Homemade rhubarb strawberry jam

It has been a while since I last updated as I have lately been much more caught up with things in the other side of my life: scientific research. I have not stopped cooking though, just few less experiments recently, lol. A couple of weeks ago, the rhubarb plants in our garden were getting so huge that husband harvested a good chunk of them and with strawberries stocked, I decided to make a rhubarb strawberry jam.

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Ingredients:
4 cups of fresh rhubarb stocks, chopped into small chunks
2 cups of cleaned strawberries (you can adjust the ratio depending on what you have at hand or your preference)
1 tbsp of lemon juice
1 – 3 cups of sugar (depending on how sweet you like your jam, I don’t like it too sweet, so I had even gone for 1/2 a cup)
2 packets of Gelatin (or Pectin whichever you can find, tune the amount to your liking)

In a large pot, throw in the chunks of rhubarb stock first. In medium high heat, cook for about 8 minute, until it turns mushy. Add the strawberries and cook for 2 minutes. To break down the mixture, use a handheld mixer and submerge into the mixture for about 1 minute or until everything presents a smooth blended consistency. Add the lemon juice and stir to mix well. Add the gelatin or pectin and be sure to mix very well so as to avoid creating lumps later on due to uneven distribution of thickening agent. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add all the sugar and mix well. Turn off the heat and can the jam immediately. Make sure you use cans and lids that have been sterilized properly – for example, submerge them in boiled water in a deep pot and continue to heat for 20 min or so. Let the jam sit in the cans in fridge for at least a day before serving.

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The jam should be stored in the fridge for longer shelf life, it will probably be very good for about 4-6 weeks. If using more sugar or acidic substance, ie lemon juice, it can be enjoyed longer and vice versa.

The jam is SOOOOOO good on toasts, or mixed in with plain yogurt, and it tastes so refreshing and cooling during the hot summer days!

Homemade “Green” Gnocchi

I had a ton of arugula from a farm harvest that would take forever to finish if eaten as part of salad. I decided to make gnocchi with them. πŸ™‚ You can imagine achieving same results with spinach.

Ingredients:

To make arugula puree
4-5 cups of fresh arugula leaves
1/2-3/4 cups of assorted nuts (I used walnuts, cashew and some almonds)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

To make gnocchi
1 cup of arugula puree
1 egg
6 medium-sized potatoes (about 3 lbs)
Salt
1-3 cups of flour (depending on how wet the puree is, how big the eggs and the potatoes are, you need to add flour slowly and stop whenever the dough reach desired consistency)

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In a food processor, mix all the ingredients in the first part and blend until the mixture becomes puree. Scope out the puree and set aside. In a large pot, boil the potatoes in the pot for about 1 hour or more until the potatoes are soft enough to be easily mashed. Bring the cooked potatoes under icy cold water and peal the skins off. Note that you need to do this very fast and the potatoes still need to be warm when being formed into a dough. Use a towel help peel the skins. Add back the arugula puree and mix the mashed potatoes and the arugula puree well. In the food processor, mash the mixture until there is no visible potato lumps. Let the mixer cool in the food processor for about 20 min. The mixer should present a gooey consistency. In a bowl, beat the egg until the white and the yolk mix together.

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Transfer the potato puree mixture and the beaten egg and salt all to one large bowl for kneading. Add 1/2 cup of flour first and 1/4 cup in increment or preferably a pinch if you are patient. Knead the dough until it reaches the consistency where it is moist but not sticky, and somewhat dry. Knead gently after a ball is formed for a couple more minutes.

Cut the dough into a few smaller pieces and roll each piece out into a snake-shaped long tube. The tube should be about the thickness of your thumb. Use a knife to cut every 1/2 or 3/4 inch and dust with flour when putting away. If you want to curl the gnocchi, use a fork but otherwise they are great just the way they are right now. Put the made gnocchi in a freezer and freeze over night before ready to use. If you plan on eating them later, place them in a bag and keep them frozen. They will last at least a couple weeks in the freezer.

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They were fantastic, especially the color! Paired with homemade pork bolognese sauce, they will be the bomb! Thanks for checking in.

Honey Maple Almond Butter

If we piece all the information together, husband has an addiction to nut butter, I recently got a new model of food processor with higher power, the almond butter has been ridiculously expensive – the conclusion: I decide to make my own almond butter or nut butter from now on, lol.

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs of organic raw almonds (just how much I had at hand)
1/2 tbsp of honey
1/2 tbsp of maple syrup
1 tbsp of olive oil, optional
salt and pepper

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In a food processor (mine has about 720 watt in power) with its medal S-shaped blade on, combine the almonds, honey and maple syrup and add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the food processor on and let go for about 30-35 min or until reach desired consistency. Add olive oil occasionally, especially towards the end, to help the consistency of the texture. Open up every couple minutes and use a spatula to move the mixture that got stuck on the wall down to the blade. Feel free to use more olive oil, honey or maple syrup to your liking depending on the sweetness and the texture you prefer. Easy as that!

To change up the flavor, try adding cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, chocolate, or I am thinking of putting in some cayenne, red chili, or jalapeΓ±o next time to experiment a bit.

Tips: if you roast the almonds beforehand for a while and let out the nutty oil somewhat, it will shorten the time needed to in the food processor or a lower-power food processor will do since it does not need to work as hard.

Husband gave two thumbs up after trying and has been all over this jar of goodness! πŸ™‚

Fun twists on the classic mashed potatoes

I am really not a starch fan, because I always feel like being deprived of my chances to enjoy other foods as I get filled up so quickly on even a few bits of starchy food. But with some small twists, starchy foods can go from blandly filling to deliciously satisfactory. Here is on how to make mashed potatoes with some fun twists.

Ingredients: (yield 4 servings)
4-5 medium-large potatoes, peeled, chopped into large bite-sized chunks
2-3 Heirloom carrots, chopped into small bits (if the carrot is large, 1 should suffice)
4-5 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped or minced
1/3 onion, chopped into small bits
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 stick of butter
3-5 tbsp of milk (or add small amount first and add more depending on how you like the texture)
1 tbsp of olive oil
pinch of ginger powder
Salt and pepper

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Boil water in a pot. Put in all the potatoes and cook for about 30-40 min. Use a fork and see if you can poke through effortlessly to determine if the potatoes are completely cooked.

When the potatoes have about 5-8 min to go, heat up olive oil in a pan in medium-high heat. Add the garlic, the carrots, and the onions. Cook for about 3-4 min until the onions are translucent and if you chopped the carrots fine enough, they should be soft as well. Add the mushrooms, the ginger powder, a tbsp of butter, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. You want to be a little heavy with the seasoning as the seasoning will cover the potatoes as well. Cook for another minute. Turn the heat off and pour everything into a bowl for later use.

When the potatoes are completely cooked, drain the water and put the potatoes back into the pot on very low heat. Start mashing with the potato masher. When the potatoes look somewhat mashed up, add the rest of the butter, and start mashing away as the potatoes continue to break down and mix with the melting butter. Start slowly adding the milk and continue mashing. Add every from the bowl into the pot of the potatoes and mix well. Mash the potatoes or add more milk until it reaches your desired consistency.

And it is ready to serve. The color of the mashed potatoes is so much more appetizing as it now has the yellow, orange, red from Heirloom carrots (why I chose them at the first place) and the earthy brown from the mushrooms! I served this mashed potatoes with the fun twists along with medium New York strip steak and some sautΓ©ed green vegetables. So delicious! πŸ™‚

Roasted spaghetti squash

I love the taste of spaghetti squash, so light, crispy, yet tasty! It is a wonderful addition to a meal that balances out other rich, heavy, sumptuous dishes. Here is what you will need.

Ingredients (yield 4-5 servings)
3 lbs spaghetti squash
1 medium beet, chopped into small cubes
Orange zest
Lime zest
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper

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Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the squash into four quarters. On a large flat baking sheet, drizzle on a thin layer of olive oil. Put the spaghetti squash onto the sheet with the side with flat cuts facing down. Roast for about 30-40 min in the oven or until when you can poke through the squash using a fork without much resistance.

Meanwhile the squash is roasting, heat up olive oil in a pan. Add the chopped beets and stir to coat everyone with the oil. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 4-5 min until the beets are somewhat soft.

After the squash is done, use a fork and a spoon to scrape out the squash flesh. You can use the spoon to provide a stabilized point and use the fork or vice versa. The flesh should not be long, thin and beautiful yellow strands coming out super easily. Once collected all the flesh into a bowl, you can drizzle some extra olive oil, salt and pepper and stir to mix the seasoning well.

Pour the beets on to add some vibrant dark red color and a little bit sweetness. Add the orange and lime zests to give the color a pop and a refreshing touch!

I served this dish as a substitute for the grains, along with some pan-friend vegetables and marinated spicy chicken thighs. It went so great with everything! πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

Making kick-ass couscous

For me, eating diverse not only goes to choices of animal protein or vegetables/fruits, but also to choices of grains and legumes. Couscous, along with rice, wheat, potato, beans, and other less common grains, is always a rotating item on the menu in my household. Cooking couscous is easy, but it can be bland and lacking some characters.

Today’s dish will be fool-proof to make as long as you use the secret ingredient! Lol.

Ingredients: (yield 4-5 servings)
1 1/2 cups of couscous
2 3/4 cups of water
2 tbsp of butter
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
Garlic powder
3-4 mushrooms, minced
1/2 handful of parsley, minced

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In a small pot, bring the water to boil. Add butter, salt and pepper, garlic powder while heating up the water and stir to mix well. When you start to see bubbles rising and before water is completely boiling, add the mushrooms and parsley.

When the water is boiling, add the couscous and the turmeric powder and stir to mix well. Put the lid on and let sit for about 5 min. Before serving, stir to mix all the ingredients better and make the couscous light and fluffy. Voila! Simple like that!

Now, this is just one flavor combo, which is earthy element, such as mushrooms, with refreshing taste from the herbs, such as parsley. You can try other combos such as: cherry tomatoes and basil, English peas and sage. The secret to make the color of couscous POP, is to use some turmeric powder — it will make anything it touches so vibrantly yellow, and it adds a kick to the flavor as well. If you add curry powder, which usually contains turmeric and other spices, it will also turn the couscous yellow. The flavor from curry will be more prominent, just make sure it will go well with other elements.

Lemongrass chicken wings

I loved this dish when I was in Hong Kong and they called it “Vietnamese-style pan-fried lemongrass chicken wings”, aside from using lemongrass and fish sauce, I am not too sure how much “Vietnamese” is there in this dish. But nonetheless, it was still a delicious dish and I am going to blog about how to make it. πŸ™‚

Ingredients: (yield 2-3 servings)
6 chicken wings
2 stems of fresh lemongrass, white portion chopped, or 4 tbsp of lemongrass if you buy a small processed bottle
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green onion, minced or slightly grinded
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1/2 tbsp of aged soy sauce
1 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine
2 tbsp of fish sauce
Salt and pepper
Coconut oil
Thai sweet chili sauce, optional

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In a bowl, mix all the lemongrass, garlic, green onion, sugar, soy sauce, aged soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, fish sauce, salt and pepper and this is our marinating sauce. Poke small holes with a stick or pointy knife on the back side of the wings so that the sauce can be soaked better. Put all the chicken wings in a large zip-lock bag and pour in all the marinating sauce. Get rid of excessive air in the bag and zip it really tight so it won’t leak. Tilt the bag to make sure that every wing gets surrounded by the marinating sauce.

Let the bag sit in the fridge overnight or for at least 4-5 hours.

When ready to cook, turn the oven on to 375 F. Heat up coconut oil in a cast iron pan on medium-high heat. Put all the chicken wings down onto the pan with the skin-side touching the pan first. Be careful try not to get any of the sauce on to the pan or it will burn. If you have a full wing like I did, use a spatula to press down on the wings to distribute heat to parts that are not quite touching the pan. Cook that side for about 4-5 min until the outside turns golden brown. Move the chicken wings with the spatula constantly to make sure they are not stuck. Flip all the wings, and do the same and cook until this other side turns golden brown, and this takes about 4-5 min as well.

Transfer the whole cast iron pan with the wings into the oven and put a lid on and let cook for about another 15-18 min. If you have only a small wing, it takes less time. Check with a thermometer for internal temperature at 165 F to make sure it is cooked through.

You can choose to drizzle on some Thai sweet chili sauce or make your own dipping sauce to enjoy the wings with; but otherwise, it is a perfectly delicious dish by itself. It hit the spot and brought back so many fond memories when I was in Hong Kong. Good times to be had! πŸ™‚ Thanks for checking in!

Stir-fried cauliflower rice with red pepper and shrimps

I love eating fresh and I love eating a variety of things at every meal. And sometimes, this mentality becomes an issue with certain food items: broccoli, cauliflower, and the alike. They are always bulky and come in large sizes, which means I just cannot eat the whole thing in one sitting as I would like to eat other things too. And when I think about cooking with them again, a good 5 day period has passed and they are no longer as fresh as I would like. The following is one of my solutions to eat fresh, eat diverse and eat large — making them into “rice” and replace the carbohydrates of the meal! πŸ™‚

Ingredients (yield 4-5 servings)
1 medium cauliflower, chopped into chunks
1 medium Romanesco broccoli, chopped into chunks
1 large red bell pepper, chopped into small cubes
1/2 onions, chopped into small pieces
2 greens onions, chopped into small pieces
1/2 – 3/4 lbs of peeled shrimps, if they are large shrimps, chop into smaller sizes
A handful of green lima beans, or peas
A handful of Italian parsley, chopped
4 Tbsp of oil
1/2 Tbsp of cooking wine
Oregano
Thyme
Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

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In a food processor, grind the mixture of all cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli into grain-sized bits like rice or couscous. Heat up a pan with 2 Tbsp of the oil in medium-high heat. Throw in all the chopped onions and cook until translucent. Add the finely-grinded cauliflower/broccoli mixture into the pan and stir until everything mixed well and turn the heat down to low and let cook.

Heat up another pan. Cook the shrimps first if they are still raw or somewhat frozen until they start to turn orange — remember to get rid of all the water once the ice melts. Add the rest of the oil, lima beans, red pepper, parsley and green onion. Add the cooking wine and constantly stirring the mixture and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Combine the shrimp mixture with the cauliflower/broccoli rice mixture. Add oregano and thyme and mix well. Add a little bit of Cayenne pepper to give the whole thing a kick. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix everything well. Cook for another 6-8 minutes. Plate the food and serve while it is hot! πŸ™‚

This is so easy and I do not have to stare at the big head of cauliflower or broccoli for the next week any more! Fantastic!

PS. Since there are lots of vegetables in this recipe and shrimps do not have lots of fat, it is better to be generous with the oil use to bring out flavors better. If you are going to substitute shrimps with some kind of fatty meat cuts, I think you can use less oil and it will still taste great. If you do use meat, do not use parsley but try adding some cumin and some soy sauce.

Seafood Risotto featuring Lobster

I got two Lobster tails from Wholefoods from a deal when I purchased some ribeye steaks for Valentines’ day. With Arborio rice, chicken broth, and mushrooms in stock, I decided to make a seafood risotto featuring the lobster meat. πŸ™‚

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Ingredients: yield 3-4 meals
1 – 1 1/4 cup of of Arborio rice
2 lobster tails
30-40 tails of wild shrimps, peeled
10 crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 shallot, minced
1/3 onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
A handful of Italian parsley, minced
2 Tbsp of chives, chopped
2.5-3 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of half & half
1/3 of a butter stick (about 4-5 Tbsp)
3-4 Tbsp of coconut oil or duck fat or lard, divided
1/3 cup of cooking wine, divided
Salt and pepper

Steam the lobster tails for about 10-15 min until the shell turns bright red. Remove all the meat from the lobster tails and chop into small 1/2-inch cubic chunks. In a pot, put in the rest of the lobster shells and 2 cups of water and simmer. The lobster broth will be used later.

In a pot, warm the chicken broth over low heat. And turn the oven on at 150F.

Heat up about 1 Tbsp of oil in a pan. Throw in all the mushrooms on medium-high heat for 2-3 min until all the mushrooms are soft. Pour all the mushrooms and the liquid into an oven-safe container and keep the bowl in the oven while cooking the risotto.

Heat up another 1 Tbsp of oil in the pan. Throw in all the shrimps in the pan first. If the shrimps are already cooked like the lobster meat, you can throw them in together. Cook for about 3 min until the shrimps start to look opaque and the redness is more prominent. Add the lobster meat. Cook together for about 1 more minute and stir constantly to mix well. Pour in a 2 Tbsp of cooking wine and cook for another minute. Pour in all the half & half and cook for another 3 min and stir constantly. Set all the shrimps, lobster meat, and the liquid aside in the oven like the mushrooms for later use.

Heat up the rest of the oil in a skillet in medium heat. Add garlic, onion and shallot to the skillet and cook for about 1 min till when the onion and shallot start looking translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat every grain with the oil. When all the rice has taken on a golden coat, pour in the rest of the cooking wine and stir until all the wine is absorbed. Add a ladle of chicken broth and stir until all the broth is absorbed. Add chicken broth ladle after ladle once the liquid is mostly or all absorbed. Add a couple ladles of the lobster broth (about 1 cup, definitely no more than 1.5 cups) to the skillet and mix well. Add butter and stir until it all melts. This whole process takes about 20-25 min.

Turn the heat down a bit to medium-low or low heat. Add the bowl of mushrooms and the bowl of shrimp/lobster meat/half & half mixture back into the rice and stir well. When the whole bowl reaches a creamy consistency, add parsley and chives and stir to mix well. Then you can dish the risotto out and serve!

I really love the texture and the savory flavor of risotto, especially combing the umami of seafood and the earthy-ness of mushrooms. Oh my! That was such a satisfying meal! Thanks for checking in! πŸ˜›

Winter Roasted Root Vegetables

Feeling a little lazy on a snowy night? If you stock up assorted root vegetables like I do, then this recipe is for you! πŸ™‚

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I make this dish so often in winter with ever changing items every time so you do NOT have to stick to the recipe strictly, be CREATIVE (the key is to bear in mind whatever you put in may require different cooking times)!

Often used ingredients: (yield 4 meals)
3-4 large Yukon/Sweet/Red/… potatoes, or equivalent amount of fingerling heirloom potatoes, chopped into small bite-sized chunks
2-4 large carrots, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2-3 golden beets, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 handful of broccoli including roots, chopped into bite-sized chunks, separate the roots and the flower parts
(If you have turnips, daikon radish, etc., feel free to add on, they need a little less time than potatoes and carrots to cook)
1/2-2/3 of a large onion, chopped
A few mushrooms, chopped
(Sometimes I add chopped green beans, Brussel sprouts, eggplants, just about any vegetables that can stand some heat without becoming a pile of soft leaves or a pot of juices/water)
One cured wild boar sausage, chopped (I prefer using cured hard sausages to add a little savory and fatty flavor to the food, but any cooked meat bits will do)
Olive oil
2-3 tsp of butter
Half a handful of fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp of Oregano
1/2 tsp of Thyme
Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 400-450F and oil your baking tray with olive oil. Throw in the first batch of root vegetables that require the longest cooking time – potatoes, carrots, broccoli roots, and beets. Allow them to cook for 25-30 minutes.

While the hardest vegetables are in the oven, heat a pan and add olive oil. Add the meat bits, the mushrooms, and the onions, stir fry until the meat is cooked or the onion turns translucent.

Add the softer vegetables, such as green beens, eggplants (you might want to pre-cook the eggplants along with the onions and mushrooms in the above step because heating without much oil tends to dry out eggplants), broccoli flower parts together with the first batch. Add the oregano, thyme, rosemary, and butter and stir the vegetables so that the spices distribute evenly and mix well. Use a fork to poke the potatoes and carrots, they should start to be tender and relatively easy to poke through if not already so. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the meat, the mushrooms and the onions last and add salt and pepper to taste. And stir to mix well. The carrots, the broccoli roots, the potatoes or the beets should be really tender now. Cook for another 10 minutes or so.

And Viola, you are ready to serve! Nothing on a cold snowy night beats a warm and healthy meal with prepping under 15 min and watching TV for 45 min. πŸ˜›

Thanks for checking in!