Recipe #30: Chicken adobo

Recipes, like just about everything else, require good writing. I discovered this when I tried out a recipe for chicken adobo recently. Having grown up with many Filipinos, I love Filipino food. I've always wanted to try my hand at a few Filipino recipes, but never had the nerve to (you know when something is so good, you know you won't replicate it as well)? Well, I had very little in my fridge but I really wanted to get dinner on the table. So, I dug up this recipe for chicken adobo. While it seemed easy enough, the directions were lousy.

I can often look at a recipe and tell if it'll turn out well, or if it's missing something critical. That was definitely the case here -- I mean, how good can something taste if the only main ingredients are large amounts of soy sauce and white vinegar? So I adapted the recipe by adding thinly sliced onions; a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar to cut the saltiness of the soy sauce; water; and crushed red peppers. The end result was very tasty and very easy dish that came together in minutes (bonus points for not having to run to the grocery store). I served it with some rice and flash sauteed garlic spinach.

I have to say that I was really happy with my first attempt at chicken adobo. I might try it with pork next time. I'll also have to ask E. for her mother-in-law's recipe for chicken adobo, since she's a Filipina and an amazing cook.


Recipe #29: Vegan crepes

I could never survive as a vegan. Life without butter and cheese...I can't continue.

I really wanted to make crepes last weekend, because R. loves them! But, I didn't have any eggs (this is when my friend E.'s chicken coop could really come in handy), and I didn't want to buy an entire carton right before leaving on vacation. So, I looked up an eggless crepe recipe and came up with a vegan one.

It. Was. Disgusting. 0 ladles. Why? The batter was so thick and lumpy that I actually put it into my blender and blended it until it was a little smoother. Bad batter = bad crepes. Here, it doesn't look so bad, right?

But despite only using a little bit of batter, the crepe was still too thick. And the end result was a very gummy, thick, pasty round of dough. Cue the pizza delivery.


How to cut a pineapple

A friend recently confessed that she had no idea how to cut a pineapple. I assured her it was easy, and always worthwhile to cut your own pineapple (instead of buying pre-cut slices at the store).
Here's a brief picture tutorial:

Make sure you have a sharp, hefty knife and a stable cutting board (put a damp cloth under your board so that it doesn't move around).

Cut off both ends, top and bottom.

Cut into the sides, putting your knife at the top and working it to the bottom (follow the curve of the pineapple).

Here's how it should appear:

Next, cut it in half, and lay both halves (cut side down) on the board:

Cut each half into 4 pieces, vertically:

Now, take each sliver, lay it on its side and cut the tough, woody part off at an angle:

Final step: cut into bite-size chunks. You're done!

See? Easy.


Recipe #28: Stovetop Potatoes

I am never roasting potatoes in the oven again (especially not on a hot summer day). I found a method that makes the potatoes turn out just perfect - crisp on the outside, moist on the inside. And it couldn't be easier.

It's loosely based off of Ina Garten's Dill Fingerling Potatoes recipe. Basically, you melt 2 TB of butter in a Dutch oven (heavy, cast iron pot). Throw some baby potatoes in there (Trader Joe has a convenient 1.5 LB bag of baby potatoes), and sprinkle with salt & pepper. I added some whole garlic cloves and didn't have fresh herbs on hand, so I skipped that part (but it would be just as tasty with rosemary, thyme, etc.). Leave on the stove on low for about 15 minutes, shaking every so often. Take off the burner, but keep the lid on for another 5 minutes. The steam really penetrates the potatoes, leaving them incredibly moist. Couldn't be any easier.

I actually had half a bag of broccoli crowns I needed to use up, so I threw those on top of the potatoes for the last 5 minutes, and they were perfectly steamed, too! I love one-pot wonders.

Best of all, the garlic pieces get beautifully caramelized, and when garlic gets roasted, its flavor really mellows out and becomes sweet. Delicious spread on nice, crusty bread. 5 ladles!


Life's little luxuries

For me, room service is one of life's little luxuries. And when you're tired (from sightseeing or working), sometimes you just want to enjoy a nice meal in the privacy and comfort of your pajamas. This past weekend, while attending a conference, it was just what I needed. Hotel food is hit or miss, but this was a clear hit. Hot, tasty, and enjoyed in my pajamas.


Banana smoothie

I've been having trouble falling asleep lately - probably due to some stress at work. And when I can't fall asleep, I often find myself in front of the TV, watching late-night infomercials. Watching infomercials is a sick addiction, I tell you - sick. The infomercials are so terrible, yet it's like a train wreck -- I can't seem to peel my eyes away from them.

I'm sure you've all heard of the Magic Bullet. I never believe anything I see on those informercials, but 2 co-workers recently raved about the Magic Bullet. So I went to Bed Bath & Beyond in search of the Magic Bullet (I can't bring myself to call the 800 number on their infomercial - call it dignity, call it embarrassment, whatever). The store does in fact carry the Magic Bullet, but I was distracted by Cuisinart's version of the Magic Bullet. It's a tiny bit more expensive, but I was lured by the promise of BPA-free cups.

Anyway, I just tried my own concoction:

- frozen berries (mixture of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries & raspberries)
- skim milk
- spoonful of flaxseed
- one overripe banana (great way to use them up)
- a few ice cubes

Dump in the blending cup, blend for a few seconds -- and voila! A banana berry smoothie:

I might try the other blade to see if it'll crush the ice better. That was the only drawback.

It also comes with a handy travel lid, so I can pop the lid on and take it with me -- very handy for those hectic mornings. There are endless possibilities when it comes to healthy smoothies (yogurt instead of milk, agave nectar or honey for a touch of sweetness, flaxseed oil to aid digestion, or a spoonful of peanut butter for added protein). Now that the farmer's markets are oveflowing with fresh fruit, this system is going to be a great way to use up overripe fruit (I have a tendency to get excited at the market and end up buying way too much fruit than I can possibly eat before it all goes bad!).


Recipe #27:Arborio rice pudding

A few years ago, I received a top-of-the-line Japanese rice cooker, along with a cookbook specially formulated for the rice cooker.

It's worth its weight in gold. Rice turns out perfectly cooked, every single time. There's no fuss, no mess, no nothing...except perfect rice. When I see people cooking rice in a pot on the stove, I feel like telling them to just invest in a Japanese rice cooker and how that'll be a game changer in the way they make rice (what - me, exaggerate? Never). I've never been able to make good rice in a pot, and the time spent trying to scrape the pot clean afterwards is definitely not worth the hassle.

Anyway, I saw a recipe for rice pudding, and staying true to the set-it-and-forget motto of this little baby, it was super easy and turned out quite well. Here's a closeup (the specs you see are nutmeg and cinnamon).

The result? Very, very rich (due to the cream and a few tablespoons of heavy cream), but I couldn't see myself having more than a few spoonfuls anyway. Thank goodness I used water instead of milk, as the recipe called for. Had I used milk, I don't know if the recipe would've been edible -- way too much dairy. I also cut down the amount of sugar the recipe called for, as I almost always do to recipes I find. 4 ladles -- a tasty, easy, comforting treat.


Fish tacos

A few weeks back, we went up to Sonoma for a weekend getaway. We found a local diner (not your typical diner - rather upscale) that was really sleepy and unassuming, but served surprisingly delicious food.

Here are the fish tacos I had, with black bean cole slaw served alongside it. I never enjoyed fish tacos until I moved to California...now, I'm obsessed with them.