Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pepperoni Pizza

By the beginning of October, I was craving pizza. Not just any pizza, but an ooey gooey double pepperoni with extra cheese. I still was trying to eat healthier. First thing, I did not want a repeat of the vegetable lasagna experiment, so I used a marinara recipe from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian cookbook. Days before I made the pizza, I made the marinara. I froze what I did not use. That marinara lasted till January. 

Everybody in the U.S. has had pizza; my experience is a little different. When I was 19, I came home to Dundee, Oregon for the summer and started working at Ats A Pizza in
Newberg, Oregon. I was a pizza cook and delivery driver. I learned how to hand toss dough and make pizzas. I worked in the Pizza Industry for 4 years, two with Ats A Pizza and two years with an Italian restaurant in Newberg. For the longest time I could not stomach pizza with marinara sauce. I got free pizzas at both jobs. Being broke, I ate a lot of it. 

                          

Due to logistics of my living situation making my own dough was out of the question. I bought Mama Mary’s Thin Crust pizza crusts. There are two per package. I was working to eat healthier, so I went with turkey pepperoni and skim milk mozzarella. On October 3, 2015, I made my first pie. It was everything I wanted in a double pepperoni and extra cheese pizza.

Making it was simple. The ingredients were the crust, olive oil, marinara sauce, turkey pepperoni, skim milk mozzarella, and shaved parmesan. The first pie was a little over cooked on the edges of the crust. Still it gave me the salty melty goodness I so wanted. The second pie was perfect.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Honey Mustard Chicken

This is another family favorite recipe. I have no clue where my mom found this recipe. My mom introduced this dish to the family in the late 1980’s/early1990’s. That is the earliest I remember eating it. It is a fairly easy dish to make.

Typically it is made as a baked dish, but I can see it turned into either a slow cooker or braised dish. We tend to serve it on or with rice. As other side dishes, I can see mustard or other varieties of greens being eaten with this. It is a sweet and sour dish. The sweet comes from the honey and the sourness comes from the mustard.  
   
                           

It is a simple dish with four main ingredients: chicken, mustard, honey, curry powder. I do not see this working well with potato or noodles dishes. Rice seems to work best. The braising version would be to brown the chicken then add sauce and some water and braise it for 30 minutes to an hour.

I finally made this again on September 28, 2015. I used chicken hind quarters, drumsticks and thighs, due to finding them on sale. Thighs are able to stand up to the strong flavors of the sauce better than breast meat. I made them in the traditional baked manner.


Honey Mustard Chicken

4 lbs of chicken or one whole chicken cut up into pieces
1 cup Honey
½ cup of Mustard
2 Teaspoons Curry Powder


Pre-heat oven to 350.  Mix sauce together. Pour sauce over chicken. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Turn half way through cooking. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Lemongrass Beef

This is the third recipe I have made from Best-Ever: 500 Simply Delicious Recipes cookbook by Bay Books. Not sure of the origin of this dish, I thought it might be Indonesian due to the use of kecap manis, Indonesian sweet soy sauce. The dish consists of sirloin beef, garlic ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce, kecap manis, red onion, and green beans. It is to be served on top of rice, preferably a long grain variety.

I made this dish on September 25, 2015. I did not take off the top two layers of the lemongrass or only use the white part. Those two mistakes left some of the more woody parts of the lemongrass in the dish. It was a bit more chewy than needed. I did love the flavors and thought it could use some chilis for heat.

                         

Kecap manis has become a wonderful new ingredient to my cooking and the Best-Ever cookbook was part of the discovery of that ingredient. I have found a few possible solutions to the lemongrass issue. One idea is putting the lemongrass through a food processor. That seems to be the one I am leaning towards.


This dish had wonderful flavors, the citrus notes from the lemongrass and lime juice with the salty elements from the kecap manis and fish sauce played nicely. There was richness from the beef and herbaceousness from the green beans and lemongrass. Definitely, I need to make this again. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rick’s Vegetable Lasagna

I wanted to make lasagna, but I was trying to limit my consumption of meat. I remembered I used to eat an eggplant and zucchini bake that I bought from Schwann’s. It was very similar to lasagna with mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and a tomato sauce. I have issues with wheat and wanted not to use pasta, so the idea was to replace them with thinly sliced zucchini and summer/yellow squash. I also thought that I should replace the meat with sautéed mushrooms. 

                       

On September 20, 2015 I began my experiment. I used a lasagna recipe from the cookbook the Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian s a blueprint. I made a few mistakes in making this dish. The first mistake was I used a pre-made marinara sauce. It turns out it had way too much corn syrup in it. Since then, I make my own marinara. The second mistake was not blanching the zucchini and yellow squash. The third mistake was using yellow squash at all. Its seeds are too big to slice into noodle thickness. The fourth mistake was I layered it too high. The final mistake was not waiting for it to cool before plating.

The zucchini had not cooked long enough to be easy to bite through or cut. It was very soupy in consistency. Originally I had thought of doing it Florentine style, meaning adding spinach. With making spanakopita that same month, I decided to remove the spinach element. It had mozzarella, ricotta, zucchini, summer/yellow squash, marinara, and mushrooms. The flavor was spot on.


Next time I will blanch the zucchini for 2 minutes. Hopefully next time I will be able to use a mandoline to slice the zucchini. I used a peeler this time. I will use fewer layers. I will make my own marinara sauce, which I did in October when I made pizza. I also used the marinara with zucchini noodles. I made the zucchini noodles using the Veggetti device. It turns vegetable into pasta shapes. Overall it was a cool experiment. I did not expect to get it right the first time. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Spanakopita with Tzatziki

I do not remember the first time I tried spanakopita, Greek spinach and feta cheese pie. It had to have been sometime when I was in college or just after. I know by the early to mid 1990’s, I was making my own spanakopita with homemade tzatziki. I do remember where I had tzatziki the first time. I had tzatziki on a gyro at a gyro shop in the Centerpoint Mall in Oxnard, California called It’s Greek to Me. When I moved to Oregon, I found similar places in various shopping centers. Tzatziki is a cucumber, yogurt, dill, and garlic sauce used as a standard condiment in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.  
                            

Spanakopita, like mentioned earlier, is a Greek spinach and feta cheese pie. It can be made several ways. It can be made like lasagna layered in a large baking pan. It can be an individual hand roll like a burrito or egg roll. It finally can be made individually in a triangle shape like a turnover. In the early nineties I was using the Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors cookbook, but it was missing Greek, Italian, and Chinese cuisines. I found out Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, did a cookbook that included those three cuisines. It was called the Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome. I bought that with the intent to add those cuisines to my culinary repertoire. However it turns out I only made the Greek dishes.

The two dishes I made most from that cookbook were spanakopita and tzatziki. When I made the spanakopita I made them in the triangular turnover shape. I made it at least two or three times before I had my hiatus in cooking. When I came back to cooking for myself I started to make tzatziki on a regular basis. I ate it with pita bread or vegetables. In November or December I used my Veggetti device, it turns vegetables into noodle shapes, to make a salad inspired by tzatziki. The salad was cucumber noodles with a sauce of yogurt, garlic, dill, and olive oil. By October, I slowed down making tzatziki.


On September 9, 2015 I made spanakopita after over a decade. Unlike before, I used olive oil instead of butter. The darker parts tasted almost burnt. Other than that it was very tasty. I have yet to try again. The oven I am using runs a little hot. I may need to lower the oven rack.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Beans with Smoked Pork Shank

I made this dish twice, once in August and once in September. It was not planned by me. My Mom was visiting, so I was cooking for both of us. She wanted a pot of beans. She bought smoked pork shanks and dried beans of various varieties. My Mom used to make a version of this dish all the time when I was a kid. I never made this dish. It was scary and exciting. 

Growing up this dish was made with various pork products by my Mom and my Grandma Mac. They used ham hocks, salt pork, slab bacon, ham and so on. The beans varied, but they were either white beans or a medley. I prefer this to the canned pork and beans. I find those too sweet and too much fat.
                     
                             

First we soaked the beans overnight with a few teaspoons of ground ginger powder. This is meant to help relieve some of the build up of gas one gets from eating beans. Then once that was done, I rinsed the beans. To a slow cooker we added the beans, onions, celery, carrots, bay leaf, pork shank, garlic, basil, oregano, paprika, sage, and water. They cooked for 6 hours. The bones were removed and the meat shredded. The carrots, celery, and onions (which had be left in large chunks) was removed and put into the blender to be pureed. The puree was added back to the pot and acted as a thickener. 


The dish had the earthiness of the beans and carrots with the saltiness and smokiness of the pork. The herbaceousness of the onions, celery, and various other herbs added to the symphony of flavor. It brought back memories of sitting at the old table in the kitchen of my childhood home, a safe place where we ate this comforting warming dish. There is not set recipe to this dish, it is a bit of an improvisational dish.

I have made this dish with a few variations. In February 2016 and March 2016 I made this with salted ham hock. In March 2016, I added tomatoes with green chiles. In April 2016, I used a smoked turkey wing. I am not a fan of the ham hock, smoked or salted. The tomatoes with or without green chiles gave it a good flavor. I really enjoyed the smoked turkey. If anything I would make the dish again with smoked pork or turkey. They infuse the dish with a smoky flavor that I like. They also have more meat on them. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Pork Chile Verde

When I was younger in Southern California, I would order three things at every Mexican restaurant, preferably in a combination plate. They were a tamale, a chile relleno, and an enchilada. Some places I got more than one of some of them. By the time I was High School, I started straying form that order. Mind you, it is something I like to go back to. I figured there was more to Mexican cuisine than tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, taquitos, tostadas, chimichangas, and chiles rellenos.

                             
                                                Pork chile verde in the pot

During that time I tried the Chile Verde, Chile Colorado, Chorizo con Huevos, Huevos Rancheros, and Carnitas. In college and later I discovered even more: Moles, Pipián, Arroz con Pollo, Arroz con Camarones, Fajitas, Crema, Diablo sauce, Mojo de Ajo, Tacos al Carbon, Tacos al Pastor, Carne Asada, Sopes, Chalupas, Ceviches, Fish Tacos, and so much more. Chile Verde was another dish I would go back to regularly. Funny thing is other than add canned or jarred salsa verde to pork, I never made this from scratch.

On August 21, 2015 I made this dish. I found the recipe on the Food Network’s site. It turned out to be by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, The Too Hot Tamales. I own one cookbook by the team, Mexican Cooking for Dummies. Since most of my Mexican cooking was out of the jar, packet, box, or can, I thought I needed some basics. I started roasting the tomatillos and chiles around 6:00 PM, with all the breaks I took, that was too late. The prep took 2 hours, cooking took on hour, and the simmering is 2 to 3 hours. I also had to take a long break after chopping the jalapeños. I did not wear gloves and rubbed my eyes and ended up with chile juice and oils in my eyes. I also made red rice AKA Spanish or Mexican rice.

                               
                                            Pork chile verde in serving vessel 

This was spicier than I thought it would be. I think my Anaheims were actually Hatch or New Mexican green chiles. They are spicier than the Anaheims and they look identical. The store I bought the Anaheims from had both next to each other. I added both the Anaheim/ Hatch chiles and Poblanos, when the recipe called for either or. I served it with beans and rice. I still have yet to make frijoles from scratch. It turned out wonderful. The sourness of the tomatillos and the heat from the various chiles really shone through in this dish. This is definitely in my menu rotation. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hawaiian Chicken Teriyaki

I like teriyaki, a lot. In my family we make a version that is ginger heavy and not very sweet. My mom had a Pillsbury cookbook that had a Venison Teriyaki recipe. We used that recipe for beef. Why did we do that? I have no clue. It had a richer flavor to the sauce. This was a saltier Teriyaki.

                        
                                      Hawaiian chicken teriyaki in pot

Later I discovered sweeter teriyakis and the Hawaiian variation, which includes pineapple juice and sometimes pieces of pineapple. I do seem to prefer the sweeter teriyakis, even though I typically made the more savory varieties. The acidity and sweetness from the pineapple cuts through some of the richness of the teriyaki. I have had this in bottled sauce format and I have eaten the dish at restaurants. One of my favorite bottled versions was Sagawa’s. Sagawa’s sauces company was bought out by a bigger company and those sauces are no longer being made.

                         
                            Hawaiian chicken teriyaki with rice plated

Of course when I started cooking again I decided to make a Hawaiian teriyaki dish. I found a recipe online. I made this on August 17, 2015, I made the dish. I substituted honey for sugar. This recipe called for both honey and brown sugar. I increased the honey, but did not know it was not a one for one deal. It is 2/3 the amount of honey to sugar. It turned out too sweet. Plus I expected more acidity from the pineapple. I may need to use fresh. I added more soy sauce to offset the sweetness, but that did not work.

March 4, 2016 I made this again with a few adjustments. Instead of using drinking pineapple juice, I followed the directions and used the juice from canned pineapple I put too much soy sauce in it. Next time I will adjust that back to the original proportions. Other than pare down the soy sauce I was almost right at the sweet spot. I used much less honey the second time.


I served it with jasmine rice and coconut milk braised taro leaves. This is a dish I had heard of years ago. I found a recipe online. Uwajimaya, an Asian super market in Beaverton, sold fresh taro leaves. The recipe called for lemon juice. I may tone that down or remove the lemon juice completely from the dish. It gave it a sour after note. Overall this was much more successful than previously. I am going to try one more time then I will decide what I think about this dish. I think I will be happy on the third try. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stuffed Anaheim Chiles

When I was planning the August 2015 menu, I wanted stuffed peppers. However, I am not a big fan of bell peppers. I am as it turns out a huge fan of Anaheim chiles/peppers. They are a mild pepper, but they have a better flavor than bell peppers. I had been talking to my mom over the phone about doing a stuffed Anaheim pepper dish. My mom sent me a slew of online recipes to go through.

I chose one that has Mexican chorizo, onion, and cheese as the stuffing. It also is a baked dish. The Mexican version of stuffed chiles/peppers is chile relleno, stuffed chiles, which is typically the variety that is fried with an egg batter. Typically chile relleno is made from Poblano chiles. I love Poblanos, but I wanted to do something with my beloved Anaheims.

                       

I discovered Anaheims in the early 1990’s. Once again the culprit is my Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors cookbook. There is a recipe for Hungarian paprika gravy that is so heavenly. A key ingredient is Anaheim peppers. Anaheims are a milder form of Hatch or New Mexican chiles. Ripened red ones are referred to as California chiles or peppers. When I came back to cooking from scratch I used them a good deal. I put them in salsas chili con carne, soups and stews. I put them in so many different dishes.


On August 13, 2015, I made the recipe I described earlier. It is the Anaheims stuffed with Mexican chorizo, onion, and cheese. It is then smothered in enchilada sauce and cheese then baked. I have a preference for chorizo, Johnsonville’s chorizo. It has a better quality of meat, at least to my understanding. It may not be that spicy. That can be remedied with chipotle powder. My mom, who helped find the recipe, was here to partake. We both loved this dish. 

Kitchen Comeback Update 3

I made something I always wanted to make from scratch, well at lest the sauce. That was rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce. It was good, but the recipe is not the right one for me. I found another that does not use quite as many salty ingredients and I plan to use unsalted peanut butter the next time. My second attempt at Filipino pancit and my third attempt at Grandma’s zucchini casserole were spot on. I perfected both of those dishes, which is good since they are childhood favorites. I am glad I now have great versions to make from now on.

        Turkey breast  in guajillo marinade roasted in banana leaves

I bought two of the Hungarian sausages from the German delicatessen. They were a tad steep in cost, so that will be something I do as treat every great once and awhile. I got a little burned out on the hummus, salsa, and tzatziki sauce. I toned that down the last few months. I still have the fixings for hummus and tzatziki sauce.

                                               Pipián rojo de Pepitas

I did use the Veggetti to make cucumber noodles with a tzatziki like dressing, I liked it. I also used it to make cucumber noodles with tonnato sauce. I preferred it with the cucumbers. I made zucchini noodles with marinara and Thai cucumber condiment salad with cucumber noodles. The Veggetti is turning into a well used device.

                                                    Masa stuffing

I learned that veggie pizzas take longer to cook, otherwise they will get soggy. Last time I made Filipino adobo I thought the rice wine vinegar was too mild, I am going to try white or cider vinegar next time. When I made the zucchini noodles with marinara sauce they got too soft after blanching. I sautéed the zucchini noodles in the sauce as I warmed it. That infused the noodles with the flavor of the sauce and the zucchini noodles had the right amount of body to them.

                                                            Esquites

I was really happy with my first attempt at my own chili con carne recipe. I added chipotle powder, ancho, powder, and Hungarian hot paprika to the recipe. I also added more cumin and paprika to it. The second attempt I used the identical recipe. It was a homerun. Next time I may add some guajillo chile puree. I started making bean and cheese burritos as a snack or meal. I use beans, cheese, salsa or taco sauce and pickled jalapeños. I ended up buying two jars of pickled jalapeños in December. My getting reacquainted with chiles continues. I used to eat pickled jalapeños on nachos growing up, but stopped in the last 30 years. That is when my tolerance for spicy foods started to wane. The last four or five months I have really increased how much heat I can handle. I tend to get things in the medium range. 

                                               California roll nachos

I finally did a holiday dinner. In the past I have made it following either my family’s traditions or that of my ex’s family. This year I went with Mexican dishes or Mexican inspired dishes. I made turkey breast roasted in banana leaves with guajillo marinade, pipián rojo de pepitas (a Mexican red pumpkin seed sauce), masa stuffing (stuffing made from masa harina {tamale/corn tortilla flour}), and esquites (Mexican roasted corn salad). There were a few tweaks needed to prefect the dishes, overall it was a huge success. The turkey breast was very moist. Next time I will use a little less lime in the esquites, more stock or broth in the stuffing, and guajillos instead of ancho chiles in the pipián.

                                                      Salumi pizza

January had some speed bumps. I made a salumi pizza (pizza with Italian cured meats). The first attempt stuck to the rack. The second attempt stuck to the baking sheet. The third worked out well, however the edges were a little on the dark side. The fourth was still a little dark but I think I got it ready for next time. I made Puerto Rican arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). I was confused by the cooking direction and scorched the dish. Luckily I had enough to make it a second time. The second attempt the rice was a bit overcooked. The pegao, the crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pot or pan, was a tad dark, but my mom loved it. Third time, I hope will be the charm.

                                      Puerto Rican arroz con gandules

Since I started cooking again I have done the following family/childhood favorites: Quaker Oats meatloaf, Grandma Mac’s zucchini casserole (this one I perfected), 10 layer salad (a variation of Grandma Mac’s 7 layer salad), Filipino chicken pancit with mung bean thread noodles (AKA pancit sotanghon), Filipino chicken adobo, Filipino pork adobo, chile relleno casserole, Rick’s taco meat, shoyu chicken, and beans with smoked pork shank. I created my own chili con carne recipe. I found recipes for dishes I have loved as an adult: rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce, sopa de lima (Yucatan style chicken and lime soup), tzatziki sauce, roasted garlic hummus, picante sauce style salsa, pork chile verde, pipián rojo de pepitas (Mexican pumpkin seed sauce), tortilla Española (Spanish tortilla: egg onions, and red potatoes), Puerto Rican arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and enchiladas Suizas. 2015 was a banner year for my cooking journey. Yes, it was only 8 months of the year that is still two thirds of it.

The one thing I had missed with cooking from scratch is the constant experimenting. Be it with flavors or the cuisines of other cultures. I plan to expand my culinary horizons. There are other Filipino recipes other than the two I know how to make, adobo and pancit with mung bean thread noodles, and Filipino lumpia (AKA Shanghai egg rolls: a taquito sized egg roll), which I do not know how to make. I need to look into what else is out there. I plan to explore more with Mexican cuisine, Thai cuisine, Indian cuisine, Indonesian cuisine, Cuban cuisine, Puerto Rican cuisine, and so much more.


November 2015

Filipino chicken adobo with rice.


December 2015

Rick’s veggie pizza (marinara, mozzarella, parmesan, mushrooms, olives, green bell peppers, and pickled jalapeños), Hungarian sausage with mashed potatoes, quesadillas with chipotle powder, bean burritos (beans, green taco sauce, cheese, and pickled jalapeños), Filipino chicken pancit, rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce, tangy chilled avocado soup, smoked turkey sausage and mashed potatoes, turkey Polska kielbasa with mashed potatoes, toasted cheese sandwiches, zucchini noodles in marinara with parmesan cheese, Grandma’s Zucchini casserole, gazpacho Mexicano with lime and cilantro, cucumber noodles in tonnato sauce, toast points with tonnato sauce, zucchini in pesto, 10 layer salad, turkey breast roasted in banana leaves with guajillo chile marinade, pipián rojo de pepitas (Mexican red pumpkin seed sauce), masa stuffing, esquites (Mexican corn salad with roasted corn, cotija cheese, lime, cilantro, mayo, and Mexican hot chili powder), Rick’s red rice (rice, dice tomatoes, diced mild green chiles, guajillo puree, black beans, onion, garlic, and corn), Indonesian sweet pork with jasmine rice, and quesadillas.


January 2016

Quesadillas, bean and cheese burritos, Rick’s homemade chili con carne, California roll nachos, salumi pizza (salumi means cured or salted meats in Italian/ prosciutto, Genoa salami, capicolo, and pepperoni with mozzarella, parmesan, and homemade marinara), Puerto Rican arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), quesadillas tradicionales (corn tortillas, Oaxaca cheese, and Spanish chorizo), zucchini noodles in marinara, and Thai cucumber condiment salad with cucumber noodles.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Madras Beef Curry

This is the second recipe I have made from Best-Ever: 500 Simply Delicious Recipes cookbook by Bay Books. It was a very simple recipe. I have since learned it is more traditionally a vegetarian dish. The plan is to sometime make that version. I have made this twice with beef and once with chicken.

                               
                                               Madras beef curry in skillet

With the name and some research I found out it was based on various Indian dishes using the Madras curry paste. In India the vegetarian version is more common. Outside India the meat version is more common. The name was invented by British restaurants making Indian cuisine.

The first trick was to find Madras curry paste. I found some without additives at a Korean/Asian market in Tigard, Oregon called H-Mart. It is beef stock/ broth, tomato paste, onion, and meat. I substituted chicken broth/stock for beef when making the chicken version. It has a good low medium heat to it. I have served it with both basmati and jasmine rice.

                             
                              Madras beef  curry with basmati rice plated

August 11, 2015, I made Madras Beef Curry for the first time. I was surprised that it was so good. The acidic flavor of the tomatoes contrasted nicely with the richness of the beef. The curry paste with its complexity gave the dish a depth. At the end of August, I had to make something with some chicken and I thought these flavors would go well with chicken. I was correct. I made this again in October. This is definitely in my menu rotation.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Filipino Chicken Pancit with Bean Thread Noodles

Pancit in Filipino culture generally means noodles and there are a plethora of these kinds of dishes. The version my mom learned from Aunt Gloria was a mung bean thread noodle dish. Once again with the family’s wheat issues this worked very well.  It was noodles, meat, and vegetables. There were more noodles but still enough meat and vegetables. I have had this dish with a pitiful amount of meat and vegetables, and too much noodles.

The vegetables common to the dish are onions, carrots, celery, bean spouts, mushrooms, sugar peas, snow, peas, cabbage, bok choy, and broccoli. Not all of them together, usually 4 to 5 of them. The meat can be chicken, pork, turkey, and shrimp. Typically it has been chicken. Left over chicken and turkey works very well. When I was younger we would have a turkey pancit after Thanksgiving or Christmas.

                    

Mom used to say hers never tasted like Aunt Gloria’s. She believed it was missing something. When I was 6 or 7, Aunt Gloria and my cousins moved to the Philippines. When I was 11, they moved back to the U.S. As it happens we ended up stationed close to where they lived. One time we visited when Aunt Gloria was making pancit. She added something, that mom could not see what it was. Mom asked and Aunt Gloria tried to pass it off as nothing happened. Finally she told my mom that she would not like it if she knew what it was. It turned out to be fish sauce. Mom went to the nearest Asian Market and bought some. She told my Aunt that she did not care. We ate it before knowing and we would continue after.

I had never made pancit. I love the dish; it reminds me of my childhood home and good memories. I decided I needed to learn how to make it. My mom had lost her copy of the recipe. So I went searching online. I found a recipe that looked close enough to what I remembered. I sent a link to mom and she said it looked close enough to her. On August 8, 2015, I finally made this dish. The noodles were a little too al dente. I used chicken thighs and they worked out wonderful. I made it again in December 2015. This time I got the noodles right.


The mung bean thread noodles can be found at any Asian market. Another thing is they are high protein and low carb, as well as gluten free. This is a perfect dish for those going low carb. Vegans can remove the fish sauce and meat, use vegetable broth or stock, and tofu. This is a vegan fish sauce recipe I will link it as well as the recipe I found for pancit. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Quaker Oats Meatloaf and Irish Colcannon

This is the first recipe write-up where I present more than one recipe. Chicken adobo and Pork adobo were essentially the same recipe, but with different proteins. First is the Quaker Oats meatloaf. I rarely use recipes from various food products any more. This recipe has a long and storied history with me. This is the recipe my mom used. It uses rolled oats as its filler. Some meatloaves use crackers, bread, croutons, or bread crumbs. I like the oat or oatmeal version. Plus with the family wheat issues, it is just a better choice for us.

I started making this in Junior High, which is when most of my longest running recipes started for me. It is a fairly simple recipe. When I was with m ex, Barbara, we made meatloaf in her family’s recipe which used crackers, preferably saltines. So when I decided to make meatloaf again I wanted my old recipe. I made it on July 21, 2015. I glazed it with some catsup and voila my old version was back again.

                                 

When I was trying to find a side dish to got with the meatloaf I wanted a potato dish. I also wanted more vegetables than just potatoes. In my Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors cookbook I found Irish colcannon. It combines potatoes with leeks and kale. I had not made this before, and with how popular kale has become as of late, I thought I should give it a try.


I made it with the Quaker Oats meatloaf. I was missing mace, the spice, I found out use 4 times the amount in nutmeg to equal mace. That is also a cheaper way of doing things. All and all this combination was seriously tasty and successful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tortilla Española

Tortilla Española, AKA Spanish Tortilla is different from what most people in the western part of the U.S.A. think of when they hear tortilla. It is not the corn or flour flatbread. It is a variety of pan fried omelet. It usually consists of eggs, red potatoes, onions and garlic. It can be served cold or hot. I have had it both ways.

I was first introduced to this dish while I was going to the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. I found this wonderful place that did Latin cuisines called Hilda’s Latin American Restaurant. This began my interest in Latin cuisines other than Mexican. I had Guatemalan, Peruvian, and Spanish dishes there. The first dish I tried was the Spanish tortilla. It was a wonderfully flavorful egg dish.

                                
                                                            Take 1

In spring of 2012, I went to La Rambla, a Spanish tapas inspired restaurant in McMinnville, Oregon. It was my first introduction to Spanish chorizo, manchego cheese, piquillo peppers, and papas bravas. I once again had the Tortilla Española. Again the experience was wonderful. There is a version of this recipe in the Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors cookbook.

                                                            Take 2

On July 18, 2015, I tried to make my own, using the recipe from the Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors cookbook. At the time I only had two frying pans, one small and one large. I tried to make it with the large one. That was a logistical nightmare. It tasted right, but did not hold together. On February 1, 2016, I made this again. I halved the recipe and used my smaller frying pan. Eureka, tt worked wonderfully. The tortilla held its shape. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Tamale Pie

This is a dish I learned from my ex, Barbara. It was her maternal grandmother’s dish. It was a Depression era meatless dish. I tried to play with it and elevate it, but other than add a few more vegetables and added two to three garnishes I could not really change it too much.

Barbara had found her grandmother’s cookbook. Of all the recipes this is the one she wanted to make. I am not sure if we ever made it as written. I would like to believe we did it at least once. Me, being me, I think I did add the garnishes even then.

                             

I tried using masa flour, used to make corn tortillas and tamales; it was too dense and dry. I tried adding meat to it, picadillo (Mexican shredded beef). I also added mild canned diced green chiles. I garnish it with enchilada sauce, cheese, and sometimes sour cream or guacamole. With all my experimenting I may add a teaspoon to tablespoon of chipotle powder for added flavor and kick.

July 10, 2015 I made it for the first time since ending that relationship. Funny enough, except for the green chiles and garnishes, I went back to a more original version of the dish. It was a hearty dish, it is basically a cornbread styled dish. I felt trepidations in making it again and presenting it here. I have changed enough of the recipe to have made it my own.

Tamale Pie

¾ cup olive oil
¾ cup milk
1 ¾ cup corn meal
4 eggs
1 can or package of corn
1 can of diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon of salt
1 can of diced mild green chilies
1 small onion diced
1 clove of garlic
I 3-4 oz can of sliced olives

Garnish
Sour cream
¼ lbs of cheese
1 small can of enchilada sauce


Mix eggs, milk oil salt, and corn meal. Then add tomatoes, chilies, garlic, onion, and olives. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Bake for on hour.  Let cool, then plate and top off with enchilada sauce, cheese, and sour cream. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Filipino Chicken Adobo & Pork Adobo

Instead of having two separate entries for the chicken and pork versions of this dish, I decided to put them together. The recipe is identical just different proteins. I mentioned the three women in my life that influenced my cooking, my mother, my Grandma Mac, and my Aunt Gloria. My Aunt Gloria is Filipina. She taught my mother a few dishes from her culture. The two big ones were pancit and adobo. These two dishes were huge during my childhood. We would have one of them at least once a month.

The reason I call it Filipino adobo, in Spanish adobo means marinade usually with vinegar. It is found is various Latin and Hispanic dishes. The Mexican version of adobo is chiles that have been preserved in a sauce. The Filipino version includes vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaf, onion, garlic and sugar (I used honey instead). The kind of vinegar can be rice wine vinegar, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. I have never seen white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar used.  
                                
                                                           Chicken adobo

My mom used honey due to my issues with cane sugar. Growing up in a U.S. Navy Seabee family in the Pacific fleet, it was common to see Filipino adobo at potlucks. Not just adobo, but lumpia (Filipino taquito sized egg rolls) as well. The Filipina ladies would freak out about how my mom’s tasted like their mother’s or grandmother’s. They were surprised a Caucasian lady made it. They would ask my mom where she learned it, she told them from her sister-n-law. Then they would ask what she put in it. The honey was the key. It seems that their mothers and grandmothers used honey they gathered instead of sugar.

The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors cookbook has a chapter on Filipino cooking. There is an adobo recipe. The recipe has pork and chicken adobo together as one dish. This is not very traditional. People I know of Filipino descent agree it is either or, never both together.

                              
                                                           Pork adobo

I believe this is my first signature dish. I used to use powders instead of fresh garlic, onions, or whole bay leaves. I have been making this since at least Junior High. I have baked this in the oven. I have used a slow cooker with this dish, but my preferred method is braising the meat.

My version is a little different. Traditionally the pieces of pork or chicken are kept intact. I cut mine in bite size pieces. I also add a thickener, usually corn starch. The last time I made this dish before 2015, I had trouble. I used old vinegar, which is a bit stronger. I had to offset the flavor with more soy sauce, than originally called for. Since then I started using rice wine vinegar due to its lighter flavor. I have talked to friends who also make this dish. They informed me vinegar does get stronger the longer it sits.

July 5, 2015, I finally made it again. I used chicken breast and thickened it. As always I cut it to bite sized chunks. I like my sauce similar to thin gravy. My fear was for naught. It was excellent. September 13, 2015, I made it using country style pork ribs. Since coming back to cooking, I use roasted garlic for just about everything, including my adobos. I made it at the end of November of 2015. I used intact chicken thigh. To cut through the deeper flavors, I need less corn starch or a stronger vinegar like white or apple cider vinegar. I did shred the thighs to make them bite sized.  I always serve adobo over jasmine rice.


Filipino Adobo

1-2 lbs of Chicken or Pork (breast and country style ribs are the usual choices)
3 tablespoons of vinegar (rice wine preferably, but white and apple cider work too)
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of honey
1 medium onion diced
1 clove of garlic minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup of water
¼ of corn starch


Cut up the meat in bite sized chunks. Mix soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and water (I have been known to double the amounts of the soy sauce, vinegar and honey). Brown the meat. Once browned add onions and garlic. Cook till onions are soft. Add sauce and bay leaf. Bring to boil the turn down to low. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Mix cornstarch with 1/3 cup of water. Add to meat and sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over rice. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Russian Beef Stroganoff

In 1990 I found a cooking show that spoke to my interests in multiple cuisines. It was the Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors. I soon either bought or was gifted the cookbook that coincided with the series. In June 2015, I finally came back to this cookbook. During the early to mid 1990’s, I made the Russian beef Stroganoff. I cannot for the life of me remember what I served it on, either kasha or rice.
                             

According to the cookbook traditionally it is not served with noodles but kasha, a buckwheat groat. I discovered when making this again recently that the second most traditional starch to serve it with was rice. I cannot remember if I found kasha in the 90’s. I made this on June 22, 2015. That time I did not feel like wasting gas, time, money and energy trying to find the ingredient. I used what I had on hand, rice.

This did not come out as tender as I had hoped. I could not afford the beef tenderloin it called for, which is an expensive cut of meat. This was only the second month of cooking from scratch again, so there was a definite learning curve. This recipe was simpler than I thought it would be. It is only meat, onions, sour cream, mushrooms, olive oil, the starch, and parsley or dill for garnish.


It was very tasty. The richness of the beef was countered with the earthiness of the mushrooms. There was sweetness from the onions; I used sweet onions, as is my tendency. The sourness and creaminess from the sour cream did well with the other flavors.

                                    Russian beef Stroganoff with kasha

July 25, 2016 I made this again. I used a cheaper cut of meat. I braised it in broth for hours. I also made kasha pilaf. I accidentally used too much sour cream and cooked it way down. The kasha, buckwheat groats, was funky and had a great flavor. My mom was not a fan. I loved it and definitely would do this again. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Grandma Mac’s Zucchini Casserole

First Grandma Mac is my Grandmother McCutchen, my maternal grandmother. Her house was the first place I lived after the hospital when I was born. I visited her place almost every vacation I had lasting more than a day. My doctors were in Portland Oregon too, so when I went to those appointments I stayed in her home in Newberg, Oregon. She is one of three very influential ladies in my cooking. The other two are my mother and my aunt Gloria.

                  
                                                  First Attempt

One of my favorite dishes is her zucchini casserole. It is basically a crustless quiche, with eggs, onions, bacon, zucchini, and cheese. I have a recipe, but in that version there is sausage and green peppers. The recipe I have is also a microwave recipe. I made the bacon, onion, and cheese microwaved version on June 20, 2015.  The eggs were rubber and the zucchini was mushy due to blanching them too long. I blanched them for 10 minutes. I loved the flavor, but I had to change how it was made, the texture issues were bad.

August 5, 2015 was my second try. The zucchini was not too mushy, but still a tad overcooked. I blanched the squash for 5 minutes. I had beaten the eggs with a fork and did not think they were mixed well enough. I am not a fan of egg whites. Baking it was good, but I still needed to adjust the time. The onions were sautéed with the bacon every time.

On December 18, 2015, I perfected the recipe. The blanching was only 2 minutes. I beat the eggs using my blender on low for a few seconds. I do not want to beat air into them; I just want them beaten so there are no whites showing in the finished product. This version was what I was aiming every time I have made this.

                              
                                                       Second Attempt

My brother won’t eat this even the version made correctly. He could not stomach the mushy squash and the rubber eggs. Grandma pushed him into to eating it when he was not fond of it. Let’s just say the results were not pleasant for any party involved.  Sometimes after eating a bad version of a dish that version overrides any possible new better version in one’s memory.

This dish brings back a great deal of pleasant memories for me. Grandma Mac also did a great deal of canning: tomatoes (stewed and spaghetti sauce), pickles, green beans, and so much more. She baked as well. When I realized this had been always a microwaved dish, from what family members had told me, I was a bit disappointed. That is why I worked on to figuring who to make this with a conventional oven. Rubber microwaved eggs are something I am not a big fan of. The other big family egg dish is deviled eggs. It has been a while since I made those.


Zucchini Casserole

8 cups zucchini and/or summer (or yellow) squash
1 package bacon
1 onion (I prefer sweet onions)
2 cups shredded cheese (preferably Cheddar)
6 eggs

Blanch squash for 2 minutes. Drain water.  Dice bacon and onion. Fry bacon  until done Add the onions to the bacon and cook onions till soft.  Drain grease and put bacon and onions on paper towel. Beat eggs. Preheat Oven to 350. Combine all in casserole dish. Bake for one hour.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Indonesian Sweet Pork

At least a year or two before I left my old life, I received a cookbook as a Christmas gift. It is called Best-Ever: 500 Simply Delicious Recipes. Since I was not cooking from scratch I never used it till June 16, 2015. The first recipe I tried was sweet pork. It called for kecap manis, an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. It also called for shallots, fish sauce, palm sugar, cilantro, white pepper, and of course pork. Since it included kecap manis, an Indonesian ingredient I surmised it was Indonesian of origin.



I looked up Indonesian sweet pork; the commonly found name for this dish is Babi Kecap. Typically it includes a few more ingredients: ginger, garlic, red bird’s eye chilis, tamarind, and Chinese five spice. I made the version from my cookbook, before looking up the more traditional versions of the dish. I served it over jasmine rice. It hit all the right notes for me, plus kecap manis is sweetened with palm sugar. I have trouble with the most common form of sugar, cane sugar. Discovering a new alternative was wonderful.

                                                

On December 30, 2015 I made it for the second time. Once again it was a hit. Next time the plan is to try one of the more traditional versions of the dish, especially with my growing fondness of chilis. The Best-Ever cookbook is a British publication, so I was surprised at the toned down version presented in the book. From what I understand British love Indian cuisine, Pakistani cuisine, and the spicier elements of Chinese cuisine. Finding a recipe in a cookbook targeted to that nation with the chilis removed seemed unusual. Maybe the Author of the original recipe did not know of the British tastes.


Overall this recipe is great and has entered my culinary repertoire. I have yet to be disappointed by a recipe in this cookbook. I however have only made 4 or 5 dishes from it. There is no author credited and it was published in 2007 by Bay Books.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sopa de Lima

I made sopa de lima on May 14, 2015. This was my first attempt at the dish. Sopa de lima means lime soup in Spanish. This is a dish from the Yucatan region of Mexico. It is a chicken and lime soup traditionally garnished with fried tortilla strips or chips.





I was introduced to this dish back around 1995 or 1996 when I used to frequent a restaurant in Tualatin, Oregon called Cocina del Sol. It was a restaurant that served Latin, Caribbean, Southeast Asian cuisines, and a mix thereof. I was introduced to many dishes there from various cultures I never had before. I liked this soup so much I ordered it every time. It and the Mexican Chocolate cheesecake were only items I ate more than once there. I usually went with the specials not knowing when they would return on the menu.




With those memories, I decided to start with this dish when I returned to cooking from scratch. Cocina del Sol went out of business in 1998 or 1999.  I had not seen this on another restaurant’s menu since. When I made it the first time in May 2015, I enjoyed the broth pre lime. After the limes were added, it had too much of a lime flavor. I mean that I felt the lime overpowered the other flavors in the soup. The tortilla strips were baked not fried. I baked them with olive oil and lightly salted on them.



I made it again in September of 2015. I lowered the amount of lime juice and it had the right amount of lime flavor to other seasonings. I garnished the soup with cilantro, the tortilla strips or chips, and sometimes some cheese. Once I was able to get the lime flavor in the right window I was very happy with this dish. I also used bone-in and skin-on thighs instead of boneless skinless chicken breasts on the second try. The broth was more flavorful with the thighs.

This was one of my first major culinary experiments since coming backing to cooking from scratch. I was trying to recreate a memorable dish from my past. The first attempt was good, however the second I got it just right. This also re-enforced the idea that chicken thighs were a better choice, based on flavor and cost. 

(Author's Note: please excuse the low quality of these pictures they were taken on an old phone)

Here is a Link to the recipe I used as my base: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/203762/sopa-de-lima-mexican-lime-soup/

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Introduction

                                                Chile relleno casserole

Kitchen Comeback Chronicles is my culinary journey of rediscovery. I initially got back into cooking again for health reasons. I soon realized I loved it. I missed being able to be the mad scientist and experiment. Cooking to me was play and the food was my outlet to have fun. I  began this journey in May of 2015. For me cooking is a way of life and a part of me locked away for years. Between 2002 to 2011 I went from cooking from scratch to relying heavily on prepackaged and processed food. The longer it went on the worse it got.


                                                 Rick's chili con carne

In December of 2011, I left a bad relationship, one that had changed in the way I cooked and ate. However between 2011 and 2015, I had been dealing with other situations that made me reluctant to give up convenience foods. I ended up with a new doctor who wanted me to get healthier and my weight was an obstacle to that. From April of 2015 to the end of 2015, I came close to losing 50 lbs in that time.

                                                   Rick's veggie pizza

The first 6 posts here are dated before the launching of this new blog. They are from my main blog The Fumbling Forwards Blog. These are the Food-centric pieces I wrote. The Kitchen Comeback Updates will be mirrored in both this and my other blog. This blog will also include some in depth pieces on various dishes I have made, successes and failures, my history with a particular dish, and any planned tweaks to it.


                              
                                        Rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce

Some of the pictures I am using are not the greatest in quality. I was using my phone's camera, which is not the best in quality. I use what I got. My style of cooking gravitates towards Latin and East Asian flavors. I like to try new things and I like to see what works and what does not. There will be a few dishes with no pictures. Those are from an earlier point where I was not as good as I am now about taking pictures of new dishes. I also will not be taking pictures of the dishes I cook again. The plan is to also do opinion pieces about various subjects that are food related as well.  Stuff I felt uncomfortable covering on the personal Journey/pop culture blog since I thought it was too much how the sausage is made.

                                                        10 layer salad