Saturday, September 28, 2013

I Can't Believe It's Not Chicken

No, really.  This dish is totally meatless.  Vegetarian, yes.  Vegan, no.  But it can be.

Just to make things clear.  I have not become a vegetarian.  I'm too sissy stubborn for that.  But someone I know has.  And I totally regret not finding this recipe when she was here for a visit.  Perhaps the next time you're here?  Or when I'm there?  Whatever.  But I'll definitely make this again for you.

This recipe is from Marc Matsumoto, the genius behind the blog No Recipes.  In order for tofu to achieve texture like ground meat, freeze the tofu overnight then thaw it and squeeze the liquid out of it.  Read how to make vegetarian meat here.

Anyway, the original recipe is vegan which calls for white soy sauce instead of fish sauce.  No chance of me finding white soy sauce here so.....

Vegetarian Basil "Chicken" recipe (adapted from Marc Matsumoto's Vegan Basil "Chicken"):

1 pack firm tofu (about 400 grams)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 bird's eye chilies (siling labuyo)
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce (or white soy sauce, if making a vegan dish)
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
Basil leaves (about 25 grams)
  1. Freeze, thaw and wash the tofu. See the post on vegetarian ground meat for the detailed process.
  2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil and then add the mushrooms and garlic, sautéing until most of the moisture has evaporated and the mixture is very crumbly (about 10 minutes).
  3. Add the chili peppers, bell peppers, and onions and stir-fry until the onions and bell peppers are almost cooked.
  4. Add the vegan ground meat and stir-fry until the tofu has slightly browned.
  5. Add the sugar, white soy sauce and dark soy sauce, and continue stir-frying until all the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture is an even tan color.
Finish by adding the basil and frying until bright green. 

I spooned the "meat" on lettuce leaves to serve.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pumpkin Pancakes

I haven't written a post in months.

I haven't made pancakes from scratch in the last five years.  Even longer than that, since it's not my go-to breakfast food.  This morning was different however;  I suddenly had a craving for those hot cakes slathered with creamy butter, and generously drizzled with maple syrup.

And I had leftover pumpkin puree.

Okay.  I decided to make flavored pancakes not because I was really craving for them, but because I had leftover pumpkin puree.  And I needed a new blog post.  Whatever.

These hot cakes are really good.  If you like pumpkin pie, you'll love these.  The combination of classic aromatic spices with pumpkin puree makes it a delicious comfort food on a cool rainy morning.

Pumpkin Flavored Pancakes:

1 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
 3 tsp.  baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (use canned)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 egg
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil

Sift together all dry ingredients onto a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, milk, egg, and melted butter.

Pour the pumpkin mixture onto the dry ingredients, stirring to combine.  Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Coat your pan with enough vegetable oil to cook the pancakes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pies in Jars

I have mason jars gathering dust in the cupboard for quite some time now.  What better way to start using them by making jar pies?

The basic recipe for key lime pie was used but instead of key limes for the filling and crushed grahams for the crust, I used Thai limes and made my own pastry crust.

For the meringue topping, I used brown sugar.  Brown sugar meringue has a lot more texture and is more than just marshmallow-sweet like regular white meringues.  

Thai Lime Meringue Pie recipe (makes 6 240ml jar pies, or one 8-inch pie):

for the flaky butter crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 - 5 Tbsp. ice water

Cut the butter into small cubes, and freeze them while you measure and mix the dry ingredients.

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to mix.  Retrieve the butter cubes from the freezer, scatter them over the flour mixture, and pulse until the mixture forms pea-size clumps.  Add the ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, and pulse to mix, adding just enough water for the dough to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface.  Gather the dough together in a mound, then knead it a few times to smooth it out.  Gently pat and press into a rough rectangle about 1 inch thick.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready, roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thick, then cut into squares or circles big enough to cover each mason jar (or pie dish).  Place the lined jars in the fridge for about half an hour before pre-baking.

Preheat oven to 350F and bake the crust for 15 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from oven to cool completely.

for the filling:
1/4 cup lime juice
1 small can of sweetened condensed milk (260g)
1 tsp. lime zest
2 egg yolks, at room temperature

Whisk all ingredients together and pour over cooled pied crust.

for the meringue:
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. lime zest

Start whisking the egg whites at medium speed.  When foamy, gradually add the sugar, then the lime zest.  When all of the sugar is added, increase mixer speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form.

Spoon the meringue on top of the pie filling to seal it.  Return to the oven (350F) and bake the pies until the meringue is just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on baking rack until cool to the touch, then serve.


Founded in the 11th century, this town is bounded by magnificent old walls complete with look-out towers.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The World Is Round, But Not In Holland

Driving in Holland on a good day makes you doubt if the world is indeed round.  If you look farther you could probably see China from where you are.  No, really, the seemingly endless unobstructed horizon is just as amazing as seeing beautiful mountains anywhere else in the world.  Except for the occasional mounds or dunes, it is a uniquely flat country.

From Deventer we drove to Groningen to catch a ferry to one of the small islands up north:  Schiermonnikoog.  Let's try that again.  Schiermonnikoog.  With less than a thousand people residing there, it's the least densely populated part of Holland.

The ferry ride from Groningen is about 40 minutes but I was busy queuing up to buy snacks on board so it felt more like 15 minutes.  And there's wi-fi, too.

It's the fourth island north of Friesland. (map courtesy of

From the pier, there are buses to take you to the center (about 7 minutes).

And from the center, you pretty much have to walk to see the rest of the island.

....more walking....

....while others prefer biking.... get to the beach.

Schiermonnikoog is a popular destination during summer so expect the island to be packed with sun worshippers, sharing the beach with seals.  But in winter when it's too cold to swim I guess there's this instead?

Time for a break and hot chocolate... end a beautiful winter's day.