Tuesday, August 27, 2013


 Crackers and bialy
 Delicious tea sandwiches.  Poppyseed cheese bread, spread with blue cheese, cream cheese,  cranberries and pistachios- whipped together with beaters.  And awesome beet salad- cooked beets (1 lb) cut in to quartered slices, mixed with 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 Tbs minced mint, 2 tbs minced dill, 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste.
 Tabbouleh, and a bowl of cherry tomatoes cut in half and mixed with oil and balsamic vinegar, and Italian spices.
 Delicious cheeses

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Domo Bento

This isn't my best Domo ever, but I had a picture of it, so here it is.  My daughter took this to school last week.  If you don't know Domo, you can google him.  Domo is everywhere!  In this case on a bed of peas- with carrot flowers (white and orange).  Domo is made of sushi rice infused with beet juice (you can't taste the beet flavor- it's just enough to color the rice.  I literally take one of the small packets of organic beets you find in the refrigerated section (you can get them in a multipack at Costco or in a single at Trader Joes) and add the juice from one packet to the rice (and then I cut the beets up and use them for bentos too!).  Domo's mouth and eyes are nori (used a hole punch for the eyes- I have one I use only for food), and I cut the teeth with a small knife- which is why Domo looks like he does not brush and floss.  Domo is easy to shape with your hands- he's just a rectangle body, and 2 cylinder arms.

Tea Infused Cooking

I admit it, this is partly an excuse to get rid of too much tea (how did I think I was going to drink all those boxes of amazing tea fast enough?).  But it's also a way to get amazing flavor in to just about anything that has liquid added to it.  For my chocolate mint cookies (for example), I'm now using mint tea infused water.  When I make curry in the crockpot, I'm infusing the chicken stock infused with chai!  It's so good.  You really must try it!  For my scones, I'm infusing milk with all sorts of flavors.  My lemon scones I mixed with earl gray infusion.  My orange scones I infused with an orange tea.  I used Chai with a spice scone.  And I used my rose tea with some plain scones, which I then sugared with rose sugar.  Yummy.

You can do this tea trick with everything from desserts to gratins.  Don't be shy about experimenting and blend the teas!  I found when I visited a restaurant up North, they blended 3 Choice Organic teas for an amazing drink!  So I've started blending teas together.  First I try them myself, in a teacup, to see if I like the paired flavors, and then I start using them in food.  Please let me know if you find some amazing taste combination!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rice Balls, Veggies and Fruit- and Cake!

So I'm still using my pink sushi rice.  I used a packet of Costco organic beets (precooked) and I put all the juice in some sushi rice to get that pretty pink color.  I have some powdered beet I use for color as well, but why waste beet juice?  The rice was rolled in to balls, and put in the corners, and covered with  a carrot circle that I had cut a flower out of- you can see one of the carrot flowers in the center of the bento on the left.  Also in this compartment, white carrot matchsticks, olives, and carrot slices.  Just blueberries and raspberries in the compartment on the right.  I'm also taking a slice of homemade pineapple upside down cake, for which I am including the recipe.

This is a super easy recipe, and I made it yesterday, and left it in a cooling oven, so it's very firm.  I sliced it up and put it in baggies for our lunches.

All you need for this is 1 box of yellow or white cake mix (I use Naturally Nora Organic Mix), a can of pineapple slices, maraschino cherries, the saved juice from the can of pineapple, butter (1/4 cup), and brown sugar (1 cup) packed.

Mix cake mix but instead of whatever liquid is called for, use the pineapple liquid, and then add the other, recipe liquid, to make the amount called for on the box.  In my case, I added about 1/4 cup of milk to the pineapple juice to make a total of 1 cup.  Arrange fruit in bottom of pan-  13 by 9, or 12 by 12 pan- I used 12 by 12.  pour melted butter over fruit.  Sprinkle entire pan with 1 cup of brown sugar.  Then simply pour cake mix over fruit and sugar, and bake at 350 until the cake is a golden brown.  Then, because I wanted a more solid cake, I turned the heat off and let the cake cool in the oven for about 8 hours.  You COULD eat the cake immediately, and that would be nice too :-)  I find it easier to unmold if you let it sit longer.  Make sure to go around the sides with a think spatula, freeing the cake from the sides of the pan.  Then invert onto a large plate.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Say It With Lunch

Just wanted to send an extra special lunch, so I used a heart shaped egg, some sushi rice turned pink with beet juice, a flower cut out of a slice of beet, and some nori letters cut with scissors.

This was so easy, but I think it makes a sweet treat to send in a lunch box.  I also sent an apple, some crackers and cheese, and some nuts.

Obviously you can say anything you want - but I'd keep the message short :-)  I bought a package of the little bento picks on Amazon- see the url at the bottom of the page.  The container is a Fit N Fresh.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bentos for the First Day of School!!! Pandas and Onigiri and Eggs- Oh My!

The first day of school looms upon us.  Last night I made onigiri- in triangle shapes, and put eyes on the ones for my daughter, and stripes on the ones for me and my son.  I forgot to buy nori sheets for sushi, but I had seaweed snacks, so I just cut the eyes and smiles and stripes out of the seaweed snacks (sea salt and teriyaki flavor, from Costco).  The stripes I cut with scissors, and the faces with the punch tool I have put at the bottom of the page.  Also at the bottom of the page is a recipe for really good sushi rice.  I like this recipe better than the one I used before.  Yummy.

I bought a radicchio to use the leaves to hold rice and salads. I like these and other edible "cups".  So I  use the smaller leaves for tofu curry salad, golden beat salad, and I use olives and carrot sticks as dividers and to fill out the bento so it doesn't move around as it's taken to school or work.  Movement is your enemy- so you want every nook and cranny to be filled with some sort of food.  Buy little appetizer pickles,olives, mushrooms and hot mix to do just this.  And when you have carrots and radishes and celery, keep slices and toothpick sized cuts in baggies in the fridge- so you don't have to do your cutting every day.

The eggs I hardboiled and chilled overnight in egg shapers (see below).

I took the leftover sushi rice and colored it with beet juice, because I'll use that red rice in bentos and sushi rolls later in the week :-)  I know you'll want to stick around to see that.
Tomorrow is the first day of school, so I've made bentos for everyone :-)  And here they are!
This shows two Fit N Fresh boxes for my son and daughter.  These boxes have ice in the lid.  On the left hand side (above) you'll see two onigiri with stripes, and two radicchio leaves, one with curry salad and one with sliced carrots, along with some black olives filling space.  In the box on the right side are two onigiri with faces, and an egg shaped like a fish, and some sliced carrots, in radicchio leaves.  Links are at the bottom to a great sushi recipe,sushi cutters, egg shapers and the various bentos.
 Above see a close up of the shaped egg and the onigiri.
 Here's my panda bento.  I'm taking this one.
 Above see my delicious lunch.  In the lower compartment of the bento I've put a salad of golden beets, some olives and some slices of cheese.  In the compartment with the lid I've got a shaped egg (vroom vroom- it's a car)- notice the carrot pieces that make the windows and the wheels- I've "glued" them on with blue cheese dressing.  I've also got sliced purple carrots and curry salad.  My onigiri wouldn't fit in here, so I'm taking it separately.  Good thing I've got a fridge in my class.
 This is how the bento looks once the cover is on- and the blue thing is the egg shaper.  You hard boil the egg and then chill it in the shaper.
Here's a close up of my shaped egg :-)

Here's the sushi recipe:

Here's the bentos and the Fit N Fresh:

Here's the panda:

Here's the black cat:

Here's the egg shaper:

Here's the seaweed cutter:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The newest toy in my kitchen is the Zojirushi hot water boiler:


I just love this machine.  I also love my Zojirushi rice maker, and my Ms. Bento- so I knew I'd love the quality, but what I didn't realize was just how often I was using water from the microwave.  With 5 adults around our house, always using the kitchen, it's great to have hot water really fast to make my tea for work, make oatmeal, and even jump start dinner!  Last night when I was making bell peppers stuffed with beef and farro, I realized I needed to cook the farro!  I used some of the hot water from my pot- which is kept near boiling, and my water boiled immediately, and my farro (the quick cook kind, from Trader Joes) was done in a snap!  And thus I could have dinner on the table at the time we needed it there- and not 1/2 hour later.

In the mornings I am always rushed making my tea- and sometimes I just give up.  But with the water boiler 4 cups of hot water is a snap- and since the thing holds 4 liters (roughly 16 cups)- there's enough for everyone's thermos!  I also happen to love the cheerful tune this little guy sings when the water is ready.  My rice cooker is also tuneful- though luckily they sing different tunes.

Let me also mention the fact that there are 3 heat settings- perfect for different kinds of tea.  You can have your water exactly the temperature you need it for green, black or white tea.  That's a really great feature- since teas can be fussy, and I am not going to hang around with a thermometer to figure out what temp my water is.  I just guess, and hope for the best when using the microwave- which results in a lot of overcooked tea.

Obviously, if you only need a cup or two of water a day, this device is not for you.  But if you're like me, and you feel like you're using hot water all day long, and you really are, this is fabulous.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lasagne recipe- my own. My guests have really liked this, and I think I have tweaked it to perfection- but the key to success (as I was telling my friends last night) is a pan with really high sides. My pan is square, and has a side that is 3 1/2 inches tall (and is a 5 quart pan)- and I build the lasagne all the way to the top.

You will need 32 oz of ricotta. Two boxes of no boil lasagne noodles. 3 jars of spaghetti sauce (I use "When In Rome"- in two flavors, 2 jars of 3 cheese, and 1 jar of vodka sauce). 1 1/2 pounds of mozzarella - sliced about 1/4 inch thick- I'm using logs, so the circles are smaller- and they are pre-sliced if you get the Galbani ones from Costco. The round cheeses work, but you'll have to work on controlling the size, especially on the final layer. 1 lb of organic ground beef, cooked, cooled, crumbled (you can make this without the beef). 8 oz grated Kraft parmesan cheese (works better than the freshly grated stuff- trust me)- this is 1/2 of one of the 16 oz jars Costco sells. 4 eggs.

Mix together well the eggs, parmesan cheese and ricotta.

Line the bottom of your pan with about 1/2 of one of the jars worth of sauce. Spread evenly. Cover with a layer of noodles. Break noodles to fit rather than overlapping. Do not overlap noodles.

Spread a layer of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Use about 1/3 of the mix. Use a spatula to get even coverage. Crumble all the meat evenly over this layer. Cover this layer with the other 1/2 of your first jar of sauce (I use 3 cheese for this layer). Try for even coverage. Now dot this layer with about 9 rounds of mozzarella, and apply a new layer of noodles. Cover noodles with ricotta (2nd 1/3) mixture, then sauce (now add first 1/2 jar of vodka sauce) and dot with another 9 rounds of mozzarella. Another layer of noodles, top with ricotta sauce (final 1/3- use it all up! Doesn't matter if there's a little extra in this layer), more vodka sauce (second 1/2), dot with mozzarella, and cover with noodles. Now, cover the noodles with 1/2 of a NEW jar of 3 cheese sauce. You'll save the rest of the sauce for plating the lasagne, or some other dish. Finally, top the lasagne with attractive rounds of mozzarella. I use whatever number looks prettiest. This is the layer that will show, and it's best to go small, because you won't want to cut through the mozzarella rounds- each one of them will top one slice, so if you make them small, you'll get more slices- and this is a thick and hearty lasagne. Now, bake the lasagne in your preheated oven for at least an hour. I bake mine on a pizza stone. The top will begin to brown lightly around the edges- the key is lightly! Crack the oven door and make sure of the color- CLOSE door. Turn the oven off. Let the dish sit for at least 1/2 hour in the closed oven- check it, make sure it isn't browning too much- the very edges (next to the pan) can be dark brown (but not black!) but nothing else should be. Let some heat out if it is cooking too much. This sitting will firm it up, so you get luscious lovely squares that come out perfectly and will amaze your friends and relatives.

You can use the left over sauce to plate the lasagne if you want. Heat it in a pan, or in the microwave. Make a circle of sauce on a warm plate and put the lasagne in the middle of the sauce, garnish with a sprig of basil, or thyme.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

For My Gluten Free Friends

I've been putting Gluten Free Caveman Cookies in the lunches I've been packing this summer:


These cookies are tasty, and relatively good for you.  They aren't crispy- more chewy.  Almost like a cross between a candy and a cookie.  We got a deal on Groupon for them.  If I were you, I would not start with a case at Amazon.  Try one box- from a specialty market. Then, if you like them, get them off Amazon.  We also tried the tropical, which was ok, but we all prefer the original.

Also delicious for the lunchbox- Justin's peanut butter cups- organic, and for now, at Costco (or at least they are at our Costco):


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Plums Plums Plums

Cooking up still more plum  sauce today.  3 lbs of plums, 2 tbs lemon juice, and 2 cups sugar. Makes a great all around base for just about anything.  Yesterday I mixed 1 cup of plum sauce with 1 cup of BBQ sauce and made a knock out plum BBQ- which I poured on a whole batch of Costco chicken thighs (skin removed).  I baked the thighs at 350 for about an hour.  My they were good.  They'd be just as good grilled outside.  That plum sauce is a delicious addition to savory foods.

Today, I just started a batch of plum vodka.  I used 2 cups of plums, 1/2 cup of sugar, and a large jar with a seal- and filled it to the top with vodka.  In the Balkans they make plum vodka with a vanilla bean and cinnamon as well- so I'm thinking of making a smaller jar with those additions- and then seeing which I like better.  Pictures to follow! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pate de Fruit

Still dealing with buckets of ornamental plums.  I decided to make pate de fruit because I love it!  But it's quite expensive to buy it.  I have organic gelatin around the house (because we order it by the pound- as my husband likes to drink it.  He thinks it helps his joints).  So I used granulated gelatin.  You will notice it calls for "leaves of gelatin" in the recipe- that's more European.  1 TBS of granules = 4 leaves of gelatin.  I modified the recipe a little.  First, because I'm lazy, I did not pit the plums.  I cooked them with the lemon and sugar called for in the recipe, and then I simply strained out the pits.  Then I used my immersion blender and blended the mixture.  I cooled about 1/4 cup of the fruit sauce and added 3 (not 2) TBS of gelatin- and they were heaping TBS.  I'm glad I did that, because the resulting candies would not have been firm enough without the extra gelatin.  I might even add more gelatin next time.  I'll see what I think after these are a few days old- as I expect them to dry out a little over time.



After I cut up the squares I coated them in organic sugar and stored them 3 layers deep (separated by plastic wrap) in tupperware.  I think the un-sugar coated plum product will make an excellent accompaniment for cheese (rather like quince paste- only fruitier).  I'm also considering make a cold dessert out of this, using a layer of sponge cake soaked in marsala, a layer of plum, a layer of custard, and some berries and whip cream.  It will be like a trifle!  I'll put the pictures of the candies up soon.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Got Ornamental Plums?

We have an ornamental plum tree that has amazingly tasty fruit.  Not all ornamental trees have good fruit, but if you have one that does, use those plums!!!

Here are some easy suggestions- aside from just eating the fruit, which we do.

First- make plum sauce,  Take plums and wash them- I used 17 cups.  Then I put them in a pan- NOT pitted and NOT skinned.  I added 6 cups of sugar.  I turned on the heat to medium, and cooked them for about 45 minutes.  The fruit bursts and all the juice comes out.  There is no need to add water.  Strain the liquid through a sieve or colander (I use a colander).  Then I like to cook the liquid down and thicken it more.  I did about 2 hours on low heat, stirring very occasionally.  The sauce is amazing on ice cream.  You can mix it with soda water or champagne for a drink.  You can make margaritas with it.  You can use it for Asian plum sauce -by cooking 1 cup of sauce with 4 cloves of garlic, minced, one white onion, minced, dash of hot pepper sauce or chili oil, 2 tsp 5 spices seasoning, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and 1 tbs grated ginger- you can also add sesame oil (but I never do because my husband is allergic to sesame.)  If you want to thicken it, cool about 1/8 cup, stir in 1 tbs cornstarch, and add it back to the liquid stirring quickly.  Any of the ingredients listed can be omitted and you'll still get a tasty sauce.  I have used this sauce to baste chicken and pork.  Have added butter to it and sauteed veggies in it.  Makes a great dipping sauce for Asian foods.  And it's good over cheese!  I'm sure there are many other uses for it as well.

I'm going to try making plum sauce brownies this weekend.  I'm going to add plum sauce instead of water.  I'll let you know how that goes.

Second- infuse vodka with plums.

Third- infuse vinegar with plums.

Fourth-  candy the plums.  It's pretty simple, and there are lots of instructions on the net, but basically you replace the water in the fruit with sugar.  It's just a long slow process of cooking the fruit in sugar.

Fifth- pate de fruit.  I'm totally doing this one!  I love pate de fruit, and it's darn expensive.  So I'm going to make my own.  I'll try to take a picture before I eat it all.  I'm going to try several different recipes- some with gelatin, some with pectin, and see which I like better.  I'll keep you informed!

I'll add some pictures of my plum sauce as soon as I get my camera back from my daughter who borrowed it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

So it's been a while since I've been here.  I had a tough schedule this year, and somehow, even though we were eating, I just never seemed to get the pictures taken of things, except for a couple of times, which I'll share later.

But maybe this summer will be different.  Maybe.  I'm going to try to make it different.  I've been cooking nonstop since the last day of school.  A few days ago I made Beef Bourguignon, using Jardines sauce- and potatoes and carrots.  I cooked it for about 14 hours, and it was luscious. Then, out of sheer laziness, I didn't even wash the crockpot- I just put what little was left of the Bourguignon in the fridge, and tosses in another large roast (and didn't even brown it!) and some Jardines Cowboy Kettle Chilli mix (in the jar), and a large jar of stewed tomatoes, and about 2 cups of water.  Then I let that chilli and meat cook on high all night, and turned it on low in the morning, after adding 2 cans of kidney beans, and let it cook on low until lunch.  It was excellent.

Tonight I am making pasta salad, with feta, olives (black, and kalamata), hearts of palm, green onions,  and Italian dressing.

Who knows what I'll do tomorrow?

Maybe I'll make these!  You can get the cutters on Amazon.  My students think these cookies are really fun.  I make them out of gingerbread.