Yay for Family Time, too! Charred Green Beans

Last week also saw my spouse and I visiting my parents. I was raised on a relatively mellow-tasting, healthy diet, similar to what I helped my mama make below. Lots of steamed stuff, and delicious tofu.

Dinner prep with Mama: green beans, fish, thousand year eggs, scallions, and tofu.
Dinner prep with Mama: green beans, fish, thousand year eggs, scallions, and tofu.
Dinner by chef Mama: thousand-year egg & tofu, steamed green beans, baked fish, and tofu miso soup (also: leftover pot stickers).
Dinner by chef Mama: thousand-year egg & tofu, steamed green beans, baked fish, and tofu miso soup (also: leftover pot stickers).

The next night, I made dinner in honor of my father’s birthday. Fell a little short on supplies cooking away from my kitchen, but I made do.

Baked Chicken
Ingredients
2 boneless chicken breasts
olive oil & butter (melted)
dried marjoram
dried rosemary
honey
salt & pepper

“Steps”
I preheated the good ‘ole toaster oven to 400 and oiled up the pan. I rinsed and dried the chicken, brushed it with the butter and oil mix, and sprinkled a generous amount of marjoram, rosemary, salt and pepper. Then I baked it for around 40 minutes, dripped a little honey on top on impulse, took it out around 10 minutes later.

Dinner prep: the chili oil is actually home made from a friend, just stored in that bottle..
Dinner prep: the chili oil is actually home made from a friend, just stored in that bottle..

Charred Green Beans
Originally from a Seattle Times 2008 article (their link was dead so I removed it), modified for what I had on hand, and to keep the garlic in the roast.
Serves 8

Ingredients
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons chili powder (this is the substitute shown above for not having chili oil)
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 large or 4 small garlic cloves
1 pound green beans
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Coarse kosher or sea salt

Steps
1. Combine vegetable, chili and sesame oils in a microwave-safe container. With the flat of a chef’s knife, smash the garlic cloves; remove and discard peel and add garlic to oil. Cover with a paper towel and microwave on full power for 30 seconds. Let sit while you prepare the beans.
2. Top and tail green beans, rinse them thoroughly and then whirl in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture. Pat dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel.
3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread beans out in one layer in two rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle oil over beans and toss beans until all are coated with oil.
4. Roast beans 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size, stirring and rotating pans halfway through. Beans should be browned in spots and beginning to shrivel. Remove from oven and drain on paper towels.
5. While beans are roasting, toast sesame seeds in a skillet over low heat, shaking pan and stirring frequently until fragrant; then remove from heat.
6. Sprinkle hot beans with sesame seeds and coarse salt to taste. Serve immediately, or store in fridge then serve at room temperature.

This week’s trial recipe rating:
Novelty Rating:
3 of 5 stars
The chicken was palatable, and I was happy it turned out okay, but was not remarkable. I’ve been making those green beans since 2008, they are in the regular meal rotation, so the only novelty is how tasty they are.
Likelihood of Repeat: 20%
Likely not to repeat the same ad hoc chicken, likely to repeat the green beans, but they weren’t the trial factor here.

Dinner in the tiny rice bowls I grew up on. Not visible: rice.
Birthday dinner: baked chicken, charred green beans, and brown rice (not shown), served in the tiny rice bowls I grew up with (excellent portion control technique).

Yay for Family Time!

ensaimadas set out to rise at my in-laws'
ensaimadas set out to rise at my in-laws’

Dear Reader,
After a whirlwind of travel to see family (lots of family) for the holidays, I spruced up a few pics I took along the way on my plane ride home. Then I woke up with a wicked sore throat, sore muscles and a serious case of loopy brain. That was Friday. The sore throat haunts me yet. That is my excuse for the brief hiatus from posting.

Did you miss me? Here’s a little two-fer to make up for it.

Pictured here are ensaimadas set out to rise, made by my father-in-law. He is renown in the filipino community of the Twin Cities for his empanadas, ensaimadas, hopia, the list goes on. In college when my boyfriend (now spouse) and I would stop by their house, there’d be empanadas cooling on every surface in the house. Yum!  Said spouse got a chance to get a glimpse at some close-held family recipes. Nom nom nom. I was a bit busy wrapping a zillion gifts while we were there, so these are all the pictures you get.

Not shown: baking a zillion chocolate chip cookies with the niece and nephew in SFO (didn’t have any time for pictures).

secret family recipes!
secret family recipes!

 

Food-related Entertainment: Foodini

Foodini: the 3D food printer.
3D printed pizza: unimpressive

Have you heard about Foodini? It is a 3D printer for food! Click on the photos to read a longer gizmag article on it. Yes, I got excited until I saw the pizza, which made me realize it was just a really fancy play-dough machine. It also doesn’t really cook it, just heats at 100 degrees to keep things melty. Given the sloppiness of the more pedestrian 3D printers I’ve known from engineering friends’ houses, I’m inclined to think that the $1,300 by mid-2014 is not quite optimized for the price-to-quality, and that it could wait a few years. Plus, you can’t use this 3D printer to make another 3D printer (unless you want one of chocolate)! Still, it’s a pretty neat concept to think about. This tree looks crunchy-delicious.

Chocolate tree assembled from foodini-printed chocolate. Chomp chomp chomp.

Accordion Potatoes

Saw this recipe via the latest blog I’ve been persistently sucked into perusing, Brit + Co. which led me to A Beautiful Mess’ Accordion Potatoes. I only had 3 large yukon potatoes, so scaled it down thus:

3 large yukon gold potatoes, washed and dried.
1/4 cup of butter
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 teaspoons minced rosemary
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic

Per instructions in the link above,
-Preheat oven to 375.
-Slice potatoes 3/4 through in accordion style.
-In a microwave safe bowl combine the butter, oil, rosemary and garlic.
-Cook just until melted, about 45 seconds.
Use a kitchen brush to coat each potato, make sure the butter gets between each slice.
Bake at 375°F for 38-40 minutes. The goal is to make sure they are done on the inside and crispy on the edges.
-Then brush with another layer of the butter mixture and serve.
-Served with sides of cream cheese, chopped green onions and shredded cheddar cheese. yum!

what the accordion say?
what the accordion say?

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
3 of 5 stars
This was really quite tasty with the cream cheese I had left over from cookie-making, and I’d like to try it again for more crisp using smaller potatoes..
Likelihood of Repeat: 45%
…but it was pretty heavy on the carbs, minutely tedious to brush the mix on, and not consumed largely by my dining companion at home. I may only try making it again when he’s out of town, and I’ve pre-burned a lot of calories.

Method Break: Idea: Adorable Animal Snacks for Kids

I am super stoked to visit family this holiday season, including my neice and nephew, 6 and 4.  I may already be keeping a running list of fun stuff to entertain them with if they ever get out here to visit me. Maybe. So in case you haven’t seen it around the interwebs yet, Easy Adorable Animal Snacks to Make with Kids.

teddy bear s'mores?!!
teddy bear s’mores?!!

Yeah? Yeah? What do you think, should I do it? Have you done it? Please share.
This is definitely one direction I haven’t thought to stretch my brain much when making food.

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!

Almond Florentines

Cookies Part 3 of 4.

almond florentine: the orange zest makes all the difference
almond florentine: the orange zest makes all the difference

(originally from a Food Network recipe -link no longer live-, with minimal substitution)

Makes: ~5 dozen 3-inch Florentines, or 2 1/2 dozen 6-inch Florentine
Total Time: 1 hr 35 min
Prep 30 min
Inactive 45 min
Cook 20 min

I first had these a few years ago at Zeitgeist Kunst & Kaffee, a coffee shop in downtown Seattle near my work, and it lit up this light bulb in my head that insisted I look it up to make myself an infinite supply. It has a great crunch, and the orange zest with chocolate drizzle is just the right combination.

Ingredients
* 1 3/4 cups sliced, blanched almonds (about 5 ounces) (I still have no idea what unblanched almonds would be, I just buy sliced almonds, however they come)
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (can substitute: almond flour, same amount)
* Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
* 1/4 teaspoon fine salt (I use kosher salt without much consequence)
* 3/4 cup raw sugar
* 2 tablespoons heavy cream
* 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Topping, optional (but why would you ever skip it):
* 2 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)

Directions
– Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
– Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, zest and salt in a large bowl.
– Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, ~30 minutes.
– Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 to 3 inches (shrink accordingly with cookie size) between each cookie since they spread.
– Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.

“Optional” chocolate topping:
– Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl (or smaller saucepan).
– Bring a (larger) saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth.
-Drizzle melted chocolate over Florentines as desired (after trial with chopsticks, metal spoons, and other options, a rubber spatula works best).
– Set aside at room temperature until chocolate is set.

Storage tip: Store baked cookies carefully, separated by parchment or waxed paper, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Florentines are best stored separated from moist cookies and cakes.

Note: Special thanks to my chocolate-know-how friend for advising that getting any water in the smaller sauce pan (including a porous wooden spoon that’s wet), and using any metal for distribution would cool the chocolate too fast.

Today’s Cookie Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars
In my head, this is a big ordeal to make (not especially true), so when I do make them, it still feels novel. Plus, that crunch!
Likelihood of Repeat: 99%
Chocolate, almonds, sugar, and orange zest, yum yum yum! This time I even verified that you can make it with gluten-free flour for your gluten-liberated friends, hooray! Try it with some tea or coffee too.