Spicy Tofu with Vermicelli

For our Chinese New Year dinner, my friend Robert prepared this dish. It’s a very flavorful vegetarian friendly dish and something that can be made quickly.

Spicy Tofu with Vermicelli
recipe adapted from Understocked Veggie Kitchen

12 oz. firm tofu
vermicelli (more if you like your noodles in oodles, less if you like it more veggie-heavy)
4 small sized carrots
1-2 cups frozen broccoli florets
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons chili flakes
a splash of olive or sesame oil
salt to taste

– Cut your tofu into small cubes.
– Heat a splash of your cooking oil of choice in the skillet.
– After the oil is heated enough, toss in the tofu strips. Let them brown a little. Make sure you turn them and flip them so they brown evenly.
– Use a vegetable peeler on your carrots and make ribbons.
– Chop the bok choy into edible pieces.
– Fry the vermicelli in the oil when the tofu is just about done. Leave the tofu in while you fry the vermicelli. This will take about 30 seconds. Don’t burn the noodles!
– Toss in the broccoli, with about 2 spoons of water, in with the noodles and tofu.
– Cover and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes.
– While your skillet is cooking, whisk together the peanut butter and chili flakes with a tablespoon of water.
– Add salt to taste.
– Pour your sauce into the skillet and toss until everything is coated. Let it cook for 1-2 more minutes.

Traditional Mandarin Fried Rice

For my Chinese New Year Dinner, my friend Yumi prepared this Ming Tsai dish. It’s a wonderful fried rice recipe that is as easy as it comes! The ingredients include common items with the exception of Chinese Sausage. If you don’t have Chinese sausage available, you can use bacon or even ham (which is what was used here).

Traditional Mandarin Fried Rice
recipe from Ming Tsai

4 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1 la chang (Chinese sausage), cut into 1/8 inch dice
1 bunch scallions, white & green parts chopped and separated
5 cups cold cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste (if needed)

Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the eggs, which will puff up. Allow to set about 5 seconds, and using a wok spatula or similiar tool, add push the sides of the egg mass towards the tender to allow uncooked egg to reach the pan and solidify. Flip the egg, allow it to set about 5 seconds, and slide it onto a dish; do not over cook. With the edge of the spatula, break the eggs into small pieces. Set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok and swirl to coat the pan. when the oil shimmers, add the garlic and ginger and stir fry until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the la chang or bacon, the white parts of the scallions, and the rice. Toss thoroughly until heated through. Add the soy sauce, pepper, and reserved eggs and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper; transfer to a platter and garnish with the scallion greens.

Winner of Foodie Freebie Friday: Alton Brown’s Good Eats!

Foodie Freebie Friday is here! It’s already been a long day for me, after a 2 hour commute into work – one way. But thankfully I’m now in the warmth of the office and trying to thaw from the winter cold up here in Chicago.

So back on Monday I mentioned how my first meeting with Alton was a bit embarassing. Here’s what happened and I still feel like a dork even though it happened 2 years ago…

I was at a trade show that he attended where Alton was a spokeperson for Shun cutlery. I knew automatically it was Alton because I knew about his connection with Shun (which are outstanding knives, by the way!) So there was Alton right in front of me, about 10 feet away at the Shun cutlery booth. He had his back turned to me and I was a bit star struck. I found it odd that there was nobody between me and his back. Just to Alton’s side was a large display of Shun knives and various brochures. I walked up to the display with the plan to nonchalantly bump into Alton. (In retrospect, it was stupid, I know…)

So there I am, immediately behind Alton, pretending to look at this knife display… as if it was more interesting than speaking to Alton himself. Alton turns around and looks at me apologetically.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get in the way of the display,” says Alton.

“Oh no worries. I was curious about this line of Shun knives. Do you have a preference in a specific Shun line of knives?,” I replied.

“Yes, but I’m kinda busy right now. I’d love to talk to you about it after I get through this line…”

It wasn’t until then I saw the extremely long line of eager and excited Alton fans. The line snaked around the Shun booth and I knew it would be almost an hour before I got up to the front of the line. I did end up getting in line and when it was my turn, he greeted me with, “Hi! We meet again!” *blush*

Well that’s enough from me. I’m sure you’re checking in to find out who won this week’s Foodie Freebie Friday! I really enjoyed reading about everyone’s favorite Good Eats episode and I plan on printing the comments to give to Alton when I see him in a couple of months. I’m sure he’d love to know how much he’s admired! The lucky winner this week will be receiving:

with autographed box
…..*drumroll please*…..

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-01-16 16:05:35 UTC

Comment #36 is from Linda and Matthew who said:

Handsdown favorite episode is the turkey frying episode. My husband and I watch it every Thanksgiving on You Tube. It cracks us up! This year we fried our turkey and used this episode as as guide. So fun!

My husband is a science teacher and just loves Alton. He was just miles from our house during Feasting on Asphalt 1 and 2 and my husband was so disappointed we didn’t see him. January 12, 2009 4:18 PM

Congratulations Linda and Matthew! An email has been sent to you to confirm your mailing address so your package can be mailed out today. Thanks to all those that commented and stay tuned to the next Foodie Freebie announcement on Monday, January 19, 2009! You won’t want to miss the next one, especially if you love to bake!

Lumpiang Shanghai (Filipino Pork Eggrolls)

One of my favorite appetizers of Filipino cuisine is lumpia. Lumpia is the Filipino version of eggrolls/spring rolls and it’s a little different from eggrolls/spring rolls of China, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. This specific version is called Lumpiang Shanghai which is typically filled with ground pork, minced carrots, and spices.

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, I made my version of Lumpiang Shanghai filled with ground pork, minced carrots, minced water chestnuts, sliced scallions, garlic & onions. It’s quite time consuming to make these as each lumpia is filled and rolled by hand, left to dry and packed to freeze for future use. Here’s how I make my lumpiang shanghai…

Lumpiang Shanghai Filling
original Joelen recipe inspired from family

1 lb ground pork
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil for browning
1 cup minced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (white & green parts)
1/2 cup minced water chestnuts
1/2 cup minced garlic
1 large onion, minced
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil

– Heat your saute pan over medium high heat and add canola/olive oil when hot.
– Crumble the ground pork into the hot pan and season with salt & pepper to taste.
– Cook until browned and them drain any fat or liquid.
– Place the browned pork in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients.
– Toss all ingredients until evenly mixed through.
– Prepare your working surface with the lumpia wrappers to beging rolling.

I specifically recommend using the TYJ Spring Roll Pastry Wrappers. You can find this at most Asian markets and some national supermarket chains. The reason why I note this specific brand is because it has a great texture, nice thickness and is easy to work with, Many other brands are too delicate for this specific lumpia filling or they simply fall apart as it cooks. Once you get the wrappers, you’ll notice they must be peeled apart from each other. Do this carefully so that you don’t waste any wrappers!

When working with any type of lumpia/spring roll pastry wrapper, it’s important to remember that they dry out quickly. Once dried out, the wrapper is difficult to work with and the results are not very good. To prevent dried out wrappers, place a damp tea towel or paper towel over the wrappers you’ve peeled apart while you work. Here’s how to begin rolling lumpia…

Place the wrapper with one corner towards you and
put 1 heaping tablespoon in a line like so:

Fold the corner closest to you over the line of filling:

Roll the filling in the wrapper away from you once and
then fold the ends towards the middle like a burrito:

Continue rolling the filled wrapper away from you
until you get to the corner:

Brush the corner with eggwash to seal.

Finish rolling the filled wrapper away from you:

Continue doing this until all filling & wrappers are used up.

To store, carefully place in freezer bags and freeze.

To prepare, fry in hot oil from frozen, making sure no ice crystals
are coating the lumpia… because it will pop and make an oily mess!
They just need to brown on the outside since the pork is already cooked.

Fiesta Chicken Tacos

We like Mexican food but sometimes it can be hard to jazz it up. While looking through various cookbooks and websites for ideas, I decided to give this recipe a try and serve it along side of corn tortillas. You could serve this as is with rice or even pasta, but I liked that we used this dish and filled our tortillas with something warm and cheesy.

Fiesta Chicken Tacos
recipe adapted from Pace Foods

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell’s® Cream of Chicken Soup
(I made this homemade cream of chicken soup to use instead of canned)
1 cup Pace® Chunky Salsa OR Picante Sauce
1/2 cup water
1 cup whole kernel corn
1 can drained and rinsed, black beans
4 boneless chicken breast halves, sliced
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
corn tortillas, warmed

MIX soup, salsa, water, corn and beans in 2-qt. shallow baking dish. Top with chicken and sprinkle with paprika. Cover.

BAKE at 350°F. for 45 min. or until done. Sprinkle with cheese.

SERVE by slicing chicken and stuffing in warmed corn tortillas.

Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach

The winter weather has me craving hearty pasta dishes. With quite a few tomatoes on hand, it was apparent that it was time for me to make some homemade pasta sauce to freeze. I decided on a pasta dish involving a bolognese sauce because of the richness of flavors and texture it has. That lead me to this recipe from Gourmet which combines bolognese with layers of spinach and bechamel sauce. The original recipe makes a full 9×12 pan of lasagna but I halved the recipe and baked my lasagna in a standard loaf pan. This prevents us from having lasagna for days on end and I like a thick & tall lasagna better than a wide & short one!

Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
recipe adapted from Gourmet

For bolognese sauce:
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices center cut bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pounds ground pork
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cups 2% milk
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach,thawed

For Ricotta filling:
1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/3 cup 2% milk, divided

For assembling lasagne:
6 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Make Sauce:
Heat oil in a 12-to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook bacon, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, roughly 12 to 15 minutes. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.

Make ricotta filling:
Wring spinach in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Set aside.

Whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, milk and salt & pepper to taste.

Assemble and bake lasagne:
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Spread a couple tablespoons of bolognese sauce in loaf pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parmesan. Cover with 1-2 dry noodles, leaving space in between. Spread half of ricotta filling and top with spinach; then 1 cup bolognese sauce, and top with 1 tablespoon parmesan and 1-2 noodles; repeat. Top with remaining bolognese sauce, 1 tablespoon parmesan, and remaining 1-2 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.

Cover pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil) and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.

Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins

This was a wonderful recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s book! I made this to accompany a chicken & sausage gumbo and it really complimented it well. Due to the nasty winter weather we’re experiencing here in Chicago, I had to make do with the ingredients I had on hand and made a few (okay, a lot of) substitutions…

  • Rather than using a stick of butter, I used 1/4 cup each of canola oil and extra virgin olive oil. It resulted in a very moist and tender crumb.
  • In place of cilantro, I used two stalks of green onions, sliced thin (green part only.) The onion seemed to work well with the peppers and gave more to the overall southwestern flavor.
  • Speaking of peppers, I added additional color and used a trio of finely diced yellow, green and red bell peppers. (Honestly, I just can’t do only red peppers. Red peppers just isn’t my thing. So small doses of it are tolerable, even moreso when combined with yellow and green peppers.)
  • Just when I thought I couldn’t substitute anything else, I realized that I ran out of chili powder. I did have some Pilsen Latino Seasoning on hand and used that instead. The seasoning is on the spicy side so I used 1 teaspoon of this. I really loved that kick and heat it gives these muffins! This seasoning is ‘hand mixed from: coarse Kosher flake salt, garlic & onion powders, Mexican oregano, Tellicherry black pepper, hot red pepper flakes.
  • Finally, the cheese lover in me thought it best to top these muffins with a Mexican blend of cheese. It added a nice golden color and slight crispness to the muffin top. Yum!

Be sure to check out the other fabulous foodies who made this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins. Interested in the recipe? Check out Rebecca from Ezra Poundcake who has the recipe on her blog or page 6 of Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking from My Home to Yours.