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Sorta Italian Dinner

10 Jan

It is hard for my family to sit down and heavy a meal together. Now that I’m home for a little while, I’ve made a conscious effort to make at least one dinner a week for all, in a bid to negate all the carcasses that they put inside their bodies for the other 13 meals per week. I make all vegan meals and sometimes that doesn’t really excite the omnis so they make extra meaty stuff. We eat out at Chinese places almost exclusively, so when I bought polenta / corn grits at the fancy supermarket one day, I decided to make it an Italian night.

Polenta was made by sauteing 1 diced onion, garlic and pepper, before adding in 2 cups of corn grit with 5 cups of broth and 1 cup of soy milk. Simmer on low-medium heat, stirring constantly (!!!!!) until it is thick and most of the water has been absorbed. Your arms should ache after 30 minutes. Transfer to a cling wrap-lined baking tray to cool for at least an hour. It will harden and taste frickin’ good even when cold. Slice and pan fry until golden brown before serving.

Red wine mushrooms was easy (and lazy). Quarter some swiss brown, portobello, etc., and toss them in a heated oiled pan with some minced garlic. I also added hojimeishi mushrooms. When they are nice and brown, pour in some red wine where it just covers the surface of the pan, or more. Let it bubble away and when most of it has evaporated, throw in a pinch of S&P and chopped parsley. Stir around until it has just wilted and serve.

And there was a try of roasted vegetables – pumpkin, potatoes, onion, carrots and beet. I tossed mine in some balsamic vinegar when they were just out of the pan. I need to find better ways to dress my roast. And ways to cook a beet because it is certainly not a Chinese vegetable that I’m familiar with!

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Happy 2011!

6 Jan

HAPPY 2011!

Of all the silly resolutions that I plan to keep such as:

1. Eat right – focus on health
2. Less fluid time
3. Discipline – sleeping, waking and working

The last one seems to be the hardest. It also involves being disciplined enough to write my posts quite close to when the actual event occurred. Not weeks or month *hangs head in shame* after, when I have close to recollection of said event until flipping through pictures in the camera. 😛 Also, that is the Rilakkuma oven mitts that I got for Christmas, along with a million other Rilakkuma goodies.

I purchased the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook back in the Fall of 2009 while I was in Chicago. But I didn’t bring the book back to Melbourne with me in 2010 so had not tried many recipes. Finally got down to doing so when I selected three dishes to make for our weekly family dinner (that my parents would actually eat). I ran out of time so ended up with 2, and saved the third for lunch the next day. Easy peasy.

Roasted Cauliflower and Wilted Spinach Salad (p212) was absolutely delicious, the recommended serving of 4 was enough to feed 8 when paired with one or two sides. Leftovers was enjoyed cold the next day; I will make this for my school bentos for sure. Dad being my dad, left the raw spinach leaves untouched; he likes his veggies cooked through. I think roasted cauliflower is a bit underrated, this needs to go into future roasts more often!

Chipotle Basil Corn Chowder (p171) was also a hit! As usual, the portion was so generous that I had soup for my next two lunches. It was so hearty and was a breeze to cook. It asked for 3 cups of fresh sweet corn, and I had to take 3 breaks between slicing the kernels off the cob because it was that painful for me. I hate doing such boring crap, but it seems like the extra work paid off, the chowder required a bit more salt than stated to balance out the sweetness. But if you’re pressed for time, then dump a bag of frozen corn into the pot anyway. Perfect with some crusty homemade bread.

Sugar and Spice Snap Peas (p111) was a cinch to make, but the sweetness in the sauce was a bit odd for me. I mixed it up with both snow and snap peas, and added some sesame oil in the sauce. The addition of chilli flakes in a sort of Chinese dish with soy sauce was also strange, I might try this again with chilli sauce instead, minus the agave.

words@random recently received this book and had a positive review of the Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta. I might make this soon!

5 Minute Artisan Bread

22 Nov

One of the things that I’ve always wanted to make was bread. I have only every tried cinnamon scrolls 5 years ago, and I don’t quite remember how they taste like now. ‘cept it was also the day that I got into my very first car accident after getting my license. Thank goodness it was also minor and let off the hook after shoving $300 in that guy’s hands. It probably didn’t even cost that much to have those scratches fixed. If you’ve read this far and happen to know of workshops that do good paint touch-up jobs at reasonable prices, please tell me. Preferable asap too.

Making bread sounds like the most dreadful thing in the world. So much prep. So much waiting. Really, if I want bread, I’d prefer not to knead for ages. And then I came across the 5 Minute Artisan Bread Recipe. Best thing ever. I have pictorial evidence. Continue reading

Flourless Peanut Butter Alligators

12 Nov

Alligators are awesome, as demonstrated in this video. *pauses to watch video 10x*

ANYWAY, peanut butter. also awesome. Put them together, and you get A.W.E.S.O.M.E. I know my recipient was very pleased with these alligators, despite them flying across the ocean and arriving only 7 days later. But if yours don’t require travelling, then I’m not sure if you’ll have any left at the end of a week. The recipe doesn’t make many cookies, so double the recipe if you must and buy the largest jar of peanut butter on the shelf. Then you can make yourself triple batches. and share.

Flourless Peanut Butter Alligators
via Have Cake Will Travel

1 cup (256 g) crunchy peanut butter, or any nut butter
1/4 cup (84 g) light agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 egg replacers
1/4 cup (48 g) raw castor sugar

Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C, or gas mark 2). Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, such as Silpat.
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and stir well for about a minute.
Divide dough in about 1/4 cup (66 g) portions, to get 6 cookies of equal size. Flatten with your hand almost as much as you want your cookies, as these won’t spread much while baking. or squish them flat and cut out with cookie cutter.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. If your cookies are puffy on top, use a spoon and tap gently to flatten them.
Let cool on baking sheet until firm enough to transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Dumplings and Wontons

11 Nov

There’s something so magical about these little parcels of tofu and mushroom goodness. Paired with lots of starch goodness on the outside and salty soy sauce, dumplings and wontons are definitely up there on my list of comfort food on a weekday night. They are incredibly easy to make, and look splendid once cooked. Everyone thinks you’re an amazing chef when you make some. Gather a group of friends, prepare the ingredients beforehand, sit at the table with some good tunes as you keep the conversation flowing, and wrap these little yummy things with your nimble fingers. You’ll be nomming on these in no time. May I also recommend frying a batch when a plate’s been filled up? You do need fuel to keep you going…

1. Gather your ingredients and cube everything!

2. Season generously! And I mean it! Then let this sit for 15 minutes as you lay your table with newsprint. No mess to clean up later!

3. Now put a teaspoon of filling in the middle of your wrapper. You don’t want to be too greedy. Exploding dumplings are not unheard/unseen of. Not speaking from personal experience.

4. Wrap! There are a few methods of doing so. I use the pea pod method as demonstrated here. My aunt’s a CHAMP at dumpling making. She taught me how to wrap them. Instead of making folds across in one direction, stop halfway and start folding from the opposite end, so that they meet in the center. Dust a plate with flour before placing dumplings.

I had 7 dumpling wrappers and so wontons with the rest of the filling. In this instance, use the “half moon” wrap as shown in the link above. I made 34 of them. Freeze the extras for a no fuss dinner.

Now that the hard work’s been done, there are a number of cooking options. Boil, steam or panfry the dumplings; deep-fry or boil the wontons.

The trick to panfrying dumplings is to add 1/4 cup of water into your pan after the bottoms had browned and put the lid on, allowing the insides to cook without burning the base.

Cook some broth and pop about 6 -8 dumplings in for a super comforting soup as you watch another episode of The Office.

Dumplings and Wontons
Ingredients:
300g of firm tofu, cubed
6 large dried mushrooms, soaked and cubed
2 large spring onions, sliced thinly

1 packet of dumpling or wonton wrappers

Seasoning:
5 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs dark soy sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
1/2 tsp ground white pepper (I know most people don’t seem to favour this, so reduce as required)

Dipping Sauce:
Soy sauce and sliced ginger or chilli sauce

Season tofu, mushrooms and spring onions for 15 minutes. Reserve mushroom liquid for broth. Add 1 tbs of liquid if season is running a bit low.

To panfry: Well grease a non-stick pan and place dumplings neatly and heat pan over large flame. As it starts sizzling, reduce to medium and watch as the bottoms start browning. When bottoms are firm, add a 1/4 cup of water and place lid on. Once most liquid has evaporated, remove lid and serve when skins are soft. You can flip it on one side and fry that too.

To make wonton soup: Bring about 2 cups of broth and reserved and strained mushroom liquid and handful of goji berries to a boil and add 1 chopped carrot and some mushrooms. When carrots are soft, plonk in wontons and cook for 5 minutes will skins are translucent. Throw in green leafy vegetables like choy sum and baby boy choy if you have on hand. This will also make a good meal if you put in some noodles. Serve with thinly sliced spring onions or coriander.

To make dipping sauce: Mix soy sauce and thinly sliced ginger together. I prefer mixing soy sauce and chilli sauce.

我爱饺子!

Lemon Snickerdoodles

10 Nov

This is me making a comeback into the blogging world, post TAFE-stress. I can’t believe that it’s been 9 months since I first started school. I had initial plans to make some snickerdoodles because that name is funny. Yes I made it because it had a funny name. It’s essentially a plain butter cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar. Simple. Cinnamon Sugar Cookies… boring! Snickerdoodles? Awesome. Lemon Snickerdoodles? WIN! These were popular at the derby game on Saturday, end-of-semester luncheon on Sunday and TAFE submission day on Monday. A hint of lemony goodness on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside and an all-over cinnamon goodness.

Lemony Snickerdoodles
adapted from Vegetarian Times

Cookie Dough
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 stick (4 oz.) vegan margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vanilla soymilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cinnamon Sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 Tbs. ground cinnamon

Lemon Icing
Juice of 3/4 lemon, zest of 1
1/4 c icing sugar
1.5 tbs hot water

1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line or grease one baking sheet.
2. To make Cookie Dough: Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and baking powder in bowl.
3. Beat margarine in separate bowl with electric mixer until soft. Add sugar, and beat until fluffy. Beat in soymilk and vanilla extract 30 seconds or until smooth. Add flour mixture, and beat 30 seconds or until smooth.
4. To make Cinnamon Sugar: Combine sugar and cinnamon on large plate.
5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in Cinnamon Sugar, and place 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly and make criss-cross marks with fork. Bake 12 minutes, or until cookies look dry on tops and are lightly browned on bottoms. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Store in airtight container. (Mine were bigger so were less brown when cooked, which was nice and fluffy after 15 minutes!)
6. To make lemon icing: Whisk together all ingredients and adjust the consistency by adding more icing sugar or water for a thicker/runnier icing. Dollop on cooled cookies before topping with more cinnamon sugar.

Weeknight congee dinner

1 Sep

Brown rice congee with carrots
//Simmer brown rice, water and carrots until softened.

Stir-fried gai choy, black fungus and mushrooms in a mixture of fermented beancurd and oyster sauce.
//Fry some minced garlic, black fungus and mushrooms for 3 minutes. // Toss in vegetables, fry and another minute. // Mix 1 cube of fermented beancurd, 3 tbs oyster sauce and a bowl of water, add into wok, put on lid, and simmer until liquid has reduced (uncover lid if there’s still too much liquid). // Season with rice wine and white pepper.

It’s September! Just 2.5 months to summer vacation!