Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pra Ram Tofu, again!

Last night we had friends over for dinner. Friends we hadn't seen in ages - the type of people you wish lived closer (they are a good hour away) so you could see them more often. Since we all liked the pra ram tofu the other night I decided to make that again. This time I used broccoli and bok choy and made a more complicated peanut sauce (from Nancie McDermott's Real Thai book).

To accompany the tofu I made a salad we first had at a nearby restaurant. The restaurant is called Siam Orchid and they have this Ginger Salad that is very popular. They serve it with all the elements separate but I tossed everything together right before serving it. I quadrupled the recipe - even though there were just four of us, I never know what teenagers will wander in and out of the house wanting food. So that meant 2 CUPS of ginger, shredded - yowza. This salad is not for the faint of heart but wow, the combination of flavors is great. Sadly, no pictures - too much of a rush to get everything onto the table.

I also made rice paper veggie rolls. I found a bag of organic broccoli slaw at Trader Joe's that made for an easy filling (no chopping!). I tossed the broccoli and carrot mix with a little bit of tamari, then put it in the rolls with strips of avocado, sliced green onion and cilantro. These were served with peanut sauce and sweet chili sauce.

They take a little time but they are easy to make and fun to eat!

Finally for dessert we were going to have this little concoction that I called Mango Splits. Slices of fresh mango with coconut sorbet topped with chocolate sauce and toasted coconut. But somehow we never got around to dessert. I think we will survive.

To go with the Thai theme of the night I bought some Singha and Phuket beer which gave us an opportunity for dh to try the gluten free beer I'd picked up for him. I was really surprised - it's not bad at all.

The night ended with two very good things - a soak in the hot tub and hubby and daughter cleaning the kitchen. Perfect!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Normally this would be the perfect time of year for eating outside but the smoke in the air is thick and awful. Mind you, the actual fires are miles away but the whole Bay Area is just one giant haze. It's weird because looking outside it seems like it would be cold - it looks like any gray November day. But then you step outside and it is 85 degrees - the sun just can't break through.

For the most part, Tuesdays are still "Taco Tuesday" - not always tacos, but some kind of Mexican food. This week we had tostadas - I baked corn tortillas, lightly sprayed with oil on both sides, for about 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven until browned and crispy. Sometimes I turn them over halfway but I usually forget to do that and they come out just fine. I like a food that is forgiving in that way.

I made what I call "cheater's guacamole" - smashed avocado with some diced tomato, lime juice and juice from a jar of pickled jalapenos. When I'm making guacamole for a party I like to add onion, fresh jalapeno, etc. But this version works just fine. We layered on the beans, lettuce, some finely shredded cheddar, guac and salsa. And ate inside.

I hope this all clears up soon. It doesn't feel like summer at all. Add in the fact that we have water rationing in place and the landscaping looks a little sad - well it's all a bit depressing! But to keep it in perspective - I'm here safe and sound and all over the state there are people whose homes are in danger, firefighters whose lives are in danger and I remember that I should, as my dad likes to say- "quityerbellyachin."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lazy, make that hazy, days of summer

There are fires burning all over Northern California and the air outside is so smoky and gray it's hard to be outside. We had a fire up the street just two weeks ago so it makes me nervous when I smell all this smoke and hear a siren. We live right near a 6,000 acre regional park that is a great place to take the dogs off leash but it is just miles and miles of dry grass. So I keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

With my recent efforts to find gluten free recipes that everyone will like, I've been scouring the internet and food blogs to find ideas. Last night I made this pesto zucchini tomato gratin from Karina's Kitchen blog. My god it was fantastic.

The crumb topping made from waffles was perfect - you'd never guess if you didn't know. The combination of the zucchini, tomatoes and artichoke hearts was delicious and the whole thing went together quickly. This got thumbs up all around and is something I will definitely be making again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sweet and sour stir fry

Last night started with ingredients very similar to those I used the other night for Pra Ram Tofu. I had on hand broccoli, red pepper and onion. I also had "veggie pork" from the Asian market. It's not a wheat gluten meat but instead made from mushroom and soy - still, I wouldn't claim it was gluten free because it had an unidentified starch and "vegetarian seasonings." But in an effort to use things on hand and because dh said he was fine with it - I used this in the stir fry. I didn't have much on hand for making a sauce so of course I hit the internet and found a recipe over at Karina's Kitchen for a simple sauce made from vegetable broth and pepper jelly. I thickened it a bit with some corn starch. It was exactly what I was looking for and went really well with the vegetables and mushroom meat substitute. I sprinkled some sesame seeds over the whole thing and served it on basmati rice.

It was a perfect evening for dining outside so that's what we did - the girls were off with their friends, so yet again we had a peek into the empty nest of the future.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Curried Chickpea Salad

Today was a rare day where a) we all ate lunch and b) ate the same thing at the same time. Weekends can be so unpredictable and we sometimes eat on the run, or just eat little bits and pieces throughout the day. But today I was craving this salad that we'd had recently and I already had a trip planned to my favorite little produce store, so I made sure to pick up the items I'd need to make this.

I found the idea for this in Better Homes & Gardens magazine - they didn't have a recipe but more of a "try this combination" sort of thing. The mix of the sweet grapes with the curry and cayenne is fantastic and on a hot Sunday afternoon it was just the right kind of lunch.

Curried Chickpea Salad
3 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and well drained
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, finely shredded
1-2 cups red grapes, halved (I like putting a lot of grapes - put in whatever looks good to you!)

Dressing: plain fat-free yogurt, honey or agave nectar, salt, curry power and cayenne

I didn't measure the dressing - I probably used about 1 cup of yogurt, 1-2 tablespoons honey, a generous amount of curry and salt and cayenne to taste.

I think this one will be in heavy rotation this summer since everyone in the family likes it!

All around the mulberry bush

Well, it's a mulberry tree actually...

We bought this tree a few years ago from a specialty nursery. My husband grew up in Iran and has fond memories of the mulberries they had there. Here in California there are mulberry trees everywhere but they aren't fruiting trees - just nice big shady trees. After tracking down the variety he wanted, he brought it home and it sat on the side of the house waiting to be planted. And sat. We went on vacation and it didn't get water. We finally planted it months later and it struggled but survived. Then we built our little guest house (affectionately dubbed "The Hut") and it had to be moved. But it proved itself to be the little tree that could - and it did. I was out in the yard yesterday and noticed that it now has berries and several of them are ripe! Our first berries! The first "harvest" was meager but delicious!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Black bean gyros

I've definitely shifted the way I shop due to the ridiculous price of gas (I've been paying $4.75 a gallon and it is over $70 to fill my car!). I'm much more likely to try to make something out of what I have than run to the store for a specific item. So last night I had stuff to make a salad (baby spinach, fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and basil) and tried to come up with something to go with it. In the food processor I put:
half an onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup chickpea flour
salt and cayenne

I dropped this by the spoonful into a frying pan sprayed with oil and flattened them out as thin as possible. I browned them on both sides and very carefully removed them from the pan. We had them on gluten free brown rice tortillas from Trader Joe's, sprinkled with Greek seasoning, fat free plain yogurt and fresh mint. So we decided they were now gyros.

Because I didn't really plan ahead in terms of how we would eat these I didn't season it any particular way. Next time I'll add the Greek seasoning to the mix and instead of plain yogurt make a tzatziki sauce. But they were good and met my two goals for the evening - gluten free and driving free.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spicy Mushroom Tacos

There has been a bit of a dietary evolution here in our household - the primary vegan (Hallie) decided she no longer wanted to be vegan, dh is trying to eat gluten free and Ana, well poor kid, she is still the meat eater in the family and that is the one diet I don't accommodate ;-)

So I'm trying to find gluten-free vegetarian meals that we all like. This, of course, is all subject to change.

Last night I experimented and made what I call spicy mushroom tacos. Basically just a soft taco using chopped mushrooms for the filling. I often make "sausage" this way for lasagna and decided to give it a try with Mexican seasonings. I removed the stems and cleaned two pounds of white mushrooms. Then finely chopped them by hand (the food processor is easier but it makes it too mushy). I added in a homemade taco seasoning mix (with some crushed red pepper, cumin, chili powder etc), then let it sit for a couple of hours while we went off to yoga. These are the mushrooms before cooking.

To cook the mushrooms I sprayed a large saute pan with cooking spray and added the mushrooms. It takes awhile for them to release their liquid - after that I kept cooking until they were well browned.

I'll be honest - when I started out making these they were just going to be mushroom tacos. But if you take a close look at the pictures you will see many, many red pepper flakes. Wow this mixture was HOT. Thus they became spicy mushroom tacos.

For the tacos we used soft corn tortillas and loaded them with mushrooms, white cheddar, chopped green leaf lettuce, homemade guacamole and tomatoes.

They were surprisingly good and luckily the heat of the mushrooms was tempered by the guacamole and lettuce. I think next time I'll tone down the heat a little ;-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vegetarian Dinners Around the World

I mentioned way back in September(!) that I had donated Vegetarian Dinners Around the World at a school auction. I've been a bit behind on the dinners - luckily the highest bidders are good friends of ours or they would be demanding their money back!

The first dinner I made for them was a noodle salad with Asian coleslaw and baked vegetable eggrolls.

The noodle salad is from the Fields of Greens cookbook and is a favorite of ours:

Chinese Noodle Salad with Citrus and Spicy Peanuts

Spicy peanuts:

1 cup raw shelled peanuts

1/2 teaspoon oil (such as peanut, canola or vegetable)

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt


Grated peel of 1 orange

1/2 cup orange juice

2 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1/3 cup sesame oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup light soy sauce

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/2-1 teaspoon hot chili oil


1 (16-ounce) package thin Chinese noodles or vermicelli pasta

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks

2 ounces snow peas, strings removed, sliced into thin matchsticks (about 1/2 cup)

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup thin matchsticks of daikon radish

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. To prepare the spicy peanuts: Combine the peanuts, oil, paprika, cayenne and salt, stirring well to coat. Place in a small baking pan and toast in a preheated 350-degree oven 10-12 minutes, until the nuts are golden. Set aside.

2. To prepare the marinade: Combine the orange peel and j

uice, ginger, rice and sherry vinegars, sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce, jalapeno and chili oil.

3. To prepare the salad: Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the noodles and time according to package directions. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Add the marinade and set aside while preparing the vegetables.

4. Bring a small pan of water to the boil; add the carrot and snow peas and time 30 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry and add to the noodles.

5. Add the green onions, radish and cilantro. Refrigerate if making the salad ahead. Remove from refrigeration 1 hour before serving. (Refrigeration can make the flavors less intense. Save a little of the marinade to add to the salad just before serving.) Stir in the peanuts just before serving.

The Asian Coleslaw is a recipe I've made many times and it is pretty flexible as far as what vegetables you add.

I don't remember how I made the eggrolls - I know the filling was chopped mushrooms with carrots and cabbage and other things and I baked them.

Lots of help I know. But they were really good and I'm sure just about any combination of chopped veggies would be fine - I did saute the veggies first. Baking them makes them a bit chewier than a fried egg roll but it's far less guilt!

I didn't get pictures of the other dinners I made. The second dinner was eggplant curry with basmati rice, spicy potato and pea samosas and raita salad of grapes and mint. The most recent dinner was spanakopita (from the Moosewood cookbook), avgolemono soup which I hadn't made in years (yes, I made it with eggs but not chicken stock), and a huge Greek salad. I still owe them a Persian dinner, Italian and Mexican. So more to come!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pra Ram Tofu

Tonight I'm home alone - Hallie is off at family camp with her boyfriend and his family, Ana is off to her boyfriend's house (there is a theme building here...). Dh (my boyfriend ;-)) is at a meeting. While foraging for something to make I found some leftover peanut sauce from the other night and a package of firm tofu. I don't have bok choy which I would normally put in pra ram tofu but I had a red bell pepper and used that instead (along with broccoli and red onion).

I always have rice so I got that going in the rice cooker (which we affectionately call Hello Kitty because of the silly little Twinkle Twinkle Little Star chime it makes).

First off the peanut sauce: equal parts light coconut milk, chunky peanut butter and vegetable broth (the batch I made the other night was 1 1/2 cups of each). Heat the coconut milk until it starts to boil, add in the peanut butter and get it mixed in then add the broth. Season with finely ground red pepper flakes, lime juice and salt. For this dish I thin the sauce with either water or additional broth. This is not a low fat sauce by any means but making a batch that size was enough for two different recipes.

For the tofu, slice it fairly thin and press it dry with paper towels. Put the pieces on a baking sheet sprayed with oil then spray top liberally with cooking spray and put it in a 450 degree oven for about 40 minutes. I checked it at 30 minutes to remove any thinner pieces that were getting too brown. Here is the tofu before and after the baking:

Next I steam some broccoli in a saute pan with a bit of water until just lightly cooked. Remove from the pan. Then increase the heat (pour out any remaining water if necessary) and saute a sliced red pepper and some red onion. Add the broccoli back in, the peanut sauce and the tofu. Serve over basmati rice and sprinkle with additional red pepper.

Yum! This is based on a dish we get at our favorite Thai restaurant. We like the home made version every bit as much as the restaurant version.

brushing off the cobwebs

Well let's see - I made it back here before another year was up! So much has been going on. I last posted in September...in November we had a big birthday party for my parents - my mom was turning 80 and my dad 85. I did all the invitations and centerpieces and helped with the menu, etc. The party was a huge success!

Just two days after the party, ON my dad's 85th birthday, he had a massive stroke. Enough already! I'm happy to say he has recovered quite well - still some speech issues but not bad at all. They were able to come down here for a visit in May and even made it to a Giant's game.

So there has been a bit of stress and a lot of phone calls. We aren't going anywhere this summer so I'm hoping it will be a chance to regroup and energize. We shall see.