25 January 2010

Kale and Tofu with Peanut Sauce

Also: How Not to Cook Tofu

I've attempted kale with peanut sauce a few times, with less than stellar results. I initially resolved to use a recipe this time, but after finding about a million different recipes for peanut sauce and zero that sounded like what I wanted, I decided to make it up again. This time, the peanut sauce was excellent! Yay for experimentation!

In my recipe search I found one that recommended frying the tofu into crispy bites first, then lowering the heat and adding the onions to the same pan, then adding the sauce and vegetables. It was a disaster – the tofu completely fell apart, so that at the end there were tofu crumbs throughout the dish, making it look a little like vomit. Despite the unappetizing appearance, it was delicious. I will definitely use this peanut sauce again! Here's what I did:

In a bowl, combine the following:
One can coconut milk
A little over a cup of peanut butter
A little under ¼ cup soy sauce
Juice of half a lime
about a teaspoon grated ginger
one or two teaspoons chopped cilantro
a few shakes of cayenne powder
Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

Slice one block of tofu into bite-sized wedges. Coat the bottom of a pot with high-heat oil and place on medium-high heat. Add the tofu and tend carefully, hoping it will get nice and crispy. Begin to fret when the tofu all sticks to the bottom of the pan. Add more oil, turn frequently, and watch in horror as the bottom of the pot becomes covered in a white tofu coating. Decide it won't get all crispy-fried and add one diced onion, one diced Anaheim pepper, and three cloves of chopped garlic. Lower heat and stir very gingerly in the pan, trying not to break the tofu into ever-smaller pieces. Once the onion is soft, pour in the peanut sauce. Add one bunch of kale, chopped, and a large handful of sliced mushrooms. Stir occasionally while the kale cooks down. Observe that the tofu has completely disintegrated, and give up trying to preserve any of the larger pieces. Serve with brown rice.

This ended up being nicely spicy and flavorful. Next time, I will just stir the tofu in at the end. If you want to use the fried tofu idea, I bet it would work if you had a better-quality non-stick pan. After frying, you should probably remove the tofu to a separate plate, and add it back in at the end so that it doesn't fall apart.

This is when I knew I had made a terrible mistake with the tofu:

And this is the final product (I have got to figure out how to take better food photos in our dim kitchen):

24 January 2010

Margarita (Rainbow) Cake

based off of this recipe

I've made this cake twice. The first time, I made it in it's normal color.

I also made it as my "wild card" entry in the bake-off this week. I made it into a rainbow cake and called it "stumbling over the rainbow" garnished with whipped cream (clouds) and tequila (a pot of gold!). I have made a few rainbow cakes before. I got the idea from my friend Sarah, and learned how to do it from this blog, which explains how to make a layer cake. A bundt is a little different.

The first time I made this cake it was AMAZING. This week when I made it, it was good, but not great. I made it exactly the same (except for the colors, of course) and I think the problem was the limes. I tried one of the limes and it just didn't taste very good. There is a lot of lime juice in both the cake and the glaze. So, my take home message is, don't make this cake unless you have delicious limes!

Onto the cake!

1 package of Betty Crocker French Vanilla Super Moist Cake (or other vanilla box cake)
1 3.4oz package of instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
2/3 cup orange juice (no pulp)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup reposado or silver tequila--cheaper quality is fine, but I would recommend against "gold" tequila (I generally am against "gold" because it has fake flavors) and "anejo" tequila (because it is more expensive and has a stronger flavor)
2 Tbsp triple sec (cheap is fine here too)

2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp tequila (same rules as above)
1/4 cup triple sec or higher quality orange liqueur (I use Contreau)

coarse salt for garnishing

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour a bundt pan. I am always worried about cakes not coming out of the bundt pan, so I always flour well!!

2. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until combined thoroughly.
if you want to make this as a regular cake, just pour all of the batter into the bundt and skip to step #7

3. To make a rainbow cake, separate the batter into 6 small bowls.
4. Add food coloring to the bowls. Use gel food coloring instead of liquid, if possible. Gels make a might brighter dough.

5. Keep adding colors until very bright. I don't think you can over-color. Purple is the hardest color to make, but you can do it! Mix thoroughly.

6. Put the colors in the pan. Purple first, them blue, green, yellow, orange and red.

7. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick or chopstick inserted into the middle of the pan and comes out clean.
8. While the cake is baking, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup triple sec and 2 Tbsp tequila and whisking until smooth.
9. When the cake is ready, remove it from the oven. Pierce the cake with a fork several times. Pour 1/2 cup of the glaze on the cake. Allow to sink in for 10 minutes.
10. After 10 minutes, flip the cake over onto a cooling rack that has been placed in a large tray or baking pan (so glaze can drip off without making a mess!).
If you used the coloring, the cake will not be pretty! Because of the purple food coloring and the butter from the pan, it looks brownish. Don't worry!

11. Pour 1/3 of the glaze (about 1/4 cup) on the cake. Wait ~15 minutes. Pour another 1/3 on. Wait another ~15 minutes, then pour the last 1/3 on. Make sure the whole cake has been covered with glaze. Use a brush if you have one.
12. Once the cake has fully cooled, squeeze lime juice over the cake and sprinkle with coarse salt.
13. Cut and serve!

Notes: I arranged the colors the way I did because I knew I wanted to arranged the slices of the cake on the plate to look like a whole rainbow. I wanted the purple end in the middle and the red end on the outside, so I made the purple the round end. If you are going to serve this just as single slices, I would put the red in the bottom because the colors will look more like a real rainbow.

23 January 2010

African Peanut Soup

based off of this recipe

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 medium red peppers, chopped
1 red (very hot) or green (hot) jalepeno, keeping the seeds if you like the extra heat, chopped (optional)
8 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
dash Vermouth
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup chunky peanut butter
salt to taste

1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
2. Add onion and peppers to pot and stir until soft.
3. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.
4. Stir in tomatoes, stock, pepper, and chili powder.
5. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Add brown rice and simmer until rice is soft. This took me almost 45 minutes, which was surprising, maybe I had very dehydrated rice?
7. Add peanut butter and stir until incorporated.
8. Salt to taste.
9. Enjoy!

Verdict: This was pretty good. I wasn't sure what I was expecting it to taste like. It has a mild flavor, there obviously aren't many spices. The jalepeno wasn't in the original recipe, but I am glad I added it. To be honest, at first taste I wasn't thrilled. But I had a bowl and by the end, I wanted more! It is a good comfort food. It's been a rainy week here in Santa Barbara, so I've been craving a lot of soup!

22 January 2010

Black Bean Squash soup

So I'm slow to start contributing to this blog. Though I've talked about starting my own blog for ages, I haven't been doing much cooking lately. And sadly this recipe is more like an idea rather than a true recipe; I invented it, not lookng at a single recipe for inspiration nor measuring a single thing. The result was surprisingly tastey, even my roommates agreed.

We had a squash that's been sitting on the mantle above the fireplace since one of the last Columbia City (our neighborhood) farmer's markets in October, and it's slowly turned reddish from it's original green color, rather like leaves in the fall. Taking this as a sign that it was begging to be eaten and on the verge of rotting, I created this soup around it. I'm includying measurements here that I think are good estimations of what I actually used, but honestly I don't know for sure.


cooked black beans, maybe about 3 cans worth or half a 1lb bag
1 squash, I used kabocha (I think, though acorn squash or a similar type might even be better) cut into bite sized cubes and roasted until soft
1 medium onion, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
as much water/leftover bean broth from cooking as you want to make the soup the consistency you desire

The trickiest part is removing the skin from the squash, which can take a while. Once removed, cut the squash into bite sized pieces and coat with neutral oil. Roast the squash at 400 degrees about 30 minutes, maybe less, until it is soft. I'm not even convinced that roasting adds that much flavor, so alternatively you could cook it with the black beans unil soft and let me know how it tastes.

While the squash is roasting, saute the onions until softened, then add the garlic and be careful not to brown it too much. Then add all the ingredients to the black beans in a big pot and cook about 10-15 minutes until the flavors blend. Serve and enjoy!

Despite the Japanese name of the squash I used, all squash is native to central america, and therefore I decided to loosely use mexican seasonings for this recipe. The soup is slightly spicy, contrasting nicely with the sweet squash. If you make it too spicy, you can always add yogurt, sour cream, or even Mexican crema if you have it to take the edge off. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cake with Coconut Buttercream and Ganache Drizzle

I participated in a bake off this week for a friend's birthday. This one was the winning cake! I have made the chocolate cake from this many times and it is super easy to make and very tasty! The frosting is a little more work, but it is totally worth it.

Chocolate Cake (from this recipe exactly, except I increased the vanilla)

2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted*
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (this time around, I used whole milk, but I usually make this cake with skim milk and it comes out fine! the cake is a little stickier with skim milk, but still tastes great)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and flour 2 8" round pans.
2. Mix the sugar, flour, cocoa, powder, soda and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and mix until well blended.
4. Add the boiling water. I think according to the original recipe, you are supposed to add it slowly, but I just pour it all in and mix until blended. The batter will be very thin.
5. Pour the batter into the two pans.
6. Bake 30-35 minutes in the oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
7. Remove from oven and allow it to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then remove from pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.

*normally, I don't sift things because I am lazy.. but with cocoa I think it's important to sift because there are always clumps of chocolate, and you want to make sure it will mix properly!

Coconut Buttercream (recipe taken directly from this book which is one of my favorite cakebooks!)

Milk Mixture
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut (the recipe calls for 1/2 cup, I've made this twice and the first time it was not coconutty enough, so I added more)
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp white sugar

Yolk Mixture
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp potato starch
4 Tbsp room temperature butter (1/2 stick)

Flavorings and Butter
1/4 cup muscovado (or dark brown) sugar
1 Tbsp coconut rum
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 lb chilled butter (4 sticks), cut into tablespoons

1. Pour milk mixture ingredients into a medium or large saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
4. While the milk mixture is cooling, put the 6 yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and 3 Tbsp potato starch in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add 4 Tbsp room temperature butter but do not mix.
5. After 10 minutes, return the milk to a simmer. (I forgot to do this step the second time and it came out fine!)
6. Once it reaches a simmer, slowly pour the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking until fully combined.
7. Pour back into the saucepan and heat over medium high heat for 4 minutes or until the sauce thickens (and when you see "lava bubbles" as the book calls it, meaning large bubbles that pop slowly). Whisk constantly to prevent the cream from cooking on the bottom of the pan.
8. Reduce heat to low and whisk for 1 minute.
9. Pour the cream into a stand mixer. Add muscovado, rum, and vanilla and beat on high for 4-5 minutes or until cream gets down to room temperature.
10. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low and add the chilled butter one tablespoon at a time.
11. After all butter has been added, whip on medium speed until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.

2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup of cream
favorings of choice to taste! I used vanilla and Contreau

Add all ingredients to a double boiler (if you don't have a double boiler, here is a way to make one with pots you have) and heat, stirring constantly until smooth.

Assembling the Cake
1. Cut the cooled cakes in half, so you have 4 circles (layers).
2. Put the bottom half of one cake on a cake plate.
3. Put a thick layer of coconut buttercream on the cake.
4. Take the top of the cake and put it upside-down on the buttercream, so the rounded side is down and the flat side is up.
5. Pour a layer of ganache on the cake.
6. Put the bottom layer of the other cake on the ganache.
7. Add another later of buttercream.
8. Put on the top layer of cake, round side up.
9. Cover the the top and sides with buttercream and drizzle with ganache (I used a spoon).
10. Allow frosting to set and ganache to cool before serving.

18 January 2010

Aromatic Pumpkin and Coconut

Heidi got the book Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent from the library, and I began flipping through it recently. It is full of gorgeous photos, intriguing travel stories, and drool-inducing recipes from all over South Asia. I had to try the Bengali Aromatic Pumpkin and Coconut because:
-I love savory pumpkin dishes
-I happened to have a pumpkin lying around that needed to be used ASAP!

The recipe says any kind of pumpkin can be used, or even other winter squashes. I have no idea what kind of pumpkin I had; it popped up unexpectedly in a friend's garden and she gave it to me. It may have been a carving pumpkin, I don't know!

Scant 2 tbs vegetable oil
¼ tsp nigella seeds (I couldn't find these, I used mustard seeds instead)
½ tsp cumin seeds
About 1 cup chopped onion
About 4 cups coarsely grated pumpkin (I finely grated it, oops)
1 tsp each ground coriander, sugar, and salt
1 cup fresh or frozen grated coconut
¼ cup water
2 dried chilies, stemmed
One 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 large or 2 small bay leaves

Heat the oil in a pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the nigella (or mustard) and cumin seeds and cook for a minute, then add the onion and cook until it starts to brown, stirring frequently. Lower the heat to medium and add the pumpkin. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the coriander, sugar and salt and cook for another 2 minutes – the pumpkin should be soft. Add the coconut and keep stirring for another 2 minutes. Stir in the water (I ended up adding about ½ cup), then add the dried red chilies, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Cook another 2-3 minutes, still stirring. Taste to make sure the spices are to your liking. Serve and eat!

I followed the original recipe pretty much exactly, even going so far as to chop and measure out everything before starting. This made cooking the dish pretty easy, especially since you need to constantly stir it - no worrying that it'll scorch in the pan while you dig around for the coriander.

This turned out delicious! It had a subtle, warm flavor and a nice slightly crunchy texture. It wasn't at all spicy, though I'm sure a little heat would have been a nice variation. I was expecting it to be more of a sauce-like dish, so I made rice to go with it. As you can see, it was not liquidy in the least. I also had a purple baked potato with it, because I thought it would be pretty – in hindsight, this was probably too many carbs, and it ended up being a pretty heavy meal. The book recommends serving it alongside a soupy dal, which sounds like the perfect accompaniment.

The roommate reaction was lukewarm on this one (whatever, more leftovers for me!). Nicola thought it was too bland, and it could certainly withstand an increase of spices. Heidi thought it was good, but only in small amounts, as she doesn't really like coconut. In conclusion, I would probably do this as a side dish to counteract a spicier main attraction.

And, in case you're curious, here is what it looks like to cut up and grate a pumpkin:

Just cut off the top, then cut it in half, scoop out the pulp and seeds, peel with a vegetable peeler, then grate. It took a little while, but was easy.

An Intro Post!

Bekkah suggested an intro post, so here I am! My name is Heather, and even though I do a terrible job of keeping up my own blog, I was really excited when Bekkah asked if I would contribute here! Like Bekkah, I have been slacking off in the kitchen lately and am hoping this will motivate me to do more. I am a vegetarian (lacto-ovo), and I love to cook almost as much as I love to eat. My food obsessions include tea, winter squash, bread, Indian food, and cheese. I like to cook and eat healthy, but I also like cooking/eating plenty of unhealthy things and refuse to feel guilty about it.

Chicken Piccata

Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis' Chicken Piccata recipe and Emeril's Veal Piccata recipe.

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence
flour for dredging
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 to 2.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbps brined capers, rinsed
1/2 cup dry, white vermouth

Season chicken with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence.
Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess

In a large skilled over medium high heat, melt 1 tbsp butter with 3 tbsp olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.

Melt 1 more tbsp butter and add another tbsp olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Then transfer chicken to plate.

Deglaze pan with wine and bring to a boil, scraping to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine has reduced to about 1/3, add the chicken stock, lemon juice and capers. Stir and then bring to a boil. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken and capers to plate.

Stir and boil down the sauce until it thickens to your preferred consistency. For a thick consistency, boil until it looks like the brown bits have dissociated from the oil. Then pour over the chicken.


Stolen from the internet, somewhere...


  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • Butter, for coating the pan


In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.

Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

*Savory Variation Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the egg mixture.

*Sweet Variation Add 21/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture

Creme Brule

adapted from:

(8 servings)
  • 10 Egg Yokes
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Beat egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until thick and creamy.
  3. Pour cream into a saucepan and stir over low heat until it almost comes to boil. (i use a thermometer and stop it when it is 90% of boiling) Remove the cream from heat immediately. Pour a little cream into egg mixture (about a quarter cup) and whisk briskly, then pour egg/cream mixture into the rest of the cream and whisk. Remove Excess Foam. (I use a strainer)
  4. Pour into ramekins. Place ramekins in pan with hot water half way up sides of ramekins. Bake at 375 until middle jiggles like jello.
  5. Chill in Water Bath for 15 minutes
  6. Refrigerate until cool.
  7. Put as much sugar as will stick on top (sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar, and shake off extra), and broil, or torch until some carbonation is visible.

Grilled Tuna with Spinach Salad

1 Tuna Steak (frozen or fresh)
3-4 pieces garlic
1 teaspoon cilantro
4-5 olives
1 teaspoon capers
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon scallions
olive oil (4 tables spoons approx)
2 tablestpoon balsamic vinegar
fresh spinach (or other salad green)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

mix all ingredients except tuna, spinach and olive oil, and chop up all the ingredients together
Take a tablespoon of mixture with 2 tablespoons each olive oil and balsamic for salad dressing
rinse defrosted tuna, pat dry and drizzle olive oil on the tuna. and rub in the rest of the mix
let tuna sit for 5-10 minutes, then "grill" tuna on a very hot pan about 4 minutes each side.
an electric grill or real grill would probably work better, but i did fine with a very hot cast iron pan (preheated on medium for 2 - 3 minutes)

17 January 2010

Curried Acorn Squash Soup

based off of this recipe

1 small (sweet) onion, chopped into small pieces, about 1/2cm
4 stalks of celery, chopped into very thin slices
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp dill weed
1 tsp yellow curry powder (maybe more)
1/2 tsp chili powder
dash vermouth or white wine
2 cups vegetable stock
12 oz can evaporated milk
3 cups cooked, mashed acorn squash*
cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in a large pot.
2. Add onions, celery, and garlic and saute on medium heat until vegetables are soft.
3. Add flour, dill, curry powder, chili powder, and vermouth and stir in.
4. Add stock and milk in ~1/2 cup increments, stirring to incorporate after each addition. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Add squash and stir to mix fully.
6. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. I like things salty and hot, so I added quite a bit. The salt is partly in lieu of bouillon (which is very salty), and the squash and onion are sweet so you may need to add a lot. Add slowly so as not to oversalt! You may also want to add more curry (the original recipe called for 1/4 tsp and I ended up adding more like 2tsp), so feel free!
7. Cook, stirring constantly, until heated through.
8. OPTIONAL: Put soup in blender (small batches at a time) or a food processor and blend until smooth. I didn't do this, mostly because I am lazy, but also because I like things chunky. It tastes great unblended, just make sure the squash is fully mixed in! If you are going to blend, chopping the onions and celery very small is less important since they will be blended anyway.
9. Enjoy! Great with crusty bread!

Verdict: This was delicious! I loved it and want to eat it all the time. It could easily be veganized by using a vegan milk (unsweetened) or cream. I liked that the recipe called for condensed milk instead of cream, so there wasn't much fat in this soup even though it is very rich tasting. This soup is very thick. If you prefer a thinner soup, I'd suggest adding 1c more stock. You can always add more stock at the end, but you'll have to adjust the spices to taste.

This recipe makes about 6 large (or maybe 10 small) bowls of soup.

*I used 3 small acorn squashes. To cook them, I cut each in half, scooped out the seeds (save and toast them later!), put them face down on a plate and microwaved for 25 minutes. They are very hot! Put them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes then when they are cool enough to touch, scoop into a bowl and mash with a masher or wooden spoon.


I really enjoy cooking. I love getting new recipes from friends and sharing recipes that are delicious. I have been really busy and haven't had much time to cook. Hopefully writing about them will motivate me to make new things. Heather is my former roommate and when we lived together, a lot of cooking happened. I recently visited her and her new roommate Heidi and we did some cooking together and had lots of delicious fun!

I am pescetarian. I mostly cook vegetarian foods, but sometimes I throw some fish in as well. I bake a lot and am just getting into bread (thanks mostly to Heather!). I am also trying to master soups, as that is something I have never really made (except for broth).

When I post recipes, I will cite where I got it from and if I followed it exactly or not. And I will write my opinions on it at the end, whether or not I liked it and what I will do differently next time. Sometimes I will include pictures. I don't know what Heather and Heidi will do, but that's my story!

OK, now I am going to post a recipe! :)