Monday, May 17, 2010

My Second Official Saturday Night Supper!

I am so excited. I hosted my second official Saturday Night Supper. We had our friends Kim and Eric and their kids, Sonja and Jake over. We had a fantastic dinner with an Asian theme. We started out with endamame and Vietnamese spring rolls with nuoc cham dipping sauce. The endamame was easy. I got frozen endamame in the shell, heated them in the microwave, sprinkled them with kosher salt and set them out for everyone to munch on. Even the kids loved them. The spring rolls were awesome and garnered a lot of ooohhhs and aaaahhhs. It is one of the few deep fried foods I will make at home. My husband does the frying outside on the back porch. I do not like the smell that lingers in the house after deep frying so we set up the electric wok on the back porch and fry there. My husband does not do much cooking but he is the expert on frying up the spring rolls.

For dinner we had chicken wings with oyster sauce, beef with broccoli in oyster sauce, fried rice and steamed jasmine rice. As many of you know I am rather frugal so I have to tell you what I did. I use diced ham in the fried rice. Well ham, whether you buy a ham steak in the meat department or a fat slice in the deli, is at least $2.99 a lb. The grocery store had hams on sale for .99 lb., butt or shank half. So, I bought a 10 pound ham and cooked it last night. I served it for dinner last night, got the diced ham I needed for the fried rice, I have a nice ham bone in the freezer plus four 1 lb packs of leftover ham! I am going to also share with you how I cooked the ham because it really produces the most moist, wonderful ham and some fantastic broth as well that is going to make a wonderful soup this week. Look for the ham recipe in a separate post.

While I do love my sweets I put so much effort into the starters and dinner part of my meal that the dessert is often an afterthought. I have been known to pour some coffee and throw a box of Godiva Chocolates on the table and be done with it. So when Kim asked if she could bring something I said dessert please. She brought a wonderful cake that I know I have seen the recipe for but have never tried, a poke cake. It was really good. It was very light and refreshing. The perfect end to our meal. We were all so into eating eat it we forgot to take pictures. Luckily there was a little leftover so we got a shot of it at the last minute to post here. As you will see, we did a number on that cake. It was delicious. Thank you Kim!

Beef with Broccoli in Oyster Sauce

The marinade for this recipe makes even the toughest cut of beef tender!

Main Ingredients:

1 lb lean beef, thinly sliced into bite size pieces for stir fry
3-4 thin slices ginger
12 oz broccoli florets or do as I did and use a 12 oz package of prepared stir fry veggies from the produce department (not frozen!)


1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tlbs dry sherry
2 tbls water
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbls soy sauce
1 1/2 tbls cornstarch


1 tbls dry sherry
2 tbls oyster sauce
1/2 tlbs soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water

Chopped scallions for garnish.

Mix together the ingredients for the marinade. Add the beef and let stand for 1 hour. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Mix together the sauce ingredients. Add the meat and ginger to the skillet. Stir fry until the meat is partially cooked. Add the vegetables and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through. Add the sauce and cook until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat, garnish with the scallions and serve.

Chicken Wings with Oyster Sauce

This is just delicious. It is a two napkin meal as it is quite messy but worth it! Start this early in the day as the wings need to marinate in the soy sauce. I often freeze the wings in 2 lb packs with the soy sauce so they marinate as they thaw and are ready to go when I am.

2 lbs chicken wings
2 tbls soy sauce
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbls oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
5-6 thin slices ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 scallion, diced
1/1/2 tbls cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water

Toss the chicken wings in the soy sauce and let marinate in the refrigerator all day. Mix together the water, oyster sauce, sugar and pepper. When ready to cook heat a large non stick skillet over high heat. Add the wings, ginger and garlic. Cook the wings until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add the oyster sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until the wings are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the cover. The sauce in the skillet should be reduced by 1/2. Add the scallions and cook for a minute or two and then thicken with the cornstarch solution.

Serve and enjoy!

Fried Rice

I have experimented with many fried rice recipes and have come up with a version that I think is the best. Everyone who tries it loves it and my daughters tell me it is the best fried rice they have ever had! Start this early in the day. The rice needs to be cooked and chilled before using.

Fried Rice

1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
2 1/4 cups water, divided
1/8 cup plus 1 tbls soy sauce, divided
1 cup diced ham
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
2 scallions, chopped
1 tbls oyster sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the rice in a pan with 2 cups of water and 1/8 cup soy sauce. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove the rice from the heat and set aside covered for 15 minutes. Fluff the rice and chill until ready to make the fried rice.

In a large non stick skillet saute the ham, onions, carrot, celery and garlic over medium high heat until the onions are translucent. Add the rice and continue cooking until the rice is heated through and starting to brown a little. Add the cabbage and the scallions and cook another 2-3 minutes. Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup water, the remaining soy sauce and the oyster sauce and mix into the rice. Cook and stir until well mixed in. Make a well in the center of the rice. Pour the egg in and scramble it. When just cooked incorporate it into the rice. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve and enjoy.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

These are a very popular treat. I make the filling early in the day and refrigerate it. I fill the wrappers right before cooking but this goes very quickly once the filling is prepped.

Spring Rolls

1.3 oz skein bean thread vermicelli
1/3 cup dried black fungus or tree ear fungus
1/2 lb peeled carrots
1 cup finely shredded green cabbage
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 medium white or yellow onion, quartered
3 scallions
1 lb lean pork, cubed
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dry sherry
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

One 25 count package spring roll wrappers

1 egg, lightly beaten for sealing the spring rolls

Oil, for deep frying

Soak the noodles in warm water to cover for about 20 minutes. Soak the tree ear fungus in warm water to cover for about 20 minutes.

Using the fine shredding disk, shred the carrots in the food processor. Set aside 2 tbls of the shreds for the dipping sauce. Put the rest in a large bowl. Add the cabbage and the garlic. Chop the onion and the scallions in the food processor and add them to the carrots. Pulse the pork in the food processor 5-6 times until minced and add it to the carrots. By now the noodles and the tree ear fungus should be softened. Drain them well and chop them in the food processor and add them to the pork and carrots. Add the seasonings and mix everything very well.

When I am ready to fill the rolls, I score my filling equally into 8 sections. Then I know to use each section to make 3 spring rolls. This helps me make sure the filling is divided equally between the 25 wrappers. Put a log of filling across the bottom of a wrapper at an angle to the square and start rolling. Then bring in the sides and brush across the top point with egg. Continue rolling the spring roll and seal.

Bring the oil to 350 F and fry the spring rolls, 5 at a time, turning 1-2 times until golden and cooked through - about 5 minutes.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

2 tbls finely shredded carrot
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp crushed red chili pepper
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup water

Combine all ingredients. Stir to dissolve sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.

The Best Ham

Here is how I cook ham. There is always the worry that it will dry out. With my method you will always be able to enjoy moist, delicious meat. I do not get the spiral sliced hams because they can be dry. It is just as easy to slice a large piece off the bone and then slice that chunk thinly for serving. Also, if you wish to use larger chunks from the leftovers you will have them as opposed to an already fully sliced ham.

1/2 a smoked ham, shank or butt half though I like the shank. (I had to get the butt half this last time because they were out of the shank).

1/3 cup mustard
1/3 cup honey

Put a rack in the bottom of a large pot with a cover. Fill with water up to the rack. Place the ham on the rack. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil on the stove top. Reduce heat to low and simmer the ham for one hour. The steam cooks the ham more quickly than it would cook in the oven but also keeps the ham very moist.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place them ham on a baking sheet and score the fat. Mix the honey and mustard together and brush the mixture over the ham. Place it in the oven for 20-25 minutes. It is now ready to slice and serve.

Do not throw away the steaming liquid. Plus, all that lovely fat that nobody will eat that surrounds the ham is full of smokey flavor. As you remove the fat from the meat toss it into the cooking liquid. Add water to cover and simmer for about an hour. Strain the liquid and now throw away the fat. Chill the liquid. Spoon off the solidified layer of fat and you will have a lovely, smokey broth for some soup later in the week. Save the ham bone to make another pot of soup at a later date. This ham will make so many wonderful meals!

By the way, that solid pork fat you spoon off is wonderful stuff for pan frying and sauteing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kim's Poke Cake

This was moist and light tasting. I will definitely be making it myself.

1 white cake mix
1 box of strawberry jello
one 8 oz carton cool whip

Prepare cake according to package and bake in a 13 X 9 inch pan. Prepare jello according to package. When the cake is done use a straw to poke holes all over the cake. Pour the jello over top of the cake. Chill thoroughly. Spread top with cool whip and keep chilled until ready to serve.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Weekend

I did not do any cooking this past weekend. It was Mother's Day and we stayed at a beautiful hotel near Disney for the weekend. We ate at some wonderful restaurants featuring different ethnic cuisines. It all really started on Friday, April 30, with my birthday dinner at a Korean restaurant. My family enjoyed cooking on on the griddle set in the middle of the table. My favorite part was the dozen or so little pickles and kimchis that are served with the meal. The food is so healthy too. The meat is grilled and then wrapped in lettuce leaves along with some of the pickles for garnish. Very delicious!

On Saturday, May 8, my choice for lunch was a Chinese dim sum restaurant. If you have never had dim sum you really should try it. These are little plates of both savory and sweet dishes. You can try so many different things because it is not one big helping of something. The more people you have in your party the more little dishes you can get to try and share. Our family of four had 8 little dishes. My personal favorites include the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf and the turnip cake which is made with daikon radish, not turnips as the name would suggest. I also love the squid in curry sauce and would have drank the sauce left in the dish if the waitress had not so promptly removed it from the table once the squid was gone! Adventurous types can choose duck feet and beef tendons among other things!

On Saturday night we ventured out to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. The fun part about this dinner is that you eat with your hands. The food is served on a big pancake called injera. Additional pancakes are provided on the side. You tear off pieces of the pancake and use them to pick up your food and eat it. We must have looked like we knew what we were doing because the servers never asked if we had eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant before. They just put the food on the table with the basket of extra pancakes and said enjoy. It was my husband's first time and he said it was a good thing I knew what to do because he would have been asking where the forks, knives and plates were! The food was delicious. It included two highly seasoned meat dishes, collard greens, fresh green salad and a lentil dish. This was all arranged on one large pancake. The juices from the different dishes soaked into the pancake. It was served with a glass of Ethiopian honey wine. The wine was sweet but refreshing.

In between our dim sum lunch and Ethiopian dinner we stopped by Epcot to see Davey Jones play. He puts on a fun show. Even our 8 year old daughters enjoyed it, sort of. We had played the music for them ahead of time. Knowing the words makes a huge difference in their appreciation of the entertainment.

We decided to go for Latin American cuisine on Sunday for brunch. We had a beef empanada and a plate of chorizo sausage. The dinners, one chicken and one steak, were well seasoned and served with rice and beans and plantain or yucca fries. Although it was early in the day it was Mother's Day and therefore called for a glass of the sangria. Everything was wonderful.

By now I was craving some sugar and chocolate so we headed over to my favorite grocery store, Whole Foods Market. We went to the pastry case and picked put a chocolate cup filled with espresso mousse and another filled with chocolate mousse. We sat in the dining area and enjoyed our sugar fix.

After this we went back to Epcot for the rest of the day. We did a few new things and some of our standard favorites then ended the trip with a second dose of Davey Jones. We were finally getting our appetites back after having eaten so well earlier so we stopped and got a couple of orders of sushi at the Japanese Pavilion.

I am now motivated to hit the kitchen to try to create some new and wonderful flavors to serve to family and friends.

I love to eat, don't you?!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Red Thai Seafood Curry

I love Thai food. The flavors are so fresh and delicious. Last night I made a red Thai seafood curry. Sometimes I make the curry paste from scratch however things got busy yesterday and so I did not get started on dinner until late. I compromised and used a commercial red curry paste. I used Mae Ploy brand which is a good one if you are not inclined to make it yourself. The other issue I face is that my daughters are 8 and have sensitive taste buds. When I make the curry paste myself it is quite fiery. The Mae Ploy is somewhat milder in flavor and will suit the young taste buds better. I love my food very hot and spicy. To accommodate this I dry habernero peppers in the oven. Once they are completely dry I run them through the food processor until they are powder. I keep a vial of this powder in my purse for eating out and in my kitchen to spice up my food. I have several spice loving friends and keep them supplied as well!

I also made a fresh summer roll to go along with this theme. I made a Thai beef salad and stuffed it into a rice paper wrapper. My daughters just loved this. It turned out very well. The great thing is, this dish is so healthy, no fat.

I used zucchini, carrot, baby corn and bell pepper in my curry but any vegetables that appeal to you will work. For the seafood I used shrimp, squid, scallops and tilapia.

Red Thai Seafood Curry

2 tbls red curry paste
1 15 oz can coconut milk
1 large zucchini diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 15 oz baby corn cut in half
1 small to medium bell pepper cut into strips
2 lbs assorted seafood - shrimp, squid, scallops, white fish
2 tsp fresh slivered kafir lime leaf or 1 tsp grated lime peel
2 tsp thai or italian basil, slivered
2 tbls fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
juice from 1 lime

fresh steamed jasmine rice for serving

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the curry paste and 2-3 tbls of coconut milk. Simmer 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Add the lime leaf or peel. Add the vegetables and 1/2 remaining coconut milk and cook 3-4 minutes until just starting to get tender. Add the seafood and the remaining coconut milk and cook until the seafood is just done - about 2-3 minutes. Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, basil and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Serve over rice.