Monday, March 30, 2009


For real Tiramisu connoisseurs this recipe won't be as authentic as you may like. There is no liquor and the espresso is substituted with Pero or Postum. But for those who have stayed away from Tiramisu for those very ingredients- now you can enjoy it! You will find all sorts of recipes out there and they vary wildly. I have fiddled around with them and this is what I have come up with.

Most recipes recommend refrigerating for 1 hour. I find that after only an hour though, the tiramisu is soupy. I think the dessert is best served when prepared in the morning and kept in the fridge all day- or made the day before. It will be firmer and have better flavor.

6 eggs, yolks and whites separated

½-3/4 cups sugar (1/2 for a more authentic taste)

1 Tbsp vanilla

16 oz mascarpone cheese

2 ½ cups milk

2 Tbsp Pero or Postum drink mix

About 28 Ladyfingers

4 Tbsp cocoa powder (or even better- chocolate shavings)

In a small bowl beat egg whites with a mixer with whisk attachment until the whites are firm. They are firm enough when the beater is lifted straight out of the bowl, turned upside down and the egg white on the beater maintains its shape.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until the mixture is a pale yellow. Add mascarpone and mix until smooth.

Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.

In a shallow dish or bowl, mix the milk and Pero or Postum until the drink mix is dissolved. One at a time, dip the ladyfingers into the mixture. Turn the lady finger so each side is dipped twice. The ladyfinger should soften on the outside but still maintain its form (a little hardness on the inside)- you don’t want them to be soggy.

Place the half of the ladyfingers in the bottom of a 9x13 dish. Cover with half of the mascarpone mixture. Using a sieve dust cocoa powder over that until it is covered. Repeat making another layer with the remaining lady fingers and cheese. Save the cocoa powder over the top until you are ready to serve. Otherwise it will soak up some of the liquid from the cheese and look "spotty".

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is one of my many favorite Asian food dishes. I really enjoy the combination of the sweet and sour sauce, the crunchy sprouts, chewy noodles and cilantro overtones.

I sometimes buy the Taste of Thai box mix at the store but we eat it in one sitting and I wish (for the price and for my love of the stuff) that we had leftovers. So, this weekend I made it from scratch and it wasn't too hard! We had plenty of leftovers to enjoy for lunches and now I have many of the ingredients to use again next time.

One way to cut down on the prep is to put aside some chicken from another recipe, cube it and just mix it in to the Pad Thai when you mix in the sprouts, egg and cilantro.

Sprouts are a great nutritional source of Vitamin A- but if you still feel the need for some veggies. Steam up some snow peas and red peppers with a little of your Pad Thai sauce.


8-10 oz. Thai rice noodles, linguini-width

1 to 1 1/2 cups raw chicken breast or thigh meat, cubed

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups fresh bean sprouts

3 green onions, sliced

1/3 cup crushed or roughly chopped peanuts (or other nuts, such as cashews)

1/4 cup chicken stock

1/4 tsp. black pepper

½ cup cilantro, leaves pulled from the stems

2 eggs, scrambled

Lime wedges or juice squeezed over meal to add some citrus taste


3/4 Tbsp. tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (look for tamarind at Asian/Chinese or Indian food stores)

2 Tbsp. fish sauce (optional, I don’t like the fishy taste so I don’t use this and substitute soy sauce)

1-3 tsp. chili sauce (depending how spicy you want it) (I use a "sweet chili sauce" see above)

3 Tbsp. brown sugar (not packed)


1. Place noodles in a pot of water and place on the stove. Bring to near a boil, then remove from heat. Allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients (about 10 minutes).

2. Combine the sauce ingredients together in a cup, stirring well to dissolve both the tamarind paste and the brown sugar.

3. Check the noodles. Noodles are ready when they are soft enough to be eaten, but are still firm and chewy. Drain and rinse through with cold water.

4. Warm up a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 Tbsp. oil plus garlic. Add the chicken. Stir-fry 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add chicken stock 1-2 Tbsp. at a time until the chicken pieces are cooked (about 5-8 minutes).

5. Add the noodles, and pour sauce over it. Using two spatulas, wooden spoons, or other utensils, quickly stir-fry the noodles. Use a "lift and turn" method (like tossing a salad) instead of the usual stir-frying motion, or the noodles may break apart.

6. Fry the noodles in this way for 1-2 minutes. If you find your wok/frying pan too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom (but no more broth, or the noodles will become soggy).

7. Add the bean sprouts, egg and black pepper. Continue "tossing" for 1 more minute, or until noodles are cooked. Noodles are done to perfection when they are no longer "hard" or translucent. They should be opaque and chewy-sticky wonderful!

8. Taste-test the noodles for seasoning, adding more fish sauce as needed (I usually end up adding up to 1 more Tbsp. fish sauce, as I like mine on the salty side). Toss well to incorporate.

To serve, lift the noodles onto a serving plate. Top with generous amounts of cilantro, green onion, and chopped nuts and lime juice/ wedges.

photos from

Monday, March 16, 2009

Slow Cooking: Hearty Beef Stew

I was pleasantly surprised to find a trial issue of Cook's Country in my mailbox a few weeks ago. It's by the same authors as Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen- both of which I love for their experiment style approach to cooking. They give you the tried and true recipes, tips and know how. The recipes in Cook's Country seem to be more down to earth, homey, comfort food recipes. One of which, is the Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew.

The recipe title did not catch my eye since I don't really like beef stew- the vegetables are always turned to baby food by the time the meat is cooked and the whole thing just tastes of mud covered with salt. But when I went to turn the page I noticed, included with the recipe, was a picture of a crock pot with an aluminum foil Hobo Pack (aka tin foil dinner) set inside. This intrigued me so I read the cook's commentary and recipe.

Sure enough, this cook was looking for a way to cook the meat and the vegetables to perfection so that the flavors married. The recipe has you steam the vegetables in a tin foil pack on top of the beef in the slow cooker. The other tricks are to brown the meat first, add a dash of soy sauce for a beefy flavor no one will ever guess is soy sauce, and to thicken the stew without a starchy texture by using tapioca.

Not only can you cook this in your crock pot while you are away, you can prep this stew the night before by cutting the vegetables and browning the meat and onions. Store the meat from Step One and onion mixture from Step Two in different bags. In the morning put it all in the slow cooker with the hobo pack on top and get it started.

Hearty Beef Stew
from Cook's Country by Diane Ungar
serves 6-8

5 lb boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 medium onions, chopped fine
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 cups chicken or beef broth
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1 in pieces (1 1/2 to 2 inches if cooking longer than 10 hours)
1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 in pieces (1 1/2 to 2 inches if cooking longer than 10 hours)
1 lb red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 in pieces (1 1/2 to 2 inches if cooking longer than 10 hours)
1 1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp Minute tapioca
2 cups frozen peas, set out to thaw

1. Dry beef with paper towels then season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large skillet over med high heat until just smoking, add half of beef and brown on all sides about 8 min. Transfer to slow cooker and repeat with remaining beef.

2. Add 1 Tbsp oil, onions and 1/4 tsp salt to the empty skillet and cook until golden brown about 6 min. Add tomato paste and cook stirring well for 2 minutes. Add broth and soy sauce, bring to simmer and transfer to slow cooker insert.

3. Toss carrots, parsnips, potatoes 1/2 tsp thyme and remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap vegetables in a foil packet that will fit in the slow cooker, folding over the seam to trap steam. Stir bay leaves and tapioca into slow cooker with the meat and onion mixture. Set the vegetable packet on top of beef.

4. Set the slow cooker to high and cover. Cook for 6-7 hours. (Or cook on low for 10-11 hours)

5. Transfer vegetable packet to a plate. Open and pour vegetables and juices into the stew. Add remaining 1 tsp thyme and peas. Let stand until the peas are heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Homemade Snacks

I get a little wary of all the words I can't pronounce listed as ingredients in my child's snacks. I like to buy natural options or just steer clear of processed snack foods altogether. But, they are convenient and tasty after all. I will admit we have microwave popcorn and canned frosting with *yikes* trans fat in our cupboard! So, to tip the balance towards a healthier lifestyle, I like to use these recipes for snacks with ingredients I know and trust.

Soft and Chewy Granola Bars

Natural Dripless Popsicles
Homemade "Goldfish" Crackers

Homemade Cheesy Fish Crackers

You can find a fish cookie cutter- and hundreds of other varieties too- on Amazon.

From Country Living

1 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 ounces grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper

Make the dough: Pulse the flour, butter, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper together using a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pulse in 3 to 4 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and only enough so that the dough forms a ball and rides the blade. Remove, wrap in plastic, and chill for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Bake the crackers: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper and set aside. Roll the dough out to 1/8th-inch thickness. Cut out as many crackers as possible using a 2-inch fish-shaped cutter. Place them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking pans. Bake until golden and crisp — 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough and scraps. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Granola Bars

Granola Bars

2 cups rolled oats
½ cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup raisins, craisins or chocolate chips
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, your “mix ins” and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well and pat the mixture evenly into a 13x9 pan.

2. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

Natural Popcicles

This recipe is for a soft popsicle, not hard and icy like straight juice pops. The gelatin helps to keep the popsicles less drippy.

You can use individual used yogurt cups or paper cups, carefully washing them out and reusing them each time. Or make mini pops with an ice cube tray. Use Muchkin’s Fresh Food Feeder for kids too young to handle popsicles.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
Three cups of cut fruit

Heat water, gelatin and sugar in saucepan over low heat until gelatin dissolves, for about 5 minutes. Then puree the gelatin mixture in the blender with fruit. Pour the mixture into cups and wait until frozen.

photo of Watermelon Chocolate Chip popsicles from Cookie Mag

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

We had the flu at our house this weekend. And the only thing that sounded good to eat was...what do you know...Chicken Noodle Soup. Only problem is that I have actually never made chicken noodle soup and I didn't have a recipe. But I did have all the ingredients. So here is what I came up with.

One Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch celery seed
pinch thyme
2 small chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
6 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 package egg noodles
12 cups chicken broth

In a large stock pot with a little olive oil, sautee the onion garlic, celery seed and thyme until the onions are softened and translucent. Scrape the onions into a bowl and set aside. Using leftover oil, cook the chicken, covering the pot and turning the breasts halfway through the cooking process.

Remove the breasts when cooked and wipe the pot with a paper towel to remove chicken grease. Fill the pot with 12 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Add noodles to the broth and after 3-4 minutes add the carrots and celery.

Meanwhile, take a fork and shred the chicken. When the noodles are cooked and the carrots and celery are softened, add the onion and garlic mixture you set aside. Add the chicken and continue to heat the soup for a few minutes before serving.

photo by edestlin