Month: August 2009

Wheatberries

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I like to experiment with different grains since growing up all I pretty much had was rice.  I’m usually very open to different foods because I know there’s so much out there and so little that I’ve had.  What if I’m missing out on something amazing that I haven’t had yet? 

Our parents grew up on their cultural and ethnic foods and didn’t get to experience the different fusions and foods of other groups.  It amazes me how much globalization has affected food, leading to various different fusions that you can see scattered throughout the U.S.

Back to grains, so far I’ve tried quinoa, millet, buckwheat (noodle form though), and oats.  I’ve seen many recipes for wheat berries but just never got around to making some.  With grains, you mostly have to make them yourself because you just can’t go to the supermarket or a restaurant and look for a quinoa salad.  

I was strolling through Whole Foods late this evening, passing by the open food bar which usually contains a differnet array of foods from salads, entrees, and sides.  I don’t know how it caught my eye, but there is was, a wheatberry salad!  I hesitated, but then knew that I was way too curious to pass this up. 

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I excitedly finished my shopping and headed home to dive in to this salad.  I don’t know what I expected but as I had my first bite, I slowly chewed and thought about all the flavors that were swirming through my mouth.  It was chewy, wholesome, and slightly cinnamony, but I wasn’t sure if that was because of the dressing or the berries.  Some shredded grilled salmon would make a perfect lunch, I’m sure. 

I had only gotten a little to taste and was sad there was no more but now I know what texture to cook the berries when I make them on my own.  Amaranth is next on my list of grains to try as I found a great amaranth-quinoa recipe. 

My cooking and baking as of late has been very little due to Ramadan.  Suhoor, early breakfast before dawn, usually consists for me of some oatmeal, boiled egg, and dates.  Iftaar, meal after sunset where the fast is broken, consists of dates, fruit salad, and whatever mum has made, which is usually leftovers since we can only eat so much.  With very little being cooked by mum anyways, there’s no point of me making something and filling up the fridge, and there’s barely room for dessert. 

Although I do crave something right before bed, so maybe I’ll whip something up tomorrow.

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H2O

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At work we were discussing how we all have our own weakness of buying small items daily that add up to big bucks, whether it’s a pack of gum, a coffee run at Starbucks, or a snack from the vending machine.  My boss claimed his to be water and how he spends a lot on water.  He proceeded to tell us about some book that he read that talked about how water can cure most common diseases due to our nation being chronically dehydrated.  I chuckled in response as I was a little skeptical.  I knew majority of people walked around not knowing how dehydrated they were but how does dehydration have anything to do with arthritis? 

I was curious to see what this water theory was about and I ordered my own copy of the book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by. F. Batmanghelidj aka Dr. Batman.  I started reading and even though I learned some interesting facts, I needed some extra concentration following the science that was explained.  It wasn’t till mid-book I sat there dumbfounded and severely impressed by his work.  How could I been so sluggish reading this book before?  I tore through the book and was done within a day after my sluggish-putting-it-off period and was so upset when it ended. 

I’m sure there’s research countering the arguments and research that he presents but I rather drink enough water before going on meds.  And not orange juice, tea, coffee-type water but pure H20. 

His book offers many testimonials of people claiming how much it helped their condition by drinking enough water.  There’s no downside to drinking enough water (except the increase of bathroom visits!) but there’s always a string of side effects in medication.  Definitely check out this book.  It’s amazing how the human body works and what it does to protect itself.

Spring Rolls!

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Ramadan is a day away and we’ve been a little set back on our Ramadan prep.  I made the filling for the rolls this morning and waited for it to cool down and wrapped them in the evening.  Samosas need wrapping too but I haven’t mastered that skill yet.  I’m sure there has to be an easier way than the way I’m doing it. 

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Spring Rolls

1 whole chicken + 2 breasts

3 tsp salt

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp chinese chile sauce

half cabbage or one whole small one

half bag of shredded carrots

1 onion thickly diced

1 bell pepper thickly diced (use any color)

2 chili green peppers, halved and sliced

2-3 green onions, thinly sliced

3 cap-fulls of soy sauce

1 1/2 tsp Chinese chili sauce

1 1/2 tsp Chinese garlic chili sauce

2 tsp salt

crushed red pepper, to taste

black pepper, to taste

1 140z package of extra firm tofu

1 1/2 cup bean sprouts

1/4-1/2 cups peas

2 heaping tbs corn starch

2 packages egg rolls wrappers

2 tbs AP flour

Start by cleaning your chicken by trimming off the fat and washing.  In a pot, fill it 3/4 full of water and add in the chicken, 3 tsp salt, 1 tsp soy sauce, and 1 tsp chili sauce.  Boil the chicken until cooked, chicken turns a pale white.  Take the chicken out and spread it on a baking sheet.  Reserve chicken stock for later. 

Once the chicken has cooled down, debone it by shredding it off the bone with your hands. 

Chop all necessary vegetables.  In a non-stick pan with high sides, heat a tablespoon of oil on high heat.  Add in the cabbage, carrots, onion, green onion, bell pepper, green chili pepper,.  Once you have mixed it all in add in the 3 tsp soy sauce, 1 1/2 tsp of Chinese chili sauce and garlic chili sauce, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Saute all the vegetables until soft.  Add in the peas, chicken, tofu, and bean sprouts.  Cook for a couple more minutes, till combined.  In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 2 tbs of chicken stock, enough to make a smooth flurry.  Pour over the filling mixture and combine.  Cook for another 2 min and turn off heat. 

Once the filling has cooled  down, you can start filling the egg roll wrappers.  The filling can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. 

Make the lye/”glue” to seal the rolls by combining the flour with some water until you get a sticky consistency. 

start off with the wrapper with one of the ends facing you, like a diamond
start off with the wrapper with one of the ends facing you, like a diamond
place ~1 1/2 tbs of filling near the end closest to you
place ~1 1/2 tbs of filling near the end closest to you
taking the end closest to you, fold it over the filling and roll the filling until the middle of the wrapper
taking the end closest to you, fold it over the filling and roll the filling until the middle of the wrapper
take the right and left sides and fold them towards the middle; it should look like an envelope now
take the right and left sides and fold them towards the middle; it should look like an envelope now
Now take the sides of the "envelope" and fold them towards the center
Now take the sides of the "envelope" and fold them towards the center
it should look kinda like this
it should look kinda like this
Now continue rolling till you reach the end.  Smooth on some lye on the edge and seal
Now continue rolling till you reach the end. Smooth on some lye on the edge and seal
This is what the end product should look like
This is what the end product should look like
I get freezer bags and freeze them.  Whenever I need them, you simply take them out and deep fry them till golden brown.  I like them with ketchup but you can eat them with any sauce you like. 

First Cookbook

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I accompanied my sister shopping the other day at Ross and wandered into the book section.  As I was browsing, I came across a cookbook called Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook.  Now I haven’t hit that stage in my life yet but I was looking through the recipes and it seemed like a reallllly good cookbook.  I don’t own any cookbooks aside from my one baking book and decided to purchase it (I usually find my recipes online or from my mother and friends).  It’s split into indispensables, appetizers, traditional/comfort foods, entrees, sides, and cocktails (not that the last one applies to me).  It also has special occasions where it’ll plan out your menu say for a Super Bowl Party and give you a production schedule which is quite important when your cooking up a feast. 

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I picked up a few more copies to give to some newlyweds.  I haven’t made anything from it yet but if I’m pleased, I will be sharing this book with future newlyweds.  The reviews have been pretty good so I’m definitely excited. 

Tomorrow I’ll be making spring rolls so look out for these easy rolls that serve great for appetizers.

Julie and Julia

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I was on youtube one day and saw the preview for Julie & Julia and decided to click on it.  It seemed witty and funny but that’s what previews do, make movies look super exciting and when you go to see them, they’re such a schlump.  I thought even if I did want to watch, I’d probably wait for it to come out of DVD and rent it some night with the cousins.  

Few hours ago, my friend said she was going and has asked me to join her.  I was tempted by the food aspect of the film and decided to procrastinate on my to-do list.  The movie started with “based on twotrue stories.” I was severely confused about this especially when they had a scene from 1950’s with one women and then to 2005 with another, having no connection at all. It was really interesting how the movie tied together, being absolutely hilarious and unique plot. 

What I loved about the two main characters was that they DID something about their current unhappy situation and decided they’d do what they truly loved and enjoyed.  They had big goals, but they accomplished them because they had what it takes and they worked hard.  Late nights, no sleep, rejections, set backs, and whatever else life throws your way but they kept going, well because they just had to.  They couldn’t take no for an answer.  It inspires me to take my goals and run with them. 

This movie was based off a book, written by Julie herself.  I’m thinking about ordering it since books are almost always better than the movies (exception in my experience would be “A Walk to Remember”…Nicholas Sparks can’t write sorry)  and I like reading about other people’s lives and see how they influenced the world.  Julie has a blog which I posted on.  Check it out. 

Green Tea

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I felt like such a bum today and I knew I had to do something about those blueberries that were sitting in my fridge.  It was a huge box and I didn’t want to make jam again so I already made some recently.  I couldn’t stand baking them into anything as I wanted to preserve their fresh taste and not bake ’em up with sugar.  I finally came across something that I felt like making and was really simple.  It’s a simple smoothie but used green tea as the liquid.  I love green tea so I decided to give it a try.  The original recipe calls for 6 bags of green tea in 1 1/2 cups of water but I use loose leaves for my green tea that I usually get imported.  Also, it says to use frozen fruit but I had fresh on hand. 

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Blueberry Green Tea Smoothie (from here)

1 banana

2 cups blueberries

3 tbs honey (I eyeballed it, sweeten to your taste)

1 1/2 cups green tea (using 2 tsp of loose leaves)

In a blender, whirl all ingredients until it’s a smooth consistency.  Garnish with fresh blueberries or some mint.  Serve chilled. 

Makes about 3 glasses (1 cup servings)

I really liked this because it was easy and I didn’t have to pay $4 for it.  I think I’ll try making different variations of this smoothie and take it with me when I go out as a light drink/snack. 

Lately there’s been a lot of rap on green tea as being really healthy.  The Chinese have been using it for medicinal uses in ancient times.  They used it to help cure different diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cancer, arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases.  It has also been said that it increases metabolism and fat oxidation due to it’s high oxidation content.  It is also processed very little, only withered and steamed, unlike other teas that might be fermented. 

With the influence of Western Medicine, we’ve lost the common knowledge of ancient times where people weren’t chronically sick and used simple treatments to cure their ailments.  It’s nice to see some Eastern medicine creeping in.

A Lil Nibble

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I wanted to welcome my foodie friend to the food blogesphere who just recently started her own food blog.  We’ve baked quite a few times together and very often get lost in food-talk, always exchanging ideas and tips.  Check out the blog, A Lil Nibble, it’s got great notes and tips. 

I’ve come to disliking eating things that come packaged in a box and I tryto avoid eating those items but I thought it was a waste of time to make your own pancake mix.  Bisquick makes it so easy, just add water!  Plus, when the pancake-maker in the house would make them from scratch, they would come out flat.  The best pancakes are nice and fluffy, like IHOPs.  I was converted just this past week into making my own pancakes.  I was at a friends place and they were going out of town.  I was helping them clean out their fridge and they had a pints worth of buttermilk.  I headed over to google to see what I could possibly make with that much buttermilk and common household ingredients.  I found a couple of recipes for buttermilk pancakes and thought they would go great with the strawberry jam that I had just brought over.  They turned out sooo scrumptiously fluffy (make sure you have good baking powder that’s not old) that I made them again at home a few days later with some fresh blueberries.  They were definitely a crowd pleaser.  

Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 tbs sugar

1 cup (or 1/2 pint) butter milk

3 tbs melted butter + extra butter for cooking

1 egg

1/2 cup fresh blueberries (optional)

Melt the butter either stove top or microwave.  I did mine in the microwave in 5 sec increments.  In a bowl mix the buttermilk, butter, and egg.  Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.  Mix with a spatula just until combined.  (They key to having fluffy pancakes are not over mixing the batter.) In a small nonstick frying pan, melt a little bit of butter, about a quarter of a tablespoon or less.  It just has to slightly grease the pan.  Pour in the amount of batter to desired size.  Once little bubbles appear on the top, flip over the pancake.  Cook for 30 sec-1 min more and transfer to a plate.  Repeat till all batter is finished.  Enjoy with syrup, jam, or whipping cream.

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There was also a block of sharp cheddar in the fridge that needed to be put to good use to I decided to make some lunch by making some homemade mac and cheese.  Now I’ve only used Alton Brown’s recipe for my mac and cheese but I’m not really satisfied with it.  It probably needs some tweaking by using a combination of cheeses and not just sharp cheddar.  I just would like to have the sauce to be covering the pasta rather than being so segregated. 

Alton Brown’s Mac and Cheese

1/2 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

3 cups milk

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large egg

12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh black pepper

Preheat over to 350 F.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika (making sure the whole time your whisking the mixture to avoid clumping). Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. (to temper the egg, beat an egg in a small bowl.  Add some of the mixture of the sauce into the egg and mix.  The reason for this is if you put the egg straight in, you;ll get chunks of egg since it’ll cook it right away.  Tempering the egg brings the eggs temperature closer to the sauces to avoid cooking into an egg) Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

<Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.>  <—Optional ( I skipped this step)

Egg Pudding (sans caramel sauce)

4 eggs

1 cup milk

3 tbs brown sugar

pinch of saffron

Preheat over to 300 F. Beat the eggs together in a bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and pour into a small casserole dish 1-2 qts.  Bake for about 15 min until the mixture is soft and tender to the touch or by inserting a toothpick and having it come out clean. 

What to do with rotting bananas?  Make Banana Bread!  This recipe is from CulinaryConcoctions and when I was first getting into the food blogesphere, I was ADDICTED to her site.  Whatever I made from her always turned out great and her recipe for banana bread is the best I’ve had so far.  The graham flour gives it a significant texture and bight that I don’t think other recipes would be able to give you.  You can reduce the sugar to your liking but it’s never been a dessert-ish bread.  Go crazy and add nuts and flaxseeds to it to make it a little bit for hearty. 

Banana Bread (by CulinaryConcoctions)

1/3 cup shortening(don’t use butter or butter flavored shortening…it isn’t the same in this recipe)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup graham flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 cup or more of chopped walnuts (I leave this out :0)

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl cream together the shortening and sugars. Add the eggs and beat well. Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt, baking powder and add to creamed mixture. Stir until mixed. Stir in bananas and walnuts.
Pour into well greased(and lightly floured) 9X5X3? pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until done.