Amazing… decadent… fudgey… mind boggling, really!

Saturday night, after I got back from the first backyard BBQ of the season, I decided that it was time to start the Cesamet again.

Instead of doing the “smart” thing regarding how to start the new meds, I chose to do the stupid method instead. You know, start at the lowest doseage and increase it a bit a week later. Don’t go for full on “kill an elephant” dose, it will generally make you feel a lot rougher when you wake up three days later…

Here’s the problem:

The Cesamet definitely doesn’t kill the pain, but it does make it so I can choose to ignore the pain (relatively easily) for a few hours if I want to, instead of taking The Moose which is actually kinda cool. Problem is that the pain will eventually make its appearance known under no uncertain terms and at that point I’d better be damned sure I have The Moose hanging around.

And in the end, it makes me an absolute Zombie…. or sleep like the dead… a vegetable… whatever. It’s almost impossible for me to wake up after I’ve had the Cesamet. I’ve had three, relatively decent, days worth of straight sleep which is sort of nice, but weird. Biggest problems: I didn’t get up to pee too often, I couldn’t (care to) get up to eat, I was pretty dizzy/unbalanced, I couldn’t wake up at all! I also fell asleep while talking on the phone with Mom without realizing I fell asleep. Basically this boiled down to being a bit of a worrisome experiment because if I had been left completely on my own, I probably would have slept for days without waking up to eat, drink or take my meds and The Hubbs is very much not a fan of me being so broken.

So we’re back at square one again… still stuck between a rock & a hard place in regards to how we deal with my pain & my pain meds.

*sigh*

So I made raspberry jam brownies.

They were supposed to be for The Hubbs’ work snacks, but I was craving chocolate & raspberries and may have actually eaten a whole slice all by myself, still hot from the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I don’t crave desserts too often, but I’m pretty sure that the Cesamet may have contributed some cravings I had over the last two nights.

This brownie recipe is wonderfully simple and it requires no butter or eggs, something I would never have imagined myself trying to make. In the world of baking, I am one of those girls happily encouraging the full use of butter, sugar, eggs and cream to make a proper tasting dessert. The thought of desserts not incorporating any of these ingredients generally confuses me, so you can imagine my delight (and relief) that this recipe worked when I pulled the brownies out from the oven.

The nifty thing about this recipe is that you can take any jam you might have lying around, mix it into the brownie batter until smooth (or as smooth as possible if your jam is dense with fruit) and doing this gives you an incredibly fudgey brownie with the most amazing fruit flavour. Not only that but if you wait just long enough for things to set up just slightly after removing from the oven, you can eat the brownies still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream & be the happiest clam on the planet.

Jam Brownies
1 cup dark chocolate chips, divided
1 jar (250ml+) raspberry jam
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325F
Line 9×9″ pan with parchment & set aside.
Melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every thirty seconds until melted. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl with a whisk, combine the jam, milk, sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir well, until smooth(-ish).
Add the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well, then add the cooled melted chocolate.
Fold in remaining chocolate chips, then spread batter out into lined pan and bake for 45 minutes.

When the time is up, the brownies will not appear to be done but take them out anyway and let them cool for 30-45 minutes…. Or just wait long enough for the sides of the cake to set up, after being cut into pieces, and serve still hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Side Note: These brownies were originally a Vegan recipe, adapted, but can also be GLUTEN-FREE! If you want the GF version of the recipe, check it out, here.

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Bagna Cauda

I have to admit, as much as I really like cheese fondue, bagna cauda is probably higher on my list of fave fondue dinners to be had with friends.

Rewind a few years ago — one summer’s night, possibly autumn (I can’t recall exactly, you can go through the archives and find the specific evening I am referring to), the bunch of us decided to get together and finally have dinner at The Grizzly House. It’s fantastic fun, not to mention greasy as all hell from the ridiculous numbers of diners partaking in oil fondues. The only problem is that it’s also a rather expensive night out to be had even if you’ve planned in advance for it.

One of the most memorable things that everyone took away from that evening, that always sticks out in everyone’s minds, when we talk about The Grizzly House, is the bagna cauda. If you love garlic and are willing to have your spouse smell just as garlicky as you do when you go to bed that night, this is the best meal to be had.

In my opinion, fondue (of all kinds) is probably one of the best meals spent around a table with good friends, with good food, and good conversation. In fact, I think the main purpose of fondue is for you to intentionally slow down and catch up with people you care about. It’s just a meal that becomes so incredibly satisfying — it feeds your heart, your soul and your stomach. Cheesy, aren’t I? ^_-

Anyhow, I’ve written about the bagna cauda recipe a couple of times and I’ve found that each time we make it, we’ve discovered tastier ways to consume it. The first bagna cauda night was back on New Year’s Eve; it was just a five of us and we didn’t really have many dunkables since it was our first go at the recipe. Our second run at it was for the annual Robbie Burns night party at J & R‘s and it was a huge success with the whole gang in attendance. That was the first time we made the full recipe, but the nibbly options were still pretty sparse since I didn’t do the selecting of dunkables.

Tonight, however… Tonight was absolutley phenomenal. As per usual, I over provided. There was enough food to comfortably feed six people. I am now familiar with how much food to buy that will feed six people for fondue in the future. In the end it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the leftovers will amply provide D & K with at least a good meal or two to be eaten sometime later in the next few days so they won’t have to cook. Being new parents is still taking its toll and they could use an easy meal or two that requires no real thinking or prep work.

I don’t know why, but it gives me warm fuzzies knowing that I am preparing a meal that my friends (and family) are eagerly anticipating. Standing there in D & K‘s kitchen doing the prep work while chatting away with K and occassionally telling her what she needed to do to help was a really great evening for me. It was the same as when I made Thanksgiving dinner with J last month — the companionship, the conversation, the sharing of knowledge, all of it, it makes me incredibly happy and grateful that we have friends to do this with.

This meal, compared to Thanksgiving, is of course a lot less taxing on my energy reserves seeing as it’s technically all prep with practically no cooking involved. Most of it’s just washing and chopping veggies, a little bit of blanching if the veggies are harder, and then setting them into serving bowls. Other than that, I only needed to be peeling lots of garlic (2 heads! Ya. Rly.) and dumping it into my mini-chopper until I had a nice coarse mince, and then opening and blitzing 4 cans of anchovies and mashing 3 tins of sardines. All of that was dumped into my incredibly lovely fondue pot along with 1 1/2 cups of extra virgin olive oil and 1 cup butter to be melted into one incredibly thick, heady, fragrant and intoxicating bath. Since my fondue pot’s electric, I just put all the ingredients in at the same time and let it get all melty together as opposed to heating everything up on the stove beforehand and transferring it when it’s time to eat.

As to our dipping options for the night? I bought SO many vegetables and I’m really pleased at the selections I made:

Red & Yellow Peppers, sliced into batons
Carrots, sliced into wavy coins and blanched
Zucchini, cut into half moons
Kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
Sweet peas, in their pods
Belgian Endive
Grape Tomatoes
Baby Potatoes, cold roasted (leftovers)
Roasted Chicken Breast, cold
Cheese & Asparagus Ravioli, cooked al dente
French Bread

I’m am actually incredibly impressed at how well everything went with the bagna cauda. The crispness and sweetness of the peppers was incredibly refreshing to cut the oiliness of the fondue. Same thing could be said about the sweet peas and the grape tomatoes. I think I might forgo the carrots next time around, but when it comes right down to it, even they were pretty tasty when swirled around in anchovies, garlic and butter. The kale was a pleasant surprise because it had great texture to chew on. The Belgian endive’s bitterness was tempered very nicely by the bagna cauda and ended up being the most perfect vehicle to scoop up the anchovy and sardine mush at the bottom of the pot. The baby potatoes made for a nice carb/starch alternative, though they should preferably be served warm, for future reference. The roast chicken breast was bought pre-made and was a great choice because it wasn’t raw and there was no risk of eating something undercooked or “contaminating” the fondue. The ravioli was a brilliant suggestion that was recommended to me when I put out a request for fondue ideas earlier in the week. And one can never go wrong with a loaf of french bread to mop up all the wonderful goodness left on your plate.

Tonight was probably the most veggies I’ve ever eaten in one sitting and I am eagerly anticipating the next time we can do fondue night with friends… Preferably with six people in attendance ^_^

Bagna Cauda

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 heads garlic, minced
4 (2 oz.) cans anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, drained
3 (4 oz.) cans sardines packed in olive oil, drained
1 cup butter

In a mini food processor, mince garlic and chop anchovies.
Place the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan and heat gently until butter’s melted.
Add the anchovies, garlic and sardines.
Mash sardines gently with a potato masher, if desired.
Cook and stir gently until well blended and frangrant, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer to fondue pot.
Serve warm with lots of veggies and lots of bread for dipping.

Thoughts on pickles…

I spent most of Sunday making two kinds of pickles. Two kinds of pickles which I would not have ever considered making in the past by myself — whether it because of the method involved to make said pickles or because of the pickled product itself.

One of the items I made on the weekend was pickled jalapenos. They were the easiest…. actually, no, scratch that. Of all the pickled vegetable recipes I have made thusfar, with the exception of the dill pickles I’m gonna talk about below, these were actually super simple by comparison.

I bought a bunch of jalapeno and hot red peppers from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday with The Hubbs, which turned out to be a lot less than I had originally thought. They were quite beautiful and surprisingly: Amazingly cheap! $2.49/lb for all the peppers that were on display that afternoon.

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Jalapeno & Hot Red Peppers

The recipe I used came via the lovely Ms. Shala from Don’t Eat the Paste, who directed me to the Canning Across America website.

The recipe was insanely easy. I mean, if you already have boxes of jars on hand that are clean from previous canning sessions (as I generally do) and all you have to do is sterilize them, more than half your work is already done! That’s how hard this recipe is. The peppers are washed, sliced and squished into the sterilized jars as tightly as possible and then the hot brine is poured over top. Seal’em up, toss them back into their swirly hot tub and 15 minutes later, you have pickled jalapenos!

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Floaty “Pickled Christmas Peppers” post hot water bath

Obviously I haven’t yet tried the peppers since they require a few weeks of standing time, but I have high hopes that they’ll be tasty. How can they not be? They’re homemade! ^_^

As for the other pickles that I made this weekend, I’ve been reading about online for the last couple months about lacto-fermented foods. Delicacies in that category you may be familiar with: yoghurt, kimchi, saurkraut and good old fashioned pickles not made with vinegar, but instead, plain old salt water.

I have had experience in the kimchi-making department and would love to do it again as homemade kimchi just tastes niftier than store bought. There’s certainly nothing wrong with store-bought kimchi, I always have a jar of it in my fridge, but the dedication involved to make it from scratch (and the taste!) makes it uncomparable to the kimchi you buy in the store.

The lacto-fermented pickles seem to be a project that is fairly easy to customize and the least fear-inducing when experimenting with something that can and will mold on you during the time it ferments in its ceramic crock. Compared to regular vinegared pickles, this recipe is also incredibly easy to master once all your equipment is squeaky clean and your ingredients are ready to roll.

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Lacto-fermented pickles ready for crock assembly

The recipe I used came from the Wild Fermentation website for Sour Pickles. I’m not going to write it at the bottom, just click the link. The website is a basic resource if you don’t have the book, which I don’t. Ms. Shala also introduced me to the book and I’ve been pining for a copy ever since. One day I shall get a copy… one day.

I bought and used a whole bunch of local ingredients for making these lacto-fermented pickles and for some reason I’m incredibly proud and kind of excited to see what kind of difference this makes in the resulting pickle. I realize that it’s probably going to taste completely different from the vinegar pickles simply by the fact that this recipe doesn’t even use vinegar. But it will be an interesting experience nonetheless.

As a side note, check this out:

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Hutterite Garlic (left & centre) vs. China Garlic

Holy cow! The size and taste of the Hutterite garlic vs. store bought garlic that ALL seems to come from China is astounding! I mean, not all Hutterite garlic is that size, but still… that’s insane! And yes, I did purposefully buy the biggest head I could find just because it was THAT big. Silly, I know.

I did have a little bit of a lightbulb moment on Saturday afternoon and I’m feeling like a total idiot for it, too. One of the weirdest ingredients I noticed (which is optional) is the use of fresh grape leaves, which are tannin rich, to help keep things crunchy. I don’t have grape leaves and Calgary is not really conducive to growing grape vines. A good recommended subtitute is using oak leaves and I just happen to have an oak tree planted in my backyard. For the longest time I couldn’t make the association of oak leaves + tannins and thought that it was kind of weird to just throw some indescriminate tree’s leaves into my pickling crock. But then the lightbulb moment came while we were out and about again to pick up some jugs of distilled water: Oak trees-> Oak barrels -> Chardonnay. DUH! So yea, then I felt much better about throwing the oak leaves into my crock to make pickles ^_^

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Oak leaf covered bottom of crock

As to the procedure, once you’re ready to take on the task of lacto-fermented pickles, you might want to take into consideration (the night before) to toss all your cucumbers into a big bucket of ice cold water and stash it in the fridge overnight. This will apparently help rehydrate them if they’re not feeling their 100% cucumber-crispy-selves. Otherwise, once that’s all said and done, make the brine, layer all your ingredients on the bottom of the crock, top off with enough brine to cover the cucumbers by a good amount once weighted down (with a plate and boiled rock!) and then cover everything with a tea towel and set aside in a cool dark place to ferment for a few weeks. Check on the progress of your pickles every couple of days, skimming off any scum and mold you see and making sure to wash the plate and rock before reintroducing them back into the brine solution as to avoid making more mold and weirdness.

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Pickling cucumbers ready to be covered in brine!

As I’m discovering over and over again, homemade does taste better and I’m wanting to make more stuff from scratch, if possible, just for the experience and be proud to say, “Check it out! I made that! How nifty is this??”

Pickled Jalapeno Peppers
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
~1lb mixed peppers, washed and sliced into rings

Sterilize the jars and lids and keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a nonreactive pan, whisk together the vinegar, water, salt and cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the salt dissolves.
Pack each 500ml jar tightly with pepper rings and one garlic clove each up to the base of the neck of the jar.
Ladle hot brine to cover the pepper rings leaving about 1/4 inch at the top of each jar. Free any possible air bubbles, wipe rim of jar clean and screw on the lids.
Process in a hot water bath for 10-15 minutes.
Once all the jars reach room temperature, store in a dark cupboard for about three weeks to let flavors develop before opening.
Opened jars can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 months. Sealed, these pickles will keep for about one year.

Fish Egg Tapioca Soup

A bowl of fish egg tapioca is actually remarkably comforting when I don’t have the ingredients for real tapioca (or custard) in the house. It’s a bit runnier than regular tapioca, but I don’t actually mind just slurping it back this way and it will thicken more as it’s left to sit. There are only has 5 ingredients: Almond milk, sugar, vanilla, chia seeds & ground flax seeds, all warmed up in the microwave and left to stand until a bit thick.

I’m rather pleased about this for some reason. Maybe it’s because I am feeling crappy and this actually feels good to me right now. I’ve not really eaten much today and so this might be a good boost before bed, plus I haven’t had my daily bottle of dirty fish eggs. Though this is by far way more chia seeds than I normally eat in a day.

Nice thing about this is that it’s lactose free, if anyone out there is having milk issues (like me) ^_^ If I had a bowl of milk this large I would be a very unhappy girl on top of feeling crummy. No point adding to the misery, right?

Fish Egg Tapioca Soup

1 1/2 cups of almond milk
3 Tbsp chia seeds, divided
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
sugar, to taste
vanilla, to taste

Add 2 Tbsp of chia seeds and the remaining ingredients to a microwave safe bowl, stirring everything together, and microwave til warm.
Remove milk from microwave, adding remaining 1 Tbsp of chia and stirring gently.
Let bowl stand a few minutes so chia seeds have time to swell.
Add a little more almond milk if it’s too thick for your liking, though keep in mind it will thicken even more as it stands.

Stuff I am making this week

I think I may have gotten a little over my head again. This seems somewhat reminiscent of Christmas & New Year’s for some reason, but whatever.

The plan for the week was this:
Ham on Tuesday
Fajitas on Wednesday
Haggis on Thursday
Easter Baking on Friday
Deal with Leftovers for the rest of the (long) weekend

The new plan is now this:
Crash & burn on Tuesday
Ham on Wednesday
Haggis on Thursday
Easter Baking on Friday… maybe(??)
Eat the rest of the (long) weekend and maybe make fajitas if we run out.

Today I’ve already made Elsie’s Potatoes for tomorrow’s haggis dindin with Mom & Dad. I set some aside for The Hubbs & I to have with ham that I am going to boil in gingerale tonight. My god, these are the best mashed potatoes in the world, in my opinion. I was nom’ing on spoonfuls from the pot as I was divvying stuff out into serving dishes.

Currently, I have turnips on the stove boiling which are going to be mashed with some butter, salt & pepper, which are again, for tomorrow’s dindin.

All that’s left to do for dindin tonight is boil the ham in gingerale, which I am hoping will extract some excess salt in the process and then tomorrow I just have to make are the maple-thyme roast parsnips that my parents seem to be particularly fond of and steam the haggis. I am actually rather impressed at all the prep and clean-up work I’ve done today considering my current state of affairs — that which would be feeling rather exhausted.

As for me and my rather tired state — I just had a really tasty wrap for a bit of lunch, here. I don’t really like the concept of wraps, they’re not particularly tasty to me, but I bought some flour tortillas yesterday with the express purpose of using them for the fajitas, which I am obviously not making today, afterall. So I lined my little whole wheat flour tortilla with a leaf of romaine lettuce, a small cocktail tomato which I sucked its innards out before slicing, half an avocado, sliced and a blob of tzatziki sauce. That was a really tasty little nibble, if I do say so myself. Most people wouldn’t consider that one wrap I ate as a complete meal, but it was pretty darn filling for me.

Just so I don’t leave everyone hanging with the thought of the wonderful mashed potatoes, here’s the recipe, which comes from The Best of Bridge Vol.1 (pg. 173). As for the mashed turnips… wow. I’ve never made them before either and they’re really tasty and redonkulously easy o_O No measurements on the second recipe simply because it was that easy.

Elsie’s Potatoes

2 lbs. baby potatoes
1/2 container/block cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. onion salt
salt & pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. butter

Cook and mash potatoes.
Add all ingredients, except butter, and combine.
Put into large greased casserole and dot with butter.
Bake, covered, at 350F (180C) for 30 minutes.
If making ahead, cover and refrigerate or freeze, and thaw before baking.

Mashed Turnips
Turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
butter
salt & pepper

Put turnips in a pan of cold water and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain turnips and return to pan.
Mash lightly before adding butter, salt & pepper.
Continue mashing turnips until desired consistency is reached and serve.

Creamed Spinach

I did it!

I’ve finally made a creamed spinach recipe that I ~like~! This is absolutely fantastic! :D

Last night I made a pan-fried steak, creamed spinach and rice for dindin.

I have come to the shocking realisation that our bison stash has now made us forever spoiled. I made an “everyday storebought steak” for dindin and it just tasted wrong. The beef just didn’t taste good or taste of anything at all… I think this might mean I need to buy “happy cow beef” from now on and in the future. The mind is boggled.

But back to my spinach.. yum. It’s a decently flavoured creamed spinach recipe! SO THRILLED!! Of course, I just wanted to eat the stuff straight out of the pot with a fork and forget about dindin altogether last night (and in hindsight, it probably would have been the better choice, too, sadly enough.)

Recipe is not all that much different than the couple I’ve made in the past, but instead of making a wheat flour-roux, I made it this time using rice flour. I can’t imagine that the rice flour made ~that~ much of a difference in flavour… could it? The only thing I want to mention that might be a little out of the ordinary is in regards to my frozen spinach. I don’t know how most people buy their spinach, but the store where we buy ours no longer comes in a solid frozen block. Ours comes in a little bag and inside are these little frozen spinach cubes. The spinach defrosts a lot more easily this way when you’re tossing them into a recipe completely frozen. So just keep that note in mind if your spinach happens to be of the traditional block form — you may want to consider completely defrosting yours for this recipe.

Anyhow, I was thrilled with the results this time and will definitely be using the rice flour again in the future — perhaps using different/more cheese, but otherwise, this will be my base recipe.

Creamed Spinach
1 package frozen spinach
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1/2 cup milk, hot
1/4 tsp nutmeg
parmesan cheese, to taste
1 tsp soysauce (or tamari for gluten free!)
salt, pepper

In a small pot, melt butter and fry onions gently over medium heat.
Add garlic and fry until fragrant.
Stir in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until bubbly, stirring constantly.
Pour in hot milk and stir until sauce thickens.
Add in frozen spinach, stirring occassionally until everything is heated through.
Stir in cheese until combined and season spinach with nutmeg, soysauce + salt & pepper to taste.
Serve warm!

JFC & KFC Recipes

It would seem that I’ve been a little slow on the ball the last few days.

On Friday I made, for the first time: JFC & KFC — Japanese Fried Chicken & Korean Fried Chicken. They were fantastic. Not only that, but it was my first time deep-frying, which is usually a pretty scary activity in and of itself. The recipes were pretty easy and straight forward, there’s just a smidgen bit of marinating time involved to get the most flavourful chicken pieces.

KFC – Korean Fried Chicken

The only difference between the two recipes is that the I tossed the chicken pieces in sauce just before serving, which is what made the KFC, otherwise they are technically both JFC recipes.

JFC Fried Chicken
2 boneless chicken legs, cut into bite-sized pieces.
minced garlic
minced ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp soysauce (tamari for gluten-free!)
1 Tbsp sake (I used Chinese Cooking Wine)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
3 Tbsp corn starch
oil for deep frying

KFC Sauce
¼ Cup Ketchup
3 Tbsp Red Pepper Paste
2 Tbsp Corn Syrup
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Minced Onion
½ Tbsp Soy Sauce
½ Tbsp Minced Garlic
½ Tbsp Cooking Oil
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds

In a bowl, combine all the chicken ingredients except cornstarch and mix well. It will be sticky!
Leave chicken to marinate for a minimum 20 minutes.
When you’re ready to cook, heat oil for deep frying until a little piece of the flour mixture floats immediately to the surface.
To the marinated chicken, dust on the cornstarch and stir well.
Carefully cook the chicken pieces, in batches, until they turn a nice golden brown.
Remove the chicken from the oil to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm until all chicken pieces are cooked.
Meanwhile, add all the KFC sauce ingredients, except sesame seeds, to a small pot and cook over medium-low heat until bubbly.
Remove sauce from heat until you’re ready to eat.
When all the chicken pieces have been cooked, return the sauce to the heat until bubbly and add half the chicken pieces to the sauce, tossing to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

JFC – Japanese Fried Chicken

Alternative (Less Spicy!) Sweet Garlic & Soy Glaze
3 Tbsp jin ganjang, korean soy sauce (or just Kikoman)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp Xiao Xing rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp red pepper seeds or red pepper flakes
4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
3 dried red chilis
sesame seeds (optional)

LOTS of shredded green onions, soaked in cold water, then drained before serving.

Heat a small sauce pot or pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil and 1 tsp of vegetable oil and sauté dried red chiles and garlic slivers until slightly brown and fragrant. About 30 seconds.

Add to garlic chili oil made in step 3, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, ginger, water and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix and bring to boil. Then simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside until ready to serve with chicken, either on the side or tossed like the sweet red pepper sauce, above. Remember to sprinkle with sesame seeds!

Note: You don’t need the sweet garlic soy sauce to be thick and syrupy because it will be mostly absorbed by the fried chicken.

Serve with all the green onion slivers, Korean pickled radish or pickles, and salad like cole slaw. Don’t forget the rice and kimchi 🙂
For extra garlic flavor, fry some garlic separately and serve as garnish. Crispy garlic is always great!

Cornmeal-crusted tofu sticks

I’ve had this block of extra firm tofu in my refridgerator for a few weeks now — since the day I went and found those bags of chickpea flour and masa harina, actually.

Normally I just make my boring crispy panfried tofu slices and leave it at that. Nothing exciting, just crispy slices of protein to snack on. They’re pretty flavourless because I’ve never thought to do anything more exciting with them and I find them to be satisfying enough on their own. These tofu sticks are actually quite tasty! The texture is quite different than the panfried version, but still agreeable. Oven baking the tofu dehydrates the pieces and so makes them more hard and chewy and the cornmeal adds a grittiness that’s not all that unpleasant. The only thing that you want to be a little bit careful of is when you’re slicing the tofu into pieces, try not to make them too thin, otherwise you’ll be biting into a dried out pretzel stick. I suggest 24 pieces as a guideline for cutting the tofu into, but I think in the future I will make them thicker, resulting in fewer pieces per block which make for a more pleasantly textured snack.

For the last few days I’ve had the notion of tofu sticks stuck in my head but didn’t quite know what to do with the idea. I really wanted them to be more flavourful than just dredging them in cornstarch like I do the slices, but I am not at all familiar as to what flavours go well with tofu beyond what is normal for Chinese, Japanese and Korean recipes.

I looked at a few recipes and practically all them call for breading the tofu sticks with the usual flour, eggwash and seasoned breadcrumbs. I’ve been eating more bread and wheat the last week, but it’s still not really agreeing with me. I can do it in small quantities, but I still can’t go about having it at every meal. I think I am okay with the idea of limiting the amount of bready/wheaty stuff to an occassional indulgence, if that makes sense. One pita bread is okay on my tum, but a whole sandwich with two pieces of bread is definitely too much for me to handle which is a bit of a shame. The potato thing is still up in the air it seems. French fries are a mostly no-go, but baked potatoes and gnocchi seem to be alright.

Back to my tofu — reading a few recipes, I found one that called for cornmeal as part of the breading but also still used breadcrumbs. Seems kind of odd to me to be using both, but I guess it would make for an interesting texture contrast. The cornmeal sort of set off a “duh!”, lightbulb moment in my head, so I used that as my jump off point.
Flavour-wise, every recipe I’ve read just says to use your favourite seasonings. That is not helpful to me when my brain is all fuzzy from The Moose! So I went spelunking in my spice cupboard and in the pantry. Garlic is an absolute must, there is no way around that for me. Beyond that, I started pulling out all the spice blends that we’ve accumulated over the last number of years. When I first started cooking, they were the neatest thing in the world! Then I noticed that things started tasting the same after awhile, so I stopped using them. I’ve only recently taken a second look at the spice blends I have on hand and am using them on occassion when I’m too tired to think. The Hubbs likes strong and bold flavours, which is probably the biggest reason as to why he likes using them so much when he makes spaghetti sauce. You can take whichever of the blends that strikes your fancy and depending on how much flavour you’re after, you can sprinkle it on your food or you can bury it as a dry rub and if you’re really keen, you can mix up all the spice blends for something unique.

The recipe is pretty easy and actually requires less work than the crispy panfried tofu because you’re not hovering over the frying pan constantly flipping the tofu slices until they’re golden brown. It’s just cut, dredge, spray and into the oven! Thinking about it in hindsight, if using traditional breadcrumbs for the tofu, the resulting texture would probably be a lot less crunchy-hard, unlike using just straight up cornmeal like I did. The only advantage to using the cornmeal on its own is that there’s less risk of upsetting my tummy.

The only thing I’m still trying to figure out is what kind of dipping sauce to serve these with. Ranch dressing? Something tomatoe-y? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Cornmeal-crusted Tofu Sticks

1 block extra firm tofu, cut into 24 pieces.
cornmeal
garlic powder
roasted garlic & peppers spice blend
salt & pepper
veggie oil spray

Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking tray with foil, set aside.
In a shallow bowl, mix together cornmeal, garlic powder, spice blend and salt & pepper.
Dredge all your pieces of tofu in the cornmeal mix and place them on foil-lined tray.
Spray the tofu pieces lightly with veggie oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with your favourite dipping sauce.

Attempt #2…

Pupusas!

So… I figured I would try making pupusas instead of arepas, just for something different — plus it sounded like a decent snack.

It still required me to get a feel for the masa, and I don’t know that I’ve done any better with this round of dough, but using oil on your hands to help prevent the pupusas (or arepas) from sticking is probably not a bad way to go.

I fried these in a dry pan this time since the pupusas had oil on the outsides already. I don’t think I did ~too~ badly. I mean, it is my first (okay, second) time working with this stuff, so it will require practice, practice, practice.


Frying pupusas

Filling I used was just what I had going on in the fridge: thinly chopped ham, black bean dip and shredded mozzarella cheese. I’m pretty sure that most of this is completely inauthentic and will only raise eyebrows with those lovely people who eat this as their comfort food.

How’s it taste? Mmmm… well for one, freaking hot! OMG HOT OFF THE PAN!! Feels kinda chewy to me. Dunno if that’s normal. Outside’s crisp, but inside’s kinda chewy with a noticeable corn flavour to it aside from my fillings. Is it supposed to be this way?


Pupusas with chopped ham, black bean dip and shredded mozzarella cheese

Arepas!

I made arepas!


Finished arepas

….But it was kind of a bust. Sooooo… yea.

The pic above was taken the first time I had removed them from the frying pan. They were nicely browned on both sides, especially the side showing in the picture, but the top-side (before I flipped them over to cook) was extremely dried out and cracked. I’m pretty sure that’s not supposed to happen. I’m thinking it had to do with the temperature of the water I used to make the dough: too hot.


Arepa dough before cooking

The thing is, when I cut into the arepas the first time I pulled them out of the pan, I thought the middle felt a bit too heavy-damp, so I threw them into the toaster oven at 350F for about 10 minutes and then cranked up the heat to 400F for another 5-ish more minutes. This was a poor idea on my part because the arepas ended up being rather doritos-like in texture by that point, but still slightly soft in the middle. Slightly, being the operative word, here.


Pan-frying arepas with the lightest coating of oil at the bottom of the pan.

I think when I make this again (because I WILL be making them again), I shall have to use slightly cooler water to mix the dough and perhaps a smidgen more oil in the pan to help aid in the browning of the arepas in a shorter amount of time. Really, the amount of oil I had used to lubricate my frying pan was almost non-existant in teh scheme of things. The other option I might consider is if the arepas brown up pretty quick with the extra added oil, but the middles feel a little raw still, I might throw them into the oven for a few minutes. We’ll see.

I ate 2 1/2 of the arepas even though they were ridiculously hard on the outside with only the smidgen bit of softness inside. I buttered them and stuffed them with mozzarella cheese and they were quite tasty. In hindsight, I can definitely see that the first time I pulled them off the pan they would have been perfectly cooked. Not pretty, but definitely cooked.

The thing with the arepas, like with the chickpea pancakes, there are so few ingredients in this recipe that it’s rather ridiculous. Masa flour, water and salt. That’s it. They are so nice and soft in the middle, too… like bread, but not made of wheat! Wooo! ^_^ Makes me happy.


Arepas — buttered and stuffed with mozzarella cheese

Arepas
1 cup instant corn masa flour (Maseca or Harina P.A.N.)
1+ cup of lukewarm water
salt

Mix flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
Add water and mix with your hands until you have a nice soft squishy dough until thoroughly blended with no grainy lumps.
Divide dough into four portions and roll each into a ball and flatten out into a flying saucer shape about 3-4″ across.
Heat a little oil in a heavy frying pan or griddle and when hot add the arepas, as many as will comfortably fit in the pan.
When the arepas are brown on one side turn them over — the whole process should not take longer than 10 minutes.
Serve warm with whatever fillings your imagination can come up with.

And just because it’s funny:


Kitty in a box!