Fried Brown Rice

This recipe looks complex but it’s fun and not that hard!

In a small capacity pressure cooker, add

2 cups brown short-grain rice
3 2/3 cups water.

Close the cooker and turn heat to medium high.  After the first blast of steam, turn the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes (this will vary by cooker, check the manufacturer’s instructions).

While the rice cooks, add

1T canola or peanut oil

To an enormous skillet or wok on rocket-hot high heat. Then add, one at a time:

6 green onions, white part only
2 carrots, diced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 cups snow pea pods, strung and cut into thirds (or sub 1 cup green peas)

After each addition, stir and allow the vegetable to sauté to dark golden. In the meantime, in a glass measuring cup, add

2T corn starch
1/3 cup soy sauce
1t toasted sesame oil
1T freshly grated ginger
1T finely minced garlic
2t five spice powder
1t hot chili flakes
1 1/3 cups water

Stir vigorously to combine.  Put in microwave on high for two minutes.  Remove; stir.  Put back in microwave 2 more minutes; remove and stir.  Repeat until the mixture is no longer cloudy and starch has gelled.

Now that veggies are nicely seared, deglaze the pan with

½ c sake or 1/3 c Coca-Cola (no I’m not kidding).

Add the finished rice to the vegetables.  Stire to combine; push aside and, with the pot still on very high heat, add

3 eggs, lightly beaten.

Stir to scramble.  When eggs are loosely scrambled, turn off heat, stir to combine, and add the soy glaze to the rice and vegetables.  Serve immediately, garnished with the green parts of the onions.

This recipe is a meal in itself.  I add tofu to crank the protein on occasion.  The first time I made this, it was a mess, trying to manage a rice, sauce, and veggies.  The best advice is make-ahead to start: the rice can be pre-cooked a day ahead, and the veggies should all be chopped well in advance.  You can even pre-scramble the eggs if you like.  But once you have done this a few times, you will see that it is a fun and easy meal, full of vitamins and flavor!

A note on the Coca-Cola: don’t laugh.  It is a fantastic way to deglaze a pan for a stir-fry of any kind, especially if you want to avoid alcohol.  It’s basically sugar, citrus, and spices; these are core elements of teriyaki anyway.

Per 1 ½ cup serving (please note these are estimates, not a diet plan):

Calories: 314
Fat: 6.9 g
Carbohydrates: 52.6 g
Protein 9.5 g
Fiber: 2.6 g
Prep time: 25 min (most in advance)
Cook time: 25 min
Taste: [rate 5]
Ease: [rate 2]

Nicola Masala (my own chana masala)

Nicola Masala and Spice Caddy (hot chilli, turmeric, cumin, custom masala, cumin/coriander blend)

In a small capacity pressure cooker, add

1 ½ cups dried chickpeas
4 cups water.

Allow to soak for eight hours.  Close the cooker and turn heat to medium high.  After the first blast of steam, turn the heat to medium low and cook for 25 minutes (this will vary by cooker, check the manufacturer’s instructions).

While the chickpeas cook, add

1T canola oil

To a skillet on medium-high heat. While the oil shimmers, add

1t iodized salt
2t black mustard seeds
4t cumin/coriander, ground
2t whole cumin
1t chilli powder
3t chana masala

The spices will darken and turn fragrant.  Chop finely and add

1/2 small yellow onion.

After onion has started to turn golden, add

One can petite dice tomatoes, or 4 finely diced roma tomatoes.

Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until mixture has thickened. Drain the chickpease and reserve the liquid.  Add the now-cooked chickpeas to the spices and tomatoes; stir to combine.  Use the reserved cooking liquid to thin the sauce if needed.

Stir to combine; serve immediately, with brown basmati rice and papad.

I start with authentic spices from India, no exceptions.  I used to cook Indian food from recipes and supermarket curry powders.  It tasted like decent spicy food, but not like Indian food, until I started using Khyati’s special blends.  Buy the chana masala blend prepackaged at any Indian grocer.  Chana Masala is a huge favorite of my daughter’s.  To cut the spiciness, mix the rice and chana with plenty of full-fat yogurt.  Ainsley enjoys adding her own yogurt and adjusting the “spicy mouth.”

Per 1 ½ cup serving (please note these are estimates, not a diet plan):

Calories: 520
Fat: 14 g
Carbohydrates: 78.6 g
Protein 23.7 g
Fiber: 20.3 g
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 55 min
Taste: [rate 5]
Ease: [rate 3]

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto


2T butter and
1T olive oil

To a skillet on medium-high heat. While the butter foams, chop and add

1/2 small yellow onion.

After onion has started to turn golden, add

Eight ounces porcini or other mushrooms, chunked into quarters

Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until mushrooms have given up their water and all vegetables are golden. If pan is small, remove from pan and add a little more oil. Crank the heat to high and add

15 skinny stalks asparagus, cut into slices ¼ inch thick

and stir occasionally until brown. Deglaze the pan with

4T good white wine (I used Buck Creek Sauvignon Blanc). Remove veggies from pan.  Over medium-low heat, toast

1 ½ cups risotto rice (Vialone nano or arborio)

until barely golden.  Using risotto technique, slowly add

1 ½ cups mushroom base
2 cups good white wine

Stir frequently. Add the vegetables back to the pan.  Warm and add

1/2t black pepper
2t coarsely chopped parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan.

Stir to combine; serve immediately.

I made this before but didn’t sear the asparagus enough, and the pieces were too large.  The mushroom base has plenty of salt; salt to taste if needed.  This time I “graduated” from arborio to vialone nano and I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.  I will stick to arborio until I figure out the new, less forgiving ingredient.

Per 1 ½ cup serving (please note these are estimates, not a diet plan):

Calories: 468
Fat: 10.4 g
Carbohydrates: 62.5 g
Protein 12.1 g
Fiber: 4.6 g
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 55 min
Taste: [rate 4]
Ease: [rate 4]

Let Me Bleed!

Amy and I have been blood sisters for several years now, encouraging each other to donate blood when we can. I have been out of the habit due to first my pregnancy, then nursing a baby. I am not sure if nursing precludes donation, but I had enough going on!

Anyway it’s my job to drag her to the gym, and her job to drag me to be poked by needles. We went after the gym today and poor Amy failed the iron test.

But I bled just fine. I really detest the needle stick, but it’s worth it to save lives. Thanks for the motivation, Amy!

Do you donate? If not, give it a shot. It’s easy and the cookies afterward are tasty.

Hobby Jump Start: Circle City Aquarium Club

I’ve been seeing their ads in the classifieds at work, and in the back of my favorite aquarium magazine, for years, and kept intending to go.  I never found the time.

My aquarium hobby has fallen into disrepair with my busy life taking over.  My fish haven’t suffered- I keep low stock levels.  But the appearance of the tanks has definitely taken a bad turn.  I look at the tanks and just feel like someone could write “clean me” in the algae.  Or “failure.”

I’ve also been unable to find the kind of hobbyists I used to know in Bloomington, when I worked at an aquarium store.  The folks bred their own fish, had really nice setups, and cared for the creatures- not buying something that was ‘cool’ only to kill it.  The South side pet stores include chains who don’t know fish and a semi-local chain with a good selection of fish but horrible husbandry habits.  They churn through livestock and personnel so much that it is really sad.

So Carlton almost forced me to go to this meeting.  I’m so glad I did.  Aquarium nerds are a lot like Gen Con nerds, but with different witty sayings on their t-shirts.  They are also some of the nicest people on the planet.

But Can I Roast It? Tandoori Dipping Sauce

The fall weather had me in a roasting kind of mood last week.  Vacation gave me the time to post.

I’ve posted roasted vegetables before, but the difference here is the dipping sauce. (Quickly: the vegetables were roasted at 450F in homemade garlic olive oil for 45-60 minutes until golden brown).

In a medium saucier at medium, heat

about 8 tablespoons peanut oil

until shimmering.  Add

3 cloves garlic, minced
1t cumin seeds
1t cumin and coriander powder
1t turmeric
1t red chilli powder
1t mystery chilli powder (brown in color- in a small bag- Khyati please tell me what this is!)

2-3t tandoori masala
1 pinch asafoetida
3-5t kosher salt.

Fry gently until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  In the meantime, in a food processor, puree

one large onion
2-4 cloves garlic, minced.

When the spices are fragrant, add the onion-garlic puree.  Fry gently for 7-10 minutes, until reduced by one third.  Turn off heat.  Taste for spices.  Add salt if needed.  The mixture should taste strongly flavored.  Add

3/4 cup full-fat yogurt.

The picture shows what the spice blend should look like before adding yogurt.  It will be like a thick paste and should be extremely flavorful but not hot (scoville units-type hot).  Add yogurt to achieve a smooth, creamy sauce.

I love hot and spicy sauces, but this tangy sauce better suits my daughter’s delicate taste buds.  I actually had to add even more yogurt for her to be able to use it.  Kids love to dip- here’s a sauce that is used on healthful vegetables.

I must admit that I’ve eaten this sauce with a spoon. Mmmmmmmm

Prep time: 10 mintues
Total time: 40 minutes

Taste [rate 3.5]

Ease [rate 2.5]

Vegetable Stroganoff

Have I touted the delicious benefits of Farm Fresh Delivery? I receive a bin of fresh, seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables every week. They offer a standard selection that varies by week; also, they allow for modifications and substitutions if you don’t want a rutabaga and would prefer oranges.

I love that the bin comes with recipes for using the stuff. For example, I had never eaten fennel, and the fennel salad recipe was simple, healthful, and delicious. I’m licking my own produce section.

On the negative side, you can’t pick your own items, so you may get an apple with a mushy spot. And I’ve found that the shelf life for organics is half what it was for chemically-enhanced produce. Also, the website for updating produce is not the easiest to navigate. Not only do I have a short window to adjust the bin, if I miss the window, I have no clue what they are sending me! Difficult for menu planning.

OK enough. On to the recipe. I was inspired by a bunch of things I found in my bin this week and some potatoes from last week.


2T butter and
1T olive oil

To a skillet on medium-high heat. While the butter foams, chop and add

One small yellow onion.

After onion has started to turn golden, add

One small bunch rainbow carrots (see note below)

One pound porcini or other mushrooms, chunked into quarters

Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until mushrooms have given up their water and all vegetables are golden. Add

3T whole wheat flour

and stir until mixture has cracker-y consistency and flour is turning gold. Deglaze the pan with

4T good red wine (I used cabernet). Slowly add

One teaspoon No-Beef stock base, dissolved in one cup warm water

1/2t black pepper
2t coarsely chopped parsley
2t finely chopped fresh rosemary.

Stir frequently. Once mixture has thickened (about 3 minutes), add

1/2c fat-free yogurt and
1/2c heavy cream
(I know, these two ingredients are an oxymoron).

Simmer until thickened. Serve over garlic mashed potatoes.

I had fun inventing this recipe. You’ll note that there’s no salt added. That’s because the only drawback to the No-Beef base is that it is a bit too salty.

The purple carrots add a beautiful color to a sauce that could have been brownish grey. Hey, Pasta Queen, have you ever licked a purple carrot? (I promise that’s not as bad as it sounds!!!!)

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 15 min
Taste: [rate 3.5]
Ease: [rate 3]

Spicy Roasted Vegetables

Veggies before CookingIt’s some sort of cooking crime not to have some sort of roasted vegetable dish in your repertoire. Easy and colorful, this packs a great nutritional punch.

Preheat oven to 450F (use convection if you can). To a large, heavy roasting pan, add

one red pepper, cored and seeded, cut into chunks
one yellow pepper, cored and seeded, cut into chunks
one very large or two small sweet potato(es), cut into small chunks
one large red onion, cut into chunks
one small yellow squash, cut on the bias
one small zucchini, cut on the bias

Drizzle generously with

olive oil.

Sprinkle with

2t kosher salt
1t freshly ground dried chili peppers
1t dried thyme (or 3t fresh)
1t freshly ground pepper
2 dashes liquid smoke.

Toss lightly using tongs or clean fingers. Place in oven and roast. Resist the urge to open the door! After 15 minutes, toss lightly to redistribute (I strongly recommend using tongs for this one). Roast for 10-15 additional minutes, until all vegetables have a golden hue to the edges.

The kosher salt draws moisture from the vegetables, so if you have time before cooking, allow the vegetables to drain on a cooling rack above the roasting pan. Drain and discard the juices. Try other root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, or russets. I like the sweet potatoes better for the balance to the heat. If you’re feeling ambitious, deglaze the roasting pan with white wine, add 1t cornstarch, and thicken off-heat. Pour over vegetables and serve with couscous.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Taste: [rate 4.0]
Ease: [rate 5] (if you make it, the pan sauce reduces the ease to 4 stars)

Fried Eggplant

eggplant_frying.jpgA serious fried food craving overtook us, so we succumbed. Our dinner of vegetables couldn’t have been much less healthful!


2 large eggplant (or a meaty squash such as zucchini)

into rounds about 1/2 inch thick. Add in layers to a colander; sprinkle each layer of rounds liberally with

kosher salt.

Allow salt to pull out water for at least 30 minutes. Shake excess water off of eggplants. Dredge in

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

And allow dredge to set for 10-20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat

2 cups peanut oil

to 375 degrees F in a cast iron skillet. Prepare coating by blending

1 cup coarsely ground whole wheat bread crumbs
3 T finely minced parsley
1 t granulated garlic (use powder only if granulated is unavailable)
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Toss ingredients to combine. Prepare each round by dipping in

2 eggs, beaten until slightly light in color

then dipping in bread crumb mixture. Working in batches, add rounds to hot oil. Flip after 90 seconds. Check color after an additional 2 minutes; if golden brown, pull from oil and allow to drain. Tilt rounds against each other so oil can drain well from top surface. Serve immediately with marinara for dipping.

Salting the rounds is imperative; without salting and shaking off the water, eggplant and squash are so high in moisture that they can become soggy when fried. I use an immersible thermometer to constantly read temperature. My draining rack (barely visible in the right side of the picture) is a cooling rack over yesterday’s WSJ.

The coarse bread crumbs give a nice nutty crunch. As I ate, I thought that two large rounds with a piece of cheddar would make a nice veggie burger on a bun, ready for ketchup and mustard and other summer condiments.

Prep time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes
Taste: [rate3.5]
Ease: [rate 4]

Happy Independence Day!

babaghanouj.jpgWe celebrated the all-American holiday by preparing mediterranean snacks and some yummy vegetarian versions of classics like beer brats, barbecue, and burgers.

All I made was baba ghanouj; I didn’t write my own recipe for this, as I’ve never made it and David’s a ghanouj aficianado. I used Japanese eggplant from my own garden (how’s that for a multicultural dish??). I used this recipe; the only adjustment I made was that I didn’t add any water. After squeezing the juice from the onion and eggplant, why would I add less flavorful water? Anyway, the crowd agreed that the dip was thick like hummus, but with nice, mild flavor. I’ll make the recipe again.
[rate 3.5]burger_shaping.jpg

Amy‘s shaping burgers in the snapshot. You can see Casper is standing attentively, waiting for scraps.

Thanks to Amy for bringing all the stuff and doing all of the cooking- I have been exhausted lately and it meant all I had to do was eat!