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!

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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 jalapeรฑo 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 sautรฉed green vegetables. So delicious! ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Japanese Gyลซdon – So easy yet so delicious!

I love Japanese Gyudon, aka beef rice bowl. When the beef imports from the US were banned due to mad cow disease in 2004, there were Yoshinoya’s (a Japanese chain restaurant whose best seller is always gyudon) maniac fans flew to Los Angeles to have a taste. This is one of the staple comfort food in Japan.

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Ingredients: (yielding 3-4 servings)
2 cups of rice, steamed

1 medium onion, chopped into long and thin strips
12 oz beef, thinly sliced (make sure every slice of meat has a good ratio of lean and fatty meats. I used thinly sliced beef brisket bought from Korean supermarket)
3 stems of green onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp of oil (I used bacon grease)
1 1/2 cup of Dashi stock or chicken broth
6 Tbsp of soy sauce
4 Tbsp of sugar
2 Tbsp of Sake or cooking wine
1 Tbsp of mirin
4 Tbsp of pickled red ginger (benisouga)
1 Tbsp of white sesame seeds
Salt and pepper

Steam the rice in a rice cooker.

Heat the oil in a shallow pot on medium-high heat. Add onion strips and cook for 2-3 min until translucent. Add the stock and let boil. Turn the heat down to medium. Add soy sauce, sugar, mirin and cooking wine, let cook for another 3 min.

Add beef to the pot and cook for another 5-8 min. Add salt and pepper to taste. To adjust the color, you can choose to add a few drops of aged soy sauce to darken the color.

Pour everything including the sauce over steamed rice and top with a pinch of chopped green onions. Finally, add a tbsp of red ginger on the top and drizzle some sesame seeds on the top.

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It is so quick and easy yet tasty, I love it! Hope you like it too! ๐Ÿ™‚

PS. A salad or a quick stir-fry on the side will help add more vegetable/fruit intake along with this savory, tantalizing dish!

Breakfasts made easy!

Every morning, it is a battle between snoozing 10 more minutes and getting up preparing some breakfast. I would like a hot bowl of wontons or a few links of perfectly cooked breakfast sausages, although the bed is calling and I just do not want to wake up yet…. But, if you have a few long-term fridge residents or categorical items you constantly buy, breakfasts can be done in a couple minutes and still be delicious!

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First of all, you need some carbohydrates, and I always have some bread to make toasts with. Throw a few slices into a toaster while brushing my teeth or something and spread some almond butter or hazelnut butter or any kind of nut butter that screams delicious to you.

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Second of all, you need some seasonal additions. I constantly buy fruits that are in season, especially various kinds of berries, grapes, melons, cherries, etc.

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Next, you need some protein. Either a quick scrambled egg or a few slices of high quality salami (or pancetta, prosciutto) all can do the trick.

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Last but not least, you need a drink. A shot of home made espresso, a glass of fresh juice, or a cup of soy milk, whatever works.

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And here we go, a delicious plate of breakfast food that will go a long way. ๐Ÿ™‚

A quick fix for Vietnamese Pho

When you have the pho broth made (cooking from scratch requires tens of hours), then you are set, it is down to simply getting fresh ingredients to stuff the bowl. But what if you only have got beef broth? If you have some common Asian spices available at home, you can kind of whip up a close imitation of pho beef soup on your own! (Of course, you can always get pre-packaged pho broth in grocery store, but I was too lazy to make a specific trip for that, lol)

Soup Ingredients: (My bowls do not have much depth to hold much liquid, hence the smaller amount of liquid, scale up the amount if you need to)
16 oz of beef broth
1 cup of water
1 half stick of cinnamon, broken into medium-sized pieces (big enough to pick out)
4-5 star anise
A pinch of coriander
A pinch of fennel seeds
1/2 onion, chopped to help spread the flavor faster
A teaspoon of fish sauce
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

Mix everything and bring to boil. Leave the pot of broth on very low heat to keep warm. This is a very fast-food way to get similar flavor of Pho, by no means this can compete with a bowl of well-prepared broth. But on a busy Thursday night after work, this is good enough, at least to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Pho ingredients: (yielding 2-3 bowls)
1 lbs of banh pho rice noodles (Here’s a link to: Pho 101)
A few ultra-thin slices of raw round, sirloin or tri-tip steak (I did not have any handy, so I cheated as I used a few thin slices of roasted beef instead)
1/4 of an onion, thinly sliced
A handful of cilantro leaves, chopped or not
A handful of basil leaves, chopped or not
A handful of bean sprouts
A few lime wedges

Sauce:
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha sauce

In addition, I added some chunks of soy bean cakes and a half hard-boiled egg just to make it a slightly more substantial amount of food. If you have dried noodles to begin with, soak them in cold water for about 15-20 min. In a large pot of boiling water, throw in the noodles and cook for 1 min and quickly drain the water and run the noodles under icy cold water. Distribute the noodles into bowls and add all the above prepared ingredients and pour a couple hot ladles of soup broth on the top, or add the beef slices, pour the broth then garnish with all other ingredients. Add hoisin sauce or sriracha sauce depending on your preference.

Enjoy!

Beijing-style Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce

It was 4th and I had been quite busy in the kitchen whipping up more food experiments. So, the long over-due Beijing-style cold noodles with sesame sauce recipe is finally here. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ingredients: 2 serving bowls
Thin noodles, 16 oz
1/2 Cucumber, chopped into thin strips, on the side
1/2 Carrot, chopped into thin strips, on the side
A handful of thinly sliced Chinese BBQ pork, on the side
1-2 Green onions, finely chopped
A handful of cilantro, finely chopped (if available)
3 tablespoons of pure sesame paste (sesame paste was quite tricky to find for me, I had to go to a larger Asian grocery shop that is much farther away than the usual one I go to.)
4-5 tablespoons of water
1.5 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoons of Chinkiang vinegar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

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Mix salt and pepper, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, water and sesame paste until they all become liquid-y sesame sauce. Add/reduce water to yield preferred texture. In a boiling pot of water, toss in the noodles and cook for about 5-10 min depending on the noodles. Stir occasionally. Once the noodles are soft enough, drain the hot water and run the noodles under icy cold water for about 30 sec. Sprinkle chopped green onions and cilantro on the top, add the sides such as the cucumbers, carrots, pork slices, and pour the sesame sauce onto the noodles.

And… Ta-dah! Here you go, a bowl of cold noodles, thoroughly enjoyed throughout the summer!!!