A food world devoted to the young chef and those young at heart

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Cucurbit Convention

I’ve figured it out. In the year 1623, the pilgrim mothers and Wampanoag wives convened for a conference, one whose goal would one day effect mothers and children everywhere and solve the qualms centuries upon centuries of homemakers had faced: how to get their sons, daughters and, perhaps even, husbands to eat their vegetables. These brilliant females studied the data and debated the psychology, they tested, they trialed, they erred and just when there seemed to be no resolution in sight a young mother by the name of Libby™ hatched a scheme, the scheme to end all schemes. The forum, more accurately known as the Cucurbit Convention, planned to hold a fantastic feast. A meal composed of copious amounts of slow-roasted turkey, rich and hardy stuffing, fluffy bread and butter laden mashed potatoes. Each dish would entice, each dish would distract as the women skillfully intermingled their children’s plates with celery, carrots, green beans, cranberries and, most impressively, brussel sprouts. The dinner went better than ever could have been dreamed, every man, boy and girl smiled as they gobbled down their disguised nutrition but the real test was yet to come. Here the Cucurbit Convention would truly prove their mastery; they had concocted a dessert so eye appealing, so mouthwatering, so scrumptious, that once presented the attendees of the meal could hardly sit still. The pie of browned orange, dusted with cinnamon and covered in CoolWhip, the first and most nutritious dessert ever created, Pumpkin Pie was served, devoured and approved. The women had done their duty; they had given future mothers a reason to give thanks: they gave families the ability to use vegetables in dessert and by doing so opened the doors to thousands of Betty Crockers to come. The feast of Thanksgiving thus gives thanks to the invention and establishment these brave women made: pumpkin in dessert.

Hey, don’t look at me like that. That is all true!..mostly...kinda...Fine.
Whether you believe the history or not, I adore pumpkin in dessert and am going to share with you all this week:

Pumpking Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Cinnamon
yeilds 24, more or less

• 2 cups flour

• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp coarse salt
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground ginger
• ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 sticks melted butter (cooled)
• 4 eggs (beaten)
• 1 can of pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pan with liners of spray and set aside.

In a small to medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, butter and eggs.

Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and stir until combined. Add pumpkin and stir until combined.

 Pour batter ¾ full into cupcake pan (a little more or less depending)

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack (if frosting, allowed to cool completely)

If frosting here is a pretty good recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/282948/cream-cheese-frosting

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How to warm up a morning...

      Waking up early to a cold dark kitchen with the drowsy of sleep still on my mind I shuffle through the stained recipe sheets piled in the cabinet until I found it. The perfect ratio of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs whipped together, transformed into edible joy: banana streusel muffins. They are my favorite gift to give as they scream/seductively whisper deliciousness to all those they meet. Moist crumbles of pillow-y cake texture under crisp sweet brown sugar and caramelized butter, how could they not bring a smile and brightness to anyone’s day?
     Now the secret to the perfect banana bread or muffin or cake or whatever is the banana itself. It is next to impossible to make these things spontaneously; usually these treats are made out of desperation to rid the kitchen counter of the browning-black fruits. In order to avoid begrudgingly made baked goods (no one wants to enjoy dessert made out of necessity rather than pleasure) freezing the bananas is the solution and, as it turns out, the only way to bake banana treats in general. By freezing them you do two things:
      1) You preserve the banana flavor while it is at its peek, the darker and more grotesque looking they appear, the better. For as the fruits ripen they develop more sugars, essential flavoring to your bread or muffins.
      2) As the bananas are thawed they release yummy banana-y liquid vital to establishing moisture of crumb and flavor.

 Banana Sugar Crumb Muffins
12 regular sized muffins

• 1 ½ cups flour
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• 3 frozen bananas or 1 cup thawed overnight or microwaved and mashed
• ½ cup sugar
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/3 cup melted butter

• 1/3 cup brown sugar
• 2 tbsp flour
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon
• 1 tbsp butter (room temp)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease regular sized muffin pan or line with cupcake papers.
In a large bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a smaller bowl mix together bananas, sugar, brown sugar, egg and melted butter.
Combine wet ingredients into the dry, stir until just combined and moistened (don’t over work the batter).
Spoon the batter into the muffin pan approximately 2/3rds of the way full.

In a separate bowl, crumble together the last 4 ingredients with your hands into a coarse meal. Sprinkle this crumb topping onto the awaiting muffins.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and batter free (moist crumbs are okay).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The First Step is Acceptance…

Its been going on a majority of my life…this addiction…and I feel I must now confess it to you all before the problem gets any worse: I am an Asian food junkie. I know, I know it’s not healthy to be obsessed but I just can’t help it! Whether it’s Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Eastern Chinese, Japanese, Korean- I adore and am captivated by it all. The flavors are so warm and fresh, interesting and unique, wonderful and just plain fab-tab-ulous! From ginger to lemon grass, kimchi to sriracha, soy to fish sauce, black bean paste to sesame oil- it’s all too wonderfully overwhelming!!! *goes into a minor food pondering coma*

Sorry about that, but you get the point I love Asian cuisine. Others may be a little weary for me, my roommate at camp confessed her fears that I was in actuality a Chinese woman trapped inside a skinny German teenage body…But at least I know I have a problem…right? Now I can work on getting over the addiction; perhaps over indulgence is the answer…yeah…I’ll just make so much Asian food I get sick of it…that should work!-No? You disagree? Too bad, I’m doing it anyway :)

So this week’s recipe:

Ginger-Soy Tilapia and Stir-Fry
Serves 3-4

• 3-4 frozen Tilapia fish fillets (or any white fish)
• 2 tsp and 1 tbsp diced ginger (separated)
• ¼ cup soy sauce
• Red and black pepper
• 1 tsp garlic chili paste aka sriracha
• ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
• ½ tsp honey
• ¼- ½ head of cabbage (cut into shreds)
• 1 can of bean-sprouts (drained and rinsed)
• ½ cup julienned carrots
• 1 cup sliced mushrooms
• ½ large onion (diced)
• 2 cloves garlic (diced)
• ½ cup summer squash cut into ½ in strips

(substitute any veggies you see fit, broccoli is always wonderful, water chestnuts, baby corns, eggplant, peas, etc)

The Fish:
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Cover a cookie sheet in parchment paper or foil leaving enough excess to fold over so you can make a pouch for the fish to bake in. Lay the fillets on the paper or foil and drizzle with 1 tbsp soy sauce, some toasted sesame oil and ginger. Seal the fish ‘packet’ by scrunching the foil or paper onto itself and poke the top with holes using scissors. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the fish is no longer pink.
The Sauce:
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic chili paste, remaining ginger, garlic, honey, pepper and cornstarch. Whisk with a fork until nicely combined. Set aside.
The Stir Fry:
While the fish is cooking, heat a large skillet of wok with a tsp or so of oil on medium high heat. Once the oil is smoking, add onion and sauté until caramelized and cooked clear. To caramelize onions simply allow them to cook until they begin to stick and there is a golden color on the bottom of the pan (this is fond). Add dribbles of water to unstick everything. Repeat the process until onion is cooked.

Next add the carrots and mushrooms, sauté with a similar process used above until cooked. Add squash, sauté until cooked. Add cabbage and bean sprouts, cover the pan with a lid and reduce heat to medium. Steam until the cabbage is cooked.

Pour in sauce, stir around and cook until thickened.

Serve :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chana Masala

Picnicking outside at lunch is becoming less than enjoyable. The formerly sunny spot in front of theatre lobby has transformed into a cold air tunnel, funneling unfortunate chills over our crisscrossed knees and forcing the casual eating atmosphere into a calamity. :( No more veggies are springing from the garden, school has hit its overwhelming rhythm and some lady frowned at me the other day for wearing white (I had no idea the whole white after Labor Day was such a big deal).

So besides having to find a warm place to enjoy the luncheon hour, I have also had to turn towards the microwave. Its power to bring me the warms of home through bubbling soups and stews is a grand one but who has time to slow cook stew when they’ve got homework to do? The struggle with the falling of autumn (teehee, fall-autumn, get it) comes not in the food itself but the fact that everything one makes takes FOREVER to cook and tend to in order to develop flavor…or so I thought.

Chana Masala, my new comfort food. The warmth of turmeric, chilies, ginger simply embraces my soul as my mind curls up in the caramelized onion, steaming tomato, chickpeas, squash and eggplant…What more does one need to satisfy themselves after slogging through homework, classes and their irritations? So, because I’m in a rush this week, here is only one recipe but the dish that has kept me happy to thrive in these hectic times.

Chana Masala
Makes 2- 3 servings (depending on your veggies)
• ¼- ½ onion
• 1 tbl diced fresh ginger
• 1 small squash, (summer or winter) ½ inch diced
• 1 very small eggplant, ½ inch diced (optional)
• 1 glove garlic (optional)\
• 1 tsp garlic chili paste
• 3 tbl cumin seed
• 1 tbl turmeric (more or less depending)
• 1 16-oz can chickpeas, rinsed
• 1 16-oz can of diced no salt added tomatoes
• Salt to taste

(optional garnishes include lemon juice and cilantro)
(other vegetable options include carrots, sweet potatoes, normal potatoes, peas, spinach leaves etc)
Begin by sautéing the onion until caramelized (on a medium heat adding water to deglaze the pan every once in a while). Once the onion is no longer opaque, add the ginger and the diced vegetables. Stew until squash in completely cooked through.

Add the garlic, cumin, and turmeric. Toast these briefly. Add chickpeas and tomatoes.

Bring the masala back to a simmer on medium-low heat and leave it on the stove melding for however long you want (up to an hour).

If adding peas or spinach add this right before serving, should only take a minute for these to cook through.

And enjoy! It keeps in the fridge for up to a week and is super awesome for school lunches.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm Alive!

I will be posting my blog on this web site now each week :)
I will be leaving a link here for each new entry just in case you don't remember to check the new website!

The first new Blog Entry: http://smeharbinger.net/blogs/blog-planes-trains-a-skillet-and-automobiles

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Olive Salad the Holy Grail of Options

My mom created this sublime dish: OLIVE SALAD *heavenly echo of awwwww*

So simple to make and intensely versatile, we have been eating olive salad at our house for weeks. Christmas olive salad, Sunday lunch olive salad, Tuesday dinner olive salad, and school lunch boxes full of olive salad! Okay, we sound obsessed, but not really, its just soooo good :)

Olive Salad
  • Green Olives (not filled)
  • Black Olives (not filled)
  • Zest and Juice of One Lemon
  • Oregano
  • Italian Parsley
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil (not much, maybe a tablespoon)

Roughly chop an even proportion of black olives to green. Toss in a large bowl the olives with desired amounts of oregano, parsley, red and black pepper and lemon juice with zest.  End with a drizzle of olive oil.


  • Toasted multi-grain bread with spinach, goat cheese and olive salad
  • A hard boiled egg, tomato, olive salad, spinach and crusty sour dough
  • Whole Wheat pasta with olive oil and olive salad
  • Arugula and olive salad in a pita
  • Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Cornbread Dressing

Finals are completed, my dad is home after surgery, the furnace is fixed, and presents are safely stashed under the tree, now I can COOK! *does a wild 10 minute dance of joy*

So the recipe i have been dying to try for weeks now was made and was thoroughly enjoyed: Corn Bread Dressing. I used this recipe...basically, our household can never follow something step by step. Some of our own spices here, saute instead of roast, more carrots, less mushrooms etc.

So the epicurious version:http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Cornbread-Dressing-with-Roasted-Fall-Vegetables-240386
My substitutes:
  • Turnips instead of rutabagas
  • Special family poultry seasoning
  • Saute mushrooms and garlic
  • Reduced the recipe to one egg
The result: yum. Not overwhelmingly fantastic and probably not a replacement for Thanksgiving stuffing but still delicious. I will be making this every once in a while for lunch and an easy dinner, for sure!

The cornbread seemed nontraditional at first glance but besides tasting uber fab in the dressing, on its own it was wonderful. The main ingredients are corn meal and eggs resulting in a pure and lovely flavor. Next time i make the dressing I will go heavier on the parsnips and turnips to insure that their flavor isn't overwhelmed by the carrots and herbs.

I served it with an over easy egg, treating the dressing like a hash, or polish sausage, which acted as a true compliment to the home style aromas and flavors.

Anyway what was your Christmas Eve meal?