Monday, February 19, 2007

A Riddle: Name Five Ancient Chinese Grains

The side of our new box of Trader Joe's Frosted Shredded bite size Wheats says: "Did you know? In the year 2700 BC, a Chinese emperor declared wheat one of the five sacred grains Today, it continues to be one of the world's most important food staples."

We took this as a riddle: name the five ancient Chinese grains. Besides wheat we knew rice, millet, and barley. We racked our brains. We googled.

The fifth grain is soybeans. Gotcha!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chocolate Pudding from Scratch

This is a recipe for a microwave version of a not-too-sweet chocolate pudding. It's only a little more work than pudding mix -- but much tastier.

1 and 1/2 cups milk (skim, 1%, 2% or whole milk are ok)
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate (1 square)

3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tb cocoa
1/2 cup white sugar OR 1/4 c. each white and brown sugar
dash of salt -- optional
1/4 cup milk

1-2 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl microwave the 1.5 cups milk with the unsweetened chocolate for around 5 minutes on medium power (50-60%). Stir, and continue to microwave in half-min. increments just until the chocolate melts. The mixture may be a little uneven with very small bits of chocolate still visible -- they will blend in during the final cooking.

While the chocolate is melting, mix the cornstarch, cocoa powder, and sugar together. Then dissolve the dry mixture into the 1/4 cup of cold milk. When the chocolate has melted, add a little of the hot mixture to the cornstarch mixture and stir thoroughly. When you have a slightly warmed mixture, slowly blend it into the hot milk/chocolate. Return the pudding to microwave, and cook on medium-high power (60-70%) for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. Stir the pudding and add the vanilla. Microwave another half a minute if it's not yet thick enough.

Chill the pudding for at least half an hour before serving. Makes 4 medium-sized servings.

Note: In theory 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate equals 3 tablespoons cocoa and 1 tablespoon of butter. I haven't experimented with this possibility, but you could probably heat the butter in the milk, and then proceed using 1/4 cup cocoa total in the dry mixture. You could also experiment with semi-sweet chocolate.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More on Kugel

Every cook with food-ways roots in Jewish Eastern Europe probably has her own recipe for some sort of lokshen (noodle) kugel. Savory kugels combine noodles with chicken fat, onions, and other meat flavorings. My mother usually arranged a ring of noodle kugel, made with fine egg noodles, around a meat loaf. Elaine says she hated this kugel because she didn't like the taste of the grease from the ground beef. A completely different savory kugel can be made from grated potatoes and onions.

Today, Americans often prefer the dairy versions made with wide egg noodles, egg custard, and varying amounts of dried or canned fruit. These recipes are popular for brunches and pot-lucks. I suspect that as time has gone by over the generations, sweet kugels have become sweeter and sweeter. Some use a streusel-type topping of crushed corn flakes: this must be a New-World addition!

When Myrtle saw my last post of a recipe for sweet noodle kugel, which her sister gave me, she sent me her favorite kugel recipe:

Rich-and-Fruity Lokshen Kugel
(Myrtle's Sweet Noodle Pudding)

8 ounces medium-wide egg noodles
1 10 1/2 -ounce (or similar) can mandarin orange segments, drained
1 16- ounce can pitted dark, sweet cherries, drained
1 8- ounce can crushed pineapple, including juice
1 cup commercial sour cream
1/3 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs

Topping (optional)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cook the noodles according to the package directions and drain them well.

Combine them with all the canned fruit, and spread the mixture in a well buttered or non stick spray-coated baking dish.

In a blender or food processor (fitted with the steel blade), combine the sour cream, butter, cream cheese, sugar, honey, vanilla and eggs. Process until completely smooth, about 1 minute or longer, scraping down the sides of the container once or twice. Pour the mixture over the noodles and fruit; then stir gently with a spoons so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Combine the topping ingredients (if used) and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake the kugel in a preheated 350’ oven for 1 hour, or until it is set. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature, and refrigerate it uncut. Shortly before serving, reheat it, covered, in a 350’ oven until warmed through.

Makes about 12 servings

(I made 1 ½ times the recipe, doubling the mandarin oranges and pineapple, but not the bing cherries.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Merilyn's Sweet Noodle Kugel

8 to 12 oz wide or extra-wide egg noodles boiled & well drained
8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
4 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla
Optional: cinnamon-sugar mixture

Blend butter & cheese in mixer. Add egg, milk & sugar, blend well. Add mixture to noodles.

Pour into lightly greased 8 by 8 inch baking dish (for 12 oz noodles, use 9 x 9 inch pan). Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture if you like. For a double recipe use 9 by 13 inch baking dish.

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Makes around 6 servings. I have added a handful of golden raisins sometimes, but it's not necessary. The photo shows the leftovers.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Happy Birthday, Alice

Part of the fun of a birthday party is baking a cake, making icing, and licking the icing bowl. Evelyn said we were too rushed, and needed canned frosting. I read the can: vastly transfat! So I bought a box of powdered sugar and made the icing recipe on the back of the box with BUTTER, no transfat at all.

Alice and Zion helped sprinkle pink and red sugar on top of the icing, and we used the Strawberry Shortcake candle, as Alice's birthday theme was Strawberry Shortcake. Note that she had the hat!

Before the cake and ice cream with strawberries, the guests had pizza for lunch.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

My own fractal cauliflower

I loved it in soup (though the color dimmed somewhat when it was cooked).