock, herbs and the browned lamb, along with any juices that have accumulated. Bring the stew to a boil over high heat, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to get up all the brown tasty bits from the bottom of the pot.
4. When the stew comes to a boil, cover the pot and put in the oven. Cook until the lamb is just tender, 2 to 3 hours. Optional: in the mean time, cook some brown rice, and/or butter some naan and add garlic powder and bake. It took me about 2 hours for the lamb to start falling apart.
5. Stir the butternut squash into the stew, re-cover it and return the pot to the oven until the squash is tender, another 20 to 25 minutes. Optional: serve with rice or naan.

This was a nice way to try out the new cast iron dutch oven I got. Now all I have to do is lift some weights so it isn’t so heavy any more. It was pretty difficult to put away left overs without being able to lift it with one arm. I also cheated a bit, using dried herbs, and snagging a box of pre-cut butternut squash from Whole Foods rather than sawing through my own whole squash. Looking forward to being set for a main dish for the next day or two..or three or four. Three other ways I thought of eating this in leftover form, in case you have a skewed mouth-to-portions-available situation like I did:

  • add chickpeas, roll in naan bread toasted with butter and garlic,
  • pour on top of pasta and top with parmesan cheese,
  • saute some thickly-sliced zucchini and onions and mix it in (the tomato cuts some bitterness of the zucchini),
  • freeze in single portions for a day when you have time to defrost but none to cook and want a hearty meal
  • stuff some puff pastry with the stew and bake until golden.
3-4 hours later: stew complete!
3-4 hours later: stew complete!

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars.
Looks so familiar, but everything is slightly different! Orange you glad I tried it, just so I could make that pun?
Likelihood of Repeat: 70%
Mmm, nothing quite like filling your house with the smell of savory stew on a lazy Sunday. This is relatively low maintenance with darn high benefit/yield, so I definitely would like to make it again.
Lesson Learned: “2 to 3 hours” + “20-25” + prep = 3-5 hours of total process time?! Better get a full season of tv watching ready, or maybe a good book.

Mung Bean Sprouts

I was looking for bean sprouts at the grocery store for those summer rolls i posted about, but I couldn’t find any fresh ones, besides which they always go bad so fast when fresh that I don’t get to use them before they all go bad. I am so sad when that happens that I don’t buy them much, so this time I found some mung beans from the bulk section to sprout myself, in smaller portions. It helped that my spouse was out of town at the time, so if anyone was poisoned, it was only me.

Ingredients & Supplies:
mung beans
water
mason jar
cheesecloth
a tray and towel

Sprouts: day 1
Sprouts: day 1

Procedure
1. Pick over the beans and throw anything that looks suspect out (see reference links for warnings about sourcing), rinse with running water.
2. Pour rinsed beans into jar, cover jar with a secured cheesecloth (with an open mason jar lid, or rubberband), soak for 8-12 hours.
3. Drain the water and rinse through the cheesecloth, then set it upside down to drain in a dark space, atop the tray and towel (to absorb the water).
4. Tedious: rinse and set to drain at least twice a day, returning to dark space, until sprouts are appropriate length, 2-5 days. I stopped after four because that was when I wanted to make summer rolls.

Sprouts days 2, 3, 4 and 4.
Sprouts days 2, 3, 4 and 4.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars.
Very novel, never tried sprouting stuff before. Was it slightly more interesting with an edge of self-poisoning danger? Maybe…
Likelihood of Repeat: 15%
Ugh, so tedious to remember to check it day and night whenever I woke up or was trying to go to bed. One of the references below even says “as frequently as four times a day,” who has time for that?!
Lesson Learned: Somebody else spends a lot of time sprouting beans so I can enjoy their crunchy deliciousness when I’m eating out. I am ever grateful. Also: home-sprouted beans can taste more nutty, in a good way.

References:
Primary: Serious Eats: How to Grow Bean Sprouts in a Jar
Secondary: Sproutpeople.org on Mung Bean Sprouts

Jicama, 2 Ways
Salad vs. Summer Roll

First up, the recipe that uses more jicama:

(1) Citrus-Spiked Jicama and Carrot Slaw
Originally from Cooking Light, (David Bonom July 2007) via Yummly search via myrecipes.com. The original recipe calls for much larger amounts, I scaled it down and did some relatively arbitrary proportions for convenience to make one lunch-salad size and one tiny dinner side salad.

no advance prep for this dish, yay
no advance prep for this dish, yay

Ingredients
1/2 a jicama, julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/6 red onion, sliced in thin strips
~1 Tbs orange juice
~1/4 tsp lime rind
~2 tsp lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
a dash of salt to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)

Gross! cilantro!
substituted: 2 sprigs mint, stems removed and leaves cut in ribbons

 

Preparation
Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl, and toss gently to coat. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in the mint just before serving. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

jicama salad, served with a side of leftover red rice, pot stickers, and [not shown] the rest of the oranges that provided orange juice.
jicama salad, served with a side of leftover red rice, pot stickers, and [not shown] the rest of the oranges that provided orange juice.

Today’s Recipe #1 Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars.
Never made this before, and it has quite a strong sweet flavor even without sugar. You really get to taste the jicama, which was a novelty to me. I only started buying (and identifying) jicama last year.
Likelihood of Repeat: 80%
I think I have a strong bias for salads that don’t involve any leafy greens, bonus points for the use of multiple citrus items. I think I would like to re-try this with some orange slices thrown in too.
Lesson Learned: 1/6 of a red onion may still be too much onion to rejoin humanity after eating this.

Second way:
(2) Summer Rolls & Peanut Sauce
based on an altered recipe based on one from Chow.com

get all the ingredients chopped and prepped before you touch the rice wrappers
get all the ingredients chopped and prepped before you touch the rice wrappers

Ingredients
For the peanut sauce:
3/4 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons chili-garlic paste
1 medium garlic clove, mashed to a paste –okay, I cheated with pre-chopped garlic from the jar, fresh garlic is too spicy sometimes..
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

For the summer rolls:
24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined fried or firm tofu, sliced
1 hank dried rice stick noodles or rice vermicelli
5 (8-1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers
1/8 cup mung bean sprouts**
4 sprigs fresh mint leaves
32 fresh basil
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-by-1/4-by-2-1/2-inch sticks
3 medium scallions, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2-1/2-inch pieces (white and light green parts only) -used chives because i had some
8 butter lettuce leaves cut in half
carrots, julienned
jicama, julienned (same portion as cukes)
coconut flakes
a dash of rice vinegar

Instructions
For the peanut sauce:
1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.

For the summer rolls:
1. Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain, try rinsing, then tossing with rice vinegar and salt; then separate in clumps for each roll lest the noodles get all stuck together during assembly.
2. Place all of the ingredients in separate piles and arrange them in the following order around a work surface: rice paper wrappers, tofu, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, basil, cucumber, scallions, and lettuce.
3. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface, or lay out a damp wooden cutting board. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with warm tap water. Working with one wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel/board.

potential layout atop rice wrapper: always less ingredients needed than you expect
potential layout atop rice wrapper: always less ingredients needed than you expect

4. Working quickly, lay down ingredients sparsely atop rice wrapper (see picture), adding lettuce last, and mint and chive leaves near end of roll for aesthetics.
5. Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top.
6. Turn the roll so that the seam faces down and the row of tofu faces up. Place it on a rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. Leave 3/4 inch between each summer roll on the sheet so they don’t stick together, and replace the water in the pan or dish with hot tap water as needed.
**If not serving immediately, keep the summer rolls tightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 hours, OR wrap individually in plastic wrap, then in tightly-covered tupperware to keep overnight (see below for photo). Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping. If you are worried about it drying out, another precaution is to barely coat the outside of the rolls with sesame or olive oil, then wrap. The oil helps hold in the moisture.

Tip 1: Even when I scale down the amounts for the rolls, it’s been good to do the full or at least half portion of the sauce, since that is really the flavor that adds depth to the light crisp summer roll.
Tip 2: I keep my coconut flakes in an empty spice container for easy sprinkling over this, yogurts, and desserts.
Tip 3: I find my wrapping is more successful when I stretch the wrapper a smidge more than I think it will take. Definitely err on the side of less ingredients when you are first practicing the rolling.

Note: I first tried making these in the height of the Seattle summer (when I didn’t want to cook anything and add heat in a brief “80-degree heat wave”), and I am still using the same bag of rice wrappers, so yes, you will have more leftover, and you can stuff it with whatever leftovers you think will go well.

the finished product, ready to eat
the finished product, ready to eat

Today’s Recipe #2 Rating:
Novelty Rating:
2 of 5 stars.
I’ve made it before. I think it’s tasty, but definitely getting a little stale to eat in the winter when I crave potatoes and meat dishes. ..but it tastes so…healthy..

one bite in
one bite in

Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
As I mentioned before, I am still using the same packet of rice wrappers from the summer, and plan on continuing to put random ingredients together for a slapdash lunch. You will note the significant difference in length of steps between the two recipes above. That alone may indicate that #1 is going to win out in repeats..
Lesson Learned: I will always, always have leftover filling after I run out of those tasty rice noodles. This, in fact, was the original reason for recipe #1, as jicama only comes in certain sizes, so you’d have to make tons of summer rolls to actually use it up.

**Stay tuned for a future blog post on sprouting mung beans! I’ll do it so you don’t have to try it.

the final product, ready to store
the final product, ready to store

Stock Sunday

It’s that time again, about every quarter, my freezer starts to get too full of vegetable scraps, at which point I take ’em all and make some stock. In today’s case, I didn’t happen to have any leftover meat scraps that would have made it into a 4, 6 or 8-hour+ long process. Pffft. Unless you have no day job, or work from home, even the vegetable stock process requires a good chunk of time at home, even though it’s not active tending. This is certainly a recipe for the “60 Minutes – Multiday” folder, due to the freezer, and the collecting of scraps over time.

6 re-used yogurt containers of veggie scraps in the freezer? Time for stock Sunday!
6 re-used yogurt containers of veggie scraps in the freezer? Time for stock Sunday!

When my brother heard I make my own stock, he remarked “how…Depression Era..” I used some wee sage sprouts in the ‘miscellaneous herbs’ category from an herb starter kit gift from same brother this time. Haw.

Vegetable stock
Makes about 4 cups, after 2nd boil for 45 minutes

Ingredients:
5, 32 oz reused yogurt containers of loosely packed frozen veggie scraps*
3 Liters (around 9 cups) boiling water
arbitrary amount of miscellaneous fresh herbs (8/18/13: green onions, oregano, crushed garlic cloves and parsley)
olive oil

Steps
1. Consolidate vegetable scraps in a mixing bowl, and separate out any onions, garlic, celery, herbs and mushrooms.
2. Boil water in percolator.
3. Optional step but tasty: in large stock pot, sauté onions, garlic, celery, mushrooms and miscellaneous fresh herbs in olive oil over medium heat, about 3 minutes or however long to sweat them.
4. Add remaining vegetables to pot and pour in boiling water until vegetables are just covered (approximately get to 1:1 ratio of ingredients to water).
5. Bring almost to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes. Skim any scum off the top occasionally.
6. Pour boiled contents into a mixing bowl with colander, remove spent ingredients with colander.
7. Optional: return liquid to stovetop and boil down to desired more-concentrated volume; I boiled it for another 45ish minutes.
8. Pour liquid through second strainer, and let cool.
9. Chill to use immediately, or freeze stock (I like using an ice cube tray, then transferring after frozen to ziploc bags and labelling with a sharpie).

*I avoid saving the following vegetables, as they have too heavy a taste, or tend to dye the stock a scary deep red: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages (includes brussel sprouts), and red beets. I like using clear plastic yogurt containers, or at least with a clear top so you can tell what’s inside once it’s frozen.

Storage Note: the stock should keep in the freezer for 4-6 months.
Meatification tip: Veggies take around 2 hours, the rest goes: simmer +3 hours for chicken, +5 hours for pork, +7 hours for beef or veal. I tried beef once and it felt like forever since I boiled it down after removing the spent veggies in the last hour. I am never doing that again, too tedious, for similar flavor. One time my house accidentally smelled of curry for 3 days after..
Usage tip: when you use these for a recipe, you may want to salt a little more to taste, since it won’t be as salty as commercial stock.

Saute, boil, skim, strain, boil, freeze.
Saute, boil, skim, strain, boil, freeze.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
1 of 5 stars.
The novelty herein lines in the additional 1/3 of my freezer that is now empty, and 5% now has some free, homemade stock ready for use in soups, roux, cooking rice, risotto, and other things. That, and I like giving my vegetables a second life before they go on to the food/yard waste for their third life as compost.

I measured the stock as I poured it in the ice tray, so I know this freezer ziploc of stock will be 2 cups in liquid form.
I measured the stock as I poured it in the ice tray, so I know this freezer ziploc of stock will be 2 cups in liquid form.

Likelihood of Repeat: 100%
Stock-making has become a chore-Sunday routine every several many months. I see no likelihood of dropping it.
Lesson Learned: from making this, and other items destined for the freezer (like too much soup), I have learned that it’s useful to keep a sharpie nearby in a kitchen drawer for easy labeling of ziplocs.

References:
Salon.com on How to Make Stock
Alton Brown’s chicken stock recipe

Red Rice Rainbow Chard Salad

I had some leftover red rice from a meatball dish, and did a simple ad hoc salad out of it. In case you’re feeling uninspired in simple salad-making, here’s what I did, approximately:

Ingredients:
3 stems rainbow chard, stems stripped and leaves chopped into ribbons
1/4 c Red rice ( I think it was Bhutanese), cooked
red onion, minced
1/4 of an orange bell pepper, diced
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp Rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp Lemon juice
half an avocado, sliced with a little lemon juice (not shown in picture)
for croutons:
1 leftover dinner roll or other bread, stale
1 dash of garlic powder
salt & pepper
a dash of dry basil, and/or oregano
Note: time needed depends on (a)if the rice is leftover and already cooked, and if (b)you made croutons ahead of time.

Steps
1. After chopping other ingredients, cube bread roll, mix with olive oil and other spices listed above, bake in toaster oven (or oven) at 300 for 20-30 minutes, checking halfway through.
2. Place everything but the croutons in serving container in separate portions (see picture) until ready to eat (except I put the vinegar and oil atop the onion to neutralize it a little), mix in croutons, and enjoy.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars.
Yum, how novel to eat red rice in a salad! The addition of this, and omission of balsamic vinegar made it feel like a new salad combo.
Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
Due to work and other appointment time constraints, I was forced to wolf this down in about 15 minutes, in which time I decided it was very tasty, although I would have liked to have had more time to savor it. I added the avocados on a whim, motivated by the ticking time bomb of avocado ripening, but it really pushed the combination over to officially tasty.
Lesson Learned: Unless bacon is in play, avocado always wins.

RdRice_Chard_Salad

What -Berry Salad?!

WheatberrySaladCompleteNope, wheat berry salad!
I posted recently about the wonders of rice cookers, and promised to take a gander at the Wheat Berry Salad I stumbled on in my related googling adventures. So here it is, nearly unaltered from Tiny Urban Kitchen’s original post:

Wheat Berry Salad
Ingredients:

1 cup soft white wheat berries
2 cups water
dash of salt
1 orange bell pepper
1/3 red onion
2 roma tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/4 cup nuts (pine nuts shown here, I think pecans or almonds would work fine too)

Steps
1. Toast the wheat berries in a skillet for ~4 minutes on medium high heat. Stir often, for the wheat berries will begin to brown and even start popping. You may want to get a lid or splatter screen just in case.
2. Soak the wheat berries in water for 1 hour, or in my case, overnight in the rice cooker with the timer set for 5:30 PM. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can bring the wheat berries to a boil in a pot of water on the stove top and then let simmer for about 45 minutes.
3. While you’re waiting for it to finish, finely chop: 1 orange bell pepper, 1/3 red onion, 2 roma tomatoes, and 1 cucumber.
4. Lightly toast nuts.
5. When wheatberries are done cooking, dress the cooked wheatberries with a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and a little black pepper to taste.
6. Finally, mix in vegetables, onion, and nuts into wheatberries, can be served warm straight from the rice cooker, or cold.
When I prepped it, I kept the onions and pine nuts separate, since the raw onions could be a little heart burny, and I added the pine nuts at the last minute so I could keep them crunchy for lunch.

Toast wheatberries, soak overnight, have the robot cook it, chop other stuff, toast nuts, mix. Nom.
Toast wheatberries, soak overnight, have the robot cook it, chop other stuff, toast nuts, mix. Nom.

This week’s trial recipe rating:
Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, these wheatberries have a delightful pop when you bite down on them! All the bright-colored vegetables I added made it a really appealing-looking dish to eat, with just the right crunch from the peppers and cucumbers. It was also super easy to bring for lunch and eat cold, but still feel satisfied. Score one for small portion efforts.
Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
I’m definitely going to make this again, and maybe even branch out to try a different vinaigrette combo with it, or add goat cheese or craisins. Besides the time it took to cook the actual grains, the rest of the prep was super fast since it didn’t require any more cooking.

Method Break: Poached Egg by Microwave

In case you’ve not heard, you can poach an egg in the microwave! It took me a few tries but I finally got it about right for my particular microwave.

In vintage (a.k.a. janky) microwave:
1. Add 1/2 c water to a small bowl, carefully crack egg in, cover loosely.
2. Heat 50 seconds at power level 8.
Voila!

You may need to fiddle a few different ways to figure out the right amount of time and power for your microwave, and it’s not exactly the same as an over easy fried egg fresh from the pan since it cooks more evenly, but I found it quite satisfying to be able to have a soft, yolky egg to top whatever leftovers I had, be it rice, squash, ramen, or even salad.

20131205-131831.jpg

Meatless Moping: Chickpeas with Chard & Pan-Roasted Tomatoes

I like making meals my spouse isn’t a big fan of when he’s out of town, which usually means no meat, and more carbs. Today’s recipe is one from Real Simple Magazine shortly after a honeymoon to New Zealand, where for breakfast we had thick-cut bacon, a fried egg and a succulently delicious sautéed tomato half almost every morning we were there. Surprisingly, I found the tomatoes the tastiest feature of the dish, despite my love of bacon, and missed it when we got home (along with the warm friendliness of the kiwis on our travels). So of course, this is a reminder of that nostalgic deliciousness, even though roma tomatoes out of season from the stores here don’t taste nearly as good as in New Zealand on honeymoon. It’s a quick fixup, goes good with your staple grain/false grain of choice, with a side of Mindy Project and silent moping about.

the finished product
the finished product

Chickpeas With Chard and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes
Original Real Simple recipe here, version below is minorly altered. Time adjusted to match a gas stovetop, you may need a minute or so longer for an electric range.

Serves 4
Hands-on Time: 20m
Total Time: 50m

Ingredients
* optional: serve with brown rice, spaghetti squash, or quinoa
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 4 small roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
* 1 small bunch Swiss chard, thick stems and ribs removed and leaves torn (about 8 cups)
* 1/3 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
* 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* kosher salt and black pepper
* 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice

rainbow chard, roma tomatoes, dried cranberries, sliced garlic, chickpeas, lemon juice and salt.
the ingredients

Directions

1. Cook your grain/squash/fake grain of choice accordingly.

2. Twenty minutes before the grain is done, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, cut-side down, and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until browned and starting to soften 2-3 minutes; turn and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add the chard, raisins/cranberries, garlic, 2 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the skillet. Cook, tossing, until the chard wilts, 2 minutes.

4. Return the tomatoes to the skillet, add the chickpeas and lemon juice, and toss until heated through, 1 minutes. Serve over the rice/squash/quinoa.

Notes:
I don’t ever have golden raisins on hand, and regular raisins don’t look too appetizing in this dish, so the dried cranberries usually in my pantry work fine to add a little sweetness on top of the tomato flavor. I tried this with heirloom tomatoes once too, and I don’t recommend it. Their complex flavor was lost when they turned too mushy in the pan too fast. For this post, I only made a half portion, as I had other methods to try for the rest of that chard.

ChickpeasChardTomato_Collage

Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Made it before, but I mostly only make it when my “roommate’s” out of town, so it’s still a little rare..
Likelihood of Repeat: 75%
It’s too fast to NOT do!

Sweet & Spicy Almonds

Cookies Part 3 of 4. This one whips up fast, and it’s even vegan!

sweet & spicy almonds: roast, melt the slurry, coat, add dry mix, cool. easy!
sweet & spicy almonds: roast, melt the slurry, coat, cool. easy!

(originally from All Recipes, HQ’d in Seattle! ..one adjustment here)
Makes: 2 1/2 cups almonds
Total processing time: less than 30 minutes

Ingredients
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups whole almonds
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet, and toast until the nuts start to turn golden brown and become fragrant, about 10 minutes. Watch the nuts carefully as they bake: they burn quickly.
2. Stir together the sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl; set aside.
3. Stir together the water, honey, and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to bubble, stir in the toasted almonds until evenly moistened. Pour the almonds into the sugar and spice mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread onto baking sheets in a single layer, and cool to room temperature.

Notes: don’t breathe in too deeply when you’re mixing the dry ingredients, or you will end up coughing. I keep reading this note and still doing it. :p Also: you could use agave syrup instead of honey, it won’t stick as well and will feel a little more oily.

Today’s “Cookie” Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 1 of 5 stars
Likelihood of Repeat: 85%
Since these are marginally better for you than cookies, I make them year-round, so they are very familiar. I also like that they don’t require egg whites, another recipe I tried used egg whites and things turned out funny.

Home-made Tofu

(November Week 2 Trial)

Through the magic of the Internets (i.e. user manuals online) I know that my fancy Sanyo 5-cup rice cooker (a long ago wedding registry gift) can also steam food, make porridge, work like a slow cooker, do all of these things at a set time in the future, and, in theory, make tofu.* Sorry in advance for the length of this entry, but the number of steps and attention to pay corresponds..

Why would anyone make tofu? That’s gross!

No my friend, I love tofu. Not the flavorless, grainy, mealy-textured stuff you find at the Western groceries, no, the soft, velvety smooth (still pretty flavorless) stuff from the Asian groceries, or the stuff they sell in the back of Northwest Tofu, a Seattle-based Taiwanese breakfast establishment. A light, refreshing snack if you cut it cold in chunks, pour a little soy sauce over, and sprinkle lightly with MSG-laden furikake (admittedly not the healthiest choice). ..or a good melt-in-your-mouth mild complement to spicy pork and sauce in mapo tofu. ..or fried tofu, crispy and salty on the outside and melty on the inside, like a deep fried cheese curd but probably better for you. Still not convinced? That’s okay, you can just skip this entry. As for me, I’m stickin’ to my roots and giving this another try (mainly for the novelty).

INTRODUCing first..in the left corner, hailing from Sanyo by way of the internet, our rice cooker tofu-making method,

Ingredients:
Northwest Tofu soymilk (unsweetened)
Nigari (leftover from the first failed attempt in my house)

For this one, I just tried to follow the manual instructions to the letter, only moderation was that I started with just-boiled water from the percolator.
1. Rinse tofu container with hot water just before adding ingredients.
2. Add 500 ml (2 cups) boiled water to the outer rice cooker bowl.
3. Add .34 oz (wtf?! Who uses ounces? google told me this was about 2 tsp) nigari, which apparently is “a natural coagulant of magnesium chloride made by evaporating seawater,” per Pat, of The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook.
4. Set rice cooker to ‘tofu’ setting.
5. Push Start.
6. 1 hour later: done.

It looks like so:

rice cooker tofu steaming method
rice cooker tofu steaming method

Hahahahaha. Steps 4 and 5 are zingers if you don’t have a fancy schmancy rice cooker, right?

AAANNdd in the OPPOSITE CORNER, our manual method, ALSO hailing from the internet, from The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook (a since-defunct website), Homemade Tofu – No Fancy Equipment Necessary!

Ingredients:
Northwest Tofu soymilk (500 ml)
~2 tsp epsom salt (who knew you cooked with it?!)
“tofu press,” compliments of Whole Foods’ goat cheese container plus drainage holes:

DIY tofu press, recouping 0.2% of the original cost from Whole Foods
DIY tofu press, recouping 0.2% of the original cost from Whole Foods

I’m not going to list all the instructions here since the aforementioned link does it better. Just know that I did half the portions. As I was pouring the soymilk (only bought one day ago!) into the pot to boil, I could smell the aromatic deliciousness and chickened out of making the full 4 cups prescribed, choosing selfishly instead to hoard an additional 2 cups to drink in my morning coffee, or maybe even just warmed up with a little sugar stirred in..mmmmm. Maybe it was the halving of portions (but still boiling in a large pot), or maybe I added too much nigari, or too little, but this one turned out a little firmer than expected. Since I used an old Whole Foods container as a makeshift tofu press (just stuck holes in the bottom for drainage -had to pause while draining to poke the holes bigger-) and I ended up with a surprisingly small amount to work with, I ended up with a bit of a funny round shape, which did not photograph well. However, the flavor was delicious. As of the writing of this I have already ‘snacked’ on half of it!

Manual tofu method: many many more steps and attention paid.
Manual tofu method: many many more steps and attention paid. The epsom salt reads “saline laxative,” mmmm.

..and back to the rice cooker tofu:
I noticed I had 8 minutes to spare after making the manual stuff before the cooker was due to be done.
manual (1 hr 5 minutes): 1
rice cooker (42 minutes, may be less because I made so little): 0

Manual tofu method: drizzled with a little honey as dessert.
Manual tofu method: drizzled with a little honey as dessert. Looks good, tastes chalky. :p

How did these two methods stack up?

Time: it’s sort of a toss up, since the manual is shorter, but you don’t have to touch the rice cooker one after you set it.
Flavor: manual tastier. About 2/5th of the rice cooker tofu was eaten for dessert at dinner, but only out of politeness and with honey to mask the odd chalky taste.
Texture: the rice cooker tofu was lighter and more airy, which is the way I like my tofu. I shouldn’t be too surprised since the other recipe mentioned how the author likes firmer tofu.

Ultimately, manual method wins!
I think taste always trumps texture, since you can do something about texture, but if you start with an awkward taste, it can be hard to escape. If I made a lot more, I could totally turn that manual method tofu into mapo tofu and you wouldn’t care about it being a little firmer. I think next time I’ll try the rice cooker method with epsom salt and see how it goes. It’s possible it has a different coagulation rate and it won’t work at all, but it’s worth a shot.

Also of note: happy birthday to my friend whose birthday was on Sunday! It was an honor to treat you to delicious brunch, and have an excellent excuse to pick up fresh soymilk from Northwest Tofu. You seem wiser and happier with each year, and I wish you many more.

This week’s trial recipe ratings:
Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
I think next time I’ll try the manual tofu recipe with a little less epsom salt, but in the rice cooker.

*Oh, and you can make hard [over]boiled eggs. Just throw it in with the rice next time and see. Also learned from my manual-reading: turns out my oven has a “Sabbath Mode.” Who knew?

Incidentally, in the course of checking directions on how to steam soft-boiled eggs the other day, I found this article: Surprising Things You Can Cook with a Rice Cooker, with a bunch of appetizing pictures with recipe links. I’ve saved the wheat berry salad and mac & cheese recipes to try later, although I am still a little wary of trying to make anything that needs crunch in a rice cooker. The mac & cheese may be too many intermittent steps, and the delicious-looking Lemony Risotto with Shrimp definitely was. Then you might as well do it on the stovetop.

Let me know if you try any of these and want to do a guest blog post!