Friday, March 30, 2007

Another garden discovery

The blueberry buds are opening-- Now I just need some pollinators. And like the oregano and the thyme, look what else decided to come back from the dead! It's the mint that survived the 8 hour car ride back from Cleveland last summer. We'll be having some nice vanilla mint tea in no time :-)

I finally got to make some pad thai this afternoon. I used the mi fun noodles instead of the thicker version and I used more sweet onion than usual. Also, I chopped some romaine to sub for the bean sprouts. I think it turned out pretty good except that the noodles congealed into one giant mass before I got the leftovers into the refrigerator.

My recipe for Pad Thai (adapted from the Viking Cooking School)
Soak for an hour in warm water: 1 package (about 10-12 oz) rice stick noodles, Mi fun take less time to soak, but make the dish less authentic... and may lead to the aforementioned congealing problem.
Heat on low:
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup tamarind juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
Pan fry:
1 block of extra firm tofu, cut into cubes, in 2 Tbs canola oil
Set it aside after it's browned on all sides
Meanwhile, chop:
2 chicken breast halves into big bite-sized pieces
4 or 5 cloves garlic and half a large yellow onion, coarsely
1 heart of romaine. (start from the base and cut rings about 1/2-inch thick)
1/3 cup preserved raddish (optional)
Stirfry: the onion, garlic, veggies and chicken in 3 Tbs oil with crushed red pepper flakes and paprika to taste (I like it hot) Once it smells good, add the sauce mixture.
When the chicken is cooked through, add the softened noodles and cook until the sample you scoop into your mouth with chopsticks has the desired tenderness. Stir in the tofu and small bunch of chopped green onions and transfer the pad thai to a serving dish.
Garnish: Chopped peanuts, more green onion, and fresh lime wedges

Biscotti: take 1

I followed a recipe in a "healthy" cookbook I bought at Caves bookstore in Taipei. Maybe I can blame it on the recipe... but these were THE most rock-hard biscotti of life. If you leave them soaking in a hot beverage for about 2 minutes, they become the consistency of pound cake. I did make some minor changes- the recipe called for cardamom, almonds and orange zest. I didn't have cardamon or zest, so I used vanilla and orange flower water. I don't think that would have made them any less like cement posing as a cookie. Will try again. Won't be posting said recipe.

Rachel-- I saw you sent me a savory cheese biscotti recipe, which I am eager to try.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A package on my doorstep!

Let me just take a few minutes to boast about how good the Lord is to give me such good friends who send me stuff!

And not just any stuff, mind you. Rachel Sawatzky, wo de hen hao peng you, sent me 2 boxes of Chocolate Chex!!! Hao che. I ate many boxes of this stuff when we lived in Taiwan. Now I'll have to ration it out... :-) Or hide it in my desk drawer....shhhh! don't tell Joe.

In addition to the cereal, Rachel shared some favorite recipes, the Sunshine Singer's recent CD, two bags of savory Asian snacks (which, incidentally, was going to be my next column topic) and a bunch of candy. This one is called "Crish" --- and I would say that's not, infact, because no one knew how to spell or pronounce "Crisp" --- but because they wanted to invent a new word hybrid between crisp and "delish." Which it was. Yum.

Green tea flavor. Tasty!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I mentioned a few posts ago that we had some chickadees move into the bluebird box. They make a very green nest with moss and soft grasses.

This morning as I was getting ready I heard the soft, but indisputable churdling of a bluebird. Their call doesn't carry, so I knew he must be close. When I parted the mini blinds, this is what I saw.

I wasn't the only one who noticed. The male chickadee was squeeking and nattering up a storm... but from a safe distance on top of the herbie curbie (that's hopkinsville-speak for garbage can).

I left for work assuming that the blues would win this birdhouse battle, as the bigger bird. When we came home for lunch, we didn't see the bluebirds... so Joe decided to remove the chickadee nest. I'm rather torn, and spent much of the afternoon feeling bad about the poor defenseless chickadees. I'm trying to remember that the box is designed for bluebirds, and that they are the more endangered bird. But the chickadees made such pitiful noises when they returned to the empty box. I believe they've started to rebuild. No sign of the blues. Any thoughts?

Crouching kitty, hidden ...

Not exactly hidden. But stealth cat tries.

new friends

Joe and I went to Lowes on Saturday. He was returning a door mat, and I made a beeline for the nursery. "Don't make too many friends," he warned as we parted ways. So I did my best to be selective-- and chose a carton of tomato plants and a pot of dillweed. I planted them that evening. Happily, my oregano (also from Lowes) came back from the grave. Some second generation lemon thyme also seems to be coming up. And the Blueberry bush is budding with ample clusters of little white bells. Maybe I can actually have some fruit this time.
I also transfered my cilantro... but it doesn't know which way is up.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Indian food with friends


Our nextdoor neighbors left today for Texas ... we wanted to see them off, and I made the risky decision to cook them an Indian dinner yesterday. Happily it was edible!

Tandoori Chicken

Skin about 3 lbs of drumsticks and marinate them overnight in a mixture of tandoori spices (I cheated and used a pre-made spice mix) and yogurt. Then grill or roast them.

Aloo Gobi

My favorite indian veggie dish (above right, hiding under some cilantro) was made with a recipe from a book Ravi lent me. It's basically just potatoes and cauliflower in some spices and an onion garlic puree. Onion milkshake anyone?

That little pile of chickpeas, tomatoes, cilantro, potato and crisp puffed rice and chickpea crackers is served with mint chutney. It's called Bhel Puri. Ravi says it's Indian fast food.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

New Tenants

This has been an interesting weekend -- Our friends Jeremy and Shirley Martin are moving into a duplex at the end of our street :-) Our friends and nextdoor neighbors Ravi, Pria and Akash are moving to Texas on Monday-- which is bitter sweet because we'll miss them, but think they will like it there. And it looks like we might have some new friends moving into the bluebird box. They're not blue. But we welcome them just the same. Chickadees are not too common, though their name is so familiar. Sparrows pretty much out compete most birds, so we're happy to have this little couple make a neat nest of moss and fine grasses, rather than the half-hearted pile of weeds the sparrows keep throwing together in there.

Joe-fried dumplings

This is something I should have posted back with the exploded brussels sprout, but I'm catching up now. Joe and I have different styles of frying frozen chinese dumplings. Mine, fried with minimal oil and about 2 cups frozen broccoli, come out kind of soggy. Joe uses a lot of oil (presumably, from what's left in the pan after he's done, but I haven't allowed myself to watch how much he uses) And he skips the broccoli. And his come out PERFECT-- crunchy and firm and tasty. With a few chunks of kim chee cucumbers, it makes a quicky lunch.

When others are craving chicken noodle

I get a hankering for fishball soup.
I was running a low fever this week, I think it was a sinus infection. Wednesday was the worst... achey, chills and hot sweats, sneezing etc. It was also a very busy day for Joe so I was left to make my own dinner (yeah, there was leftover pizza, stromboli, lentil soup, and homemade coleslaw in the frige, but I felt I deserved some soup.) So I dug into the depths of a freezer that's booby trapped with about 20 ice packs and maybe 100 frozen dumplings to find the last pack of fish cakes from my birthday shopping trip in Nashville. The contents, I found, were entirely new to me!

2 cotton-candy pink fishballs with a thin fried coating, which I found rather rubbery
1 giant square of very fluffy, spongey fish cake (bream?)It was like fish souffle. And it grew on me after I'd soaked it in my homemade dipping sauce.
2 tenpura patties-- a more meaty fish cake with little crunchy bits of veggie inside
2 tofu pouches, tied with some pale, crunchy vegetable. Cute, aren't they? The first one I ate was filled with mung bean noodles and veggies. The second surprised me with some very doughy gummy filling, probably a mix of tapioca and rice flour.

I cooked all of it in my fondue pot along with a heart of romaine, a handful of baby portabellas, a wedge of tomato, a few cauliflower florets and some frozen taro chunks.
To make dipping sauce:
2 T lite soy
2 T rice vinegar
1 T sugar
1-2 chopped green onions
1 clove chopped garlic

I've been wondering what it takes to make a fish ball. Anyone tried it?

More about dough

Though I wouldn't say the stromboli was a smashing success, the pizza we made with the other lump of dough was pretty tasty. Joe says he wants me to make more... I'm not sure if my breadmaker and I are on speaking terms just yet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Stromboli, almost my way

Last month I tried a new approach with my KNE food column by giving my review of some local cuisine. Several of my coworkers raved about the stromboli at Pizz-A-Roma. I'd had stromboli a couple summers ago while listening to
an open air concert at Ravinia in the Chicago suburbs. We had a picnic spread of munchies, of course, and my mom's coworker Sue and her husband brought homemade stromboli. What a treat. The flavors of pepperoni pizza, but compacted
into a doughy coil with a crispy edge. I've often thought about that meal and thought of it right away at the mention of Pizz-A-Roma's stromboli. I was a little disappointed when I went to taste the Hoptown version of the dish: Ground beef, ham and cheese sandwiched between two halves of a thoroughly buttered baguette. Not that it tasted bad... I just found the presentation lacking. So fast forward four weeks. I got the craving again. I had to do it. Even if it meant a very messy kitchen and an all out punching match with my breadmaker.
My finished product, billowing hot steam as it came out of the oven at 11 p.m. last night is seen here, along with a little of the process. The top picture is Joe and my lunch... after it had been refrigerated overnight. Not quite what I had in mind (I guess I didn't stuff enough or roll as tightly as I should have). But definitely on the way toward a true (in my mind) stromboli.

If you're interested:
Put in a breadmaker on "dough setting" in this order
1 1/4 cups water
2 T olive oil
4 cups bread flour
2 T sugar
2 tsp salt
seasonings (rosemary, basil etc.)
1 pkg yeast (.25 oz) (make a divet in the flour to hold it)

Pizza or spaghetti sauce of choice, I used Prego mushroom
Sliced mushrooms
Turkey pepperoni

Roll out the dough into a big rectangle... as thin as possible.
Spread on toppings, then roll it up like a rug. Smoosh it flat, without bursting the seams, then pinch the edge of the dough in to seal. Mine obviously came unsealed. So don't really worry about that step. Bake at 425 until it looks done :-) maybe 20 or so minutes?

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Wood Shed

Now for the people snacks. We wanted to take Tai and Saya to an authentic Kentucky restaurant. It probably doesn't get anymore downhome than the Wood Shed's barbecue "meat and three."
I chose mashed potatoes (good, but not homemade), green beans (my favorite southern veg) and fried squash with the smoked chicken.

Saya also had chicken. Taizo had the barbecue pork. They also thought their meals were photo-worthy. :)
Joe strayed from the pack and ordered a barbecue mutton sandwich with fries. I like the Wood Shed's veggie side selections, and their pink-tender smoked chicken. I'm not a big fan of their burgoo, and the little salty fried corn muffins-- served at most restaurants down here-- never taste fresh to me (anywhere.) This restaurant also teases numerous fruit and cream pies in a case behind the register. I've never had room to sample any of them, but my mom says their coconut cream is tops.

Edit 05/09: I love love love their chocolate chess pie and chocolate meringue... but an entire slice is too much for one emily.

Bison snacks

OK, I've actually eaten a buffalo burger before -- at the Indiana State Fair -- it was pretty good. But the snack I'm referring to here is GRASS, which the LBL bison herd enjoys in abundance. Here's a little video.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hematite Lake, and snacks

Before begining our chilly jaunt around Hematite Lake in LBL, we decided to eat part of our picnic. The Yasudas brought sandwiches and sticky rice balls. The Parrinos supplied the dried cuttlefish, freeze dried okra and sweet potato, almonds and garlic pita chips.

Daffodil? Narcissus or Buttercup?

There's some contention among locals about the name of these spring blooms. I call them Daffodils. Their latin name is Narcissus, and buttercups, while descriptive, refers to those tiny creeping wildflowers in the ranunculous family. I was happy to find this field in the same spot it was in last year. Joe and I went to LBL with our neighbors, Tai and Saya.

Taco Ring

I usually go home for lunch each day... I like to say hello to my plants --and my refrigerator. On Thursday I went to Sara's for lunch with some of the other gals from church. I felt so special when I learned that the inner circle of her taco ring was cheese-free, just for me :-) A simple dish of crescent rolls folded over beef with taco seasonings, the arrangement made a very appealing presentation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More about Brussels

Sprouts, that is. Did you know they can explode in the microwave?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lunch in the sun

Today we ate lunch on our patio. Joe had the last of the fajitas, and I had a turkey sandwich and some brussels sprouts. Yes, I LOVE brussels sprouts.

We listened to cardinals compete for their true love, watched a groundhog waddle in the tall grass and then sit up on his haunches with excellent posture, and enjoyed a warm and nearly bugless day.

Snack and Craft night

Monday night was "snack and craft night" at my place. This lovely snack is Deona's Amish Friendship Bread with chocolate chips.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Skillet Granola

Granola holds a lot of happy breakfast memories for me. My grandma Tilsch makes her own granola with oats and crushed shredded wheat cereal. The Amish out here make a version that tastes like butter cookies. When I lived in California I went to a camp where they served homemade granola for breakfast. It seemed easy enough. And it is. I started experimenting with granola when I lived in Taiwan... a box of 100% Natural went for 3 times the price it is in the U.S. -- and such a small box could vanish in a couple days.

All you need is:
Almonds (sliced or slivered)
Rice Krispies
Sesame seeds

Heat a skillet on medium high, add a mound of sugar and wait for the sugar to liquify. Once it does, dump in the oats and other ingredients and stir to coat with the sugar. Keep stirring until almonds begin to brown. Then dump the whole thing out onto wax paper to cool and solidify.

I like fresh granola hot off the skillet. It goes beyond the 'snap crackle pop' of rice krispies in milk -- it's like the sizzling rice soup of the breakfast world.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Home-style Tempura

Sunday evening Joe and I were treated to a true Japanese meal at out neighbors' place. Unlike the overly batter-y version in U.S. restaurants, Sayaka's tempura is just dusted with a crispy coating. She fried gyoza, salmon, okra, brocoli, mushrooms and chicken. What a treat! Taizo made Osaka-style okinomiyaki, which was Joe's favorite part of the meal.
Here's our lovely host and hostess. Taizo came to the U.S. because his job with Autotech brought him here. Joe and I have really enjoyed getting to know our neighbors from other countries.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ode to Mom

My mom and I enjoy many of the same things: good restaurants in cute towns (like this Japanese cafe in Chattanooga), Cute critters, and buying up good produce to cook at home.

This is a belated birthday post for my mom, who turned one year younger on March 1.