mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

macro-bowl #3 . . .

macro-bowl-3

So tonight, we’re branching out a little bit – from the two previous macro-bowls with freshly cooked brown/sweet rice. Instead, I’m going to cook a batch of cellophane noodles added to ground pork, soy and cooking sherry. Green onions and a little chicken broth to help it all meld together. This recipe is known as “ants crawling up a tree” – but don’t ask me why. All I know is that it’s a tasty dish that we enjoy.

At the same time that’s simmering on the stove as it cooks down, pieces of cut up chicken thighs marinated in Korean Bulgogi barbecue sauce are broiling in the oven. In a small skillet, some zucchini squash is pan fried to round out the one-bowl meal.macro-bowl-3-c

[“Ants crawling up a tree:” Soak cellphane noodles in warm water until soft. Cut into smaller pieces with a knife. Marinate a quarter cup of ground fresh pork with soy, cooking sherry and a spoonful of cornstarch. Mix well – (the cornstarch will tenderize the pork as it cooks.) Cut up a stalk or two of green onions. Heat up some vegetable oil in a skillet; brown the ground pork and separate. Add more soy, sherry and chicken broth until well mixed. Cook until all liquid is absorbed.]macro-bowl-3-b

 

 

tea sandwiches . . .

tea-sandwich-2Even though I’m supposed to cut down on eating bread for glycemic reasons, not gluten ones, I’ve discovered that it’s almost impossible to do without bread. Or English muffins for that matter. Anyhow, I’m writing about tea sandwiches as a way to cut down on bread consumption but still enjoy bountiful and delicious ways to have something flavorful to accompany homemade soups for lunch and/or dinner.

Last night, I had some almost stale thin white slices of bread that I put together with some leftover cream cheese, prosciutto ham and half a cucumber. I cut off the crusts and slathered on the cream cheese, added the ham and thinly sliced cucumber and then piled them on top of each other. I used a trick I learned years ago about keeping tea sandwiches fresh, wrapping them in slightly moistened clean paper towel and storing them in the fridge for an hour before eating. When they’re unwrapped, the bread is less dry and the sandwiches are refreshed.

Taking this idea a little further – like the macro-bowl concept of only preparing what you’re actually going to eat, I’m going to experiment with some ideas while making a split pea ham/onion/carrot soup during this zero degree weather. With tea sandwiches, one consumes about half the quantity of a regular sandwich but still enjoy the taste.

  1. tea-sandwich-1Shrimp salad tea sandwiches – buy a few cooked shrimp at the fish counter, chop them up and add to finely chopped celery heart leaves, finely chopped red onion, Hellmann’s mayonnaise with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Spread on the bread with crusts off (I also like lite-oatmeal bread that has a moist crumb and is more tender than the thin-sliced white bread. tea-sandwich-3
  2. Smoked salmon tea sandwiches – spread cream cheese, lay out thin sliced smoked salmon, very thinly sliced tomato, red onion, capers?
  3. Branston pickle spread (from the UK); slices of good cheddar cheese
  4. Tuna salad with mayo, pickle relish mixed together well
  5. Egg salad with mayo, truffle salt, cracked pepper
  6. Thinly sliced smoked gouda cheese with avocado and tomato, red onion

So basically, this is a way to enjoy flavor in small bites that are quick to prepare. Hallelujah!

 

macro-bowl supper redux . . .

macro-bowl-2-tempuraOur first macro-bowl dinner was such a hit the other night that I thought I’d make another one today. I defrosted 6 extra-large shrimp from the freezer, shelled them and placed them back in the fridge ready to go when it’s time to make shrimp tempura tonight.

Found some fresh small Chinese cabbages in the pantry too – will cut up the leafy parts and saute with garlic and a little lemon juice.

If the avocado ripening in the kitchen window isn’t ready yet, I’ll briefly heat up a few fresh edamame beans and season with a little soy.

So tonight’s macro(biotic) bowl will contain:

fresh-cooked brown and sweet rice (in a little dashi and soy sauce)

sauteed Chinese cabbage leaves with garlic and lemon

warmed edamame beans

tempura shrimp in panko crumbs

Tempura shrimp: The shrimp takes a few steps to prepare: a) defrost, shell and devein the shrimp; b) dry them off; c) cut tiny slits in the curved end of the shrimp and devein as well (the shrimp will now lie flat on the cutting board; d) insert a bamboo skewer or toothpick in the shrimp to keep it straight while frying. Make some tempura batter (boxed or with a little flour and ice water); Dip the dry prepared shrimp into the tempura batter, shake off excess and roll immediately in plain, dry panko crumbs. Deep-fry in a small skillet or small saucepan to conserve how much oil is used for the 6 shrimp. Cook and turn until golden brown – drain on paper towels and remove toothpicks.

Serve with a some hoisin sauce mixed with a drop of soy, sesame oil and a little sweetener (I use stevia.) I just put a small dish of this on the table.

The process change for making macro bowl dinners is that once I’ve settled on what will go into the macro bowls, I scale down the amount of vegetable and protein sides to the size of the servings that will go on top of the brown rice melange. This reduces the amount of food prepared and cooked. And there’s no leftovers either! YAY!

Some other macro bowl side dishes that might be appealing are:

  1. teriyaki broiled chicken thigh pieces (yakitori)
  2. pan grilled salmon in teriyaki
  3. cucumber and wakame salad
  4. instead of rice, cooked cellophane noodles with ground pork & green onions, e.g., “ants crawling up a tree” – a yummy Chinese classic
  5. soba noodles in soy-ginger sauce
  6. teriyaki flank steak slices
  7. beets, sliced and dressed with a little vinegar/lemon juice
  8. broccoli florets

etc. etc. etc. . . .

 

 

 

snowstorm soup (from the cupboard etc.). . .

snowstorm-soup

I’ve written about making soup a number of times: all day-beef vegetable soup; quick and easy vegetable soup; stone soup and so on. Tonight, I’ve been watching the weather report to expect some inches of snow to fall tomorrow between noon and midnight. However much snow that turns out to be, the first thing I thought about was to make a hearty soup from what I already have in the cupboard and fridge in the morning just in case the power goes out (which is an emergency we like to be prepared for.)

Leaning towards a veggie melange, I decided not to use the frozen beef and marrow bones that I have in the freezer. Instead, I’m going for onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, barley, broth and stewed tomatoes.

Here’s the actual ingredients I put together this morning: chopped vidalia onions, 2 stalks of celery and two small zucchini browned in a medium sized soup pot. Sent G. to look for carrots because I was out of them. He returned with four small ones from the tenant who lives downstairs (I invited her to share a bowl with us for lunch.) Added five large mushrooms cut into big chunks, soaked a handful of barley in boiling water; added a Knorr beef broth gelatin pack, spring water and a can of Del Monte stewed tomatoes. After soaking, added the drained barley. The barley will make the soup thicken as it cooks. One bonus of making this kind of soup is that as it is consumed, you can make more broth to bring the liquids back up and make more servings. We’re enjoying soup, not a stew, after all!

scones-1Might make a batch of “scones” to go with a cup of soup for lunch. This is a twenty-five year old recipe that is easy to make at the last minute. (a cup and half of flour, a 3/4 cup of milk; and half a stick of hard butter & a pinch of salt.) This is actually half a recipe but the proportions are easy to fit into a small size Cuisinart. I whizz the flour and cold butter bits together with salt; add milk and blend until it’s mixed. Scoop out on a cookie sheet with a soup spoon and bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. It creates a buttery biscuit that someone famously said was missing the “scone powder.” It’s because there’s no leavening in it but the blobs of dough and butter crisped up on the edges are divine.scones-2

The soup will simmer while the snow falls and with it for supper, I’m going to try a sandwich idea I saw in one of the cooking magazines that either float through the house or that I saw at Barnes and Noble the other day: a grilled cheese sandwich with prosciutto and granny smith apple slices on pumpernickel bread. I have some nice grated swiss cheese and might add some gruyere, one crispy apple and a pack of prosciutto that I picked up at Whole Foods the other day. Glad all these ingredients are on hand that helps me to avoid making a trek to the grocery store this morning!

A gourmet sandwich and soup made from the larder for dinner; and a cup of soup with buttery scones for lunch! I guess we’re glad we’re going to be inside while it snows – plus we can watch the wild card football game this afternoon at 3:30 while the snowstorm gets going outside.

Sounds pretty good to me!

“macro” bowl for dinner. . .

macro bowl of brown rice, avocado, yellow squash and salmon poke

macro bowl of brown rice, avocado, yellow squash and salmon poke

Now that the holidays are over with all that rich food (I’m guilty!) I’m feeling like simplifying our food intake and making them appetizing at the same time. I studied macrobiotic cooking a long time ago when I had a viral condition for which Western medicine wasn’t helpful (they said you can’t treat viruses.) However, in Chinese traditional medicine, there’s a concept that parasites (viruses and bacteria) grow and thrive in “damp” conditions in the body. And so, if your diet is prepared to “dry out” the damp, then, there’s no place for them to hide. At least, that’s what I like about Eastern approaches to health and the body. That’s not to say that when I fractured my ankle a few years ago, that the orthopedic care I received in the Emergency Room was of the highest degree possible – the two orthopedic residents were so professional!)

Anyhow, I digress. The real reason for this post is that I’ve come across a way to prepare meals that might simplify the preparation time, but also offer us a nice way to eat healthy prepared meals without feeling deprived in any way. In fact, I think the presentation of macrobiotic foods (grains, vegetables and a little fish) in one-bowl will be fun. It also serves to customize the amount of food prepared so that there’s less chance for leftovers left in the fridge.

So tonight’s menu includes making salmon poke (pronounced “po-keh”) a Hawaiian version of sliced raw fish with soy sauce, a little wasabi and sesame seeds. The one-bowl presentation will include warm brown rice, cooked yellow squash with onions, sliced avocado and the salmon poke. The fish needs to be “sashimi-grade” for which I rely on my fishmonger’s advice. She cut a center piece and skinned it for me.

One unexpected benefit of the freshly cooked warm brown rice is that it gently heats the raw salmon without cooking it, making it even more tender and tasty.

clean-kitchen

 

tiramisu! . . . !!!

tiramisuI have to confess that I usually steered clear of tiramisu mainly, I will admit sheepishly, because I didn’t really “get it.” Was it a cake? a Napoleon? a custard pudding? But that all changed when about a month ago, my daughter and I shared a slice of tiramisu in an Italian coffee stand in NYC that was to die for. It was so flavorful and creamy, I could have shared a second piece. It was especially good with our cappuccino that had some enhanced cocoa flavor too.

Instead of making the dessert in a footed glass bowl that was too high to put in the refrigerator,  I made a tiramisu in a fluted white porcelain deep baking dish which was pretty and easier to handle. I then did some scouting online for various recipes. The main ingredients that didn’t change were:

lady fingers – a French sponge-cake like cookie

whipped cream and marscapone

coffee

cocoa

eggs

rum or liqueur

***************************************************************

My approach was to make a smaller size tiramisu to fit into my four inch high fluted serving dish. My coffee would be made from instant Medaglia do’Oro espresso coffee. The cocoa, Ghiardhelli. The liqueur was Kahlua.  I’ll make it a day ahead of time with a dusting of cocoa on top, covered with plastic wrap.

Here’s the recipe I followed, which made enough for two cakes, the tall one and a smaller one that I sent up with family to a party today.

It was rich tasting but light and the flavors were subtle, smooth and delicious. I think I might even make it again!

Tips: I used an electric beater in the double-boiler set up to make the zabaglione (egg yolks, sugar, marsala.) Let it COOL a little before you stir in the marscapone. Whip the heavy cream until it’s stiff – otherwise it won’t keep its shape in the tiramisu once it sets. Fold the marscapone mixture a little at a time folding it gently into the whipped cream.

Good luck! and my daughter and I both agreed this homemade tiramisu was even more delectable than the slice we shared together in NYC a month ago.

 

 

 

 

 

dscn8677

pecan crescent cookies for christmas! . . .

pecan-crescents-5

Long ago and far away when my three daughters were young, growing up in a suburb of Boston, I made pecan crescent cookies along with the basic sugar cookies cut out with reindeer and Santa shapes which they would decorate with colored sugar and icing for Christmas.

I didn’t make them every year because the process was a little elaborate and pecans were expensive. This year, however, I decided to resurrect that recipe and make these tender melt-in-your-mouth cookies again.pecan-crescents-1

First, please know that putting the dough together and making/baking the cookies is a two step process (see what I mean?) You first make the dough and then divide it into two and refrigerate the dough OVERNIGHT.

The next day, you take out the dough from the fridge and let them sit for about an hour at room temperature. Then, individually shape them with your hands, bake them at 325 degrees and then roll the warm cookies in confectioners sugar, shaking off the excess. They’re worth it though – and how would I know? I just made the dough and tasted a smidge of it before wrapping it up and putting it in the fridge. It was delicious and reminescent of the cookies of our distant past!~

Here’s the recipe I followed:

PECAN CRESCENT COOKIES:

INGREDIENTS:

8 oz. chopped pecans (mine was Diamond brand) This = 2 cups of nuts for the recipe below.

4 cups flour; 1 teaspoon salt, 1.5 cups confectioners sugar (and more for rolling when baked)

4 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature; 4 teaspoons of vanilla

  1. Buy a packet of pecans. They cost $6.99 here but there’s two cups of nuts and you can make this recipe which yields 6 dozen cookies.
  2. In a dry skillet on medium heat, toast the pecans and stir them up until you can smell the toasted aroma of the pecans. Turn off the heat.
  3. In a Cuisinart (despite the recent blade recall) or other food processor, measure 2 cups of flour, add all the toasted pecans (which is about 2 cups total) and a teaspoon of salt.
  4. Pulse until the pecans are ground up and mixed with the flour/salt. Set it aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl and electric mixer (I have a portable Kitchenaid one where the beaters fall out all the time) and unwrap 4 sticks of butter (yep!) at room temperature. I let it sit out the night before on the kitchen counter. Add 1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar and 4 teaspoons of vanilla. Beat the mixture until it is creamy and well blended.
  6. Add the pecan/flour mixture to the creamed butter/sugar bowl. Combine and mix at low speed. Add 2 more cups of flour and blend it together, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a spatula.
  7. Divide the dough into half and wrap each half with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil.  Refrigerate it overnight.
  8. READY TO FORM AND BAKE the next day: Preheat oven to 325 pecan-crescents-2and line cookie sheets with baking parchment paper.
  9. With your hands, take about a tablespoon of dough, I roll it between my hands to form a cylinder, then curve it and pinch it gently to form a crescent with a ridge on the top tapering out to the base of the cookie on the baking sheet. Space them one inch apart because they expand slightly during baking.
  10. crescentsBake for 18 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges. Remove them with a spatula to a wire drying rack;
  11. Let cool for 10 minutes and then roll the cookies in confectioners sugar, shaking off the excess and place in an airtight container lined with parchment paper. They will last 2 weeks and also freeze well.

They’re a little different from other cookie recipes, tender to the bite with a nutty flavor that melts in one’s mouth. Very handy to have around for the holidays when people drop by and to give to friends along with a couple of mince pies too!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

holiday mince pies! . . .

a baker's dozen of holiday mince pies! . . .

a baker’s dozen of holiday mince pies! . . .

Years ago, I was looking for something special to make for friends, family and professional people who help us out all year long as thank you holiday treats.  A Williams-Sonoma catalog appeared and I saw a Breville “mini-pie maker” that I ordered. At the same time, a store we frequented was selling large jars of Robertson’s mincemeat for pies. I bought about 5 bottles and made my first Christmas holiday mince pies that year.

The aroma of the pies while they’re cooking/baking, permeates the kitchen of our house with a spicy smell that can only be linked to the Christmas holiday. This year, I wanted to make enough to send to people we depend upon to show them our appreciation. I made some additions to the mincemeat:

To two jars of mincemeat that took me ten minutes to locate in the grocery store, I added two peeled, finely chopped Mutsu apples that I had in the fridge. My daughter, C. introduced them to us and they were delicious. I also peeled and cut out the juicy segments of a large Navel orange. Then, a heaping handful of golden raisins went into the large red mixing bowl that I stirred together.

Next, I used two boxes of Pillsbury prepared pie crust, two in a box. I sprinkled flour on my handy silit pad and cut out bottoms and tops to the minced pies. This plastic cutter is vital to making this recipe process work. Fortunately, G. discovered it in the bowels of the pantry when we finally located and dug out the Breville mini-pie pan this afternoon.

Breville mini-pie maker from Williams Sonoma . . .

Breville mini-pie maker from Williams Sonoma . . .

Making four pies at a time, I let the Breville cooker heat up; then carefully pressed bottom pastry rounds into each heated pie space. Then, I spooned in generous amounts of the mincemeat filling, then gently patted the top piecrust round on the filled mincemeat baby crust.

I gently lowered the top and clicked it shut. There was a sizzling sound and soon the aroma of baking pastry filled the kitchen. The pies were so fragrant that it truly felt like Christmas was just around the corner!~ (which it IS!!)

We’ll mail some pies in holiday tins tomorrow at the post office so that these goodies will reach our friends mid-week, around the 21st. They’re best when warmed slightly before serving. We like them with a little cheddar cheese on the side – and some people like them served with vanilla ice cream or some cream.

Like some tasks, I sometimes dread the whole production – searching for jars of mincemeat at the store, buying pie crusts, looking for the Breville pie maker AND the pastry crust mold cutter. BUT, as I’m cutting up the fresh orange, apples and adding the golden raisins, I get in a holiday mood – and when the first batch comes out, it fills me with wonder and delight for yet another holiday season. It’s really worth it and I hope our friends will enjoy this little surprise packed in a gaily decorated tin with two pies nestled in parchment paper.

Happy Holidays!

G. and I shared a small one with our coffee after dinner tonight. We heated it up in the microwave for 20 seconds and ate the mince pie with thin slices of sharp white cheddar cheese. The addition of the fresh fruit and golden raisins has improved what has been an unbeatable holiday treat up to now. Nirvana!