Saturday, December 29, 2012

Caribbean Meatloaf

Finals are over.  Way over.  Finally.  After Christmas with families, and time with friends, I'm ready to write another post.  I miss talking about food here.  I've been getting my kicks by discussing it in conversations, but I have been eagerly awaiting my return to this medium of communication.

So let's talk about meatloaf.  I only really had it once, when I was young.  There was lots of ketchup involved, and I really liked it.  But my mom never made it.  I decided to try making some recently, but of course I couldn't make any regular meatloaf.  Caribbean Meatloaf sounds way more exciting.  Can I get an amen?  Cilantro makes everything better, first of all, and we wanted it spicy and as delicious as possible.  Caribbean cooking usually provides all of those things.

Please share if you have other ways to jazz up meatloaf!

This particular recipe is gluten free (if you get gluten free oats), and does not contain milk (It's almost paleo-friendly, but I bet these bottled sauces and chutneys have some processed stuff in them.)

I started with this recipe:  Then I modified it a bit.  Meaning quite a bit.  Matt and I ate it all week for dinner, and it was filling and delightful.  This is one recipe that even after eating for a week, neither of us was tired of it.

Changes to the online recipe included adding MUCH more cilantro, and nixing the onions.  I'm not into that.  I nixed the pineapple too, because we didn't want it sweet.


-5 lbs ground beef
-1 cup old fashioned oats (Make sure it's gluten free if you're avoiding gluten.  Trader Joe's oatmeal is gluten free, fyi.  I just love Aldi's price for oatmeal, so I buy it there even if it's not gluten free)
-1 egg
-1/2 cup mayonnaise
-2 tbsp soy sauce (original recipe called for worcestershire, but we didn't have any)
-3 jalapenos, seeds removed, minced
-1 bunch cilantro, chopped
-4 tbsp coriander chutney (less if you want less heat - this has serranos in it.  You can find this at international foods stores in the Indian section.)
-1 tsp cayenne pepper
-5 garlic cloves, minced
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp powdered mint (or fresh if you like)
-2 tbsp caribbean jerk seasoning
-1 cup coconut milk (full fat)
-pickapeppa sauce (for serving.  Seriously this stuff is the best.  I also recommend pouring it over cream cheese and eating it with crackers until it's all gone.)


-Heat oven to 350 degrees.
-Combine the oats, coconut milk, egg, soy sauce, jerk seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt, mint, coriander chutney, and mayonnaise in a bowl until  well combined.  Let this mixture sit a few minutes so that the moisture soaks into the oats.
-Combine the meat with the jalapenos, garlic, and cilantro.
-Add the wet mixture to the meat mixture and mix lightly, but thoroughly.
-Shape the meatloaf into a large casserole dish (glass worked well for us).
-Bake 1 and 1/2 hours, checking on it after the first hour.  Continue cooking until the center of the loaf reaches 160 degrees (I recommend a meat thermometer.  Alternatively, you can keep cutting sections to see if it's pink.  We don't want pink meat - unless you got good quality stuff).
-Let it stand 5 minutes before slicing (for some reason)
-Slice and serve with pickapeppa sauce (this stuff is like a caribbean worcestershire.  Yum.)

I hope you all enjoy this.  As always, feel free to tweak it to your own tastes!  I'd love to hear how you all get creative in the kitchen!  And I also recommend using what you have!  Don't worry about having every single ingredient. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Monster Oatmeal

It's been a while.  Nice to be back!  School and work have been crazy, but we won't get into that.

This past Sunday I came up with a new yummy breakfast (an easy and cheap one too!).

Have you all ever had monster cookies?  Oatmeal, M&Ms, Peanut butter....yum.
Well I took that idea and transferred it to a gooey bowl of oatmeal.
Matt loved it and specifically requested it this morning.

This recipe also includes a super quick way to make oatmeal in the morning.  Just add boiled water (via a tea kettle) to a bowl of uncooked oats, with, sugar, butter, whatever you are using.  Cover with a lid or plate and let it soak in for a couple of minutes.

This method also makes the oats more chewy and less mushy - so good!


1/2 - 3/4 cup Old Fashioned Oats
1 tbsp Hot Cocoa Powdered Mix
1 tbsp Peanut Butter
1 tsp Sugar (optional)
1/8 tsp Salt - a pinch
Boiling water


Heat water in a stovetop kettle (or in a pot is fine too).
While the water is heating, combine the other ingredients in a bowl (one that can withstand heat).
When the kettle whistles, pour hot water into the bowl to the level where it just covers the oats.
Stir well (especially the peanut butter).
Cover with a plate or a lid and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
Eat up!

This recipe is gluten free (if you use gluten free oats).
You can make it dairy free if you use cocoa powder instead of a hot cocoa mix (the mixes usually have powdered milk in them).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Spiked Hot Chocolate

    My husband Matt loves good quality things that taste good.  I love good quality things that taste good as well, but I do not like to pay good quality prices sometimes.  This evening I made hot chocolate, spiked with brandy, and I was able to get it tasting rich by using very simple and thrifty ingredients.

     I started with Swiss Miss instant hot chocolate and added a bit of cocoa powder to it, along with boiling water and a shot of brandy.  Topped with whipped cream, sprinkled with nutmeg and cinnamon, this was delicious.  Matt loved it.  The taste was very rich and chocolate-y, and not too sweet.

     This was a perfect solution to our state of mind of "I want something delicious but don't want to pay $20 for us to go out for spiked hot chocolate."  It's been pretty darn cold in St. Louis, so spiked hot drinks are completely appropriate - necessary even - in case you were confused by our selection.

     I was lazy this evening and didn't want to dirty another bowl by making homemade whipped cream.  But I do highly recommend you try that sometime.  Just buy whipping cream, pour it into a bowl, add some sugar and milk, and whip into deliciousness (Here's a recipe  I sometimes use regular sugar, and just use a little more.  It is so much better than store-bought.  A little too good - you might finish the leftovers with a spoon.

     In the future, I might try to make homemade instant hot chocolate mix, using milk powder, sugar, and cocoa powder.  For now, I'll use the Swiss Miss till it's gone.  I bet homemade would be great, though - cost-efficient, and you can make it as sweet/unsweet or rich as you want.

     Some of you might be interested in using milk instead of water as the hot liquid base.  Go ahead.  I didn't want anything very creamy this evening.  This recipe brings out more of the chocolate flavor - it literally tastes like melted chocolate - and the spike of brandy.


-12-16 oz. water
-4 tbsp instant hot chocolate mix (regular, sweetened, as cheap as need be)
-1 tsp cocoa powder
-2 oz. brandy or other liquor
-Whipped cream
-Dash of Cinnamon, plus more to sprinkle
-Nutmeg to sprinkle


-Set 12-16 oz. of water to boiling in a kettle or a pot.
-Put hot water from the sink in two mugs to warm while you prepare everything else.
-In a small bowl or another mug, mix the instant hot chocolate, cocoa powder, and dash of cinnamon (just a dash, mind you, don't overdo it - Katie, I'm thinking of you right now).  Stir until it all looks like a darker version of the instant hot chocolate mix.
-Dump out the tap water from the mugs.
-Divide the chocolate mixture between the two mugs.
-Add water to fill 3/4 of the mugs and stir until it is dissolved and hot-chocolate-y.
-Add 1/2 or 1 oz. brandy to each mug.  Taste and add more if needed ; )  Add more instant mix if you need more creaminess or sweetness.
-Top with a generous amount of whipped cream, and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Drink up and be happy!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies - Healthified.

I found a recipe for whole wheat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, because I wanted less guilt associated with the cookies I was about to devour.
And I found a way to make them even less guilty :)

There's still chocolate and sugar and calories in them, but hey, as cookies go, I'd say we're doing pretty well.

The original recipe can be viewed at

Overall, I substituted coconut oil for butter and cut down the sugar by half.  They turned out perfectly, and very rich - so try to have some milk on hand to drink with them.  I also left out the milk, so these are almost vegan (Except for the chocolate chips).

Dealing with coconut oil instead of butter gives a great flavor to the cookies, and makes putting the batter together super quick.

-1/2 cup coconut oil (coconut oil is solid at room temperature.  I suggest you heat it up.  I keep mine on my gas stove, so the warmth from the pilot light keeps it in its liquid state).
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-dash of nutmeg (optional)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-1 cup uncooked oats
-1/2 cup chocolate chips (or 3/4 cup if you have it and want more chocolate)
-1/4 cup nuts (optional) - betty crocker recommended walnuts.  I used some sunflower seeds.

-Preheat oven to 350 deg. F
-Cream together the brown sugar and the coconut oil.
-Add the egg and vanilla.  Cream until smooth.
-Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and baking powder.  Stir until incorporated.
-Stir in the cup of whole wheat flour.
-Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and nuts (if using).
-Grease a cookie sheet with butter.
-Using a small scoop or spoon, drop rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.
-Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden around edges.

They will be soft and chewy.  Coconut oil was born to be in cookies. :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

What's cooking now, you ask?

This week has been crazy.  Matt made some great butternut squash curry so that has been our lunch all week (I'll get you the recipe sometime).  Dinner tonight was popcorn and watermelon, to give you an idea of how much I have not been in the mood to cook.

Right now, law school's cooking.  I'd say it's baking at a steady 375, but earlier this week it was definitely broiling.

Stay tuned for a recipe for some tender roast chicken I'm planning to make this weekend.  With fresh oranges and rosemary, unless some better flavor combination comes along (like cilantro and lime, oh yum, my favorite).

Sleep tight.  And may you also have lovely dreams about cilantro and lime (and orange?).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cold Remedy #2: Hot Toddy

I am not an alcoholic...unless I'm sick.  Matt says it suppresses the immune system.  Sometimes I care about that.  But it makes me feel so much better to drown my sickness in bourbon.
*Caution: must drink lots of water as well so you don't dry out.

Uh oh, did I just promote alcoholism?  Oops.  Well, I am a law student.

And if you can't stay home and drink in the comfort of your bed, I find that half a shot of bourbon in the morning removes unwanted phlegm (for a little while anyway).  I haven't yet stooped to carrying some in a flask at school.

We vary our hot toddy recipe depending on what we feel like drinking, and how much bourbon we can afford to buy, so think of this as guidelines for making your own.

Our Favorite Toddy:

3 oz. bourbon
3 oz. boiling water
1/2 tbsp honey
1 sprig fresh mint leaves - from the garden :)  OR mint tea bag (steep in hot water)

We also liked chamomile tea, with added mint leaves, if you have that on hand.  With the bourbon and honey (and lemon, on occasion).

Typical Toddy:

2 oz. bourbon (as good as you can afford - the cheap 4 roses is quite suitable, I find)
1 tbsp honey
4 oz. boiling hot water
juice of half a lemon (I found the lemon irritated my throat after a day or two, so I now prefer to leave it out)

OR (If you have a microwave)
As much bourbon as you can stand
With a tbsp of honey
squeeze of lemon
OR a sprig of fresh mint (this is the route I would go)

So when you feel a cold coming on, here's your new grocery list: kleenex, generic daytime and nighttime cold medicine, bourbon, tea, honey, and lemons (if you want to go that route).

Drink up and feel better!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cold Remedy #1: Hot & Sour Soup

Well, it's been a while.  Matt and I have both been pretty sick with the cold.  Matt's still recovering, actually.  But when we were sick this week, it was always nice to come home to a pot of hot and sour soup that I had--thank goodness--made on Monday before the symptoms set in.

The weather's getting cooler, so cold season will soon be upon us.  Get ready with this recipe and the Toddy recipes to come.

I found this incredible recipe for hot and sour soup on simply recipes' website, and I highly recommend reading the post.  It's very insightful regarding the central components of hot and sour soup.

I did make a few modifications to it, like adding minced fresh ginger and garlic to make it more 'healthful.'  And I dump in whatever mushrooms I can find.

If you have chicken, that would also be very good in it.  We just didn't have any on hand, and when I feel a sickness coming on, I didn't want to deal with cooking some chicken.  But I suppose we should be buying chicken and adding it to the soup.  As Tevye the milkman said, When a poor man eats a chicken, one of them is sick. 

Speaking of which, Fiddler on the roof is a great film to watch, whether you are sick or not.
By the way, I've seen that movie about a thousand times in the past 10 years of my life, and I just recently realized what this quote means.
For all the other shlemiels out there, the saying means that either the man is sick so he will spend the money on a chicken to help him get well, or the chicken is sick so it was cheaper for the man to buy.

Anyway, back to the soup recipe.
Matt, our friend Stephen, and I all think this is probably the best hot and sour soup we've had.  Ever.

I'll add a picture later tonight.


4 quarts water
6 chicken bouillon cubes (each intended for 2 cups) (Or just use 12 cups of chicken stock)
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
3 tsp chili oil (cut down if you don't want it very spicy - this stuff is pretty potent)
1 tsp sesame oil
1-2 tbsp lime or lemon juice (WARNING: I love super sour soup, so if you don't, you can leave this out, and you might want to cut down on the vinegars as well)
1-2 tsp ground white pepper
1-2 tbsp crushed red pepper (leave out if you don't want it very spicy)
2 groups green onions (about 10-12 onions)
2 packages enoki mushrooms
1 lb shiitake mushrooms (or whatever kind you want)
10-15 black fungus mushrooms (you can find these dried at Asian markets)
10-15 lily buds (you can find these dried at Asian markets as well)
4-5 cloves garlic
1 squared inch of fresh ginger
1 19-oz block of firm tofu (please buy at an Asian market for a third of the price of your regular grocer)
1 large can of sliced bamboo shoots

2-3 eggs

fresh cilantro (I love this stuff, so I used two bunches, plus a third bunch for a fresh garnish)


Heat approximately 4 quarts of water in a large stock pot.  Go ahead and dump the bouillon cubes in there.  Bring it to a slow simmer and stir, making sure the cubes dissolve.

Add the soy sauce, vinegars, oils, lemon/lime juice, white pepper, and crushed red pepper.  This may be accomplished without any ceremony.

Let the mix simmer a bit.  You can taste it as you go and add to it if it is not to your liking.

Go ahead and slice the green onions, and mince the garlic and ginger while you're waiting on that.

Once the broth has simmered a few minutes, ladle some into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Add the lily buds and black fungus to the small saucepan so that they can rehydrate. (You can use just water for this, but I like them to soak up the flavors of the soup).

When they are nice and plump (as in, not dried anymore), dice the lily buds and slice the black fungus.  Add these and the garlic, ginger, and onions to the soup.

Dump the tofu water out, and dice/slice the tofu into strips or bite-size pieces and dumpt it in the pot.

Wash and slice the shiitake mushrooms, chop the enoki mushrooms, chop some fresh cilantro, and open the can of bamboo shoots.  Dump it all into the pot.
*Note: It is best to clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel, one by one, instead of rinsing them in water.  Mushrooms soak up water quickly, so if you rinse them, they won't soak up as much of the soup flavors when you put them in the soup.

Let it simmer a bit.
Bring it to a boil one last time.  Beat the eggs in a separate bowl until they break, as though you were going to scramble them.  When the soup is boiling, pour the beaten eggs into the pot, stirring slowly, so that they can "feather" into the soup.  Lovely.

Ladle into serving bowls and top with some fresh cilantro.
Eat up and feel better (whether you're sick with the cold or not)!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast: Baked Sweet Potato, Topped with an Egg

Ok, this is my very own invention, and it has become Matt's favorite breakfast.  It has a ton of vitamins and protein and is very filling, so plan on a late lunch when you have this for breakfast.  We also like it for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

It does take about an hour to cook, so you might need to get up early to stick it in the oven.  Or bake the potatoes a day or two before, and just warm them before serving with the egg.  OR - newest method to me -- stick 'em in a crockpot overnight.  They'll be VERY cooked but it does the job.

This recipe is paleo-friendly, gluten free, and sort of vegetarian (if you consider eggs vegetarian).


Whole sweet potato
1/2 tbsp butter
Olive oil
Steak seasoning
Extra salt and pepper for eggs, if desired


Stab holes in the sweet potato(s) with a knife.  Try to get deep in there.  I try to put at least 8 deep holes to speed up the cooking process.

Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and place directly on oven rack, in the middle of the oven.
Set oven temperature to 400 deg. F. and let them cook for about an hour.
When you can slide a knife into them easily, they are ready.

Towards the end of the hour, melt the butter in a small skillet and cook the desired number of eggs however you like.  Matt loves them over easy, I like them over medium, and my sister likes hers scrambled.

Unwrap the potatoes and put on plates.  Slice open wide.
Drizzle olive oil, and sprinkle steak seasoning on top.  Top with the egg(s) and more seasoning!

And eat up!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vanilla Mint Ice Cream

I made ice cream a couple times earlier this summer - frozen custards that I cooked on the stove then had to cool for a couple hours before I could make them.  They were good...

But then I discovered something easier.

For the base: 1 cup whipping cream, 2 cups whole milk, 1/3 cup sugar
Then add whatever else you want.
Combine everything in a blender, and pour that stuff into an ice cream maker.  
Presto!  Ice cream.

(Note: if you are chopping or pureeing things in the mix, add the whipping cream only after everything is pureed.  Adding it sooner, bits of it turn into buttery chunks from all the blending.  Weird, but that's what we experienced.)

We have several herbs in our garden, so I thought it would be good to do a vanilla mint, using fresh spearmint from the pot.

In a blender, I combined:
2 cups whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed fresh spearmint leaves

Blend that together until the leaves are minced up.

Then add 1 cup of whipping cream.

Blend for a couple of seconds more.

Pour into ice cream maker, and chill according to the maker's directions.

Garnish with a sprig of mint for some charm!

Some people chill the ice cream afterwards for a couple of hours to let it become like store-bought.  I don't really like to let it get too hard.  When I made this ice cream, I put it into serving bowls and placed those in the freezer for about 20 minutes, just until we were ready to eat.  I like the softer texture.

Using the base in this recipe, I have also made Lemon Basil Ice Cream.  Just use lemon extract and fresh basil leaves, instead of the vanilla and mint.  It's pretty darn good!

Next up is Jalapeno Peach Ice Cream!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wheat Pita Bread - from Mom!

After I made the other pita recipe, my mom gave me this wheat pita recipe that was SO MUCH BETTER.  Just as much work, but not as sticky and is somewhat healthier since almost half of the flour is whole wheat.


2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp dry yeast
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
approx 3 cups all-purpose flour


Mix the warm water and yeast, let it dissolve.
Add the whole wheat flour and stir 100 times, in the same direction.  The mixture should still be liquid-y when you get to 100.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside for at least 30 minutes.  It is safe to leave it for up to 5 hours at this point if you need to run errands or something.
When you come back to it, it will be bubbling (and should look like it might be alive).

Add the salt and olive oil, and gently stir in the same direction.
Add the 3 cups of all-purpose flour, all at once.  Then stir by folding (an under/over movement).  The mixture will then become a dough.

Flour a surface and knead for 10-15 minutes.  Add flour if needed to keep it smooth.
When you are finished, the dough should be smooth, with a nice sheen on the surface.

Coat the ball of dough with some olive oil, and place it in a bowl.  Cover with plastic and let it rise until it doubles (2-3 hours)
If you poke holes in it and they don't bounce back, it's done.

Knead it gently for a couple of minutes.  At this point you can refrigerate it overnight and make the bread the next day if you choose.  Mom said it does rise a little if you do this, though, so knead it a couple of minutes when you take it out of the fridge.

Preheat your oven with baking sheet or stone, on bottom of oven rack.   Mom said to preheat to 450 deg. F., but I think I set mine to 475.  Let it preheat for a while, since you want it to get very hot (Mom recommends 30 minutes)

Divide the dough evenly into balls - 16 large or 40 small (4 in. diameter for finished pitas)
I ended up with 32 medium-sized pitas.

Roll each one to make balls, flatten and roll out.

Let them rest 10 minutes, and roll them out again.

Rolling with my handy dandy 3-buck-chuck rolling pin.

Ready to go into the oven!

I then place them, four at a time, on my pizza peel.  The pizza peel was a good way to transfer the dough onto the hot baking stone in the oven.  A spatula would have been my next choice.

Put each grouping in the oven and cook 3-5 minutes.  Once you notice them puff up (I had to peek every so often), wait another 20-30 seconds, then pull them out (I used a metal spatula to pull them out).  Stack them and press down gently with a spatula when they come out of the oven.

Wrap them in a towel to keep them warm for serving, or store in airtight containers (large ziplock bags work great).

This recipe is from Julia Child's show "Baking with Julia," Apr. 14th of 2007.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yogurt - Fresh, Homemade, and Tangy!

So I made yogurt the other day with every intention of taking pictures of the process, but didn't.  Then I decided that the pictures are pretty boring anyway - the entire process is very straightforward.  And very stage looks like a bowl of milk.  So here's the recipe with a picture of the bowl-of-milk stage mine is at right now.


1/2 gallon milk (I am using 2% now, but skim milk works, and whole milk is delicious)
4 tbsp yogurt, with live active cultures in it (check the label to make sure.  I usually use greek yogurt, full fat, but right now I'm trying out the nonfat Fit n Active brand from Aldi; we'll see if it works)

This makes 2 quarts of yogurt.


Heat (scald) the milk in a large saucepan or a pot on medium-low or low heat, stirring often (the higher the heat, the more frequently I recommend you stir, so as to prevent the milk from burning on the bottom of your pan).

Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature.  When it gets to 180 deg. F. (82 deg. C.), it is scalding.

Turn off the heat and let it sit until the temperature drops to 115 deg. F.

Transfer to a large glass bowl and whisk in the 4 tbsp of yogurt.  Sometimes I put the yogurt in the bowl first and whisk the milk into it.

Lightly cover the bowl and place in a warm place for 36-48 hours.  I have a gas oven that is always a little warm, so I keep mine there. My mother places it on top of her water heater, which also works very well.  My grandmother wraps hers with multiple towels when it is still warm from the cooking (It doesn't seem to me like that would keep it warm the whole 48 hours, but it works for her).

You can check it after 24 hours to see if it is solid.  Mine always takes longer than 24 hours, though.

Here is what mine looks like after 24 hours.  You can't really tell from the pics, but it's still pretty runny.  Tilting it a little to the side, some liquid slid from the top.  When it's done, it won't move if you tilt it a little.

After it has solidified, place a couple of paper towels on top to absorb moisture, and stick it in the fridge.  Eat it with honey, or mint and cucumber.  We eat it over eggs with salt and pepper sometimes.  Or in smoothies, it is fabulous.  Matt has suggested we should make "frozen yogurt" with it sometime, and I am definitely looking forward to that!

Now, if you forget about the yogurt, and you bolt up after 72 hours worried that you've ruined it, fear not.  It will just be super tangy, which I personally love. (Growing up, I literally cheered every time my mother forgot her yogurt, because then it got super good.  And putting tangy yogurt in fruit smoothies, oh wow...heaven.)  Once or twice, we have found a small spot of mold on the surface of the yogurt after leaving it too long.  But we just scooped it out and the rest was fabulous.

I advise immediately storing a few tablespoons of your new yogurt in a tupperware or glass airtight container so you have your "starter" yogurt for the next time you make it.  It will just get better and better.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fresh Tong Ho Salad

We just returned from a week with our families and friends.  By the end of it, we had eaten so much meat it was disgusting (deliciously disgusting, but disgusting nonetheless).  So dinner tonight had to be vegetable-y, meatless, and fresh, to help us recover.

I went to the Asian market and picked up some tang ho.  I had no idea what it was, but it looked kind of like arugula, so I figured we'd find something to do with it.  I spent some time online when I got home trying to figure out what it was and whether it would be good eaten fresh.  Then I came to my senses and just tasted a leaf.  Yum!!!  It is now my new favorite salad green.  It is an edible chrysanthemum plant and is popular in Chinese hot pot, as I later discovered.

The leaves and stalks are fresh and delicious, but also dense enough to be a good dinner salad.  The taste reminded me a little of celery leaves, but not nearly as bitter. 

(this photo was found at

Along with the tang ho (also spelled tong ho), I bought some enoki mushrooms and a large red bell pepper.  These are the perfect ingredients for a fresh, filling salad.

Matt suggested using a classic Syrian dressing with it.  Syrian dressing is basically oil, lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Syrian salad has mint in the greens as well, and I figured the mint would accent the fresh flavor of the Tong Ho.  (I think it turned out beautifully).  So this is a Chinese-Syrian fusion salad.

I got fresh mint leaves from our potted herb garden (about 2 tbsp packed), and tore them into the salad. (During the winter time, I use powdered mint, or dried mint)

Then mixed together the dressing, poured it on top, and voila!  Salad.


1 lb. Tong Ho Greens (leaves and stalks)
1 package Enoki Mushrooms
1 large (or 2 small) Red Bell Pepper(s)
1 tbsp packed Fresh Mint Leaves (or one tsp mint powder or dried mint, crushed)

1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper (freshly ground is best)
2 cloves Garlic, minced


Chop the greens, mushrooms, and bell pepper into 1-2 inch pieces.  The enoki will look something like cheese.  Tear the mint leaves over the salad, or sprinkle the dry mint over the salad.
Mix the dressing ingredients.  Pour into the salad.  Toss and eat.

Note: This salad does not keep its flavor very well overnight, so I advise eating it all in one evening.  We had leftovers and I tasted them this morning.  Edible, but not preferable.

This recipe is vegan, paleo-friendly, and gluten-free.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fresh and Fluffy Pita Bread

This recipe came from merging the pita recipes from and a Pastry Chef textbook.  It's a pretty complicated recipe, but don't be fooled - most of the recipes on this blog will NOT be this complex.


2 1/4 tsp yeast, rapid rise or regular (1 package)
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading (mine was pretty damn sticky)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar or honey
1 cup warm water (more if needed)
1/3 cup olive oil


Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add sugar (or honey) and stir until dissolved.  Let sit for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture is frothy.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour the yeast water into the hole.  
Add 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1 cup of warm water (more if needed) and mix with a rubber spatula until it is an elastic dough.

Knead the dough on a well-floured surface by hand, or use the dough hook in a standing mixture.  Knead for 10-15 minutes.  It should theoretically not be sticky, but smooth and elastic, when it is done.  My dough was still sticky at the end, but I decided to move on anyway.  I also added a lot of flour when I was kneading. 

Make the dough into a ball.  Coat the ball with some olive oil and place in a large bowl.
Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 - 3 hours (until it has doubled in size)
I have a gas oven, so I just stuck the bowl in the oven when it was turned off - it's always warm in there.

Divide the dough into several balls, approximately 4 oz. each.  I made 12. 
Place the balls on a floured surface.  Let them sit, covered, for 10 minutes.

Place oven rack on the lowest tier and Preheat oven to 475 deg F.  
Put a baking stone (preferred) or baking sheet on the oven rack to heat up to the temperature of the oven.
In the textbook for professional chefs, the instructions said to place the dough directly on the hearth of the oven (the center, bottom, with no rack) but my oven is not that clean, so that's not happening.

Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) in circles.  Add flour if still sticking.  Each circle should be 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.

Put four of the dough circles in the oven at a time.  I used a floured pizza peel to transfer the dough circles to the stone in the oven, and I could do all four at once. (It helped me imagine I was a real baker in Lebanon with a brick oven). A large spatula would have been my next choice.

Bake for 4-5 minutes.  The bread should puff up halfway through cooking.
Try not to open the oven much - it needs to be super hot in there.
Some recipes say to flip the dough over after 3-4 minutes of cooking.  I did not flip them, so the bottom was a little crunchy, but the top was soft and fluffy.

Be careful you don't overcook them!  They might not look burned, but they get hard.  My first 4 turned out very hard.

Remove each pita with a spatula and transfer the next four dough circles to the oven for baking.

Gently push down the puff with a spatula.  Place in a basket or bowl, wrapped with a towel to keep it warm for immediate serving.  Or store in a plastic bag.

(Okay, so I promised better pictures and did not really deliver.  More to come when I make wheat pita bread tomorrow!)

Warning: the bread is fluffy and warm and smells good.  But be careful - it's still hot!  Matt and I burnt our poor wittle fingers trying to tear at the 475-degree bread.

Eat with hummus, laban, kalamata olives, cheese, herbs, or peanut butter and jelly.

Can be stored for up to a week in a pantry or bread box.  Or in the freezer indefinitely.
Use freezer bags when storing in the freezer, so they don't dry out.

You're done!  Good job!  Your kitchen is probably covered in flour like mine was/is, so you get to feel like a real baker!
Yes, this recipe takes forever.  Next time, I am planning to make a huge batch (like 5 times the amount) and freezing the majority of it.  Though it's hard not to eat every single fluffy piece.

My mom will be sending me a recipe that uses mostly whole wheat flour, so I'll be trying that out tomorrow and posting pics, giving the recipe, the whole shebang!

Tofu Smoothies and Why am I doing this to myself.

If you like berries and chocolate together - you'll probably love this breakfast.  It's super easy, cheap, and healthy.  Plus, it makes more than two servings, and keeps well in the fridge, so you have a snack, or tomorrow's breakfast, ready to go.

I know the tofu thing sounds crazy, but the other ingredients cover up any tofu taste (not like there's much taste to cover up anyway), and the tofu gives it a creamy consistency.  Plus tofu is super healthy - lots of protein to start your day right.

This recipe is gluten free and vegan.

1 16-oz package of soft tofu - including the water in it (this costs about a dollar at the Asian market)
1 bag frozen strawberries (I used a small bag from the dollar store, plus some extra frozen blueberries we had in the freezer)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Honey to taste

You might need more liquid.  I only had firm tofu, so I had to add about half a can of coconut milk.  But you can use whatever milk you have on hand.  Modify it to suit your own needs and desires!

In the past, I made a chocolate peanut butter one with:

1 package tofu
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
sugar to taste (now I would recommend honey)

Matt said it was the best protein shake he had ever had.

I made the strawberry chocolate smoothie a couple days ago before I thought to blog, so here's the empty blender (notice, the smoothie is a purple color).  Next recipe, I promise to photograph the process for you all.

Now the segment about why I'm doing this blog.  Last year was crazy enough - why complicate matters?  Well, just because I'm in school, doesn't mean I'm going to stop cooking, by any means.  But blogging might help keep me in check because I will try to blog every time I cook (so that will definitely cut down on the cooking happenings).
Also, cooking helps me keep my sanity, and I love sharing my ideas, so voila.  Here we are.

And this may seem crazy, but I see similarities between the practice of law and my style of cooking.  In the law, you have your statutes, cases, procedure, and client.  You use the ingredients you have to provide the client with the best legal services possible.  In cooking, for me, there are always restrictions - either I don't have the ingredients, or I'm trying to operate within a theme (like Caribbean), or I'm taking a break from certain foods (like grains).  Gotta get creative with what I have to make something delicious.