31 January 2009

Quinoa for breakfast

Just a quick entry today; my new found breakfast food: quinoa and almond porridge. I love quinoa but usually I cook it as a savory dish. A favorite way is to mix cooked quinoa with sautéed portobello mushrooms, broccoli and pine nuts (yum, that will have to be another blog entry).

But back to breakfast, I have been looking to diversify my breakfast menu—I always have breakfast issues in the morning, many days start with my staring into my fridge trying to be inspired for something nutritious but quick and easy to kick start my day—I can only eat toast and granola so many days of the week.

I had seen recipes for quinoa porridge now and again (esp. since quinoa is the ‘in’ food these days) but the porridge bit did not quite appeal to me as I knew I did not like soggy quinoa (I know this because sometimes I add too much water when I cook my quinoa-- usually because I forget and I follow the box instruction (always too much water!)--I really don’t like it at all). I like the little crunch (or pop) that quinoa gives when you bite into a perfectly cooked morsel (well, perfectly cooked in Lin’s world).

Back to quinoa for breakfast; I had made a big batch of quinoa for dinner the night before in my rice cooker (1:1, quinoa: water ratio) and the leftovers was staring back at me when I opened the fridge the next morning, so I said hello and decided to give it try for breakfast. I mixed about a quarter of cup in a bowl with some milk, raw almond slivers, and a touch of brown sugar, and zapped this in the microwave for 1.5 minutes. Then I let it rest for another couple of minutes.

It turned out to be lovely, lovely. Nice and warm and comforting. The quinoa was not soggy, and the almond and milk made a nice medley of flavors to complement the earthy taste of the cereal (reminds me of badam khir—an Indian milk-almond drink). The hint of organic raw brown sugar (oh yes, baby!) lifted the dish to say Hello! Good morning! I love you too! I ate this for the next several days for breakfast (and sometimes late night snack) until I was out of leftover quinoa. I will have to make another batch soon for more quinoa breakfast love.

30 January 2009

20-minutes Molten Lava Cake, Portion control, too!

In the spirit of portion control (ahem!) and quick fix for certain craving, I modified a chocolate molten lava cake recipe I found on the internet (forgot which one, but I have found many, and they are more or less the same). The following recipe uses easy measurement, designed for two people, and you can make it in a hurry.... around 20 minutes, excluding cleaning up (sigh).

I've made this three times to make sure it works... and it has worked each time.

1 Tbs butter
4 Tbs chocolate chip (I used Ghirardheli 60 percent chocolate. In one experiment, I used dark chocolate disks)
1 egg
1 Tbs granulated sugar
1 Tbs cocoa powder (I used Guittard)
1/2 Tbs flour (you can omit the flour for an experiment. The result is a fluffier cake)

0. Turn on oven to 350 F
1. Melt chocolate chip in the microwave. Halfway through, add butter, and melt together
2. Beat egg and sugar with mixer until fluffy
3. Add melted chocolate chip and butter to egg
4. Sift cocoa powder and flour into egg mixture, fold with spatula
5. Pour into two well-buttered ramekin dishes
6. Bake in oven for 8 minutes until top is firm enough (don't over bake it, lest your lava won't ooze).
7. You could try baking it on the microwave for 2 minutes on high (check at 1.5 minutes), but I haven't tried that so I can't vouch for the result.

You can keep this cake in the fridge and serve later, but don't forget to warm it on the microwave for about 15-20 seconds.

20 January 2009

Four Soups

Three from the New York Times Bitten blog by Mark Bittman and one created by...me.

Pumpkin or Squash Soup (I used a sweet winter squash and vegetarian vegetable stock)

Curried Sweet Potato Soup With Apricots (I used vegetarian vegetable stock)

Creamy Broccoli Soup (I used vegetarian vegetable stock and nonfat plain yogurt)

Coconut Carrot Onion Soup (my recipe)

Ingredients: 4-5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped; 1 large yellow onion, sliced; 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil; 1 t cumin and 1/2 t chili powder; 1 C stock; 1 C water; 1/2 - 1 C coconut milk

  • Melt the butter and olive oil
  • Add the carrots and onion
  • Add 1 t cumin and 1/2 t chili powder
  • Cook and stir until carrots turn a bright orange
  • Add 1 C stock (I used vegetarian vegetable stock)
  • Simmer until the stock thickens
  • Add 1 C water (or stock)
  • Continue to simmer until the carrots soften (can be pierced with a fork)
  • Remove from the heat
  • Add 1 C coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
  • Add the contents of the pot to the blender (blend to your preferred consistency and add pepper and salt to taste)
  • Serve and enjoy (3 generous servings!)

I wrote this recipe as I prepared this soup for the first time. It is creamy (carrots), warm (cumin and chili powder), savory (onions), and the (light) coconut milk integrated all the ingredients. Frankly, it is a delicious soup!

08 January 2009

Martha's Carrot Cake Cookies

My sister-in-law, T, received two baking books for Christmas: "Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make" by Alan Richardson and Karen Tack (website) and "Martha Stewart's Cookies." Our original intention was to bake "Rabbit in the Hole" cupcakes but the recipe requires two very special ingredients, not available at the grocery store: circus peanuts and chocolate-covered sunflower seeds! So, we looked to Martha's book and decided upon the Carrot Cake Cookies; carrot cake is T's favorite cake. The final products from the recipe are carrot cake sandwich cookies, but the cookies are good singly and without the cream cheese frosting.

T is very organized and prepared a mis-en-scene of ingredients.

We learned a few lessons from our baking: (1) Use cookie, not baking, sheets (the edges of the cookies burnt when baked on baking sheets); (2) Coarsely shredded carrots work well, adding festive bursts of color to the cookies (the recipe calls for finely grated carrots).

02 January 2009

Happy New Year 2009!

I have long given up on writing New Year’s resolutions after I realize they were beginning to sound the same year after year. I do aspire to make changes in my life and I think of new things to add to my list all the time (why wait once a year?). One that I have been thinking about a lot and trying to be better about is staying in touch with friends. Having lived in many different places and now recently moved back to Southeast Asia, I have friends in many a time zones and far-flung locations. I am trying hard to be better about staying in touch. This blog was created as one way to do that too. Most of my friends know me as someone who likes to cook. What I really *love* to do, is cook for them. So, in lieu of being there with my friends and family and making them meals, I send them instead these recipes (with love!). But in addition to this project, I do want to be better and make sure I write to my pals or call them; at least once in a while (it is a little harder with the 14-16 hours time difference!). I do miss the good old letter writing days. When was the last time you wrote a letter, not an email, but a real pen and paper letter? That might too ambitious but I would like to be better about sending postcards to my buddies (something I enjoy doing especially when I am traveling). So I guess this is one of my on-going resolutions: stay better in touch with good friends.

A friend, L, asked that I send her simple recipes that she can try at home. Another friend, M, always laughs when I tell her a dish is really simple to make but then list the 20 “exotic” ingredients that go into it (I guess it is really simple to make *if* you have all the spices on hand and they are not so exotic to you:)). Here is a favorite recipe of mine (it is not Malaysian but a Japanese dish) that is super yummy, and fast to make, and (this one for M) uses only five simple ingredients. Here is my dish for this week: Agedashi Tofu.

Agedashi tofu
1 block silk tofu
2-3 Tablespoon cornstarch or potato starch
1/4 cup tsuyu (from Japanese section at the grocery store, it looks like soy sauce)
2 Tbs green onion, chopped
1/2 tsp grated ginger

Drain tofu package and gently slide tofu onto several layers of paper towel (I usually place the paper towel on top of a clean kitchen towel). Place another layer of paper towel on top of tofu square. Now place a chopping board on top of the tofu parcel and something heavy on the chopping board (I usually put two cans of beans). Leave for 15-20 minutes. This is to press water out of the tofu.

Cut the tofu into eight pieces. Sprinkle half the flour into a shallow dish, gently place the tofu into the flour and sprinkle the other half of the flour on top of the tofu pieces. Dredge tofu in flour. Heat oil in a skillet (about half inch). When the oil is hot, put in the pieces of tofu and fry on all sides on medium heat, until just barely golden. Remove from the oil and put on a paper-towel-lined plate. Heat the tsuyu with the grated ginger (I usually just zap in microwave). Tranfer the tofu into a pretty bowl, top with tsuyu sauce and green onions. Done!