May 23, 2009

Vegan Sushi

Ok, so I loooove sushi. I could eat sushi pretty much anytime. I often get intense cravings for it. It doesn't help that there's a sushi restaurant in the same building as my gym. Every time I go to work out, I have to walk right by the place!

Since sashimi grade fish is typically a little out of my price range (and takes extra effort to acquire), I usually just make veggie sushi, which is just as good. I never would have thought I could make my own sushi, but a friend of mine gave me a quick lesson and I've been rolling my own seaweed ever since. It's so much cheaper than going out! And it's easy. All you need is a sushi mat, nori and some tasty fillings.
  • 1 package nori (seaweed)
  • Prepared sushi rice (from 1 cup uncooked)
  • carrots
  • celery
  • avocado
  • baked tofu
  • anything you can think of that sound good in a sushi roll
  • a few tablespoons of water in a small container
  • soy sauce
  • wasabi
1. Chop up your fillings. You want little matchstick size-slices---long and thin.

2. Set up your rolling stations. I usually let people roll their own sushi, so they can chose their own ingredients. I have two sushi mats with the rice cooker and the fillings in the middle and the small containers of water near the top of each mat.

3. Center a sheet of nori on your mat, shiny ridged side up. Scoop some rice onto the center of the nori and use a spoon to smash it flat and spread it out so that it covers the nori (to the edges!) leaving only about an inch at the top end uncovered. (This will allow the nori to stick to itself and form a roll.) About a third of the way from the bottom, press a small divot across the rice, creating a little space to nest your fillings.
4. Place a small row of the first filling all the way across the nori to the edges, leaving no gaps, but also not overlapping too much. That way each bite will have all the ingredients you add. Add your remaining toppings in a similar fashion, piling them up on top of each other in the divot area you created. The more toppings you add, the fatter your sushi rolls will be. For very spicy rolls, add chili sauce, or my personal favorite---a thin line of wasabi all the way across the nori.
5. Now for the fun part. Once you're satisfied with your fillings, it's time to roll. Pick up the bottom end of your sushi mat in both hands. Lift the mat (and therefore also the nori) up over the row of toppings and tuck it up snuggly on the side of the toppings furthest from you.
You want it to be tight or your rolls will fall apart after you cut them. Using little movements, roll the mat towards the top ( so that the mat ends up more or less folding in half), while continuing to roll the nori onto itself. Stop when you get to the inch you left rice-free.

6. Spoon a small amount of water onto the empty strip of nori. This will be the "glue" that makes the nori stick to itself and will secure your roll. Finish rolling the nori up over the top strip. Look, sushi! My friend said to put the finished rolls on a plate in the freezer while you make the rest. Chilling them slightly will make them easier to cut.

7. When you are ready to eat, cut each roll into bite-sized slices.

May 16, 2009

Becky's Lemon Meringue Pie

PhotobucketMed Slice
In honor of Mother's Day, this one is my Mom's classic pie she brings to all special occasions, and it always looks gorgeous.  It's from the 80's, and utilizes the microwave (ooh la la).

What's in it
For filling:
1 un-thawed  frozen pie crust
1 1/2 C water
1 1/4 C sugar
1/2 C lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1/3 C corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl lemon zest
6 eggs, separated

For meringue:
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

How it's made
Pre heat oven to 300.
Transfer crust to glass pie pan.  Prick crust and brush 1 egg yolk over crust.  Cook on high (in microwave) 6 minutes, until brown.  

Combine next 5 ingredients, and stir until cornstarch is dissolved.  Cook uncovered until thick and clear, about 7 min.  Add butter and lemon rind, blend well.

Beat remaining 5 yolks until thick.  Whisk into lemon mixture, mix well.  Cook on high 2 min, whisk again.  Continue cooking on high 1 1/2 minutes.  Pour into pie shell.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar, add 1/2 C sugar gradually and beat to soft peaks, add vanilla and continue beating until peaks form.  Pour meringue onto pie filling, and form into peaks.  Bake in oven for 10 minutes until lightly brown.

Gramma's Chinese Chicken Salad

This one's from the 80's, originating with my Grandma Barbara Reid (who is by no means Chinese).  This salad is quite tasty, and cheap to make.  I am sure there are ways to make it a little more authentic.  It's a perfect summer dish.

Mix and let stand together overnight:
1 package uncooked Top Ramen (chicken flavor) broken into bits
1 package season mix from Ramen
2 Tbl sugar
1 C oil
6 Tbl white vinegar
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp acsent (no idea what this is)

Next day add:
2 whole cooked chicken breasts, chopped
4 Tbl sesame seeds
4 green onions, sliced
1 package sliced almonds
1 head of red or green (or both!) cabbage, chopped

Mix together and serve!

May 13, 2009

Jackie's Cupcakes

These are the best cupcakes! They are named for Jackie, the neighbor lady my mom got the recipe from back in the 80's. These cupcakes are chocolate with a cream cheese chocolate chip filling. They are usually requested for special occasions, such as birthdays.

What's in it
1 egg
8oz cream cheese
pinch salt
1/3 C sugar (part)
package chocolate chips
2 1/4 C flour
1 1/2 C sugar (part)
1/3 C cocoa
1 1/2 t baking soda
pinch salt
1 1/2 C water
1/2 C oil
1 1/2 T vinegar
2 tsp vanilla

How it's made
Pre heat oven to 350. Cream together egg, cream cheese, salt, sugar. Stir in chocolate chips and set aside. In a separate bowl sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.

Line cupcake tins with paper cups and fill with chocolate batter half way. Add a tablespoon of cream cheese mix to center of each cupcake. Bake 25 minutes. Enjoy!

Makes 2 dozen.

Kale Quiche

I have never made a quiche before, and I am realizing now that is a very big mistake on my part.  They are delicious and fairly easy to make.  I got this recipe from my CSA box, and this is the only way I have found I like to eat kale.

What's in it
1 bunch kale or collard 
1 small onion chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
5 eggs
3/4 C milk
1/2 shredded cheese
1 pie crust

How it's made
Preheat oven to 350.  Slice kale into thin ribbons, then spin in salad spinner if needing a wash.  Heat the oil in a pan, then add onion and cook until soft and tender.  Add kale and saute another few minutes until tender.  Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste.

Beat eggs and milk together until frothy.  Add kale mixture to pie crust and stir in cheese.  Pour eggs on top and gently stir in.  Bake 35-45 minutes until set in the middle.  Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Baked Tofu Bites

Baked tofu is one of my favorite things... but then again, I have a lot of favorite things. In college, I used to make sandwiches with slices of the thick baked tofu, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. The cool, savory density of the tofu was the best part. I could eat those sandwiches everyday. I could also eat baked tofu on its own---except, before I knew it, I was not living off of my student loans anymore and I had to reassess how much I was willing to pay for the things I wanted.

I suddenly realized that baked tofu is quite expensive--nearly $5 for two little pieces! The cheapest I've found it so far is at Trader Joe's for about $3.50. It occurred to me one day that this high cost was in fact rather odd, since plain old tofu is really cheap. I can buy a whole pound of it for just over a dollar. So, I thought, why don't I try to bake my own tofu and save a ton of money?

There are a number of recipes out there, but they all consist of marinating the tofu in your choice of flavorings and then baking tofu pieces in the oven. Easy! I made this version recently---a slight variation of an recipe.

  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or substitute some soy sauce for teriyaki)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1/2 teaspoon crushed raw garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • hot sauce to taste
  1. Slice your tofu into 1/2 inch sections. With a towel, slightly press on the tofu until it releases any moisture. (You can leave a heavy plate on top of it for awhile, but I just use my hands.) Cut the slices into 1/2 inch cubes.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients into a bowl (or directly into the container you will use to marinate the tofu). Add the tofu cubes and stir to coat.
  3. Let marinate for at least 5 minutes, or up to over night.
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with a non-stick spray (or next time I will try covering a baking sheet in foil--I'm still scrubbing the last pan) and arrange tofu in a single layer.
  5. Bake tofu for 10 minutes and then toss the cubes, allowing a new surface of each one to touch the pan. Repeat every 10 minutes until tofu is golden and slightly cripsy on some sides---30 to 40 minutes.
*I think these taste the best cold. Be careful--once you are eating, it's hard to stop!

May 3, 2009

American Sandwich Bread, Buttermilk variation

This recipe is taken from Cook's Illustrated and is just great. It's fairly fool proof just follow the instructions and you'll have a nice looking loaf of homemade bread!

  • 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk (can use 1 cup of milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice as a substitute, mix milk and lemon juice and let it set for about 10 min. prior to using)
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 envelope instant yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.
  2. Mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape dough from the hook, if necessary, about 10 min. (After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to 1/4 cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
  3. Place dough in very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place it in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
  4. Gently press the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with damp cloth; set aside in warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size 20-30 min.
  5. Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour boiling water into the empty pan on the bottom rack and set the loaf onto the middle rack. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from the pan, transfer to wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.