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I have a confession. I am afraid of cooking asian food! I know it’s silly, but with the long list of ingredients and I always overdue the sauce. And it is usually soy sauce that is to blame. So it ends up salty, brown and yucky. So unlike my usually wingin’ it style of cooking, I now follow a recipe, measure and pretty much stick to the game plan.

Cut slits in the meat to help it marinade quickly

Cut slits in the meat to help it marinade quickly

This is soooooo yummy! Another recipe from my friends at Cuisine at Home. It is really simple with a quick marinade and the same marinade then dresses the salad! And even though it is middle of summer, I use my indoor grill pan.

Look at those grill marks!

Look at those grill marks!


Why? I have a very small patio on a second floor apartment . . . not exactly an inspiring grilling experience. Also I am lazy and it is just as easy to whip out my beautiful grill pan and make it happen.

Pretty Vegetables

Pretty Vegetables

The one modification I did make, was to up the veggies. Mine is more a salad with noodles . . . but I have to stick in the veggies where I can. And it was very yummy, I used the ramen noodles but spaghetti noodles would work as well.

Mongolian Flank Steak
Courtesy of Cuisine at Home
Blend in blender or food processor:
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tbs. each rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and chopped garlic
1 tbs each brown sugar, soy sauce and chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp sriracha or chili garlic sauce
1 1/2 lb flank steak

Reserve 1/2 cup sauce for noodle salad. Score 1 side of flank steak in diamond pattern. Place in ziploc bag with marinade. Leave at room temp. for 20 minutes. Preheat grill. Blot meat to remove any excess marinade and season with salt and pepper. Grill 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest on cutting board before slicing for 5 minutes. Slice thinly on the diagonally against the grain.


Noodle Salad
7.7 oz yakisoba or ramen noodles cooked according to the package directions cooled
1 cup sugar snap peas, blanched and rinsed with cold water
1/2 cup red onion, slivered
1/2 cup carrots sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1/2 cup bean sprouts, rinsed
2 tbs cilantro
Reserved marinade
Chopped cashews (I used peanuts)

Toss everything together and serve cold.

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This is one of our cats Bear.

He likes to jump . ..

Silly kitty! Tricks are for kids!


Did I mention I am a cookbook and cooking magazine addict? My addiction is rather expensive, so I now have a lovely weeknight routine. One night a week I stroll (well drive after all I live in the burbs!) to my local Borders for a caffeinated treat and peruse the new cooking magazines and cookbooks (I also look at the art and design magazines which legitimizes this obsessive behavior as also beneficial for work!). This cuts down on paper and my expenses because I only buy the magazines where “I know” I am going to make at least 1 – 2 of the recipes.

Well on one such mission I discovered a series called Cuisine At Home. Have you seen this one? It is a totally fabulous recipe magazine and a series of mini-cookbooks. I find myself cooking out of them at least 2 times per week now. They are tasty and never take more than an hour to make.

They also include suggested side dishes and how to time everything so the meal comes together. I confess, this is a great lesson for me. I can’t tell you the number of nights I cooked dinner only to realize right before it is all ready that I didn’t really make a rounded meal. Inevitably I have forgotten a vegetable or starch. So the suggestions in the right column have been really helpful and have some really creative side dish ideas.

Everytime I make one of these recipes I think to myself, I totally should have thought of this! This recipe is no different, it is a great twist on the classic (but not a personal fave) beef stroganoff. I have never been a fan of the classic. I think it is a little too rich, heavy and maybe a bit boring. This version was everything the original isn’t. Spicy, creamy and a perfect mid-week meal. Go make this for your family tonight . . . I bet you have everything you need!

Cajun Chicken Stroganoff
courtesy of Cuisine at Home Weeknight Menus

1/2 lb dry wide egg noodles (I used linguine, wider noodles would have been better)
1/2 lb kielbasa, sliced (I used chicken kielbasa)
1/2 lb button mushrooms, quartered
1 1/2 lb chicken tenders (I cut these in half so they would be bite size)
1/2 tsp each cayenne, paprika, black pepper, salt, dried basil, dried thyme and dried oregano (I eyeballed it)
2 tbs AP Flour (I used wondra)
1 tbs tomato paste
2 tsp garlic minced (I used 2 cloves chopped)
1/2 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup chicken broth
1tbs Worcestershire
1/2 cup sour cream

Cook noodles according to package directions and set aside. Saute kielbasa and mushrooms in 2 tbs oil over medium-high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

Combine chicken with seasonings, then dust with flour. (I did this in a bowl realizing later I should have done the ziploc bag method tossing in the mixed seasonings, shaking. Then adding the flour and shaking, which would have been a lot less mess!). Saute chicken in same pan with another 2 tbs of oil over medium-high heat until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Push chicken to one side of pan. Add tomato paste and garlic; saute for 1 minute.

Deglaze with sherry, simmer until nearly evaporated, then add broth, Worcestershire and sausage/mushroom mixture. Bring to a simmer and reduce sauce by half (5 minutes). Off heat stir in sour cream and serve over pasta.

The recommended side dish was a tomato salad with a not too acidic vinaigrette. I did my version of this with balsamic vinegar, red onions and cucumbers . . . it was a nice side to the spicy entree. A creamy cucumber salad type dish would be lovely with this as well.

My boy loved this and after licking the plate from the first serving returned for seconds and a refill on his beverage. Remember he is a spicy food freak and this was nice and spicy. If you like mild food, I would back off the cayenne or serve with additional sour cream, but for our tastes this was really perfect. I was looking forward to leftovers for lunch the next day, but unfortunately their was very little left . . .

I am ready for winter

I am ready for winter

I think some of my earliest and fondest food memories come from my grandmother’s kitchen. My parent’s divorced when I was very young. And my Dad, I am sure, was a bit overwhelmed with caring for two young girls (me and my big sis) and he also worked many Saturdays. So we spent a lot of time with my grandparents who have a large house on a big lot (for San Francisco East Bay Area standards) and a large garden. Summer days were spent picking (well mostly eating on my part) vegetables and berries with my grandma in the garden. I have fond memories of picking warm raspberries from the bush, my grandma capturing many baskets and me with a tummy ache and about half a basket for my efforts.

My grandma also canned and dried everything from jams to the best pickled green beans you have ever seen. One of my favorite sweet treats was freezer jam! Even in the winter you could grab one of her square containers from the freezer and have what tasted like fresh berry puree on your toast or waffle. There was nothing like it!

For years I have thought fondly of my grandmother’s freezer jam. Even though she is still going strong well into her 80s, she no longer cans or makes jam. So to satisfy my childhood love, I decided this year, with all the abundant berries produced by our warm spring (otherwise known as the drought) to attempt my own freezer jam.

Quick chunky strawberry puree

Quick chunky strawberry puree

I read a few articles online and got the impression that I just needed to buy the pectin and follow the package instructions. There is even freezer jam version of pectin, which of course I found after I had loaded up my freezer. I of course bought two different kinds of pectin (why I don’t know) and they appear to be made by the same manufacturer (Sure-Jell) but were very different. The first one had you cook the pectin and mix it with the fruit puree and sugar. The recipe also produced a lot more jam. I did a coarse puree in my food processor, cooked the pectin and added sugar. Then you let it sit on the counter overnight and wa la! strawberry jam.

Potato masher allows you to leave the berries chunkier

Potato masher allows you to leave the berries chunkier

The second kind of pectin used less berries and sugar and made about half as much jam (thank god because my little apartment freezer got quite full). It also required no cooking! You simply mashed the berries (if you are anti seeds you could strain them, but I like them) and then added the pectin and sugar and stirred. Let it sit again overnight and then wa la more jam!

I think I like the no cook variety better. They are both delicious and reminiscent of my youth, but the strawberry is more gelatin-like and the raspberry is much more like a raspberry sauce. Next year I will definitely try the special freezer jam version of pectin to see if the results are any different. But as you can see, I have plenty of jam for winter (for perhaps several families). I see some linzer cookies or thumbprints in my future. But overall, even if you use store bought berries this is an easy and fabulous way to have a little bit of summer all year long!

Yummy raspberry jam on my morning toast

Yummy raspberry jam on my morning toast

Chocolate Chip Cookie Heaven

Chocolate Chip Cookie Heaven

I love cookies . . . no, I really love cookies! And they don’t get more perfect than big, chewy, crispy chocolate chip cookies. This recipe, for my taste, are perfect. They are crispy around the edge and when you underbake the middle slightly, the center is almost creamy. I literally swooned when I perfected these.

My friend gave me a recipe that I originally thought were these cookies, but she hoodwinked me. Do you have friends like that, ones that don’t quite give you the recipe?? But luckily I figured out I needed to reduce the egg to butter ratio and it worked out and now I have my perfect chocolate chip recipe and I will be putting it to really good use . . much to the detriment of my behind!

The thing that makes this recipe work is cold . . . cold butter and cold dough. I am far too impatient to let them chill in the fridge for an hour, so I stick them in the freezer for 15 minutes and they come out great. You also want them a little raw in the center. Also, size matters, scoop these too small and the texture is not right. And trust me you want these right. I also will freeze the majority of the dough in a log so I can scoop a few and have fresh from the oven on a regular basis. Make these for a friend having a bad day, and they will fell better . . . and possibly follow you home!

Cool on a rack for the crispy exterior.

Cool on a rack for the crispy exterior.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 lb unsalted butter (cold and cut into pieces)
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
4 2/3 cups AP Flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups chocolate chips ( I used dark chocolate chunks and mini chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Using your paddle attachment of your stand mixer (if you don’t have one borrow one from a friend because this recipe will not work with a hand mixer). Cream butter with sugars. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until just combined.

Whisk together dry ingredients and add to wet in 3 additions, mixing after each addition. When well incorporated add chocolate chips ( you could also add some chopped toasted nuts . . . pecans would be my choice but anything would work).

Scoop with an ice cream scoop on lined baking sheet (and yes they need to be that big for the perfect texture). Refrigerate for 1 hour or for the impatient freeze for 15 minutes. Bake 14 – 16 minutes, to get the perfect texture pull from the oven when the center is still underbaked and the outside is golden brown. Then let them sit on the pan for a couple of minutes. They will be very soft while they cool but perfect when they are ready to eat!

This makes a lot of dough, but it freezes beautifully!

My frozen log of dough . . . ready for whenever I am

My frozen log of dough . . . ready for whenever I am