Monday, January 16, 2017

Sushi "Cake"

When you have a friend that doesn't like sweets but you like to make birthday cakes for them, it can start to get a little tricky what to make. 
I've made her smorgastartas (Link HERE) and potato tarts (Link HERE) and, oddly enough, she loves apple pie so I have made her several apple pies. BUT, I wanted to do something different this year that was also super-de-duper cool. I knew she was a fan of sushi so I went looking on Pinterest for some ideas. FYI - never go to Pinterest to "just look around". You will look up 14 hours later wondering what day it is. #addicting
Anyway, I combined a few recipes and ideas together and came up with this pretty sushi tray. It was a big hit!

Sushi "Cake"

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp coarse salt
2 Tbsp sugar
3 cups sushi rice, uncooked
2 Tbsp mayo
1 tsp dried chives
2 tsp wasabi paste 
1 tsp lemon juice
salt & pepper
3/4 to 1 cup crab meat, diced
3/4 to 1 cup prawns, diced
nori sheets

crumbled nori

serve with soy sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, coarse salt, and sugar. Set aside.
Cook the 3 cups of rice according to the package directions. Remove from heat when cooked and transfer rice to a large bowl. Stirring constantly, slowly add the vinegar mixture until fully incorporated.

Let cool completely, stirring occasionally - you can place in fridge to speed process. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together mayo, chives, wasabi paste, lemon juice, and salt & pepper.

Let stand while you prepare the crab and prawns.

Mix the wasabi mixture and and the meat together.

Cut out the nori sheets into circles the size of the pan you will be using. We used a mini-cheesecake pan because the bottoms push up so you can remove the sushi stack once it is complete. 

Assemble your stacks/cake: 
Step 1: Place 1 Tbsp of rice into the bottom of each mini cheesecake pan. Press down firmly.
Step 2:  Place a nori circle on top.
Step 3: Place 1/2 Tbsp of rice on top of the nori. Press down firmly. 
Step 4: Place 1 scant Tbsp of crab/prawn filling down. Press down firmly.
Step 5: Place 1/2 Tbsp rice on top of filling. Press down firmly.
Step 6: Place a nori circle on top of the rice.
Step 7: Top with 1 Tbsp of rice. Press down firmly. 
(See photo below for steps 1 through 6)

Chill stacks/cake for 10 minutes before "unmolding". 
Now, you can push these out and repeat with remaining rice OR you can use a small springform pan and make a larger "cake". Simply repeat the steps as you did for the smaller ones but in the springform pan. (I used a 6 inch springform and had a bit of rice leftover. If you used an 8 inch pan after doing the 12 smaller ones your cake would be much thinner but would still work. Alternatively, you could NOT make any small stacks and simply make 1 large 8 inch cake.)
After everything has been firmly packed in, simply unhook the latch on the springform pan and release the cake.

Decorate as desired.

You can also have fun decorating the small stacks as well.

We topped half with chopped prawns and some nori.

And half with a thin slice of cucumber. 

I made this the day before and it sat, covered, in the fridge overnight. It was still wonderful. Same day would be optimal but next day works just as good! OH - except the nori and cucumber decorations on top. They could easily just be put on right before serving. The cucumbers looked a touch wilted and the nori went a bit soggy on top. It didn't ruin it by any means, just next time I would wait to put it on!
You could also sprinkle on some toasted sesame seeds. 

Angel (whose birthday we were celebrating) was kind enough to send me a photo of the cut cake. It just looks so cute! As you can see, it stays together very well, just be sure too press down firmly when you are preparing the stacks/cake so everything is compressed tightly. 
And, just an FYI - once the rice is mixed with the vinegar mixture and cooled it is VERY sticky. It helps to have a bowl of water to dip your fingers in before trying to scoop the rice into the pans.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mashed Cauliflower

I've been in the cauliflower rice fan base for quite some time. What I had never tried, oddly enough, is mashed cauliflower. To see it in the photo above you would never know it wasn't mashed potatoes. 
If you eat it on its own then it does have a cauliflower-ish taste BUT if you put a few spoonfuls of gravy on then *boom* exactly like mashed potatoes but nowhere near the calories or carbs. I'm watching my calories and this completely satisfied the craving I was having for a big ol' plate of mashed potatoes and gravy. 
You can fancy them up with butter or cream cheese - I didn't because of the calories it added - but I found I really did not need to add them. 

Mashed Cauliflower

1 med head cauliflower
3 cloves garlic, halved
1 Tbsp Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup red onions, fried

Break apart the cauliflower into florets. Place in the top of a steamer (or double boiler) with the 3 cloves or garlic. 

Cook until fork tender. 
Remove from heat and place cauliflower and garlic into a blender (or food processor). Add in the Parmesan and fried onions. 

Pulse until smooth - leave it a little lumpy if that is how you prefer your mashed potatoes normally. 

Place on serving plate...

Top as desired.

With some  gravy OR 

Some gravy and chicken meatballs!
I added the red onions (fried) because I found that the little colored bits in the mashed cauliflower resembled potato skins and lent to the whole illusion of having mashed potatoes. 
I counted this recipe as 2 servings - about 1 cup each - and, according to Myfitnesspal the nutritional counts are: 94 calories, 1 fat, 18 carbs, 7 fiber, 7 protein per serving. 
How awesome is that? And the gravy hardly adds any calories either - the gravy I use is 3 Tbsp for 40 calories. I had one serving for dinner then reheated the second serving in the microwave for lunch the next day. *perfection*

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Soft Chocolate Cookies (Small Batch)

I tend to go nuts when it comes to cookies. Not necessarily baking them but definitely eating them. Fresh out of the oven when they are still warm.... I mean.... don't even get me started. *Drool*
SO... due to my lack of self control I have started using small-batch recipes more often. That way, if I go crazy, the harm is still limited. 
This recipe makes 4 good sized cookies. That's it! Perfect for those of us who continually succumb to the magic of cookies. 

Chocolate Cookies (Small Batch)

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (light will also work)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking cocoa
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt

Toppings (Optional)
4 pecan halves
4 chocolate pieces
pinch coarse sea salt

Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 350. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. 

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Using a large cookie scoop (or spoon), drop the dough onto the prepared baking tray about 2 or more inches apart.

Bake at 350 until bottoms are lightly browned and tops appear dry.

Remove from heat and, if using the optional toppings, press a piece of chocolate and pecan half into the cookie while still hot. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. 

You can, of course, eat them warm. And don't feel too bad if you eat all four. After all, there is only four.... it could have been much worse.....

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Rajma Masala

Rajma Masala is a popular Indian dish consisting of red kidney beans in a thick curry. It resembles chili but with (in my opinion) much more flavor! 
I've taken several recipes from online and mish-mashed them together to suit what I had on hand. So... no.... this is not a traditional rajma masala but is pretty close. 
I served it with konjac rice - which is actually not rice at all but certainly has the look and feel of rice. (Lillooet peeps: you can pick some up at KC Health) If you are watching your diet (Hello! It's New Year's resolution time!) then konjac rice (and pasta) makes a wonderful substitute. I mean half the bag - which is about 3/4 cup - is only 15 calories. Whaat whaat!

For a serving of the Rajma Masala (1/3rd of the recipe) with 1/2 a pack of the konjac rice  it is: 
246 calories, 44 carbs, 2 fat, 17 protein, 15 fiber.
(For JUST the rajma masala - 231 calories, 40 carbs, 2 fat, 16 protein, 10 fibre)
How amazing is that? 

Rajma Masala

1 can (540 ml) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup red onion, diced
1 tsp ginger, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp chopped green chilies 
1 cup roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
pinch cayenne
salt and pepper
pinch coriander
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
1/3 cup Greek yogurt

Garnish (optional)
fresh or dried coriander

Place all of the ingredients - except for water and yogurt - into a large pot. 

Gently stir in 4 cups of water. 

Bring to a boil over high heat. 
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours - stirring 2 or 3 times to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
After 2 hours, remove about half of the mixture to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Return this to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for a further hour - until thickened, stirring every few minutes to ensure it doesn't burn. 

When it reaches your desired thickness remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes stir in the yogurt. Stir in well. Serve hot with rice. Garnish with coriander, if desired. 

From what I've read online, rajma masala is usually prepared in a pressure cooker or for 8 or more hours in a crock pot to ensure a creamy, tender dish. I've cut the time considerably by blending half the dish at the 2 hour mark. Again, this version is not a traditional rajma masala. 
If you prefer a spicier meal then throw in more green chilies or more cayenne pepper. As it is, it is fairly mild - which is how I like it!! :)
FYI - this is gluten free and vegetarian. You can make it vegan by swapping out the yogurt for coconut milk. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Baked Beans

Before now I had never made baked beans. Which is hard to believe because I absolutely LOVE them. Everything about them is just divine. Thing is, I know to make truly delicious baked beans you have to plan ahead and have a lot of time to cook them and I am more of a "start to finish in under an hour" kind of girl. 
I decided to give them a go because baked beans from a can just are NOT the same and I had a wicked craving for them. The actual making of the beans is super simple - like, no skill involved at all, but the result is so worth the time it takes to cook them.
Also, this is a great way to use up the ham bone from holiday dinners!

Baked Beans

1 lb dry navy beans 
(NOTE - I used "small white beans" as our grocery store doesn't carry navy beans)
6 or more cups of water
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
2 Tbsp prepared spicy mustard 
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp vinegar 
1 bay leaf
1 meaty ham bone

Place the beans in a pot and pour in enough water to cover them by about 2 inches. Cover the pot and soak overnight. The next day, drain the beans and cover with the same amount of fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for an hour. Drain the beans and reserve the liquid.
Preheat the oven to 300. 

Place the beans in a large, oven safe pot (or Dutch oven). Add in the rest of the ingredients - except for the bay leaf and ham bone. 

Give it a gentle stir to combine. Then add in 2 cups of reserved cooking liquid, the bay leaf, and the ham bone. Make sure to tuck the ham bone down in the beans. 

Cover and bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours. Give the beans a stir and add in extra cooking liquid if needed. Cook another 2 to 3 hours, adding more cooking liquid if the beans are looking too dry. 
At the end of cooking time, remove the bay leaf and discard it. 
Remove the ham bone and pull off any good meat, you may need to chop the bigger pieces.

Return the ham to the beans. 

Taste beans and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. 

These are delicious hot out of the oven but also reheat very well in the microwave or on the stove top. They make a great accompaniment to almost any meal, BBQ, even breakfast!

They also make a lovely meal on their own with some garlic toast on the side. 
They are very hearty and filling. 
Now that I have made them once, I will without question be making them again. Having the oven on for so long is perfect on cold, blustery days so making these all winter long is brilliant. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

eShakti Review

You're probably thinking, "What the heck, this isn't a food post!"
You'd be right about that. 
I am happy to say we are doing something a little different on today.
A company called eShakti (website HERE) contacted us and asked if we would be interested in doing a review of their clothing. We were given a product of our choosing for our time but, as always, our opinions here are our own.
eShakti is a clothing company that makes "Real Fashion for Real People" with sizes varying from 0 to 36W (how awesome is that?!)  And, even more cool, you can customize designs to suit your personal preference. Want a higher hemline? A lower neckline? Different sleeves? No problem. They customize designs for just $9.95 per item - customization is free for all first-time customers. You can order "off the rack" or you can enter your exact measurements for a perfect fit!

They have a ton of beautiful dresses but Sue and I are soooo not dress people. I decided to go with a Cross-Strap Cotton Knit Top. It comes in a variety of colors but I chose black for a classic look that would go with more of my wardrobe. 
I ordered it on the 1st of December and I believe it arrived on the 15th. The company is located in India so I thought the 2 weeks+ was pretty decent. The website said 10 - 14 days for delivery so it was pretty darned accurate. 

I'm not a sewer by any means but it seemed very well made. The material was quite thick and sturdy. To be honest I am used to softer, flow-ier material so my first impression was thinking it would feel weird when I tried it on. 
I tried it on and decided it was actually more comfortable than I figured it would be. My niece then came along and fell in love with it. 
She is my model in the photos accompanying this post. She wore it to her Christmas party with nude tights and heels, then posed for me here with white tights and boots. 

I love the thumb openings and the cross straps across the chest. 

Perfect for in the winter to help keep the hands warm! 

You can easily customize this shirt by changing the length of it, color, sleeve style, or the neckline. 
If you are a lover of cute clothing then I say hop over to eShakti (link HERE) and check them  out. SO MANY cute pieces to choose from. You can follow them on Facebook (HERE)  to read other reviews and customer comments. (Or, just google them - tons of bloggers have posted reviews about their experiences.)