Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Homemade Sushi - No special gadgets necessary!

I have been wanting to try homemade sushi for a very long time, but I was always intimidated. Having a sushi place on every corner here in Jacksonville made it so much easier to just call in an order than try. As I browsed the aisles while grocery shopping last weekend, sushi rice and nori were on sale at Whole Foods. I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. I spent the next three days trying to find a bamboo rolling mat, but had zero luck. I did a youtube search on how to make sushi without a bamboo mat, and it seemed easy enough. By the time I purchased the rice, vinegar, nori and all the various fillings, it did get a little pricey, but it was probably still cheaper than eating out, plus I could make custom rolls! 

I decided to try making brown rice sushi as well as white rice. I used Whole Foods short grain brown rice and prepared it the same way as the sushi rice, but I definitely preferred the white rice. I could have eaten the whole bowl full! The seasonings make it a little tangy and delicious. My only complaint about the sushi was I left it uncovered in the refrigerator, in roll form to set before I cut it, and then for the next few days, it stunk of seaweed! 

For my rolls, I used about 1/3 c. (dry) rice per roll, so the amount of rice you make compared to how many rolls you want can be multiplied that way. 

Vegetarian Sushi Rolls

1 package of nori, dried seaweed (I used this) - 3 sheets needed for 1 c. rice
1 c. sushi rice
1 1/3 c. water
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Optional fillings:
-Beet, Scallion and Goat Cheese
-Avocado, Cucumber, Carrot and Tofu
-Sweet Potato and Scallion (I used a few baked sweet potato fries!)
-Avocado and Mango
-Avocado and Peanut
-Avocado, Asparagus and Cucumber

To make the rice:
Rinse rice in a fine mesh sieve until it runs clear.
Add water and rice to a pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, stirring every few minutes.
Turn heat off after 15 minutes, and let rice sit until water is absorbed.
Add rice to a mixing bowl, season with vinegar, sugar and salt, stir well, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To roll:
Wet a dishtowel, ring dry. 
Lay flat on a counter top, add one sheet of nori.
Spoon rice over nori, using a plastic spatula, press into nori in an even, thin layer.
Add ingredients to center, fold nori over the fillings and press, then continue the roll and squeeze.
Unroll and place on a plate, seam side down.
Refrigerate until ready to slice and serve.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Coconut Quinoa and Kale Salad with Tropical Pesto

Back in this blog's heyday (if there ever was such a thing?) I'd average 5-6 comments on each post. These days, I can always count on Joanne, and then maybe 1 other person, if I'm lucky. I know, it's true that if you're a heavy commenter on other blogs, people will reciprocate... and I'm not. It's not that I don't read a lot of blogs, because I do, but I so rarely leave the comfort of google reader. I have so many posts of delicious recipes from people's blogs starred, and many times I do make them, but then again, I never go back and leave a comment. Shame on me! (Also, what the heck do we do when google reader ends in July?!)

If it wasn't for Janet at the Taste Space commenting on one of my posts a few weeks ago, I never would have gone to her blog and found this recipe! So thank you, Janet. And please, if you're a reader, don't be shy, I'd love to follow you, too. The more e-friends, the merrier!

This recipe was literally right up my alley. Not only did it look delicious but it landed in my reader the week my CSA had kale and cilantro! The flavors were great to kick off the warm weather we've finally got here in Florida (80's! Yay!) and it was quick and healthy, two of my favorite things in a dinner.

Coconut Quinoa and Kale Salad with Cilantro-Cashew Pesto
slightly adapted from The Taste Space

1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed well
1 c. vegetable stock
4 c. chopped kale
Juice of 1 lime
1 scallion, sliced
1/4 c. shredded coconut

2 c. cilantro, packed
1/2 c. cashews, toasted
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil, or more as needed
salt and black pepper

Bring stock to a simmer in a pot, add quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover and stir occasionally. Once all liquid is absorbed, turn heat off and set aside.
Thinly slice kale, add lime juice and a sprinkle of salt, gently massage kale to help it soften.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together cilantro, cashews and garlic.
Once all ingredients are in small pieces, turn food processor on and stream in lemon juice and olive oil, run until it forms a thick pesto, season with salt and pepper.
Add half of pesto to the kale, mix in quinoa.
Top with additional pesto, if desired, and garnish with coconut and cashews. Serve at room temperature or chilled. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jerk Tempeh Pitas

One of my favorite casual restaurants to dine in is Mellow Mushroom. The pizzas are great, but the sandwiches and salads are just as good, if not better. And the calzones, well they're just at another level of delicious! The other thing that makes Mellow so appealing is they have tofu and tempeh available as a substitute for meat in any entree. We typically go on Monday nights when they have trivia, but I love dropping in for lunch as well (Greek salad with tofu and Esperenza dressing is my choice at lunch!) JJ ordered this dish first time we ever went, and it's been hard for him to get anything else since.

The tempeh is seasoed with their jerk seasoning, then sauteed with onions, green pepper, mushrooms and pineapple. It's stuffed into a sub or pita, topped with spinach and tomatoes, and drizzled with pesto mayo. To recreate it at home, I just left off the spinach and turned the pesto mayo into a pesto-greek yogurt sauce. It was just as tasty, and less calories and fat, I'm sure!

Jerk Tempeh Pitas
inspired by Mellow Mushroom

4 whole wheat pita pockets, warmed and split
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz. button or cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 8 oz. package tempeh
1-2 tbsp. Jerk seasoning (I use Penzeys)
1 small (4-6) oz. can pineapple tidbits in juice
Black pepper
Sliced roma tomatoes
1/4 c. Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. prepared pesto

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic, mushrooms and bell pepper.
Saute' for 10 minutes, or until water has cooked out and vegetables begin to caramelize.
Crumble in tempeh, add jerk seasoning, stir well.
Loosely drain excess juice from pineapples into a dish, reserve.
Add pineapple to skillet, stir well, taste and season with pepper or more jerk seasoning (if your jerk seasoning is salt free, you may need to add salt)
If mixture is dry, add a bit of reserved juice.
Spoon mixture into pita pockets, top with tomato slices.
In a small dish, mix yogurt and pesto, drizzle over pitas and serve immediately.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chocolate Truffle Layer Cake/Blue Shower for Baby Benjamin!

Last month, I hosted a baby shower for one of my friends who was pregnant with her first child, a baby boy! Yesterday was his birthday, so I'm sharing this post today in honor of the most adorable baby Ben! I asked Leah for some suggestions on the food, and more importantly, the cake. She told me that it's not dessert unless there's chocolate involved, so I tried my best to deliver! I made a basic chocolate cake, filled it with white and dark chocolate ganache, then iced it in dark chocolate buttercream, and decorated with ombre blue gumpaste flowers. The cake felt like it weighed 20 lbs., and there was enough to send the whole top tier home with the expectant Mama. I feel like that far outweighs any gift she got that day, am I right pregnant ladies?! 

When planning the shower, I knew it would be an intimate group of just a dozen or so, so I tried to make it a classy luncheon. I didn't want a theme, necessarily, but incorporated soft blues with gray and silver.  I tried a few new DIY projects, and then stuck with the party essentials, like flowers and candles. 

I'm not on pinterest, but I've seen blogs link to the yarn wreaths that seems to be sweeping the craft world. I made this one very simply using a straw wreath (though, next time I'd use styrofoam) wrapped in wool yarn. I looked at a few blogs for directions on making the felt flowers, and sewed a few petal flowers and then winded felt roses. The invitations were from http://www.tinyprints.com/, and then a simple white baby's breath bouquet filled the foyer.

The mantle was simply decorated with a deep blue vase with more baby's breath and white hydrangeas. I had an Anthropologie candle on hand that matched the glass color, and smells divine, so I also placed it up there. The favor for the day was chocolate chip M&M cookies with blue and grey M&M's (I found these at Party City).

I know games can be overdone when it comes to showers, so I just made one simple game, Baby Price is Right. I tried to pick higher priced items and told guests to round to the nearest $10, which made adding up the difference easy. I used stock photos of each item, hooked my laptop up to the TV and showed the photo of each item so the guests had a better idea of what they were pricing. Of course, the mom-to-be and another pregnant guest were the winners, they each got a gourmet chocolate bar.

For drinks, I kept it simple but added variety by purchasing a few types of Italian Sodas from World Market. I also had champagne for mixing, as well as soda water, and garnishes like marischino cherries, blood oranges and limes. I found cute paper straws at Michaels for just $1

I don't have wine charms, so I printed each guests name and tied it to their glass. 

 For the table decor, I found some silver and blue Christmas bulb ornaments on clearance at Target, and just filled a hurricane vase with them and added a silver tape candle to the center.

While I didn't blog all of the food, I will share the menu (non-vegetarian):
Chicken and Artichoke Melt Crescents 
Crabcake Sliders with Avocado and Chipotle Aioli
Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
Mini Caramelized Onion and Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes
Quinoa Salad with Cranberries, Feta and Pepitas

This cake is 2 tiers, with 4 layers of cake and 3 layers of ganache in each tier. It's chocolate to the extreme! I made the cake layers somewhat thin rather than bake fat layers and slice them, I think it's just easier to bake off thinner layers. I also used 2 layers of white and 1 dark ganache on the bottom, and reversed the top, but you can also just use all dark or all white. I served it with coffee, but you might also want to offer milk! 

Chocolate Truffle Layer Cake
cake slightly changed from Hershey's, Truffle filling from Food and Wine, Buttercream is standard

Dark Chocolate Cake (doubled)
2 c. granulated sugar
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350*
Line 2-11" pans and and 2-8" pan with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla.
Stop the mixer and sift in sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
Turn mixer back on low and mix for 10 seconds, slowly add the hot coffee while the mixer runs.
Once all the flour is absorbed, turn mixer off, scape down the sides and turn the mixer back on for another 10 seconds, do not overmix! 
Pour batter into pans until it is equally distributed.
Bake for 25-27 minutes, until puffed and center is set. 
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert and remove from pan, cooling to room temperature.
Repeat process until you have 4 cakes in each of the 2 sizes.

Truffle Ganache:
white chocolate:
1 lb. white chocolate, chopped
3/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
dark chocolate:
3/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a medium glass bowl over simmering water, melt white chocolate, stirring frequently.
In a small saucepan, heat cream and butter until it bubbles at the edges, slowly pour into melted white chocolate, whisking at the same time.
Set aside to cool for 1-2 hours, until ganache holds its shape.

Chop dark chocolate and place in a mixing bowl.
Heat the cream until it bubbles around the edges, pour directly on chocolate, stir slowly and melt chocolate, whisk as it becomes incorporated, then set aside and cool for 1-2 hours, until ganache holds its shape.

Chocolate Buttercream:
1/2 lb. butter, at room temperature
8 oz. melted semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 lbs. confections sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 c. heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and chocolate.
Slowly add half of the confections sugar, then the salt and vanilla extract.
If icing is already too thick, add a splash of cream.
Add the remaining confectioners sugar, and more cream if necessary.
Keep the icing covered well in a cool place until you ice the cake, refrigerate if it will be more than a few hours, then bring to room temperature before using. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Basil Summer Rolls

 One of my favorite quick service restaurants is Mama Fu's, we just call it the Fu, and whenever we're thinking about where to go for lunch, the Fu is always mentioned. It is very healthy (if you order the right thing - steamed veggies, brown rice, sauce on the side), there are tons of vegetarian options, and it's fast. When dining with a temper-tantrum prone one and a half year old, getting food on the table as fast as possible is key. The basil summer rolls are one of my favorite dishes there because they're so fresh tasting, full of herbs and peanuts, and they hit the table in a minute or less after you order. The only downside is the price, $8 for 4 rolls, which isn't terrible, but I can make them at home for pennies. So I did!

Rather than just use rice noodles in the filling, I sliced up some napa cabbage from the CSA to bulk up the noodles and add even more veggies to the dish. The combination of fresh mint, basil and cilantro gives these rolls a ton of flavor, the bean sprouts and peanuts add some crunch, and the peanut dipping sauce takes them over the top. I like to give my peanut sauce a hefty squirt of sriracha for spice!

Basil Summer Rolls
inspired by Mama Fu's, sauce from chow.com

12 rice paper rolls
1 oz. cellophane rice noodles
2 c. thinly sliced napa cabbage
1 c. fresh bean sprouts
1 large carrot, shredded
2 tbsp. fresh chopped mint
2 tbsp. fresh basil, julienne
2 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. chopped peanuts
2 tbsp. peanut dipping sauce (recipe follows)

peanut sauce (I quartered this)
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. chile-garlic paste
1 garlic clove, pasted (I used 1 tsp. dried garlic)
1/2 tsp. sesame oil (omitted)

First, make the sauce by whisking together all ingredients.
Next, make rice noodles according to package, drain, roughly chop and toss in a large bowl with sesame oil.
Chill noodles, toss with remaining ingredients except rice paper rolls.
Dip rolls in warm water for 10 seconds, place on a cutting board, fill with 1/4 c. noodle mixture, roll. 
Continue until you run out of rice paper wrappers or filling, it should be close! 
Serve with dipping sauce and sriracha on the side.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Smoky Lentil-Tomato Soup

There are very few 'soup' days living here in Florida. Something about 80* and sweat doesn't make me want to dip into a warm bowl of beans and vegetables, so I have to wait for the few days it dips into the 70's! This winter was very mild, I can only think of a few nights where we had a freeze! Just last weekend it was over 80* so I went and bought Violet a new summer wardrobe, but this morning I woke up to a freeze! I have been craving lentils lately, so when I stumbled across this soup it sounded like a winner.

The base to make it smoky is bacon, which is obviously out for me. Instead, I used smoked paprika rather than regular, and added a whole can of fire-roasted tomatoes instead of the original 1/4  c. the recipe calls for. It ended up being a lot more tomato-y than I usually like, but it was delicious! The Williams-Sonoma website suggests serving this soup with their Grown-Up Grilled Cheese, so the extra tomato-y sop ended up pairing even better with grilled cheese, in my opinion!

Smoky Lentil Soup
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 28 oz. can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
3/4 c. lentils (they recommend red, I used green, they just take a bit longer to cook)
3 c. vegetable stock
Kosher salt and black pepper
Sour cream, for garnish

Heat a dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil, onion, carrot, garlic, tomato paste and paprika.
Season with salt and pepper, cook until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes, lentils and broth, cover and cook for 30-40 minutes, until lentils are tender.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Ladle into bowls, serve with sour cream and a dash of paprika.