Napa Cabbage & Noodle Salad

This is a tangy and delicious cabbage and noodle main dish salad, based on Hannah Che’s recipe from The Vegan Chinese Kitchen Cookbook. It’s perfect for a late summer evening supper, because it’s easy, super fast and has a dressing that is unbelievably good – plus it’s gluten-free and vegan. If you can’t get Napa cabbage, Romaine lettuce works, too.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
1 small cucumber, julienned
1 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 cups fresh rice vermicelli noodles (Pho noodles) or Mung bean vermicelli noodles.

1 medium carrot, julienned
1 scallion, cut into 1/8″ rounds (both white and green part)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 chopped cashews or peanuts

Dressing:

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar (cider vinegar would also be fine, I think)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 large garlic cloves, crushed

DIRECTIONS

Cut cabbage lengthwise a few times, then cut very thin slices. Add cabbage and and cucumber into a colander and toss with the salt. Leave to drain.

Start water boiling in a small saucepan, add noodles and cook 5-10 seconds. Drain and rinse with cool water. Cut noodles into smaller sections with a scissors. If you are using other noodles, cook as directed on the package, then drain and rinse with cool water. You want to end up with about 1 1/2 cups cooked noodles.

Mix dressing ingredients well in a small bowl. Taste and add more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Gently press cabbage and cucumber to remove some of the water. You can also squeeze it gently in your hand. Place in a large bowl, and add noodles, carrots, scallions and cilantro. Pour dressing over and toss to coat Toss into a large bowl, and top with nuts.

Serve immediately. Yum.

Quick & Easy Raspberry Jam (No Pectin)

Is there anything better than the sweet, tart flavor of fresh raspberry jam?

I picked up some gorgeous raspberries and decided to make jam, but didn’t have any pectin. A quick online search turned up a super-simple recipe from Camilla on FabFood4All.com. She measures ingredients by weight and makes a larger batch.

Costco sells raspberries in 12 ounce packages, so that determined my batch. I do often weigh ingredients, but have included volume measurements as well, since some people prefer that.

This recipe is so easy – and even without pectin, it gels really well.

Ingredients

340 gms / 12 oz. / about 3 cups fresh raspberries, washed and gently dried
297 gms / 1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp and 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan on medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring gently from time to time. Keep on heat for 7 minutes, stirring constantly. I use a flat edged wooden spoon to keep scraping the bottom so it doesn’t burn or stick. In the meantime, put a small saucer in the fridge to chill.

Remove from heat and put a few drops on a the chilled saucer. Put back in the fridge for a minute. Remove and nudge the drops with a spoon or your finger. If the jam is ready it will wiggle a little and have a jammy consistency. If it is very runny, put it back on the heat for another couple of minutes. Remember, it will also thicken a little as it cools.

Pour into clean, sterilized jars (read my Simple Canning post for help) and seal. Mine made enough for one and a half jars. We’re just keeping it in the fridge since we know we’ll eat it soon.

Just writing about it made me hungry, so I had to have a slice of bread with butter and jam. So good!

The Most Important Herbs & Spices for a New Cook

My daughter Maya says that most of her friends have no idea what herbs and spices to get when they get their first kitchen. She’s been bugging me forever to help with a list of starter herbs and spices for a new cook, since the spice aisle can be pretty overwhelming.

So here is my list of must have herbs and spices – the ones I reach for most frequently. I’ve also created a second list to add as you can and a list of shelf stable pantry essentials.

7 Absolute Essentials

Kosher Salt
Whole Black Pepper (in a grinder is great)
Red Pepper Flakes
Powdered Garlic
Dried Thyme
Cumin Powder
Dried Basil

These will let you cook Italian, Cajun, Tex-Mex or good old American flavors.

2nd Level to Add

Cinnamon
Whole Nutmeg with a grater
Ground Cloves
Dried Parsley
Rosemary
Chili Powder
Bay Leaves
Paprika (I love Smoked paprika)
Oregano

Adding these spices as you can will open up lots of other possibilities.

Other Pantry Essentials

For Cooking:
Olive Oil (not virgin – just regular, lighter)
Diced, Canned Tomatoes
Rotel Tomatoes
Canned beans (Black beans are my favorite)
Coconut Milk, canned or in a tetrapak
Apple Cider Vinegar
Rice (I like Basmati Rice for general cooking)
Pasta
Chicken Stock in cubes or shelf stable tetra-pack blocks
Fish Sauce (Sounds weird – but it adds so much to Italian food and Thai Foods.)
Dijon Mustard

For Baking or Desserts
Sugar
All-Purpose Flour
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Cocoa Powder
Corn Starch
Vanilla

DIY Dried Herbs:

Don’t forget that you can always dry fresh herbs. So if you get a nice handful of fresh parsley, use what you need for your recipe, and set the rest on a plate on the counter to dry out for a few days. Once they’re are dry, just crush the leaves and store them in a bottle. You can pitch the stems. Same thing with Thyme and Rosemary – or really any fresh herb.

Mustafa’s Daal (Lentils)

After visiting Kumy’s Mom at the beginning of last year, we were reminded how incredibly delicious Pakistani food is!  We were also lucky enough to learn how to make Daal from Mummy’s cook, Mustafa, who is an amazing cook.

It’s a fairly easy recipe, and uses a “bagaar” to add flavor.  It was one of the first things we made when we got back.  I’m happy to say it was just about as good as Mustafa’s and a welcome reminder of our visit back “home”.

Ingredients:

1 cup Masoor Daal (small, round, split red lentils)
1/2 cup Moong Daal (small, oval split yellow lentils)

4 cups water
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (add more if you dare – it was originally 1 1/4 tsp – but that was too hot!)
1/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 cup diced onions
3/4 cup diced tomato  (Can also substitute 1 can of Rotel Tomatoes for the tomato and jalapeno.)
1/2 jalapeno, diced, optional
1/4 cup cilantro, rough-chopped, optional

Bagaar:
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/4 tsp whole cumin
3 dry red chilis/peppers (small, round ones, but you can use two long red ones instead.)

Wash both daals well, swirling and rinsing until the water is mostly clear. Add to a large pot. Then add water, garlic, salt, cayenne, turmeric, onions and tomatoes. Cook 30-40 minutes.

Whisk well and add water to get a thick gravy consistency, as needed. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the daal, but be careful not to over do it. Add Jalapeno and Cilantro, and cook 10 minutes more.

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and add the rough-chopped garlic, cook for a minute and then add the dry red chilis/peppers and cumin seeds. Cook 30 seconds more and pour oil mixture right into the daal. Stir to combine and serve with basmati rice or Naan. Can also add a squeeze of lemon when serving if you wish.

New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John

It’s a Southern tradition to eat Hopping John (Black-eyed Pea Stew) on New Year’s Day for good luck all year, and this year, I’m not taking any chances!

I started with Ree Drummonds recipe. Ree adds a ham hock and says that you can also add a can of diced tomatoes, or a few cups of torn-up Kale. I skipped the ham hock, but may try the tomatoes or kale the next time I make it. If you don’t like black-eyed peas, it’s also good with black beans – it’s a great, comforting dish perfect for a cold Winter’s Day!

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter (or 2 Tbsp bacon drippings & 2 Tbsp olive oil) (Or just 4 Tbsp olive oil for a vegan version)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 14-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegan)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Good pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
White rice

Heat butter or bacon drippings and oil in a cast iron skillet. Add, onions, bell pepper and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add black-eyed peas, chicken stock and seasonings. Don’t add the vinegar yet! Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook 30 minutes. Remove lid, stir and let cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vinegar and stir. Check seasonings. Serve in a bowl over hot rice.

Smoky BBQ Beans (Vegan)

This is another side that I made for our Smashburger dinner the other night. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe, and somewhat simplified but we loved its smokier, tangier flavor.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion rough chopped,
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or 2 heaping tsp garlic puree
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 heaping tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup pureed tomatoes
2 small cans vegetarian baked beans
1/3 cup BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, which is vegan)
1/2 tsp kosher salt – or to taste

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Add onions and garlic and sautee several minutes until softened and just starting to turn golden.

Add spices and cook a little longer. Add tomato puree, beans and BBQ sauce. Stir wlel, heating through and put in a baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

Low Country Shrimp & Sausage “Boil” (It’s Baked!)

I can’t really remember where I found this version of the classic Southern recipe. I had jotted down the ingredients on a piece of paper that rattled around in my purse for weeks.  But I finally made it, and it was crazy good and so easy.

Rather than boiling you roast everything in the oven.

Ingredients

1 lb. baby red potatoes, halved
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper

1 lb. shrimp peeled and tails removed
1 lb. smoked sausage, cut into 1″ pieces
4 ears of sweet corn, shucked and cut into three inch pieces
1 bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces (not traditional but I love peppers)
1 1/2 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning

6 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
lemon wedges

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place potatoes in a big bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until they’re quite soft when you poke them with a fork.

In the same large bowl, toss shrimp, sausage, corn, pepper and Old Bay Seasoning until everything is nicely coated. Add to baking dish. (I used a rubber spatula to get every last drop out!)

It will be pretty crowded, but that’s totally fine. Just spread things out a bit, and bake another 12 – 15 minutes, until the pepper is a little softened and the shrimp looks done.

Stir garlic powder into melted butter and drizzle over the whole pan. Serve with wedges of lemon.

So quick, easy and delicious. I’m going to try other vegetables – perhaps zucchini or eggplant? Everything tastes wonderful in this dish.

Note:  I looked up a recipe for Old Bay Seasoning (Food.com has a pretty highly rated one) but it uses a million ingredients, and makes an awful lot.  But if you really want to make your own, here is the link: https://www.food.com/recipe/old-bay-seasoning-copycat-189447

Chicken, Pepper, Tomato & Zucchini

chicken,zucchini,-peppers-aWe love dishes with good flavor and lots of colorful veggies – and this one fit the bill perfectly.  It’s based on a recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. (Mel is a wonderful cook and she makes it with Orzo, but I felt like Couscous.)  I also changed out the veggies a bit.  I can’t wait to make it again!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup dry couscous
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter

1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup chopped red, orange and yellow bell pepper (can use green pepper, too)
2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes,
2 small zucchini, halved and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 tsp oregano  (I was out so I used 1 tsp Greek Seasoning.  You could also use 1/2 tsp oregano, a big pinch of basil and a little pinch of dill)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Bring water to a boil and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, butter and couscous.   Remove from heat, cover and let sit for at least 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large 12-inch nonstick or stainless skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and cook 6-7 minutes until golden on the outside,flipping halfway through.

Push the chicken to the outer edge of the pan and add everything else except the feta cheese.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often until the mixture begins to dry up.

Push chicken back into the middle and nestle among the vegetables.  Continue cooking for another few minutes.  Check salt and pepper and add more Greek seasoning if needed.

Add 1/2 the crumbled feta and stir through.  Remove from heat and sprinkle on the rest of the feta.

To serve: Put a couple of spoonfuls of the Couscous in a wide flat bowl and top with the meat and veggies.

To make a gluten-free version – serve over rice or buttery mashed potatoes.

 

Easiest French Bread Ever! (With Variations)

French-BreadThis bread recipe is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and is the easiest and most consistent bread recipe I’ve ever used. It uses a clever proofing method, where you don’t even take the dough off the mixer, and you use ice cubes to create steam while it’s baking.

We love toast and jam and this simple, delicious bread is perfect for that and for sandwiches. I made two loaves yesterday with a cup of whole wheat flour substituted for a cup of the white flour, and I really liked the flavor and texture.

I’ve made this with lots of different flavorings – dying to try it with rosemary and olives!

Variations:

Rosemary & Herb version:  Add 2 Tbsp of chopped Rosemary and 1 tsp Italian Seasoning mix with the flour.  Crazy good.  Especially good warm from the oven with a little slather of butter.

Sesame Seed version: Add 1/4 cup sesame seeds with the flour, and sprinkle some on top before baking. I’ve been on a sesame seed bread jag lately and it’s so good!

Dill, Garlic and Cheddar version:  Divide dough after first rise, and to half the dough, add several fronds of fresh dill weed, chopped, or 1/2 tsp dried dill weed, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion flakes and 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated. Let rise a second time, slash and bake as usual.  (I wanted one loaf plain, but you could double the additions and do two loaves at once.)   Heavenly…

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp kosher Salt  (Mel uses a little less)
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 1/2 – 6 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and 4 1/2 -5 cups regular flour)

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl.

Cover the bowl and/or mixer with a clean dishtowel and let the yeast get bubbly for 5 or so minutes.

Add the salt, oil and 5 cups of flour. Mix with a dough hook, or spoon for 6 or 7 minutes, adding flour as needed- 1/2 up to 1 cup flour, until dough is forming a nice solid mass. It will hang onto the dough hook and “slap” the sides a bit when it’s ready. If the dough it sticking to the bottom of the bowl, add more flour a little at a time. If kneading by hand, knead for several minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.

Leave the dough in the bowl and the dough hook in the dough. Cover the stand mixer and bowl with the kitchen towel again and leave it to rise for an hour.  Remove from bowl and knead on a floured surface.  I actually just use my silpat mat in the baking sheet with a little flour.

Note: if you’re adding herbs or anything else, keep the dough in the  mixer and add them.  Let the dough hook knead the additions in for a minute or so.  You can also remove half the dough and only flavor one of the loaves if you want.

Split dough in half, and nudge each half out into a sort of rectangle.  Roll it along the long end and pinch the ends and bottom so the dough holds together. Lay the loaves side by side, seam side down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.  

Cover again with the kitchen towel and leave to rise for an hour. (Or you can use my clever bread proofing tent idea.)  Slash the loaves with a very sharp knife at an angle 2″ apart.  Cover again while you preheat the oven.

Heat oven to 375. Put the bread in to bake, and toss 3-4 ice cubes on the bottom of the oven and quickly close the oven door to create a burst of steam.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan half way through. It should rise up and get nice and brown. Check it for doneness by turning the loaf over and knocking on it. If the loaf sound hollow, it’s baked.

Let cool before slicing. Slather with butter and call it a day.

Clotted Cream

Sarah Tevendale on Pixabay

I’ve always loved reading about clotted cream and a couple of years ago, I found a recipe by Chef John on allrecipes.com.

So simple – and yet it has a rich, complex flavor that is truly unique.  It keeps for several days covered in the fridge.

Crazy simple ingredients – actually one  ingredient:

4 cups heavy cream  (Try to avoid ultra-pasteurized cream which won’t work as well.)

Heat oven to 175 degrees.  Pour cream into a ceramic or glass dish.  An 8 or 9″ square pan is fine.  You want the cream to be between 1.5 and 2″ deep.

Bake overnight or for at least 12 hours.  Left uncovered, the cream will develop a fairly thick, brown-spotted top, with the softer cream below.  If you want less brown bits, cover the pan with foil for the first 6 hours or so, then remove the foil for the last several hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Refrigerate until it’s nice and cold.

Poke a small hole in one corner and carefully pour off the liquid under the cream.  Save the liquid – it is delicious to bake with!  (I always use it if I am making scones or biscuits.)

Remove the cream into a bowl and stir very gently to break it up.  You can add a bit of the liquid back if it seems too dry to you.

Serve on biscuits or scones with a dollop of jam or a swirl of honey.  It is sooo good!