Monday, December 16, 2013

Cookies made with persimmons and spice are quite nice

Our neighbor brought over some lovely hachiya persimmons a while back. I’d never cooked anything with persimmons, but figured the free fruit provided the perfect opportunity to try something new. I’ve had my mom’s persimmon cookie recipe stashed away for years. Glad I found it!

Persimmon Cookies 
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup hachiya persimmon pulp (from overly ripe fruit)
Butter or cooking spray (for cookie sheets)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. MIx first three ingredients in medium bowl. Whisk flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking soda in separate, larger bowl. Stir contents of smaller bowl in with flour mix. Add raisins, walnuts and persimmon pulp. Thoroughly mix ingredients. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto greased cookie sheets. Bake cookies for roughly 15 minutes, until lightly brown.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Summer’s not going anywhere

I know the first day of fall’s right around the corner, but we Californians still have plenty of time to enjoy warm-weather favorites. This salad is a nice, quick fix for those days you’d rather be outside soaking up the sun than spending time in the kitchen.

Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes and Corn 
1 cup uncooked quinoa (red, white, mixed … pick your favorite!)
2 cups water
1 ½ cups tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes, halved)
1 cup white corn
½ cup green onion, chopped
½ cup cilantro
1 avocado, cubed
½ cup crumbled cotija cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Combine quinoa and water in saucepan. Bring to a boil before covering and simmering until quinoa is cooked, somewhere between 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk olive oil, orange juice, rice wine vinegar and lime juice together in a bowl. Add tomatoes, corn, green onion, cilantro, cotija and dressing to quinoa, tossing well to coat. Top with avocado chunks before serving.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tabbouleh Thursdays

I try to be good and bring my lunch from home on work days, but there some days when I just don’t feel like eating what’s waiting for me in the lunchroom fridge. I make a deal with myself on these days: I can go out to eat, but only if I walk (as long as it’s not raining or searingly hot). A 10-minute stroll is all it takes to reach a shopping center occupied by all sorts of tempting options. I try to fight off the urge to get a cheeseburger or jumbo froyo, opting instead for a big salad or the ready-to-eat section of Whole Foods. One of the dishes they seem to only offer on Thursdays is a flavor-packed bulgur tabbouleh that has quickly become my favorite summertime lunch. Here’s my attempt at recreating it.

8 ounces quick-cooking bulgur (I used Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Bulgur)
4 medium tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
4 medium Persian cucumbers, diced
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch mint, chopped
2 green onions, dark green parts thinly sliced
Juice of 2 large lemons (about ⅓ cup)
3 tablespoons olive oil

Cook bulgur according to package instructions. Combine cooked bulgur with tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, mint and green onions. Whisk lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl before stirring into bulgur mixture.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Spice cabinet is a glass act

The more I embrace my love of cooking, the more my spice collection grows. In my younger years I thought all you needed to flavor food was garlic salt, lemon pepper and packets of Taco Bell mild sauce. Over time I’ve experimented with and acquired a little bit of this and a little bit of that, to the point where I’ve considered creating a spreadsheet in order to keep track of my spicy stash.

One spice-cabinet project I recently tackled was for the sake of better organization. I buy my most-used seasonings in bulk, and used to just keep them in the baggies from the store. Sick of sifting through an assortment of these bags, I decided to find a more sturdy, reusable container. Plastic won’t break, but it absorbs scent. These jars are cute, but $2 a pop adds up quick. My solution? Jelly jars.

A dozen four-ounce jars only costs about $10. They’ve got a big enough mouth to enable easy filling and scooping, something you can’t always do with the plastic spice containers you find at the store. They also come with sticky labels, which come in handy so you can differentiate your paprika from your ancho chili powder. I’ve opted to write in pencil on these labels in case I feel like mixing up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A lot more to these bowls than just rice

One of my favorite casual eateries, Sacramento’s Tako Korean BBQ, makes a great rice bowl packed with tons of meat (spicy chicken’s my favorite), rice, slaw and all kinds of other goodies. This recipe is inspired by the meal I’ve devoured quite a few times!

Chicken and Brown Rice Bowls
Serves 2

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
¾ pound chicken breasts, cut into cubes
2 cups cooked brown rice, divided
2 cups shredded green cabbage, divided
2 cups bean sprouts, divided
½ cup diced red bell pepper, divided

Garnishes: Sriracha, peanut sauce, cilantro, sliced green onion, toasted peanuts

Combine first four ingredients in bowl and whisk to blend. Cook chicken in frying pan (lightly coated with a teaspoon or two of oil if you’re not going the non-stick route) over medium-high heat until meat is done, which should only take a few minutes. Add sauce to pan and stir until meat is evenly coated before removing from heat. Build each bowl with one cup each of rice, cabbage and sprouts. Add half the chicken and top with ¼ cup diced red bell pepper. Customize your bowl with desired garnishes and dig in.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Feeding colleagues a family favorite

“Family Favorites” was the theme of a recent work potluck. Some of my mom’s top dishes are of the casserole variety, including the deliciously filling bake I recreated for my colleagues using my mom’s recipe.

Green Chile and Cheese Rice Bake
8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups light sour cream
8 ounces canned diced green chiles
2 teaspoons garlic powder
4-5 cups cooked white rice (this dish works best when using day-old, cold rice)
1/2 cup grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first four ingredients in a bowl until blended. Alternate layers of rice and chile-cheese mixture in a greased 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish, starting and ending with rice. Top dish with grated cheddar and bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Short shopping list for snappy salad

Looking for a fast, fresh, fantastic, flavorful salad idea? Here’s one with plenty of crunch.

Sesame Broccoli Slaw
6 ounces sugar snap peas, rinsed
3-ounce package top ramen noodles
12-ounce bag Trader Joe’s Organic Broccoli Slaw (or make your own mix of shredded broccoli stalks and carrots)
1 bottle Trader Joe’s Fat Free Sesame Soy Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Crunch up dry noodles and combine in large bowl with peas and slaw mix. Add dressing to taste (I ended up using about half the bottle), toss mixture until coated with dressing, and sprinkle salad with sesame seeds before serving.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Putting whatever I want on a pizza

When I was a kid, I always wanted to try taco pizza. Mom and dad, in an attempt to get everyone to eat their dinner, went the classic route when ordering pizza, opting for more family-friendly toppings like pepperoni and mushrooms. Tough times, I know.

Recently seeing a friend’s Instagram photo of a black-bean pizza reignited my interest in this combination of two of my favorite foods, and here’s what I came up with. Not necessarily original, but quite delicious!

Taco Pizza 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
½ pound ground chicken
1 cup red enchilada sauce
White pizza dough (I buy it at Trader Joe’s)
1 cup refried beans (I used black refried beans)
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 cup medium black olives
1 red bell pepper, diced
Green onion and cilantro

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Warm olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring occasionally, for a minute or two before adding ground chicken. Once the ground chicken is thoroughly cooked, stir in enchilada sauce and remove from heat.

Evenly coat pizza pan with a little kitchen spray so the dough won’t stick. Roll out dough to desired thickness and place on pizza pan. Bake dough on its own for 8-10 minutes (I like to do this to help crisp up the crust). Spread refried beans all over the dough before adding meat and sauce. Top with grated cheese, olives and bell pepper, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until cheese is nice and melty. Garnish with green onion and cilantro.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Baking outside of the box

There’s no shame in baking brownies from a box. We’re not big on sweets around here, so when I actually do get the bug to make dessert, the base tends to come from our good friends at Pilsbury or Duncan Hines. However, I do like to tweak boxed mixes so the end result has a fancier feel to it. I did four things to make these delectable brownies:

1. Started with a box of Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix 
2. Added brewed coffee to the mix instead of water
3. Smeared the baked, cooled brownies with a hefty serving of Nutella
4. Topped the brownies with lots of crushed, roasted hazelnuts

Sunday, January 27, 2013

White chili recipe a trusty fave

I’ve been rocking this chili recipe for years but have yet to share it on this blog … until now! If you like a spicier chili, swap out the cheddar for more pepper jack.

Turkey White Bean Chili 
1 large white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
8 ounces diced green chiles
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar
Salt and pepper, to taste

 In a large pot over medium heat, combine onion, garlic and ground turkey, stirring occasionally and sautéeing for roughly 10 minutes, or until the turkey is brown. Add the chiles, cumin, oregano and cinnamon and sauté for five more minutes.

Puree two cans of the beans with three cups of the chicken broth in a food processor. Pour the puree in the pot along with the remaining beans and broth. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and simmer for another five minutes before serving. Possible garnishes include green onions, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, sour cream and tortilla chips.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Food fun in wintry Wisconsin

Anyone else out there miss the holidays?

I had a great Christmas vacation with Chris and his family out in wintry white Wisconsin. Lots of fun, lots of relaxing, LOTS of delicious food and beverages.

I want to share a few of my favorite flavors from the trip, with some fun photos by Chris (who, if you didn’t already know, takes and posts all kinds of great pics here).

The Badger State busts out some serious brews, and we enjoyed quite a few during our recent visit. I like everything I’ve tried from New Glarus Brewing Company, and wish they distributed out to California just like Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company does. My new favorite, discovered out on this trip, is O’So Brewing Company’s Hopdinger, a pale ale with a great hoppy flavor.

We were equally impressed with the beers and the appetizers at Hinterland Brewing Co. in Green Bay. Seriously, who doesn’t love a ginormous bowl of sweet potato fries?

The Packers’ hometown is also home to Kavarna Coffeehouse, where they make a mean white mocha. While visiting Milwaukee we got our morning caffeine fix from Alterra Coffee. We liked it so much we bought a couple pounds of their coffee beans to bring home.

If you ever visit Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, definitely hit Cafe Benelux. Their Bier Book is ri-di-culous. And if you’re interested in some better-loosen-the-belt German food, definitely give Karl Ratzsch’s a try. Schnitzel, schnitzel everywhere, and you won’t want to put down your fork and knife.