Monday, November 14, 2011

Nov 14, 2011: Darking Cooks cooking with Tea

Sarah from Simply Cooked was our November Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to create something truly unique in both taste and technique! We learned how to cook using tea with recipes from Tea Cookbook by Tonia George and The New Tea Book by Sara Perry.

Mandatory Items: Prepare at least one savory recipe made with tea.

Variations allowed: Variations are encouraged. Feel free to use black, green, or white tea. Herbal teas (which are actually infusions, since they contain no tea leaves) are also allowed.

Eat4Fun - For this challenge, I used my own recipe.

Over the years, I've been working on my own Chinese BBQ sauce recipe. The following are pork spare ribs cooked in the sauce with the addition of tea.

Instead of baking, I use a method I call "braise-glaze". The ribs are braised for about an hour. As the sauce evaporates, it thickens to coat the coat the ribs.

The end result is a falling off the bone rib coated with a sweet Chinese bbq sauce.

Chinese Spare Ribs
1 Slab Spare Ribs, cleaned and trimmed to individual ribs.
1/2 C Ketchup
1/4 C Honey
1/4 C Maltose (or just use more honey)
1/4 C Hoisin Sauce
1/4 C Soy Sauce
1/4 C Onion, chopped
1/4 C Water
1 T Rice Wine
1 T Rice Wine Vinegar
1 T Brown Sugar
1 t Five Spice Powder
1 t Toasted Sesame Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, sliced
Optional: 2 to 6 tea bags (I used Jasmine Green Tea and an English Breakfast Tea)

1) Clean and trim the ribs.
2) Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large pot and heat.
Note: With the tea, you can add more or less depending upon how much tea flavor you want.
3) When the sauce has combined, add the ribs and stir to coat.
4) Simmer ribs, with the lid ajar, over low to medium low heat for about an hour - stir occasionally to ensure even coverage.
5) After an hour, you can turn up the heat to thicken the sauce, about 5 minutes. The ribs can be taken out for this step (if you feel the ribs are soft enough) or just leave in the pot to cook longer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oct 15, 2011: Daring Cooks' Challenge - Moo Shu Pork

The October Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by Shelley of C Mom Cook and her sister Ruth of The Crafts of Mommyhood. They challenged us to bring a taste of the East into our home kitchens by making our own Moo Shu, including thin pancakes, stir fry and sauce.

Eat4Fun: My YouTube Video of the Challenge:

Shelley selected the recipe for this challenge because it is both accessible and adaptable to a variety of dietary requirements, while maintaining authenticity to what Moo Shu is supposed to be.

Deh-Ta Hsiung, a renowned authority on Chinese cuisine, published a beautiful book called The Chinese Kitchen. The book is a wonderful and encyclopedic volume containing a wealth of information about all aspects of Chinese cooking, from ingredients to process to history. The recipes are accessible, flavorful, and clearly written. His recipe for Moo Shu, like the others, is straightforward and delicious, and is what I am sharing with you for our challenge.

In preparation for this challenge, Shelly contacted Mr. Deh-Ta Hsiung, who is pleased to have his recipe as our challenge. Mr. Hsiung is widely considered an international expert on Chinese cooking, though his original work was in the arts and film-making. Chinese cooking was his passion, though, and he proceeded to take lessons from top Chinese chefs and work in professional kitchens around the world. Having written numerous books and articles, Mr. Hsiung is a respected authority in the world of Chinese cooking.

About this dish, specifically, Mr. Hsiung offered us a brief anecdote from his earliest work, regarding the origins of this dish's name. In The Home Book of CHINESE COOKERY, Mr. Hsiung discusses the dish as follows:

Some explanation is needed for the name of this dish. In China, we have a tree called kwei; according to my dictionary, kwei is called laurel in English, and it is a shrub rather than a tree; but the laurels we have in the garden of our London home never seem to flower at all, while the Chinese laurel is a large tree which produces bright yellow, fragrant flowers in the autumn. The pork in this recipe is cooked with eggs, which give a yellow colour to the dish – hence the name. But to add to the confusion, the Chinese name of this dish is mu-hsu pork, mu hsu being the classical name for laurel (are you still with me?). So you might say that calling it pork laurel is taking a poetic license.

Simply put, Moo Shu is a stir fry, containing thinly sliced or shredded vegetables, meat (traditionally) and scrambled egg. It is usually served on flat, thin, steamed pancakes, and is accompanied by a complementary sauce.

Moo Shu pork (the protein most commonly used in Moo Shu dishes) originates in Northern China (commonly attributed to the Shandong province, though sometimes attributed to Beijing), rising in popularity in Chinese restaurants in the West in the 1960's and 70's. As the dish became more popular, different restaurants adapted the recipe to meet their own styles, or to accommodate for expensive or hard-to find ingredients, so there is a lot of variation among recipes. Common among them, though, is a basis of cabbage and the inclusion of scrambled eggs.

The history and etymology of the dish are widely disputed, as indicated by Mr. Hsiung's anecdote above. There are two primary theories as to the origin of the name. Many, including the author of our challenge recipe, suggest that the Chinese characters, read as mu xi, refer to a tree that blooms with small, fragrant blossoms. They suggest that the scrambled egg in this dish is reminiscent of these blossoms, and thus a variety of egg dishes are referred to as mu xi. An alternative suggestion uses the Chinese characters reading mu xu, roughly translating to wood whiskers or wood shavings. The dish is thus named, it is said, due to the appearance of the shredded vegetables and meat, resembling wooden whiskers, or wooden shavings that were used as packing materials.

Recipe Source: The challenge recipe provided for the Moo Shu filling comes from The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung. The pancake recipe comes from the same source, though we have also provided an alternate method for preparing them, adapted from a variety of online demonstrations. The sauce recipe provided is from

Mandatory Items:
You must make Moo Shu pancakes using the provided recipe, a stir fry, and a complementary sauce.

Moo Shu Pork:

2/3 cup (1 oz) (30 gm) Dried black fungus ('wood ears')
½ lb (450 gm) pork loin or butt
¾ cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) bamboo shoots, thinly cut
3 cups (6 oz) (170 gm) Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage), thinly cut
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
4 tablespoons (60 ml) vegetable oil
2 scallions
1 tablespoon (15 ml) light soy sauce
2 teaspoons (10 ml) rice wine
A few drops sesame oil
12 thin pancakes to serve


1. Soak the fungus in warm water for 10-15 minutes, rinse and drain. Discard any hard stalks, then thinly shred.

2. Thinly cut the pork, bamboo shoots and Chinese cabbage into matchstick-sized shreds.

3. Lightly beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.

4. Heat about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil in a preheated wok and scramble the eggs until set, but not too hard. Remove and keep to one side.

5. Heat the remaining oil. Stir-fry the shredded pork for about 1 minute or until the color changes. Add the fungus, bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage and scallions. Stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes, then add the remaining salt, soy sauce and wine. Blend well and continue stirring for another 2 minutes. Add the scrambled eggs, stirring to break them into small bits. Add the sesame oil and blend well.

To serve: place about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of hot Moo Shu in the center of a warm pancake, rolling it into a parcel with the bottom end turned up to prevent the contents from falling out. Eat with your fingers. (See Final Preparation and Serving section below for more complete details.)

Thin Pancakes:

4 cups (960 ml) (560 gm) (19¾ oz) all purpose flour
About 1½ cup (300ml) (10 fl oz) boiling water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vegetable oil
Dry flour for dusting


1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Gently pour in the water, stirring as you pour, then stir in the oil. Knead the mixture into a soft but firm dough. If your dough is dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, to reach the right consistency. Cover with a damp towel and let stand for about 30 minutes.

2. Lightly dust the surface of a worktop with dry flour. Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes or until smooth, then divide into 3 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a long sausage and cut each sausage into 8-10 pieces. Keep the dough that you are not actively working with covered with a lightly damp dish cloth to keep it from drying out.

3. Roll each piece into a ball, then, using the palm of your hand, press each piece into a flat pancake. Dust the worktop with more dry flour. Flatten each pancake into a 6 to 8 inch (15 cm to 20 cm) circle with a rolling pin, rolling gently on both sides.

4. Place an un-greased frying pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot, lower the heat to low and place the pancakes, one at a time, in the pan. Remove when little light-brown spots appear on the underside. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to serve.

Alternate method for preparing the pancakes:
Once the dough has rested and been kneaded again, divide it into an even number of small pieces, rolling each into a ball. Working with two balls of dough at a time, dip the bottom of one ball lightly into sesame oil and press it onto the top of the second ball. Press the double layer flat, then roll the doubled pancake layers into 6 to 8 inch circles. In a dry pan, cook on each side until dry and lightly blistered (but without browning). Separate pancakes after cooking.

Alternately (I know, an alternate to the alternate...), if you would prefer not to dip the dough in the sesame oil, you can achieve a similar result with a slight modification. Again working two pieces at a time, roll each piece into a three inch pancake. Using a pastry brush, brush sesame oil onto the top of one of the pancakes, and top it with the other pancake. Further roll the doubled pancake into a 6 to 8 inch circle and cook as the above alternate method. This method was actually our favorite of the three, and yielded the best results – very thin pancakes that held up a little better and had the most authentic texture. We had the best luck brushing a bit of sesame oil on both circles of dough, then sandwiching them together. Just be careful separating the pancakes after cooking them on both sides – heat (steam) does get caught between them, so don't burn your fingers!

Hoisin Sauce:


4 tablespoons (60 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) peanut butter OR black bean paste
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey OR molasses
2 teaspoons (10 ml) white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml) garlic powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sesame seed oil
20 drops (¼ teaspoon) Chinese style hot sauce (optional, depending on how hot you want your hoisin sauce)
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml) black pepper

1. Simply mix all of the ingredients together by hand using a sturdy spoon.
2. At first it does not appear like it will mix, but keep at it just a bit longer and your sauce will come together.

Final Preparation and Serving:

Each of the three components that comprise the complete Moo Shu dish are served separately, and the diner prepares each serving on his or her own plate. Most restaurants provide four pancakes, a serving of Moo-Shu and a small dish of hoisin sauce as a single serving. To prepare each pancake for eating, the following is the most common process: a small amount of hoisin sauce is spread onto the pancake, on top of which a spoonful of the stir-fry is placed. In order to prevent (or, realistically, minimize) the filling from spilling out while eating, the bottom of the pancake is folded up, then the pancake is rolled, similarly to a soft taco. Once rolled, the prepared pancake is eaten immediately.

Eat4Fun's Closing Comments:
1. I suggest using 1/2 the salt called out in the filling recipe.

2. The pancakes is a bit of work. I suggest finding soft flour tortillas or premade thin pancakes at the Asian market, usually found in the freezer.

3. The Hoisin sauce is more like a peanut dipping sauce, but not as sweet as Hoisin.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26, 2011: Daring Cooks' Homemade Noodles

Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

This challenge is all about getting your hands dirty, by making a style of pasta or noodle without the use of motorized tools. So many cultures make flour as a method of preserving wheat and rice harvest, and then use the flour to make staple food items such as bread and noodles.

As a bonus, I want to challenge you to find examples from your cultural background!

Mandatory Items: Prepare some pasta by hand, without the use of motorized tools, and prepare the appropriate sauce/seasoning to go with it. The concept of "noodle" or "pasta" is being applied very loosely here, as some traditional recipes may seem closer to a dumpling than what you consider a noodle. Use your own judgment and creativity here.

Variations allowed: Many variations are allowed here – no strict recipe is required. It goes without saying that people with dietary requirements may substitute the "traditional" ingredients in favor of ingredients that are appropriate for them. Similarly, substitutions may be made where suggested ingredients are not readily available, or are cost prohibitive.

Steph's recipes can be found at The Daring Kitchen.

Eat4Fun: I've made traditional Italian-style pasta in the pasta for the Daring Bakers' Lasagna Challenge.

I wanted to make something that I remember from my childhood, Rice Noodles (aka Fun).
The difference between mein (as in chow mein) is that mein refers to wheat based noodles while Fun refers to non-wheat noodles.

Recipe is based upon what my mom's recipe. She doesn't measure out ingredients using cups, but this is what I've come up with.

Rice Noodles (Fun)
1 C Rice Flour
2 T Wheat Starch (or Cornstarch)
1 t Tapioca Starch (to give the noodles a little chew)
1.5 C Water (or use a 50/50 mixture of Chicken broth and water)
1/4 t Salt (can omit if using broth)

1) Mix all the ingredients to form a slurry.
2) Use a steamer and an 8 x 8 inch Pyres dish or a round pie pan.
3) Lightly oil (with an oily towel or use Pam) the glass dish.
4) Pour about 1/3 cup of batter and spread.
5) Steam about 3 to 5 minutes.

Finished Rice Noodles (Fun)

What you can make...

Chow Fun

Dim Sum: Rice noodle rolled with Shrimp

Dim Sum: Rice noodle rolled with Pork

Dim Sum: Rice Rolls (Cheung Fun)

Simple Comfort Food: Rice Noodles drizzled with Soy Sauce

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011: Daring Cooks' Healthy Potato Salad

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

This month's challenge is hosted by Jami Sorrento a two year non blogging member of Daring Cooks. What do you think of when you think about Potato Salad? A fat laden high caloric salad that you only indulge in on occasion –and even then you feel guilty? Well this month we are going to challenge you to make the most delicious and healthy Potato Salad. The possibilities of what you can do with a fresh, natural, and versatile vegetable like potatoes are limitless! Did you know that a medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana?

Potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse and you can keep potato salad healthy by using low-fat and fresh toppings that still taste great.

For example, what other fresh and healthy vegetables or toppings do you like? Asparagus, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, olives? Do you have some new salts or a spice you would like to try? How about a different oil or vinegar you have been dying to taste? Here is your chance for TOTAL CREATIVITY!!! You can make your potato salad hot or cold- just come up with a yummy, healthy and fresh potato salad that looks as good as it tastes.

I am so excited about this challenge because first of all I am of Irish decent and love potatoes. Second – I get to see all the delicious creative salads you come up with. I hope we will all expand upon the normal potato salad we make and use some new ingredients or seasonings to make the best, healthy Potato Salad ever.

Mandatory Items:To make any type of potato salad – hot or cold - that is healthy and delicious. We’d love to see all kinds of ethnic and cultural variations!

[Eat4Fun: I'm posting this challenge a bit (very) late, but my take on this salad is to incorporate more vegetables (add color to a potato salad) and use a vinaigrette. One way to make a dish healthy is to cut back on the fat content. Fat has more than twice the calories of carbs and protein so by cutting back on fats you're reducing calories quite a bit.

My YouTube Video:

This is a recipe I made on the fly with ingredients I had readily available.

Healthy Potato Salad
3 Boiled potates (about 3 cups diced)
2 T Vinegar
1/4 t Salt
1/4 t Black Pepper
1/2 C Tomatoes, Diced
1/2 C Corn Kernels
1/2 C Cucumber, Diced
1/2 C Carrot Shredded
1/4 C Red Onions, Thinly Sliced {Tip - sliced onions can be soaked in cool water to tone down the spiciness.)
2 T Bacon, Crumbled (Optional)

3 T Vinegar
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 t Dijon Mustard
1/4 t Salt
1/4 t Black Pepper
1/4 t Garlic Powder
1/4 t Dried Parsley
2 T Blue Cheese, Crumbled (Optional)

1) Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
2) While still hot, peel and dice potatoes
3) Salt, pepper and sprinkle the potatoes with vinegar. Mix gently. Refrigerate to cool.
4) Top with veggies and make dressing.
5) Potato salad can be dressed a few hours before hand to let the flavors infuse.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011: Daring Cooks' Gumbo

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

[Eat4Fun: When I lived in New Orleans, gumbo was delicious comfort food that everyone could make, even the cafeteria at work made good gumbo.

For this challenge, I picked the Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo recipe.]

Recipe Source: The recipes for Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo, as well as the stocks, Creole spices, and rice, are from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh (Andrews McMeel Publishing, October 2009).

Notes from Denise:
Roux. Crucial to the gumbo is the roux. According to Besh, there are other thickeners besides flour for making their roux, but only a flour-based roux yields that traditional flavor. As for the fats in a roux, just about anything works. Rendered duck fat, chicken fat, or lard is preferred, but canola oil works nearly as well. Use a 1:1 ratio of flour to fat/oil. Heat the oil first and whisk the flour into the hot oil. This speeds up the process and yields a deep, dark chocolate-colored gumbo. Always add the onions first to the dark roux, holding back the rest of the vegetables until the onion caramelizes. Otherwise, the water in the vegetables will keep the onion from browning and releasing its sweet juices. Chef Link stresses that it’s essential to whisk the roux constantly as it cooks (but not so vigorously that you splatter the roux and burn yourself), because if even a small bit of flour sticks to the pot, it will become spotty, scorch quickly, and burn the entire roux. Also, Link advises against using a wooden spoon to stir the roux, until after the onions are added. A whisk allows the roux to pass through it and reduces the possibility of splashing, as well as getting into the sides of the pan.

Holy Trinity. As a culinary term, Wikipedia tells us the holy trinity originally refers specifically to chopped onions, bell peppers (capsicums), and celery, combined in a rough ratio of 1:2:3 and used as the staple base for much of the cooking in the Cajun and Louisiana Creole regional cuisines of the state of Louisiana, USA. The preparation of classic Cajun/Creole dishes such étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya all start from the base of this holy trinity. Similar combinations of vegetables are known as mirepoix in French cooking, refogado in Portuguese, soffritto in Italian, and sofrito in Spanish. While a "trinity" may refer to a generic representation of three cornerstone ingredients of a particular national cuisine, a trio of specific ingredients combined together to become essentially flavor bases, much like its original usage within Louisiana cuisine, are also called "trinities". This is often created by sautéing a combination of any three (or at least, the primary three ingredients in a more complex base) aromatic vegetables, condiments, seasonings, herbs, or spices.

Okra. These delicately ridged and tapered green pods, sometimes called Ladies’ fingers, are a member of the mallow family and are bursting with tiny seeds as well as the glutinous compounds that make okra such a natural thickener for soups and gumbos. When buying okra, look for smaller, greener spears. I was able to find fresh okra at Whole Foods. Good frozen okra will also work fine, especially if it’s pre-sliced. In addition to adding it to both gumbos, I deep-fried some okra for garnish on top of the Seafood Gumbo (sliced into ½ inch (15mm) thick slices, dipped in buttermilk, dusted in a mixture of equal parts cornmeal and flour, fried a few minutes until golden, and seasoned with Creole Spices).

Filé powder. Besh tells us filé has been a vital ingredient in Creole gumbo since the mid-1800s, when Choctaw Indians traveled in from communities on Lake Pontchartrain to sell it at the New Orleans French Market, along with bay leaves and handmade baskets. The Choctaws make filé by drying, then finely pounding, the leaves of the sassafras tree into a powder, then passing it through a hair sieve. The leaves, in the form of filé powder, contribute a unique and spicy note to gumbo. Originally, filé was used to thicken the stew when okra was not available, but he likes to use both. He cooks the okra in the gumbo and adds a couple dashes of filé, too, at the end. He also likes to pass filé at the table as a seasoning. The word comes from the French word filer, meaning, “to spin thread,” which is a warning not to add filé while the gumbo is still boiling, as it has a tendency to turn stringy. See link under Additional Information, below, for making your own filé.

Chicken. Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo calls for a whole chicken, cut up into 10 pieces. The bones and skin obviously add vital flavor throughout the cooking, especially if you’re using canned broth rather than homemade stock. However, once the chicken was cooked and the meat was ready to fall off the bone, after about 45-60 minutes, I removed the chicken from the gumbo, took the meat off the bones, and discarded the skin and bones. I then tore the chicken into bite-size pieces and returned it to the pot for the remaining 30 minutes. This was a personal preference, and mainly because some of the smaller bones were about to break loose into the gumbo and also because the chicken didn’t really brown well initially when put into the pot with the roux and onions. If you want to leave chicken pieces in the gumbo for serving, bones and all, I would suggest browning the chicken in a separate pot before adding it to the onion-roux mixture.

Shellfish. Gumbo crabs are small blue crabs that have been cleaned and halved or quartered. They are served in the shell, and you pick out the meat as you eat the gumbo. They’re available frozen, usually in 1-pound packages. Ask your fishmonger to get you some if you can’t find them in your grocery, or you can order them online. Fresh or pasteurized lump crabmeat is a reasonable alternative. Do not use shredded or imitation crabmeat. Like the chicken bones in the Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo, these add flavor to the gumbo. I omitted the gumbo crabs and used the 8 ounces (225 grams) of lump crabmeat at the end, plus a few more shrimp (prawns) and oysters. Watch your timing when adding the shellfish at the end to avoid overcooking (add no more than 15 minutes prior to serving the gumbo)!

Sausage. Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo calls for 2 pounds (1 kilogram) spicy smoked sausage, cut into slices, and 6 ounces (175 grams) andouille sausage, chopped. I’m not sure what type of spicy smoked sausage to recommend. The andouille we found was pretty spicy, and we also used some Hot Louisiana-Brand Smoked Sausage we found at Whole Foods.

Mandatory Items: Prepare a pot of gumbo, using one of the recipes provided, a variation thereof, or any other gumbo recipe you find that tickles your fancy.

Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo
Minimally adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Serves 10-12

1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) rendered chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
2 large onions, diced
1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces [I cheated here and used a rotisserie chicken.]
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) Basic Creole Spices (recipe follows), or store-bought Creole spice blend
2 pounds (2 kilograms) spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch (15mm) thick [I could not find andouille so I used 1 lb of hot links and 1 lb of smoked kielbasa]
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers (capsicum), seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 quarts (3 liters) Basic Chicken Stock (recipe follows), or canned chicken stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces (175 gm) andouille sausage, chopped [I could not find andouille so I used 1 lb of hot links]
2 cups (480 ml) (320 gm) (11 oz) sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch (15mm) thick slices (or frozen, if fresh is not available)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Filé powder, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
4-6 cups (1 – 1½ liters) (650 gm – 950 gm) cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice [From my recollection, gumbo was served with plain white rice, which is what I made.]


1. Prepare homemade chicken stock, if using (recipe below).

2. Prepare homemade Basic Creole Spices, if using (recipe below).

3. Season the chicken pieces with about 2 tablespoons of the Creole Spices while you prepare the vegetables.

4. Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.

5. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes.

6. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

7. Add the chicken to the pot; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

8. Add the sliced smoked sausage and stir for about a minute.

9. Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.

10. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.

11. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

12. Add the chopped andouille, okra, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco, all to taste.

13. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé powder at the table if desired.

[The finished Gumbo served over rice and accompanied by buttered bread (for sopping up the extra sauce) and a salad dressed with a vinaigrette (to provide a little crunch and sourness).]

[For dessert, I made a bread pudding with rum sauce. I didn't have any bourbon. :-) ]

Recipe Source: The Food Network: Emeril's New Orleans Style Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Friday, April 15, 2011

Apr 15, 2011: Daring Cooks - Edible Containers

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at!

Mandatory Items: To make a SAVORY edible container and fill it with something appropriate.

[Eat4Fun: I tried to do something different than using vegetables. Renata provided a couple ideas, such as, the ramen basket and the toast cups. I tried to think of something that was simple and didn't require deep frying. Eggroll wrappers turned out nicely. Those are thin enough to bake or microwave. I tried using bacon. It worked, but was too much effort and created a mess, so in the end I didn't think it was worth it.]


1 package ramen noodles (120gm) (4¼ oz)
boiling water (enough to completely cover the noodles)

1. Place the dry noodles in a baking dish.

2. Pour boiling water over noodles until completely immersed.

3. When noodles are soft and start separating (about 5 minutes), drain and rinse with cold water.

4. Drain again, and set it aside until it starts getting sticky.

5. Use olive oil to grease the outside of baking cups and arrange them upside down on parchment paper.

6. Arrange noodles as shown in the photos. The sticky noodles will help the strings stay together making it easier to form the basket. 3 or 4 strings across, 3 or 4 strings down, and some strings around the bowl. Push all the excess strings close to the cup to form a lip. Don't overlap too many noodles, or they won't get crispy.

7. Bake at 230°C (450°F) (gas mark 8) preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.

8. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before trying to remove the noodle baskets from the cups.

9. Let cool completely.

10. Handle with care, the baskets are fragile!

11. You can make the baskets the day before using, they will keep fresh in an airtight container. On the third day it stars losing its crispiness.

12. Fill baskets with your favorite salad. If you're using a dressing, serve it aside or mix it to your veggies just before serving.

Here are a few ideas for breakfast using slices of bread and eggs.

Slices of bread

What am I going to do with the leftover bread after making these cute flower bowls, you ask....

Place the slice of bread in a buttered pan over low heat. Crack an egg into the “flower” slot and cook covered until the egg is done to your taste.

You may want to add cheese, ham, bacon...

Ramen baskets on the right.
Baked Eggroll Wrapper (left-forward)
Microwaved Eggroll Wrapper (Left-back)

Bacon Cup (Left) and Toast Flower (Right)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mar 14, 2011: Daring Cooks Pervian Food

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

[Eat4Fun: Fun! We cook Peruvian food! Never cooked nor have I had papas rellenas. Video of my cooking experience and results.]

Recipe Source:
- Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by my Spanish teacher Mayra.
- Vegan Papas Rellenas recipe adapted from the Vegan Good Eats blog (, written by Joel Luks.
- The Salsa Criolla recipe also comes from Joel’s blog.

Mandatory Items: Make at least one of the two recipes. If you chose the ceviche, it must be made with raw seafood and it must be “cooked” according to the method outlined in the recipe. If you choose the papas rellenas, you must make the “dough” according to one of the two recipes, shape the “potatoes” around a filling per the recipe instructions, and fry them in oil. If you choose both, you’re in for a tasty treat.

Papas Rellenas (de carne):
Makes 6


For the dough:
2¼ lb (1 kg) russet potatoes
1 large egg

For the filling:
2 tablespoon (30 ml) of a light flavored oil
½ lb (250 grams) ground (minced) beef
6 black olives, pitted and chopped (use more if you love olives)
3 hard boiled large eggs, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup (240 ml))
½ cup (120 ml) (90 gm) (3 oz) raisins, soaked in 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water for 10 minutes, then minced
1 finely diced aji pepper (ok to sub jalapeño or other pepper – if you are shy about heat, use less)
2 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a press (if you love garlic, add more)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) (1/8 oz) ground cumin (use more if you like cumin)
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) (2 gm) (1/16 oz) sweet paprika
¼ c. white wine, water or beef stock for deglazing
Salt and pepper to taste

For the final preparation:
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash salt
1 cup dry (240 ml) (110 gm) (4 oz) or fresh (240 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) bread crumbs (you can use regular, panko, make your own or use store-bought)

Oil for frying (enough for 2” (50 mm) in a heavy pan like a medium sized dutch oven)

In order to save time, you can boil the potatoes, and while they are cooling, you can make the filling. While that is cooling, you can make the potato “dough.” In this way, little time is spent waiting for anything to cool.

For the dough:

1. Boil the potatoes until they pierce easily with a fork. Remove them from the water and cool.
2. Once the potatoes have cooled, peel them and mash them with a potato masher or force them through a potato ricer (preferred).
3. Add egg, salt and pepper and knead “dough” thoroughly to ensure that ingredients are well combined and uniformly distributed.

While the potatoes cool down before finishing the dough, you can make the filling:
1. Gently brown onion and garlic in oil (about 5 minutes).
2. Add the chili pepper and sauté for a couple more minutes.
3. Add ground beef and brown.
4. Add raisins, cumin and paprika and cook briefly (a few seconds).
5. Deglaze the pan with white wine.
6. Add olives and cook for a few moments longer.
7. Add hard boiled eggs and fold in off heat.
8. Allow filling to cool before forming “papas.”

Forming and frying the papas:

1. Use three small bowls to prepare the papas. In one, combine flour, cayenne and salt. In the second, a beaten egg with a tiny bit of water. Put bread crumbs in the third
2. Flour your hands and scoop up 1/6 of the total dough to make a round pancake with your hands. Make a slight indentation in the middle for the filling.
3. Spoon a generous amount of filling into the center and then roll the potato closed, forming a smooth, potato-shaped casing around the filling. Repeat with all dough (you should have about 6 papas).
4. Heat 1 ½ - 2 inches (4 – 5 cm) of oil in a pan to about 350 – 375° F (175 - 190°C).
5. Dip each papa in the three bowls to coat: first roll in flour, then dip in egg, then roll in bread crumbs.
6. Fry the papas (in batches if necessary) about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Flip once in the middle of frying to brown both sides.
7. Drain on paper towel and store in a 200ºF (95ºC) (gas mark ¼) oven if frying in batches.
8. Serve with salsa criolla (or other sauce of preference) immediately.

Salsa Criolla:

2 medium red onions, cut in half and very thinly sliced (as half-circles)
1/2 chili pepper (your preference)
1 tablespoon vinegar
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak the onions in cold salt water for about 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the onions to macerate and the flavors to combine

I've never has Papas Rellena. We found a local restaurant which had the dish. It even came with the Salsa Criolla. Very Tasty

The Papa Rellena I made for the challenge.

Flavors were not as bold as the restaurant one's. I think I would need to double up on the spices and the salt and pepper. Also, I noticed the homemade ones had a very strong mashed potato flavor while the restaurant one's were not as potatoe-y. A lot of potential in this dish. :-)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mar 3, 2011: Mini Raspberry Chocolate Turnovers

I was invited to a Oscar Party.
Tried to figure out what to make that was simple, small or bite-size.

Mini Raspberry Chocolate Turnovers
Puff Pastry
Raspberry Jam or Spread
Chocolate Bar cut into 1/2" triangle

Egg Wash diluted with 1 T of water
Turbinado Sugar (Sugar in the Raw)

Cut small squares (2" x 2")
Add a 1/2 tsp Jam and a piece of chocolate.
Coat with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake 400F for 15 to 20 minutes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14, 2011: Daring Cooks Tempura and Soba

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. A light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light and soft wheat flour (cake, pastry or all-purpose flour). Eggs, baking soda or baking powder, starch, oil, and/or spices may also be added.

[Eat4Fun]: My video on making Tempura...

Soba is a type of thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. It is served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn.

Hiyashi Soba is a popular dish in summer. It's like a noodle salad. Restaurants in Japan serve Hiyashi Soba only in summer. Even if you don't have much appetite because of the heat, Hiyashi Soba can be appetizing. Common Hiyashi Soba toppings are omelet strips, ham, cucumber and grated Daikon. You can also have the noodles just with the dipping sauce.

Recipe Source: Lisa had many different versions of this dish so she combined a few different recipes from around the WWW. Most notably: Zaru Soba Noodles from Food; Zaru Soba from Globetrotter Diaries; Perfect Tempura from Pink Bites; Tempura from Itsy Bitsy Foodies; and her Japanese stepmother.

Note: The most important thing is not to overcook your noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Have a bowl of cold water and ice standing by, and once you have drained and rinsed your soba place it in the water. The great thing is once that’s done you can leave it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh. Take your time and complete each step all of these items work well prepared beforehand, so don’t rush.

Mentsuyu - Traditional dipping sauce:

2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.
1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)


1. Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)

Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:

* Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
* Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
* Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
* Green beans, trimmed
* Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
* Assorted fresh mushrooms
* Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
* Onions sliced


1. Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
2. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
3. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
4. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
5. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19, 2011: Daring Cooks Cassoulet and Confit

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

[My YouTube Video]

Cassoulet is a rich, slow cooked stew or casserole that originated in the south of France during the 14th century. It traditionally contains pork, sausages, and white beans as well as a duck or goose confit and then topped with fried bread crumbs or cracklings. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, which is a deep, round earthenware pot with slanted sides. This is a dish that traditionally takes about three days to prepare, but is oh so worth all the effort!! A confit, in case you don’t know, is one of the oldest ways to preserve food. It is essentially any kind of food that has been immersed in any kind of fat for both flavor and preservation. When stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months! Typically meats (most often waterfowl) are preserved in fats, while fruits are preserved in sugar.

Recipe Sources:
Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”
Chicken Confit (Using Olive Oil) by Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network

Mandatory: You must make a confit and incorporate it in to a cassoulet.

Variations: You may choose to use any combination of meat or other protein source that you wish. We also encourage you to soak your own beans, but we understand if you decide to use canned. As extra credit, we challenge you to make your own sausages!!

Preparation Time:
For Duck (or Chicken) Confit: 2 Days.
First day, 15 minutes.
Second Day, 2 hours.

For Cassoulet: 3 Days
First Day: 10 minutes, if that
Second Day: Approximately 3 ½ hours, most of which is oven time
Third Day: 1 ½ hours, all oven time


Chicken Confit Using Olive Oil
Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network

4 chicken leg portions with thighs attached, excess fat trimmed and reserved (about 2 pounds/ about 1 kg total)
1 tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon (15.6 ml) kosher salt (**note: if using table salt, use ½ the amount)
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) freshly ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves
4 dried bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons (7½ ml) (6 gm) black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ( 2½ ml) (3 gm) table salt
4 cups (1 liter) olive oil


1. Lay the leg portions on a platter, skin side down. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the kosher salt and black pepper. Place the garlic cloves, bay leaves, and sprigs of thyme on each of 2 leg portions. Lay the remaining 2 leg portions, flesh to flesh, on top. Put the reserved fat from the chicken in the bottom of a glass or plastic container. Top with the sandwiched leg portions. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.

2 .Preheat the oven to cool 200°F/90°C/gas mark ¼.

3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Remove the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and chicken fat and reserve. Rinse the chicken with cool water, rubbing off some of the salt and pepper. Pat dry with paper towels.

4. Put the reserved garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and chicken fat in the bottom of an enameled cast iron pot. Sprinkle evenly with the peppercorns and salt. Lay the chicken on top, skin side down. Add the olive oil. Cover and bake for 12 to 14 hours, or until the meat pulls away from the bone.

Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)
Serves 4 - 8 (unless you're Lisa Michele)

Ingredients for Cassoulet

5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)
2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly
1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound/450 gm pork rind
1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat
6 pork sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 confit duck legs

Day One

1.Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches (50mm or 75mm) of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. That was hard, right? (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!)

Day Two

1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.
2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.
3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.

4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.
5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.

9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.

10. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic and the reserved squares of pork rind from the beans (not the unused pork rind; you'll need that later).
11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside.

12. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.

13.Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive dish. You're looking to line the inside, almost like a pie crust. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers, beginning with a layer of beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck confit and finally more beans, adding a dab of the onion and pork rind purée between each layer.

14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup/240 ml in the refrigerator for later use.
15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.
16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Day Three

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.
2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.
3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don't get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn't have to be pretty.)
4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 8, 2011: Basic Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs is one of those dishes that can be simple, but many people have their variations on the recipe. This is my take on scrambled eggs.

The ingredients are simple - eggs, butter, salt and pepper. Added ingredients range from water, milk, heavy cream, sour cream, creme fraiche or nothing at all.

I opt for simplicity where I generally use milk, water or nothing.

Another variation between recipes is cooking time where recipes call for cooking anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.

I believe that in a heated pan over medium heat, scrambled eggs should cook in under 1 minutes once the beaten eggs is poured into the pan. Any longer you run the risk of ending up with dry eggs.

Basic ingredients (Scrambled eggs for two)
3 large eggs (beaten/whipped for about 1 minute)
1 T Milk
A little salt
Butter for cooking

My YouTube Video below


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January 5, 2011: Lumpia Shanghai

I'm been trying to recreate a lumpia (Filipino Spring Roll) that I remember from my childhood.
My first attempt was September 12, 2008: Lumpia and Pancit.

This recipe is an all meat filling recipe. All meat filling is similar to what my Filipino friends and classmates made.

(Adapted from the Lumpia Wrapper Package)
1 lb Ground Pork
1/3 C Water Chestnut, chopped
3 Shiitake Mushrooms, chopped
1 t Salt
1 t Soy Sauce
1/2 t Garlic Powder
1 Egg

As with my previous posts, I'm starting to use YouTube a lot more.

I even tried CC (Close Captioning) this video.
Enjoy :-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 3, 2011: Pork Chops on YouTube

Happy Belated New Year!

I'm starting to post my food adventures on YouTube under the name, "eat4f1".
This was one of the first I created where we all made a pork chop dinner.

Enjoy :-)