Monday, June 29, 2009

sushi soup

You’ve got to love the palate and vocabulary of a 4 year old. When they taste something they don’t like it’s written all over their faces and when they speak, they speak the truth. So when she described the dressing for my Thai chicken salad as “sushi soup” I realized that it was a pretty accurate description. What I love about this dish are the cool noodles and the crisp flavors of the mint and fish sauce (aka sushi soup). Topped with a grilled chicken breast, it makes a wonderful summer meal. Hope you enjoy it.

Thai Chicken and Mint Noodle Salad (adapted from Off the Shelf, Donna Hay)

7oz rice noodles
2 chicken breasts
1c shredded mint
4c thinly sliced bok choy
2Tbl fish sauce
1Tbl soy sauce
2Tbl sugar
3Tbl lime juice

Place noodles in boiling water and take off the heat. Allow them to stand for 5-10 minutes (follow package directions, they vary). Drain noodles under cold water.
Grill chicken breasts.
Combine dressing ingredients and toss with noodles, mint and bok choy.
Slice chicken breasts and serve on top of the noodles.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Over the weekend I made a birthday cake for my friend Kimberley (whose birthday is today). She's a summer solstice baby, born on the cusp, just at the peak of strawberry picking time, so I had a pretty good idea of the direction I'd be going with this one.

I decided to experiment with this cake as a tribute to Kimmie since Kimmie has always been something of an "experimental" cook herself. She's been known to make New Years' omelets, tossing raw chicken into the egg scramble, if fond of corn and will eat bowls and
bowls of it, alone, for dinner. She likes canned tuna on her pizza and corn in her green salads. She is, for lack of a better word, unique, in her tastes and ambitions. This is exactly why I love her.

I started with a recipe for White Cake that I've made for Jo's birthday, and for mine. The trick to this recipe is sifting, lots of sifting, plus the omission of eggs in favor of a meringue made with egg whites and sugar. I made just a few minor alterations to the recipe, upping the amount of salt (by 1/4 teaspoon) and, inadvertently, the amount of butter (by 1/4 cup) and decreased the almond extract to 1/4 teaspoon. Then I spilled the almond extract all over the counter. It smelled gooooood. To compensate for the extra butter, I added 1/4 cup of extra milk, which made the batter look cake-y once again.

When I asked Kimmie what kind of cake she'd like for her birthday, she gave me a list that included items as disparate as cheesecake and angel food cake. Fresh fruit was also on the list. Since Kimmie is on of my most long-standing drinking buddies, I knew she'd appreciate the crux of my "experiment": adding a layer of strawberries macerated in apricot jam, lemon juice and zest, and a cocktail called a "beautiful"--equal parts cognac and grand marnier. It just seemed fitting. For she is one of
the most beautiful people I know.

The result was, well, experimental. The cake part was not as light and airy as I'd wanted it to be, and had the slightly bitter hint of the baking powder I'd used in the batter. The icing was also meringue, and reminded me a little of light marshmallow cream. Not ideal for this cake, but pretty to behold. And the macerated strawberries in "beautiful"? VERY juicy, and when in contact with the icing, I quickly discovered, created a lovely pink oozy mess.

But I persevered, frosting and glopping and piling and fixing, and finally draining off much of the liquor-y liquid into a bowl to use for later. I used sliced strawberries to create a crown and hide my mistakes. Then I made a strawberry cream (macerated strawberry juice, a pint of whipping cream and a good dose of powdered sugar) in the blender to drizzle over after slicing.

If you'd like to duplicate my experiment, by all means, go ahead and try. It's not likely to happen, but here are the recipes. I, for one, will go on perfecting my cake-baking skills, and go on loving the birthday girl just the way she is.

Beautiful Strawberry Cake a la Kimberley (based on this recipe)

White Cake Layers
2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
1 1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Measure sifted flour, baking powder, and salt; sift together three times.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually, and continue beating only until meringue will hold up in soft peaks.

3. Cream butter or margarine. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Mix in flavorings. Add meringue, and beat thoroughly into batter. Spread batter in a 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan which has been lined on the bottom with parchment paper.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. This cake may also be baked in two 9 inch round pans for 30 to 35 minutes, or in three 8 inch round pans for 25 to 30 minutes.

Macerated Strawberry Layer
2 cups sliced strawberries
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
sugar (optional, to taste, depending on sweetness of berries)
1 teaspon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce grand marnier
1/2 ounce cogac

Mix together and refrigerate, covered, for at least an hour and up to 8 hours.

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Place cream of tartar and egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.

Combine 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring mixture frequently, and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, for 2 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 238°. Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed until stiff peaks form. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.

Place a dollop of icing on a plate and place first cake layer atop. Spread cake layer with 2 cups icing. Arrange Macerated Strawberries in an even layer on top off icing. Top with the remaining cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries.

It was good.

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Bread (adapted from this recipe in Bon Appetit)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup yoghurt

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini

1 1/2 cups grated peeled sweet potato

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Sift first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Beat sugar, oil, yoghurt, eggs and vanilla in large bowl until foamy. Mix in zucchini and sweet potato. Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons brown sugar.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Cut around bread to loosen. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and let stand at room temperature. Freezes well, too.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

butter your own bagel

Like in most families, we have a kid that is a "picky eater". So, when my husband asked her at dinner, "If you could pick anything to have for dinner, what would you pick?" I got an idea. I sat down with her the next day and asked her if she would like to pick what we ate for diner one night that week. She was thrilled and started throwing out ideas even before I got a pen out. We brainstormed, we (I) edited, we picked a night, we shopped, and we cooked. Here's the menu:

Tomato Salad
Corn on the Cob
Strawberry Shortcake

I was happy to see that it was a simple, well balanced menu.

Next was the cooking. I have to say that I have ulterior motives when I have my kids cook with me. Yes, I’m flattered that my kids want to do what I’m doing. Yes, I want them to think cooking is fun. But, sometimes I would also like my kids to realize just how much work goes into making a meal, and would like my kids to learn how to be self-sufficient in the kitchen some day, what one friend calls “buttering your own bagel”.

I was amazed at how much the girls were able to contribute, remember they are 2 & 4. They shucked corn, put it in a pot, carried the pot to the sink, filled the pot with water, and put the lid on the pot. Then, they washed lettuce in a bowl of water, put it in the salad spinner, spun the lettuce, and ripped it into smaller pieces. So, the kitchen floor was covered in corn silk and the kids were wet. Luckily for all of us, they lost interest as I was about to loose my patience. In the end, it’s the small successes I’m striving for. She was so proud to tell her dad about her dinner menu when he got home and she cleaned her plate.

too much of a good thing

I have an issue with food, akin to what other women have with say shoes or dresses. Sometimes, I see that thing and it speaks to me, "Take me home with you." And, I can't resist. I have the hardest time in the spring. Just as the weather is warming up, beautiful, fresh, crisp veggies are reappearing at the grocery store and farmers market. The sprite cousins of the sad, soggy stand-ins of winter that have traveled thousands of miles in refrigerated trucks.

So, this is how it came to be that I found in my veggie drawer snow peas, snap peas, and English peas. What's a girl to do? Well, this is what we did. My daughters (2yrs & 4yrs) shelled the English peas and had a blast chasing after the runaway peas. I roughly chopped the snow and snap peas. I tossed it all into a saute pan with some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. To me that's the beauty of fresh ingredients. You don't have to fuss over it or cover it up with lots of other flavors. (which reminds me of a
PSA from when we were younger). I served the 3Ps with a broiled Mandarin flank steak, recipe to follow, which cooks up in 8-10 minutes. A meal inspired by an impulse buy, cooked up in less than 30 minutes, and without any buyer’s remorse.

Broiled Mandarin Flank Steak (marinade from Weber's Real Grilling)
2/3 C orange juice
1/4 C soy sauce
2 Tbl vegetable oil
2 Tbl minced garlic
2 tsp hot chili-garlic sauce, such as sriracha
1.5 lbs flank steak

Combine marinade ingredients in a large freezer bag. Add steak and refrigerate for a couple of hours. When you are ready to cook, remove the steak and pat dry. Place on an oiled broiler pan and under the broiler for about 4 minutes per side. Let it rest for 5 minutes before you slice into it, against the grain

Thursday, June 18, 2009

apple and prune puree: asking for seconds

I smell like poop.

Kasper woke up right in the middle of me posting this post and recipes, so I set him down on the carpet with some toys and went back to business at hand. I heard a few grunts, smelled something "earthy," and a minute later I turned around to find him with a fistful of poo in each hand, moving one hand toward his mouth. Poo had oozed out of his diaper and was smeared on the carpet, on his belly, on... everywhere.

Don't worry, I cleaned myself, Kasper, the carpet, the tub, everywhere, about four times, all the while with the timer for my Zucchini Sweet Potato Bread going off (recipe to follow if it turns out). But the smell lingers.

Guess he liked the apple and prune puree I made him yesterday so much he went back for seconds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hej Kris.
Soft pink pepperballs are those small red pepper balls you can sometimes find for in the peppermeal, but not dried, fresh.


Salad with chicken, grapefruit and mintsauce

Ingredients (for 4 persons) :1 iceberg lettuce, cut in small pieces
600 gr chicken filet, cut in small pieces
Olive oil
4 pink grapefruits, cleaned, cut in pieces without any peal
4 tablespoons soft pink pepperballs
6 tablespoons fresh estragon, cut in small pieces
Salt and pepper

For the mint sauce :6 tablespoons low fat yoghurt
6 tablespoons mayonaise
4 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons lemonjuce
10 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, cut in small pieces
Salt and pepper
How to make it:
Bake the chicken in the wok with olive oil.Add salt and pepper and the estragon.
Mix all the ingredients for the sause.
Mix the iceberg lettuce with the grapefruit and the chicken and put the pink pepperballs over it.Serve the sauce seperate to the salad.

ready, set, swap

Like the title suggests, this blog is a space to swap recipes, ideas, commiserations, on cooking, kids, free time (or lack thereof) in and out of the kitchen.

I have another blog of my own that is mine, Mine, All MINE that is my space to share what I'm cooking. But shortly after publishing that blog, I discovered some of my friends wanted to share their recipes and photos and stories and commiserations, too. And they were getting buried in the comments.

So this is our space. To swap, to learn from each other. And, most importantly, to enjoy cooking and eating.

We hope you like what you're reading, cooking and eating.