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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tandoori Chicken

The name of this recipe is a little bit misleading since we do not, in fact, have a tandoor. We do have a nice outdoor grill, which seems to make an acceptable substitute. This is the overall family favorite for Indian food. It's also fairly healthy as long as you use low-fat or non-fat yogurt and trim the chicken.

The original recipe called for adding a bit of red food coloring, which does make the dish look more like something you would get at an Indian restaurant. We don't usually color our food unnecessarily, though, and we like the way it looks without the coloring.

As this recipe has evolved, we have started finishing the chicken in a vegetable basket that is designed to grill vegetables. We put the onion slices under the chicken. Both the look and the flavor of the onions when we do this is unbelievable. Unfortunately, we forgot about this innovation until the chicken was already in the house, so the photo shows the original cooking method.
Tandoori Chicken
1 teaspoon dry ground ginger
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup plain low-fat or non-fat yogurt
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
Blend all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until it's well combined.
2-3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, well trimmed
Pour the marinade over the chicken and stir to coat the chicken thoroughly. Seal in a plastic bag or container, refrigerate, and marinate for at least four but no more than 12 hours. Turn the chicken at least once to ensure that it is evenly coated.
Heat the grill and lay the chicken pieces on the grill about two inches apart. Cover the grill.
After about five minutes, remove the grill lid and turn over the chicken pieces; they should look slightly charred. Replace the lid and continue cooking for another five to seven minutes. Uncover the chicken, turn it over, and leave it uncovered while you cook it for another 2-3 minutes. Test for doneness; the meat should feel firm when you press it.
Garnish (This is our favorite part of the recipe)
1/2 mild onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut in wedges
Transfer the chicken to a large platter. Arrange the onion, cilantro and lime wedges over the chicken and seal the platter with foil. Let the chicken rest for ten minutes to absorb the garnish flavors. We also like to squeeze the lime juice over the chicken before serving.

Indian Baked Potatoes

Yesterday I realized that we had eaten rice every night for a week. We had many different kinds, but it was rice nonetheless. While basmati rice would usually be our preferred accompaniament for Indian food, I couldn't take another night of rice (I am amazed that I successfully lived in Taiwan for six months).

I started searching for Indian recipes that would fill up our rapidly growing children,use ingredients we had on hand and complement the Tandoori chicken I was making as a main course. I came across this recipe for Indian baked potatoes. When I took it out of the oven and offered Bob a taste, he said, "This tastes a lot more Utah Mormon than Punjabi." Maybe it was the zucchini. I had to agree with his verdict, even though I found the recipe on what appeared to be a fairly Indian site.

I made a few changes to the original recipe. I increased the cream cheese and other cheeses a bit, which may also have contributed to the Utah feel. The original recipe calls for whatever vegetables one has on hand; we had cauliflower, carrots, onions, and of course, zucchini. I think the only one of those that wasn't included on the original list was zucchini.

This is a pretty dish to look at and it made the house smell great. It's also fairly simple. The kids loved it, so I'm sure it will make an encore appearance on another night when we get tired of rice again.

Indian Baked Potatoes

4-6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and boiled
Juilienned pieces of various vegetables (I used carrots, onions, cauliflower, and zucchini)
2 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash potatoes while hot with cream cheese. Stir fry various vegetables for about five minutes in a small amount of butter or vegetable oil. Mix potatoes and vegetables together until well blended. Spread into a 9 x 13 baking dish and top with mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook on high broil for 2-3 (moving the oven rack to the second-to-the-highest shelf) or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Strawberry Pie

Strawberry pie is my favorite dessert. That may be because it has such a limited season each year. I look forward to it every spring and savor it while it lasts.

This is the best strawberry pie recipe I've ever tried. I've sampled others with cream cheese on the bottom of the crust and they are tasty, but the mashed up fruit in the glaze is what really makes this pie for me. I first acquired the recipe my freshman year in college from my roommate Dana, who I believe got it from Betty Crocker.

The same formula also works well with raspberries or peaches. My order of preference probably goes raspberries, strawberries, then peaches. But strawberries are a lot cheaper than raspberries, so that's what we usually make.

Strawberry Pie
1 9-inch baked pie shell (I am not skilled at crust making, so I usually use store bought. Store brands seem better to me than national brands as a general rule, and I can particularly recommend the Great Values brand from Wal Mart. And I'm not a Wal Mart fan)
4 cups fresh berries (about 1 1/2 quarts)
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup water
4 oz. cream cheese, softened

Mash enough berries to measure one cup. Stir together the sugar and cornstarch.

Gradually stir in water and mashed berries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute. Cool for a few minutes.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Carefully spread on the bottom of the baked pie shell; the shell can break easily if you get aggressive with your spreading.

Fill shell with remaining berries. Pour the cooked glaze mixture over the top of the berries. Chill for three hours or until set. You can see that we ate it this particular night with ice cream; it's a wonderful complement to the tartness of the fruit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


As a family, we are known for our appetizers. We are almost always asked to bring appetizers along when we are invited for dinner. We celebrate Christmas Eve with an all-appetizer buffet, and invite extended family from all sides to join us. We have specific winter appetizers--cheese balls, barbecued meatballs, all kinds of spreads and dips for crackers and chips. There are other seasonal appetizers, like deviled eggs for Thanksgiving. Last weekend we broke out the summer appetizers, including one of our favorites, bruschetta.

As one would expect, most Americans pronounce the word according to the rules of English, with the sch combination having a sh or ch sound. However, the actual Italian pronunciation is a harder sound, the same as the sch combination at the beginning of the word school. So it's actually brusketta. At one point in my life I spoke Italian very well, so you can trust me on this one.

As I finished making the topping on Saturday and ran it past Bob's nose, we both agreed that for us, this is the smell of summer.


Makes about 25-30 pieces

2-3 Roma tomatoes, finely diced

1/4 - 1/3 cup finely diced red onion

Up to 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil, depending on your taste

1 - 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 baguette, sliced in quarter-inch slices

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Grated parmesan cheese (I prefer a large size grate)

Combine all ingredients except baguette, 2 tablespoons olive oil and parmesan in a glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Brush baguette slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Broil for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned.

Immediately before serving, spoon combined ingredients onto toasted bread. Top with grated parmesan and serve.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


A couple of years ago we noticed strawberry plants growing in our flower beds, under the flowering crabapple tree. This was strange primarily because we had not planted any strawberry plants.

Later that summer we were talking to our neighbor, Mike, who is a junior high science teacher. He noted that he had strawberries in his yard (two houses away). They were delicious when they weren't totally bird pecked.

We thought about the birds who liked to perch in that particular tree and, well, put two and two together. Despite their unappetizing beginnings, we sure enjoy the strawberries.

Mom's Sloppy Joes

My mom got this recipe when she was volunteering at my first grade field day. I still remember her asking for it from one of the other moms who was helping out. I loved it growing up, and it's an easy meal that everyone in our family gets excited about.

As Bob and I have compared notes with other friends, we have discovered that Utah has its own unique brand of sloppy joes. This is it in its basic form. Bob added garnishes of sliced red onion and pickle chips--we tried bread and butter pickles tonight, and they were especially good. We almost always also serve the joes with barbecue potato chips.

Mom's Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T. yellow mustard
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 can chicken gumbo soup
2 T. catsup½ t. chili powder

Break hamburger into small pieces and brown in a medium sauce pan. Add onion just before the hamburger is brown. Drain fat from hamburger mixture and return to pan. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Cook on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. Serve on hamburger buns.

Marinated Cucumbers

This is a simple summer recipe that's refreshing and delicious. Bob requests it often; it reminds both of us of our grandmothers, who made it regularly with cucumbers from their own gardens. The longer it marinates, the better it tastes--up to a point, of course.

Marinated Cucumbers

3-4 large cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup cold water

3 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except cucumbers; stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over cucumbers in a bowl; cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours. Serve cold.

Almond Cookies

If I have a signature cookie, this is it. I got the recipe from a college roommate, and it is one of my most-requested specialties. They aren't a family favorite, but they are a personal favorite for both me and eight-year-old Anna. She requested them for her birthday treat this year at school ("Because everybody else brings chocolate chip.") When she saw me uploading photos of them for a blog post, she said, "But those are our special cookies! We don't want just anybody making them, do we?"

They are a little chewier (read: softer) than traditional Chinese almond cookies. We don't make them often, but we do usually make them at Christmas time.

Almond Cookies

½ c. margarine
½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
1 ½ c. flour
½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ c. finely chopped almonds
½ c. whole almonds
Cream margarine, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and almond extract. Add combined flour, soda and salt. Mix well. Stir in chopped almonds. Chill (Note: I don't believe that I have ever chilled these cookies in all my many years of making them, and they almost always turn out great. But if you wish to chill, chill away). Shape level tablespoons full of dough into balls. Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet; press a whole, blanched almond into the top of each ball. Bake at 360 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand one minute before removing from cookie sheet.

Zucchini with Parmesan

This recipe came from my back-door neighbor, Kari. She loves zucchini more than anyone I know, and knows dozens of delicious ways to cook it. This recipe is simple and relatively healthy as well.

Zucchini with Parmesan
(Makes four servings, so yes, I double this one, too)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds zucchini
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and cook, stirring every two to three minutes, until tender and most of the slices are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, sprinkle with salt and pepper; stir to combine. Sprinkle with cheese, cover and cook until the cheese is melted, one to two minutes more. Serve warm.

Won Ton Chicken Salad

This recipe came from my friend Yumi. She is Japanese, but I don't believe that the recipe is. It's delicious and a real crowd pleaser. We make it a lot for big family parties. This recipe makes enough for our family, but I usually double it because we usually only serve it for guests.

Won Ton Chicken Salad

1 small pack of wonton skins (cut ¼ inch strips)
These are available in the produce section of most grocery stores. Half of the package is usually enough for a double batch of salad. I usually cut them with a pizza cutter and then deep fry them in a small amount of vegetable oil. Cook them in small batches; be careful not to let them burn. Dry on a double thickness of paper towel and set aside. 

2-3 chicken breasts
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
Combine the soy sauce, sugar and water in a small sauce pan and add the chicken breasts. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low until the meat has cooked for about one hour. It should be shreddable when it's done. Let cool and then shred or cut into bite-sized chunks.

1 head of romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces

Mix chicken and lettuce and toss until well mixed.

Dressing (this makes enough for a double batch of salad)

2-3 small green onions, chopped
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted (I don’t think I’ve ever used a full quarter cup, mostly because I am too cheap with my sesame seeds. It works fine with just a very generous sprinkling. I also buy them already toasted.)
3 Tbsp sugar
½ cup salad oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar (I’ve used plain white vinegar and it works just fine)
1/3 cup soy sauce

Mix dressing ingredients and set aside. When ready to serve, toss in wontons and dressing with chicken and lettuce

Broccoli Cheese Soup

This recipe was promoted on CDKitchen as a Panera Bread knock off. I've only eaten Panera Bread broccoli cheese soup once (we don't have one locally, so I usually only eat there when I'm traveling for work, which isn't all that often anymore). I remember it being good, but don't remember it well enough to judge how close this recipe comes. We like it, though. It's a fairly quick meal and great on a winter evening. This recipe makes four servings, so I double it and then a little.

Broccoli Cheese Soup
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 pound fresh broccoli
1 cup carrots, julienned
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese

Saute onion in 1 Tablespoon of butter. Set aside. Combine 1/4 cup melted butter and flour using a whisk; stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until well mixed. Stir constantly and slowly add the half-and-half (this is called making a roux, or thickening base for the soup). Add the chicken stock whisking all the time. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper. The soup should be thick by now. Pour in batches into the blender and puree. We like to leave some of the broccoli and carrots a little bit chunky. Return pureed mixture to the pot ovre low heat and add the cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in the nutmeg and serve.

Taco Soup - The Easiest Soup I Know How to Make

This recipe came from a former neighbor who is a wonderful cook. I asked her for a copy of her bread recipe, and she printed off several pages of her personal cook book. This is a tasty soup; although it's not our family's favorite, it's a great quick meal that is done in minutes.

Taco Soup
1 pound ground beef, browned
1 large onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons taco seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 15-oz. cans of beans (pinto, kidney, etc.)
2 15- oz. cans of corn or three cups of frozen corn
1 small can green chilis
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes

Combine all ingredients and simmer 20-30 minutes or until flavors blend. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and crumbled tortilla chips.

Our Garden Grows

You can see that the girls' garden has grown quite a bit in the past couple of weeks. We've had a crazy life recently and didn't go over to see its progress as often as we wanted to. When we paid a visit on Monday night, we were surprised by how much had changed!

It's been unusually rainy here this month. Lou waters the garden by flood irrigation. For the girls, one of the best parts of having this garden is splashing around in the water (even though it's freezing cold and the weather hasn't really been hot enough to compensate yet). But Lou skipped this week's watering turn because there wasn't any need for it. It's rained almost every day, which is highly unusual for any time of year in Utah.

The girls were especially pleased because we actually had our first harvest of the summer from this garden. The radishes were ready! We also learned what happens when you don't thin enough; they mature, but don't grow very big. I don't think the girls even like radishes much, but they were very excited to reap their own harvest.

Here's Jenny with her radish bouquet.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The fruits of our labors

Here it is! The first produce from this year's garden. It is, of course, a perfect zucchini. There are tomatoes growing on the vine; they're not red yet, but we are eager with anticipation for the weeks to come.

We have big plans for what appear to be very prolific zucchini plants in our garden. We love them breaded and deep fried, although we realize that this should probably just be an occasional treat. We also like to roast the zucchini drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. It's also great grilled on the barbecue, again drizzled with olive oil.

Eating our way through Brazil

Last week my husband Bob and I were in Manaus, Brazil. Manaus is in the state of Amazonas, which, as the name would imply, is in the Amazon rain forest. Our oldest son, Robby, has been there for two years as a missionary for our church. We went to meet him as he finished his service. Our second oldest son, David, went with us. The trip was his high school graduation gift.

Of course, one of the most interesting elements of the trip for us was the food. We learned a lot of amazing things. A McDonald's combo meal was one of the most expensive meals we ate. One of the best meals was at a restaurant where we got meat, beans, rice and a beverage for about $4 per person.

This photo captures nicely some of the most fascinating aspects of Brazilian eating (although it unfortunately misrepresents the amount of fun we had; both Bob and David quite enjoyed this meal, their facial expressions notwithstanding). It was taken at a restaurant called Gauchos, one of the nicest churrascarias in Manaus. A churrascaria is a type of Brazilian barbecue place; you can see the spit with meat on it at the end of the table. The server cuts off as much meat as you desire, and leaves it on your plate. Servers come around frequently with a wide variety of meats (and, if you're lucky, grilled pineapple). We have a churrascaria in the city where we live. Bob and I thought it compared very favorably with the one in Manaus, in terms of both cost and quality.

Another unique element of Brazilian dining is the guarana. Guarana is a uniquely Brazilian soft drink that is based on the flavor of the guarana fruit. It's available in some other south American countries and, truth be told, can be purchased at our local grocery store. In Amazonas we sampled a wide range of brands, with each brand having its own unique flavor. I even discovered that there's an Antarctica Zero--sugar free guarana! It tastes the same as the regular kind.

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

There is nothing so deliciously basic as a chocolate chip cookie. Yet I've found that most chocolate chip cookie recipes are anything but fool proof. I've also found that the chocolate chip recipe that works at one house may not work so well at another. Could it be a difference in ovens? A few years ago we moved several blocks south and had to find a new cookie recipe. I don't think it was a climate change that made the difference.

So here's the cookie recipe that works for us now.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Cream margarine, shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well and add dry ingredients. Mix in chips and nuts. Drop by spoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for ten minutes.