Monday, February 22, 2010

Hot and Sour Soup, including celery


Hot and Sour Soup

True to my word, I rarely cook something the same way twice. This hot and sour soup of mine, I like to vary the vegetables (and meats) I put into it. Last night, when I made this soup, was no exception. Added celery to the soup. Didn't have any mushrooms on hand, so none went into the soup. This batch also didn't have chicken breast in it. Still plenty of goodies in the soup. Somehow my soups always end up being meals in themselves, because they contain so much stuff. More stuff than soup. I've been craving hot and sour soup lately.

Here's a recipe for some version of my hot and sour soup.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vinaigrette Eggplant


Vinaigrette Eggplant

Not long ago, I was messing around with some creative new ways of enjoying eggplant, and I came up with this. I wanted to make it again less than a week ago, but Chinese eggplant wasn't sold in any nearby stores. So, I got a regula eggplant instead. Cooked it in similar fashion one night. Helped myself to a decent portion. My husband was lured in by the aroma, and he wanted to "snack" on some. My pizza & hamburgers husband couldn't keep his hands off the dish and finished what was remaining. I'm so proud that he loves this dish. He didn't even add shredded cheese to it; I think the only thing he doesn't add cheese to before consuming is probably ice cream. Victory!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lightly Seasoned Swordfish Served with Asparagus


I was born in the South where casseroles seem the standard fare. Dishes full of cheese or butter (or in the deep, deep South, lard) are coveted ingredients. Not that there are no advantages to using cheese or butter in dishes whatsoever, those ingredients can easily overpower the subtle and fine flavors of various vegetables or meats. Such is the case, I believe, with asparagus and swordfish; butter isn't necessary to make those tasty or appetizing.

Last week, I purchased wildly caught swordfish on sale at Sunflower Farmer's Market (hooray for sales) but didn't cook it until this morning (shame on me for waiting so long). This morning, I cooked asparagus and swordfish for my husband and me for breakfast this morning and it was mouthwatering. The girls kept asking for more and more fish.

The following recipe and directions are my own creation.

  • wild caught swordfish
  • a bundle of asparagus
  • green onions, cut finely
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • chicken broth

Place the green onions and garlic, with a small or modest amount of olive oil in a pan on medium (closer to low than high) heat. Once the green onions and onion smell fragrant, drop in the asparagus.(which I cut and rinsed). I added a bit of sea salt and chicken broth while it was cooking. Pull out the asparagus, leaving the liquid (olive oil, chicken broth, juices from the asparagus) and most of the green onions and garlic behind in the pan.

Then cook the swordfish in the pan. My swordfish wasn't frozen upon cooking. The swordfish was almost seared, a bit transparent towards the middle. It wasn't bloody or runny when I finished. I cooked it approximately no more than 3-5 minutes on each side. I added sea salt to each side of the swordfish.

Suggestions, tips, and comments:
  • This fish, tempered with garlic and green onions, does NOT taste fishy.
  • This fish is easily overcooked. Overcooked, not only does it lose a great deal of its tastiness and it's size/volume, but it's forever chewy.
  • Again, it doesn't need butter or cheese to make it tasty and flavorful. My husband, who seems to add cheese to nearly everything he eats, enjoyed the dish the way I made it.
Bon appetit!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My husband's lobster tails


Lobster Tail

I don't have any suggestions, directions, or recipes to offer, as this is my husband's creation; I'd like to keep some things that way. I guess my husband's nightmare-ish time working at Red Lobster while we were in graduate school has some benefits to it. Specifically, he has made his wife a wonderful treat. Look how beautifully laid out it is. The lobster tails don't automatically look like that when purchased; takes some manipulation and work. Thank you, darling, for making lobster tails this Valentine's Day for us!

Gingerbread cookies for Valentine's Day, for the girls, for family time together


Gingerbread Cookies

We made gingerbread cookies today, per our daughters' requests; and I like this recipe much better than the last one we tried. The last batch, taken from a different recipe, ended up being quite hard. These are not only tasty but crunchy and not too hard. I got the recipe here.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (the recipe called for margarine, but between the two, butter's the lesser of 2 evils)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in different bowls. Combine the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients very, very gradually, while thoroughly stirring in the dry ingredients. We used a rolling pin to flatten the dough pretty thin, and the girls used various cookie cutters to shape the dough before baking the cookies. Cook for 8-9 minutes.

We deviated from the instructions. We didn't sift anything, and we didn't roll anything into walnut sized shapes.

Note: the ingredients do not have to be changed to account for the high altitude.

I'm not being paid to say or endorse this, but the cookies are SO, so, sooooooooooooooo good!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Garlic and Onion Chinese Eggplant


Garlic and Red Onion Chinese Eggplant

As a kid, I wasn't a fan of eggplant. Not even close. Couldn't stand the texture, it's mushiness; and, as a result, I couldn't stand the taste either. When I was pregnant with my second born, for some odd reason or another, I fancied Chinese eggplants, I stir fried them with diced tomatoes and garlic. I ate so much of that, along with some other foods, the mere thought of them wasn't appetizing to me.

Another piece I'd like to share at this juncture is that conquering the challenge of cooking something in a tasty, nutritious fashion has been a bit therapeutic at times. Like today. I've had these Chinese eggplants sitting in my refrigerator for just over half a week and haven't done anything with them. Felt so great succeeding at making something smell so good and taste so mouth-watering-good. And, this is my very own concoction.

Per usual (to me), I don't have exact measurements on everything.

  • 3 Chinese eggplants (coarsely peeled and cut into circles, as seen in the picture below)
  • 1 small red onion (I halfed the onion and then cut it very thinly, as can also be seen below)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (diced)
  • 2 tbsp (tablespoons) rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp (teaspoons) worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • sea salt
  • chicken broth
  • olive oil

Above: Chinese eggplants coarsely peeled and cut into circles. Below: a cut red onion.


In a frying pan, stir fry the red onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil on medium heat (or slightly below). When anything gets dry, I added a bit of chicken broth (add water instead if pinching pennies or if you're wanting to cook a vegetarian version); avoid buring the onions (or eggplant for that matter). Once the onions and garlic are decently cooked, add the eggplant. Add a bit of sea salt and perhaps chicken broth (just enough so nothing will burn) to it. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes. Then add the rice vinegar, worcestershire, and soy sauce (I mixed the three in a separate bowl ahead of time). Let it cook long enough to let the flavor soak into the eggplant. Ready to eat! I ate it with rice.
Another photograph of the finished product:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Delectable seared tuna

Delectable Seared Tuna

My of my favorite grocery stores had a sale on the Ahi Tuna. We've been trying to watch our grocery expenses, since that is one expense that's not fixed. But, I couldn't pass this up.

If you have been following me on this recipe blog, you're well aware that I'm trying to avoid cooking meats and seafood when possible, to maintain the juiciness and flavor of the item in question. I believe this tuna is sushi grade, so it can actually be safely consumed raw. I thought seared tuna would be absolutely delectable. When I first took a photograph of the cooked tuna, "oh crap, I cooked it too long went through my mind." As you can see, it's not very pink in the middle one the right hand side and no trace of pink can be seen on the left. Turned out and tasted exquisite. Could have been cooked just a tad less. Not too chewy (a mark of cooking it too long).

Here it was at the beginning of the cooking process. Not a bad looking piece, eh?

Oh, and by the way, those are fresh calamata olives in the top photograph. I purchased them whole and not pitted, at the same store. I have a olive/cherry pitter, so the job of pitting and cutting those olives wasn't hard. NEVER use canned olives, because they don't have that deliciously rich taste. Oh, and I did not cook the olives.

Didn't leave me hungry or too full. Satisfied and feeling great. Can't wait for my husband to come home so he can enjoy his portion. I was too hungry to wait for him.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lily Chang's Hot and Sour Soup


Lily Chang's Hot & Sour Soup

It frustrates me to no end that I couldn't snap a photograph immediately after I made the soup last night. Since I'm still at the mercy of natural lighting and my digital Canon Rebel is still mad at me (not really; the built-in flash just doesn't work), I didn't have sufficient light to do the food justice. Any independently wealthy blogger fan want to help?

This is one of my babies. My creation. Not just a modification of some recipe. I changed, tweaked, tried loads of different things before being pleased with the general presentation of this soup (both taste combination and appearance). I am famous for this soup. Calm down literal police, I don't mean I'm infamous or that countless people associate me with this soup or anything else for that matter. Friends and family really enjoy the fruits when I labor over this.

I'm not going to highlight differences between the recipe here and what I've seen and tasted in restaurants, because I don't have several days to do this. I will say, however, I purposely chose not to thicken the soup with any sort of starch. It looks plenty rich as a soup, but that's just what I think.

Below I include the ingredients and some tips, both in general fashion. In most cases, I will not include measurements, because I, frankly, wasn't paying attention. Ready?

  • tofu
  • bamboo shoots
  • shittaki mushrooms (this time I also used some other kind of mushrooms. Don't know what they're called, but they're not the typical ones people pick up in grocery stores)
  • wood ears (sounds gross, perhaps. these are fungi that grow on trees. if you enjoy mushrooms, don't freak out. mushrooms are fungi that grown in the ground) - it's the long, dark thing you see in the photograph
  • eggs
  • tomatoes
  • corn
  • chicken breast - cut into small pieces
  • chicken broth
  • water
  • green onions
  • 1 onion
  • garlic
  • sea salt
  • red chili pepper flakes
  • ground white pepper
  • rice vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • soy sauce
General guidelines/directions:
  • As always, I cooked (by pan frying in olive oil) the onion and chicken separately from everything else.
  • In a huge pot (I used a stock pot), put everything EXCEPT the spices, other seasoning ingredients inside), and eggs. Don't forget the water and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, allow it to continue simmering. Drop the onion in when it's done, but set aside the chicken (cooking any meat or seafood for too long really does it injustice).
  • The egg drizzle is a BEAR to master. I used 6 or 7 eggs. I beat them together in a bowl. My suggestions may seem a bit cryptic, especially for those of you who have never tried this. But, the hot & sour soup should have an egg drizzle, much like what you see in egg drop soup. It's easy to get it too clumpy or too tiny. Anyhow make sure there's plenty of soupiness (It think I just made up a word) to the soup and the soup is boiling quite excitedly before starting. With a stirring spatula in one hand and the bowl with the eggs beaten in it in another, pour a bit of the contents into the pot whilst simultaneously stirring with the other in a slow circular fashion. Wait until the soup is boiling excitedly again before repeating the step of pouring whilst stirring. Repeat this until all the raw eggs have joined the soup.
  • Finally the spices and seasoning (salt, soy sauce, vinegar, etc.) go in. Do not mix up the order of this step and the previous one. Otherwise you'll end up with dark, miserable looking eggs.
  • Ooooh, I forgot to mention, I dropped the green parts of the green onions, along with the cooked chicken breast in last, when the soup was ready to serve.
I served this soup over rice. Delicious.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Vegetable Noodle Soup


Vegetable Noodle Soup

The version I made today is Celiac Disease friendly. No whey products whatsoever. The pasta is made of brown rice. I have a few friends who hav Celiac Disease, so I have become increasingly curious about meals that are acceptable for them to consume.

  • brown rice pasta (rotini)
  • celery, chopped
  • carrots, chopped
  • red potatoes, small blocks
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • garlic
  • green onions
  • water
  • chicken broth
  • sea salt
  • ground cumin
  • parsley flakes
  • thyme leaves
  • oregano
  • egyptian basil
  • a hint of cayenne pepper
I cooked the sweet onion and pasta each separately. Everything else went into a pot. Added the spices last.

Usually make this with chicken breast. I'm frustrated that I overcooked the pasta, AGAIN. Seems to be something I do quite often. Ruins the presentation and the appeal, I think. The flavor was decent. Am still trying to perfect this soup.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Manischewitz 18 bean soup

Frankly, consuming beans, to me, seems as exciting as eating grass and dirt. Doesn't get me very excited. However, I had come across Manischewitz's Homestyle 18 Bean Soup Mix (disclaimer: I am not being paid or given anything to advertise for Manischewitz) previously and rather enjoyed making and eating the tasty soup. I have been surveying my cupboard and decided to utilize whatever has been left alone too long. On top of that, I've been growing weary of our regulars, I'm wanting to vary what we eat, and slowly, my itches as a cook/chef-want-to-be need to be scratched.

The ingredients in this prepackaged soup mix include:
  • barley
  • green split peas
  • yellow split peas
  • lentils
  • white beans
  • red kidney beans
  • black eyed peas
  • navy beans
  • small white beans
  • pink beans
  • small red beans
  • pinto beans
  • baby lima beans
  • black turtle beans
  • dark red kidney beans
  • cranberry beans
  • native american beans
  • yellow eye beans
  • red lentils
  • salt sugar
  • carrots
  • green and red bell peppers
  • garlic
  • onion
  • paprika
  • tomato
  • celery
  • chili powder
  • parsley
  • cayenne pepper
  • black pepper
  • celery seed
The directions read:

You Will Need:
1 box Manischewitz Homestyle 18 Bean Soup
7 cups water
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, add water, bean package, onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 3/4 hours or until beans are tender. Stir occasionally. Add seasoning and barley packet and continue simmering for 1/2 hour. Makes six 1 cup servings.

Here's what I changed or did differently:
  • To the ingredients, I added diced tomatoes, additional garlic, and chicken broth.
  • Suggestion #1: If presentation matters to you, as it does me, cook the beans separately. The darker beans ended up making the water a dark brownish gray, thus making the soup dark if you lump everything together from the start. I cooked the beans for about an hour an a half or so.
  • Suggestion #2: I cooked the onion separately, in a frying pan, with olive oil. I have a bit of a temperamental stomach, and stir-frying the onion before dumping it into any soup always helps me.
  • Cooked everything else (carrots, celery, diced tomatoes, water, chicken broth) in a big pot for about 1/2 hr, before dumping the beans (and dumping the water in which it was cooked) and onion in (after they were cooked separately) as well as the spice pack. I simmered the soup for quite awhile, allowing the vegetables to soak in the spices.

At some point, this is one of those soups I'd like to master, from scratch. It's that tasty. Plus the soup is healthy.