Monday, March 31, 2014

Mastering Steel Cut Oats

My office is very nice. They use one of those fancy rice cookers to cook up a giant pot of steel cut oats for us every morning for breakfast and every morning I stare at the gluey chewy mass and shudder. I know its good for me and I should try to eat it but the few times I have requires me to stir in a giant spoonful of peanut butter and top it with lots of cinnamon sugar. I still give up after a few bites. It's gooey, tasteless, overy chewy, and generally unappealing. It cools in the manner of quick drying cement, fast and hard. So, generally I skip breakfast or have a piece of cheese or a 1/2 cup of nuts instead. Then I read about crock potting steel cut oats. That seemed simple enough so I began to experiment at home with my own supply of organic steel cut oats. It wasn't much better. I gave it up again for another year or so. Recently I've been searching again for a quick filling breakfast. I came across the crock pot oats again but with a twist. It's basically a double boiler method. You fill a mason jar or large bowl with the mixture, stick it in your crock pot, fill the crock up with water about half way up the side of the jar and wake up in the AM to perfect oat meal. If you're lucky (or over prepared) like me, you have one of the 3-in-1 crocks. It basically has 3 sizes, a 4, 6, and 8 quart crock that all fit into the same base. I used the 4 inside the 8. It made a luscious creamy mass of oats with just a little bite but I felt like I was wasting heat with all that extra water in the 8 that was under the 4 and just heating up the oats. Also, while the oats were wonderful texturally I never liked how much sweetner it took for me to cozy up to them but at the supermarket I realized the solution. I bought a bunch of tiny sweet potatoes and cooked them in the water underneath the oats then mashed them into the oats when done. It was sweet and delicious. It stores well in the fridge but does tighten up when cold. I mix in a little almond milk in the AM to loosen it back up to a desireable texture and eat it just like that. Cold and still delicious with no addition sugars!

Sweet Potato Steel Cut Oats

1 cup organic steel cut oats
1 cup almond milk (real milk or just water also works here but water will be less creamy)
4 cups water

1 lb sweet potatoes (try to find dinky ones about 3 inches long and as skinny as possible so they will fit into your crock better)

1 cup dried fruit (optional but I used unsweetened unsulfured apricots roughly chopped)

Find a 4 quart mason jar or large bowl that will fit in your crock pot. I'm using the 4 quart crock that comes with my 3-in-1 pot. Add oats, almond milk, water, and dried fruit to container. Add container to the crock pot. Fit the sweet potates cleaned but unpeeled around the container. Fill crock with enough water to come about 3/4 of the way up the crock and ensure all potatoes are submerged (its ok if they float but if you press down on them, they should come under the top of the water. Set it on low. I cook mine over night about 8 hours and its fine but I think its probably done in 6. Fish out the potatoes. Slip the skins off and mash into the oatneal. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


So anime has had a strange effect upon my food cravings. I end up wanting to try many of the treats I see depicted in various animes. They seem to enjoy it so much! And sure, I know its a cartoon. I'm extremely fond of trying street foods as well when I visit foreign countries. I find it to be the best way to get a bit of local flavor. Considering these two, it seems only natural that one of the foods to catch my eye on animes is takoyaki. They look fabulous. Hot little rounds covered in delectable sauce that students would eat by street stalls, you know, generally right before the giant magical demon mecha that's actually their classmate attacks. THAT SNACK. I read up all I could on it. Scoured the web. It should have a crispy exterior with a custardy interior hidings lots of little goodie bits to give it texture and flavor. The trickiest part seemed to be how the vendors would turn the half cooked balls a quarter turn at a time to spill out and cook the raw insides using what appeared to be two tiny little skewers. To get around my lack of skill (and lack of a takoyaki pan) I used my cake ball pan. I managed to get all the tastes and textures I should have but not the look. I got more of a slightly squished Saturn than a ball. Little, slightly flat balls, with crispy flattened ring of dough attached. Oh well, practice makes perfect right? These were so good that I'm more than willing to try again. For the filling and toppings in the recipe, I listed what I used but generally its up to you. Use chicken, shrimp, cheese, cabbage, soy sauce, ketchup, whatever you want. Its all good.


1 cup flour
1 tblsp corn starch
3 tsp soy sauce
2 cups chicken stock (icy cold from the fridge is best)
2 egg

Finely diced octopus, scallion, ginger

oknomiyaki sauce,  kewpie mayo, furikake, bonito flakes

Sift together flour and corn starch. Beat in egg, soy sauce, and 1/2 cup stock until you get a smooth paste then slowly beat in the rest of the stock. Let rest while you dice up your fillings and heat up the pan. Spray the pan with a bit of oil. Fill the little wells about 3/4 of the way. Add in a bit of each filling until the well is almost full. Top with more batter. Some will leak out around the wells. This is ok! Now, you can do it the right one as depicted here but I lacked his amazing skills and confidence. Instead, I oiled the top of this cake pan and just flipped the whole thing to get the top to cook. Top as you'd like.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie?

To say it simply snowed this weekend would be an understatement. It blizzarded. It closed down the city roads and blacked out large portions of town. It almost ruined my Lunar New Year. We didn't get to have the big family gathering I had come to expect or the many delicious dinners mom would churn out. I got my car stuck just trying to reach my parents so I could give them some treats to ensure their year started out with plenty of good things. It was literally a drive by since there was no where to park. I did not get to walk away with giant bags of goodies as I have historically been able to. After a harrowing journey home I need something to treat myself to for the New Year and something to comfort myself with however I didn't want to go crazy with the calories since I was stuck indoors with almost nothing to do. I looked around to see what supplies I had and came up with this (slightly) healthier version of a chicken pot pie that's still lazy and cheaty. The crust on top was only ok but the filling was just as good as the real thing.

(Healthier) Chicken Pot Pie

2 cups Carbquik
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp basil
1 tsp onion powder
1.5 tsp baking powder

2 roasted chicken breasts cooled and cubed
1 16oz bag of mixed frozen veggies
1 can 99% fat free condensed mushroom soup
1 can 99% fat free condensed garlic mushroom soup

Heat oven to 350F. Run veggies under hot water in a sieve until defrosted. Drain. Add to chicken and mix with the two cans of soup. Pour the whole mess into an 8 inch round pan. Mix all the crust ingredients in a seperate bowl. Turn out onto a large surface and knead together into a ball. If its too dry and won't hold together, sprinkle on a little water at a time. Try to knead it as little as possible. Roll out into a circle to fit over the top of the pan. Lay on the crust and bake for 40 minutes until bubbly and golden.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lamb Roast!

One of the simplest ways for me to feed a crowd of guests has always been to throw a giant chunk of animal into the oven and let it roast away. Generally this require little active hands on time and allows me to kick back, chatting with guests, while something spectacular is being made. It doesn't hurt that mouth watering smells will drift out from the kitchen while you wait, whetting the guests' appetites. This is a personal favorite of mine. I am not a big beef eater. For red meat, I generally prefer something like lamb instead. This produces a lovely roast with little to no gamey-ness. When slicing, try to get a little bit of the crust into every slice. Its meant to be extra salty to give it a little contrast with the milder meat beneath.

Garlic Rosemary Crusted Lamb Roast

1 5 lb lamb leg butt roast (no this isn't what you think! its just the upper part of the lamb leg which has more meat than the ankle bit)
10 - 15 cloves garlic
4 tsp dried rosemary
4 tsp salt (be generous with this)
2 cups rough cubed root vegetable (any will do. I used celeric above. Its really there just to give the neat a little room above the pan to allow for better hot air circulation)

Take roast out 30 mins before cooking to let it warm up to room temp. Cut off best as you can (no need to be a surgeon about this!) all the fat and silver skin. Using a tiny food processor, mortar & pestle, or teeny blender cut/mash the garlic, rosemary, and salt together into a gritty paste. Smear paste all over the roast. stick roast on top of veggies in pan. Set oven to 450F. By the time your oven comes up to temp the roast should be nicely warmed up. Stick the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 350F. Roast for another 45 - 60 minutes checking for the roast to come up to about 130F - 140F with a meat thermometer and depending on how rare you like your meat. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving. In the meantime I like to scrape out the root veggies from under the roast and puree them with a bit of beef stock into a nice mash to serve along with some salad or greens.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Return to the Holidays

Its been a while. I've been busy and not making anything too special but with the return to the holidays, comes also the the need to discover new and impressive recipes to try out on the guinea pigs, ahem, family and friends... For this Thanksgiving, I continued my on-going search for the perfect fat free alternative to the apple pie. My dad is a BIG fan of the apple pie, however his heart condition makes it near impossible for him to snack freely on the butter laden crusts. Every year I turn my thoughts to trying to return that joy to him. This year I think I came pretty close. I designed a meringue "nest" that was incredibly melt in your mouth light then created a ginger apple filling to go with it. When added at the last minute, you got all the great textures and tastes (almost) of apple pie. It was a crisp light crust accompanied by warm flavorful apple. HOWEVER, this is not a dessert that sits well. The shells absorb the moisture of the apple filling converting from crisp lightness to a chewier THING within minutes. Anybody with a suggestion on how to overcome this, let me know.

Apple Meringue Nests

For the nests:
2 egg whites
1/4 cup caster sugar (I  use regular sugar and spin it around the grinder first for finer granules)
pinch cream of tartar

For the filling:
4 apples peeled and cut into thin chunks
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cardmom
1 tsp crystallized ginger finely minced
1/4 cup maple sugar (more depending on how sweet you like it)

fat free whip cream (optional, and I used mimic cream)

Bring the egg whites to room temperature. Add the cream of tartar and whip at high speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time and continue to whip until you get stiff peaks. Put into a piping bag with a big round tip (sorry I have no idea what size my tips are) and squeeze out in a long coil six 3 inch diameter discs. Go back over the edge of each disc with additional rounds of meringue until you get about an inch high wall to each nest. Feel free to make them bigger or smaller as you'd like but you want a nice depth to fill later. Bake at 200F for about 2 hours or until the nests are dry. Do not let them get any color at all. Mine look golden but really that's a because I'm a sucky photographer. They were snowy white in reality. Turn off the oven and leave in there over night to dry fully. You can make these ahead of time and store them in an airtight box in the fridge for several days. Nice huh?

For the filling, mix the apple, ginger, and spices into a heavy bottomed pot. Cook until the apples just start to soften and give off some liquid. Add the maple sugar and continue to cook until the apples have fully softened and the juices caramelize. Let cool until still warm but no longer steaming hot. Fill the nests with the apple mixture then top with whip cream as desired. Eat immediately! If you aren't having dessert right away the apple rewarms nicely later on. Do not fill until you are ready to eat.

Just a Bit of Pretty

There's no real recipe to this but its so pretty I had to post it. I made it as a veggie side dish to our holiday feast. All the sparking colors made my family exclaim over its beauty and my dad at first mistook it for a fruit platter because, of course, veggies would not be so bright. There was about 1/3 of the platter left over at the end (I always make too much) when we were splitting up the Thanksgiving meal and my dad quickly muttered "you won't want to take this back" then scraped it all into a bowl and popped it into his fridge. Its very simple to make, you peel and cut a variety of veggies into about the same size, toss to coat in grapeseed oil with salt & pepper, then roast in a single layer spread out over a cookie sheet at 375F until a little shriveled and cooked through.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Veggie Tart

When my CSA first started the ground had barely defrosted and the pickings were slim but I was ok with that. I live alone. How many veggies does one girl need? Well summer is fading fast and I've been inundated with zucchini, tomatoes, and interestingly enough, potatoes! Last night I racked my brains on how to use them up or at least preserve them. Generally preserving food to me means cooking them up somehow and freezing them in tiny portions for the future. I sliced up some potatoes and made a low fat gratin by basically layering them with onion and spices then pouring a can of evaporated skim milk over it all before baking. Chopped up zukes went into a dutch oven with tomatoes and some indian spices to be cooked down into a kind of all purpose sauce which works great over pasta, meats, fish, etc. All this was great but I felt it was a pity not to show case the produce themselves somehow. Flipping though various possible recipes I came up with the idea of a veggie tart with a potato crust. It helped use up my surplus and was so simple as to allow the veggies themselves to shine. And while it tastes great, next time I would hide the basil layer as they turned a rather unattractive brown post cooking.

Veggie Tart

(Please note these amounts are approximate as a lot depends on the size of your veggies. Just keep slicing until you have enough to cover. A mandoline or food processor greatly helps with all the slicing here.)

5 small potatoes sliced paper thin
1 onion thinly sliced
4 zucchini sliced into 1/4 inch rounds (my zukes are ~6 inches long each)
4 tomatoes sliced 1/4 inch thick and gently squeezed to get rid of some seeds/liquid
1/2 cup basil chiffonade
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (make sure its one that melts well)

Set oven to 400F. Spray a half sheet pan with canola oil. Cover the pan in a double layer of potato slices overlapping slightly so they form a giant crust. Salt lightly between layers. Bake for 20 minutes. Spray top of crust with more canola oil. Bake for another 20 minutes until golden. Lower temp to 375F. Layer as follows: cheese, onion, basil, zucchini, tomato. Salt and pepper top generously. Bake for 40 minutes or until you see the tomato starting to shrink/dry a bit. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before cutting and serving.