Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Chinese-Style Chicken Noodle Soup

I really am feeding myself.  I just haven't had time to post, between work and cleaning for Passover.  Making progress on the latter.  Then I looked at all the dishes saved on my camera and realized I have to post them before I forget the recipes.

Here's the other can of soup I needed to mess with.  I could have titled this post "how to spend $10 on a $2 can of soup", but it's a lot more nutritious this way.

I turned this into two generous servings, three if you're doing lunch, and could taste the salt a lot more than with the other can.  I skipped the soy sauce because of it.  What this ends up tasting like is a cross between egg drop and won ton soup, only the noodle and chicken have separated.

1/2 onion, diced
*2 cloves garlic
1 Tb oil
1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 baby bok choy, sliced crosswise
1 C water or chicken stock
*can of soup (2 serving size)
1/2 tsp ginger
2 eggs

1.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Cook onion and garlic until softened, about 4 minutes.

2.  Add water, mushrooms, carrot, and bok choy.  Bring to a simmer and cook until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.
3.  Add ginger and can of soup and bring everything to a boil.  Beat eggs with a couple of tablespoons of cold water.

4.  Stir the soup to get it moving, then drizzle in the beaten egg slowly so it cooks in strings.  I poured it in too fast and the soup wasn't boiling hot enough, so I got curds.  Same taste, but not as pretty.

5.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Maybe add some pepper if it's too bland for you, soy sauce if there isn't enough salt.  Serve hot.

Serves 2-3

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, March 12, 2018

Chicken Loaf with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce

I was too lazy to do meatballs.  This started because I was tempted to make the red lentil meatballs again, but figured I'd do something slightly different because I have a blog to maintain.

I've pretty much accepted that I won't finish off the bulgur and other non-KLP foods by the end of the month, but I'm still trying to reduce their presence.  Most of them are good for you, so it isn't like I'm just making tons of cookies.  The date-filled hamantaschen don't count because they were for a bake sale.  All of the volunteers there were so impressed by how I was at selling.  Then someone remembered I do this for a living.

Isn't this unicorn cake adorable?  I wish I was halfway decent at cake decorating.  That was a prize in the cake walk.  Oh, right, we were talking about meatloaf...  The spices were pretty much the same as the Turkish recipe, but I added mushrooms for more filler and moisture.  That makes it a little French-inspired, maybe North African.  The sauce is all over the place, but it worked well because I seem to have over-spiced the loaf for my taste.  For everyone else, it's probably about right.

For the Loaf
1/4 C dry red lentils
*1/4 C medium bulgur
3/4 lb ground chicken
1/2 C diced onion
1/4 lb finely chopped mushrooms
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric

1.  In a small saucepan, combine lentils and 1/2 C water.  Bring to a low boil over medium heat, then lower heat to a simmer.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Stir in bulgur, cook for another 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.  Let it sit for at least 15 minutes, and up to an hour.
2.  While the lentils are cooking, combine chicken, onion, mushrooms, and spices in a bowl.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour, for the spices to meld.
3.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Knead together lentil mixture and chicken mixture.  Spread in a loaf pan and bake until a thermometer reaches 160º, about 45 minutes.  Allow loaf to rest for 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the Sauce
1 can coconut milk
1/2 C chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp olive oil

1.  In a medium skillet, heat the spices with the oil until fragrant.  Add the coconut milk and cilantro and bring to a light boil, stirring frequently.
2.  Slice loaf and serve drizzled with generous amounts of sauce.  I ended up with almost a cup left over.  You could use it as salad dressing.  I thinned it out a little, added more cilantro and some pintos, and had it as soup.

Difficulty rating  :)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Date-Orange Filling

Because I was still on vacation, I was able to volunteer for this year's Purim carnival at the temple.  I generally work Sunday mornings and can't even drop off cookies.  This year, I was also able to help run the sweets booth.

The next thing to decide was what kind of Hamantaschen to make.  Personally, I like prune.  Most kids like apricot.  Then I remembered that I've had a filling recipe bookmarked from Bon Appetit for at least a year.  Not only is it dates, which almost never come in a pre-made can of filling, but it has no added sugar.  The cookies still have a lot of sugar, but this is better than using a jam.  You also get nutrients and fiber.  Not exactly a healthy cookie, just less bad for you.

The consistency of this filling is for hamantaschen or other cookies, but you could also use it on cakes, tarts, or even in savory/sweet appetizers.  Dollops can be whisked into white wine vinegar and olive oil to make a salad dressing.  Straight up, it's a less-sweet jam.  You could beat it into pancake batter instead of part of the oil or use in a cinnamon roll in place of butter.  Stir it into plain yogurt and top with granola.  Don't limit yourself.

1 C dates, pitted and cut in quarters
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tb unsalted butter

1.  In a medium saucepan, bring dates, zest, cinnamon, salt, and 1-1/2 C water to a boil over medium heat.
2.  Continue to cook at a low boil, stirring and mashing the fruit until a jam-like consistency is achieved.  The filling will get a little thicker as it cools, but you should reduce it to something spreadable rather than soupy.
3.  Remove from heat and stir in butter.  Allow to cool before using, so it can set its final texture.

Makes about 1-1/2 C, almost enough for a full batch of hamantaschen

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Doctored-Up Chicken Noodle Soup

Melody Smurf caught a cold the last day of our vacation, so we picked up some canned soup for her.  Then she felt well enough to go out and never ate it.  Add that to the stack of leftovers I ended up having to eat through.  Seriously, in only three days, I had enough to keep me going for another three.

As far as stuff to be stuck with, chicken noodle is pretty basic.  Most people keep it in their pantries at all times.  I just stopped buying canned soup years ago because of the salt.  When I turned this one around to read the label, the calories, fat, and other nutrition was reasonable.  It was the salt content that brought me to a screeching halt.  A can was two servings, but only 190 calories.  If you were to eat the whole can, that was 74% of your daily recommended salt intake.  Ouch.  I needed to find a way to stretch this can out over three or four servings.

There are plenty of websites out there with recommendations.  I chose this combination because it was stuff I had on hand.  (Or overgrowing in the garden.)  I just kept throwing stuff in if it looked like it wouldn't make it another week in the fridge.  The tofu was actually a really good idea, with the firm texture resembling a matzoh ball.  The tomato was kind of weird, but worked as a garnish, so it only cooked slightly in the heat of the broth.

Again, this is everything I threw in.  It was all about diluting the salt.  Put in whatever you want.

If you make your own stock, the dishes will pile up
*1/2 C dry chickpeas (or 1 can)
*1 2-serving can Chicken noodle soup
2 C unsalted vegetable or chicken stock
*1 carrot
*1/2 bunch green onion, chopped
*2 Tb medium bulgur
*1/2 package firm tofu
*1 Roma tomato, diced
*1/2 lb fresh arugula

1.  If making garbanzo from dry, soak for at least 12 hours.  Rinse, refill saucepan, and simmer for 2 hours.  Or just open a can and rinse very well to reduce salt.

2.  At the end of the cooking, peel and slice carrot.  Add to the pot and simmer for the last 10 minutes.  Drain everything.

3.  In a large soup pot, combine canned soup, stock, cooked chickpeas and carrots, cut green onion, bulgur, and arugula.  Bring to a simmer.  Once heated, add spoonfuls of the tofu, like dumplings.  Serve hot, garnished with tomato pieces.

Serves 3-4

Difficulty rating  :)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Vacation Food Photos

I did have some cell service on land, just no time to post anything.  We were going nonstop from breakfast to midnight most days.  We got back on Sunday, and I'm still tired.

The real world did intrude when we returned.  Linus the cat died the day before the cruise ended.  He was 16 and had been obese for years.  It was just hard to hear at the end of a busy week.  Also, because he was my parents' cat, which created a little added loss.  The rest of the pets were fine, except Princess had severe abandonment issues for several days and kept yelling if she was in a room alone.  I hardly ever go on vacation, so she just has to deal.

I did weigh myself when we got back, and had only put on two pounds.  Then we ate out a lot the next few days and I put on another.  I've gone on an excellent and highly effective diet called "only eat if you're hungry", which routinely drops as much as half a pound per day for a week.  After that, the appetite tends to kick in and I have to make proper choices again.  Drinking only water helps a lot, too.  It washes away the accumulated salt and retained water.

Holland America did a lovely job on the food again.  Dining room portions were right-sized again, and you can see above the small plate selection at one of the lunches.

When we arrived, there was a buffet open, and tiny bites at a reception.  I took a picture of one bite made on a spoon.  I've heard of it done before, but haven't done it myself because of the silverware involved.  In this case, they used Asian soup spoons to serve a salmon mousse topped with sour cream and garnished with lettuce.  I could do something with plastic cutlery if it looked nice enough.  If I ever do a tasting party.

At the end of the week, one of the diners at our table got a similar salmon mousse that was plated with garnishes.  Aha, what we got at the send-off was the leftover mousse from the night before, repurposed.  I tend to find it amusing that desserts near the end of a cruise trend towards the fruit on board that has over-ripened: bananas, pears, and similar fruits that can't be stored very long.
Next year, we're going to the Caribbean.  The menu will probably be heavier in Jerk and other local styles, instead of leaning towards Mexican.  They did have a lot of South Asian, Indian, and other regional offerings.  One breakfast, I tasted the Scandinavian fish offerings.  It was annoying to have to pass up things I wanted because of hot peppers, but that led me to other choices I might not have made otherwise which were excellent.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Turkish Red Lentil "Meatballs"

For once, I'm actually posting a holiday-centric recipe before the holiday.  These nutritious patties work great as part of a Purim vegan spread.  I made some tzatziki sauce as a dip, so these are only vegetarian, but you could substitute something dairy-free like Harissa, pomegranate molasses, mustard, or even soy sauce.  Honestly, they're so flavorful that they don't need any help.

For about a month, Sprouts had bulgur in a scooping bin.  The day I went, they had portioned out the remainder into one-pound packages.  Not only were they twice the cost per pound, but I now have to use it all somehow.  That's a lot of lentil meatballs.  If I knew I had to buy that much, I would have gone to Super Sun and bought the fine bulgur the recipe calls for.  Since this is medium grade, I tossed it in during the last five minutes of cooking with the lentils, then let everything stand.

I'm using the version posted in Give Recipe, a blog written by a Turk.  Her platter looks a lot better than mine, but I was just making this for me.  For two or more, it would have gotten impressive.

This was also the last thing I cooked before heading off on a long-delayed vacation.  I haven't taken off more than an occasional day since last March.  Maxed out my vacation hours at 5 weeks.  Using almost half of it now.  As much as I've been eating veg/vegan lately, I'm not restricting myself to it on a cruise.  I'll probably eat the vegan small plates at lunch, but dinner is likely going to involve meat 5-7 of the days.  I'll make up for it when I get back.  I'm not sure if I'll have cell service in Mexico, and blogging on a phone sucks.  I might be able to post a photo or two.

This is a half recipe of Zerrin's.  I found that it made quite a lot, enough for a 4-person main protein or a whole party of hors d'oeuvres.

1/2 C dry red lentils
3/4 C dry fine bulgur
2 C water
1/4 C olive oil
*1/2 large onion, minced
1 Tb tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
dash black pepper
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
2 Tb finely chopped parsley
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
1 Tb lemon juice, or to taste
lettuce leaves for serving

1.  Rinse lentils.  Stir together with water in a large saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until done, about 12 minutes.  If you could only find medium bulgur, stir it in when the lentils are starting to soften and split.  For fine bulgur, stir it in just as the lentils are done.  Remove from the heat when the lentils are done and allow to sit until all water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
2.  While the lentil mix is resting, cook the onions in 3 Tb oil until softened.  Add tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, and pepper and cook until fragrant.
3.  Stir onion mix and remaining ingredients into lentil mix.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

4.  Use remaining oil to grease your hands.  Form mixture into balls or kofta shapes (ovals).  Place on lettuce leaves and serve either warm or chilled.  These will fall apart if they're not served on something edible.  Lettuce cups are traditional and easiest, but you could also fill celery with it, or cucumber boats, or anything else that won't let it squish out the other side.  They're often served as part of a tapas plate with vegetables, herbs, and dips.  Pickles are a common side, so I cracked open the smaller jar of pickled radishes.  Found out they really take on the peppercorn flavor, so I'll cut down on that next time.  I also felt like having some Persian rice, which was kind of too much starch, but really good.

Difficulty rating :)

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Once in a while, wasting time on random YouTube channels teaches you something useful.  In all the many teas I've gone to or hosted, I've never had crumpets.  Someone said they're sold at Trader Joe's, but I rarely go there.  So I watched a video of how they made them in the 1700s.  The video was actually of pikelets, which are crumpets made without rings.  At that point, they're yeast-raised pancakes.

Crumpets are halfway between pancakes and English muffins.  They contain yeast like an English muffin, but have a batter consistency like a pancake.  And that batter relentlessly keeps rising while you're frying the batches.  The recipe out of the Tea book said it made 8.  I ended up with twice that.  Part of the problem might have been that I was using wide-mouth jar rims.  I have no idea how big a proper crumpet ring is.  The photo in the cookbook does look like they hold quite a bit more batter than the quarter cup I got in the rim.

The real question is, are they awesome enough to go out and invest in crumpet rings or matching cookie cutters?  I wasn't overly impressed.  They taste like whatever you put on them.  In this case, it was a lot of butter and the last jar of orange marmalade.  I'll probably just go back to buying grocery store English muffins.

2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast (double the whole recipe for a packet)
*1-1/4 C 100º milk
1/3 C 100º water
butter or oil for cooking
butter and jam to serve

1.  Stir sugar and yeast into warmed milk and water.  Let sit until it starts to foam, about 5 minutes.
2.  Stir together salt and flour.  Make a well and pour in milk mixture.  Stir into a batter, getting out as many large lumps as possible.  The small ones will dissolve.  Cover and set in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3.  Get out a skillet or griddle and as many rings as comfortably fit on it.  Start preheating the skillet over medium-low heat.  Grease the rings and set aside.

4.  Stir down the batter so you don't get any big air pockets as you scoop.  Lightly grease the skillet and arrange the rings on it.  Pour the batter halfway up crumpet rings or 1/4 C into a wide-mouth mason jar ring.
5.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  When the tops are just barely dry, remove the rings.  If you cook these over too high a heat, the bottom will get dark before they're cooked all the way through.  Low and slow is the way to get them done evenly.

6.  I flipped mine to brown the other side.  Apparently there's a big controversy over whether or not to flip a crumpet.  Some purists say you should just cook them until set and pull them off the griddle.  I like things like this crispy on both sides and gave them a few minutes.
7.  Re-grease pan and rings and repeat until all of the batter is used.  Can be served hot off the griddle, but also freeze well and can be crisped up in the toaster oven on another day.

Makes 8 in crumpet rings

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fennel-Tossed Potatoes and Radishes

I did like the roasted radishes, but there weren't enough to make the number of servings I needed, so I decided to mix them with some red potatoes.  As long as I was being different, and serving them with fish, fennel sounded more interesting than just salt and pepper.

This one worked great.  The root vegetables looked almost identical on the plate, and the taste was similar enough that you weren't quite sure which was which until the sharp sweetness of the radishes came through.  This is definitely an easy way to put something different on the table without scaring off meat-and-potatoes people.

1 lb red potatoes
*1 bunch red radishes
2 Tb olive oil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350º.  I lined a sheet with a Silpat because I didn't know if they'd stick.  Not really, so you can go without, but it did make cleanup easier.

2.  Slice the root and stem ends off the radishes and cut in half.  Dice the potatoes into pieces about the same size as the radishes.
3.  In a bowl, toss together veggies, oil, salt, and fennel seeds.  I ground the seeds slightly before putting them in the bowl, just enough to bring out the aroma.

4.  Spread out pieces on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 45 min to an hour, until pieces are easily pierced with a fork and the white parts are golden brown.  Serve hot.

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, February 9, 2018

Salmon Croquettes

I haven't made fish in a while, possibly since the last time I posted a fish recipe in October.  A slice of lox here and there doesn't count.  You know the guilt is kicking in when you start to add a pinch of chia seeds to one meal a day.  Gotta get those Omega-3s somewhere.

I was originally going to make something with a mammal.  I'd been having vegetarian for a while.  Then I started thinking of what I needed to use out of the garden and what I was in the mood for, and I still kind of wanted vegetarian.  Fish is close enough.

What surprised me (as I was Googling recipes in the grocery store) is that pretty much all recipes for salmon croquettes use canned salmon and very few other ingredients.  (Spring for the boneless version; I picked an entire spine out of mine.)  What I made here is considerably more complex in flavor profile than most, mainly because I don't like creamy sauces on fish and was only planning on squeezing a lemon.  It isn't common to put mayo in them, and only half the recipes use an herb other than onion.  This is simple comfort food, despite sounding French and difficult.

The oats are my own thing.  I've used rolled oats as binder before, and wanted to see what would happen with steel-cut.  They worked well enough, but aren't an end-all to making the recipe successful.  If you replace both the crumbs and the oats with matzoh meal and the butter with oil, this recipe is pareve KLP.

1 large can (currently 14.5 oz) pink salmon
*1 slice bread or 1/2 C panko bread crumbs
*2 Tb steel-cut oats (or another slice of bread)
*1/4 C minced onion
*1/4 C finely diced herbs such as parsley, dill, and/or cilantro
*1 Tb mayonnaise
1 egg
Dash white pepper
Butter for frying
Lemons and tartar sauce for serving

1.  A few hours before, stir 1/4 C boiling water into the steel-cut oats.  Allow to sit one hour at room temperature, then move to the fridge until needed.  Allow the bread to get stale.  Run through the food processor to make breadcrumbs.

2.  You can stir the rest together in a bowl.  I figured the food processor was already dirty and tossed in everything except the salmon.  Then you don't have to chop things as much.  Fold this mix into the salmon until thoroughly mixed.
3.  Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Because I didn't put any salt in the batter, I used margarine.  Spoon mixture onto skillet to make cakes of desired size.  If these are appetizers or hors d'oeuvre, make them smaller than you would if two or three are supposed to be a main dish.
4.  Cook until golden on the bottom, about 5 minutes.  The salmon is pre-cooked, so you're just making sure the egg is done.  Gently flip the cakes, as they will be fragile.  Flatten slightly and cook until the other side is golden, another 2 minutes.  Remove to a warm plate and re-butter skillet for the next round.  Repeat until all the mix is fried.

5.  Serve warm with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

Serves 4 as a main course, 12 as appetizers

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Chocolate Honeycomb

A friend gave me a chocolate cookbook for Chanukah.  I read through it recently, and was largely disappointed, until I got to the last page.  What they called "Hokey Pokey" is often called honeycomb or sponge candy.  Honeycomb isn't my favorite candy, but I was surprised by how easy the recipe was.  I always thought it was something that had to be made by machine.  Considering they sell it at Sprouts for $8 a pound, I thought there was a lot more to it.

This is really a science experiment.  Think baking soda volcanoes, but with sugar.  And while it's fun for kids to watch the reaction, I recommend keeping them back from the hot sugar in case it bubbles over.

The one thing I didn't like about this recipe is that it went by cooking times instead of temperature.  This is candy, which really should be cooked to a specific sugar set.  When I did find a proper recipe, it said 300º, which is hard-crack.  Without the baking soda, this is basically a lollipop.

A quick word about clean-up.  Yes, there is going to be hard candy stuck to your pot and spoon.  Don't freak out.  Sugar is one of the most water-soluble compounds that exists.  All you need to do is soak the pot and walk away.  When you come back, you'll have a clean pot and sugar water.

5 Tb sugar
*2 Tb corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
*1 cup dark or milk chocolate, chopped

1.  Line a rimmed pan with parchment, Silpat, or butter liberally.  The recipe said 8x8, but it didn't nearly fill that.  It will if you double the recipe.
2.  Stir together sugar and corn syrup over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and it comes to a boil, stirring constantly so you don't scorch the sugar.  Continue at a low boil, stirring frequently, until a candy thermometer reaches 300º.  This will take about 5 minutes, if you don't have one.

3.  Remove sugar from heat and stir in baking soda.  The sugar will bubble and foam.  You have about 20 seconds to pour it into the prepared pan before the reaction runs its course and the bubbles start to deflate.  Do not spread the candy in the pan; the bubbles will deflate.  You'll also notice the color change from clear to a caramel yellow.  The more you stir it, the darker it gets.
4.  Walk away.  Don't touch it.  Just let it cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, remove it from the pan and break it apart into bite-sized pieces.  I recommend protective eyewear.  Some even ended up in my hair.
5.  Melt chocolate, either over a double boiler or in the microwave.  Coat pieces thoroughly, since this will prolong the shelf life.  Set on wax paper or Silpat.  Allow chocolate to harden, then store in an airtight container.  Candy should be eaten within 3-4 days.

Makes about half a pound (forgot to weigh it before snacking)

Difficulty rating :)