Batch and fridge: Sautéed Mirepoix Tomato and Meat Mixture — Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

It’s getting dark, cold, and RAINY in the Bay Area.  Yes, this fall is exceptionally rainy, and it rains cats and dogs, and that’s not enough, as if all the animals are falling from the sky. And I heard that those people in Colorado, Nebraska etc. already had 6 inches on snow, in early October?  Not just global warming, the weather is strange lately.

On an evening like that, and especially when I’m recovering from sickness, one thing I crave for is stuffed cabbage.

Believe it or not (I might have said that before), 99% of Japanese housewives cook Japanese, other Asian, as well as European origin food as normal repertoire. At least the last 50 years, that has been the norm.  Japanese are known to adopt great things from other countries and improve it to make it more efficient, like cars and electronics. And maybe not as well known fact outside of Japan, but food is definitely one of them.  We Japanize it with the ingredients that are available in Japan, and make it our own.

So, when I was little, and get sick, one of the things I craved for was “Rolled Cabbage” which is stuffed cabbage. Not just at my house, but ask 100 Japanese, whether they live in Japan or elsewhere, I can guarantee majority will say “I make them once in a while.”  We even have Japanese version, which often is found in oden, Japanese pot-au-feu.

The problem with Stuffed cabbage is it takes quite a long time to make it from scratch. But through my Kitchen Wizarding Process, I found a very easy way, that only takes about half or less time, and as tasty!

Plus my version uses mirepoix as its base, and not much meat, so it’s super healthy.  If you are vegetarian, or vegan, omit meat.

To make it even healthier, you can use other kinds of grains and even more vegetables, instead of rice. If the stuffing is too loose, add a beaten egg, so that it’ll serve as a binding agent.

So here’s Kitchen Wizard’s stuffed cabbage recipe!

Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients:

  • Sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture – about 1 cup
  • Cooked rice – about 1 cup
  • Grated cheese – about 1/4 cup (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A head of cabbage
  • 1/3 –1/4 Can of tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Cream

Directions:

  1. Remove the core of the cabbage, and stuff the hole with a moist paper-towel.  Wrap it with plastic wrap, and microwave it until cooked through, turning once in the middle. (about 5 min for small head cabbage, about 1 lb.  About 8-9 min for a 2 pounder.) This will allow the leaves to come out easily.
  2. Mix cooked rice and sautéed mirepoix, meat and tomato mixture about 50/50. Add cheese if preferred. Mix and season well.  Sprinkle some salt on the cabbage. Wrap a few tablespoons of the rice mixture with the cabbage leaves tightly.  Secure the end with tooth pick or broken spaghetti.
  3. Arrange the cabbage rolls into a pan as tightly as possible, trying not to leave any space.  If there’s any space, stuff with leftover cabbage.
  4. Add broth to barely cover the cabbage rolls.  Top with chopped tomatoes, and place a lid or plate that is one size smaller than the opening, so that the rolls will not float up. Cook for about 20-30 min.  (If you are short with time, cook in microwave, in several minute increments.  Be careful not boil over the broth.)
  5. Serve immediately with cream on top.

Note: Do you have any cooked cabbage leftover?  Great!  Because it’s really handy!  You can shred it and add to miso soup, other kind of soup, mix with vinaigrette to make simple salad as a side dish, sauté lightly with salt and pepper, with tomatoes, curry powder, bacon, etc. etc.

They were so yummy, they made the last bit of my sickness go away…

Never forget, nourish your soul with good, whole food, not just body…  It’ll thank you and give back 100 times! And the best way to do that is through home-cooking.  Treat yourself with your childhood favorite from time to time!

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The World’s Easiest, Fastest, Home-Made Miso-Soup!

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Do you like miso soup?

Miso Soup is considered Japan’s national dish (OK, next to sushi), many have asked me how to make one.

As a native Japanese, I love miso-soup, as much as you do, but I never made it too often. (Japanese housewives, whether they are working or not, they are expected to make at least 一汁二菜 (ichiju nisai, meaning 1 soup (most often miso soup), and 2 dishes, plus rice. I’m only forgiven because I live in the US, and am married to an American…)

Why?  Because I thought it was a pain to make it every time from scratch.

To save that hassle and satisfy my appetite for miso-soup (I like it especially in the morning with my bowl of hot rice), I’ve even bought one of these freeze-dried miso-soup from Japanese markets.  Although they are pretty decent and not as expensive as $3-5 cup of miso soup from Japanese restaurants, they end up quite expensive.

As I started Kitchen Wizard, one of the things I experimented with was batching miso-soup.

It turned out to be a brilliant idea!

So, let me share with you the world’s easiest, fastest, home-made miso-soup recipe.

The World’s Easiest, Fastest, Home-Made Miso-Soup

Ingredients:

(4-5 servings – multiply by the number of serving you want to make)

  • Miso with dashi: 1/4 c (1 TBS per serving)
  • Chopped green onions: 1 stalk (about 1/4 stalk per serving)
  • Dried wakame about 3-4 TBS (about 1/2 -1 TBS per serving)
  • Abura-age (fried tofu) cut in half, then into strips: 1 sheet (1/4 – 1/5 per serving)
  • Lightly cooked/microwaved vegetables, cut in bite-size pieces: about 1/4 C (1 oz per serving), such as cabbage, onion

Directions:

  1. Mix well miso and other ingredients that are cut in bite-size pieces.  Make sure to add abura-age, especially if you plan to freeze this. Do not use things like tofu, potato, etc. that doesn’t freeze well. If you are planning to eat them quickly and not freeze, you can use anything including tofu.
  2. Divide into the number of servings and wrap each with plastic wrap. Keep in the refrigerator or freezer (Miso will not completely freeze.)
  3. When ready to eat, unwrap and pour boiling water.
  4. Optionally, you can garnish with chopped green onion on top.

Note:

You can make a large batch of softened miso, divide and add different vegetables for more variety.

You can also mix a little bit of liquid or powdered dashi into miso if you have any for more flavor. They are available at Japanese or Asian markets.

I know some (not so authentic) Japanese restaurants use chicken or vegetable broth for miso-soup…  so if there’s no dashi in sight, you may try a bit of either one for flavor as substitution.  Use only a little bit, especially if it’s liquid – you don’t want a soggy mess.

With this, you can have a nice bowl of miso-soup anytime you want… With rice for breakfast, just like in Japan, or you can even bring it to work for lunch.

Enjoy!

Note: I split the pacakge into two, because these particular bowls don’t hold much liquid.  The original miso-soup base only had green onion and abura-age, so I added dried wakame as extra before adding boiling water.

Batch & Fridge/Split: Curry Base

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

L to R: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

One of my (many many) favorite cuisine is Indian food.

It’s really fun to go to Indian restaurant with whole bunch of friends and share various curries and tandoori dishes.  (OK, I love sharing and trying various dishes with any cuisine, and am known to get really disappointed when some people don’t like that idea. (Maybe they are worried that their share will be mostly end up in my stomach?)

I cook curry periodically.  One of my dilemma had been this — when I cook curry at home, I only made one kind.  If I wanted some other curry, I had to wait until next time I felt like eating it, which in our household, well over a month later.

Now I figure out how to cook various curries easily all at once, so our single curry days are over.  Just like at the Indian restaurants — at home.

Do you want to know the secret?

It’s pretty simple. You just make a large batch of curry base, and then split it and cook with any cooked vegetable or meat you have.  For example, one will become Keema curry, one with eggplant, one with potatoes, one with spinach, one with cauliflower…  The choice are endless, only limited by, pretty much what else you have in your fridge, ready to go and your imagination. If you use leftover blanched or sautéed vegetables like I did, it shorten the process significantly.

So today, I’ll explain how to make the base.  Later this week, I’ll share the recipe on how to make other kind of curries.

Curry Base: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil – 2 TBS
  • Garlic (minced) – 2 cloves
  • Ginger (minced) – 1 inch/2.5 cm
  • Curry Powder – 2 TBS
  • Cumin powder – 1 ts
  • Garam masala – 2 ts
  • Onion (chopped) – 1 large
  • Tomato (chopped) – 2 large, or 1 small can chopped tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add minced garlic, ginger, and once it becomes fragrant, add the spices, stir briefly until the mixture becomes fragrant with the scent of curry spices.
  2. Add chopped onions and cook until soft (and a little browned, if you have time), stirring occasionally.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until most of the moisture evaporates and the mixture gets a bit “pasty”.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can keep this in the fridge for a few days.

Be sure to check back for curry recipes you can easily make with this…  Or simply choose one of the subscription options (email, RSS feed, or Networked Blogs Face book app) so that you will not miss them!

Video — Easy and Fast Tuna and Chickpea Salad Recipe

As it gets hotter, sometimes we want to have something substantial that doesn’t need to be cooked.

I’ve shared this recipe before, and this may be a good time to do so again….this time with a video!

This is my favorite salad.  It requires staples that everyone has in the pantry, yet it’s healthy AND delicious!  Great all year around! When you already have chopped onions and/or dressing in your fridge, it will take less than 5 minutes. If you don’t, make extra chopped onions and dressing to save time later.

Directions

  1. Chop ½ onion.
  2. Cut 1 apple (I recommend Fuji) into eighths, and slice them thin. Sprinkle with wine vinegar or lemon juice.
  3. Combine chopped onion and 1 can tuna (in olive-oil preferred), and 1 can chickpeas. Mix well.
  4. Add apples and minced parsley (optional).
  5. Add dressing made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Wine vinegar, Salt and Pepper and mix gently.  Or just add about 2-3 TBS of wine vinegar, S&P.

Note: For a vegetarian version, omit tuna.

Tip: If the tuna is the water-packed kind, you may want to pour extra virgin olive oil on the drained tuna first…  Make sure to taste the mixture and add the appropriate amount of vinegar and salt to balance the flavor.

For other uses of chopped onions, please refer to the post dated March 27, 2009.

Usage for extra dressing: various salads, dipping raw and steamed vegetables, etc.

This is a crowd pleaser which only takes 5 minutes.  Great for any time, and any occasion.  I often serve this for brunch, dinner parties and potluck!  You HAVE TO try this!

Let me know how it like it!

Leftover Makeover: Tom Kha Gai

So you cooked some flavorful Tom Kha Gai… and some left over…

How can we transform this recipe into something easy, different and fabulous?

There’s an obvious one and not so obvious one…

Obvious:  Tom Kha Noodle Soup

Tom Kha with Rice Stick

Tom Kha Noodle Soup

  1. Add about 1C of chicken broth (If you still have the stock from making that shredded chicken use it for this) to left over Tom Kha and cook until hot. Adjust seasoning.  In the meantime, boil rice noodles according to the package instruction.
  2. Drain the noodles and place them in a bowl. Pour hot soup over them. Serve with lime wedge and chopped cilantro. Optionally, sprinkle fried shallots if you have any. (Available at Asian markets.)

Not so obvious: Thai curry

Thai Green Curry

Thai Green Curry

  1. Fry sliced garlic, dried red chili in vegetable oil. Add Thai curry powder or paste and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add a combination of vegetables cut in bite-size pieces and cook until vegetables are crisp tender. (pepper, eggplants, green beans, bamboo shoots, If using potatoes, pumpkin, you may want to microwave first to shorten cooking time).  Add water or chicken broth (again, use the one from cooking the chicken if available) to barely cover the veggies. Cook until vegetables are cooked through.
  3. Add the Tom Kha into curried vegetables and cook until hot.  (optional add shrimp). Add a dash of sugar, and adjust the seasoning.  Serve with steamed rice.

These recipes alone may be good enough excuse to make double batch of Tom Kha…If you ate all the chicken in the soup, and only left with soup, try You can add shrimp instead of chicken.

Batch and Fridge: Cooked Shredded Chicken – Tom Kha (Thai Coconut Milk Soup with Chicken)

Thai Coconut Milk Soup with Chicken

Tom Kha Gai - Thai Coconut Milk Soup with Chicken

Besides obvious options of adding cooked, shredded chicken to pasta and salads, you can use them for practically any recipes from around the world.

So this week, I’d like to share with you some easy recipes from different countries using shredded chicken, to add different flavor in your repertoire.

One of my favorite is Tom Kha Gai…  You probably have seen or tasted it at a Thai restaurant.  If you are bored with regular chicken soup, this is a great option.  Plus it has a nice leftover makeover potential for later in the week.

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Milk and Chicken Soup)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 oz ginger (sliced)
  • 2 TBS onion or shallots (chopped)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (bruised and cut in 1”)
  • 1/2 ts ground turmeric
  • 1c cooked, shredded chicken
  • Optional: fresh sliced mushrooms or canned Straw mushroom
  • 1 c heavy cream (or milk if you want to make it lighter)
  • 2-3 TBS fish sauce
  • 1 fresh green chili (seeded and sliced)
  • lime juice to taste
  • Cilantro (chopped)

Direction:

  1. Heat 1 can of coconut milk until hot. Add lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, onion or shallots, shredded chicken and mushrooms. Simmer about 10-15 min.
  2. Add cream, fish sauce, green chili and cook until heated. Adjust seasoning.
  3. Traditionally they serve lemongrass and ginger slices in the soup in Thailand (and at Thai restaurants), but you may want to take them out at this point.
  4. Serve hot with a wedge of lime and chopped cilantro.

Tips: Lemongrass can be grown very easily in your garden. you can use only bottom few inches for cooking, but cut up the rest and steep in teapot for refreshing and fragrant lemongrass tea!

You have leftover?  Great! We’ll make it over to something fabulous tomorrow… So stay tuned…

Batch and Fridge: Onion and Chorizo Mixture: Chickpea Chowder

Rugged coastline of pacific grove

Rugged coastline of pacific grove

Over Mother’s day weekend, we went to Pacific Grove near Monterey, CA for our 10th anniversary.

Being in a coastal town, the dinner had to be seafood.  We were lucky to be able to grab a last minute cancellation at well-known fish restaurant in town.  We were all set.

Having over 2 hours to spend before dinner, we decided to go for a walk by the bay enjoying the rugged coast line…  We ended up walking a lot further, all the way from the lighthouse to downtown. So we had to take the main road back to the hotel.

Pacific Grove  walk

Pacific Grove walk

As we walked along Lighthouse Avenue, something caught our attention.  The sign said “Passionfish”.   Even though we were on the other side of the street, we had to check out the menu. (Menu browsing is one of my favorite pastime.)  Something smelled good too.  Zagat rated…  Food 25, Service 21..  Both very good signs.  And the menu sounded really interesting, much more than our original reservation.  OK, we decided, we are eating here.

We cancelled the other reservation, and ended up having our anniversary dinner at Passionfish.  It was a good decision.

passion fish outside w flash

Passionfish Restaurant in Pacific Grove, CA

One of the specials they had that night was Moroccan Chickpea Chowder with green onion lime cream.  The thing is, people at the next table convinced us that we had to have this out-of-this-world calamari salad, and duck confit, so we decided to skip the soup.  BUT!  Food-obsessed me had to try this some way.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t beg the waitress to give me a sample.)

Since I had a garlic, onion, and chorizo mixture left over in the fridge I made for Portuguese cabbage rice, I decided to make it up at home as soon as I came home.

Since I didn’t even see the soup, it may be very different from the original version at Passionfish, but none the less, it was super fast and delicious (I’d say for this version, Zagat rating 27).  If you make it, you’ll be shocked how easy and flavorful it is.

Chickpea Chowder with green onion lime cream

  1. Heat 1 can chickpeas, 1/2 cup cooked chorizo mixture and 2 cup chicken stock. Puree.  If you just serve this hot, it’s super delicious, especially with drizzle of EVOO, lemon juice, cream or butter.
  2. (Optional) Puree green onion and creme fraiche with hand blender or in a mini-bowl in a food processor.  Mix lime juice.  Add to the hot soup.

    Passionfish inspired Chickpea Chowder

    Passionfish inspired Chickpea Chowder

For the detailed review of Passionfish restaurant I posted on Foodbuzz, click here.

Bon appetite!

Kitchen Wizard Tool Box Part 3: Electric Kettle — How to Boil Water Fast for Pasta, etc.

Have you ever tried to boil a large pot of water for pasta (especially in a high-altitude area?) and wished it was quicker?

Then read on… This will guarantee to save you a lot of time and frustration.

Get an electric kettle.

It’s so much faster to boil water with an electronic kettle than in a pot, or even a normal kettle. It only costs about $20, so it’s really worth it.

It’s also handy if you like to drink tea or powdered hot drinks like cocoa. In tea-drinking countries like the UK and former British colonies, you’d find one in almost all homes and hotel rooms – even at budget places.

Also use an electronic kettle when you want to:

  • Make a quick, individual portion onion gratin soup (<- click here for recipe!)
  • Make Ochazuke (Japanese rice soup),
  • Blanch spinach quickly,
  • Run the hot water over oily food like bacon or fried bean curds for healthier eating,
  • Wash out grease residue on pots and pans from oily foods for easy clean-up, etc.

The only draw back is the capacity is normally about 1-2 qt.  Now I use the double-potting trick (below) to boil a larger quantity of water.

How to Boil Water FAST — Kitchen Wizard double-potting trick!

  1. Use the pan with the widest bottom on the largest burner (or highest BTU).
  2. Add about 1” (or 2” if you need more boiled water) of water in the pot, close the lid and boil at high heat.
  3. In the mean time, boil water in the electric kettle near your stove (so that you don’t have to run back and forth with full kettle of boiling water). Once it’s boiled, simply add to the pot.
  4. If you need more boiling water, just do another batch in electric kettle.  Make sure to keep the lid closed until the desired amount of water is completely boiled.

These kettles are available at places like Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Macy’s.

Once you start using it, you’ll wonder why you waited so long!

Kitchen Wizard to a Rescue: Cheese Grits with Langostino and Leeks Dinner

Cheese grits with langostino and leeks

Cheese grits with langostino and leeks

Last Friday night a few minutes before 7 pm (the days are lighter these days, so I forget that it’s time to cook dinner), I realized that there’s not much in the fridge.

We’ve been eating up the Kitchen Wizard stuff (or KW for short), and because of the convenience, I don’t have to go grocery shopping as often as I used to. My husband just came back from running starving. And it was Friday, so he would be expecting something nice. (Especially because I declined his suggestion of going out for dinner.) I needed to fix something while he was taking shower.

What am I going to do?

Here’s what I found in our kitchen.

  • Instant Grits
  • Frozen Langostino
  • Serrano Chili
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • KW: English Cucumber (chopped)
  • KW: grated Parmiggiano Reggiano
  • KW: sautéed rounds of zucchini
  • KW: tomato sauce
  • KW: frozen sautéed leeks
  • KW: Vinaigrette

Again, not so exciting…   BUT we’ll see…

15 minutes later, here is what we had on our dinner table… Cheese grits with langostino and leeks,  Zucchini Soup, and Red leaf lettuce salad with cucumbers.

Are you interested in having that for your dinner, at Kitchen Wizard speed?

Here are the recipes.

Cheese grits with langostino and leeks

  1. Sautee minced Serrano chili in EVOO. Add leeks, frozen langostino and white wine.  Cook until they are heated through and sauce is reduced a bit.
  2. In the mean time, cook grits, and (optional) mix grated cheese into grits. Serve hot with langostino sauce on top.

Tip: Sauteed leeks are really great for “batch and fridge”-ing or even “batch and freeze”ing.

There are 3 main reasons.

  1. They are often sold as bundle (or cheaper that way), yet has short shelf life.
  2. It takes time to trim, properly clean, and chop, let alone time takes for sautéing.
  3. Leeks add great flavor to many things – soups, stews, tarts, pan-sauces, stuffing, etc.

I didn’t use them much in the past, just because it was such a pain to prepare so I let it spoil.  Now I started to sautee them all at once, I use them all the time!

Zucchini Soup

  1. In a medium pan, add sautéed zucchini, tomato sauce (canned tomato or chopped tomatoes without skin will work too) and chicken broth or water. Heat at medium high. (If your sautéed zucchini doesn’t have any garlic, sauté garlic until golden brown first, then add zucchini and tomatoes.)
  2. Puree the soup, and adjust the seasoning.

Salad

  1. Wash lettuce leaves, tear, and top with chopped cucumbers. Dress with vinaigrette or choice of dressing.

To make the dinner more romantic, add a bit of candle-light and wine – voila!

As you continue with Kitchen Wizardry, you too can whip up a dinner like this in 15 minutes! This is so much easier and more fun, I seriously cannot go back to the old way of cooking!

Please share your success stories!

Batch and Freeze: Spiced Oatmeal Cookies

Do you like home-made baked goods, yet feel never have time to bake during the week?

My friend Margaret, who is also a Kitchen Wizard in my opinion, kindly shared her cookie shortcuts.

So here it is…  Thank you, Margaret!

One of the tougher things to do during a busy week is to bake, so I  always have a reserve of this spiced oatmeal cookie dough in my freezer to satisfy a craving relatively healthfully and inexpensively. These are a little lighter than the recipes calling for two sticks of butter and even from frozen dough, they bake up in only 15 minutes.

If nutmeg is not a spice you use regularly, rather than investing in a whole jar of the pods, purchase a few pods from  well-stocked markets’ bulk spice section.  Its subtle woodsy flavor really enhances this spice combination nicely.

Spiced Oatmeal Cookies Adapted from Cooking Light

Yields: 24 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Optional: you can replace ½ c with wheat flour.)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Cooking spray or parchment paper to line cookie sheets

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside.
  2. Combine brown sugar and next 6 ingredients (brown sugar through egg) in a large bowl, and beat mixture at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended.
  3. Stir in oats and raisins, and let stand 5 minutes.. Stir in flour mixture.
  4. Drop dough by level tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray.
  5. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Note: Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Freezing Instructions (The dough keeps for 4-6 weeks.)

  • Freeze the rest of the raw dough after forming it into balls. Use a small ice cream scoop to make them uniform.
  • To bake, simply put frozen dough balls on a cookie sheet, flatten dough slightly before putting in to a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 12-15 mins.

Whether you’re baking frozen or fresh dough, make sure not to overbake so you’ll end up with chewy cookies.

This dough is very versatile.Try walnuts, peanuts, flax seeds, chocolate chips, coconut, cranberries, dried cherries or any combination as a substitute for the raisins.

Enjoy!