April 2012

Mac n’ cheese fans will enjoy this hearty Three Cheese Spaetzle with sauteed broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.

(*NOTE: there’s actually no German way of saying ‘two thumbs up’, people would say lecker or es ist gut. But having the approval of my husband, my in-laws, and a random German student who came by to buy our bookcase we listed on craigslist made me feel like I got the ‘two thumbs up’ rating (if not more!) Yes, I fed my spaetzle to a stranger who enjoyed it so much he was going to call his mother in Germany to say he had spaetzle in Hawaii!)

So, a new favorite comfort food of mine hails from my husband’s country of origin, Germany. Spaetzle is a noodle dish served alongside roasted meats, tossed with cheese or covered in rich gravy. With a toothsome texture and simple ingredient list, spaetzle (where Spatz means “sparrow”) can be tricky to make the first time around. Some recipes suggest using a spaetzle press or pressing the batter through a colander, but I found this messy and unsuccessful. The best method for me (which requires a bit of patience and practice) is to use a smooth wooden cutting board and the spine of a chef’s knife to cut off small pieces of noodle-shaped dough, scraping it off the board and into a pot of boiling water. The spaetzle will not be uniform (proving to everyone that it is, indeed, homemade) and closer to worm-shaped than sparrow-shapped, but the taste will still be delicious.

The basic spaetzle recipe is from one of my favorite publications, Cooks Illustrated. I’ve added my own blend of cheeses and topping to make this a nice, one-dish meal. As long as you got the basics dough recipe down, everything else should fall into place beautifully.

Three Cheese Spaetzle with Broccoli, Mushrooms and Bacon
serves 4

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk (I also used 2/3 cup lowfat milk and 1/3 cup cream)
2 large eggs

Cheese sauce:
1 1/2 cups shredded Gouda
1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese*
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese*
*or  use 2/3 cup of any hard, salty cheese

6 strips bacon, extra fat removed, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups broccoli florets

To make spaetzle:

Batter will be thick; let it rest while you bring water to a boil. (This batch in the picture is only half a recipe.)

Whisk the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. Slowly stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until combined, then whisk briefly until smooth. Cover the bowl and let the batter rest for 15 to 30 minutes (do not let the batter rest any longer.)

While the batter rests, bring 3 quarts of water to boil in a large pot and stir in 1 tablespoon salt.

Process about 1/2 cup of the batter into the water by cutting the batter from the cutting board into the boiling water.

They look more like squiggly worms than Spatzen, but oh well!

Boil the spaetzle until it floats, about 1 minute.

Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer the spaetzle to a large pan and cover to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.

To make topping:

In a separate frying pan, cook cut bacon over medium heat for 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. In same frying pan, cook mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add bacon and broccoli florets, cook for 3 minutes, turn off heat, cover.

Meanwhile, heat spaetzle on medium. Stir in cheeses until melted. Top with broccoli, bacon and mushrooms and serve.

Guten appetit!

Comfort food at its best!

Hello, everyone! About six weeks ago I started taking my love for cooking a step further and started ‘The Foodery’. It was a new approach to a hobby that I really enjoyed and was able to find people that shared my passion in all kinds of ways, from fancy to frugal, and from strategically planned to cooking whatever is in the kitchen. From these bloggers I tried some new “rawsome” recipes, learned time-saving shortcuts, and found beautifully prepared meals worthy of the most special occasions. Not to mention, I also made a few friends who are helpful, supportive and (whether they know it or not) unfailingly inspirational.

I want to give a big mahalo to one of these bloggers for giving me the incredible Sunshine Award. Justa at justafrugalfoodie has one of the most fun food blogs you will ever come to know. Justa’s recipes are creative, delicous, and fantastically frugal. Reading her blog is like having a friend telling you her latest cooking or gardening escapade over a cup of coffee, so it’s no surprise she already received two Sunshine Awards! Thanks again, Justa, I look forward to spreading a little sunshine, myself!

Another mahalo goes out to Annemarie at Real Food, Real Deals for giving me the Versatile Blogger Award, woo hoo! As Annemarie mentions, she and I try to incorporate healthy foods into our daily meal-making repertoire. We’re not vegetarians or raw foodists, but if a recipe looks delicious enough, we’ll probably give it a try! Annemarie is also a wealth of money-saving tips and tricks. She will give you links to coupons, advise you on money-saving strategies, and compare home-baked goodies to store-bought. (guess which one wins in the end?)

I would like to pass on the Sunshine Award to at least one person for now, and that would be Annemarie at Real Food, Real Deals! As I mentioned, her money-saving tips has helped me to plan within a budget and still dish out healthy, delicious, filling meals. There’s no reason to resort to frozen food entrees when you can easily follow her recipes and tips…thanks, Annemarie!

About the Sunshine Blog Award

This prize is awarded to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”As an award winner, there are a few rules to follow:

  • Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
  • Answer the questions below.
  • Pass on the award to 10 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.

So, here are a few things about myself:

  • Favorite Color – (looks in kitchen) I like turquoise blue, it’s cheerful and optimistic.
  • Favorite Animal – It’s a tie between cats (independent, clean, small) and pigs (smart, clean, and I love hearing them eat…smack, smack, smack!)
Number 8 butterfly from http://slodive.com/inspiration/butterfly-pictures/
  • Favorite Number – 8, because it’s a combination of my other two favorites, 3 and 5. And it looks like the infinity symbol. :)
  • Favorite Drink – Celestial Seasonings Blueberry Breeze Green Tea…hot or iced, it’s smells and tastes great!
  • Facebook or Twitter – I have a personal Facebook page, but have been paying more attention to WordPress blogs. You’ll find more info and awesome pics on WordPress.
  • Your Passion – Cooking, and nature/pet/food photography.
  • Giving or getting presents – Giving presents is much more fun…especially when it’s homemade desserts!
  • Favorite Day – Sunday, because it just seems like a good day for brunches and family dinners.
  • Favorite Flowers – Peonies, roses and tulips

Here are the favorites I’m following right now:

Just a Frugal Foodie
Real Food, Real Deals
Paleo Works
The Veggie Nook
The Taste Space – Steam, Bake, Boil, Shake!
REM Cooks
Whatever is In the Kitchen
The Copycat Cook

Here are the rules of the Versatile Blogger Award:

Thank the award giver(s) and link back to them in your post

– Share 7 things about yourself

– Pass this award along to 15 or 20 bloggers you read and admire

– Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award

Here are 7 things about me:

1. It’s hard for people to guess my ethnicity, so I’ll tell you right off the bat: I’m half Okinawan, the rest is Samoan, and French or Irish or Italian, or a combination of those, I’m not sure! In Hawaii, I would be called hapa. :)

2.  My favorite thing to eat as a kid was a block of cheese.

3. I met my awesome husband while on a date…with another guy!

4. Since I was thirteen, I’ve been a big fan of Sci Fi/Fantasy and Stephen King novels, and tend to re-read my books two or three times (I’m doing that now!)

5. I collect rocks and try to get a few when I travel or go hiking. I even got some as a gift: one from Antarctica, a Petoskey stone from Michigan, and a beautiful zebra stone from my mom’s friend from Japan.

6. Favorite meal from Sonic: bacon-sausage breakfast burrito (no cheese,) tots and diet lime-aid!

7. Dinner is my favorite meal because it’s the end of the day, you can relax and enjoy your meal and not worry about anything else.

And for now, I would like to give Gabby at The Veggie Nook the Versatile Blogger Award. I love her vegan dessert and breakfast recipes and most of them are pretty easy to make and incredibly delicious! Reading her blog has made it easier for me to want to try new vegan and raw recipes. Thanks, Gabby, and keep on cranking out those goodies!

Thanks again for visiting my site and posting your likes and comments. I am encouraged by your support and hope I can provide you with something interesting whenever you stop by. Eat well!

Because of the sauce ingredients this dish is not 100% raw...but oh, so close!

Just when I thought spring has sprung, the weather started getting chilly again. It rained last night and drizzled a bit today, and the creek next to our house was flowing along nicely. The snow missed us, but it looks like it’ll be pretty cold and rainy for the rest of the week. I started making some cozy comfort foods over the weekend but now it’s time to search for more recipe ideas that’s not only filling and warming, but healthy, as well.

I’ve been wanting to try some zucchini “noodles” for some time. This is nothing more than very thin-sliced zucchini that is eaten raw and in place of regular noodles, but it’s higher in vitamins and minerals, easy to prepare and there’s no cooking involved! I wanted a creamy sauce to go with it, so I searched online for a dairy-free alfredo sauce, but when I was slicing the zucchini, for some reason I just thought, “I want satay sauce!”

I love peanut butter and peanut butter-based foods, sweet or savory, they’re all delicious to me. Satay is Thai-style grilled meat skewered and cooked over hot coals. It is accompanied with a peanut dipping sauce made with peanut butter and can include a combination of coconut milk, soy sauce, or fish sauce. This peanut sauce recipe is based off the one in The Best International Recipe Cooking Light cookbook. I still had it nearby when I made their moussaka the other night, so I flipped it open and found just what I needed.

Here are the ingredients for the sauce:

L-R: Coconut milk, raw sunflower seeds, lime, patis or nampla (fish sauce,) garlic, Sriracha, peanut butter, sugar.

This Native Forest brand of coconut milk is really good. Chaokoh used to be my regular brand, then I tried this  (on sale) and noticed how much fresher the cream tastes. The Asian markets will have the coconut milk, fish sauce and Sriracha, a popular Thai hot chili sauce that is thick like ketchup but hot like Tabasco (very different flavor, though.) If your market carries ethnic foods, you’ll probably find those ingredients there.

To make the zucchini noodles you can use a vegetable spiral slicer. If you’re like me and don’t have one, you can achieve similar results with a sharp vegetable peeler and a good knife. First, remove the skin from the zucchini. Use the vegetable peeler to peel of wide slices of zucchini, rotating after every two “peels.” The zucchini was slippery, so be careful and place it on the cutting board, holding it with one hand as you cut off slices with the other.

Slice them thin like noodles then place in a bowl. I was worried they'd get brown (like apples) but they stay nice and creamy white.

Rotate and slice until you reach the seeds. Stack two or three zucchini slices and carefully slice them into thinner noodle-like strands.

I wanted something satisfying but not heavy, and this really hit the spot! And it didn’t feel like I was eating a regular salad at all. The zucchini noodles were more filling than I expected, and the savory peanut sauce was rich and velvety. I served this at room temperature and it was just right for what I wanted: a healthy, creamy, satisfying dinner with a good dose of raw veggies. More importantly, my husband also enjoyed his super-size helping of fresh veggies! There’s enough sauce for four servings, so feel free to double the salad mix, or save the leftovers for the next day. Just be sure not to store the salad and satay sauce together, it will make the veggies soggy.

Zucchini Noodle Salad with Peanut Satay Sauce


1 zucchini, cut with a vegetable spiral slicer or sliced into thin “noodles”
1 carrot, julienned (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped celery

 Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

Peanut sauce:

3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 2 hours, drained
1/2 cup no-sugar/no salt peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
juice of 1/2 lime, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon sugar (use 1/2 teaspoon if using peanut butter with sugar)

Blend all the ingredients  until smooth, sauce will be thick. Add more Sriracha and sugar to taste.

Scoop 1 cup of sauce into zucchini salad mixture, toss well to coat. Garnish with cilantro, serves two.

Drizzle Sriracha on the plate if you need some extra heat.

Moussaka: eggplant, meat sauce and bechamel. Image from Food Network at: http://img.foodnetwork.com/FOOD/2011/02/21/SM0403H_moussaka_s4x3_lg.jpg

My husband and I used to like going to The Fat Greek restaurant with friends, mostly because it was BYOB, but also because the food was reasonably priced and not all bad. They had daily specials, and we would make it a point to go on Fridays just to get a dish of my husband’s favorite, moussaka.

The first time I tried it was on vacation in Australia. I’ve never had Greek food aside from fast food-type gyros, so my husband urged me to try this new dish. Holy cow, this was GOOD! The sauce was rich and savory with a touch of warm spices, and the tender eggplant soaked up all that delicious flavor. But a taste of the creamy, cheesy bechamel that topped it off sealed the deal. That night, I vowed to make my husband moussaka.

And four years later, I finally did!

This slightly modified recipe comes from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated in their fantastic culinary collection, The Best International Recipe: A Home Cook’s Guide to the Best Recipes in the World. Cook’s Illustrated is another favorite magazine from which I learned a lot of my cooking skills. You get to read up on product reviews, cooking tips from readers as well as staff members, and featured recipes include the trials and errors behind their final products. They also feature beautiful paintings and  illustrations of foods on each magazine, it’s like getting a piece of art with every issue! (my dream job is to be an illustrator for their magazine!)

Making moussaka was much easier than I thought. Planning it out in my head, I estimated about 2 hours from start to finish, and most of it is either simmer time or baking time. The only part about this I don’t like is the dish washing time. ;)

I modified the recipe by slicing the eggplant rather than cutting it into chunks. I also used lean ground venison instead of lamb. For my gluten-free friend, I used sorghum instead of flour, and I couldn’t taste any difference in the bechamel.

You’ll have to forgive me for not having taken a photo of the plated entree (with guests over, I just completely forgot!) It will look like the one I posted above from Food Network, but please use the recipe below. I’m sure you will enjoy it!

Layered Eggplant and Lamb Casserole (Moussaka)
from The Best International Recipe: A Home Cook’s Guide to the Best Recipes in the World

When buying eggplant, look for those that are glossy, feelfirm, and are heavy for their size. Do not substitute low-fat or nonfat milk in the sauce.

4 pounds eggplant (about 3-4 medium) sliced into 1/2″ thick pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
2 pounds ground venison (or any ground meat)
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sorghum flour (or all-purpose flour)
2 cups whole milk
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
pinch ground nutmeg

1. Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray. Arrange the sliced eggplant on the baking sheets, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake until light golden brown, about 15-20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through the roasting time. Set aside to cool. Leave the oven on, reducing the temperature to 400 degrees.

About three medium sized eggplants (4 pounds) will give you this many roasted eggplant slices. Those fresh ones on the side are smaller and equal 3 1/2 pounds.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook the venison in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking the meat into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes (omit oil if using lamb.) Strain the ground meat through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the drippings.

Add in the tomato puree, ground venison and wine.

3. Return 2 tablespoons of the reserved drippings, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pot and cook over medium heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, oregano, sugar and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the drained meat, tomato puree, and wine, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices have evaporated and the sauce has thickened, 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slowly add 1/4 cup milk at a time and stir well. It'll be a little lumpy, but keep stirring and it'll smooth itself out.

4. While the lamb simmers, melt the butter in  a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sorghum or all-purpose flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until the sauce thickens and no longer tastes of flour, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the Parmesan and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste; cover and set aside.

5. Spread the roasted eggplant evenly into a 13×9 inch baking dish (or 2 8×8 pans.) Spread the lamb filling over the eggplant, then pour the bechamel evenly over the top. (At this point the casserole can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

6. Bake the casserole, uncovered, until the top is lightly golden, 25 to 35 minutes. (If refrigerated, cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes). Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Lemon-spiked yogurt floats on a leafy green so you can scoop a little tangy goodness with each spoonful of creamy avocado-leek soup.

This is my first Recipe Redux challenge and for those of you not familiar with this, it is a once-a-month themed cooking challenge in which you redo a recipe to make it healthier (and hopefully tastier!) This month’s theme is “The First Shoots of Spring.”  I was pretty excited to try and come up with something that would be worthy of the challenge, but it was a lot harder that I expected because 1) I’ve lived my entire life in a tropical climate and didn’t know what ‘spring’ foods were, and 2) the local markets didn’t carry pea shoots, garlic scrapes (?) or ramps (??). Although my findings were limited, there were lots of leeks in the markets, so I decided to brighten up a traditional vichyssoise with easy to find ingredients, and which can be made in less than 20 minutes…how’s THAT for a redux? :)

Vichyssoise is made up of potato, leek, heavy cream, and chicken stock. My stomach is sensitive to dairy so I eliminated the heavy cream, increased the potato, and added a ripe avocado, celery, some water, and fresh lemon zest. The taste remained rich and savory, and to add a new dimension, I topped it off with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt (easy on my stomach) with a touch of fresh lemon juice.

Avocados are a great source of fiber and vitamins, including vitamin K (aids in blood clotting,) vitamin E (antioxidant, helps body assimilate vitamin K,) folate (aids in tissue development,) and potassium (helps metabolize carbs and ensures proper function of cells, tissues and organs.) Yogurt contains live bacteria cultures to aid digestion, and the fresh squeeze of lemon juice also helps digestion while providing a bit of vitamin C.

This healthy soup uses fresh ingredients and can be enjoyed warm or cold any time of day. Happy eating!

Potato Leek Avocado Soup
 serves 2
This soup can easily be veganized with vegetable broth and soy yogurt.

1 tablespoon oil
1 cup diced potato
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup diced celery
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons nonfat greek yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
lettuce leaves, minced red onion for garnish (optional)

To clean leeks: cut off dark green portion. Slice leek lengthwise from green part to bulb, but not cutting through bulb. Fan out leaves and rinse well under running water. Slice thinly.

Cook potato and garlic in oil on medium heat about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery, leek and 1 cup of chicken broth, simmer low for 5 minutes.

Transfer half of mixture to blender and puree.

Transfer half of mixture to a blender with 1 cup of chicken broth and avocado and puree about 30 seconds or until smooth. Return puree to pan and add remaining 1 cup broth and 1 cup of water. Heat until simmering, about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Turn off heat, stir in lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide soup between two bowls. Place 1 lettuce leaf (at least 3″ long, 2″ wide) in center of bowl.  Top with 1 tablespoon of yogurt and sprinkle minced red onion for garnish. Can be served warm or cold.

Lemon-spiked yogurt floats on a leafy green so you can scoop a little tangy goodness with each spoonful of creamy avocado-leek soup.

Need a little extra? Try these little appetizers made of sliced cucumber, fresh Parmesan and  raw beets topped with thin slices of leeks. Lots of fresh flavors, sweet and salty combined with crunchy and creamy…this little appetizer has it all!

Easy peasy leeky appetizers!

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