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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Garlic Naan

How come when you see people in a movie getting takeout for dinner it is always chinese food?! To be honest, my first inclination when ordering take out (after pizza, of course) is to get Indian food. Or sometimes I whip up a batch of fragrant basmati rice and some Saag Paneer or Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala and then I run down the street to Indian Oven to just buy some Naan bread. Now, that's a meal! Besides, who has a tandoor clay oven conveniently installed in their kitchen?! I don't have one. But I do have a pizza stone (which is essentially an unglazed ceramic or terra cotta stone that distributes heat evenly and maintains a really hot temperature so that you can crisp up breads and pizza doughs). And, as it turns out, a pizza stone worked out great!

You will be happy to know that it really is fairly easy to make naan! Yes, it takes some planning and some time for the dough to rise, but you can just cover the bowl and go about your day.


* 2.25 cups flour (plus more for kneading)
* 1.5 tsp. salt
* 3/4 cup plain yogurt (low fat)
* 3/4 cup milk (room temperature or slightly warmed)
* 3 tsp. sugar
* 3/4 tsp. yeast
* 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
* 1/2 tsp. turmeric
* 2 Tbsp. melted butter (or ghee)


* Sift flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and then stir in the yogurt.
* In a cup, mix together the warmed milk, sugar and yeast and let sit for 3 minutes.
* Add the milk mixture to the flour and mix with your hands.
* Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes. Add more flour as necessary to get a kneadable consistency because the dough will be very sticky.
* Cover the dough in the bowl with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for 4-5 hours.
* Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees.
* Once the dough has nearly doubled in size, divide the dough into 6 balls and use a floured surface to roll them out to be flat, thin oblong shapes.
* In a little bowl, mix the butter, turmeric and parsley and brush the mixture on each piece with a pastry brush or spoon.
* Bake on a cookie sheet or preheated ceramic pizza stone for 8 or 9 minutes until it is puffed up, bubbled and browned on top.

Makes 6 large pieces of naan.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blackberry Frozen Yogurt

A good thrift store can really make you feel rich. Like all the good things are within reach and you can have it all. It's not like regular window shopping where you can try on the cashmere sweater to feel its luxurious texture against your skin for a brief second before you remember that you don't have that much money in your wallet. Or your bank account even. I have never been turned off by second hand items (although I can completely understand how it might be scary wearing clothes that were once on some stranger). I guess it is because I come from a big family--my mom has five other siblings and my dad has four other siblings--so there are plenty of cousins. And plenty of cousins means plenty of "hand-me-downs" to go around. Sometimes I stop at thrift stores when I'm visiting new cities because it's a whole new treasure of goodies that I otherwise wouldn't have access to. When I visited Seattle, my friend, Alex, made sure I stopped by the Lifelong Aids Alliance Thrift Store where I found an amazing bead necklace for $2. Seriously, I couldn't be the only one who delights in grandma's old sweaters because there are lots of great blogs out there completely dedicated to thrift store adventures like this one and this one.

There are a few sections that I am quite keen on. Jewelry. Bags/Purses. Jackets. and Hats. Oh, and sometimes I check the dishware section, too, just in case there is an amazing casserole dish or a set of awesome serving platters. I almost never stop by the electronics aisle because that stuff is almost guaranteed to be missing a crucial part or broken. But, about a month ago, I was in the San Francisco Flagship Goodwill Store and I was just whizzing past the electronics shelf when I stumbled upon what may be The-Best-Thriftstore-Find-Ever. I found a Cuisinart Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker. Still in the box. Brand new. With a delightful sticker on it announcing that I could have this amazing machine for only $6.49. YES! Six dollars and forty-nine cents! I was shocked because I had recently seen this same item at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $49.99, which put a fast end to my desire to purchase one every time I read a recipe for basil ice cream or espresso ice cream or yuzu sorbet. I squeezed the box to my chest and practically ran up to the counter to pay for it before anyone else could notice what a bargain I was getting and try to stop me.

And, you wouldn't believe how easy it is--you essentially mix together your ingredients in a blender or food processor, stir in any goodies you like and pour it into the machine and press a button and about twenty minutes later it will have turned into a thick creamy ice cream similar in texture to that of soft serve. And then you can eat it on the spot or scoop it out into a container and freeze until solid. The typical ingredients are usually some combination of heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, but I have found through experimentation that fat-free half-and-half is a great replacement for whole milk or heavy cream when you want to cut out the fat and you can also use soymilk, fat-free milk, yogurt or even silken tofu! Oh, and trick is to always keep the actual tub part in the freezer so you can make ice cream on a moment's notice (because, let's face it--sometimes you need ice cream on a moment's notice).

I was really pleased with this Blackberry frozen yogurt. It is smooth and creamy with a nice berry, if only I can figure out how to make it sour like Pinkberry...I suppose I might try this recipe. The hardest part of the whole thing was straining out the blackberry seeds to achieve that smooth texture, but you could purchase 100% fruit purées to save yourself the trouble if you want. I just happened to have a large container of fresh ones so I figured I would try it out. To make the fruit puree from fresh berries, you put them in a blender with a tablespoon of water or lemon juice and blend until smooth. Then, pour the mixture into a fine-mesh sieve or strainer and strain out the seeds by using the back of a spoon. You can also scoop out the remaining seeds and pulp and stir in a little sugar, simple syrup or honey for a really yummy jam for biscuits, toast or pancakes!


* 2 cups plain low-fat yogurt (or fat-free if you want it to be fat-free froyo)
* 1 cup of blackberry fruit purée
* 1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
* 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice (a good quality sugar)


* Blend all ingredients and pour into ice cream machine and process according to your manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kung Hee Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

I love noodles. I really do. Which is kind of odd because the noodle section here is quite lacking if I do say so myself. But there is always one day a year where my mom calls me just to say "Eat your noodles! It's for longevity and good luck!". What occasion would systematically and emphatically call--no, demand-- for noodles?! Chinese New Year. Actually, my mother calls me once beforehand to remind me to eat some noodles, and then she calls again the following day to ask if I did, in fact, eat said noodles as promised. She means business. When I was growing up, she also made sure to give us coins or a few crisp dollar bills in those pretty red envelopes with gold embossed writing on them. I loved these little red envelopes. I still love them.

This year, January 26 marks the start of a new lunar year, which is a pretty big deal in Chinese culture. It involves fifteen days of celebrations, family gatherings, parades, and, among other things, eating lots and lots of foods that have symbolic meaning for wealth, longevity, good luck and all sorts of good stuff that we all want in life.

When I was living in Sydney in 2006, I became fondly attached to this family-owned restaurant simply called Chinese Noodle Restaurant. If you are ever lucky enough to be there (and I really hope you are), the address is at 8 Quay Street, Haymarket, Sydney, 2000. It's a bit of a foodie institution, really. They are famous for their hand-stretched noodles and homemade dumplings. And for good reason, too! Their noodles are the best noodles I have ever had. in my entire life. They come soaked in various distinctive sauces that linger with you until you've flown thousands of miles away and feel a little pain in your belly if you think too hard about how much you want to eat those noodles again. I mean, I feel a bit weepy even as I am writing this. It is a tiny little space where people are constantly milling around anxiously outside waiting to hear their name called. And when you finally get in there, things move so quickly you will barely remember who you had lunch with because you are still shoveling noodles in your mouth when the bill comes and then you are tossed out so the next guest can have their noodles too. It's not a place to linger and have conversation. It's a place to eat noodles. Oh, I wish I had a photo of said noodles to show you, but even if I did, I am afraid my writing would fall embarrassingly short of an accurate description of the taste.

I lived in the Chinatown district of Sydney so the produce market offered countless varieties of fresh egg noodles, vegetables and seafood to inspire me to make some noodle dishes of my own. I made these simple hokkien noodles (egg noodles) during my time in Sydney, but I am sorry to report that I didn't use a recipe. It was an experiment that involved a hot wok, some fresh hokkien noodles, fresh prawns, bok choy, and mushrooms tossed around in a mixture of oyster sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic.

I thought it might inspire you to have some noodles. Or maybe you might be brave enough to fight your way through the crowds at a nearby Chinese restaurants. Or you could order take-out. Either way, I hope you get a chance to have some noodles. My mom would be proud.

Kung Hee Fat Choy!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala

I think some of my friends and family are amused by the fact that I really (and I mean really) appreciate getting kitchen gadgets and goodies as gifts. For Christmas, my lovely friend, Cheryl, gave me a Silpin. I just about fell over with glee. Some girls like make up or accessories. I like microplane graters. What can I say?!

One of my most prized kitchen gadgets is a crockpot. I am certain that my crockpot got me through law school--otherwise I would have starved or relied on an obscene amount of candy bars at the library.  I would throw a bunch of stuff in it in the morning and hurry off to spend my day in classes, meetings, classes, and countless hours at the library.  I would come home in the late evening weary-eyed and completely exhausted and, lo and behold, there was something magical, warm and yummy waiting to comfort me in my ragged state.  It's not a pretty or uplifting scenario, I know, but it's the truth...

The law school part of my life is over, but I haven't forgotten about my trusty friend.  I think that the trickiest part about delicious crockpotting is understanding liquid ratios.  Like how much liquid certain vegetables might contribute to the whole thing or how much liquid (usually stock, soup, cream, or water) you need to have in total.  You don't want to put a bunch of stuff in it and then you forget that the vegetables you added tend to cook down and add a lot of liquid so the whole thing overflows.  No, that would not be good.  And you definitely don't want to put a bunch of stuff in the crockpot and not put enough liquid and actually you picked vegetables that soak up a lot of liquid and suddenly the whole thing is dried up and burning.  No, that would not be good either.  You want to aim for a happy medium so you have enough sauce to match whatever you put in...

This is one of my favorite crockpot recipes, because I loooove a good chicken tikka masala! After stewing away for hours, the chicken just melts away into a rich, spiced tomato cream sauce.


* 1.5 pounds of mixed boneless/skinless chicken breast and thighs, rinsed and cubed
* 3 inch piece of ginger, grated finely
* 5 cloves of garlic, grated finely
* 1-2 red chilies, finely chopped (optional if you like a little heat)
* 1 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds, lightly toasted
* 1 Tbsp. paprika
* 2 tsp. ground cumin
* 2 tsp. ground coriander
* 2 Tbsp. garam masala
* 3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
* 1 Tbsp. canola oil
* 2 small or 1 large onion, thinly sliced
* 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
* 1.5 cups water (or chicken broth if preferred but then omit the salt)
* 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
* 1/2 cup ground cashews
* 1 tsp. kosher salt
* 1/2 cup half & half (or heavy cream)
* a few sprigs of cilantro (optional garnish)


* Mix the garlic, ginger, (chilies), mustard seeds, paprika, cumin, coriander, and garam masala in a bowl.  Put half of this mixture in a large mixing bowl and set the rest aside.
* Add the yogurt to the mixing bowl and mix it in with the spices and add in the chicken cubes.
* Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours if your schedule allows it.
* In another mixing bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, tomato sauce and water.
* Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat and, when hot, add the onions and the remaining spice mixture and let the onions soften gently for about 5 minutes.
* Add into the crockpot: chicken mixture, onion mixture, tomato sauce mixture, cashews and salt.  Stir until all combined.
* Simmer on low for about 4-5 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.  This will thicken the liquid and the chicken will melt into tender shreds.
* Stir in the half & half or cream towards the end when there is only about 20 more minutes of cooking.
* Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Serve with brown basmati rice and naan.

Vegan Zucchini-Flax Muffins with Golden Raisins

I owe you an apology. I have been absent for an inexcusable amount of time and you have been incredibly patient and understanding. I had all the good intentions of keeping you in the loop with lots of holiday goodies throughout the holiday season, because there were a lot of good parties and there were some amazing foodies going on. But things just got so busy. (And my mom's best childhood friend passed away suddenly just days after Christmas, so I was doing my best to offer support to my mom and friends and family. Which, since she lives in Hawaii, involves lots and lots of phone calls.)

Anyway, I wanted to give you a healthy and delicious recipe for the best zucchini muffins I have ever had as a little bit of a peace offering...and because you will definitely want to keep this recipe in your stash of "indulgent yet healthy" recipes (if you haven't made such a label, you really should!). It is the new year after all, which means people are likely thinking of ways to eat more vegetables and less cookies (unless they are these ones. So no more cookies. For at least a week. I mean, let's be reasonable.

I was out on a walk and I passed by this tiny little family-owned produce store selling a large bag of white zucchini for only 75 cents! I have never purchased white zucchini before because I have heard that they tend to be bland and are better when cooked down. But, certainly the bargain price of 75 cents warranted finding something to yummy to do with them. And, honestly, you can't go wrong with muffins. Despite the fact that there is no dairy, no butter, no eggs, these muffins are moist, hearty and delicious! I promise.


* 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
* 1/2 cup white flour
* 3 Tbsp. ground flax seed
* 1.5 tsp. baking soda
* 1.5 tsp. baking powder
* 1/2 cup sugar (I use organic evaporated cane sugar from Trader Joe's)
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1 tsp. cinnamon
* 1/4 tsp. cloves
* 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
* 1 tsp. sea salt
* 2.5 cups shredded zucchini (I used white zucchini)
* 1/2 cup golden raisins (or dried cranberries)
* 1/3 cup canola oil
* 2/3 cup soymilk (or milk if you prefer)
* 1/3 cup maple syrup
* 1 tsp. vanilla


* Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
* Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flours, flax, baking soda and powder, sugars, spices and salt).
* In another large bowl, use a whisk to combine the oil, soymilk, maple syrup and vanilla.
* Then add the dry mixture into the wet mixture in small batches, gently folding it all together.
* Fold in the shredded zucchini and golden raisins.
* Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.