Monday, November 23, 2009

What Do You Do...

...when you have two kinda sorta sick kids who can't go to school?

Put them to work winding yarn, of course!

Free labor. Plus, they think I'm such a cool mom for letting them do it.

It's a win-win situation.



Friday, August 14, 2009

Revelry at Ravelry

I finally joined Ravelry and you can find me as Petsura there as well.

I finished a little summer cardigan, an all time favorite. Unfortunately, I used yarn from my stash that was for a little girl's cardigan I was hoping to make so the color isn't ideal -- it's pink. A "test knit" before I invested in more appropriate yarn, shall I say?

But fret not, I just cast on another Liesl -- a red one with wool and angora. I think I'm in love.

If you're interested in details, you're likely a member of Ravelry, you can check it out there.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Week 4 Recipe: CrockPot Indian Butter Chicken

I have an intense love for Indian food.

I love it so much that I can eat it almost everyday. In my fantasy, I am thin, totally hot AND I get to eat Indian food everyday. Every. Single. Day.

Cut back to reality.

Hubby isn't too fond of Indian food. The Kid is a little squeamish about the possibility of spicy food. So, the reality is, I don't get to eat Indian food unless I go out with someone other than my family and they are up for it.

...which means, I rarely or almost never get to have Indian food.

But I've planned and plotted and have been training and brainwashing my little five year old the past two years. I've talked about and glamorized Japanese curry to the point where when I eventually served it to him, he ate it without question and LOVED IT.

The problem is, I've been serving him the slightly-boring-but-better-than-nothing Japanese curry with absolutely no heat. He likes it that way.

And now, this week, I have pushed him to the next level -- the realm of real Indian flavors. Ta Da! Indian butter chicken (recipe here).

Oh, the aroma in the house was amazing throughout the day. The unsuspecting victim of brainwashing Kid and I couldn't wait.

The verdict:
The Kid kept complaining that he couldn't wait to eat dinner, that he was drooling smelling the aroma all day long while the slow cooker very SLOWLY cooked.

When he actually got to sit down for dinner, he took a bite, then, closed his eyes and SIGHED...a huge sigh and gave me a two thumbs up.

That is the ultimate compliment from this five year old.

To top it all off, he said that we need to open a restaurant so that everyone in the world can taste my delicious food. He even offered to be a waiter.

This kid really knows how to compliment a girl.

What I would do differently:
I found the sauce to be a little bit acidic so I added a tablespoon of sugar at the end. Next time, I think I'll add some half-and-half at the end as well. Also, after consulting one of my Indian cookbooks, I found that ground cashews are used in the sauce. I'll probably try to incorporate that next time.

But the sauce was pretty delicious and there was so much leftover, that the next day, I cooked some Garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker and later simmered the beans in the left over sauce. The Kid LOVED this too.

Definitely a keeper!

Score:
2 (success) : 2 (vetoed)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Week 3 Recipe: CrockPot Taco Soup

I like tacos. I love them very much. I am known to sneak a visit to Taco Bell from time to time when the craving gets to be unbearable and I need a quick fix.

So, taco soup just makes sense. What is there not to love, really?

Apparently, a few things...

But doesn't this recipe sound pretty good? Best of all, it's easy!

I went all out and baked cornbread, threw together some guacamole and sauteed fresh, crisp green beans to accompany the CrockPot taco soup and made it a fun dining experience by serving it outside on the deck.


In my opinion, it's pretty good. Though, if I were to make this again, I would change a few things: 1) crush the tomatoes a little more -- I prefer my tomatoes to be cooked into soups and sauces, 2) would definitely forgo the Ranch dressing packet -- too much artificial flavoring that made the soup almost too sweet and over-flavored for my taste, 3) use more kidney beans instead of the pinto beans.

The verdict? The Kid said, "Thank you, it's nice," but I know he was just being polite, judging from the lack of the usual thumbs up and the fact that it took him over an hour to eat a tiny bowl. The baby spit out the pinto beans. And Hubby, well, Hubby just mumbled, "I don't really like beans...."

Okay, no point in making a huge batch of this soup if my people do not like BEANS. (What is so wrong with beans? I ask, completely puzzled.)

This recipe will not be making it into our rotation unless someone is acting up AND I have a craving for taco soup....

What's the count now? 1 (success) to 2 (vetoed)?


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Week 2 Recipe: CrockPot Rotisserie Chicken

The idea of baking a whole chicken in a slow cooker, to me, is just amazing. Not having to hover close to the oven to baste the chicken with it's juices while you, yourself, are roasting in your overheating kitchen? Priceless!

Can it really be this easy?

I had to try this recipe -- the CrockPot rotisserie chicken.

The verdict: it's good. The fam ate the dark meat up for dinner and I had plenty of the breast meat leftover to use for salads for lunch. Yay.

I used a whole skinless chicken that I found at a Chinese supermarket. I rubbed Kosher salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil all over the chicken before throwing it in the slow cooker.

My slow cooker came with a rack, so I didn't have to use the aluminum foil balls that are suggested in the recipe. I roasted on high for four hours and then put it on warm for a couple of hours until dinner time.

Without the skin, the chicken didn't brown much, except parts of the thigh meat, but the meat, even the breast meat was very juicy after four hours. I'll admit that after keeping it on the warm setting for two hours, the breast meat was a little bit dry.

And why would I do this if I can just pick up a delicious rotisserie chicken at the supermarket? Well, it's convenient -- that is if I already have a whole chicken in the freezer -- it saves me a well-timed trip to the market (because you have to get there as the chicken comes out of the oven and before they sell out). Plus, I often notice a strange chemical aftertaste in the store bought chicken and of course, when you make it yourself, you know exactly what you're putting on it.

I think I'll be making this again. I love having some protein to put on my salads for lunch.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Storm Cloud Shawlette

Storm Cloud Shawlette from Ever Green Knits (pattern here)

Yarn: Blue Sky Cotton
Color: 606

This project took me more or less a week to knit up -- so it's a very quick knit.

The problem was, it took me more than several tries to figure out what yarn to use -- Kidsilk Haze, Habu linen, Blue Sky Cotton. I was busy being indecisive for an entire week with many, many false starts and a lot of frogging.

In the end, my practical side took over and I decided to use the Blue Sky Cotton from my stash (save some $$), which is soft and likely something I could use even on summer evenings here in the Bay Area.

The only problem is that I'm not sure about the color -- it's pink. A very subtle and gorgeous pink, but it's still pink. The yarn was originally designated for a little girl's cardigan, but since I never got around to knitting anything for her, oh well. I like the feel and look of the shawlette, but I'll have to find a good outfit for it so I won't look like some crazy lady trying to wear a little girl's shawl.

Perhaps, I'll try making it in a darker color, which would definitely be more versatile.

The knitting of the shawlette itself was a little bit boring, but it was such a fast knit that it didn't really matter. Good TV knitting, I'd say.



Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Week 1 Recipe: CrockPot Korean BBQ Ribs

Now that my slow cooker and I have rekindled our relationship, I've been scouring the internet for new recipes.

Week 1 for my weekly new recipe challenge was a CrockPot Korean BBQ ribs recipe from here.

Wish I had a photo for you, but there were too many things going on (screaming baby and a five year old asking 20 million Star Wars related questions) and I missed the photo op.

Verdict: the marinade is good, but the texture wasn't quite what we wanted.

Don't get me wrong, the marinade is excellent -- it tastes pretty authentic. It's just that we are so used to really biting into a piece of Korean BBQ and chewing it. The problem (if you can call it that) is that the slow cooker really makes the meat so tender (which is normally a great thing) that it melts in your mouth -- just not the texture we want in Korean BBQ.

But if you have a very young child who likes meat or want to make a nice tender meat entree for the elderly, this is a great recipe.

Next time, I think I will use the marinade, but grill it on the BBQ grill. It is, afterall, BBQ Korean ribs.

Added on June 15, 2009:
I tried marinating the beef in this marinade (1/2 sake instead of water, plus 1 tablespoon of sesame oil) and had Hubby BBQ it on the outdoor grill.
Excellent! I thought we would have plenty of leftovers for the next day, but... uh, no.

Rekindling Our Relationship

I bought this slow cooker a couple of years back, with no prior experience with CrockPots or slow cookers. And some how, I had a temporary lapse of judgment and bought into the "bigger is better" mentality, only to be left feeling utterly stupid for coveting a kitchen appliance that is almost as big as a baby tub.

But in an effort to figure out whether to sell this and get a smaller size, I've lugged it out of semi-banishment and started to use it again.

And to my surprise, I quite like it. Yes, I do.

I have a 6 quart pressure cooker that lets me cook soups in under 30 minutes from prep to steaming finish. But there are days when even half an hour is too long for the kids to wait and I need to feed them as soon as we step in the house.

This is where the slow cooker comes in.

I just dump some chicken directly from the freezer, diced carrots, celery, onions, anything else I have in the fridge, herbs and add chicken broth and water and set it on low in the morning. By early afternoon, the house is filled with the wonderful aroma of home-cooked chicken soup that is ready to eat.

Delicious.

I think this slow cooker and I will have another go at our relationship.


My Mission

My new mission: to feed my men nutritious food without a big fuss and to introduce a new recipe into their lives at least once a week.

I used to try out new dishes that I saw at the restaurant where I was working or things I would dream up in the middle of the night, to encounter less than enthusiastic responses from the boy friend (who ended up becoming Hubby). Hubby just wasn't keen on "fancy cooking" -- as he calls it.

But I'm sick and tired of cooking the stuff Hubby and the boys like to eat. I need more variety, more creativity.... more! more!.... but without spending hours and hours in the kitchen!

So, I've decided, I'm going to slowly test out new recipes, especially ones that can be made in the pressure cooker and the slow cooker. Once a week, I'm going to be introducing them to a new entree. It's not so bad, it's just once per week. I know some will be successful and some, they will likely reject flat out.

That is my plan. Get ready denizens!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Knock-Your-Pants-Off Coffee Cake

You will never know just how delicious this cinnamon-chocolate chip sour cream cake (or also known as "cubes of colossal cheer") unless you go bake them yourself.

This is a knock-your-pants-off amazing coffee cake that's really worth your while. It's an easy recipe to make, which I can attest to as I had -- count them, one, two -- two assistants helping me out with various tasks (and you know when you have the little helpers, things can go very, very wrong....)

The cake itself is moist and delicious, oh, it is truly drool-worthy.

The chocolaty aroma while the cake was baking made the boys a bit delirious, I think -- they were giggling and dancing around the house. The final product was gorgeous.

As for taste, ours came out a tad too sweet for my taste because I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chips which I normally find smotheringly sweet. Of course, I knew what I may end up with if I used it, but GOSH DARN IT! that was all I had in the pantry and I absolutely had to try out the recipe NOW, if you know what I mean.

Maybe next time, I'll try mini-chocolate chips or perhaps some Callebaut chocolate chips. Or I'm thinking about using fresh fruit like blueberries -- maybe even homegrown blueberries if our three little bushes yield enough for this cake.

No matter what, this recipe is amazing and I will likely be making it for house guests (too dangerous to make for just the family as Hubby has had 5 slices in the past 24 hours...!) and potlucks.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Post-Lent Chocolate Biscotti

A couple of The Kid's teachers at school had given up chocolate for Lent, unbeknownst to me. And being the ever non-Christian parent sending a child to a Christian school, I had taken in baked goods (twice!) both times with chocolate.

Talk about temptation and hardship they endured (inflicted upon them by EVIL me.)

But I promised to make it up to them, that I would make them something super chocolaty as soon as Lent was over.

And TADA! a flurry of baking chocolate-almond biscotti.

There's nothing better than home-made biscotti covered with amazingly luscious, good quality chocolate.... Okay, well, there are other things, but still, this is pretty high up on my list.

Recipe here.
I like to modify the recipe slightly -- especially, replacing the hazelnuts with almonds.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Remember I Knit?

We have been quiet on the knitting front chez AmiAmi MoguMogu lately. But it's not because I haven't been knitting.

I have.

Slowly, but there has been some knitting taking place -- one stitch at a time, one excruciatingly slow row at a time.

Hopefully, once I'm recovered from jet lag and I can think straight, I will get back to my mint green sweater that I started -- something I started when I decided to try to incorporate more color into my life again and stop looking so drab.

Speaking of color -- how do you like 'em socks? The Kid requested hand knit socks and he got a pair.


Now I'm working on a tiny pair for his baby brother to match.

Pattern: Children's Sock Pattern from Knitting Pure and Simple
Yarn: Knit Picks Felici Self Striping Sock Yarn
Color: Paradise

Fighting M O N O T O N Y

The monotony of cooking and eating the same thing over and over again can get a little, well, monotonous at times.

And while I try really hard to keep things interesting around here, there are limitations -- Hubby doesn't like fancy foods, he'd rather have simple Chinese food or pasta with sauce out of a bottle fancied up with meat and onions, and The Kid likes to eat what he's used to, though for a 5 year old, he has been a fairly adventurous eater thus far.

It's always interesting to eat at other people's homes because we'll come across something really simple that's easy to make and that everyone likes.

And it's great to add something new to our weekly menu.

On our short visit to my parents' house last week, my mom made a simple chicken, marinated in garlic and miso (I'm sure among other things) and grilled it on the fish grill.

The Kid wolfed it down and asked for more -- a good thing, not that we really have much trouble with his eating.

Last night, I made a marinade of miso, sake, garlic, sugar, mirin and a little bit of canola oil and marinated some chicken tenders and thin pork chops for half a day and grilled them on the fish grill.

They came out a bit too salty, so I'll have to decrease the amount of miso the next time, but The Kid immediately recognized the dish as something he ate at his grandmother's.

Both my boys had multiple servings of this meat entree with sky-high sodium content.

Notice my new little serving dish I procured in Japan -- a cheap one at $9. It was between this and another slightly larger, gorgeous one for $120. I think Hubby is proud that I chose this one.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Going Bananas

Banana consumption is unpredictable chez nous -- some weeks, everyone gobbles them up and they are gone in a flash, but other weeks, no one gives them a second glance.

And since most of us here are fond of slightly green bananas, no one touches them once the little brown spots start appearing.

The last couple of weeks have been stay-away-from-bananas days, apparently. And I had quite a few very, very ripe and almost too-black bananas waiting to be tossed into the compost pile. What a shame, they must be made into something!

I pulled out my More from Magnolia book and found a recipe for banana cake and set about baking the cake when my brother-in-law and his son came over to drop off Hubby's father for a visit.

A nice, moist, amazingly delicious banana cake (you don't want to know how much butter is in there!) and a light and tasty white chocolate and cream cheese frosting to top it off.

I didn't want to make it too fancy, so I made it in a 8 x 13 inch pan, instead of two 9 inch circles that the recipe calls for, and baked a single layer cake with frosting, rather than a double layer with frosting in the middle and all around.

It's a great recipe and everyone agreed. Even the usually very contrary little visitor seemed to agree and happily took home a large section of it to share with his mother and sister.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Don't Call the Whole Thing Off

You say, "chong yu bing," I say, "negi-mochi"..... Perhaps you know them as Chinese green onion pancakes.

Call them what you will, they are delicious.

The Kid loves the negi-mochi served at one of our favorite Japanese/Chinese dumpling joint and he can probably eat the entire order himself, if we let him.

How hard can they be to make? On a whim, I decided to have a go at one of these flaky, chewy, amazingly delicious snacks after the children were safely in bed.

Once I started rolling out the dough and heating up some oil for frying, I spied a little shadow by the kitchen door.

The Kid sheepishly revealed that he heard a rumor that there was negi-mochi being made in the kitchen and that he was actually SOOOO hungry even though he finished two plates of food for dinner PLUS a huge fruit plate for dessert.

Lucky for him, since he asked so politely, he got to pull up his chair by the kitchen counter to watch me roll out the little pancakes and graciously volunteered to be my taste tester.

The first one, I made according to the recipe. Nothing like what we've had at restaurants -- not flaky enough and too healthy, not enough oil.

The second one, folded a few extra times for extra flakiness. Still not right.

The third one, folded twice and cooked in extra oil. The Kid gave me a half thumbs up.

Fourth one -- about the same. "Mama, they are getting better and better each time!"

After that, The Kid was sent to bed and I put the rest of the dough in the fridge.

Today, I fried some up for The Kid's lunch. The dough was so much more chewier, the flakiness was just right (two folds) and the extra oil made them crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Yummmmm....


Negi-Mochi

Ingredients:

-2 cups flour
-1/2 cup boiling water
-1/3 cup cold water
-4 tablespoons sesame oil
-1/2 chopped green onions
-
1 teaspoon salt
-generous amount of oil for pan frying

Directions:
1. Mix flour and boiling water.
2. Add cold water and mix until flour is well incorporated.
3. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Add more cold water as necessary.
4. Cover and let dough rest for at least 15 minutes.
5. Pour sesame oil in a small bowl and have a small pastry brush ready.
6. Divide dough into 10 pieces and roll each into a ball.
7. Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 6" circle and brush each circle with sesame oil.
8. Roll oiled circle like a jellyroll, then coil it into a snail shape.
9. Flatten the coiled "snail" with your hand first, then roll it into a 5" circle with the rolling pin.
10. Brush sesame oil on the circle again, sprinkle some salt and about 1 teaspoon of green onions.
11. Roll oiled circle like a jellyroll again and coil it into a snail shape.
12. Flatten the "snail" again and roll out into a 5" circle.
13. Carefully fry in hot oil at medium high heat for about 2 minutes each side.

You can fry them in as little oil as you like to make it healthy or a lot of oil to make it as authentic as possible. I suggest going all out with the oil, just don't eat too many of them....

IF
you can resist.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Carbs, Carbs, Glorious Carbs!

Oh, the irony of being on the South Beach Diet while baking so much the past few weeks!

I think it's my way of reconnecting with myself, gathering back together my scattered sanity, after a few months of everyone being sick in this household.

First, the lemon bread, then the ying-yang cookies and last week, I made soft pretzels with the little guy on a particularly difficult day when he was so sick, couldn't sleep and wouldn't stop crying crocodile tears unless I held him on my lap.

I cycled through so many activities to keep him entertained and at one point, rather than playing with Play-Doh and reminding him not to eat it every five minutes, I opted to make some soft pretzels with him. Once we put the dough together, I gave him his very own piece of dough to play with while I shaped some germ-free dough into mini-pretzels.

The little guy had a great time kneading his little bit of dough, rolling it around on our pastry board and eventually rolling it all over the kitchen floor while making sure all the dust and dog hair he found was nicely incorporated.


The pretzels (minus the one covered with bits of dessicated food and dog hair) turned out great.

And I will admit that I tasted one... or maybe two.

To heck with South Beach! A woman needs a bit of carbs to maintain her sanity.

[Recipe here -- from MarthaStewart.com]


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Finding Balance

What do you do when you have a sick baby and a bored, yet-to-be-sick older child quarantined at home?

Bake, of course!

If the screaming baby keeps you from reaching Nirvana, we could at least try for some balance.

How about some Ying-Yang cookies (recipe here)?


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Story of Frank's Steak

Growing up, I watched my mom, the wife of a Japanese "salaryman," entertain many of my dad's colleagues at our home over the years.

Japanese love beef and when they go overseas, many expect to be served beef. And when we lived in the US where beef was readily available, she made an effort to serve up beef for company.

One beef dish she often served, she called, "Frank steak."

It's beef that is marinated overnight in a lot of grated ginger, soy sauce and massive amounts of sake, grilled to perfection, served in nice thick slices. It's delicious.

As kids, we would stand around the kitchen as she sliced and plated it up for company, in hopes that she would give us the end pieces.

I never really thought much about why it was called "Frank steak." I had assumed that a famous American man named Frank invented the recipe -- not really realizing that soy sauce, sake and ginger weren't exactly mainstream here in the US in the early 70's.

I also thought that she meant to call it "Frank's steak" but assumed her English wasn't good enough....?

Then I went off to college and asked Mom for the "Frank steak" recipe, I found out that the cut of beef was flank steak.

Oh, got it. In Japanese, "Flank" and "Frank" are the same.

I still make "Frank steak" after all these years and my boys really enjoy it. And I chuckle at the thought of what my mother would have called it had it been "Frank's Flank steak."


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Pasta that Wasn't

Sometime ago, a friend who was dealing with oh-so-fun gestational diabetes reminded me about shirataki -- a Japanese noodle made from konnyaku (from the yam family) -- which is carb-free and extremely low calorie.

We eat this often in hot pots and stews, but I had forgotten about shirataki as a pretend-pasta noodles without any carbs.

Recently, when I serve up pasta with meat sauce for the family, I find myself feeling a little deprived, eating pasta sauce over steamed broccoli and cauliflower.... For me, there's a lot of comfort in diving into a huge bowl of piping hot pasta. I miss that. A LOT.

But since my friend reminded me of shirataki, I did a little research and I found this. Apparently, the konnyaku industry has been catering quite a bit to dieters such as myself and I've found a few websites who sell this stuff. You can read more details about it here.

Luckily, I found the new "pasta type" shirataki at my local Japanese food market and gave it a try last night while everyone else was enjoying their bowls of delicious carbs with meat sauce.

Hmmmm.

A big "Meh!" is my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, the shirataki itself is as it should be -- it tastes like shirataki. The texture is shirataki and not pasta, of course, so it's like chewy jello. They did a really good job trying to make it look like fettuccine by mixing it with tofu and getting the color and dimensions right.

But eating shirataki noodles with meat sauce? It didn't really hit the spot.

But after some thought, I realized what it needed was a more Asian type sauce to complement the strong shirataki "presence" (the flavor and chewy texture) and today, I mixed it up with a special cod roe spaghetti sauce we often use in Japan.

Now, I know that if you aren't Asian, your first reaction isn't going to be "Yum! I can't wait to have that COD ROE on my pasta!" But the stuff is pretty good in a caviar kind of way -- perhaps better because there's some butter in it.

I thought the sauce complemented the shirataki noodles a lot better than the meat sauce. And inspired me to try stir frying it like you would Chinese chow fun. Well, next time.

So, the shirataki fettuccine isn't really going to work as a pasta substitute for me -- it would make me too sad to pretend that it's pasta because it really is nothing like it. But with the appropriate sauces, I think it can be enjoyed as a healthy, carb-free shirataki dish and possibly, we'll find out, pretend-chow fun.

And when you're on the South Beach Diet, that's a great thing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lemons, Lemons, Lemons!!

We had a huge crop of lemons this year and The Kid squeezed so many to make batches and batches of lemonade. The kids really enjoyed it.

But now it was time for something more.

Now that the baby is 18 months and a lot more independen
t, I've been able to manage half an hour or so in the kitchen without interruptions -- just enough time for very simple baking projects.

This lemon bread recipe is simple and delicious and it can be multiplied easily. What's best about this recipe is that both of the kids can help out (which means everything takes twice as long!) and the end result is just as good as I made it myself.

They love it.

A few days ago, I quadrupled the recipe to make enough for The Kid's teachers at school.

They were a hit.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Small Accomplishment

Call this a simple accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless.

After years of experimentation, I've finally perfected my gyoza pan frying skills (or often shrimp and pork wontons in our household).

Look at this crunchy on the bottom and soft and chewy on the top goodness!


The secret is to boil/steam them for a few minutes in a frying pan (a good non-stick pan is an absolute necessity), drain the remaining water and then add the oil. I make sure to unstick the gyozas from the pan when I add the oil and keep moving the pan until there's a nice crunchy crust.

Shrimp and pork wontons are my go-to food or slacker dinner. I can pan fry them, deep fry them, boil them or put them in soups, so they are versatile and the kids love them.

I like to make a couple hundred of them and freeze them when I have time -- not an easy thing to find these days, but possible every once in a while.