Store-bought is easier, but homemade is tastier – Homemade Basil Pesto

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A bright, fresh taste that is missing in our store-bought favorite. Homemade pesto can’t be beat.

The combination of creamy pine nuts, salty parmesan cheese, bright and flavorful basil, spicy fresh garlic all combined to make a sauce that is simply magic. We douse our pasta in pesto, smear it on sandwiches, and swirl it into bread dough. We freeze big batches of basil when the leaves ripen in the summer and make fresh pesto all year long.

Homemade Pesto

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed basil leaves (or frozen equivalent)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place basil, parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic cloves in blender, food processor, or nut chopper attachment of a stick blender. Give the mixture a couple of blitzes to chop the basil leaves.
  2. With the  machine running, drizzle olive oil into basil mixture.
  3. When all is chopped and nicely blended, salt and pepper to taste.

Slaw with Spicy Almond Ginger Dressing

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Crunchy, tangy, spicy and packed with flavor. If this is eating right, we’ll take more!

With a renewed focus on taking good care of ourselves, we’ve been analyzing our fruit and vegetable intake. It is recommended by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention that adults our age consume two to three cups of vegetables a day. Our daily intake was not making the cut. We love flavor. We were not about to sit in front of cups of raw vegetables mindlessly eating in order to make the numbers. So we worked up a flavor-packed dressing and had a hard time putting the fork down.

Slaw with Spicy Almond Ginger Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (we like Cholula)
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp spicy garlic sauce (in the Asian food section)
  • 5 cups chopped vegetables (Cabbage and carrots should be the base. Add other vegetables to your liking. Bell peppers, edamame, broccoli… anything crunchy would work.)
  • Sliced almonds or other nuts as garnish

Directions

  1. Whisk together honey, oils, vinegar, soy sauce, almond butter, salt, hot sauce, ginger, garlic and spicy garlic sauce to make dressing.
  2. Pour dressing over chopped vegetables. Toss.
  3. Serve slaw garnished with sliced almonds or other nuts.

 

Miniature Slider Buns: Perfect for Breakfast, Appetizers and Light Meals

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Irresistible, soft, fluffy darling buns perfect for sliders. Imagine all the tiny meals you could make. Sliders stuffed with eggs, roasted vegetables, burgers… Think you can eat just one? Good thing they are small!

Jack had that look in his eye as he placed his order for a dozen slider rolls. It’s the look he gets when he has something up his culinary sleeve. I will keep the anticipation going and only reveal that it was a delicious use of these little fluffy buns. Stay tuned for his upcoming recipe.

I use this recipe often for hamburger and sandwich rolls. I really like how the texture. They are soft but have enough structure to hold up to whatever we put on them without caving in. I have shaped the dough to accommodate sausage sandwiches as well. This time, I divided the dough into twelve equal pieces, which gave me perfect slider buns about 2¾ inches in diameter.

Fluffy Slider Buns

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water, about 110 degrees F (43 degrees C)
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together water, sugar and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in olive oil.
  3. Stir in one cup of flour and salt.
  4. Add in remainder of flour 1/2 cup at a time. The last half cup will need to be kneaded in by hand.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
  6. Place dough in an oil-coated bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  8. Knead dough for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces.
  10. Roll dough into balls.
  11. Flatten balls slightly and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  12. Cover dough balls with damp towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  13. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  14. Bake rolls for about 12 minutes. Rolls should be lightly browned on top and on bottom.
  15. Let cool completely on wire rack before cutting.

Dorayaki – Japanese Pancakes Stuffed with Sweet Adzuki Bean

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Fluffy pancakes sandwiching sweet adzuki bean paste reminded Jack of snacks grabbed on bike rides home from early mornings of fishing or birdwatching when he lived in Japan. Happy memories.

Taking stock of my freezer, I noticed I still had some sweet adzuki bean paste left from  my twisted adzuki bean rolls. We love the flavor of these sweetened beans. Eating beans makes you think you are eating something good for you. They are packed with fiber and protein… but, there is quite a bit of sugar in this confection. The batter for the pancakes is sweeter than the pancakes I usually make, but the portions are smaller which alleviates guilt. I scaled the original recipe down to make only seven dorayaki. The odd number will give you one to mess up or one to “test” your batch before you serve it to your guests.

Dorayaki – aka Japanese Pancakes Stuffed with Sweet Adzuki Bean Paste

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  •  1/3 cup sugar
  •  1 tbsp honey
  •  ½ cup and 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  •  ½ tsp baking powder
  •  ½ tbsp water
  •  ½ tsp vegetable oil
  •  6 oz homemade sweet red bean paste (see recipe below)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and honey.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder into bowl with egg mixture and mix well.
  3. Let dough sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1/2 tbsp water to dough in order to thin slightly.
  5. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
  6. Take the vegetable oil and coat the frying pan. Wipe pan off to remove the oil. This will prepare surface to cook dorayaki evenly.
  7. Pour 3 tbsp of batter onto center of frying pan. In order to have pancakes come out the same size, I used a large cookie scoop to collect consistent amounts of dough to pour on the pan. The pancakes should be about 3 inches in diameter (8 cm).
  8. Cook pancake for about a minute. You will see bubbles appear on surface.
  9. Flip pancake and cook for another 30 seconds. Both sides should be golden brown.
  10. Pair up pancakes. Spread sweet adzuki bean paste on one pancake. Sandwich its pair on top of the adzuki covered pancake.
  11. Enjoy this delicious snack right away or pack it in plastic wrap to take on the road.

Sweet Adzuki Bean Paste

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried adzuki beans
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • water

Directions

  1. Place beans in a medium pot and add 3 cups fresh water. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add more water if needed. Beans should be covered by water during cooking.
  2. Beans are finished cooking when they are easily squashed between thumb and finger.
  3. Discard water but leave beans in pot.
  4. Add sugar to the pot.
  5. Cook beans and sugar on medium high heat, stirring constantly.
  6. In about 10 minutes beans will form a thick, glossy paste.
  7. Paste can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or indefinitely in the freezer.

 

Sweet Coconut Rice with Mango Purée

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Rich coconut-cream-infused rice topped with scrummy mango purée. Take a bite, close your eyes, and imagine life in the Tropics.

When we are finished teaching in Mongolia, we plan to fully embrace the tiny house movement and live full time in our Lance truck camper traveling all around North America. We have spent several summers living in our camper, which gives us a clear understanding of exactly what 120 square feet of living space means. Primarily relying on electricity generated by driving and by our solar panel has a big influence what type of equipment we use inside our tiny home.

In preparation for living large in a tiny kitchen, we are using this time in our small Mongolian apartment to vet products in order to see if they will meet our needs in our future full time tiny kitchen. Limited electricity, size, durability and multi-function are the top criteria we use to vet products. An additional criterion is whether or not we use a given item on a regular basis. At the end of the day, with a small oven, a small three-burner cooking range and limited counter and storage space, we give a good deal of thought to what we can live without.

Many people all over the world make rice on the stovetop. To eliminate the rice cooker we have relied on for many years, we decided to learn to make rice this way, too. Oh dear. My rice came out consistently bad – mushy, overcooked or undercooked – no matter what I did. With one epic failure after another, I handed the rice-making baton to Jack. He was more successful, but we both agreed that our rice just wasn’t as fluffy as the rice from our rice cooker had been. So we broke down and decided to buy a rice cooker. Now we’re convinced that we need to figure out a way to add this tool to our tiny mobile kitchen.

Our main criterion for a rice cooker was simple – it had to be small. After all, there are only two of us. Standard-sized rice cookers take up too much space and use too much energy. Since we live in Asia, finding a rice cooker shouldn’t be difficult, right? And finding rice cookers was easy. But in shop after shop, most of what we saw were massive in size. The average “small” rice cooker had a 10-cup capacity. Finally, after nearly giving up, we found a dust-covered, last-one-in-stock no-long-in-production Zojirushi rice cooker with a 3-cup capacity. Score!

Zojirushi is a brand we’ve had great success with in the past, so we wasted no time grabbing this cooker. As is the custom here, the sales clerk plugged it in, showed us that it indeed was in working order, and pointed out the six-month store warrantee. Once home, I immediately made a batch of rice to test our new gadget. Hot, steamy, fluffy, perfect rice. Yum!

Remembering a delicious rice dessert Thai friends had turned me on to, I recreated it using the batch of rice “I” just cooked. It is a simple dessert which is not too sweet, is packed full of tropical flavors, and is quick to make.

Sweet Coconut Rice with Mango Purée

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Japanese style short-grained rice, cooked and hot
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut cream (or substitute with coconut milk)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cubed mango
  • honey, to taste
  • toasted sesame seeds and crystallized ginger to garnish

Directions

  1. Put hot, cooked rice in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Heat coconut and sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Pour coconut mixture over rice and mix well.
  4. Let coconut mixture sit for 30 minutes, until coconut cream is absorbed into rice.
  5. Purée mango.
  6. Mix in honey to taste.
  7. Scoop coconut rice onto individual serving plates.
  8. Hollow out a bit of the top of the rice in order to make a well for the mango purée.
  9. Fill well will purée and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and crystallized ginger.

 

Pepperonata Breakfast Pizza: Healthy, Tasty, Easy

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Individual-sized breakfast pizzas are a fun way to start the day. These can be whipped up in a sailboat galley, a mountain cabin, a lakeside camp, or virtually anywhere else. Who says pizza isn’t healthful?

The essence of pepperonata is stewed tomatoes, bell peppers and olive oil. In our Arctic kitchen and on our sailboat, the tomatoes are no problem. Although we occasionally get fresh tomatoes, we more often rely on diced canned tomatoes which, when cooked, are virtually indistinguishable from fresh. Finding good bell peppers at a reasonable price has been another matter. That’s where Penzeys Spices dried red bell pepper flakes shine. Cut into 3/8″ (1 cm) pieces, when hydrated these peppers come alive with aroma and flavor.  A four-ounce bag goes a long way, making them perfect for kitchens where getting to the market isn’t always feasible.

Small pizza crusts are generally available in supermarkets, but we make our own. These days, our favorite dough is a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Crusts made from this balance have an excellent consistency and deliver a hearty flavor. We always keep on hand a few pizza crusts in both 5″ and 12″ size. To do this, we pre-bake our crusts for 10 minutes at 400 °F and then seal them in plastic bags and freeze them. When we’re ready to use the crusts, we pull what we need from the freezer, let them thaw while we’re preparing the topping, top them, and then bake them for the same 10 minutes at 400 °F. Pizza stones make a big difference; we even have a pair of small ones for our sailing vessel, Bandon that fit nicely in the small galley oven or on the boat’s propane grill. While we don’t have refrigeration or a freezer onboard, we’ve found shelf-stable pizza crusts that keep for months.

Pepperonata can be modified to accompany many dishes. Anchovies, olives, capers, herbs, spicy peppers and other vegetables can easily find their way into this versatile, chunky sauce. It’s an excellent topping for white fish and poultry, and is a perfect topping for toasted bread, too.

And the fried egg? We use a Swiss Diamond non-stick pan, low heat, and good olive oil. We like our sunny-side up eggs lightly salted with a grind or two of cracked pepper and a pinch of Italian seasonings, cooked in a covered pan till the whites are just firm.

Pepperonata Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients: (For 2 servings)

  • two, 5″ pizza crusts
  • 16 oz can of diced tomatoes, most of liquid drained (or 1 1/2  cups fresh tomatoes, diced, seeds and pulp removed)
  • 2 tablespoons Penzeys dried pepper flakes (or 1/2 cup diced red, orange or yellow bell pepper)
  • 1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • Italian seasonings such as oregano, thyme, basil, etc. to taste
  • Two eggs, fried any style
  • finish with freshly grated parmesan and capers

Directions:

  1. Bake pizza crusts according to directions.
  2.  Hydrate dried bell peppers (if using dried).
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cook until tomatoes are tender and stew is thick. (About 10 minutes for canned. About 20 minutes for fresh.)
  4. Add bell peppers. Cook until tender.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare fried egg.
  6. When tomato mixture is cooked to desired consistency, add olives, seasonings and additional salt, if desired. Stir to mix thoroughly.
  7. Spoon mixture onto warm pizza crusts. Add capers. Add egg. Top with grated parmesan. This pizza is easiest to eat with a sharp knife and fork.

Pumpkin Pasta with Pumpkin Chanterelle Sauce

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Do not adjust the color! This penne pasta gets its deep orange-yellow color from fresh pumpkin purée and was the perfect base for a tasty alfredo-style pumpkin and chanterelle mushroom sauce.

With a pumpkin arriving in our most recent box of produce from Full Circle Farms, I eagerly anticipated creating a dish of pumpkin and chanterelle lasagne. The idea was to layer slices of pumpkin and mushrooms between wheat lasagne noodles along with cheese and a cream-based sauce. When I pitched this menu to Jack, he wrinkled his nose and said something about taking the fall pumpkin spirit too far. So there I was with a beautifully ripe pumpkin, a couple of cups worth of aromatic chanterelles, and an unsatisfied craving for a pasta experiment.

So I decided to make a twist on my original idea by creating a pumpkin pasta and a sauce to accompany which would bring together the flavor of pumpkin and chanterelles. To avoid being vetoed again, I offered to give Jack a night off from cooking and create the dish as head chef. This way he could relax and I could satisfy my craving. He remained skeptical, but was willing to go along. Win-win, right?

pumpkin pasta w sauce_nA savory, satisfying meal of pumpkin penne served with a creamy pumpkin chanterelle sauce and slices of chicken apple sausage warmed up a truly blustery Arctic night. No flights in or out of Point Hope the past couple of days, and hurricane force gusts punctuated gale and storm force winds. Freshly grated parmesan cheese and a dash or two of Cholula sauce finish the dish. 

Throughout the whole meal, Jack kept mmmm-ing in approval and muttering about how different the combinations of flavors were and how beautifully they worked together. Although I added mildly spicy chicken sausage, this recipe would work equally well sans meat. When thickening a sauce such as this, we have found that rice flour is superior to other thickening agents.

Pumpkin Penne with Pumpkin Chanterelle Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pumpkin penne pasta (see below)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chanterelle mushrooms, chunked
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (we use Better than Bouillon)
  • 1 2/3 cups pumpkin purée (fresh or canned)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp Cholula sauce
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • pinch cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • chicken apple sausage, sliced
  • 1 tsp sage
  • parmesan cheese
  • (optional) thickener, such as rice flour or wheat flour, as needed

Directions

  1. Heat water for pasta.
  2. Heat oil and sauté shallots, garlic and chanterelles for about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in chicken stock, pumpkin purée, whipping cream, Cholula sauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add sliced sausage.
  5. Let sauce simmer and thicken. If it needs to be thickened, add a rice flour 1 tbsp at a time till desired consistency is achieved.
  6. Cook pasta al dente.
  7. Stir sage into drained pasta and toss with some olive oil.
  8. Place pasta on individual plates, add sauce, and finish it with grated parmesan cheese and a splashes of Cholula sauce.

Pumpkin Pasta Dough

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin purée
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • water as needed

Directions

  1. Whisk together eggs and pumpkin.
  2. Place semolina flour in a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the semolina flour.
  4. Pour egg mixture and olive oil in well.
  5. Use a fork and scramble eggs into flour.
  6. Keeps scrambling until dough resembles large curds. Add small amounts of water if needed.
  7. When all the dough looks like large curds, knead dough several times in order to form a dough ball.
  8. Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
  9. Follow pasta machine manufacturer’s directions to form noodle shape of choice.