Monday, October 02, 2006

Slow Cooker Tapioca

Tapioca seems to be one of those food that people either love or hate. Like cilantro. It tastes like soap, so many say. And that fish-eye texture of tapioca turns a lot of people off.

I like it, myself. But it has to be the real McCoy; not a tapioca "pudding pack", whatever the hell that is, or that plastic jug tapioca, that tastes more like the vessel than the contents inside.

It's a Royal PIA to make though; what ever made them call it "Minute" Tapioca, when you have to stir constantly for 3o minutes?

But I have the greatest little secret: A Slow Cooker Tapioca recipe, that makes perfect tapioca every time. It's not that big of a secret though, it's right here in my Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with your Slow-Cooker, by Dawn J. Rank & Phyllis Pellman Good.

It's pretty much the only recipe that I've ever used from the book, and the only reason I keep it on the bookshelf. Most of the recipe's call for "stuff" that I don't consider an "ingredient" like tater tots and canned mushroom soup. Seriously, there's a "Ham Barbecue" in this book that calls for: ham, ketchup, and a can of coke. Cook 8 hours and serve on a bun.

I'd sooner die.

But I digress. Someone named Nancy Huber submitted the slow-cook tapioca recipe, and I stand behind her 100 percent. I'll shut it now, and just give you the recipe:

2 quarts milk
1 c. small pearl tapioca
1 to 1.5 c. sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 t. vanilla
whipped cream or fruut of choice, optional (I never use these)

  1. Combine milk, tapioca, and sugar in slow cooker. Cook on High for 3 hours.
  2. 2. Mix together eggs, vanilla, and a little hot milk from the slow cooker. Add to the slow cooker. Cook on High 20 more minutes. Chill.
    (I'd be done there, but...)
  3. Serve with whipped cream or fruit.
Enjoy your fish eyes.

Bleu Cheese Mushroom Turkey Burgers

Sometimes the most interesting meals are those thrown together at a moment's notice. No photo tonight, because I ate the evidence before I had any idea how yummy it would be.

Honestly, this probably isn't something I'd serve up to others, as it's "too casual" and there are lots that don't like bleu cheese. Who servers burger on toast?

Me, when I'm home alone, and no one's looking, whip this up:

Throw a turkey burger on the grill.

Saute a few mushrooms. I'm cooking for one, so I just sliced a few into a tiny sauce pan.

No buns for this sandwich: I'm hooked on Brownberry's German Dark Wheat bread. I toasted mine.

So, it's german bread, with a turkey burger, mushrooms, and a tablespoon or so of bleu cheese. Real bleu cheese.

I will revise this post, adding a photograph, when I fix this again. And I will fix it again. Seriously. I could charge $13 for this sandwich. And you'd buy it.

I'd like to know: What do YOU toss together, that people would pay for?

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Single Cook's Lifesaver

Have you seen the infomercial for these Food Savers? I wondered for a long time how well they worked, and I finally bit when my sister told me she loved hers.

I'm cooking for 1 now, most of the time. Just myself. It is expensive, time-consuming, challenging, and nearly impossible, I find, to cook up just 1 portion of some things. Stir fry: By the time you throw a cup of everything into the wok, you've got a lot of cups of stuff for one person to eat. Spaghetti sauce: I'm going to simmer overnight for one serving?!

Nope. And I'm not going to throw away my good cooking with fresh ingredients, either. My leftover chicken soup kick's Campbell's ass any day.

And I'm with my sister, this is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. Here's a sampling of what's in my freezer:

That's chicken soup, a chicken breast, lentil soup, and Indian cilantro chicken curry. I've also saved breads, grilled meat, and herbs (basil and dill), and salsa.

The soups and curry's can be thawed out, heated in the microwave, or thrown into boiling water. I froze them in bowls first, then popped them out and Food-saved them.

No freezer burn with this thing; food lasts longer and tastes better. I know. I'm doing my own commercial! But I love this thing!

Tip #1: The mini runs about $99, BUT it's almost always on sale at Kohl's for half-price.

Tip #2: The generic wrap, at Walmart or Meijer's, costs a fraction of what the brand name stuff does, and it works just as well. $6 will get you a couple rolls of the stuff, and I've yet to go through a package of it.

If any of you great cooks find yourself throwing out your hard work, I highly recommend this gadget!

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I've been invited to a virtual picnic over at Cream Puffs in Venice, with the stipulation that I bring "a dish that features a fresh summer ingredient."

I brought ceviche to the party. There may be fancier recipes for this stuff out there, but this one was taught to me by a Mexican friend, thrown together just like his Mama used to make it: No frills. Though I keep meaning to branch out and research other versions, I haven't yet; when I get hungry for it, I just fall back on Rafael's method. It's simple, cheap, and delicious.


Approx 1 lb. pollock
1 lb. shrimp (I use frozen, pre-cooked)
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
5-6 limes
2-3 tomatoes

Dice pollock into small chunks and toss into a bowl. Add onion, jalapeno, and the juice of the limes. Let it sit until the fish is no longer transparent.

(Rafael went for about 20 minutes, but I'm always a bit more cautious, and go for at least twice that, or until I just can't stand it any more, and have to eat!)

Stir in the cilantro, and tomatoes.

I usually serve this spooned over a tostada smeared with sour cream, and topped with avocado slices. I only had chips this time though, so served it as above. If I don't have the accoutriments, I don't have any problem spooning up a bowl of it and eating it like a chunky soup.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On preserving basil

I've spent many Saturday afternoons this summer working on getting the most of the basil harvest this year, preserving what I can in as many ways I can, so that I might be in basil through the winter. I love this stuff!

I did a bit of research, and tried 4 different systems this year.

Drying: I hung mine in an upside down paper bag, to dry in the garage for a few weeks, before stripping the leaves off of the stems and grinding it in mortar and pestle. You don't get a lot of basil bang for your buck this way, an entire bunch seemed to net a few tablespoons.

Oil preserving: This olive oil and basil paste is supposed to last a year, if you're careful about covering the top back up with a thin coat of oil after each use. Just give it stir when you need to use it, then cover with oil again when you're done. Seal it tight.

I haven't blogged about my mini foodsaver yet, but I love that thing. I vacuum-packed and froze quite a few bags of basil leaves.

And more freezing. Another means that provides you with fresh-like leaves in the winter is simply freezing basil in water. I cut mine into thin strips, crammed it into an ice cube tray, covered it with water and froze it.

Pop these out, toss 'em in a plastic bag or container, and you've got basil at your fingertips for the next sauce or fried rice you whip up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mary's Figs

Lisa, from Champaign Taste,
and I, have decided to whup up these figs that Fightin Mad Mary blogged about. Baby, we have been NETworkin' about where in the heck we can find a Friggin Fresh Fig. I had a tough time finding prosciutto, too, but finally got some at Schnucks, at Lisa's recommendation.

Vacation drawing nigh, I found myself with a frig full of ingredients, and one cookin' night left: The night we sprung a pizza party on a friend "down" with surgery. Pizza and Figs it is, then.

According to Mary:

Take a fig and slice it down one side.

Stuff with goat cheese - a peppery blend works really well for this or just plain.

Wrap with prosciutto

Top with a sprig of rosemary

Bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees in a preheated oven.

Doh! I forgot the rosemary, but these little bites were gobbly good. The flavors meld to make a delicious sweet-salty-cheesy pop in your mouth. This is definitely one I'll try again, simple and delicious.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Julia Child's Turkey Orloff

For Champaign-Taste's Julia Child Challenge, I fixed Turkey Orloff, described in Julia Child & Company as
Turkey breast scallopini gratinéed with mushrooms, onion, rice, and cheese.
This recipe serves 8. (I halved it for my experiment.)

1/4 c. plain raw white rice
1-1/2 sticks butter
1 egg + 2 egg yolks
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms
handful fresh parsley (enough to make 3 T. minced)
1/2 t. tarragon
12 or more turkey breast slices
1 T. vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
3 cups hot turkey or chicken stock
1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1 c. lightly pressed down coarsely grated mozzarella cheese

Rice and onion soubise

Preheat oven to 325 deg. Drop the rice into a saucepan with 2 quarts rapidly boiling salted water and boil uncovered for exactly 5 minutes; drain immediately and reserve.

Chop onions roughly, and then mince in food processor. Melt 4 T. butter in a baking dish, stir in the onions, the drained rice, and 1/4 t. salt, mixing well to coat with the butter; cover the dish and bake for 1 hour, stirring up once or twice until the rice is completely tender and beginning to turn a golden yellow. When the rice is done and still warm, beat in the egg; taste carefully and correct seasoning.

Mushroom Duxelles

While rice and onoin soubise is cooking , trim and wash mushrooms. Chop into tiny pieces in the food processor, and remove. Mince the parsley in processor afterward. By handfuls, either twist mushrooms hard in the corner of a towel or squeeze through a potato ricer to extract as much of the juices as possible. Saute the mushrooms in 2 T. butter stirring and tossing until mushroom pieces begin to separate—5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the tarragon and parsley; season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir half of the mixture into the cooked rice and onion soubise; reserve the rest.

Preparing the Turkey Scallopini

Pound the slices between 2 sheets of waxed paper (I used Glad Press & Seal) to expand them about double, and thin them down to half.

Salt and pepper the slices lightly, dredge in flour and shake off excess, saute for about a minute on each side in 1 T. of oil and 2 T butter (more if needed), just to stiffen them and barely cook through. Set slices aside on a plate as you finish them.

The gratenéing sauce

Make a turkey velouté sauce as follows. Melt 4 T. butter over moderate heat; blend in flour, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until flour and butter foam and froth together for 2 minutes without turning more than a golden yellow. Remover from heat and, when this roux stops bubbling, pour in 2 cups of hot turkey or chicken stock and blend vigorously with a wire whip. Return to heat, stirring and boiling slowly for 2 minutes.

In the food processor or an electric blender, puree the egg yolks with the cottage cheese. Beat the hot sauce into the cheese mixture

Assembling the dish

Butter the inside of the dish, and spread a thin layer of sauce in bottom of dish. Make a neat and slightly overlapping patttern of the turkey slices down the center of the dish, spreading each, as you go, with the soubise. Spoon remaining mushroom duxelles down the sides. Spoon remaining sauce over the turkey and spread the mozzarella cheese on top.

Bake approximately 25 minutes in 400-degree oven.

Should be served promptly.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Yaki Soba

I got this recipe from a class I took with Chef Walter Rhee, a sushi chef from Boston, who was biding his time in this berg while his wife completed an internship at the hospital. He's moved on, but I learned a lot in his Oodles of Noodles class.

yaki soba noodles (get these in the refrigerated section of your local asian grocer.)

coleslaw mix
1 onion
oil to stir fry

Stir fry soba noodles in oil to loosen. Set aside.

Oil the wok. Add the vegetables and stir fry with the yaki soba sauce or powder (always included in the yakisoba package)

Add the noodles, stir fry until evenly covered with sauce and serve.

That's the entire recipe, though I often throw in shrimp or chicken, stir-fried in a different round then tossed with the noodles at the end.

Mexican Burgers with Jalapeno Lime Mayo

Ilaiy brought this recipe to the table a few months ago, and it's been a hit every time it's served up. If you're a burger traditionalist, you won't like this one. If you're adventuresome, you'll love it. I think it's my favorite burger; lime and cilantro make it "refreshing"—and odd adjective for a burger, I know, but perfect for this one.

1.5 lb. ground beef chuck (80% lean)
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
2 T. thinly sliced green onions
1 pickled jalapeno, finely chopped, if desired
2 t. minced garlic
2 t. chili powder
1 t. grated lime peel
3/4 t. salt

For cheeseburgers, we used sliced pepperjack cheese.

Mix the above ingredients and grill as you would any other burger. Top with cheese, and Jalapeno Lime Mayo (recipe follows)

Jalapeno Lime Mayonnaise

1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. lime juice
2 t. grated lime peel
1 T. finely chopped pickled jalapeno chile

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Grilled Portobella Mushrooms

ShySmiley made these for me years ago, and they've been a Grill staple for me ever since. I toss the caps into a ziploc bag (individually, if necessary) along with:

balsamic vinegar
olive oil
dried basil

Toss the caps in, turn them every so often and let them soak.

Grill them

SS served them to me on a toasted bun, with goat cheese and avocado. Still my favorite sandwich!