Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

WE HAVE BEEN ON A BIG STIR-FRY KICK for a few weeks. The frigid weather seems to have cleared out, yet I am afraid to think we are having an early spring this year, It is only February.

Stir-fries are perfect to enjoy during changing seasons--times when it is not cold enough to want a heavy soup or stew, yet not hot enough to want to eat salads for meals. Stir-fry vegetables are light and fresh and the spices of ginger and red pepper are warming.

For this stir-fry, I used onion, red bell pepper, cremini mushrooms, broccoli, Napa cabbage, and bok choi. Other vegetables that work well are snow peas, carrots, green beans, mung bean sprouts, cabbage, scallions, asparagus, zucchini, and spinach. Use a variety of vegetables like I do or stick with one or two--your choice.

I served this stir-fry with Jasmine rice but I have also used brown rice, udon noodles, and soba noodles. One of these days I might try cellophane noodles.

Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

14 ounces extra firm tofu
1/4 cup cornstarch
Oil for frying
8 - 10 cups vegetables of choice, washed and chopped

Rinse and dry the tofu. Wrap in a couple layers of paper towels, place on a plate with another plate on top. Put a couple of cans on the top plate to press the tofu. Set aside while making the sauce and preparing the vegetables.

Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Unwrap the tofu and toss with the cornstarch.

Heat 1/2-inch of oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium heat. Fry the tofu in batches, until brown on all sides. Remove to paper towel lined plate to drain.

Remove all but 1 Tbsp. oil from the wok and turn the heat to medium high. Beginning with the sturdier vegetables, add them to the wok; stir and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the more delicate vegetables, stir and fry for a minute more. Add the tofu and the sauce, continuing to cook for 1 or 2 minutes more.

Remove wok from heat and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Braised Collard Greens

COLLARD GREENS ARE A STAPLE IN THE SOUTH.  All our barbecue restaurants offer them as a side choice. Diners with a meat-and-three type menu will have them. Our children start eating collard greens when they are still in the high chair.

Whenever we have family gatherings, I am volunteered to cook the collards. I am told mine are the best but I often wonder if it is really the fact that I am willing. They are a bit of work. It is work I enjoy; I love to cook, including washing and chopping vegetables with my good cutting board and my excellent sharp knife.

To prepare the collards for cooking, they must be washed and chopped. Some people prefer tearing them and that works just fine. I use a knife. First I cut out the tough inner stem, I stack a few leaves, roll them (a chiffonade if you  will) and slice into strips. I then put them into a sink fulll of cold water. Swish the leaves all around then let them sit for a few minutes. Feel the bottom of the sink. If you feel grit, remove the greens, drain the sink, and rinse away the sand. Refill the sink and rinse the collards again. Repeat until no more grit is detected.

I find the process to be mindful, contemplative, and relaxing.

We serve our collard greens with pepper sauce and by that I don't mean a hot sauce such as Tabasco. Pepper sauce is basically hot peppers and vinegar. If unavailable, just sit a cruet of apple cider vinegar on the table. 

Braised Collard Greens
1 1/2 pounds fresh collard greens, large stems removed, washed, and chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and pepper - be generous

Using a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Start adding the wet collard greens until the pot is full. Add the water; cover pan and simmer for a few minutes until the greens start cooking down then add the remaining greens.

Simmer until tender but not mushy, about 30 - 50 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pineapple Puff Pastry Pinwheels With Cheese and Ham

PUFF PASTRY PINWHEELS ARE SUPER SIMPLE to make, yet look so fancy and fussy. They are perfect for parties and get togethers.

I usually buy frozen puff pastry which I find to be rather expensive, and the price kept me from using it as often as I would have liked.  Recently, I discovered a new item at my grocery store; a refrigerated puff pastry which was much more reasonably priced and didn't require thawing (aka planning ahead).

I made these pinwheels with pineapple, cheese, and ham. I have always loved the taste of pineapple and cheese together. I used to eat pineapple and cheese sandwiches as a girl. I love that glorious baked pineapple casserole.

Once I made these, I discovered the new puff pastry performed perfectly--many flaky layers and delicious taste. And oh so easy to use. It even comes with its own parchment paper for baking.

I will be making more of these pinwheels and have many ideas about how to fill them.

  • sun dried tomato cream cheese and turkey
  • cream cheese and pimiento stuffed olives
  • spinach, artichoke, and Parmesan
  • cheddar, pimiento, and pecan
  • pizza sauce, basil, and mozzarella
  • pesto, spinach, and feta
  • mango chutney and aged English cheddar

Pineapple Puff Pastry Pinwheels with Cheese and Ham

1 sheet puff pastry
1 cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces your favorite deli sliced ham, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Unroll pastry sheet on a floured surface. Spread pineapple evenly over the pastry, followed by the shredded cheese, then the chopped ham. Roll into a log started from one of the long sides. Using a serrated knife, slice into 12 pieces. Place on parchment lined sheet pan, cut side up.

Bake 20 - 30 minutes until golden.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Baked Pork and Sauerkraut Egg Rolls

IT BEGAN WITH A PORK SHOULDER ROAST COOKED with sauerkraut in the crock pot, which couldn't have been easier. I unceremoniously dumped a can of sauerkraut into the crock, plopped the roast on top, added salt and pepper, then another can of sauerkraut over of the meat. I cranked the cooker and walked away to carry on with my day.

When it got near supper time, I made mashed potatoes to serve with the pork and sauerkraut. It was a hearty and delicious meal for a frigid winter evening.

The next day, I decided to make egg rolls with the leftover pork and sauerkraut. I love doing this. If you can put food between slices of bread and call it a sandwich, or wrap items into a tortilla and call it a burrito or quesadilla, you can also put it into an egg roll wrapper.

The egg roll wrappers you can buy at the grocery store, usually in the produce department, are very easy to work with. Baking, rather the frying, makes things easy and is much less messy. I did add some Napa cabbage to the pork and sauerkraut to introduce some freshness to the mix and I also added a generous amount of dried red pepper flakes.

Baked Pork and Sauerkraut Egg Rolls

1 1/2 cups leftover roasted pork (approximately)
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut (approximately)
1/2 large head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 - 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes, to taste
1 egg, beaten with a little water
Egg roll wrappers

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil a rimmed sheet pan.

Combine the pork, sauerkraut, cabbage, and red pepper.

Place an egg roll wrapper on a flat surface with a corner pointed down. Place a mound of the filling in the center. Turn up the bottom corner and then both sides. Now it looks like an envelope. Brush a little egg mixture along the top flaps, just like the part of an envelope you would moisten. Seal the rolls and place on the prepared pan. When all are rolled, brush with the egg mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve egg rolls with hot Chinese mustard.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pink Champagne Cake


THE PINK CHAMPAGNE CAKE WAS ONE OF THREE I baked for my Mother's 90th birthday party. When I told her I was making three cakes and asked what kind would she like she said she liked pound cake with chocolate frosting. Check. She also suggested coconut cake. Check. For the third, she said, "surprise me".

I decided on the pink champagne cake because I thought it sounded feminine and celebratory. Also, Mama loves champagne!

I have talked about my amazing Mother before. She still lives in her own home, she still goes to the gym three times a week, plays bridge, and drives. She has always been very considerate of other people and has been active in her church; as a result she has developed many, many friends over the years. She is a fabulous cook and loves to entertain.

As the RSVP's poured in, I starting worrying three cakes would not be enough, so I asked Jasmine (the professional chef of the family) if she would bake some cupcakes just in case. Wouldn't it be sad to have a birthday party without enough birthday cake for everyone?

I thought the cutest thing was an interaction between Mama and her 5-year-old great grandson. He knew it was her birthday and asked how old she was. When she answered 90, his eyes got big in disbelief and he replied, "And you're not even dead!"

Pink Champagne Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour (3) 8 inch cake pans

3 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5 egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 cup pink champagne
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
pink food coloring (optional)

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a  bowl and set aside.

In another bowl whisk together egg whites, vegetable oil, pink champagne, and vanilla. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar 3 to 4 minutes until creamy and light.

Add flour and sugar mixture and egg mixture  alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the pink coloring, if using.

Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth with offset spatula. Bake until cake just pulls back from sides of the pan, 23 to 27 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges, shaking gently. invert once, then again. Cool completely, right side up.

Pink Champagne Buttercream

4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
12 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup pink champagne
pink food coloring (optional)

In a mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth and lightened in color.Mix in salt and vanilla.

Gradually add the sugar, along with the pink champagne until sugar is incorporated. Beat at medium speed until very smooth, adding the color while mixing.


Don't be discouraged if butter mixture starts curdling with the addition of the pink champagne. Just keep adding powdered sugar and mixing. It will come together.

Using a toothpick, I added tiny amounts of pink food coloring gel.

This recipe makes a lot of buttercream for piping.

I used a Wilton 1M piping tip to make the rosettes.