Ali’s Tom Kha Thai Soup

My son Ali made this soup for dinner at our house a couple of nights ago and I don’t think I’ve ever had better. It was so delicious that I kept taking a little more rice, and then a little more soup until I’d eaten way more than I should have!

This recipe makes a very large pot of soup, but it freezes well and taste even better the next day. Thanks, Ali for sharing this amazing recipe.

Ingredients

2 large onions, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup Thai Tom Yum Paste*
4 cups chicken stock or veggie broth
4 cups water
6 Kefir Lime leaves*
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 package fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (can substitute button mushrooms)
2-4 Tbsp Fish Sauce* (to taste)
4 large or 6 small fresh tomatoes, diced
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
24 oz. coconut milk
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste

3 cups jasmine rice, cooked with 2 tsp salt

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot. Add onions and 1/3 cup water. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes until onions are softened, but not browned.

Add Tom Yum paste, stir well and cook for a minute or two. Increase heat to medium and add chicken stock, water and kefir lime leaves. Bring to a boil and add chicken and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are soft and chicken is cooked through.

Season with fish sauce to taste, and add fresh tomatoes. Continue to cook 3-4 minutes and add cilantro. Remove from heat and add coconut milk. Finally, add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a bowl with a side plate of jasmine rice. (You can put the rice in the soup bowl first, but we love to take a scoop of rice and dip it in the soup.)

*If not available locally, these ingredients are available online. I’ve also seen the Tom Yum Paste referred to as Hot and Sour Paste. Substitute Tofu for the chicken and add it last with the coconut milk for a vegetarian version.

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Spinach, Bacon and Cheese Quiche from Paula Deen

Something about the combination of spinach, cheese, bacon and eggs just sings to me, and this is a great dish for Sunday morning brunch because it comes together so easily. Paula uses Swiss cheese, heavy cream and less spinach, but the recipe is pretty flexible and we like this version a lot.

Ingredients

7 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups half ‘n half
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
a little freshly grated nutmeg (just a good pinch, really)
1/2 package bacon (or turkey bacon) diced, cooked and drained
2 1/2 cups chopped raw spinach
1 cup each Cheddar and Mexican cheese (Paula uses all Swiss Cheese)
Ready-made pie crust (or homemade) placed in a quiche pan

Mix eggs, half ‘n half and spices well in a medium sized bowl. In the quiche pan lined with pie crust, place the bacon, spinach and cheese. Pour the egg mixture over and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Yum!

Sanibel Summer Salad

I first had this salad at Over Easy Cafe in Sanibel, and it’s so delicious I recreated it at home, with a few minor changes. (The original recipe includes mandarin oranges, diced red onions and chow mein noodles.) It’s become one of our favorite salads and always reminds me of sitting on the patio at Over Easy.

Ingredients

1 bag of mixed baby greens
1 pint of strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 cup pecans (can used candied, but I like plain)
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup craisins
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup Sesame Crackers (Trader Joe’s has great Sesame Crackers.)
4 eggs, hardboiled, peeled and halved lengthwise

Any “sweetish” vinaigrette (Brianna’s Blush Wine Vinaigrette and Simply Dressed Pomegranate Vinaigrette are both good.)

Place greens in a large bowl. Top with everything but the crackers, eggs and vinagrette. Just before serving, toss the crackers over, add halved eggs and drizzle with vinaigrette. Delish!

Maya’s Brown Butter Banana Bread

Maya is home for the summer and baking quite often, which we are definitely going to miss when she goes back to school. (That girl can bake!) Recently she made up a new way to make Banana Bread  – kind of a “Bananas Foster” version that is unusually rich and delicious.

Ingredients:

9 Tbsp butter
2 large or 3 small ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter in a medium saucepan on low heat, and leave on heat until it turns a light brown. Then add 2 Tbsp of the brown sugar, stir and add mashed bananas. Stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar, and stir for 3 more minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in egg and add flour 1/3 cup at a time, stirring after each addition Finally, add baking soda, salt and vanilla and stir gently.

Pour into buttered pan and bake at 350 for 50 minutes. May need to bake a bit longer – just look for doneness.

This produces a very rich, dense banana bread – almost more like a steamed banana pudding, but it is absolutely delicious.

What to take so you can cook when you travel: the adventurous cook’s supply list.

When we travel, we try to stay in places that have a kitchen. Cooking is a very enjoyable part of vacation for me, so I’ve created a list of basic supplies from home to make it easier.

Especially if we’re flying, everything on my list has to fit into a small, lightweight package without spilling, so  I use zip-loc bags for baking supplies and spices, and label them with a permanent marker.

Once at our destination, we shop for dairy, fresh herbs, fruits, veggies and proteins – gotta support local businesses, right?

If you plan ahead, you can easily bring the supplies that work for you. For me, here’s what I normally take for a week or 10 days:

baking suppliesBAKING SUPPLIES – in snack pack and sandwich size zip-loc bags with a guesstimate of how much I would normally take.  I am really into oatmeal cookies so I’ll probably add a cup of pecans and craisins this year.

kosher salt            (1/4 cup)
basmati rice          (2 cups)
cornstarch             (1/4 cup)
powdered sugar  (1/4 cup)
yeast                        (2 Tbsp)
brown sugar          (1 cup)
walnuts                   (1 cup)
oatmeal                   (3 cups)
baking soda           (2 Tbsp)
cocoa powder       (1/4 cup)
baking powder     (3 Tbsp)
flour                         (4 cups)
sugar                        (2 cups)

spicesSPICES – Usually a couple Tbps of each, depending on the spice. Portion pack zip-loc bags are nice for this.  Forgot cumin, but that should be on the list, too.

black pepper in grinder
bay leaves
cinnamon
brazilian bbq rub (or Montreal steak seasoning – anything spicy!)
caraway seeds
rosemary
red pepper flakes
cayenne pepper
thyme
parsley
garlic powder
one whole nutmeg (not pictured)

liquid flavoringsLIQUID FLAVORINGS – in the original containers works best to prevent spilling.  Fish sauce travels well in an empty little plastic booze bottle. Takeout soy sauce packets are great, too.

bourbon
vanilla
rum
honey

mixesMIXES – in the original package.  (I like to try new mixes, too and Shan has a million good ones!)

chicken karahi mix
pilau biryani (my favorite!!!)
taco seasoning
chicken bouillon cubes
Mae Ploy brand Thai red, yellow or green curry paste, about 3 Tbsp in a zip log bag.  I double bag these because they are very strong.  (not pictured)

Not on my list, but certainly indispensable: coffee and tea stuff.  Kumy brings the burr grinder, electric milk frother, french press coffee maker and good coffee beans, as well as Pakistani tea and herbal teas.  We love our coffee and tea.

All these weigh just a pound or two, but makes it so I can cook almost anything. When we get back home, I cut the tops off the zip-loc bags and pour anything leftover back into the original containers.

Share your must-have ingredients in the comments section!

Oatmeal, Cranberry & Pecan Cookies

oatmeal-cookies
A confession: I am not much of a baker. It seems you can either bake or cook, but usually not both. I don’t know why.

My daughter Maya is an amazing baker. One of the things I’ve really missed with her being away at college is baked goods – her oatmeal cookies in particular. After attempting a disastrously, painfully inedible batch, I asked Maya for her recipe.  It was originally published in “Simple and Delicious” and makes about 2 dozen delicious cookies.  Best of all – even a non-baker can make them!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup Craisins (Can roughly chop if you like – I didn’t)
1 cups chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and and vanilla. Beat for several minutes. In another bowl mix flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually beat into creamed mixture. Add in the rest of the ingredients. The dough will be quite stiff and still fairly sticky.

Drop by generous tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet (12 per sheet.) Bake for about 12-13 minutes. Place cookies on a parchment sheet and let cool.

Ina’s Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

broccoliJust back from Niobrara, where we had some amazing meals in our cabin, especially the dinner where Ali grilled steaks!

These were ridiculously good steaks – and since we’re from Nebraska, that’s saying something.  I need to ask Ali to share his method – they were so delicious.

Anyway, nothing goes better with a great steak than Ina’s Parmesan Roasted Broccoli (I’ve included the original link for those who want it, but am including the version I made below.)

Even if you don’t like broccoli, you will love this. My kids are not huge broccoli fans and they gobbled it up!

Ingredients:

4-5 lbs. broccoli, cut into florets
4 big garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Zest of one large lemon (1 1/2 Tbsp?)
Juice of that large lemon (2-3 Tbsp?)
1/3 cup chopped, pan-roasted walnuts
1/3 cup good Parmesan Cheese
4 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, julienned

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut broccoli into 1-2″ florets, leaving a longer piece of stem on each one. You’ll end up with about 8 cups of florets. (Don’t throw away the leftover, big stems!  Instead peel them and munch on them raw or roast them, too.  They have a lovely, delicate flavor.) Lay all out on a large baking sheet, and sprinkle the garlic slices on top. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper.

Roast for 25 – 30 minutes until the broccoli is crisp-tender and bits are just starting to brown. (Test the florets – I ended up needing an extra 5 minutes or so.)

While the broccoli is roasting, heat the walnuts in a sauce pan on medium heat, shaking frequently (think popcorn) until they start to get a nice, toasty smell. Remove from heat and put in a medium-sized bowl.

Once the walnuts have cooled a bit, add a Tbsp or so or Olive Oil, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice, reserving about 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. Stir gently.

When Broccoli is finished cooking, remove it from the oven and spread it out on a large platter. Drizzle the walnut mixture over and gently toss the broccoli. Then sprinkle the fresh basil and Parmesan on top, with an extra squeeze of the lemon juice. Delish!