In My Kitchen: Who would have thought taro roots were so slimy?

20130122-192402.jpg If you like sweet coconut treats, you’d probably like this one. It’s kind of like a coconut porridge with sweet tropical fruits, mild root vegetables and in most cases sticky rice dumplings. But before I go too far, yes, I did say root vegetables. Taro root and sweet potatoes to be exact. I guess as a child, I grew up just eating it and since it didn’t taste like any type of vegetable, it didn’t raise my flag that I’m NOT suppose to like it. The other fun part of this dish are the little rice balls, similar to dumplings. In Tagalog it’s referred to as bilo bilo. Made from glutinous rice flour they add a touch of sweetness and contrasting texture to the root vegetables with its tender stickiness. Not to mention that they are fun to eat. My grandmother had shown me the basics of making ginataang bilo bilo, rice dumplings in a sweet coconut stew. Just to be sure I remembered correctly, I googled the recipe for ginataan or ginataang to make sure I wasn’t forgetting any ingredients. I’ve used this basic recipe as an outline and modified it a bit by using light coconut milk and less sugar. I also don’t always add the bananas, but the jackfruit is a must in my book. I also like adding tapioca pearls, the big ones that you see in bubble tea, when I can find them.

So where do I start? It’s a pretty quick recipe once you have all the vegetables peeled and chopped and the Mochiko balls made. I usually start with making the dumplings. Kids can help too. Mochiko is a brand of japanese rice flour or sticky rice flour that can easily be found in most groceries that have an international aisle. I just measure out about a cup of the flour and add 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of water. Just enough to get a “dry” dough. You want it to be dry enough that you can handle, but wet enough that it holds together. When forming the balls, I wash my hands every so often to remove the excess. Otherwise it sticks to your hands making it impossible to form any type of ball. Once those are made, set them aside.

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Peel and chop the taro root and sweet potatoes. Much to my surprise, taro root is pretty slippery… and slimy! Every chop up okra? That’s what it reminds me of. So be careful when handling them so that you don’t slip with your knife!

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For the longest time, I thought jackfruit was pineapple. They are similar in that they have that brilliant gold color and syrupy sweetness along with a fibrous texture. Paired with coconut, it’s phenomenal. Coconut ice cream with jackfruit and crushed peanuts? Mmmmm…. I’ll have to save that for another post. For this I use canned jackfruit in light syrup, chopping up the fruit and saving the sweet syrup as an ingredient to add in place of some of dry sugar called for in the written recipe.

Once all the ingredients are prepared, mis en place, right? 😉 we can put the whole dish together. Simmer the light coconut milk with the dry sugar until it reaches a slow boil. Add the Mochiko balls slowly. They sink, so when you drop them in, be weary that it doesn’t splash back up at you. Gently stir occassionally to prevent the balls from sticking. Next add the root vegetables, jackfruit and syrup and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Serve warm. Yum! I have to be careful to make this recipe just a few times a year. I seriously could eat the whole batch myself! 🙂

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In My Kitchen: Banana Saturday

Spring is supposed to be here.  60-70 degree weather, outdoors, windows open.  Nothing puts a damper in my springtime mood than snow! Indoors and looking around my kitchen, what to do?  Clean? Uh…  well I suppose cleaning out the fridge and pantry might count, right?

Ripe bananas  = banana bread.

This is probably the simplest recipe I could find for banana bread off of the epicurious website.  It’s a great basic recipe that you can doctor up with added ingredients like chocolate or peanut butter chips. I tried using wheat flour and thought it came out a little too “germy” for my taste.  The rest of the family seemed to like it.  It’s a good, moist recipe, but to satisfy my tastes, I think next time, I’ll try doing a 50/50 blend of wheat and regular flour rather than 100% wheat.  Plus, I like my banana bread really sweet, so I’m thinking I’ll try adding more bananas than called for to see how it goes.

Dubbed as Aunt Holly’s Banana Bread.  I don’t have an Aunt Holly, but I’ll gladly adopt the one who came up with this recipe! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 c melted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp baking soda

 

 

Optional:
chocolate chips
peanut butter chips
nuts of your choice

 

 

 

Preheat oven to 350F. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon. Bake in a buttered loaf pan until a toothpick stuck into the bread comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Slice and Serve.

 

Such an easy recipe!  Made the house smell fantastic and made an otherwise “boring, inside” weekend, productive!

 

 

Had to break for lunch while the bread baked... PBJ, only the best!

 

In My Kitchen: Lamb, Cherries and Mint

Lamb Chops with Cherries, Balsamic Vinegar and Mint

Well, I’ve never made lamb before. I love it when it’s prepared right. I, personally have just never had the nerve to cook it. If you’ve ever had bad lamb, you’d understand my hesitation. I was shopping the other day and came across some really good looking lamb chops. As I stood over the case looking at them, I wondered, “Can I? and Would it taste good?”  Needless to say, I bought them and I figured, “Well, it will be an adventure. If it’s horrible, I’ll pull out the mac ‘n cheese!”

Searching the web, I found a recipe that looked to complement lamb’s savory meatiness with a balanced sauce of cherry sweetness and balsamic tartness.  For lack of availability, I substituted the sour cherries with frozen dark sweet cherries (thawed) and omitted the 1 tablespoon sugar in the recipe.  This recipe was so incredibly easy to make. My family LOVED it. The lamb was tender and delicate in flavor.  The mint offers a fresh “pop” to the dish.  I highly recommend this recipe the next time you want to impress.

Lamb Chops with Cherry Balsamic Sauce and Mint (courtesy of Epicurious.com)

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) pitted sour cherries (1/2 lb)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 8 (3/4-inch-thick) rib lamb chops (2 lb total), trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallot (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Stir fresh cherries together with sugar and macerate while browning chops. If using frozen cherries, stir with any juices and sugar and thaw, about 1 1/2 hours.

Pat lamb dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté 4 chops, turning over once, about 6 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil. Cook and transfer remaining 4 chops in same manner.

Pour off fat from skillet and add remaining tablespoon oil. Heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté shallot, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add cherries with juices, broth, and vinegar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits, then reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add butter and 2 tablespoons mint, stirring just until butter is melted.

Spoon sauce over chops and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons mint.

In My Kitchen… Choco Chip Cookie Bars

I must confess. Despite the title of this post, this is not MY kitchen, technically. It’s my mom’s. We are visiting her for the holidays and my sister offered to make her famous Choco Chip Cookie Bars. As I’ve taken to copying the recipe down for the umpteenth time, she is working with my 9 and 6 year old children on making these simple, delicious chocolate-chip square bars.

While they bake, I take pictures. My challenge in this setting is the light. When they started making the bars, I had wonderful daylight streaming through the kitchen. I LOVE shooting with natural light. By the time the timer rang, daylight had faded and I am left working with artificial light. Everything is orange it seems, so I’m having to play with the white balance to get the pictures to look pretty.  Light, from what I understand, even from the best of photographers can make or break your pictures.  It’s an art to get it right and to have it convey the “look” you want.

Ding-ding!  The bars are out of the oven, ready for posing AND ready for eating!  Mmmmm-mmm, good!

Let’s see… Fresh from the oven, nothing warms the soul as the comforting scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookie bars. This version, lightly sweetened with the perfect blend of “cookie” to “gooey chocolate chip” ratio. The bars are soft, cake-like, and dense, similar to a brownie, without that under-baked texture. The edges are crisp with that classic brown baked flavor.  I also really like that these bars aren’t overly sweet. The sweetness comes from the chips. The whole thing melts in our mouths. So yummy!

Choco Chip Cookie Bars

Choco Chip Cookie Bars

2/3 c butter (1 1/4 stick)
1 1/2 c light brown sugar
3 eggs beaten
2 3/4 c flour (sifted)
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 c chopped nuts of choice
1 pkg chocolate chips
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking pan (13×9). Melt butter. Add sugar and blend. Cool. Add beaten egg, vanilla. Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt). Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Mix in nuts and chocolate chips. Pour into greased baking pan. Smooth to edges. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

We often make this without nuts due to family allergies. But you can add whatever you like. Experiment!

This recipe, according to my mom’s yellowing recipe card, came from her friend and former co-worker Molly. Thanks Molly for all the years of sweet enjoyment!

Below in the gallery are some additional pictures I had taken that day.