Hodge Podge Kitchen

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Coconut-Pineapple Cupcake

I was planning on making these last week for IMBB #13. Stuff happened and well, I ended up making these for a potluck at work this week instead. I'm quite excited about it since I mostly "created" this recipe. Mostly due to the fact that I do have a basic recipe as reference. These came out really moist and very strong coconut taste. For those who likes coconut, this one is good to try.

Coconut-Pineapple Cupcakes
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted with flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup dried coconut
1/2 cup canned pineapple chunks, cut into small dices and well drained
Preheat oven to 375F. Whip egg whites with a couple tablespoons of the sugar until soft peaks form. In a separate mixing bowl, whip butter with the rest of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the butter; mix in the coconut milk next. Add the flour and baking powder to the butter/egg mixture. Finally, fold in the egg whites, coconut, and pineapple. Line a standard size muffin/cupcake pan with paper liner. Fill each to about 3/4 full. (I got about 15 cupcakes out of the batter.) Bake for 30 minutes.
Pineapple Glaze/Coconut Topping
1/2 cup dried coconut
1/8 cup pineapple juice (from the canned pineapple)
1 cup powder sugar
After the cupcake is cool, toast dried coconut in a dry skillet until golden brown. Mix pineapple juice with the powder sugar until smooth. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the glaze on top of each cupcake and sprinkle the toasted coconut on top.
(One note on the coconut, I got the dried coconut at an Asian market and the texture is a lot drier that the usual kind you get at the supermarket. It's almost crispy with no sugar added. So if you are not using the kind I did, make sure to get the ones that's not sweetened.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Easter Diner

Easter traditionally involves a big meal (usually brunch) with family (usually involving ham...This is where I admit - I don't really like ham. I know, it's almost un-American). This is none of those things. I spent Easter with my wife's family and we had a laid back afternoon eating a lot of pretty good food (yes, ham was involved). Afterwards, we had an egg hunt at home with the girls (indoors, thanks a torrid rainstorm). My wife's immediate family came over and I decided to try and make a quick and light dinner for everyone. It's all easy, fast, and star studded...Did anyone catch that Food Network special where they cater these people's wedding. Well Food Network catered my Easter...kind of:

Bacon and Eggs Coal Miner's Pasta by Rachael Ray - A family favorite. I make this semi regularly and everyone that have tried it seem to like it.

Chicken Marsala by Tyler Florence - My wife likes this a lot...of course I don't actually have Marsala wine. You're lucky I had some red wine on hand. It was still good. I particularly like the pounding of the chicken.

Rosemary and Ham Scones by Rachael Ray - The only dish that I never tried before, but hard to mess up. I spared the green things so my kids would eat it.Posted by Hello

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Tale of Two Sauces: Part 2

Pumpkin Mushroom Sauce
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (low salt, 98% fat free)
1/2 can milk
1/2 can chicken stock
1/4 lb ground pork
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
Saute onions and garlic with a little olive oil until soft. Add the ground pork and saute until brown. Add the canned soup, milk and chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Dinner #1 Baked Rice with Tomato
Cook 1 cup of rice in your choice of method. (I used my rice cooker.) Cut 1 pint of cherry tomatoes in halves, toss with a little oil and salt and bake in an oven at 400F for about 30 minutes. Layer a baking dish with rice on bottom, top with cherry tomatoes, and top with half the sauce on top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Put the dish back in the oven under broiler until the top is golden brown and bubbly.

Dinner #2 Pumpkin Mushroom Pasta
Cook 2 cups of dried pasta until just tender. Add fresh aspargus, red bell pepper, frozen green peas, and frozen corn the last few minutes. Drain. Mix with sauce. Adjust seasoning accordingly. Topped with chopped parsley and black pepper.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

Here's a picture from my window before the sky opened up and just started dumping water the rest of the day. Chris went snowboarding today, so I did what I always do when I'm by myself; I went shopping for fun things like towels and bed sheets (or any of the other household stuff), cleaned the house and cooked a little. The problem today is that a lot of stores are not open. So I ended up at Mollie Stone and got a bunch of treats for myself!

I can't wait to try the Drinking Chocolate from Scharffen Berger. And see, I could eat somewhat healthy when I'm by myself. (Okay, all I did was pick up a package of sushi and tear some romaine lettuce for the salad.)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Banana Stuffed French Toast

My favorite meal has got to be breakfast. Everything for breakfast is good...except the morning part. Around here, we have breakfast for dinner all the time (pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc.). I read in the food section of a newspaper that you can make french toast ahead of time and bake it in the morning. That sounded great for a lazy guy like me so before I went to bed, I went to work in the kitchen...

8 slices of bread (Thicker the better, see notes)
2-3 large ripe bananas
5 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

- Spray baking pan lightly with cooking spray.
- Lay out 4 slices of bread on the baking pan, place sliced bananas onto bread and cover with rest of bread.
- Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract and pour over bread evenly. - Carefully turn over bread and spoon mixture over the top. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully transfer toast to plate. Top with powder sugar, fresh fruit, maple syrup, or whatever you want.

Note: Of course, real french toast would use french bread. I was planning on that except that my days old french bread petrified and I almost lost a knife (it was stuck in the bread). If French bread was at hand you would simply make a cut on one side and put the bananas inside the "pocket."

It turned out pretty good. I think it could have cooked a little longer. My kids weren't such big fans, which was a surprise since they love those Eggo Waffles and French Toast sticks that we get from our store's frozen section. Ah well, what I get for trying to get fancy with them.

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Tale of Two Sauces: Part 1

I like the idea of having food prepared/ready for the work week ahead when I get the chance to cook on the weekend. An idea came to me to make a couple batches of sauces to use during the week so I don't have to start everything from scratch. I'm the type of person that will gets bored easily, and I know from past experiences that cooking a big pot of stew or something to eat for the rest of the week won't work. This way, I will have a base to built my dinners on and get different dishes out of them.
Sauce #1 Tomato-Olive Sauce
1 can tomato sauce
1 can crushed/chopped tomatoes
2 tbs capers
1/4 cup black olives
1/4 cup green olives
1/2 cup onion
1 tbs red pepper flakes
1 tbs Italian seasonings
Simmer everything together for 1 hour.

Weeknight dinner #1
I ended up also make a batch of polenta along with the sauce. My polenta recipe is 1 cup polenta, 1 cup chicken broth, 1 cup water, and 2 cups milk. Cook until creamy, then pour into a greased loaf pan. Put plastic wrap directly over the polenta and wait until cool enough to put in refrigerator. It takes about 15 minutes after work to make a nice dinner. First, you heat the oven up to 400F. Slice the polenta and line a baking dish with them. Spoon half of the tomato sauce over the polenta. Sprinkle the top with cheese (whatever you have on hand). Then you cut up two zucchini and a red bell pepper into chunks, toss with a little oil and seasoning to taste. Finally, score the chicken legs and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Put the chicken and the vegetables in another baking dish and bake everything for 30 minutes.

Weeknight dinner #2: Spaghetti and Meat(less)balls
I don't need to really post a recipe for this, do I? I have some frozen meatless meatballs that I just simmer with the sauce while the spaghetti cooks. Toss pasta in the sauce when cooked through. Sprinkle with shavings of parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Fish Tales

(Due to technical diificulties, no visual aid will be available for this one...I left my camera in Britt's purse and she was at work)

I found some time this weekend and decided to whip something up. I actually have a few things in the freezer waiting to be used when I have the time. This includes a piece of salmon filet that probably has been in the freezer a week too long. I didn't really know what to do with it since I usually have my salmon only a few ways. Raw was my favorite but that was obviously out of the question. My parents were fans of using the Foreman grill for a quick sear but I wanted something different. I browsed around for recipes and ran into the problem of not really having...well...any of the ingredients required. So like a lot of stuff that I've been making lately, I took ideas of a few recipes and made something based on what I had on hand. I decided to bake the salmon because I don't think I have ever had it that way. The salmon was skinned and sliced into two pieces and placed on foil on a baking sheet. I placed a pat of butter on each piece, season with salt and pepper and dill weed (I was surprised that I had some too. Thanks to a spice rack I got for Christmas). Diced tomatoes were placed on top and I finished it off with a squeeze of lemon juice. I tucked the thin end of the filet under to help even the cooking. It baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, when it was taken out and covered with foil for another 10 minutes to finish cooking a bit. (I kept reading about it being ready when flaked with a fork. I do not quite know what that means) It was good. I think the tomatoes helped bring flavor and combat the fishiness of my less than fresh piece of fish along with the lemon juice. I ended up eating alone though as my parents fed the girls and Britt had to leave for work. The second piece was donated to Jason so you can ask him if it was any good. Next time I'll make sure to have a picture....

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Oyster Sauce

I was watching America's Test Kitchen last weekend and they had a oyster sauce taste test. I like the fact that they mentioned one brand could have a few different versions, supposedly by the quality of the ingredients used. For example, Lee Kum Kee have 3 different quality of oyster sauce, a vegetarian version made with mushroom, and one with dried scallops. So when you go to the supermarket, you got this big selection to go through. The one they recommended is the oyster sauce with dried scallops from Lee Kum Kee. The problem I have with it? They picked one with dried scallops in it! The other ones they taste tested didn't have dried scallops. That's almost like comparing oyster sauce to abalone sauce. They both have the similar sweetness from the seafood, same consistency, and they both could be used in the same dishes. But they're not the same thing! My recommendation is the "old label" premium version of it the Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce. This is probably the same base as the one with the dried scallops but costs less. Just look for the colorful label.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

My first experiment with a cookie press (electric no less). I used a butter cookie recipe. It might be hard to tell, but there's two versions shown. One is with vanilla and the other is flavored with green tea powder. I think next time I need more green tea powder since the flavor is not quite strong enough for me. The verdit on the cookie press? I have a hard time trying to get all of them the same shape. The cleanup is kind of a hassle as well. I guess I just need more practice.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I left my stomach in San Francisco

Over the weekend, I went to my friend's birthday dinner at a local Japanese restaurant in San Luis Obispo. From the way he talked about the place, and all the rave reviews from my roommate, I was expecting to be wow-ed. But sadly, reality fell short of expectations. I'm not a connoisseur of fine japanese cuisine, or of any food for that matter, but I like to think that I'm picky enough to know good food. This dinner was. . . okay. I could have gotten much more sushi for what I paid that night back home in San Francisco. My rainbow roll was about 10 dollars whereas I can get one with about the same quality for less than 7 dollars back home. Come to thinkof it, I think everything in better back home. There are just more choices for eating out: Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, just about everything else. It's bad when I think that even the Mexican food is not good down here. Maybe I'm just homesick and not giving the fine dining of SLO a chance but I think anyone who has lived down here would agree with me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Oh sugar, sugar...

Like I mentioned previously, I've been on a little mission to use up or throw away all the old stuff in my pantry (including the refrigerator). I didn't realize the different types of sugar I have in the pantry that I find all 'essential'. I have regular granulated sugar, powder sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, large rock sugar, small rock sugar (pictured above), slab of rock sugar (pictured below), and palm sugar (also pictured below). Oh, I think I have some sugar sprinkles for cookies somewhere too!

The more common ones most people have around the house and know when to use them. Okay, so maybe I don't need more light and dark brown sugar. But the others are used often in Asian cooking. It's just not the same to make green curry without the palm sugar, I try to grate it most of the time. I do confess to just substituting brown sugar when I'm really lazy.

The large rock sugar I like to put in the dessert soup when I need a larger quantity of sugar. I also use it when I make a simple syrup. The small ones I use in savory dishes like stews and soups. The rock sugar just have a cleaner flavor to me. I also use the small ones to sweeten my ginseng tea. So as long as I use them, I could keep them all, right??

Monday, March 14, 2005

Saturday Night Fever...

(My sister is threatening to kick me off of this blog since she has been the only one to post lately. But since I haven't had the time to cook much of anything lately, I will have to take it on the road and share my food experience instead)

I had a rare opportunity to go on a date with my wife on Saturday night. It's not so much that we can't find a babysitter. My parents are usually happy to take the girls and stuff them with food the whole time they are there. We just use up those chances to do other stuff, usually with other people or something not so romantic like shopping. We were going to go to a comedy show but there wasn't anyone in town that we were really excited about so we just went out to dinner in the City instead. We have a friend that we met in San Jose who moved to Morocco to teach. Since then Britt has wanted to go try Moroccan food and this was a great opportunity to find a place. We settled on a place on Geary Blvd. called Aziza. It turned out to be a little fancier than we had intended I think, but the atmosphere was cool. We ended up eating pretty light and shared an appetizer of toasted goat cheese with a tomato compote, followed by sharing a baked meat pie called a bastila. It was delicious. It's basically chicken with a lot of fragant Middle Eastern spices inside a flaky pastry with sugar and cinnamon on top. I would love to try some of their other stuff in a future...maybe someone's birthday or something....

Since we kept it light we went out looking for dessert. I had always wanted to try this crepes place in Japantown. You can get both savory and dessert fillings in your crepes and they are quite popular. After finally deciding on a banana and nutella filling (Nutella is a popular choice and I don't think I've ever had the stuff. If it was good enough for Kobe Bryant...) We endured the wait. The line wasn't long at all but there is basically one lady making two crepes at a time so a crowd forms around the counter with their numbers. Luckily watching her make the thing is fascinating so it made the wait much easier. Britt got a kiwi and whipped cream with a scoop of ice cream (pictured). We both enjoyed it very much. It was a lovely evening spent both with my wife and with new food experiences...

(btw, since we started a French theme, we went home to watch Casablanca just to keep the mood. Then we french kissed, and then......)Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Sunday Breakfast

It's nice to be at home on Sunday. It doesn't happen often enough, since we end up having dim sum with my parents a lot of times. But when I am at home, I like to make a nice breakfast. This is my twist on toast and egg. The idea came from a magazine I was flipping though. (I'll let you know which one as soon as I find the article.) I rolled a piece of bread until it is flat and condensed (I don't want the egg to soak through too much). The bowl shape is achieved by putting it in a muffin tin or custard cup. Spray a little cooking spray on the bread. Crack an egg in it (add salt and pepper!) and bake at 350F for around 30 minutes. While the egg is baking, I cook the potatoes and sausages. That's it! Not very difficult at all and it sure looks pretty. Here's another version with corn tortilla instead of bread that was actually made according to that magazine article.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What's hidden in your pantry?

I had a craving for gelatin dessert one day. All I could find is a box of musk melon custard mix. I'm not talking about the creamy custard here, this stuff is really more like jello. Now I have no idea where that came from or how long it had been in my pantry. Since I'm on a little mission to clean up my pantry, I went ahead and prepare it according to direction. The result? They look alright, as shown in the picture. But it taste really, really gross. I ended up throwing the rest of it out. The moral of the story? If you find something in your pantry and you don't know how it get there, it's probably better to throw it out.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Rice Cake

I realize that this picture really doesn't do the dish justice, so you just have to take my words that it taste better than it looks. Be as it may, rice cake is a common food related to Chinese New Year. I was reminded of it when I read the article in the San Francisciso Chronicle about a month ago. My grandmother used to make the sweet variety every year. Since I'm not usually a sweets person, I was much more interested in using the plain rice cake in a savory dish. This stir fry consisted of thinly sliced pork, canned preserved cabbage (which explains the color of the dish), a little fresh spinach, and garlic. The rice cakes were packaged in plastic. Actually, when you take them out of the package, they feel like plastic. A couple of minutes in boiling water will soften them up enough to stir fry with basically anything you would put in a chow mein noodle dish. I added a big dab of chili garlic sauce on top just like what I do with noodles.