Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Celebrating post 101 with:

For this post, I'm going to join the Traveler's Lunchbox's challenge: listing five things I love and think everyone should eat in their lifetime. You are all invited to join the list. I'd love to hear your top five :0)

1. Vegetarian Shabu Shabu in Taipei with noodles, cabbage and other leafy greens, corn on the cob, mushrooms, tofu, dumplings and taro. And plenty of garlic-vinegar-sugar-soy dipping sauce.

2. Aloo Gobi, (Indian spicy cauliflower and potatoes) the kind I like also has tomato in it. Served with rice, papad and chutney.

3. Calamari and Fresh Bruschetta-- tomato, capers, black olives, onion, garlic, fresh basil and toasted pine nuts cooked in olive oil a top fresh crusty Italian bread slices

4. Bun Cha Gio-- a Vietnamese dish with thin rice noodles, fresh veggies and chopped spring roll.

5. (It's a tie for dessert:) Self-saucing flourless chocolate cake or an almond croissant

Unfried rice

Meal metamorphosis
Remember the salsa I made over the weekend? Well, it made a wonderfully zippy taco salad... but I noticed Joe was going heavy on the tums and decided he needed a comfort dish with a little less zing. So I spilled the remainder of the salsa into the skillet with a pound or so of chicken breast tenders, sliced into bite-size pieces. Not sure if I wanted to make a spanish chicken and rice or a pad-thai flavored dish, I added some swishes of vinegar and fish sauce and more corriander. Then I added some frozen peas to make it look like fried rice... but decided to steam the rice.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bird Quiz

Just kidding. I'm going to limit the fun to the food quiz (see yesterday's post if you missed it.) But, really, if you know what kind of bird this is, I'd love to know. Right now I'm guessing a Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus). But I really don't know. It seemed about the size of a very large red-tailed hawk.
EDIT 5-29-07: Now I'm thinking it looks like an immature Bald Eagle... what do you think?

Joe and I have kind of taken to bird watching since we lived in Taiwan. These photos were taken in Land Between the Lakes, where we went hiking Saturday.

In other bird news, I heard a blue bird's soft, low chu-do, chu-do as I was walking to the mailbox today. At first I just thought it was a distant mockingbird mimicking the sound. But then I looked up and saw a flock of three bluebirds flying in the familiar flap a few seconds, swoop a few seconds pattern. They were talking to each other as they flew. Adorable. If you'd like to get a proper dose of bluebird, click here.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Food Quiz #7

What is it?
What healthful ingredient did I add?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Chameleon flowers

Indoor garden

Just wanted to post something cheerful. The top two photos are of one of my African violets, taken yesterday when the sun came out (for about 15 minutes!)

Believe it or not, this is the same plant, about 1 year ago. My mom bought it for me because it looked a lot like the whitish-blue violets I had at my wedding. Those violets turned snow white after a couple flowering cycles. My current violet seems to have gone the opposite way.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Taco salad

Normally this would be summer food... but I had some tomatoes that were ready to walk away so I made some salsa... and that turned into taco salad.

For salsa:
3 small tomatoes, chopped
1 can corn, drained (unless you don't like corn, Julie)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lime, squeezed
1 green chili pepper... chopped very fine. (my fingers are still burning!)

For meat:
1 lb lean ground turkey (or beef if you're so inclined)
the other half of the medium onion, chopped
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp montreal chicken seasoning
1 Tbs sugar
dash(es) pepper flakes
1 cube sofrito (this is pulverized garlic, cilantro, bell pepper and onion)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heat & Potatoes

Taste Bud Travels Emily Parrino
(Food column that ran today. Some of the recipes are repeats, sorry!)

A college friend of mine used to say that Taiwan winters send a chill to the bones. I always thought she was exaggerating until I lived there. After all, the dead of winter on a subtropical island is much like the rainy season of early autumn in Kentucky, except with palm fronds rustling in the breeze.

Yet three sultry seasons have convinced an entire nation to live without indoor heating and insulated walls. To escape ‘bone chill,’ I learned from the locals that layered clothing and plenty of warming foods are essential.

Rose Wong, a second grade teacher where my husband and I taught English, gave us a hands-on lesson in the art of cozy cooking and snacking. One nippy morning she entered the English office to offer us two handfuls of tiny sweet potatoes. Roasted to caramelized perfection, steam curled from the golden flesh as we tore off the thin skin.

Rose had been baking the potatoes for her students in a toaster oven – which I think was also serving as a space heater. True, there are easier ways to heat a room. But I thought her brilliant for warming her little ones inside and out with such a healthful, cheery treat.
As the temperatures drop, you might be tempted to snuggle up to a heaping helping of (insert unhealthy comfort food here). Autumn’s bounty and summer’s final fruits can be just as comforting and they’re full of nutrients. I also find the vibrant oranges and yellows of fall squash, pumpkins and root vegetables a good mood booster in the face of ashen skies ahead. So take the edge off your chilly parts and your hunger for comfort foods with some of these nutritious and ridiculously simple recipes.

EMILY PARRINO is a New Era copy editor. Her column runs once a month. She can be reached at 887-3298 or eparrino(at)kentuckynewera.com.

Sweet potato oven fries
Peeled and cut 2 large sweet potatoes into French fry-sized sticks. Slather them in olive oil and spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until the edges brown. Sweet potato fries can be served with ketchup or honey mustard, or dusted in salt or cinnamon and sugar.

Eggplant rounds
Slice a medium eggplant in ½-inch rounds, drizzled with olive oil and Italian or balsamic vinaigrette. Roast in a single layer on a well-greased baking sheet for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Bigger rounds can serve as veggie burgers.
Portabella mushroom caps
Slice three portabellas in ¼ inch thick pieces. Arrange them on a baking sheet and drizzle with your favorite salad dressing. Top with grated parmamsean or romano cheese and raw pinenuts. Bake until shrivelly, about 15-20 minutes at 350.

Roasted Veggie medley
Cover a thick cookie sheet with foil.
Toss the following in olive oil and lemon pepper or garlic salt.
Sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes. (Cooked until just tender in the microwave before baking)
Plus as much of any of the following as you can fit in your oven:
Zucchini in 1 ½ to 2 inch chunks
Medium onion, cut in half, then each half cut into about 8 wedges.
Canned whole tomatoes, drained and quartered
4-5 garlic cloves, quartered
Frozen broccoli florets
Frozen cauliflower florets
Frozen uncut greenbeans
Delicata squash stuffed with curried shrimp and vegetables
Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Place the halves skin-side up on a baking sheet and broil for 45 minutes to an hour, until the skin is browned and blistered.
Meanwhile prepare the stuffing: Cook a half cup diced onion with 3 cloves of chopped garlic in a sautee pan with a little oil. When the onions become tender add a ½ cup each of pre-cooked frozen salad shrimp, frozen or canned corn and petite peas. Add a few shakes of curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until mixture is warmed.

Stuffed mushrooms
9oz package of white mushrooms, washed
1 slice of bread
¼ cup frozen broccoli
¼ cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon savory
¼ teaspoon thyme
pinch celery salt
1 egg
your favorite cheese
Toast the bread and let it sit out until all the moisture has evaporated. Gently remove the stems from the mushrooms, set caps aside. Finely chop the stems and add them to a frying pan with a little vegetable oil, the onion, garlic, thyme, savory and celery salt. Cook on medium heat until tender and fragrant then set aside in mixing bowl. Microwave or pan fry the broccoli until tender and then chop finely. Crumble the toast into fine crumbs. Add broccoli and crumbs to the mushroom mixture along with the egg. Blend with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Arrange the caps on a baking sheet and fill each cap as full as possible. Top each with a small piece of cheese and then bake at 450 for 45 minutes or until cheese is browned.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stuffed to the stalk

I took the finished dolma out of the oven minutes before Joe returned from covering the magisterial debates. yes. we have magistrates in Kentucky, and people use the title "squire." I thought it turned out nice. But I never got to eat any of it! See recipe in yesterday's post.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pumpkin Dolma

An unauthentic version

I stuffed this little pie pumpkin, loosely following a recipe in a cookbook geared toward teachers doing a diversity unit. It's one of my favorite cookbooks... bought when Joe and I were teaching at Kuei Shan. I remember making hummus for one of my gifted classes and they kept saying it needed sugar. Those crazy taiwanese... always gotta turn beans into dessert.

Anyhow. Dolma is something stuffed. It could be a vegetable or fruit (or grape leaves in the Greek version). I don't know how often the Turks or Armenians stuff pumpkins, but most of the dolma recipes I found on the web were savory (except this one.) The recipe in my book was sweet... so I decided to make it both.

Pumpkin Dolma
1 cup cooked rice
1 1/2 small granny smiths, peeled and cubed
6 turkey sausage links, cut into tiny pieces
handful of raisins and crasins
1 heaping spoon brown sugar
several shakes salt
3 Tbs toasted pinenuts
1 tsp oil
several shakes pumpkin pie spice

Book says to bake at 350 for 2 hours. Sheesh. It'll be bedtime before it's ready.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Looking ahead and some cookies

First the looking ahead: I'm planning my November food column and was wondering if any of you have any interesting or unusual Thanksgiving food traditions in your families. If you do, drop me a note.
Now on to cookies: The key to cookie baking is taking them out at the right time. I don't always do that. But when I do, these are the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

Mini-chip cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the latter three ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and stir the first three ingredients in a medium bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of mini chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is evenly distributed.

Drop teaspoonfuls of batter onto an insulated cookie sheet. I guess that's another key... if you don't have an insulated sheet, stacking two regular sheets is supposed to work. But I haven't tried it.

Then watch those cookies vigilantly. For example, while I was photographing my first batch, my second batch was turning a nice cinnamony brown color... which is actually not nice because that means they'll be crunchy. I hate crunchy.

Take cookies out when they look set, but not completely done. I know it's not the most sanitary thing in the world, but a slightly raw cookie is a soft cookie.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Looking back

I was hunting for a sweet potato oven fry pic and I came across these photos from our old apartment in Champaign. The top two are from a night during the school year when our "small group" got big.

This is from a summer night when all the leftovers (grad students and families) from various small groups met together. We're all eating Lily's strawberry shortcakes. Good memory.

Most who know me know I'm not much of a people person. That's what I've got Joe for. But I LOVE to have a house full of people. I like feeding them (and letting them feed me.) I like to let them just take over. Hoping that I can have that in my weekly routine again sometime...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Slaving over a hot...

Toaster oven.

I've been cooking up a bunch of veggies for my next KNE food column, due Wednesday if all goes as planned.

Stuffed Mushrooms
8 oz pkg of white mushrooms
1 slice toast
3 Tbs finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup frozen broccoli florets
1 egg
1 pinch celery salt
1 shake savory
1 shake thyme
olive oil
shredded mozzerella

Toast the bread, and let it sit in the toaster so the moisture evaporates. Meanwhile, gently remove mushroom stems and finely chop. Add a little olive oil to a frying pan and add onion, garlic and stems. Also add celery salt and herbs. Cook til onions are translucent. Cook broccoli until tender (either in the microwave or in the frying pan). Finely chop and add to mushroom stem mixture. Crumble the toast into fine crumbs and add it to the rest. Stir in one egg, mashing the mixture with a fork until well-blended. Arrange mushroom caps on a baking sheet and spoon as much mixture as possible into each cap. Top that with a little cheese. Pop it in the oven (toaster oven in my case) at 500 for 20-30 minutes until mushrooms look a little shrivelled and cheese is dark brown.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Farewell, eat well

This post is to say so long to Matt, who makes a mean grilled meatball, uh I mean burger, and who can inhale Toy's Thai Kitchen pad thai like there's no tomorrow... even if that leftover box in the new era fridge is someone else's... Yeah, haven't forgotten that one.:0)

Matt is moving on to bigger and better things as he starts his new job in Clarksville next week. Sadly, the thai restaurant there does not get my rave reviews. Hopefully today's dose will tide him over. Looks like it did.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Red Herring

I heard from an old classmate that the Red Herring, a vegan cafe in the basement of the Unitarian Universalists on the east side of U of I's campus and maker of the most divine cornbread, might be closing. Is it true? Does anyone know?

A quick walk from Greg Hall, this place sustained me with soups: creamy ginger pumpkin, spicy mint pea, and chunky veggie stews among the most memorable. They also had extra hearty hummus sandwiches. The chickpea spread was dense, made all the more delicious with golden oraganic tomato slices and tender lettuce. It was sad to leave Champaign's only vegan restaurant, but it's an even sadder prospect that I may never enjoy the Red Herring again.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Food Quiz #6 answer

A natural fractal, this cauliflower-like vegetable is said to have a buttery taste (though I didn't notice one!) I bought it at the farmers market in Urbana, Ill. I didn't buy it from this guy though.

Because of her excellent Wiki-skills, the prize goes to Jessica, my former GP at Cal-Poly :) Hey, send me your address so I can send you a prize!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Food Quiz #6

Too pretty to eat?

This one's for Matt, who apparently misses the food quiz, even though he doesn't visit often enough to notice that Food Quiz #5 came and went without any comments from him. hmmmph!
1. What is this?
2. What mathematical topic does it bring to mind?
3. In what city was the farmers market where I bought this?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Muffin mood

Tripplet cakes:
I've been inspired lately. Here's zuchinni wheat, pumpkin spice and cocoa clementine muffin recipes.

Zuchinni Wheat Muffins
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 heaping cup finely grated zuch
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1/8 cup canola oil

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
1 cup unbleached flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 cup canola oil

Cocoa Clementine Muffins
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup unbleached flour
pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained and lightly squished
about 1/2 cup orange juice- or enough to make batter a little thicker than pancake batter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg

For any of these recipes, mix dry ingredients in a big bowl, wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine and stir til moistened.
Makes 12 muffins at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Just test doneness by pressing on the top of a muffin with your finger. If it springs back, it's done.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chilly Dilly

my dill babies
narrowly escaped the big chill last night because I brought them to my inside garden. I planted their predecessors in June, but they bolted in July and offered me nothing to eat.

Boy was I depressed. I adore fresh dill on sandwiches, salads and salmon. But all was not lost. At the end of September I noticed some dainty dicots at the base of the spent stems. Had to get my nose right up into the pot to see they were the second generation! (Notice the seed coat still attached to one of the cotyledons.)

Sadly, not only did summer scorch my herbs like a flash fire, but winter has cropped up unannounced with the first frost... and it's only early October???

Enough nature. Let's talk food again.

It's getting to be the perfect weather for a veggie roast. And I really needed to make use of the veggies Mom and I bought from the Mennonites 2 weekends ago.
You can't make too many vegetables, in my opinion... but to fill a big double-thick cookie sheet try this:

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large zuchinni, cubed
1 medium sweet onion, 1-inch chunks
3 small tomatoes, quarterd (I find canned stewed tomatoes work better than fresh, which will weld themselves to the pan if you're not careful)
1 cup frozen cruciferous vegetable of choice (broccoli, cauliflower, or halved brussels sprouts).

Cook your sweet potato chunks covered in the microwave for 3 minutes, until tender. (trust me on this one, crunchy sweet potatoes will ruin the whole thing)

Toss all the veggies in olive oil and lemon pepper until they seem well coated. Roast at 450 until edges are browned and the house smells good (about 30-45 minutes). Don't burn your tongue, and try to share with your loved ones!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

And one more thing...

Here's a post from Joe:

I thought they put me at the front of the raft because of my superior paddling skills. Turns out, it was that my 5'11'' frame was the best splash shield available.
It's amazing that a whitewater virgin can ride the same rapids that are used for Olympic competition. The Ocoee River, 2 to 3 hours north of Atlanta, was the site of the canoeing and kayaking events during the '96 Olympics.
This baby has class-5 rapids, one level short of a deadly rating. We hit a class-4 almost as soon as we launched.
"This one is called 'Grumpy' because if you fall out here, you're going to be grumpy the rest of the way," said our guide Nicki.
Nicki had this way of making grown men shake in their water booties. Her build was slight. Her voice as youthful as a student driver's.
But when she said "one forward" or "take a break," you listened. There was no question as to who was master and commander of our six-man galley.
The five mile course took about three hours to complete. We rumbled through rapids with such names as Double Suck, Diamond Splitter and Broken Nose but not all of the river was so life-threatening.
There were some lazy, drifting stretches where my father-in-law Brad and I abandoned ship.The water was chilly like the fall air. The trees on each bank dropped on us as we floated alongside the raft. It was one of those "forget your troubles" moments.
Eventually, the early stages of hypothermia convinced us to get back in the boat. MOre boulder collisions and 360 spins followed. There are few rushes as exhilirating as feeling out of control and knowing that a drop is coming up.
The trip was essentially over when we got our biggest scare of all. The boat pitched steeply on one side jarring most of us from our positions. At that disoriented moment, the raft pitched again, only in the opposite direction.

The see-saw action was enough to send Brad-Dad completely overboard. Another of crew members would have gone swimming to if not for her left foot wedged under one of the seats.

We quickly spotted Brad-Dad bobbing back to the surface about 10 feet behind us. He got sucked underwater once more by an undertow. But he remembered Nicki saying it was best to relax, curl up in a ball and let the rapids spit you out. He soon emerged again, a little startled but clear-headed enough to swim back to the boat.

Ironically, I was the only one who came away from the trip with a significant injury: a lacerated right hand.

It didn't happen while diving in to rescue a dad in distress. It also wasn't the result of paddle-to-paddle combat with a rival raft. No, I cut my hand when stepping out of the boat on the bank. No applause please.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Chatt Critters

"Always keep your chin down" -- Joe says that should be the motto of the sea horse.

These are Barbour's Sea Horses... taken Sunday at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. I don't think I could ever get tired of watching the cuteness that abounds at that place. I'm considering another career change.

Chatt Flitters

Elusive Blue Morpho
takes a break, and let me pose by him (below.) Later, one landed on my sleeve, but he did it at the same time we were already oggling a little butterfly that had landed on mom's shoulder (above).

So before I could gather everyone's attention by yelling --in an inappropriately loud and excited voice--"I have one too! I have one too!" he flitted away. But there really WAS a morpho on my sleeve. I promise! (Top photo mine, bottom two courtesy of Joe)

Chatt Chow

Rembrant's Coffeehouse
A pretty place with a particularly congested ordering area, Rembrandt's sells deli sandwiches, coffee and desserts. I found the S-shaped cookie particularly memorable.

Mom and I split one S on Saturday while the guys were out hurting themselves on the Ocoee river. Similar to a Jarosh's Bakery butter cookie, I liked Rembrandt's version even better. It had a firmer texture than most butter cookies, without crossing the line into crunchy. Plus almond extract and a thick coat of dark chocolate gave this cookie my two favorite flavors.
Design-wise, the modular shape makes them so perfect for splitting that we shared another Sunday after our lunch there. Lunch was not quite as perfect. I ordered a grilled chicken panini with provolone and some grilled red and yellow bell pepper/onion/unidentifiable leafy green/caper mixture. The sandwich was warm, which I guess could qualify it for the panini title, but each slice of crusty artisan bread was at least an 1 1/2 thick-- making it a rather painful lunch. I guess I'm used to paninis being compact, toasty and intensely flavored. But they skimped on the veggie mixture, which was probably the tastiest part of the sandwich. Anyway, I would eat there again for the ambiance (it's in the Bluff View Art District -- which only really has one gallery--but nevermind, the area feels artsy). And for another S cookie.

Getting outta town

Birthday Boy
drove us into the sunset-moonrise toward Chattanooga, Tenn. on Friday after work. These photos are near Nickajack Lake.
We like the views along this stretch of 24. Plus it's great fun to say "Nickajack" over and over as we cross the bridge.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Happy Birthday, Huz

His 31st birthday is actually tomorrow, but we're heading out of town tonight. If you want to, send him a note at joeparrino (at symbol) yahoo (dot) com.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Friendly buds

Little faces

greeted me on my lunch break today. Some mums broke off the main bush during transport from Elkton to home. Yesterday they were swooning near the bottom of the pot which now sits on our front stoop. Now they enjoy the only lucky spot in the house with afternoon sun.

I like the way they unfurl like spiny sea urchins, hesitant for a day... then a sunburst of boldness.

Food Quiz #5 answer


This dish has been called Japanese Pizza, even though there's not much similarity between the two. It involves meats and veggies (so I guess that's similar), the most plentiful vegetable being shredded cabbage (so I guess that's not too similar.) It's also kind of an omlette, with a layer of chese on top-- seared by an aerosol can of fire. Yow!

This photo was taken in 2004 at Gregg Wroblewski's favorite restaurant in Hiroshima, where he teaches English.

Another answer: In a previous post I made you guess which angel food cake we ended up with from Schlabach's bakery. For some reason the photo, as of Oct. 6 is showing up as a box with a red X in it. Imagine, friends, that it is a picture of a bright yellow lemon angel food cake.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Critters above the cave

After caving, we took one hike on the other side of the ground. Here's a nice sun-loving lizard who was very patient with Joe and I as we snapped about 20 pics. Joe took this one.

Rachel Ray's rival?

Well. probably not, but I have to thank my dad for the suggestion.
Mom and I made a couple of fast meals:

Salad Nicoise (easy version)
1 can chunk light tuna, water drained
2 smallish potatoes
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen green beans
2 hard boiled eggs
rice vinegar
lemon pepper
sliced black olives optional

Slice potatoes into 1-inch by 1/4 inch pieces, microwave for 3 minutes or until tender. Next nuke the beans with a spoonful of water, until crisp tender. Mix tuna with liberal splashes vinegar, generous spinklings of lemon pepper and maybe a teaspoon sugar. Add the veggies and shake dillweed all over. Slice the egg in quarters long-wise and add as garnish. More dill. Lots of dill. mmmm. Serve this warm salad over a bed of greens. Add a sour dough roll from Schlabach's and you're all set.

Great Onyx...Or

just Great Marketing?
There is no onyx in any of the caves. But there is an abundance of beautiful gypsum formations. These look like flowers or sea creatures, depending on your imagination.

Misnomer aside, Mom and I liked the Great Onyx Cave the best... the tour was only 30 people as opposed to 100, and the stalactites and stalagmites were still very much intact... something quite rare for a cave that has been open to the public since the early 1800s. Cave salamanders were a nice touch:
I spotted this little guy on the wall when everyone else just walked on past :-) Because I have a radar for cute life forms. I'm seriously thinking I missed my calling as a national parks ranger.