Sunday, May 30, 2010


Yesterday Benny was out of town and I had the day off work. Usually this means a big deep cleaning of every nook and cranny in our apartment since I know it will stay that way for a whole 24 hours. And that was exactly what I had planned. Until my mom called to tell me she was making kebabs and would pick me up from the train station if I felt like a trip to the suburbs.

I went right out, hopped on the first train I could catch and typed up blog posts the whole way there. She picked me up and we talked about the things I had been cooking. She asked for some ideas for simple healthy recipes that would get my Dad to eat vegetables. He's an all-american eater who thinks that ice cream sandwiches are a diet food, bless his heart. So needless to say, the second we got back to her house, I went right to tastespotting to find her some recipes.

That's when I remembered the fruited wild rice salad I had been meaning to make. I haven't had the energy to buy the ingredients and my mom just so happened to have all of them! The pictures are pretty sloppy and it looks like a hot mess, but it was delicious.

Also, my mom's kebabs were great. I gave her a bit of trouble about marinating the steak in Italian dressing (they appreciate a shortcut and I prefer to go the route of the purist) but the steak turned out amazingly tender and delicious, so I shouldn't have complained. My dad also happens to be a grill master, so that helps.

from Healthy Food For Living

Ingredients for salad:

1 cup wild rice, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth (one 14 oz can)
2 cups water
2 thinly sliced green onions, both green & white parts (*I omited these and added grapes and mushrooms)
1 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit of your choice)
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted (or other nut of your choice)
1 large apple, cored and chopped, skin left on
1 large pear, cored and chopped, skin left on
juice from 1/2 lemon
baby spinach

Ingredients for vinaigrette:

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp fruity vinegar (*I used apple cider vinegar, which was a little too bitter for my tastes, I would use less next time)
2 tsp honey (I used a little more than that)
generous pinch Kosher salt, or to taste
a few grinds fresh black pepper, or to taste


  1. Combine rice, veggie broth, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir once, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook rice for 45 minutes. Drain in a colander.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, toss chopped fruit with lemon juice. Set aside.
  4. When rice is cooked and drained, add it to the chopped fruit and stir in the sliced green onions, dried cranberries, and walnuts.
  5. Give the vinaigrette another quick whisk and pour it over the rice salad. Stir to combine.
  6. Cover the rice salad and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or better yet, overnight.
  7. Serve cold or at room temperature atop a bed of baby spinach.


My dough before proofing

Lately I’ve had an impossible time trying to decide what to make when it comes to desserts. I am really enjoying this vegetable kick and I don’t want to have junk food around the house, I just want to enjoy the baking part. So it means I have to make things that are either small batches or bake at times when there is something coming up that will allow me to bring the result along and give them away to anyone who will acce
pt. Which is never a difficult task, except for the part where it requires my leaving the house. I also have a variety of new bake ware that I have been itching to use so that’s a factor as well.

Last Thursday was Kroketten day (recipe for that to come) and then Benny had a rehearsal to get to so there I was, feeling excited about baking without any idea what to make and no one sitting next to me getting frustrated that I haven’t made up my mind.

It took me a good 3 hours to decide. I definitely paced around the kitchen considering whether or not my neighbors, who I’ve barely met, would be excited or confused if I brought them over a whole white chocolate orange cheesecake. I decided that, now that I finally had ramekins (2.99 for a set of 4 at world market!) crème brulee was an essential. So I took a quick and very pleasant late night bike ride to the store for heavy cream made crème brulee. But it wasn’t enough baking to please me. (The creme brulee recipe needs some tweaking but it'll be up soon) So once the crème brulees were in the fridge, I spent some more time pacing and decided to just go for the gold and make some doughnuts.

It should be said that I have been wanting to make doughnuts ever since we inherited a very trusty, very old deep fryer from Benny's grandparents. I love that thing with all of my nervous little heart. I even had some yeast packets laying around that I went right out and bought the day that Benny brought home the deep fryer.

After I started the dough and covered it to proof, Benny came home with our good friend, Chresten. They were excited to hear that I was making doughnuts at 2am and Chresten agreed to take half the batch home.

Now I have to mention that we seem to have started a tradition in which Benny brings Chresten over late at night after they have a rehearsal together to listen to a symphony that he thinks is great or what have you, and in an attempt to hang out without falling asleep because I can’t pay attention to Bach at 4am, I started baking for them. It helps that I love to bake most in the wee hours of the morning and they are usually drunk and hungry and Benny suddenly doesn’t mind eating sweets. Also, Chresten is a wonderful person to test recipes on. He gives his honest opinion and always has a suggestion. Its usually also pretty easy to get him to take some home.

They loved these donuts. I made glazed, cinnamon & sugar, and a version of the chocolate glaze I have affectionately renamed Chicago Bridge glaze. I used semi-sweet bakers chocolate, butter, and powdered sugar only and the result tasted exactly like that perfect semi-sweet chocolatey smell that you get when you're crossing bridges near the chocolate factory in the west loop. I believe the boys called it "serious business chocolate."

I might play with the donut recipe a little but it doesn’t need it, its definitely a keeper. I'm actually pretty proud of myself that they turned out so well. This was my first time with yeast and I'm incredibly pleased with the results. I can't wait to try it about with a whole bunch of different flavors. Endless possibilities.

I got this recipe from The Cooking Photographer who got it from RecipeZaar so:

My notes:
-Next time I think I'd like to take them out of the oil when theyre more golden than brown, which is a user error of course. (that user being me)
-These don't really keep well. I'd say its best to keep them sealed though if you can.
-If you don't have circular doughnut cutters, don't fear! I used a cup measurer and an apple corer and it worked great!

-It would really be great to have some racks for glaze-dripping purposes

can you tell which one Benny decided to drown with glaze?



This little lady was 3 sprigs and a tic tac when I bought her a week ago for only 2.50 at Home Depot, my number 2 store that people are put off that I visit regularly (not out of necessity, but for fun) and then shocked to learn that I am actually obsessed with. Number 1 is J. Crew. Their shock usually turns to pity pretty quickly when they learn that I visit there regularly and lust after the clothes without ever buying anything because I am way too cheap for that place. Truthfully, though I lust, it really wouldn't be my style. But I digress. The real tragedy here is that, as I watch the mint's growth spurt, I've realized I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to use it for. A mojito here and there would be acceptable and its so good in my iced tea, but I need more than that. And I'm not feeling up to making lamb.

In terms of my other herbs, all are growing way faster than I expected and require to be watered practically 3 times a day, due to the heat we're dealing with here. I expect to be separating and re-potting them soon.

That second basil plant (the one in the middle) was teeny when I first bought it and so I put it next to the larger basil plant in hopes that it would be intimidated into rapid growth and I think it might be working! I'm so proud of all my little plants. I've also growing lavender (on the far right) and parsley, which are coming along quite nicely.

At first, I felt pretty strange about just plucking a leaf off a house plant and sticking it in my salad. I mean, I don't quite talk to my plants but I take good care of them and feel personally attached to them. I also feel very proud of them when they grow. But I'm getting pretty used to eating from my basil plant and it got about ten times easier after I tasted it.

I read somewhere that the best way to grow lemongrass (which apparently is one of those plants most people can't stop from growing because of how well it spreads) is to take a stalk from the grocery store and stick it in some water until it grows roots, upon which you plant it. Naturally, I tried it. After checking on my sad little murky-water lemongrass daily to no avail, I was starting to lose faith in this plan. Yesterday I decided to check on it one last time and it had one tiny root coming out of the bottom! This morning there were two. I'm dying with excitement! And feeling quite proud of myself as well. There really isn't much of anywhere to get lemongrass around here and I would be so happy to grow it myself.

Current Soundtrack : "Let's Go Surfing" by The Drums

This song is PERFECT summer music. And its going great with the iced tea I'm sipping in front of the fan. I wish to be in a bar in cuba right now drinking rum. Maybe I'll start posting recipe soundtracks. That could be interesting, no?


It is HOT around these parts. I'm still hiding in my room most days but I'm trying to venture out into the kitchen as often as possible. I figured this would go impossibly well with my lemongrass chicken (previous post) and it absoulutely did.

Its simple really, I just made a ginger simple syrup (recipe below) and a batch of ginger peach tea this morning and put both in the fridge. I got the ginger peach tea from Aldi - Only $1! And I have to say, this drink is making me feel almost good (!) about the heat. I'm going to try it with some mango juice and lime later or maybe some pomegranate liqueur.

Ooh! Or with any of the three tropical schnapps I got at Jungle Jim's! (Mango, Papaya, or Pineapple Coconut) I'll update if any of them are amazing.

All you have to do to prepare it is muddle 1 or 2 fresh mint leaves in the bottom of glass, fill the glass with ice and then pour in the desired amount of ginger syrup, top with iced tea. Pour the entire glass into a larger glass, and then back into the original to give it a quick mix without shaking or stirring. (called boxing in the bartending world)



1 Piece of ginger, about 3 inches long, peeled and sliced into large pieces (The more the better)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Bring all the ingredients to a gentle boil a small saucepan. Using a candy thermometer, raise the heat and continue to boil until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches 225ºF. Its also possible to eye it, the mixture should be done when it is a syrup-y consistency.

Let syrup cool and then transfer to an airtight container and chill.

** - This syrup is fabulous for so many things. One of the best ways I've ever had it is with champagne and pomegranate liqueur in a sugar-rimmed glass. Best champagne cocktail ever. I also plan to soak a sponge cake in it asap.


like I said, less than professional pictures

In the month or so between deciding to start this blog and actually doing so, I found this amazing recipe from Qlinart and even though I was trying to save my best recipes for blog time, I absolutely could not wait. I had just brought home a huge bunch of lemongrass from Jungle Jim's. Which, I have to mention is probably my ultimate grocery mecca. It's in Cincinatti and everytime we take a trip to see Benny's family in Ohio it is an absolutely mandatory stop. We also come home with way more speculaas, lemongrass, rambutan, krupuk, mongeese, and hot sauces than we can handle. (Not mention 3 for $10 tropical schnapps. Mango cocktail anyone?)

So.. oh right. So I couldn't wait to make this recipe. Today was my second time making it and it is getting better and better all the time.

Some notes:
-More to remind myself than anything, its important to remember to start the rice in the middle of this recipe so it is ready in time - I keep almost forgetting, until Benny reminds me
-If you've never cooked with fish sauce before, you should know that you really don't want to put any salt in this recipe, as the fish sauce is quite salty itself.


Serves 3-4 people.

*I used 2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts instead, and reduced the recipe to serve 2.
(* - My additions/changes)

6 boneless chicken upper thighs (skinless thighs can also be used)
3 garlic cloves finely minced
1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped and crushed in mortar
2 tbsp fish sauce
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of sugar
* I added some grated ginger and diced shallots to the marinade as well
Lemon juice from a half a lemon
½ cup chicken stock (*We made our own vegetable stock for this, which works wonderfully)
2 tbsp vegetable oil

To accelerate cooking time, cut wide open the chicken upper thighs by making small 2 in. incisions inside the thighs

Mix garlic, lemongrass, fish sauce, pepper and sugar in a large bowl. Add the chicken thighs, mix well with your hands or big spoon. Let it sit in marinade for about 30-40 minutes.

In a large shallow sauce pan, heat oil on medium-high heat. When the pan is very hot, add in the chicken thighs and let it sizzle for them to brown, about 1-2 minutes each side.

Lower the heat to low heat, add the lemon juice and chicken stock. Cover and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Add more fish sauce to taste, if desired.

Again, this is optional, I like to add a final golden crisp look to the chicken by broiling the thighs in the oven for about 5 minutes.

Serve on a bed of fresh watercress or steamed white jasmine rice.
* I served it on a bed of sauteed garlic-y spinach with white rice

Sauteed Garlic Spinach:

Good Quality Olive Oil
Roughly 1 to 1.5 lbs Baby Spinach
3 - 6 Cloves of Garlic, minced
Freshly Ground Salt & Pepper to taste
1 small slice of butter
1 squeeze of half a lime or lemon

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, drizzle olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute, but not until garlic is browned.

Add spinach, tossing to coat with garlic and oil (its going to cook down quite a lot so its best to add way more than you think you'll need). Season with salt and pepper and cover. Cook for 2 minutes on medium to low heat.

Uncover and raise heat to high, cook for one more minute, stirring with a wooden spoon, until all the spinach is wilted. Turn off the stove and add just a bit of butter and lime to taste.

Share and enjoy.


I have to admit that in the beginning of this whole commitment to eating healthy thing I felt a little bit like a mother trying to get their child to eat their vegetables. The only difference of course being that I was also the kid. So I am essentially trying to trick myself into eating healthy. The truth is that is has been really easy. My tastes are growing up quickly, which I think has a lot to do with being fed up (see how I did that?) with feeling like I’m going to explode after every meal I eat. So my commitment is to eat less on the whole, subscribing to the concept of having a little something every couple of hours, that little something being healthy, veggie-filled foods with as little carbs as possible. I refuse to cut them out completely but I don’t think they should have a part in every meal.

Panzanella is awesome and perfect for this plan. If I did have children, and they didn’t like vegetables, this would be THE get-the-kids-to-eat-veggies meal. The great part is that its not like the recipe involves glazing the asparagus in powdered sugar or anything, it really is totally healthy. In fact, the other day I actually said “asparagus. Mmmmm..” Benny abruptly stopped me and we had a celebratory moment when we realized that I didn’t mean cupcakes. Similar to the way I excitedly yell out “lookie! I’m eating vegetables!” every time I realize that the soup I’m eating has carrots in it. It’s safe to say that I’ve been yelling that at every meal lately. And I gotta say, I’m feeling pretty good. To further illustrate my point, I was eating some Panzanella the other day as I was running out the door and I really had a hard time putting it down long enough to get ready. So. Mmm… asparagus.

Panzanella is really an Italian “fridge salad” if you will, so this is an incredibly flexible recipe. Just toss in anything that sounds good, whatever you have around.


single serving:

2 slices of day-old baguette, cubed

1 handful asparagus, rough ends trimmed

1 small tomato, diced or cut into wedges

Desired amount fresh mozzarella, diced or cut into strips (the second time I made it I did strips and it was much better)

1 handful spinach, rinsed & patted dry

1 Small pile of green onions, depending on your tastes

extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting asparagus

balsamic vinegar

a few drops of honey, to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Spread bread cubes single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast toast until very golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. A toaster oven does the job as well.

In a skillet, place asparagus and drizzle with some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the skillet to the oven, removing the bread cubes, and roast until asparagus is just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes—make sure not to overcook. Remove from oven, place asparagus and bread both in the fridge for a few minutes to cool and/or chill. (*If you don't mind a luke-warm salad you can leave these out but in the summer months I think it's much better and more refreshing if you give both a couple minutes in the fridge)

While the bread and asparagus are in the fridge, you can cut and prepare all the rest of your ingredients.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add the honey and season with salt and pepper. Add the toasted bread cubes, asparagus, tomato, mozzarella and arugula to the bowl. Toss to coat well. Pile onto a bowl or plate and serve immediately


Friday, May 28, 2010

BRUSCHETTA TWO WAYS (Lets Start Simple Here)

The weather in Chicago these past few days has been sweltering. Except for the day that I had to work, I spent as much time as possible in my room with the shades drawn and the air conditioning on. It was spectacular. But that still doesn't mean that I'm enjoying this weather. It also has stalled my cooking because there's only so many fabulous things you can make when you feel as though you'll get heat stroke if you're out of your air conditioning for more than 10 minutes. To make matters worse, our kitchen has no air conditioning. In fact, our whole apartment has no air conditioning. Hence, the holing myself up in our bedroom where I have a window A/C unit, a fan, and usually a cold pack. I'm not a fan of heat.

Naturally, I'm not terribly kee
n on turning on the oven this week. But I was starving and determined to eat something healthy and delicious. On my bruschetta day, we had just had a shopping trip to Stanley's, local produce market extraordinaire, so I had tons of new vegetables and I was dying to use some of my fresh basil, now that both of my basil plants are thriving. Ta Da! Perfect timing for Bruschetta!

I very loosely used a "bruschetta with tomato & basil" recipe from Simply Recipes to make sure that I wasn't leaving anything out. Also, this is a smaller batch because it was only for Benny & me and we were running low on bread.


2 Large Tomatoes, diced
3 Cloves of Garlic, Roasted and then minced

1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil 2 tsp balsamic vinegar (more or less to taste)
6 Fresh Basil Leaves, chiffenade
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan Cheese
(diced onion to taste as well if it pleases you - I definitely added it. And also a bit of fresh parsley)
Half of a baguette or whatever other bread you have hanging around
Olive oil for bread (Butter that you've mixed with garlic is a good one as well)

1. Cut the bread into slices, brush with olive oil and toast in either the oven (450 F on top rack for 5 minutes or until bread is golden brown) or a toaster oven until it's golden brown, then take out and set aside. *I know it seems doubtful - I'm just finally becoming a believer after living with the thing for a year - but the toaster oven is crazy effective for this. Also, notably cooler than turning your oven on at 450 during a heat wave. - I even roasted my garlic in it!
2. Put the tomatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil, and balsamic into bowl and mix well. Add the basil, Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste
3. Spoon bruschetta onto toasted bread or serve in a bowl

I like bruschetta way too much and I couldn't resist the temptation to make it again, especially considering how great my basil plants are growing.

A few years ago at my last apartment, where I lived with my sister, we had get-togethers quite often and I was usually in charge of the cooking/baking. As you can imagine, I definitely had my lazy days where I just did not feel like making anything. But i still wanted it to look and feel semi-impresive. One of my heights of laziness spawned something I originally called "Tuscan Grilled Cheese." I'm not sure where I got that name from and its not very Tuscan at all but its fun to say. Everyone loved it and all were impressed, but it was one of the easiest things to make. I cut big hearty slices of french bread and let everyone choose their cheese combination. (There were quite a few choices and fresh mozzarella was definitely one of them) Then I grilled em all up and sandwiched some bruschetta and baby spinach in there.

I had some extra bread from my panzanella this week and I decided that I would do a mini version of this for myself. i ended up making more because benny liked it too and stole one when I wasn't looking. I consider that a good sign.



4 slices fresh mozzarella
4 slices baguette, thick cut
Brushetta from above recipe (With onions and less balsamic)
2 leaves baby spinach


1.In a skillet over medium heat, drizzle about a teaspoon of oil and let sit for about 30 seconds. Then add all 4 pieces of bread, each with one slice of mozzarella on top.

2.Cover until mozzarella begins to melt (a little less if you like your bread lightly toasted) and remove from pan.
3. Place one piece of spinach on two of the pieces of bread. When doing so, try to get curvy spinach pieces and sit them upside down on the bread, to make a little cup for the brushetta and keep it all in there while you eat it. Spoon the bruschetta onto the spinach and take one of the 2 pieces of bread/mozzarella without spinach, sandwiching it on top of brushetta. Serve immediately.

So there you go. Two recipes that are delicious, simple, and just enough food to fill you up without making you feel like you ate too much.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sails Up I Suppose!

Starting a blog still feels a bit vane. I mean, who cares what I have to say about domestic life? The answer is, possibly no one. But I'm doing it anyway. And here's why.

Until recently, I've always baked more than I've cooked. My mother had four girls and then she had the smart idea to enlist us to help with the cooking. Whilst being homeschooled, we even managed to pass off cooking a few meals a week as Home-Ec. Then I met Benny. Upon which, I stopped cooking altogether. You see, Benny is a great cook, whose family is of Dutch Indonesian descent. Which is perfect, because when I was growing up my family moved to Indonesia for a few years, during which (and this part is a little fuzzy) we somehow managed to come back without a single recipe. Benny's wonderful mother knows everything there is to know about Indonesian cooking, in that way that only amazing little Asian ladies can. So when we started dating he did the cooking, I occasionally baked something.

Just when we thought we could celebrate avoiding the inevitable new relationship weight gain, we moved in together and I got an office job at a bakery. I had my first kitchen all to myself! No roommates to use all my brown sugar or dirty all the dishes! Not to mention all the new-found inspiration, smells, and leftovers that come with a job at a bakery. I started baking every chance I got. Plus, this job meant way more money than either of us was used to, and we started eating regular meals and things that werent ramen. Then I quit my job (that parts complicated) and suddenly I had a ton of time to bake. Safe to say, Benny and I finally gained that weight. After many months of being full and feeling like crap, I decided it was time I start baking less and cooking more. My goal here is to continue to find healthy meals that we both like.

This presents me with quite a challenge. As I said, Benny's family is from Dutch Indonesian descent. This means that they have considerably more grown up tastes than me. He loves savory, hurt-your-mouth-for-hours-spicy foods, potato soup, and rich desserts that go well with coffee. I tend to err more on the side of light, sweet foods, fruity desserts and pretty much anything Italian. This means we overlap on the part about coffee-partnered desserts, and pretty much nothing else. Over the year and a half that we've been together, we've found a few recipes that we both really like and so now its just an issue of finding more. Which doesn't mean that we won't continue to make two pots of chili (one spicy and one with a little bit of cocoa powder and brown sugar) or that I'm going to stop taking my half of the stir fry out before I add the spicy stuff, but you will sure as hell see some dutch, indonesian, and thai recipes here.

I don't intend to leave out the sweets either. I'm going to try to keep myself busy with healthy meals, lots of veggies, an herb garden, and maybe the occasional craft but fear not, there will be baked goods. Oh yes.

I will say however, that there won't be fancy professional pictures, or super expensive ingredients, and I don't own a KitchenAid mixer (which isn't to say that I don't pine for one every time I whip up a batch of meringue), but I feel pretty good about making a contribution.
I'm just a girl cooking from scratch on the cheap for myself and my ever so eclectic other half in a tiny kitchen.

"The difference between an executive chef and a line cook is technique" - Jacques Pepin