High Cholesterol Blues

       Been away for awhile because I've had some things to think over - like my health.    OK, so my lipid panel looks not so good. Cholesterol is high and lipids are high. So I need to be more careful of my diet and loose some weight. I already know I can loose quite a bit with just some "minor" life style adjustments. Still, it's just the idea of it all. I guess I'll start this new life-phase tomorrow. (Sound really excited, don't I? Can't be good for long term success, but then, that's probably why cholesterol and triglycerides and weight are still too high - I've never stuck to a healthy eating style) And what will I do? EXERCISE mostly. Nothing great, some strength exercises and lots more walking. Eating? Cut way back on sweets and breads, milk and starches. Otherwise I do not intend to change much - except salt, that needs a good cut. More salads and "raw" foods are in order.
     Instead of sweets before I turn in at night, I will limit myself to an occasional one - which means no more baking unless the boys are home. I think I will substitute a hard candy and see how that goes. And I need to drink more water....eight glasses a day, you know ( I'm lucky to get 2 in).
     Encouragement, please - and hopefully, I can encourage you!!    


Acorn Squash with Indian Spices

     What to do with half of an acorn squash? Many choices, but what flavors an I hungry for? Texture is very important - nothing mushy. Let's see, I have some onion naan in the freezer, so I think Indian will be the country of choice. My source of recipes this time? 1000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra. My recipe is a combination of several of the authors.

                                         Acorn Squash with Indian Spices

serves 4

1/2 medium onion finely minced
1 quarter sized piece ginger very finely mincd
2T oil
1 small green bell pepper
1 or 2 hot chili pepper, seeded and veins removed for less heat, if you wish
1tsp ground fenugreek
1T ground coriander
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2tsp kalonji seeds
1/4tsp tumeric
1tsp salt, or to taste
1 acorn squash, halved, seeded, peeled and cut into 1" cubes.
1/4c yogurt, whisked smooth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a baking pan and preheat 5 minutes. Spray a bit of cooking spray on all sides of the cubed squash and add to hot pan. Return to oven and roast until caramelized, about 20-25 minutes. Stir and turn every 5 minutes. Don't let squash get mushy. Baking time may need to be adjusted so squash caramelizes rather than steams and gets too tender. You want it fork tender only.
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About 10 minutes before squash is finished, cook onion, ginger and peppers in a bit of oil in a skillet about 5 minutes.

Add ground spices and mix well. Cook about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir in squash.

Add yogurt and cook over medium heat until squash is done to your preference.
*I added about 1/4c diced, cooked pork as an afterthought. Very good.

Serve with and Indian bread (or use pita bread that has been warmed and buttered with a spice butter made with a little garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger and a hint of garam masala) and

                                                   Cilantro-Lime Chutney

makes 1/4c
1/8tsp toasted cumin seed, ground
1/4tsp Chat Masala - Found at Asian stores (--this is great with coriander on sweet potato fries)
1 hot pepper, chopped
1 quarter size piece ginger
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2T finely chopped onion
1clove garlic, minced
2/3c chopped cilantro, packed
2T dried mint leaves
1T fresh lime juice
1/4tsp sugar
1/4tsp salt

Process all in a food processor until smooth. Or chop very finely, which is what I do - adds a bit of texture.


Chickpea Stew with Ham - Cazuela de Garbanzos

     I had cooked some chickpeas the other day for my vegetarian son to use for Hummus. They were not used for that, tho I did make a version of Hummus using garlic, onion, coriander, parsley and just a bit of ginger. Not bad, but I am not a huge fan of garbanzos. So of course, having cooked beans in my 'fridge that I did not want to go to waste (and having no spare freezer space, and even tho I'm not crazy about them), I started searching for recipes using these wrinkled beans. I settled on a South American recipe, with a few changes. It turned out quite well, even I liked the dish, garbanzos and all.
                                                 Chickpea Stew with Ham
recipe from The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac
2T oil
1c onion, minced
1/2c chopped green pepper
4 cloves minced garlic
2 large, ripe firm tomatoes - I used paste tomatoes that I had frozen
(2T tomato paste, if your tomatoes haven't much flavor)
1 bay leaf
1tsp salt
1/2tsp black pepper
21/2c cooked chickpeas - or 2 15 oz can
2c water - i used less, for a thicker stew
2 medium potatoes, cubed
8oz winter squash  peeled,seeded,cubed
8oz well washed spinach leaves - I don't like cooked greens of any kind, so i served these on the side, plain
8oz ham ( polish sausage would also work, the recipe says. I think the ham is way better)
2T fresh parsley for garnish

In a heavy pot or casserole, heat oil and add onions, peppers and garlic. Cook, with occasional stirring, about 5 minutes until onion is soft. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the tomatoes have formed a sauce, about 10 minutes.Add the chickpeas and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add potatoes and cook 10 minutes. Add squash and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes more. Add spinach and ham, mix well and simmer about 5 minutes. This stew should have some sauce, but not be too soupy. Discard bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot.

     I hope to make some hot pepper sauces to go with the leftovers from this stew. I'm shooting for making them tomorrow. I'll post them when I taste them.

Please excuse more for now, my cat is fishing and needs rescuing before the fish get him! Bye.



     I love gyros with the garliky cucumber sauce and fries. I have several recipes for "gyros" made with cubes of meat and a few for grinding your own meat and pressing it into a loaf and cooking. Any gyros worth their weight are cooked on a spit so the juices and fats run down the meat to baste it. Unfortunately, I don't have a spit to turn meat, so I have been baking it. It is not the same, but the flavor is there and I prefer it to the cubes of meat.
     I offer this recipe in case you, like me, do not have access to a really good gyro place, and my local grocery does not carry any prepared products.
                                            Homade Gyros

2/3 # ground lamb (Cubes if you grind your own)
1/3# ground beef (cubes if you grind your own)
4T onion powder - or use very finely minced onion - about 1/2 c
1T garlic, finely chopped
about 1 tsp salt
1/2tsp marjoram
1/4tsp rosemary
1/4tsp pepper
1/8tsp oregano
1/8tsp basil

I prefer to grind my own meat. If you do this - be sure to have a good food processor or use a Kitchen Aid mixer with meat grinder attachment. Grind the meats separately, then add all seasonings, mix and grind a second time. Press meat mixture together and place in a close fitting pan or casserole.  Let rest at least 1 hour, preferable more like 2 or 3 or 4. Be sure to keep in refrigerator. When ready to cook, heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake about 1 hour. Watch the meat - turn it to baste it about 1/3 of the way through cooking, and again about 2/3 way through. Meat may take a little longer than an hour to cook. It should be a bit on the dry side when done. Slice very thin when serving.

I serve my gyros with a cucumber sauce made of:
1c yougurt, slightly drained
1/2 grated cucumber, salted and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1rsp minced onion
1/2tsp salt
pinch sugar
Mix all together and serve with meat.

     When I made these last night, I burned the motor out on my old machine. So my meat is not as smooth as I would have liked. Flavor was there, just not the texture. And when I made my lunch for work today, I found my package of pitas torn apart - some animal was HUNGRY I guess. I guess I can't really call these gyros when they have no accompanying bread and chips instead of fries. Oh well. they were still good, none the less.



Refrigerator Bread Dough

     I am soo excited about this bread dough. I have long wanted a bread recipe that would keep in the 'fridge, that I could bake a bit at a time. I really did not think such a thing was possible. From another point-- I have seen ads for a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking . I found the basic recipe for this bread on the web and decided to try it. I am so pleasantly surprised.
It is simple, easy, fast (except for the rise time), and does not need to all be baked at once. Oh yeah, and it can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks! Sounds like that recipe I was looking for! The taste is nice and texture good. It is fine for what I was looking for in a recipe that I can make ahead and bake with very little planning. I think I'll take a look at the authors book and see what variations they offer.
 carla5 049

                                          The Artisan Bread Made in 5 Minutes

11/2T granulated yeast ( about 11/2 packets)
11/2T Kosher salt
61/2c unbleached flour, plus a bit more
3c warm water (near 100 degrees)

In a large bowl (5qt) or re-sealable (not one with a tight fitting lid - it is important for the gases to be able to expand) container, mix the yeast, salt and water. Stir in the flour using a large spoon. This can also be accomplished with a mixer and dough hook or food processor. The dough should be uniformly moist, but DO NOT KNEAD. (I found the dough a bit stiff using a wooden spoon. Use wet hands to incorporate remaining flour, if necessary).

Allow dough to rise until it begins to collapse back on itself. Rising should be accomplished within 5 hours. Dough can be used at this point or refrigerated. Refrigerated dough is less sticky and easier to work with.It is recommended that dough be refrigerated at least 3 hours before shaping.
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When ready to bake, remove the amount of dough you wish to bake from bowl. Place remainder back in 'fridge. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on a pizza peel. Place baking stone in oven and preheat to 450 degrees for at least 20 minutes. Shape dough with lightly floured hands into a round loaf  that has a nicely rounded top.
Place dough on prepared peel and let rest 40 minutes. At end of the 40 minutes, make 2 parallel slashed across the surface of the bread. When ready to bake, put about 1c water in an oven-proof container and place in bottom of oven. Slide bread from peel onto baking stone sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal. Bake for about 30 minutes - but watch bread - bake until top is browned and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack - this will give best texture for slicing.
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I had this with blackberry jam - delicious!
(PS - I made only a tiny loaf, since there was no one to eat this with me. And if I made a large loaf, I would have been tempted to eat it all myself - sorry to say).


Black Bean Soup with Lime Sour Cream Garnish

     Black Bean Soup. How many recipes are there? Hundreds, probably. A few I have liked, most are just so-so. When I saw this recipe at King Arthur Flour, I hesitated to try it. Still, it looked interesting since it uses prepared salsa and lime sour cream.And so I thought, oh well, once won't hurt. And if nothing else, I'll cook it down for refried beans and put it on nachos. I am pleased to report that this IS a good recipe. And I still think I may cook down leftovers, mash them and use them as refried beans on nachos - definite potential, I think.
                      King Arthur Flours' Black Bean Soup with Lime Sour Cream

serves 12

1# dried black beans
3qt water
1 ham bone or 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 bay leaves
3T oil
21/2 c onion, diced (2 medium)
1c celery, diced (3-4 stalks)
11/2c red pepper, diced ( 1 medium pepper) - I assumed this to be red bell pepper
11/2c green pepper, diced (1 medium pepper) - I assumed this to be green bell pepper
11/2c prepared salsa (16oz jar - your choice of mild, medium or hot)
3 cloves garlic
2tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder - I assumed this to be ground red chili powder. I used New Mexico chili powder.
1T salt
2tsp pepper
1c diced ham

1c sour cream
1T lime juice - please, use fresh if possible
1T lime zest
3tomatillos, peeled, finely diced and drained - if using fresh, same applies, except I "toast" them, like you
         would peppers.
3T dried minced onions - I used onion powder, 11/2T, because I had no dried ones.
1/8tsp salt

To Cook Soup:
Wash beans according to package directions. Put them in a large pot and cover them with the 3qt water. Bring to a boil, then remove pot from heat and set it aside for 1 hour. After one hour, add the ham bone and bay leaf.---- I did not add ham or ham bone. I did replace some of the water with an equal amount of left-over french onion soup I had .

Bring soup to a slow simmer over medium heat, and simmer it for 1 to 11/2 hours, until the beans are tender. Remove ham bone, if you use it. Remove about 2c beans, and either mash or blend them into a paste. Return the beans to the pot, and continue to simmer, uncovered, until soup has thickened.

While the soup is simmering, saute the diced vegetables in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add sauteed vegetables, salsa, garlic, seasonings, bouillon cubes (if using), and ham to the soup, and bring it to a boil. It will be quite thick; add a small amount of water if needed to thin slightly. Simmer the soup 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Lime Sour Cream:
While soup is simmering, prepare the garnish. Mix sour cream, lime juice, lime zest, tomatillos, minced onions and salt together. The mixture will be quite runny due to the liquid remaining in the tomatillos, but will thicken after sitting for an hour or so. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream, more salsa, avocado slices and a sprig of cilantro, if you like.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

     A favorite childhood memory is going to my aunts' house and having "Frosty" cookies. That's what they are called in our family, but they go by many names. They are a no-bake chocolate peanut butter cookie and they are great. Best of all, they can be whipped up in no more than 20 minutes, including getting ingredients ready and 1 minute of boiling.  We think they are best served with a tall glass of very cold milk....
                                Frosty Cookies (Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies)
Have all ingredients ready to go before cooking.

2c sugar
1/2c milk
1/2c cocoa
1/4# butter
pinch salt
Bring the above to a boil and boil 1 minute, stirring frequently. Do not over cook or the cookies will be too dry (see photo below). Remove from heat.

At 1 minute, add:
1/2c peanut butter - smooth or chunky, your choice
1tsp vanilla
Stir until peanut butter is incorporated.

Pour all over 3c quick rolled oats and stir until well mixed.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool and snack.
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As you see above, the very dry looking cookies were boiled too long ( that's what happens when a cook does not pay attention!!. Also, sorry the photo is a bit blurry). If this should happen to you, add a bit of warm water to the "dough" and stir well. Continue forming cookies.  When properly cooked, the cookies should be shiny, but not wet, nor stiff, like cookies on the right.

     I'm also making bread tonight. It is a no-knead refrigerator bread. Just 3 ingredients - yeast, salt and flour.
Dough is refrigerated up to 2 weeks(!) and can be used any time after the initial "rise". Below is a photo of just mixed dough. It is pretty wet at this point. Tonight it will rise and fall back on itself, then go into 'fridge. It is recommended to refrigerate at least 5 hours before using all or a part of dough. I'll have a full post and report next week.
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Puerto Rican Pork Chops with Rice and Beans

     Today is cooking day - my day off when I spend a portion of the day preparing meals for the next 3 or 4 work days. In my 'fridge, I had a pork roast that needed to be used. I remembered seeing Daisy Martinez of Daisy cooks the other day on PBS. She was cooking pork chops that looked very good. Thought I'd try a similar recipe made with my pork roast.  I found her recipe for "yellow rice", which was her suggestion for a side, and made my recipe for beans as a second side. The house smelled wonderful with all the aromas in the air. I also made a dish from Ivory Coast using chicken that I will post later. And I made my version of French Onion Soup, also to be posted later. Tonight, it's all Latin flavors - mainly Puerto Rican.
     To begin, there are 2 recipes that need to be made ahead, sofrito and achiote oil. Both are easy to make. There are almost as many recipes for sofrito as there are cooks. This is the recipe I used.

Sofrito - a recipe that might be compared to the Cajun trinity. It goes into so very many dishes.

1 small sweet onion
2 cubanelle peppers
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 aji dulce pepper - I have never seen these in any store - perhaps a Latin American grocery would carry  
      them. O raise mine. These peppers look like a Habanero, but are sweeter, sometimes hot, sometimes
      not,  and have a fruity taste. They are great and well worth growing .
1 paste tomato, peeled
1/4 bunch cilantro
1 red bell pepper, seeded

Dice everything in a fine dice. Refrigerate unused portion up to 3 days or freeze.

Achiote Oil

I found my achiote (or annato) seeds in a world foods market.

1c olive oil
2T achiote seeds

Heat oil and seeds over medium heat in a skillet - don't use a pan. As the oil heats, the seeds will begin to sizzle. At this point, watch carefully. When there is a steady sizzeling, remove from heat. DO NOT OVERHEAT!!! You will know if you do - things will be bitter and ugly. Store oil at room temp for just a few days. Use a tight fitting lid. When ready to use, strain what you need.

                                     Pork "Chops" made from Pork Roast

serves 3
1.5# pork roast - this size allowed me to cut 3 "chops" that were the approximate equivalent of 1" thick
        pork  chops that the original recipe recommends.
Make a dry rub of::
       1T salt
       1T onion powder
       1T garlic powder
       1T black pepper (or to taste)
       1/2 tsp oregano

Make marinade of:
        juice of 1 orange
        juice of 1/2 lime
        11/2tsp cider vinegar
        1 clove garlic, mashed

Pat rub into meat on all sides. Place in a close fitting deep casserole. Pour marinade over meat and let sit at least 1 hour up to 24.
Pour enough oil into a skillet to film the bottom. Heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Remove meat from marinade and discard marinade. Place meat in pan without touching. Cook until the meat is well browned on all sides., about 6 minutes. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook on medium heat an additional 8 minutes or so until done.
( I added a bit of cooking wine about 5 minutes into the final 8 minute cooking portion - I was afraid that by using a roast, perhaps things should be cooked with a moist heat for a bit longer and at a lower temp. So I turned heat down to not quite medium low and cooked a total of about 15 minutes. Meat was not fall apart done, but was not tough, either. And an added bonus was scrapping the fond out of the pan and adding it to the beans.)

Serve immediately.
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Along with the pork, we had Daisy Martinez' "Yellow Rice" and red beans.

Yellow Rice from Daisy Cooks by Daisy Martinez

serves 8
1/2c Achiote oil
1/2c Sofrito
1/2c pimento-stuffed olives
2-3T salt
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
3c long-grain white rice
Chicken Broth

Heat oil in heavy 4-5 qt pot with tight fitting lid over medium heat. Stir in Sofrito and cook until most of the water has evaporated. Add the olives, salt, cumin, pepper and bay leaves, and stir to combine.

When the mixture is bubbling, add the rice, stirring to coat and fix the color to the rice. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the rice by the width of two fingers. Bring to a boil and noil until the broth reaches the level of the rice.

Stir the rice once, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 20 minutes without opening the cover or stirring.

Gently fluff the rice by scooping it from the bottom to the top.

Serve hot.

Red Beans

Serves 4

!c red beans ( can use any bean, these are what I have on hand)
1/2 onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 aji dulce
1/4 green bell pepper
1 seeded hot pepper, chopped or left whole (leaving whole, I think, means less heat)
1/2tsp coriander

Beans can be soaked ahead of time or cover beans with water and microwave on high about 1 minute. Let sit for 2-3 hours.    To cook. cover drained beans with water and add all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until almost tender.

1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 onion, sauteed
a clove garlic, sauteed
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Add ingredients above to beans and finish cooking until tender. Mash a portion of the beans - I mash the beans in the pot with a potato masher.

Serve hot.

WE also had a side of corn relish (corn, onion, green peppers in  a vinegar-sugar "juice" seasoned with a tiny bit of pickling spice. Very tasty and I was pleased to see that it went very, very well with this meal. In fact, we liked the meat and rice better with a bit of relish juice dribbled over them.

Served this was, this is definitely a "keeper".


dirty dishes

We all know that cooking means dirty dishes. For some of us, that means MANY dirty dishes. I couldn't resist a picture of my sink - before and after doing dishes to remind myself of the difference a little work makes to the feel of tidiness.

A place for everything and everything in it's place--almost. A gray cat in NOT where he should be!



     What is your comfort food? (I have so many, it's hard to choose. My waistline agrees!) Today, I was "craving" creampuffs. But only creampuffs filled with a custard my mom used for cream pies at their restaurant (actually, I think it was my grandmother's recipe). The puff recipe I use is found in The Joy of Cooking cookbook.  Here we go........

Bring 5 eggs to room temp. This is important so that the eggs cook properly when added to dough. You will probably only need 4 eggs - if using large eggs, 5 if smaller.

Preheat - very important - to 400 degrees

4 or 5 eggs at room temp
1/3c butter

1c flour
11/2T sugar
1/8tsp salt
Make sure the flour, sugar and salt are well combined. Set aside, but near pan with milk.

Bring 1c milk and 1/3c butter to a slow boil. Don't boil too much, or you'll have a mess. As soon as you see bubbles around the edge of the pan, add the flour in one fell swoop.

When you add the flour,  Stir quickly. The dough will look very rough at first, but will quickly come together. DO NOT OVER-STIR.

Add 1 egg at a time and beat well between additions, about 45 seconds usually does it.

When 4 eggs are incorporated, check consistency of dough. Should form what would be "stiff peaks" with meringue.

Drop by tablespoons onto very lightly greased pan. Sprinkle with a few drops of water before baking.

Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake another, approximately
40 minutes. Puffs will be deep golden brown. No not under bake, but don't burn them, either. Let them
cool in oven with door ajar. When cool, fill with your choice of fillings. My recipe follows.                      

This is my recipe - water stained and fading badly.

Creampuff Filling

2c milk
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1c sugar
1/4c cornstarch plus 1T
1tsp vanilla

Make a custard with all ingredients except vanilla. Cook over medium heat. Stir very often until thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool and fill puffs.


The custard can be used as a filling for creampuffs, or pie (coconut or banana), or as a pudding. Flavorings can be added, including cocoa (added to the sugar before the milk and eggs are added). It is very versatile.

I hope you like these creampuffs as much as my family does!



     I was thinking about eggs today. Eggs have a good amount of protein and experts say we can have (x) number of eggs per week. They are good for us. I never thought they were bad for anyone.
Generally, I  get my eggs from a local teacher who raises chicken, the side product being fresh eggs to sell. In a dozen will be all sizes and colors from light brown to brown to blue.

      Eggs are used in so many ways, but my favorites are over easy and scrambled.  The last several days, I have "eggd out", having had eggs for breakfast 2 days and supper twice. I've had scrambled and over easy, poached and shirred. I had never made a poached egg before! and a professional "chef" cookbook I have said to add salt and a bit of vinegar to the simmering water. No other cookbook I have said to do that. Apparently they help the egg white not to spread all over the place. Also, there needs to be at least 5" water in the pan to achieve the typical "teardrop" shape (I did not know they were supposed to be teardrop shaped!
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     The eggs are slipped into the simmering water (bring to a boil and turn down the heat to a simmer). They sink to the bottom, then rise to the surface of the water as they cook.

Cook eggs 3-5 minutes 'till they are as done as you like.
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     It was a good egg, but no better than an over easy egg. Texture seemed to be more like a soft-boiled egg.
I think I'll stick with my fried ever easy eggs - then I don't have to wait for water to boil!! Or even sunny-side up eggs...
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     And my old stand-by is pancakes and scrambled eggs...scrambled with just the right amount of milk and not cooked too dry (as opposed to two of my sons who prefer their eggs scrambled with no liquid - just eggs, and cooked dry, dry, dry and seasoned with salt, pepper, and hot sauce)

     And my shirred eggs? NO PICTURE! But - I can tell you that the professional cookbook I have? It made no mention of shirred eggs. In fact I had to go to cookbooks at least 25 years old to find a description - For what is just a baked egg! Yep, baked. Just butter a ramekin, add you egg - whole, not beaten - add about 1T milk and 1T butter, salt, pepper, a bit of basil and parsley and bake at 325 degrees about 15 minutes or to the doneness you prefer. I like a runny egg and 15 minutes was just about right. The butter and milk seen to give the eggs a velvety texture different from poached or soft boiled eggs. It is a difference not easily explained, but it is there. I like these eggs every now and then, and even though they take a while to make, they are worth it.

     If you haven't had an egg lately - go ahead and make some - have a breakfast meal for supper.



     Just a very short post. The last several nights we have had lots of fog, visibility sometimes being only 1/8 mile!
But it can be so beautiful. In walking my dog before turning in for the night, the thick fog feels like it's wrapping you in a cloak.The tiny droplets of moisture touch the skin, but not like rain, more like a mist. For me, it is a beautiful time for a walk. And very quiet. If I don't have to be driving, I love to sit or walk and watch the fog and how it changes - here thick, there very light, another place as if in motion. I would have liked to get a photo from inside my house looking out the french doors to the back yard so "alive" with the fog. Alas, my camera is simply not up to such a shot. So I will just have to wait for the next time to enjoy that view.


Korean Banchan

     OK, so I've been trying to decide about the banchan - what to cook. I thought to make a meal of these side dishes. I made a grilled beef dish that I could wrap in lettuce leaves with sliced garlic and ssamjang. Rice and kimchee, of course. The tofu dish I wanted to try is nixed because my tofu was bad - unopened carton was all poofy and I was afraid to eat it.  I  made a bean dish and a filled and rolled "crepe" with a spicy dipping sauce. 'Desert' is an unusual salad. I don't know if this would qualify as a "typical" Korean meal, but I like the idea of several sides making a meal. Somehow this idea sounds better with "ethnic" foods than it does with an american meal of vegetable sides and salad!
     Here are the recipes I chose:
) Braised beef with peppers
)Black soybeans
)Spicy dipping sauce
)Korean pancake with chicken
)Salad with apples, frozen grapes and nuts
)ssam jang

For the Kimchee recipe I used, see post from 12-10-09
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                                       Braised Beef with Peppers
serves 8 as banchan (side dish)

1# beef, cut in to pieces the size of stew meat
4c water
1c soy sauce - regular or lite salt
1/4c sugar
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
hot chili peppers to taste

Simmer all ingredients until tender - about 11/2 hours.
Shred meat and serve in the broth.
**NOTE: if made with regular soy sauce, this is very salty. I don't care for really salty foods, so I used lite soy sauce. Shoyu may also be an option. I think I might add just a bit of sesame oil to meat and serve with a bare minimum of broth.
*** This dish can be served with rice and the meat broth. I initially  was going to  wrap this in lettuce leaves, but did not, in the end. Instead, I mixed a little of the ssam jang into the meat and broth and that was GREAT. I really liked those flavors together and would use this as a main meat course in future.
                                      Ssam Jang
This condiment is highly variable. This is the version I made:

2T miso (Japanese soybean paste)
1/4c sriracha - should be a Korean chili paste, but can't be found in my neck of the woods, so I substituted
             recipe - see post12-27-09 for recipe.
(additional pepper, minced, to taste)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4c minced onion, green onions, chives, shallots - your choice
1T sesame oil
1T soy sauce
(water to thin, if needed)
1/2tsp sugar
1tsp mirin

Mix all ingredients and allow to sit at least 1 hour.
(I liked the flavors here - not sure I would try this recipe with Korean chili paste.)

                                       Black Soybeans
serves 4
1c black soybeans, canned goes much faster than soaking beans if you can find them. Canned beans can                            be  found at asian groceries or at some health food stores.
1c water
1/2 soy sauce - again, I prefer lite
1/2c sugar
1T sesame oil

Canned beans are pretty tender. I  heated beans in water, then added other ingredients and heated through at a simmer until heated through.

                                       Korean Pancake with Chicken
should give 2-3 pancakes

1/2c flour
1/2c water
1/4tsp salt
11/2T mirin (Japanese cooking wine that is sweet. Asian groceries and health food stores carry it)
1/2tsp soy sauce
1/2tsp sesame oil
1/4# chicken cut into matchsticks
1/2 bell pepper - choose all green or mix colors
1/4c shredded cabbage - I had regular cabbage, but use Napa if available

Marinate chicken in soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin for at least 30 minutes.

Mix flour, water, and salt together for the pancakes. Most recipes say to make a pancake 3-4 inches in diameter. I don't have the patience to cook that many, nor roll that many. I made mine about 6inches in diameter. Be sure they are as thin as crepes would be. They will cook fast, don't let them brown too much.

Saute vegetables in a bit of oil. Salt can be added if you wish. I think my dipping sauce is salty enough to allow me NOT to add salt here. Cook each vegetable separately until crisp-tender.

Cook chicken through.

Place a few veggies and some chicken on a pancake, roll tightly, and dip in dipping sauce (recipe follows)
(A very good recipe worthy of being a main meat course).
                                      Spicy Dipping Sauce

1/3c soy sauce
1/3 c rice wine vinegar--- I don't care for a really vinegery flavor - I used a tad less than 1/4c here.
1T sesame oil
chili pepper flakes to taste
1T scallions - minced onions will substitute
1tsp minced garlic
1/2tsp sugar - I add this to offset the vinegar

Mix all together and serve.

Can also be used for fried dishes like tempura, dumplings, or even veggies.

And is you have room for a salad that may also stand in for desert,
                                      Salad with Apples, Grapes and Nuts
serves 4  Thank you Naomi Imatome-Yun

6c mesclun greens
1 apple, washed and sliced
1/2c frozen grapes, sliced in half. (Need not be frozen)
 1/2c nuts of your choice
2 scallions, green only, chopped
Korean Chili Say Salad Dressing (follows)

Make dressing and set aside.

Toss remaining ingredients, except scallions, with dressing.

 Garnish with scallions.                                      

                                           Korean Chili Say Salad Dressing

1/4c soy sauce
3T rice vinegar
4T water
3T sesame oil
(3T Korean chili powder) - I will have to search for this - I substituted red chili flakes
crushed sesame seed - optional

Whisk all ingredients together. Refrigerate until use.

There it is! Not really that much work. I thought the flavors went well together. I feel guilty about the amount of salt, though. These dishes really are heavy on the soy sauce.Using lite soy sauce helps, but I wonder if I could cut back on the amount of soy sauce without sacrificing flavor.  I think, for myself, next time I would try to find banchan that are not so dependent on soy sauce for flavor. I'll use this as an opportunity to look further into the world of Korean cooking.


Gnocchi in Basil Cream Sauce

     Several weeks ago I purchased some potato gnocchi. Because I did not use them within a week, I froze the package and forgot it. It literally fell out of my overstuffed refrigerator's freezer today. Thought it might be a good idea to finally use them.....and this Basil Cream Sauce would be good. If it's good with pasta, why not with gnocchi?
                                                    Basil Cream Sauce
 Make a roux of: 2T butter and 2T flour.
Melt butter and add flour. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.

Slowly add:
2c half and half
1/8tsp garlic powder
Cook with stirring until thickened.
Stir in 2-3T fresh basil or 2-3tsp dried ( I love basil and it is hard to have too much for me. Add more if you want, I could so with an additional tablespoon)
Optional - add 1/2c chopped deli ham of your choice
Stir in 1/4c Parmesan cheese. PLEASE use a good quality cheese.
Stir until smooth.

Serve over cooked gnocchi and garnish with fresh basil. I used potato gnocchi for these, purchased and not homade.

     Have you ever tried to make gnocchi from scratch? I did that today. Sweet Potato Gnocchi's. My mom is a new diabetic, and I thought she might not want the regular potato gnocchi from above. I found them to be very similar to making knoepfli ( a flour and egg dumpling my family puts in some soups. They take the place of bread or crackers). They did not get too heavy, a problem I sometimes have with knoepfli. I haven't figured out what I do wrong - I make knoepfli the same way each time, yet sometimes they are light, sometimes not. I wonder if I overcook them, either in the initial water or in the soup??
                                            Sweet Potato Gnocchi's

1/2 large sweet potato baked until soft enough to mash.
an equal amount of flour.
1/2 egg, small
1-2T milk, if needed
     * have your sauce ready before cooking gnocchi*   a suggested recipe follows
     Mash sweet potato and add flour. Work in well. Add the egg and mix well.

If dough is too dry, add just a bit of milk until dough is workable. Take about 1/2tsp dough and dip in flour. Roll into a ball and set aside on wax paper. When all dough is rolled out, start the process of shaping the gnocchi. Take a ball and push/roll it off the very end of a fork. Each one should have indentations from the fork tines, and on the opposite side, an indentation from your finger.

   ( The gnocchi above are my first attempt, so are not so pretty. They are made with 1/2tsp dough. I would recommend 1/4tsp - recipe I had was not clear in how much to use. These were OK, but I think they would look nicer if they were smaller.)
     Bring a pan of lightly salted water to a gentle boil. Add half of the gnocchi to the boiling water. they are done in about 3 minutes - when they float to the surface of the water.
carla4 112

     Serve with sauce.

      Suggested Sauce - a variation of the Basil Cream Sauce above. This is a Garlic Cream Sauce:

Saute 1/2 small onion, finely minced along with 3 cloves garlic, finely minced. Make the roux. Add the onion/garlic to the roux. Continue with recipe. Parmesean may be omitted if you wish.
I was a little disappointed with the recipe as listed above. So, I added 1tsp brown sugar, a few flakes of hot pepper, a dash of smoked paprika, 1/8tsp salt. I liked this sauce much better.

This is all that was left -


Kimchee Banh Mi

     I was so pleased with the flavors of the Pork Meatball Banh Mi I made the other day that I decided to try another version: the Kimchee banh mi.  The original recipe came from The Guilty Carnivore, but, as so often happens, I did not have all necessary ingredients and so used what I had on hand. This makes for a new taste, but since I have no idea what the original tasted like, I never know how my version compares. I am satisfied with the results of operating this way.
                                              My Version Of Kimchee Banh Mi

serves 1 well ( 2 sandwiches)

1 pork chop ( or your preferred cut) or 1 chicken breast
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed very well
3 cloves garlic, mashed
hot chilis, minced, to taste. I like the aji limon *
1/4tsp ground ginger - fresh if you have it
fish sauce - about 3T
1T sugar
1/8tsp sesame oil
1/4 onion powder
(* Actually, I like almost any of the Aji varieties. These are hot, fruity and sometimes a bit sweet peppers generally from South America. You will need to raise your own, as I have never seen them in stores here. And seed is hard to find. But their flavor is unlike anything I had ever tasted. If you order fron Seed Savers Exchange - a place I highly recommend for theor work with preserving seed diversity - the members will occasionally send additional seeds to try at no cost.)
Mix all ingredients together and marinate pork chop or chicken for 2-4 hours.

To make sandwich:

Toast baguette and, if you choose, remove some of bread to make a pocket to hold the meat.

a kimchee banh mi deconstructed
Add cucumber for crunch, a layer of kimchee - minus liquid , cilantro or parsley or basil. I tried this with and without a tiny bit of the hot chili mayo from the pork meatball banh mi. I did not like the mayo, but when I tried just the sriracha sauce - just a bit, that I liked (my kimchee is not very hot, so the sriracha added the heat.)

This is an interesting sandwich flavor. It is one you will either like or totally dislike! I enjoyed it. Leftovers are going to work with me tomorrow.

PS The korean banchan I promised is in the works.........

Oh... and be careful of where you put your recipes---I had a small bon fire going at my elbow. While making sweet potato gnocchi (see tomorrow's post), my recipes got too close to the flame. Not good.

I have thought to get together info on locating hard to find seeds to make available for readers. If anyone has a variety they would like to add to the list, let me know. It may take me a bit to gather company names. Thanks.


Pork Meatball Banh Mi

     Have you ever heard of a Banh Mi? I had not until just very recently. I was looking for something Vietnamese or Thai to cook. Nothing struck my fancy from my cookbook collection ( I have a number of Southeast asian cookbooks that have great recipes. But I have read over them so often, I wanted a fresh take on things). And so I turned to Epicurious and  glad I am that I did. A whole new world of sandwiches came into view! I quite literally stumbled on the Banh Mi recipe and was led to another web site - Not sure how I got there, I couldn't retrace my steps so I could give an accurate map. Anyway - a great site called Battle of theBanh Mi has quite a bit of info on these tasty sandwiches, along with several recipes.

     So what is a Banh Mi? It is describes as a Vietnamese hybrid sandwich, Vietnamese baguette sandwich and French-Vietnamese sandwich. It is, I suppose, best served on a true Vietnamese baguette, which differs from the French version by often containing rice flour. But, small town almost central Illinois does not have such a thing as a Vietnamese baguette. So I will have to content myself with the French style found here. The filling for this sandwich can be chicken, shrimp, pork, beef, vegetarian. Toppings generally include a spice mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon (radish), hot peppers and cucumber slices.
     Epicurious actually had 2 recipes for this sandwich, a pork version from Bon Appetit and a chicken version from Gourmet. I chose to make for my first Banh Mi, the pork version because I had pork I needed to use.  I present to you:

                                             Pork Meatball Banh Mi          as presented on Epicurious. Serves 4
photo by ric w

For the Hot Chili Mayo:

2/3c mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1T hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)    see my post from      for a sriracha recipe

For the Meatballs:

1 pound ground pork
1/4c finely chopped fresh basil
4 cloves garlic minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1T fish sauce ( such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1T hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)  -see 12-27-09 post for recipe
1T sugar
2tsp cornstarch
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tsp coarse kosher salt

For the Sandwiches:

2c coarsely grated carrots
2c coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)
1/4c unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4c sugar

Pickled veggies and Hot chili Mayo

1tsp coarse kosher salt
1T Asian sesame oil
4 10" long individual baguettes
Thinly sliced jalapeno chilis
16 large fresh sprigs cilantro


Hot Chili Mayo:
Stir all ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1" meatballs. Attange on baking sheet. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300 drgrees. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of meatballs. Saute until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering the heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut baguette in half. Pull out enough bread from each half to leave 1/2 inch thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapenos, then cilantro, in bottom half. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables, place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.  *** I would also add a few cucumbers for a crisp and clean crunch. This is not in the original recipe, but I think it adds a "little something" - that crunch, which I really enjoyed.

Serve and enjoy.

     This particular version has all the attributes so important to asian cooking: hot, salty, sweet and sour. 

I plan to try a number of other Banh Mi recipes in coming days. I'll keep you posted.

AND---- The temperature got up to 40 plus degrees today with lots of sunshine!! How great that was after the last weeks of COLD!  Hurrah!!!!!