Who moved my wok?

Two best friends, one kitchen, endless possibilities.

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.  🙂

Mmm, mmm, chilly. I mean, chili.

Our awesome new winter hats!

You know what I mean!  Ok, it’s cold here.  Not nearly as bad as it’s going to be in a month or so, but it’s cold.  And what’s worse is it’s colder inside than out sometimes.  Our apartment is like a freezer and we still have 12 more days to go before the government turns the heat back on.  Gotta love China.  Our solution to keeping warm?  Buying wine in bulk.  (Seriously, the wine store folks know us now.  I think we’d be embarrassed if we weren’t so proud.)  Oh yeah, and making delicious, hearty, slightly spicy, vegan chili.  Hey, I’d say it’s worth a try even if you’re not searching for warmth.

To start, we used some of our favorite “ground beef” tofu (you can use protein crumbles if you’re in America — I like Smart Ground veggie protein crumbles) with chopped onions, fresh garlic, chopped red pepper (ours were a little hot) and ground black pepper.  Throw these things in the bottom of your soup pot with a tiny splash of oil to begin to saute.  Once these are cooking, add some water to the mix; we filled our pot about 1/3 full with water.  Be careful not to use too much water though, or you’ll be having soup instead of chili.

Then, add in the rest of your veggies.  We used one can of whole kernel corn, one can of red kidney beans, one can of stewed tomatoes, one whole carrot (chopped), three whole, medium-sized potatoes (chopped), about half a large zucchini, and one whole chopped tomato.  After that, pour in your hot sauce.  We used about 1/4 of our bottle, which gave a mild spice to our chili.  However, if you are sensitive to spice you can leave it out or add less, and of course if you are a hot sauce champion, feel free to add until smoke comes out of your ears.

Mmm, mmm, chili.

Let all of this come to a nice boil on the stove and cover with your soup pot lid.  If you feel like you have too much water in yours still, you can let your chili boil uncovered to cook down some of the water.

After this has simmered a while, feel free to dig in!  We had ours with a couple of slices of our favorite baguette and it was exactly what we needed to satisfy our hunger and keep us warm.  🙂

Sidenote: I apologize for the lack of photos on this one; all of the ‘during’ photos refused to upload. I’ll try again later, but at least you have the finished product!

Asian “beef” and potatoes.

Hot and ready to eat, mmm. (Forgive the glare)

While we love our Asian food over here, we still miss our old American standards, and nothing says classic home-cookin’ like beef and potatoes.  Don’t worry, folks, we didn’t use actual beef here; I’m still vegan.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that while China lacks vegetarian meat substitutes like we have in America (i.e., soy nuggets, boca burgers, etc.), they have so many varieties of tofu!  And I’m not talking about your average, white block of tofu here, either.  Some of it looks more like chicken with a lighter taste and texture, some looks like ground beef (great for chili and “bolognese” sauce) and some of it looks and tastes like a sort of beef brisket.  This, my friends, is what gave us the inspiration for our Asian beef and potatoes.  Well, that and the cloves of fresh garlic and the bright, crunchy green beans begging to be devoured.

If you’re using this recipe in America, feel free to use whatever meat substitute you have available there.  In addition to this, you’ll need whole potatoes, green beans and other fresh veggies (we also used zucchini), a couple of whole garlic cloves, black pepper and soy sauce.  Start by chunking your potatoes into bite-sized pieces and throw them into the wok with water almost reaching the top of them.  Let the potatoes come to a boil and cook until they’re just a little soft.  Because they take longer to cook, they need a head start, but they will be sauteed more with the other veggies, so you don’t want them overdone.

Fresh garlic!

After your potatoes are ready, drain the water and add in a little oil, along with your chopped green beans and other vegetables.  Also add in your finely chopped garlic.  As Elizabeth showed me, you can remove the garlic shell by smashing it with the flat side of your knife before chopping it up.  You could also use a garlic press if you have one handy.  We used 2-3 cloves in our recipe, but we really love the flavor of garlic.  You can use however much you like.

 

 

All of our ingredients simmering.

After you have all of this, splash in some soy sauce to taste.  Not to give away our secret, but this, along with the black pepper, is what helps to give this dish the Asian twist.  When your vegetables are mostly cooked, add in the tofu.  If your tofu or meat-substitute is not pre-cooked, you should add it in earlier with the veggies, but ours is pre-cooked, so it only needs to warm and mix with the other flavors.

Our favorite dinner companion.

Let this simmer until all warm (maybe 2-4 minutes) and then remove from heat.  Serve with rice or alone, and with your favorite beverage (we’re very into red wine here 🙂 ) and enjoy the unique blend of American tradition with Asian flavor!

Simply delicious bruschetta.

The first time Elizabeth made this bruschetta for me, I was floored by the fact that something so tasty and distinctly Italian could be replicated in our very own kitchen, without the help of our favorite Italian delivery restaurant.  I was floored again the next time we had this bruschetta as she taught me how to make it.  It is so incredibly simple!  And though it’s technically supposed to be an appetizer or side dish, sometimes I would just prefer to fill up on it.  It’s delicious and satisfying without being too heavy.  Not to overuse this word, but YUM.

Don't lose a finger!

So here is what you need: tomatoes, a little oil, garlic (fresh and/or powder), finely chopped onion, salt and basil (again, fresh or packaged chopped basil is fine).  First, chop the tomatoes into small cubes or chunks.  Depending on how much you want to make, you can use more or less tomatoes.  Three to four medium-sized tomatoes makes enough for 2-4 people, but if we’re having friends over, I’ll use more because we really like this stuff.  Then, add in chopped basil leaves, some finely chopped onion (this should be significantly smaller than your tomato chunks), a small splash of oil (you don’t want too much liquid in it since the tomatoes already have a lot), and salt and garlic to taste.

The end result.

This recipe is really done by eyeballing, so you can use our photo of the finished product to gauge how much basil and onion you should use in yours.  If you’re using fresh basil leaves, we recommend using several stems of the plant.  Otherwise, your bruschetta will just taste like salty, garlicy tomatoes, which is delicious but missing the point.  And fresh basil smells amazing, so it’s nice to have around.

Once finished, serve up on a sliced baguette before or with your meal.  We also like to use leftover bruschetta for extra flavor in tofu scrambles the next day.  No food goes to waste here!

Best winter soup, ever.

Winter here is scarier than 1930s gangsters chasing us.

We’re preparing to hunker down and hibernate for winter here in Beijing, so we thought it was time for a delicious, hearty winter soup.  A twist on Italian wedding/lentil soup, this creation kicks with flavor and sticks to your bones to boot, so as the temperatures drop and we barricade ourselves inside for the next four months, we hope you’ll enjoy this soup as much as we did.

We ended up not using the spinach, but it could have been a nice addition.

As with most of our dishes, you can throw in whatever veggies you have lying around.  On this day, we happened to have celery, carrots, (a mildly hot) red pepper, lentils and cauliflower.  We wanted potatoes or something starchy to anchor this soup, but we were out of potatoes so we decided the cauliflower would be a nice substitute.  That is, until about halfway through the prep I went sniffing around the refrigerator to discover some cooked, undressed, rotini pasta noodles that I had made and not used all of earlier in the week.  So naturally, in they went.

The ingredients lineup.

To start, throw the chopped celery, carrots, and red pepper into your soup pot with a half a tablespoon of oil to begin to saute.  After about 3 to 5 minutes, add 4 cups of water (our soup pot is small — until tonight when we go to Ikea!!) with 1.5-2 tablespoons of instant veggie stock mix (or 1 veggie bullion cube).  Then throw in one tablespoon ground black pepper, salt to taste, two to three tablespoons of tomato paste, two table spoons of ground garlic powder and a sprinkle of thyme.  Then add one can of cooked lentils and your cauliflower.

This will all need to come to a boil, so let cook for about 30 minutes.  After it comes to a boil, add in the cooked pasta and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

This soup is so savory and filling, it needs no garnish.  Just a big spoon.  So sit down by the fireplace (or room of candles since we have no fireplace), turn on your favorite movie, and enjoy!

YUM.

Pad Thai Fusion.

Our beach. I want to go back.

After eating delicious Thai food on a beach for a week in Koh Samui, we became obsessed with Thai noodles, but none of the Thai restaurants in Beijing could even come close to what we had experienced in their motherland.  Savoring the tastes and flavors we devoured and committing them to memory, we (ahem, Elizabeth) wracked her brain and scoured the Internet to come up with a recipe that would be an ode to our favorites from the island while putting her own twist on it.  Thus, Pad Thai Fusion was born.  This particular version of it is a bit of a combination of two other noodles we have made before, and I think it’s the best one yet.  Prepare yourselves for some deliciousness.  ALLERGY WARNING: THIS CONTAINS PEANUTS AND PEANUT BUTTER.  I’m talking to you, Amy Dobrzynski.  Please make adjustments if you have allergies or other aversions to nuts; this recipe can be just as delicious with less of the nuts and more of the other stuff.

First, boil noodles.  Any noodles.  We buy noodles from our Chinese grocery store, so we can’t actually read what kind they are, but they are flat and about the width of fettucini.  Put these noodles aside, and maybe run some water over them so they don’t stick.  Then, bring out the wok to saute the veggies.  Use whatever vegetables you have fresh and available.  In ours, we used broccoli, carrots, snap peas, red peppers, green peppers and of course, bean sprouts, because what is Pad Thai (Fusion) without bean sprouts.

Throw those veggies, minus the bean sprouts, in the wok with a smidgen of oil, half a teaspoon of garlic powder and two tablespoons of soy sauce to begin cooking.  Then,whip up the peanut sauce, which consists of 2-3 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter with hot water to dissolve it.  After 5-7 minutes of cooking the veggies, add in the noodles, the peanut sauce and more soy sauce if you want.  Let these all cook together for another 3-5 minutes, and during the last minute, throw in the bean sprouts.

I love this dish because it’s packed with tons of colorful, good-for-you veggies and bursting with flavor.  It balances the nutty, full flavor of the peanut butter sauce with the savory soy sauce and the tang of the citrus, coming together for a delectable treat you will love.  It isn’t your traditional pad thai, but it sure is tasty!  Serve up in a nice little bowl, garnished with chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, and any kind of citrus wedge.  Prepare to eat until you’re in a food coma.  YUM.

Sooo yummy!

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