Monday, April 27, 2009

meatless monday mundays

Start with an empty freezer because you haven't been to Costco in a month and you're not going again until tomorrow.

Open your cupboard, see the jar of lentils, and remember that you actually like bolognese sauce with lentils better than with meat anyway.

Do a jig, being careful not to knock anything over in your pocket-sized kitchen.

Throw one cup of dried lentils in a pot with 2.5 cups of water, 1/2 t. salt, 1 bay leaf broken in half, and one bouillon cube. Simmer for about 20 minutes - I like mine with a bit of bite to them, so I don't cook the smithereens out of 'em. (Basic lentil recipe from More with Less calls for 1 t. salt, though I add less when I'm adding them to an already salty-ish sauce recipe. If I'm making soup with them, I'll go ahead and use the full teaspoon.)

Drain the lentils and chuck them in with your favorite homemade or storebought bolognese sauce, and serve over pasta, couscous, or polenta.


Friday, April 24, 2009

mommee melt's picadillo

My cousin gave my grandma her grandma-name back in 1970 or so, and "Mommee Melt" she will always be (now aged 91).

My aunt, the mother of that cousin and my dad's older sister, went to college with a Cuban girl that became her good friend. And one weekend when they visited my grandparents' home together, that friend taught Mommee Melt how to make picadillo.

Our family has never looked back. It's a must for special occasions and my brother-in-law asks for it every birthday. The tangy vinegary/tomato-ey meat sauce is a perfect foil to the raisins and olives that have been simmered in it till soft and succulent. SO yummy.

It's best served with Vigo's yellow rice, but barring that, a multigrain rice mix that you can buy in Japanese stores and mix in with your regular rice in the rice cooker works well, too. Or if you like white rice, the old standby, go for it!

You'll need:

1 lb. (about 450 g) ground beef
1 lb. ground pork or turkey
2 medium onions
1 large green pepper (or 4 or 5 Japanese piman)
olive oil
2 small cans tomatoes (I use 400 g cans - about 14 oz. each)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder (I usually just dump a heap of minced garlic in instead)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
pepper to taste
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives (I use about 1 cup)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup tomato juice or red wine (red wine is good)

Do this:

Chop the onions and green pepper and then brown in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and meat, stirring constantly to break in small pieces. Add remaining ingredients and simmer slowly for about an hour.

Serve over rice. Nice with black beans or lemony baked kabocha squash on the side.

If you make this and enjoy it, let me know and I'll email my grandma on her Presto machine and tell her about it. She'd be tickled to hear your story, I'm sure.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

grandma's hankyu train cake

Yes, I made birthday cupcakes back in March with all Matthew's favorite flavors (bananas, raisins, peanut butter), but when my in-laws were packing to come visit us here in Japan, I asked Stephen's mum if she could bring some packaged fondant icing to help me make a special Hankyu train (our local train company) cake! A bit late, but WELL worth it. Just look at it! It ended up that I made the actual cake (used the carrot-ginger muffin recipe I made before), but my MIL did all the decorating. Isn't she a pro?!?

Here's a pic from the Internet of the actual train:

My MIL, Helen, is an artist, so she started out by doing a few pencil drawings to get a feel for it:

She used various pieces of the cakes and stuck them together with toothpicks...

Then rolled out the icing. She mixed white, black, green, and red to create the burgundy color of the train body and affixed it to the cake with a warm mixture of marmalade and water.

And not only did she create a beautiful cake, but look at the beautiful smile on her grandson's face! He was one happy camper.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

grandpa's 65th birthday pud

Since the UK grands arrived here in Japan 1.5 weeks ago, I've been doing some cooking but not a lot of posting. Anyway, here's Grandpa with his oldest grandchild (notice the Maffa Bean's line of sight - he loves dessert but adores watching lit candles even more!).

I reincarnated my cranberry-lemon bread pudding with plum-wine sauce, stuck a 6 and a 5 in it, and away we went! One of Grandpa's favorites is bread-and-butter pudding, so he was pretty happy about the whole situation, especially as there were some leftovers to eat cold the next day with the warmed sauce (while we played Gift Trap - my birthday gift from the grands last year).

This time, per the hubster's mighty fine suggestion, I simmered the dried cranberries in plum wine before adding them to the dish, and they plumped and juicy-fied up very well. Last time I added the zest of two lemons and the juice of one, and this time added not just all the zest but the juice of both as well. Even more zing!

Grandpa recommends it (and asked to have it again before they leave - I think I might just manage that).