Thursday, August 19, 2010

A mi fen (rice noodle) stir fry that would make chefs proud

This had originally started out as a post with some 20+ photographs, and as I type, they are still attached to this post. But, I've decided, they must go. I haven't the stamina to complete such a lengthy post, and I don't think you'd want to follow such a post all the way to its end.

Perhaps less than photographs will suffice.


Mi Fen (Rice Noodle) Stir Fry

This is easily the best, hands down, mi fen stir fry I have ever made. This is something I would proudly create for others, chefs even. Seriously, it's that good. But, this is not one of those super quick or easy things to make. And, I apologize, I have no measurements to share for this recipe, not because I have secrets I desire to keep clandestine, but I functioned in a normal mode of operation for me (cooking by taste and smell, with no exact measurements in mind and none holding me back).

Four "things" were cooked separately, in preparation for this dish. This time around, I am listing the ingredients and directions unconventionally, with each component or thing separately cooked in preparation for the stir fry. Ready? The ingredients will be listed by number, with instructions following.

Component #1
1. 1/2 red onion.
2. a little bit of olive oil.

Peel and cut the onion thinly, then into thirds. In a large pan (I use the same pan to cook all the components, without washing the pan from cooking one component to another; this keeps the flavor of what was previously cooked), on low medium heat using just a bit of olive oil, cook the onion until it's transparent. Then set aside, leaving behind any remaining oil and juice residue from the onion.

Component #2
3. cabbage - which I got garden fresh from a friend.
4. chicken broth.
5. water.
6. garlic.
7. sea salt.
8. oyster sauce.

Add the garlic to the pan. Still on medium heat, once the garlic has been sizzling a bit, add the cabbage that has been rinsed and cut very finely. I added water and chicken broth to prevent the cabbage from getting too dry and sticking to the pan. Place the lid on the pan. Stir occasionally. I also added sea salt and oyster sauce. Cook until fairly tender (which was more than a few minutes for me). Once done, set aside. I kept a fair amount of the juice with the vegetable (instead of keeping all the juice/soup in the pan).

Component #3

9. 3 eggs.
10. 3 tomatoes - fresh from my dad's garden - diced.
11. chicken broth.
12. sea salt.
13. soy sauce.
14. olive oil.
15. garlic - diced.

Add a tad bit more olive oil into the pan, with some garlic cut into small pieces and the white parts of 2 green onions cut finely. Turn the stove on low medium heat. Once the garlic and green onions have been sizzling for a bit, add three beaten eggs (with a little bit of chicken broth added at the end of the egg beating phase) to the pan. When the eggs are nearly well cooked add in the diced tomatoes. Cover for a minute or two. Add soy sauce and sea salt; not too much is needed.

Before Component #3 is cooked. the rice noodles need to be soaked in hot water, like so:

Component #4
16. rice noodles - 1 package.
17. green onions - the white parts - cut finely.
18. green onions - the green parts - cut finely.
19. water.
20. chicken broth.

Mix the following ingredients in a bowl (for a sauce):
21. sesame oil.
22. aged rice vinegar.
23. soy sauce.
24. cane sugar.
25. sea salt.
26. barbecue sauce - b/w 1 tsp & 1 tbs - CAUTION: this is not what we normally think of as barbecue sauce. I didn't keep the original can, but this is what the stuff looks like:

In the same pan, which should be empty except for some residual oil, broth, and perhaps a few pieces of this and that. Place the rice noodles in the pan, and add a couple of cups (?) of a combination of water and chicken broth, along with the whites of the green onions. Place the lid on the pan and let simmer, stirring occasionally. After the noodles are firm, but tender enough to chew (eat), add the sauce mixture as well as the previous three components.

Stir well and serve.

Serve with chopsticks, which is what my 2 yr old and 3 yr old prefer trying, especially when they see me eating with chopsticks.

Or without (chopsticks).


Either way, it was huge hit with the husband and the children.

Each mouthful is full of complex, delightful flavors; I kid you not. I'll be making this in the future. No hesitation (except it takes me awhile to make this).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Baked rotini with zucchini


Baked Rotini with Zucchini

This is was own creation. Well, nothing is, strictly speaking our own without borrowing ideas and tips from others. But, I took what I know about cooking and blending things together, as well as some ideas from lasagna or baked ziti; and, I made my own thing.

My husband has come a long way. Before me, I believe he hardly ate vegetables. What are vegetables? Who the heck would eat those?

I, on the other hand, grew up eating a wide variety of vegetables: of varying sizes, shapes, colors, textures, and flavors. One of my friends, Cecily, brought over a couple of garden fresh zucchinis: one that was cooked a few days ago in a rice noodle stir fry and the other went into the baked rotini I prepared today.

Speaking of today, I must have been insane to cook on the stove and then bake. It was hotter than Hades, reaching over a sweltering 100 degrees outside. Since I don't have air conditioning in my house (we do have a lovely down draft swamp cooler), the inside temperature was perhaps 10 degrees cooler. With a stove and an oven on, the temperature was climbing up to match the outside heat. But, since I wanted to make some food my husband was sure to appreciate, off to work I went.

In effort to really cut the grocery budget, I'm not necessarily purchasing meat for cooking every week. My husband has breakfast pork sausage with his breakfast most mornings, so he's not entirely without his meats. I thought the flavor of zucchini would go lovely in this dish.

Without further ado, here's the recipe:

Baked Rotini with Zucchini

  • 1 fresh zucchini, peeled and cut into super thin - angel hair pasta size - strips
  • 1 & 1/3 packages of rotini
  • 2 24 oz of marinara sauce
  • 1 24 oz container of cottage cheese
  • shredded cheese
  • a tad bit of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • chicken broth*
  • sea salt*
  • oregano*
  • parsley flakes*
* I apologize I do not have any measurements for the salt, oregano, or parsley flakes. My normal mode of operation is to fly by the seat of my pants. Several pinches of oregano and parsley flakes went into the marinara sauce, here and there.

  • Peel and cut the zucchini. Cut the zucchini super finely, so they end up looking like thin angel hair (pasta).
  • Peel and dice the garlic.
  • In a pan on medium heat, place the diced garlic and a few table spoons of olive oil. Once the garlic has been sizzling and you can clearly smell the fragrance of it cooking, add the zucchini. I added some chicken broth and sea salt so it would not burn and so it would cook faster and more evenly. Place the lid on it, and cook it until it's well done, stirring occasionally. I added oregano and parsley flakes. Once the stuff is cooked thoroughly, I added the marinara sauce, stirred the contents thoroughly, and placed the stove on medium heat.
  • In a separate pot, cook the rotini for 8 minutes. I'm not including specific instructions on this, so if you have questions, feel free to ask.
  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • The rest of the instructions is a bit artsy fartsy, or perhaps a bit foodie in attitude.
1. In the baking stone (I used a rectangular Pampered Chef stoneware), lay some of the sauce mixture sparingly on the bottom; no need to cover the bottom entirely of sauce.
2. The next layer, a decent spread of cooked rotini.
3. Then added cottage cheese. No need for it to be thoroughly covering this layer. Here and there.
4. Add shredded cheese. I added a mixture of shredded mozzarella cheese and shredded mild cheddar jack cheese. Also no need to be super thorough in cover this layer with cheese.
5. Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4.
6. Apply a generous layer of rotini.
7. Add shredded cheese; same mixture as mentioned in step 4.
  • Cover the stoneware, baking container, with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 1 hr.
  • Let sit for 10 minutes and it's ready to serve.

The following are some photographs to go with the aforementioned recipe:


Zucchini. I have no photographs to show. I decided to blog about this recipe only after I had already skinned the zucchini and started slicing it.

2 boxes of rotini (actually, it was more like 1 and 1/3 or perhaps 1 and 1/2)

2 24 oz jars of marinara sauce

1 24 oz container of cottage cheese

shredded cheese - I used a combination of cheddar jack and mozzarella

olive oil - just enough to cook the zucchini. Don't drown the stuff with olive oil; not all that much is needed.

3 cloves of garlic

chicken broth - I have no idea how much I used; sorry. Less than 1/2 a cup?

Sea salt. Again, not sure of the amount here. A teaspoon or so?

Oregano. How much? Don't know. Pinches of it, here, there, over here, and over there?

Parsley flakes - same as oregano


First peel and cut the zucchini like so.

Then cut the zucchini again into thin spaghetti, angel hair, like strips.

Peel and dice the garlic.

Start layering the bake ware. See the instructions above. I apologize for not writing something else here. My steam is petering out.


The baked rotini with zucchini after it's baked and been sitting for a bit.


My meat eating husband enjoyed this dish thoroughly, despite the fact that this was a meatless dish.

Monday, August 16, 2010

That's what friends are for


I'm much more uncomfortable being a receiver (or taker, or whatever interpretation you like). I'm a giver and I love to bless others. One of the lessons I've been learning the hard way is that I need to learn to receive.

Long story short, my friend, Cecily, blessed me by making lunch, spur of the moment, Sunday after church. Read about my adventurous weekend here. Her dish was so good, and no doubt filled with love, I had three helpings. Thank you, thank you, friend.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beef and mushroom lasagna

Friends of ours came over last night for dinner. Their days here in the States are numbered, as they prepare for their return to Australia. Decided to make them lasagna during a less than cool part of summer. Lack of foresight on my part. However, to my credit, I was thinking about a food that many of our friends seem to appreciate - lasagna. If left to my own devices and preferences, I probably would have made a vegetarian lasagna. Or a soup. Or Asian food.

When I've made lasagna in the past, I made it without boiling the pasta first. Doing so required a fair amount of additional liquid (insert added water here) and I went without a third layer of lasagna pasta when made this way in the past. This time, I boiled the lasagna pasta first.

The following is the brief recipe, followed by a photo essay of the recipe. Should you choose to follow the latter, I warn you ahead of time and apologize for the tremendous number of photographs that follow.


Beef Lasagna

  • 9 pieces of lasagna pasta.
  • 1 family size package of lean ground beef.
  • 1 small package of baby portabella mushrooms - presliced.
  • 1/2 red onion, diced.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • olive oil, just enough to stir fry the beef, mushrooms, and onion.
  • 2 24 oz jars of marinara sauce - I like Barilla's marinara sauce.
  • 1 1/2 24 oz containers of cottage cheese.
  • shredded cheese - I happened to use 2 different packages this time: mozzarella and Mexican style.
  • Pan fry each of the three - onion, ground beef, and mushrooms - separately.
  • Then combine the three with the pasta sauce and let marinate overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Drop some marinara sauce here and there, at the bottom of the 9 x 13 pan.
  • Line up three pieces of lasagna pasta; followed by the sauce combination, layer cottage cheese, and pay shredded cheese on top.
  • Repeat previous step.
  • Line up three pieces of lasagna pasta on top. Cover that last layer with shredded cheese.
  • Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil.
  • Bake on 475 for 50 minutes, covered. Add shredded parmesan cheese or Mexican cheese and place back in the oven covered for 10 minutes.
  • Let lasagna cool for 10 minutes. Cut and serve.


Lasagna noodles

Lean ground beef

Sliced baby portabella mushrooms

Half a red onion

2 cloves of garlic

a little bit of olive oil

2 jars of 24 oz jars of marinara sauce

1 1/2 containers (24 oz) of cottage cheese

shredded cheese

The process:

Skin and cut a red onion in half

Slice thinly one way

like so.

Then slice thinly in the perpendicular direction.

Diced onion is what we're wanting.

After peeling the garlic, I used a garlic press to mince the garlic cloves.

Use just a bit of olive oil (I used no more than a few table spoons) to cook the onion until it's transparent. Then remove the onion, leaving behind remaining the olive oil.

Cook the ground beef on higher heat. Once well done, let cook off. Remove the beef, leaving behind any grease, fat, or juice. I put that liquid stuff in a different container.

Place the minced garlic with a bit of fresh olive oil on medium heat. Then add the mushrooms. I added a bit of sea salt, so it wouldn't be too dry.

Combine the three aforementioned ingredients. Also add the marinara sauce; both jars.

Mix and let sit over night.

Next day, I boiled the lasagna noodles for about 9 minutes.

The marinara sauce mixture after it's been sitting overnight.

Dabble the bottom of the pan with some marinara sauce.

Put in one layer of lasagna pasta.

Cover with thin layer of marinara meat sauce.

Add cottage cheese.

Followed by shredded cheese.

Repeat the last 4 steps: add a layer or lasagna pasta.

Add meat marinara sauce.

Add shredded cheese.

Followed by cottage cheese.

Add a last layer of lasagna past along with shredded cheese on the very top.

Cook at 375, covered, for 50 minutes. Uncover, added Mexican shredded cheese or shredded parmesan cheese, cover, and cook for 10 more minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting or serving.

Viola. Fertig.