Who moved my wok?

Two best friends, one kitchen, endless possibilities.

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

Kitchen mishaps.

They happen to all of us.  Losing a finger in the bruschetta, sloshing the veggie stock out of the pot, breaking a wine glass in the sink, forgetting the all-important ingredient in a new recipe.  You name it, it’s happened to us and probably most everyone you know.  Despite the fact that we generally only post the tasty-looking success stories that are borne from our kitchen, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into the mishaps we have, too.

Our poor tupperware lid bleeding green.

The night we made the soup posted just below this, Elizabeth went on a cooking rampage and made three or four whole meals and dishes.  No, we didn’t eat them all in one night, though I probably did enough taste-testing to constitute a meal on top of the actual meal we ate that night.  But I digress, this is not a fitness post about overeating.  Anyway, we had a lot going on in the kitchen that night: hot, cold, spicy, mild, pots, pans, woks.  Madness!

As we were putting the finishing touches on the Asian citrus cole slaw, we began to smell something burning, but we knew it couldn’t be the savory soup that was bubbling nicely on the burner.  And it smelled…plastic-y?  Now, to my knowledge, plastic isn’t a meat, but we still don’t generally cook it and eat it.  Upon further investigation, we discovered that the lid to one of our beloved large tupperware containers was indeed melting on the burner.  We had accidentally set it too close to the burner when chopping something else and in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, it got pushed closer and closer until it finally just couldn’t take the heat anymore.

Taking a bite out of crime...erm, tupperware..?

Now, our tupperware lid (don’t worry Nana, this isn’t REAL tupperware — it’s China) looks like we got too hungry waiting for dinner and took a bite out of it.  It’s ok though; we didn’t abandon it.  It still serves its purpose just fine…as long as we don’t use it to cover liquid or anything that needs shaking.  Oops!

Do you have any fun kitchen mishap stories?

Another winter soup.

That yellow pepper is starting to look a little scary...but don't worry, we used a different one.

Because when the temperatures drop and your body goes into hibernation mode, there’s no such thing as too much soup…at least not in our house.  This soup was inspired by the cold snap as well as the plethora of fresh vegetables in our refrigerator teetering on overripe.  It was also exciting because it was the first adventure with our giant new soup pot from Ikea!  (Ah, simple pleasures…)  As I’ve said before, we hate to waste food, so we decided to make something where we could use everything in our refrigerator.  And I do mean everything.  If it was a vegetable or semi-liquid, it went in.

 

So this dish began like so many others…come on, you know the drill.  Slice up some fresh garlic and throw it in your soup pot.  Let that saute as you chop up whatever other veggies you have in your refrigerator.  We used zucchini, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and a yellow bell pepper.  As those are being cut into perfect bite-sized pieces, you can throw some water and instant veggie stock mix into your pot while adding your veggies as they’re ready.

 

We then added half a jar of marinara sauce (which is totally optional) that we hadn’t yet used up as well as the rest of our tomato paste.  We didn’t have very much left at the time, and if there is one thing I would change about this soup, it would be adding more tomato paste.  It was tasty just as we made it, but I think extra tomato paste would have given it a little more thickness and a little more flavor.

Look at all those veggies!!

As those boil, add in a can of beans of your choice.  Today, we added white beans in addition to chopped basil, tabasco sauce, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  You can add more or less tabasco sauce depending on how spicy you want your soup, which I think is directly related to the outside temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

Mmmm. And yes, that is indeed a Christmas napkin. Never too early, I say!

Let that all boil together and give it a taste test or two to make sure you have the flavor you’re going for.  Then serve as a first course or a meal and enjoy!  The best part was we were able to eat soup for a week when we didn’t have time or energy to prepare a whole lunch or dinner.  Next time we might even freeze some, but it didn’t last long enough to freeze this time.  I’m pretty sure that’s a good sign.  🙂

Spicy-as-you-want-’em black bean fried noodles.

Recently we have received a few inquiries (ahem, complaints) from friends and readers (cough cough, tonight’s dinner guest) as to why our blog title implies Asian food when we’ve been predominately preparing dishes that are not Chinese.  So, to please our readers and quiet the critics, Elizabeth concocted tonight’s special recipe.  No it’s not part of the Iron Chef competition, but it still has a secret ingredient: black bean sauce!  And while recipes for black bean sauce abound on the the Interwebs, we happened to get ours already prepared from the grocery store, so don’t feel bad if you cut out a few steps and do the same.

Start by boiling some noodles; ours were not quite as wide as fettucini, though pretty much any noodles will work.  Once those are cooked, drain and put aside, but make sure they don’t stick together because they’ll be used again in a minute.  While those are boiling though, begin chopping up some veggies.  Tonight, our noodles are a bit of a green monster because we only used green vegetables.  First, we minced some garlic and threw that in the pan, because goodness knows we can’t make a meal without it.  Then, we thinly sliced zucchini, celery and green pepper and added them into the wok with a splash of oil to saute.

Nom nom nom.

As those cook, add in a dusting of ground ginger, a sprinkle of paprika and a few shakes of soy sauce to taste, along with the pasta noodles after the veggies are more done.  Then, we added in the secret ingredient.  We began with just one or two spoonfuls of the black bean sauce, but by the time it was all said and done, I’d say at least four spoonfuls or more went in.

WARNING: black bean sauce has the potential to be very spicy; I know from accidental experience.  So make sure you do plenty of taste testing as you go along to get your preferred level of spice.  We also added in some pre-cooked “beef” tofu to ours, which gave us some extra protein and texture in the dish.  Continue adding other spices and soy sauce, along with some salt, pepper and garlic powder until you just can’t wait to eat it anymore.

Langston showing off his juggling techniques...right before the apple fell.

Then, serve up next to your favorite side dish or alone.  We paired ours this night with the garlic stir-fried green beans, which were delicious.  And I think we satisfied our dinner guest and his request for Chinese food on the blog.  He even decided to show off the skills he learned in circus camp as a kid.  Yes, our friends are that cool.

Garlic stir-fried green beans.

Look Mom! I'm a big girl now!

Despite that fact that for much of my youth I refused to come near anything green, I now call most green vegetables some of my favorite foods.  Somewhere around the end of my high school career, I had a transformation and it has only continued since becoming vegan.  Luckily, vegetables are affordable and accessible here in China, so Elizabeth and I decided to re-create one of our favorite Chinese dishes that we usually devour when dining out.  And I have to say, we came pretty darn close.

These aren’t like southern green beans all mushed to pieces and they’re more flavorful than just regular steamed ones, too.  Just don’t make these for a first date…they are full of flavor and they’ll make sure your breath knows it, too.  🙂

This was the only photo I managed to snap before they were gone!

Start by chopping a yellow onion into tiny pieces and throwing it into the wok with a smidgen of oil and a few minced garlic cloves (see what I’m saying about the breath thing?).  While those begin to saute, cut fresh, whole green beans into 1-1.5 inch long pieces and add them into the wok with a few splashes of soy sauce.  You can also sprinkle some ground garlic powder and black pepper on for good measure.  We then took our soup pot lid and covered the pan with it to make the green beans cook faster and to brown them a bit for extra flavor — we try to be resourceful with what we have!

After a couple of minutes, remove the lid, stir and add in more soy sauce and pepper to taste.  Don’t be afraid to add liberally.  These green beans should be bursting with lots of delicious flavor.  Continue this pattern until onions and green beans are cooked and a little brown around the edges.  This dish would be delicious on its own or next to some hearty rice or whatever other dish you choose.  Just make sure you make plenty because it will go fast!

Carrot & lentil tacos.

Stirring things up!

I know we’ve said it before, but we really do love Mexican food.  However, we were getting bored making the same veggie fajitas over and over again, so Elizabeth concocted this tasty new recipe to spice up our repertoire of Mexican dishes.  It’s just as easy to make, but it packs in a little extra protein and a lot more flavor than our usual dish.

We started by mincing a few whole garlic cloves and letting them saute in the wok with finely chopped onion and carrots that had also been chopped into small pieces.  We sprinkled these with some cumin and a splash of oil to let cook.  After a few minutes when those were close to being finished, we added in a can of cooked lentils and pre-cooked tofu.  Sprinkle on a little more cumin and any other spice you want (salt and pepper to taste or tabasco sauce if you want it a little spicy) and let cook for a couple minutes until warm all the way through while letting the flavors mix.

Yum yum yum!

Then, spoon out onto a warm flour tortilla.  We also put vegetarian refried black beans and our favorite salsa into our tortilla and served it with our Asian citrus cole slaw for a festive and flavorful meal.  And don’t forget the chips!  🙂

Asian citrus cole slaw.

I love making such colorful dishes!

Now, this isn’t your grandma’s traditional cole slaw.  Those generally have too much vinegar or mayonnaise in them for my taste, which make them too soggy.  This cole slaw is more of a salad with its larger pieces, crispy texture and light and citrus-y taste.  And while it goes nicely with Asian dishes or eaten alone as a snack, I think it would also be delicious sitting next to a yummy boca burger or veggie dog, too.  Plus, it’s super easy to make, can be whipped up in no time and doesn’t require a food processor!

All mixed up and ready to enjoy!

To begin, chop up green and purple cabbage (maybe half of each head) into slightly longer than bite-size chunks and strips.  Set this aside in a mixing bowl.  Next, finely chop cilantro and peanuts and add them to the top of your cabbage mixture.  Then, in another bowl, mix up the dressing.  The dressing consists of  the juice of one whole lime, about 1-2 teaspoons of yellow mustard, one teaspoon of cumin (one of our new favorite spices), a splash of honey and a sprinkling of black pepper.  Stir this up and pour it over your cabbage.   Then, you can stir or cover and shake all of this together until well mixed.

This can now be eaten right away or stored and chilled until ready to devour!  Hope you enjoy!

Let’s salsa!

The main ingredient.

Unfortunately, our cooking is infinitely better than our dancing, but that doesn’t stop us!  However, this post is about food, particularly Mexican food, and man do I love Mexican food!  It’s something that Elizabeth and I have dearly missed since leaving the good ol’ US of A.  In America, it’s hard to beat; it’s affordable, generally with vegetarian and vegan options, and the most important part: free, unlimited chips and salsa!  While we have found decent Mexican options in Beijing, our favorite is not conveniently located and has no viable vegetarian options on the menu (the chef made something special for us when we went).  There are two other Mexican restaurants down the street from our apartment, one considerably better than the other for food and atmosphere, but neither has mastered the fine art of salsa and both charge ridiculous prices for it.  MADNESS.

Wanna see me cry? Chop onions near me.

So instead of being filled with rage at the thought of paying too much for mediocre food, we decided to make our own.  Success!  This salsa is SO, so good.  It’s not what you typically find in your average Mexican restaurant at home, but it is totally satisfying and feels so incredibly fresh!  And though it looks quite similar to our bruschetta, it has an entirely different taste and is perfectly paired with the lentil and carrot tacos (coming to a blog near you, very soon!) we made last night.

To begin, I chopped four tomatoes, two large and two medium-ish sized.  These tomato chunks were slightly larger than the ones I used in the bruschetta.  Then Elizabeth very finely chopped a yellow onion and ground in a light sprinkling of garlic powder.  After that, we added in chopped cilantro and several spoonfuls of green salsa from a can.

Finished and ready to devour.

Mix all of that up and give it a taste test.  This time, we couldn’t find our normal green salsa and found the one we used here a little lacking, so we added in some extra salt and more cilantro.  PERFECTION.  This salsa is awesome on its own with tortilla chips or added on top of tacos or fajitas.  It also works nicely added into tofu scrambles…that is, IF you have any leftovers.  🙂

Iron Chef Update.

Beautiful flowers Elizabeth picked up on her way home!

Last night we had the first round of our very first Iron Chef competition, and let me tell you, it was bursting at the seams with fun and deliciousness.  Our first Iron Chef Hopeful, also known as Blaise, who may henceforth be referred to as The Dancing Chef, started off our competition with a bang.  There was yummy food, good friends, poppin’ music and some pretty groovy dance moves, if I do say so myself.  Since our second round with our next chef isn’t until next Monday, I unfortunately cannot post The Dancing Chef’s recipe.  (Our other chef also reads this blog and might want to take a peek 🙂 )  I can, however, show you the rubric we’re using to score our chefs’ dinners each night.

The Official Score Card

Elizabeth took some time to get creative at work the other day and designed this fabulous score sheet, complete with the finest of clip art selections.  Each Official and Guest Judge receives one score card per Iron Chef Hopeful and fills it out before the evening is over.  Then, all score cards are handed to me, and I lock them away in a Top Secret Super Special Place, which I cannot disclose (we’re really into this, can you tell??).  Points are tallied after each chef has created their culinary masterpiece and then the winner will be announced.  Judges do not share their scores with each other or anyone else until the winner is announced.

I don’t know about you, but the anticipation is killing me!

Iron Chef: The Beginning.

Today begins the most exciting competition to hit this blog yet (not to mention the only one thus far).  What is it, you ask?  IRON CHEF.  Admittedly, I have never actually seen the show, but I can’t imagine it’s terribly hard to replicate. Our two contestants who will face off in the greatest culinary test our kitchen has to offer.  In this fight to the finish, our contestants will prepare the most delectable meal they can manage with the ingredients provided to them while of course, showcasing the Secret Ingredient.

Because of schedule conflicts and space constraints, our two contestants will go on separate nights, and neither will know what the other has prepared until the winner is revealed.  To keep an even playing field, each chef will be provided with the same Secret Ingredient, which they are notified of via text message on the morning of their Iron Chef destiny.

Elizabeth and I will be the Official Judges, occasionally garnering help from special Guest Judges.  We will assess each dish based on creativity, presentation, use of the Secret Ingredient and overall taste and appeal, among other criteria.  The winning chef will receive a prize and move onto the next round, where they will face off with Elizabeth.  The runner-up chef in the first round will then join me to judge Round 2.  This will be the first of a multi-part series, and we hope to continue the competition as the winter progresses and we find ourselves unable to leave our home.  All of the recipes and deliciousness will be documented and sent to you (via this blog) so you can keep up with all the fun and try out the tastiness for yourself.

With that said, ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?!

No-bake pumpkin pie.

I wish this is what Beijing looked like now.

It’s November, so it’s officially time to be in the holiday spirit.  Not to say that I haven’t been incessantly playing Christmas music since September, but it’s now socially acceptable to do so, as well as other wonderfully festive holiday-related activities.  Thus, the birth of our easy, homemade, no-bake pumpkin pie.  It’s no-bake for a reason.  We live in China and have no oven.  Sigh.  But that certainly doesn’t stop us!  So read on to find out how you, too, can create this delicious holiday treat.

Elizabeth bringing down the hammer...sort of.

We’ll start with the crust.  We loosely (and I do mean EXTREMELY loosely) used this recipe for inspiration.  Because we have very limited access to most of the ingredients we would usually prefer to use, we have to get creative.  You can choose which you would like to do.

We started with one roll of ginger snap cookies for the crust, which Elizabeth placed into a ziploc bag and then smashed into oblivion with my giant bottle of all-natural Chinese cough syrup (a.k.a., tar).  We then used regular ol’ pancake syrup to mix the cookie crumbles together and stick to the pan.  We went with the syrup because I really wanted to enjoy this pie, and as a general rule, I don’t eat butter or eggs.  So use your judgment to mix together the right about of pancake syrup and cookie crumbs.  You want it to be moist and stick together without it getting soupy.  Once this is finished, put an even layer on the bottom and sides of your pie pan(s).  Our recipe made two small-sized pans.

Now we begin the filling.  We used one 29 oz. can of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin that we splurged on at the foreign grocery store.  Then we used all the ingredients we had available to us.  A cinnamon and sugar mill, ground nutmeg and low-fat, organic vanilla oat milk.  We began with about one teaspoon each of both the cinnamon/sugar and nutmeg, and about 1/3 cup of oat milk.  Then we taste tested.  NOT ENOUGH PUMPKIN SPICE.  It’s not the holidays without pumpkin spice flavor and China is sorely lacking this.  So then we added cinnamon and sugar until our arms were sore from turning the mill, and about 1/3 cup of pure granulated sugar.  While it’s not Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice, it’s pretty darn close, and it’s delicious.

The last bit of crust before it was devoured sans filling, mmm.

Our pre-freezer pies!

Once this was ready, we spooned half into each pie pan and put it in the freezer.  This morning we took it out of the freezer to thaw, and tonight, we will enjoy it after our delicious chili dinner.  🙂

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