Dad Chili

Chili on a chilly day!
Chili on a chilly day!

I’ve never been a big fan of chili.  I don’t dislike it, but I’ve never woken up one day and been like “Yes!  Today is chili day!”  It’s something my dad would make from time to time when I was young and his was made with venison and lots of beans until it was a thick stew of whatever he decided to toss in. A few years ago he visited and we made chili again and we wrote down the recipe. At least I thought we had. Continue reading Dad Chili

Grapefruit Pound Cake

Grapefruit cake
A finished slice of the cake

The other day my husband did the grocery shopping for me and brought home a grapefruit.  While I love grapefruit, it’s not something I eat very often and it’s been languishing in the fridge.  Fortunately, I have been struck by a sweet tooth nearly continuously lately and have been trolling in the internet for small cake recipes far more than I should. Continue reading Grapefruit Pound Cake

But I shouldn’t…

Mini cake
It’s tricky to see the scale of it, but it’s only four inches across.

When it comes to personality, I’m a planner, I don’t like risks, and I’m extremely organized.  If that sounds not very fun, that’s sometimes true!  One thing I’ve noticed is that I often have a long list of things I feel should do, although no one expects me to do them except for me.

The past month or so I’ve been trying an experiment of anti-should.  If I feel I should do something, but I don’t really want to, I don’t.  If I feel I really shouldn’t do a thing, but I want to, I give it a try.  Continue reading But I shouldn’t…

Marinara sauce

spaghetti sauce

Today we have a pretty straightforward entry: spaghetti sauce!

I don’t remember what initially led me to reject jarred spaghetti sauce from the grocery store, but I’ve been making my own exclusively for years and now the store-bought stuff tastes weird to me. Although this could be cooked “Italian grandma style” of simmering it all day (as my own Italian grandma did), I am usually a card carrying member of the “I’m hungry and that takes too long” school of cooking. Continue reading Marinara sauce

Quick Pickles

Quick pickles
The pressure is on!

My first experience with Japanese pickles, tsukemono, was at a family restaurant in Kyoto, definitely nothing fancy. I don’t even remember what the pickles were except that they were kind of slimy, strong tasting, and definitely gross. Even though I try to be open minded and adventurous with new foods, I kept a wary distance of tsukemono after that.

Pickle press
Pickle press

Many years later, a friend recommended a Japanese cookbook to me, Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh. She had met the author and also knew that my favorite kind of Japanese food is more “home cooking” style, not sushi or tempura.  It’s ended up being my favorite Japanese cookbook and makes just the kind of food I love in the from-scratch style I like to cook in. Continue reading Quick Pickles

Tiramisu cupcakes

Tiramisu cupcake
Tiramisu cupcake!

I began studying Japanese in 2000 and one thing I heard as a recent-ish current event about Japan was that there was a craze for tiramisu.  A lot of my information about cutting edge Japan was influenced by books about Japanese culture written in the early 90s or late 80s when Japan was a big mysterious deal.  Lots of business etiquette, flashy hair bands, street fashion, and tiramisu.  Turns out tiramisu really hit its peak of chicness in Japan in 1991, so my information was more than a little behind the times and the hair-band-and-street-fashion scene was pretty drastically different when I went there a few years later in 2003. Continue reading Tiramisu cupcakes

Lime-blueberry bars – Limefest pt. 2

Lime blueberry bars
A lime bar in the wild
Cornmeal dough
Mixing the cornmeal dough

As I mentioned in my first exciting post about Limefest, I have a very small piece of land and a lime tree on it that grows honest to goodness fruit.  This year I made a lot of lime-related dishes, but still was left with about ten limes that I didn’t know what to do with.  So I juiced the limes, resulting in about 3/4 of a cup of lime juice.  I tossed it in a glass jar and then into the freezer.  Limes on demand.

A while ago I stumbled onto this recipe for lime bars with blueberry glaze and I was immediately mesmerized.  (I suspect I did something like googling “things to do with limes.”) Continue reading Lime-blueberry bars – Limefest pt. 2

Fluffy Gumbo

One of my regular recipes is a gumbo recipe written by a friend of a friend.  The only name I knew him by was Fluffy.  I never met him and he lived in Seattle and wrote a gumbo recipe.  I had never had gumbo before, so making it at home from this recipe was my first experience with it.  I’ve since lived in the South and visited New Orleans and had Really Good Authentic gumbo and it isn’t really like what I make.  But this recipe remains on rotation in my house.

Chicken andouille gumbo
Dinner!

The first iteration of this recipe was made with actual peas instead of black-eyed peas because I didn’t know what black-eyed peas were, my grocery store in Hawaii didn’t have any, and I basically had no idea what I was doing.  And I have made it with green peas for years.  But making it with black-eyed peas is a lot more authentic and is also more delicious.

The spiciness of this recipe can be adjusted by adjusting the cayenne pepper.   I also often leave out the onions (or substitute onion powder) because my dedicated food audience (a.k.a. my husband) doesn’t eat most onions.  Alas, for onions!  It can be made with less chicken.  Or more.  Or more celery or less, etc.  The recipe is quite flexible.

This is a get-all-your-pots-and-pans dirty kind of recipe and it takes a little while to make because of all the things going on at once.  I can make it in about half an hour now, but starting out it was a “this takes a long time” recipe for me.  And really it’s most delicious if you can let it stew for a while.

I’ve changed the recipe slightly from the original, but with credit to Fluffy, the mysterious friend of a friend I never knew, here it is.
Continue reading Fluffy Gumbo

Summer foods: Horchata

A few weekends ago, after seven years living in Houston, for the first time I finally had a truly Southern dish:  chicken and waffles.  We got up early because there is often a line and had breakfast at a famous Houston breakfast joint, the Breakfast Klub.  I was shocked by how awesome it was!  I’m not a fan of fried chicken, particularly wings, but these were tasty.  Spiced perfectly and somehow they stayed hot for our whole breakfast.  This was truly masterful frying in action.

Horchata
Finished horchata

It wasn’t really ideal summer food, but other project for the weekend was:  homemade horchata.

If you’re not familiar with it, horchata is a sweet rice/nut milk sort of drink that is a part of many cuisines, but in Houston it typically is associated with Mexico.  I had never had it until recently when a friend gave me a taste of an alcoholic version and then I wanted to try the real thing.

It has a milky texture, is very sweet, and is spiced, usually with cinnamon.  It’s super delicious and perfect for hot summer weather.  Once I had real horchata for the first time I immediately thought — I wonder how this is made?

Fortunately for me, the internet exists to find out! Continue reading Summer foods: Horchata

of Cooking. of Arrakis.