57 Things Series · Food & Cooking

57 Things Series: Turban Squash

Have you ever seen turban squash at your local farmer’s market or grocery store? I was pretty intrigued when I came across some earlier this fall, and decided in the spirit of the 57 Things Series, I’d bring home the unfamiliar and find a way to prepare it for dinner (#40 on the list!).
These guys are pretty tough to crack open–I actually had to enlist Chad to help me, and even he had to cut it from the side instead of cutting off the “top of the hat” as most recipes suggest. He said the trick is to start at the bottom with your knife and to wedge it back and forth a bit. When raw, the squash smelled a lot like pumpkin. Its seeds looked a bit like pumpkin seeds too, but rounder.
After scooping out the seeds and pulp, I baked the squash. In the meantime I sauteed some veggies to mix with couscous and seasoning. From there I added the tender turban squash and mixed well before baking it altogether inside the shell of the squash. The verdict? Delicious!! It was a little labor intensive, but I definitely want to make it again soon. See the recipe below, adapted from this recipe, and try it for yourself!
stuffed-turban-squash-recipe                                                        Click to download

Have you tried any new foods lately?
xx Caitlyn

 

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57 Things Series · Food & Cooking · Tried

57 things series: Butter Chicken Curry

The first weekend I was home from the hospital after having Lillian, Chad brought home Indian take-out from a great restaurant nearby our apartment. I am not exaggerating when I say that it. was. AMAZING. Everything from the mildly spicy tandoori chicken to the carrot dressing on the salad. But most of all, the butter chicken curry! To say the least, a lunch set from that restaurant will definitely be something to pine for upon our return to Michigan.  On the bright side, the unavailability of the meal in the near future inspired me to take a shot at number 5 on the 57 things list: Order take-out when necessary—then try to make your order from scratch, at home, the next week.  I actually tried a couple recipes for butter chicken, but couldn’t quite get the full body the take-out curry had. After pulling from a few different recipes and adding some of my own ideas, however, I came up with a pretty darned good butter chicken that will do the trick. I think next time I might try adding sautéed shredded carrots to bring a little more thickness to the curry–what do you think?
img_5480 Crockpot Butter Chicken Curry
Serves 4-6

Marinade
1/2 c. coconut milk (or 1/2 of a standard-sized can)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 can tomato sauce
1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp garam marsala
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbs fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp salt

Curry
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
1 Tbs honey
3 Tbs butter
1 red or yellow onion
1/2 tsp garam marsala
1/2 c. coconut milk (or remaining 1/2 of standard-sized can)

Directions
Add all marinade ingredients to a blender and purée until desired smoothness. Pour over chicken in a separate bowl and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté your onion in 1 Tbs of butter until transparent. Add the chicken and the marinade and cook until the chicken no longer looks pink on the edges. Add the remaining ingredients and pour into a crockpot to cook on high for 1 1/2 hours, or on low for 3 hours. Serve with rice and/or nan.

This post is part of the 57 Things Series. You can read the original post here.

Enjoy!

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking

Rice Cooker Spanish Rice

Tonight I decided to experiment in the kitchen, and I’m really glad I did! I made Spanish Rice in my rice cooker, and ended up with a really flavorful dish with an almost creamy texture. As I was making it, I thought I should take pictures of the process, but I only ended up taking one of preparing my rice so…I sort of failed that way. BUT! I promise the recipe more than makes up for my lack of pictures!IMG_1775
Rice Cooker Spanish Rice

Ingredients
1 c. short grain rice (I used sushi rice) + 1 c. water
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1- 10 oz. can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 yellow onion, diced
1 lb. ground beef
1 yellow bell pepper, diced

Directions
1. Add rice and one cup of water to rice cooker; massage until cloudy. Crush the bouillion cube and add it to the rice cooker, along with the olive oil and spices.

2. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salt and pepper, and stir well. Start cooking in the rice cooker.

3. Meanwhile, saute the onion in a little oil until transparent; set aside.

4. Brown the ground beef; drain.

5. When there is about 10 minutes left on the rice cooker, add the diced bell pepper and onion. You do not need to stir.

6. Once the rice cooker has completed cooking, add the ground beef and mix well. I had to put the concoction in a separate, larger bowl.

7. Add lettuce to bowls as an optional garnish, scoop in a serving of the Spanish Rice, and serve. IMG_1776
I hope that if you get a chance to try out this recipe for yourself that you enjoy it as much as we did. Every time I eat Spanish Rice I am reminded of how much I loved it when my dad made it when I was growing up, and now I’ve found an easy way to recreate it in Japan!

xxCaitlyn

Autumn Bucket List · Food & Cooking · Party

Let’s Make Gyoza!

Hi everyone! Last Friday we decided to have a ramen party on Halloween. Not necessarily the most traditional approach, I’ll give you that, but it was definitely awesome. When I posted pictures from our last ramen party, several people asked me about the recipe I used for the gyoza, or pot stickers. I’ve decided to share the recipe with you today, as well as the system my friends and I used to make the gyoza together!

IMG_1419Add a bottle of sake and some nappa cabbage, then subtract the bananas and you’ve got a good start with the ingredients above.

For my version of gyoza filling, I took parts from a few different recipes to create a version that seemed most similar to what I had while living in Japan. IMG_1421What’s really nice about this recipe is that you basically combine all of the ingredients, let them sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors meld, and then you’re ready to start preparing the gyoza. Pretty easy stuff!IMG_2963While setting up an assembly line for the gyoza, I remembered the first time I ever made gyoza at a music party in Matsusaka, Japan. (I wrote a rather lengthy post about that Golden Week back in 2009 that was fun to revisit when writing this post 🙂 ) Ariel was in charge of putting water around the edges of the rice paper wrappers, my friend Tia added a spoonful of filling, and I pushed the dumplings together with a gyoza mold I had brought back from Japan.

IMG_2965Sorry for this terrible picture. I blame my brother because he took it 😉

If you don’t have a mold, you can always just assemble the gyoza by hand, pinching together the edges. The mold does make things go much more quickly, however, so you could consider either buying one or being really nice to me so that I send you one. They are pretty inexpensive!

IMG_2966We made an awesome gyoza-making team!

Once you’ve assembled your gyoza, you just heat up a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan, fry for a couple minutes, add hot water, and simmer until cooked through. Meanwhile, you can prepare dipping sauce and snack on other available treats (I made crab rangoons and Amanda made rice balls). IMG_2968                                        Here is our first finished batch of gyoza. So yummy!

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Also, because I know you want to drool a bit, above is a picture of one of the bowls of ramen Chad prepared. Now for the gyoza recipe!

Pork Gyoza

Ingredients
8 ounces ground pork
1 large egg
1 Tbs finely chopped ginger (or about a tsp dried ginger)
2 tsp grated garlic (from about 3 large cloves)
1 1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sake (you can also use dry vermouth)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c. shredded napa cabbage, blanched until tender yet crisp in boiling salt water
1 green onion, diced
34 gyoza wrappers or round dumpling wrappers
4 Tbs. vegetable oil

Directions

1. Mix together the pork, egg, sesame oil, ginger, scallion, soy sauce, sake, cornstarch, sugar, napa cabbage and onion together in a bowl and refrigerate for twenty minutes.

2. Once the flavors have melded together, place a small bowl of cool water by your work surface and prepare plates on which to place wrappers before and after you’ve assembled the gyoza. Place several wrappers on your first plate and brush the edges of each with water using your finger or a pastry brush.

3. Put a mounded teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper, bring the edges together, and seal the edges by using a mold or by making 4 to 6 pleats. Set the completed gyoza on a separate plate, and repeat until you’ve used all of your filling.

4. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet, and quickly arrange half of the gyoza, cooking until golden brown on one side, about one minute. Add 2/3 cup water to the skillet (it will spatter, so be careful!), cover tightly, and let the gyoza cook until tender, about six minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until both sides of the gyoza are crisp, and then repeat with the remaining prepared gyoza.

5. While the gyoza are cooking, you can prepare a simple dipping sauce by combining two parts soy sauce, one part white rice wine vinegar, and ginger to taste. Then once everything has been cooked, you’re ready to enjoy!

I hope you like this recipe, and that you try gyoza-making at one of your future get-togethers!
xx Caitlyn

Autumn Bucket List · Food & Cooking

Autumn Bucket List: Apple Roll Cake

I am so excited to share a new recipe with you: Apple Roll Cake! To make this uh-mazing cake, you will need to use this cake recipe, apple butter (I used the apple butter I made and it was fantastic, if I do say so myself!), and whipped frosting (recipe follows).

IMG_1217To start, you’re going to beat eggs with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until nice and frothy and lemon-colored. Then you beat in sugar before turning the mixer on low and gradually adding water, vanilla, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, all spice, ground cloves, salt and powdered sugar. IMG_1224Once you’ve got your batter ready, pour it into a pan lined with parchment paper and spread into the corners. I carefully dropped the pan a few times on the counter to get out some of the air bubbles, too.IMG_1227Bake the cake for 12-15 minutes, preparing a powdered sugar-dusted towel in the meantime. IMG_1228Invert the cake onto the prepared towel and carefully peel off the parchment paper…

IMG_1229…then slowly roll up the cake and let it rest for 30 minutes before topping.

IMG_1233After the resting period, it’s time to add your yummy apple butter. I used about a cup and a half (nearly a pint jar full).

IMG_1234Because of the strong spices in the cake and the apple butter, I decided to compliment the flavors already present with a nice fluffy frosting.

IMG_1226To make the frosting, I whipped together the following ingredients in a small bowl over another bowl filled with ice water:

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream

IMG_1235After spreading a layer of the whipped frosting over the apple butter layer, it is time to roll up the cake.IMG_1238I frosted the outside of the cake and dusted a little cinnamon along the top to make it look pretty.IMG_1244Finally, your cake will be done! Make sure to store your cake in the refrigerator–it tastes even better cold and served with a complimentary coffee.  IMG_1241I brought some of the cake to work and we paired it with Starbuck’s Anniversary Blend. The cake was really good; one of my coworkers described it as an apple version of pumpkin pie. Once you try it, you’ll understand: the apple roll cake has lovely fall flavors, and the texture is moist yet light. Let me know if you try this recipe, and what your favorite cake recipe is in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to check out my Maple Roll Cake recipe if you’re looking to have more roll cakes in your future 🙂

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Earl Grey Ganache

I love, love, love petit desserts. Lately I’ve been scouring library books for new ideas on petit sweets, and one book that I enjoyed is called Tea and Cookies by Rick Rodgers. I especially enjoyed the introduction to the book, in which Rodgers talks about the history of tea and about different types of tea. For example, tables at tea gardens used to have little locked boxes on them, and if patrons wanted their tea quickly so that it would still be hot, they would drop coins inside. The boxes were labeled “T.I.P.S.,” which stood for “To insure prompt service,” starting the tradition of tipping we know today (although now we tip after the meal). Pretty interesting, huh?

A few recipes peaked my interest in Tea and Cookies, but the one I decided to try first was “Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Earl Grey Ganache.” My friend Caitlin’s favorite tea is earl grey, and since she recently had her baby, I thought it would be a perfect treat to try to make for her last week. Today was a rainy day so I made them again, thinking they would be perfect for a future tea party!IMG_1083You start by making dough for the cookies, which turn out to be similar to chocolate sugar cookies. I chopped up my butter in chunks to make it easier to whip up.IMG_1084Once you’ve reached a creamy consistency, you add brown and white sugar and beat until fluffy and well-incorporated.IMG_1087Next up, it’s time to sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. I just love how sifted ingredients look like a sweet, airy pillow!IMG_1088You then gradually add the sifted mixture to the butter and sugar mixture until it becomes a dough, and then roughly shape it into a log.IMG_1089I used parchment paper to help roll the log into more of an even shape, rolling it over the counter to make the dough smooth.IMG_1090 IMG_1091Once you’re happy with your dough, cut it into three equal slices and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days. The first time I made this recipe, I was in a bit of a time crunch and just froze the dough for about 30 minutes, and I got the same results.IMG_1093Once your dough has been cooled in the fridge or freezer, cut 1/4″ slices and lay them an inch apart on baking sheets.IMG_1095While the cookies are baking, you can start working on the ganache. The recipe calls for 4 ounces of milk chocolate, so if you’re using a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, you’ll want to remove about a square and a half from the 4.4 oz bars to have the correct measurement. You should probably eat those extra pieces, just to make sure they don’t go disappearing elsewhere on you.IMG_1096To make the ganache, you first you bring heavy whipping cream to a simmer on the stove top…IMG_1097…and then you turn off the heat and add earl grey tea, letting it simmer for 5 minutes.IMG_1100Next you strain the tea, pushing down on the leaves…IMG_1101…and then you bring the cream mixture to a simmer again before adding it to the chocolate and mixing until smooth. IMG_1102Once the mixture is smooth, it’s time to put the bowl over another bowl with ice water so that you can whip it into a ganache. I think I may have over whipped my ganache, so the color was lighter than I thought it would be both times I made it, but the flavor was still really nice. IMG_1107                Someone thought he was tricky and stole a cookie! That naughty, naughty Chad… IMG_1108Pipe or spread the ganache on half of your finished cookies, and gently sandwich them together.IMG_1109                                                                           Then, enjoy!
IMG_1110I love how pretty these cookies are, and also how wonderful the balance of flavors plays out in the recipe. The earl grey notes in the ganache brighten up the richness of the chocolate cookies with a subtle, yet bright citrus flavor.  I think pairing these with a straight tea (like earl grey, perhaps!) or coffee would be just divine. You can find the full recipe for the cookies here on the Rick Rodgers website.

Now that I’ve enjoyed Tea and Cookies by Rodgers, I’m interested in looking at some of his other books, such as Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest and Prague. What are some of your favorite pastries and pastry books?

Food & Cooking · Summer Bucket List

Bucket List: Watermelon Pickles

So when I put “Make pickles” on my bucket list, I sort of meant traditional dill pickles. While I am hoping to make some of those, too, I was super intrigued by a recipe I came across in a Better Homes & Gardens canning magazine I picked up last summer for Watermelon Pickles. Earlier this week, I finally got around to making them, and I can’t wait to try them!

To be honest, making watermelon pickles is kind of a time investment (but what kind of canning or jamming doesn’t take a bit of time?). The recipe suggests that it takes about an hour of prep time, plus standing overnight, plus 45 minutes of cooking, plus 10 minutes of processing time. I figure that hour of prep time and the 45 minutes of cooking time can be combined with listening to your favorite podcast or music (I chose Dinner Party Download and Radio Lab 🙂 ), and the overnight part can just be spent sleeping!

IMG_20140707_123816_286To start, you’ll need a watermelon that weighs approximately 10 pounds. I cut it into slices, and then cut out chunks of the watermelon and put the chunks in a big bowl. I probably ate about half of the watermelon in between cutting it up and getting the rind ready, and I admit this openly.

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Next comes the tricky part of removing the pink flesh and the green outer portions of the rind. I found that placing the rind as flat as I could on the cutting board and sort of pulling the knife toward my hand was the easiest, but you’ll obviously want to be super careful and find what works the best and in the safest way for you.

IMG_20140707_132332_666From this point, things get quite a bit easier. You chop the rind into squares or other 1-inch shapes, put them into a large nonmetal bowl, and add water and pickling salt.

IMG_20140707_133411_797

IMG_20140707_133714_412Then it’s time to let the rind soak overnight…

IMG_20140708_162817_350

The next day, you’ll rinse and drain the rind, transfer it to a pot filled with enough water to cover the rind, bring it to boiling, and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, you can prepare your syrup. I used cloves and cinnamon sticks from a local spice shop in Grand Haven. It was so much cheaper than going to the grocery store, and I could choose exactly the amounts I wanted.

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Combine sugar, white vinegar, water, cinnamon and cloves, bring to boiling to dissolve the sugar, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

IMG_20140708_170715_168

Then strain the mixture through a sleeve, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. Add the tender, drained rind to the syrup, and bring to a boil before simmering, covered, until rind is translucent. Above, you can see the stage my rind had reached before I canned it.

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Lastly, you pack the hot rind and syrup into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving headspace, and processing for 10 minutes. I got three pint jars out of my rind with some leftover syrup, though the recipe suggests using 6 half-pint jars.

My favorite suggestions I’ve seen online for eating watermelon pickles are trying them in a salad with goat cheese and walnuts, making hors d’oeuvres by wrapping a half a slice of bacon around them and baking them in the oven until the bacon is crisp, using them as a little decorations on sugar cookies or cupcakes, topping ice cream or yogurt with them, using them as a condiment, or just eating them straight out of the jar! I also found a recipe for Sparkling Pear Floats that I am going to try with some of my leftover syrup. I’ll keep you posted on how I consume my delightful watermelon pickles, and in the meantime, leave you with the recipe!

Watermelon Pickles

(from Better Homes & Gardens 2013 Canning Magazine)

1 10-pound watermelon

6 cups water

1/3 cup pickling salt

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

15 inches stick cinnamon, broken

2 tsp whole cloves

1. Cut rind from watermelon (you should have about 4 1/2 lbs rind). Trim off pink flesh and the green outer portions of the watermelon rind. Cut rind into 1-inch squares or other 1-inch shapes. Measure 9 cups rind.

2. Place the 9 cups rind in a large nonmetal bowl. In another large bowl combine the 6 cups water and the pickling salt; pour over rind (add more water if necessary to cover your rind). Cover bowl and let stand at room temperature overnight.

3. Rinse and drain rind mixture. Transfer to a 4-quart pot. Add enough water to cover. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until tender; drain.

4. Meanwhile, for syrup, in a 6 to 8-quart stainless-steel, enamel, or nonstick heavy pot combine sugar, vinegar, the 1 1/2 cups water, the cinnamon, and the cloves. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve, reserving liquid. Discard solids; return liquid to pot.

5. Add rind to syrup in pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until rind is translucent. Pack hot rind and syrup into hot sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims: adjust lids and screw bands.

6. Process filled jars in a boiled water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks. Makes 6 half-pints.

Enjoy!
xx