Monthly Archives: June 2011

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Red Bean Chili with Cashews

This chili is one of those dishes that regularly makes it onto the menu. I used to make it in a big sauce pan, but since I got a crock pot I have slow cooked it ever since. I like the way all of the seasoning marinates slowly for hours and the way the veggies and cashews become tender. The cashews add a sweet, nutty flavor that tastes great with the beans and veggies.  I garnished the chili with extra sharp cheddar and green onion.

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Crab Cakes with a Creole Brown Butter Sauce


This recipe for making crab cakes is really easy to follow and delicious! The key to making good crab cakes is using as little bread crumbs as possible. I would handle these as delicately as possible when forming them so they don’t break apart. Other recipes recommend chilling them for an hour before cooking to keep them from falling apart. Make sure not to have the pan too hot or too dry because it can burn the outside and create a big mess. For the sauces, I made a basic cocktail sauce and John whipped up a creole butter sauce that was really good too!

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Creole Seasoning


This is just a basic spice blend that works nicely for most cajun and creole dishes. A lot of creole blends add salt but since I prefer salting to taste I didn’t add any to the blend.

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Cranberry Raspberry Jam


Making new kinds of jam is pretty easy since there are so many combinations that go well together. I am a big fan of cranberry sauce and I thought it would add a little tartness to raspberry jam.  The jam turned out really well! It was not very thick so I could use it for other things besides as a spread on toast. Since it’s more like a sauce than a jam, I’ve been adding this to plain yogurt and really enjoying the results. This definitely has been one of my favorite jams so far.

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Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)



Now that I had the Char Siu ready to go, I could now make the bao! Char Siu Bao are little dumplings that are stuffed with pork, chicken, or eggs.  BBQ pork is the most common filing used in the buns, and can be either steamed or baked.  I actually tried both ways but I ended up preferring the steaming method. They turned out softer and had a more dumpling-like consistency.

This recipe involves quite a bit of time and work.  It takes a little creativity as well if you don’t own a steamer.  It was all worth it because they turned out so tasty! John and I were immediately hooked on them. I had never worked with yeast before and that turned out to be a time consuming, but fairly easy part of the process. You just have to wait a while for the yeast to rise, so I made the dough and formed the buns the night before to save time. The buns were great dipped in a little soy and hoisin sauce, and topped with fresh green onions.

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Tuna Salad Nicoise with a Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette


Time to break out the fresh summer salads! I wanted something healthy and filling so I went with a tuna salad nicoise.  Nicoise is a salad that has a mixture of veggies, hard-boiled eggs, and topped with tuna or anchovy. You can pretty much add any veggies you want with this salad, so I went with black olives, tomatoes, and red onions. The salad is served with a vinaigrette so I went with a lemon-mustard vinaigrette. The salad was exactly what I was craving–something light and fresh, and very satisfying.

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Baby Bok Choy in a Lemongrass and Ginger Soy Sauce


As a side dish to the Char Siu, I created this easy and flavorful bok choy recipe. It’s pretty simple since all you do is steam the bok choy and then stir fry it in garlic and the sauce for a few minutes. There are lots of variations and you can use all sorts of seasonings and sauces for baby bok choy. This dish went nicely with the pork and complimented its flavors. Bok choy tastes like a cross between broccoli and cabbage, and would be a great addition to stir-fries.

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Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

In order to make Char Siu Bao, or Chinese pork buns, you have to make the barbeque pork first. Making the Char Siu is pretty simple because all it requires is mixing up the sauce, marinating the meat, and roasting it in the oven. I decided to use a pork shoulder roast because tougher cuts work perfectly for slow cooking and results in tender cuts of meat. I cooked the char siu in the oven, but a slow cooker would be perfect for this recipe. The pork was great! The sauce is flavored with hoisin and five spice, and had a wonderful, complex flavor. The sauce is supposed to have a deep reddish color, so I added a drop of red food coloring to the sauce. I served the char siu with rice and the baby bok choy with lemongrass and ginger.

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Chocolate Chip Cocoa Bread


I came across a recipe for cocoa bread, and I knew I had to give it a try since I am on a serious quick bread kick. I also thought this bread would be great with chocolate chips folded into the batter. It turned out very tasty! I changed the recipe a bit since I didn’t have wheat flour, and I added a little orange zest for more flavor.

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English Muffin Margherita Pizzas


The grown-up version of the popular snack for kids–english muffin pizzas! I liked this bite-sized take on the classic Margherita pizza a lot. I tried several different ways of adding the basil: underneath the cheese, on top and cooked, on top and raw. My favorite of those was the middle–on top of the cheese and cooked for just a few minutes. It was the most flavorful and left the basil fresh and green. I only had sourdough english muffins and those worked out fine.

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