Friday, December 12, 2014

Cassava Cake

Flourless custardy cake with amazing tropical flavors
Source: adapted from AllRecipes
Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)

- 1 package / 1 lb / 2 cups frozen grated cassava, thawed
- 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 eggs
Total: 12 servings

1. Reserve 2 tbsp. of condensed milk and 2 tbsp. of coconut milk and mix them together.
2. Mix all ingredients in a large blender (about 30 seconds on power 10 in a Vitamix.)
3. Preheat the oven to 350F (or 375F for my oven - it likes special attention.)
4. Grease a 6x9 inch baking dish with coconut oil (not sure this step is really needed, but just in case.) Or if using a smaller dish, you can pour some of the dough into individual serving ramekins and have more variety.
5. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Your oven might be more agile than mine, so I would check after 1 hour, if the cake looks golden brown and seems to have solidified, you are ready for the next step.
6. Remove the cake from the oven, pour the mixture of condensed and coconut milk over the cake and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
7. With the cake in the oven, turn the broiler on high for about 2 minutes until the top caramelizes.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool. Chill completely in the refrigerator.

- Tres leches cake with cassava and coconut. Perfect with ice cream.
- I thought it would be too liquid, but it turned out moist and just right. The only thing is: it separated into 2 layers with some cream accumulated in the middle. I suspect it's because I poured the extra liquids towards the end. Probably the top was still unbaked but the bottom solidified and the milk could not penetrate it. Maybe I will skip the step of adding milk towards the end next time to see what happens.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Honey Sandwich Bread

Soft and fluffy sandwich bread, tastes almost like challah
Source: adapted from Ina Garten's Honey Bread

Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 2 (out of 5)

- 1/2 cup warm water (110F)
- 1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (room temperature)
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp honey (or agave syrup)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp salt
- 5 - 6 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp milk with 1/2 tsp sugar to brush the top of the bread
Total: 2 loaves

1. Add the yeast and the sugar to the warm water and let rest for 5 minutes until the yeast blooms.
2. In a bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook mix the liquid ingredients, until uniform.
3. Add 3 cups of flour and salt and mix on med-low speed for 3 minutes.
4. Add 2 more cups of flour, continue kneading the dough gradually adding more flour, until the dough starts coming off the sides of the bowl. In my case I used about 5 3/4 cups of flour total. Keep kneading for 8 minutes.
5. Grease a clean bowl with butter or oil. Knead the dough with your hands for 1 more minute, roll into a ball and transfer to the greased bowl. Cover with a wet towel or a wet paper towel and leave in a warm place for an hour, until the dough doubles in volume (this time I actually left my dough in the dryer, switched off, of course. I don't know if it made much difference, but the dough rose quite nicely.)
6. Grease 2 9x5 inch loaf pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper (the bread tends to stick to the pan, especially in the corners.) Punch the dough, or knead for 1/2 more minute to remove large air bubbles. Divide the dough in half, shape into 2 ovals and place into the pans. Cover the pans with wet paper towels and leave to rest for another hour. The dough should double in volume again.
7. Half way through the second rise, start preheating the oven to 350F. (For my oven I preheated it to 375F, my oven temperature tends to be lower than is indicated.)
8. Right before baking, brush the tops of the loaves with milk/sugar mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes. I baked @375F for about 20 minutes, and then @365 for another 25 minutes.
9. The bread should be golden brown and should sound hollow when you tap on the top. Flip the loaves onto a cooling rack and wait until completely cools to room temperature.

- The crust is soft, this is not one of the artisan breads, which I usually prefer. It's great for sandwiches though, be in cheese or Nutella :-).
- It's ready in about 3 hours. A nice way to relax on a cold weekend afternoon with warm oven and smell of fresh bread.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Vitamix Carrot Soup

Good for your eyes, heart and diet
Source: a successful experiment after several trials and errors

Taste: 4 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 2 (out of 5)

1 lb / 420 g carrots
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp onion flakes
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp better than bullion beef stock (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Total: 3 servings

1. Wash the carrots and cut in half lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roast in an oven preheated to 400F for 40 minutes. You can prepare more carrots and freeze them for later use.
2. Place all the ingredients in a Vitamix blender. Start on slow, increase the speed and move to High power setting. Blend the soup for 6-10 minutes, until you see steam coming out.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Green and healthy 
Source: Adapted from a Costco recipe by chef Phil Joy

Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)

- 1 kg / 2.2 lbs of Brussels sprouts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- juice of 1 lemon (optional)
- 2 medium tomatoes (optional)
Total: 8 servings

1. Wash the Brussels sprouts, cut off the root ends and make a small cut through the middle of the root to allow for even heating.
2. Place the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix well.
3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, pour the Brussels sprouts and bake at 400F for 35-40 minutes.
4. If you wish to add the tomatoes and / or the lemon juice, skin and seed the tomatoes, and chop into 1/4 inch cubes. 10 minutes before the Brussels sprouts are done, take the baking sheet out of the oven, toss the Brussels sprouts, add the tomatoes and drizzle with lemon juice, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

- Really nice recipe, it takes a little time to cut the roots of all the small Brussels sprouts, but you can treat it as your zen meditation of the day.
- Don't use Hawaiian sea salt, it turns out really salty, maybe because of the large grains. Use finer salt for this recipe.
- One more option is sprinkling with grated cheese and placing under the broiler for another 2 minutes.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Lentil Soup

Simple and simply delicious
Source: improvised

Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)

- 3 cups red lentils
- 6 cups / 1 1/2 l water
- 3 inches of ginger (or 3 frozen ginger cubes)
- 1 large potato
- 1 large carrot
- 1 tbsp onion flakes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper
- 1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
- juice of 1 lime
Total: 8 servings

1. Wash the carrot, the potato, the ginger and the tomato (no need to peel). Peel the garlic cloves. Place the vegetables with the onion flakes into your Vitamix(or another blender), add 1 cup of water and process on High setting for about 15 seconds until the ingredients are finely ground.
2. In a large pot add the vegetable mix to the remaining water and the lentils and bring to boil on high heat. Stir.
3. When the soup boils, add salt, pepper, cumin and turmeric, reduce heat to medium low and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
4. Right before serving, add chopped cilantro and juice of 1 lime.

Great soup, I make it all the time. If you want, make it thicker and serve as dahl over rice. Can also use fresh onion or tomato paste.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Good morning detox drink

A drink that keeps the cold away 
Source: My mom told me it's good for you

Taste: 1 (out of 5) - you're drinking it for health benefits
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)

- 1/2 gallon / 2 liters water
- 3 inches fresh ginger ground, or 3 frozen ginger cubes
- 1 lemon or lime cut in half
Total: 16 servings of 1/2 cup

1. Add all ingredients to a large pot, bring to boil, remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour into clean jars and refrigerate.
2. Warm up (e.g. in a microwave) 1/2 cup and drink first thing in the morning before eating anything else.

I really don't like the taste, but I believe this drink is great for preventing colds, and generally strengthening the immune system and cleansing the body. I tried something similar with horseradish several years back, and it kept me healthy all winter. As much as I don't like this ginger drink it tastes much better than the horseradish. I'll wait and see if it's as effective.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Freezer Ginger Squares

Ready, peeled, ground and portioned ginger whenever you need it
Source: improvised

Taste: Not applicable
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)

Ginger root, as much as you want

1. Wash and peel the ginger root, and cut into 1/2 inch slices.
2. Place the ginger into your Vitamix (or another very strong) blender. Start on low setting, increase speed from 0 to 5, use the tamper if large chunks of ginger get stuck. When the mixture is more or less uniform, increase the speed to 10, then set it to High and let process for another 15 seconds.
3. Line a small shallow freezer-safe dish (I use a plastic cover of a Pyrex) with parchment paper, and scoop out the ground ginger onto the dish. Flatten the ginger puree with a spatula, and freeze for about 2 hours.
4. Remove the ginger from the freezer, flip the ginger onto a cutting board, peel off the paper, and cut the ginger into squares. Place the squares into a freezer bag and freezer until required.

I love this method and use it with lots of herbs and spices: lemongrass, roasted garlic, parsley, basil, you name it. It is particularly great for highly perishable herbs. For ginger, it saves you a lot of time: you do all the peeling, the grinding and the washing once every couple of months, and have freshly ground ginger whenever you need it in a second.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Chinese Eggplant with Ground Meat

Delicious Asian dinner in about half an hour
Source: Salu-salo

Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)

- 1/2 lb ground turkey
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 1/2 lbs eggplant or Chinese eggplant 1 ½ lbs. Chinese eggplants, ends trimmed and cut on the diagonal into ½-inch slices
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water
For the sauce:
- 1 cup chicken stock (or 1 cup of chicken flavored Better than Bullion dissolved in 1 cup of hot water)
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp of sambal oelek or sriracha (or up to 2 tbsp for a spicy version)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Total: 6 servings

1. Trim the eggplants and cut into 1/2 inch slices.
2. Combine the turkey with soy sauce and let stand for 10 minutes.
3. In another bowl, combine all sauce ingredients. Set aside.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and cook for 10 to 15 seconds.
5. Add the turkey and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
6. Add the eggplants and the sauce and stir to mix well. Reduced the heat to medium, cover for about 10 minutes or until eggplants are tender.
7. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring until sauce thickens. Serve with steamed rice or cauliflower rice.

This is a really delicious simple recipe and it works with any kind of meat: pork, beef, chicken, turkey. Might even work with ground tofu?! ;-)

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Malaysian Fried Noodles - Mee Goreng

Super simple recipe for a quick week day dinner with exotic flavors 
Source: Adopted from Rasa Malaysia blog

Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 1 (out of 5)

- 2 cups of Asian noodles of your choice
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- 1 cup stir fry vegetable mix
- 1/2 cup corn kernels
- 2 tbsp sweet white wine
- 2 tbsp green onions or chives
For the sauce:
- 1 tbsp Sriracha
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- 3 tbsp katchup
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste
Total: 3 servings (as main dish)

1. In a medium sized pot bring 3 cups of water to boil, cook the noodles in boiling water for 1/2 - 1 minute, drain and set aside.
2. In a small bowl mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside
3. Preheat a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add canola oil, let it warm up and add the eggs. Stir the eggs for 20-30 seconds until scrambled.
4. Add the noodles, vegetables, cabbage and corn and continue stirring for 3-5 minutes, until cooked.
5. Add the sauce and stir well until all the vegetables are coated.
6. Add the wine and the shallot, stir and serve.

- This is a really simple and quick recipe, that takes 15-20 minutes from start to finish, and tastes delish.
- You can also add chicken or shrimp. The version here is almost vegetarian, as long as you don't mind the oyster sauce and the shrimp paste.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Baked Falafel

Delicious falafel with a little twist
Source: Improvised based on this recipe from Epicurious

Taste: 5 (out of 5)
Difficulty: 3 (out of 5) - for scraping the food processor, rolling and refrigeration

- 2 cups dried garbanzo beans / chickpeas
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1/2 cup parsley
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp hot red pepper
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 4 tbsp / 1/4 cup flour
- 4 tbsp / 1/4 cup peanut butter
Total: about 40 falafels

1. In a large bowl, soak the dried chickpeas in cold / lukewarm water at room temperature overnight. The water level should be 1-2 inches above the chickpeas, and the bowl should be large enough to have room for the chickpeas to double in volume, as they absorb the water. Drain the chickpeas before continuing, but reserve a little liquid just in case your falafel mix turns out a bit dry.
2. Now you will need a food processor. If your food processor is large enough to accommodate all the ingredients, you can first process the chickpeas with the onion. You want to reach fine grainy consistency (like uncooked chia seeds), but not puree them (that would be hummus). You might want to pulse the food processor several times and scrape the sides of the bowl periodically to get uniform texture. Then add the rest of the ingredients and pulse more.
3. My processor is 9 cups, so I processed the chickpeas in 2 batches: half the chickpeas with all the flour and peanut butter. I processed this batch to an almost-paste consistency, In the second batch I processed the rest of the ingredients until they had a grainy texture. Then I combined the 2 batches and mixed in the baking powder at the very end.
4. Your "batter" should be still grainy but should be sticky enough to hold the shape when rolled into balls. Refrigerate the batter for 2-3 hours.
5. Shape the mix into small balls, approximately the size of a ping pong ball, and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. You can also freeze the falafels at this stage. Place them on a baking sheet in the freezer for 4 hours or more, and once they are completely frozen, remove them from the sheet into freezer bag and store until needed. If the frozen falafels stick to the baking sheet on which they were frozen, place the sheet on a towel soaked in hot water for several seconds, and it will release the falafels. To prepare the baked falafels, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight, and proceed to the next step.
6. Preheat the oven to 400F and bake the falafels for 10 minutes. Then turn on the broiler to high and broil for 3 more minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and serve with warm pita bread, pickles and tahina.

- I tried several other falafel recipes, but they ended up too dry. Maybe this would not be a big obstacle for deep-fried falafels, because the hot oil would keep the batter together, but if you bake them, they simply fall apart. Hence the addition of the secret ingredient: the peanut butter! It is sticky and helps keep the mix together. And it adds a nice subtle flavor. In most circumstances I am not a fan of peanut butter, but I think that in this recipe it's a great addition.
- Don't over-bake your falafels. They will never look as brown and crisp as the deep fried ones. But that's ok. They will still taste moist and yummy, and since they go inside the pita, you won't really see them that much.
- If you are allergic to peanut butter, try another nut butter instead, like tahini (sesame seed butter), cashew butter, etc.

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