Saturday, December 18, 2010

apricot ginger cardamom muffins

When we first moved to Japan I was taking semi-private language lessons with a wonderful lady named Kazuko (who also became like my Japanese mom). In the class with me was a neighbor and friend named Sheena and she brought some yummy apricot pecan muffins with her to class one day.

These are the apricot pecans muffins, minus the pecans and tweaked with some of our spicy favorites. (No kidding, our beans will eat crystallized ginger piece by piece, gulp their milk in between bites and then ask for more ginger.)

Bean 1 and Bean 2 helped me make these, including some their size that they wanted to put candles on while they sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.

You'll need:
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (original recipe called for 1/4 t. nutmeg)
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 2 c. flour (I used all purpose)
  • 1/2 c. golden brown sugar (I used dark brown)
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 t. or more orange peel (I used my microplane grater)
  • 2.5 ounce package of crystallized ginger, chopped, plus more for topping
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c. milk (plus a splash more if batter seems dry)
  • 125 g (1/4 pound) melted butter
  • sliced almonds for topping
Do this:

Preheat your trusty oven to 190 C/375 F and butter or oil some muffins tins--this made 11 regular-sized muffins and 8 mini ones.

Sift together the cardamom, baking powder, and flour, then stir in the brown sugar and mash with your hands to get the lumps out. Add the apricots, ginger, and orange peel to the dry mixture, and in a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, and melted butter. Make a well in the dry mixture and add the wet ingredients, stirring just till combined. Add to your muffin tins, sprinkling some sliced almonds and chopped crystallized ginger pieces over the top.

Bake about 12-15 minutes for the mini muffs and 20 or so for the big daddies.

Yum. Spicy yum.

And don't forget the milk...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

my little gingerbread men

More cookie on the boys than the boy rolls out the dough and the other one drives a "snow plow" through the flour...

We used this delicious recipe (the only thing I altered was trading out margarine for butter and substituting pumpkin pie spice for all four spices - all the same spices in one convenient scoop)...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

this and that, and more of that

I've been busy in the kitchen--honestly! I know, I know, nothing's shown up lately on ye olde blog but hey, you're still here, right? (Right?)

So what have I been up to, culinarily speaking?

Here are a few honorable mentions, in no particular order (some are possibly from a couple of months ago, but nobody's telling):
  • Greek lemon yogurt pound cake, with a mixed berry sauce I conjured up from frozen berries, sugar, and a wee dram of white wine (drool over photo above)
  • Greek chickpea stew (revithatha)--lovely for winter (I also added lemon juice and cayenne pepper)
  • Red lentil soup--comfort food found via Small Notebook that originated from Orangette (Seattle-based foodie)
  • Lotsa homemade soup - asparagus, tomato, lentil, leek and potato, chicken and orzo, etc.
  • I've made a couple of meals for families with new babies from my MOPS group--I love! One family was vegan so I made lentil curry, rice, salad, and a vegan-friendly version of the chocolate tofu peanut-butter pie (I changed the choco out for carob and the mommy told me she loved it so much she actually dreamed about it that night after eating it!). I've also made fish pie and cottage pie for some other folks.
  • M-Bean and I made cookies this afternoon--his request was "chocolate-raisin cookies" so I used an old standby chocolate-chip oatmeal cookie recipe and we threw in some mixed dried fruit that included raisins, apples, pears, peaches, and apricots. I chopped some Lindt 50% chocolate to add and it turned out dandy.
  • Guinness brownies, again and again
  • When berries were in season, I dressed up an Everyday Food magazine recipe--a raspberry baked custard became a blackberry-chocolate baked custard. Yum.

  • I've made homemade cranberry sauce twice this holiday season so far--in Japan I used my homemade umeshu (plum wine) in the sauce, but now that we're in the States, I'm adding bottled sangria instead and it lends a nice fruity flavor. The original recipe calls for port but I never have any of that on hand. The cranberry sauce got rave reviews at my friends' home on Thanksgiving! (And if you happen to have any left over, it's great on plain yogurt for a pre-bedtime snack.)
Wanting to make and devour:
  • Julia Child's French bread (I've got her DVD set and she makes it look so fun!)
  • Kim's egg nog (yummy-soh!)
  • Pioneer Woman's leek and potato pizza (in her cookbook that I waited months for at our library)
  • latkes - a friend told me about her Hanukkah party and made me drool!
Better go get some sleep so I have energy to get back in the kitchen tomorrow...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

helen's plum compote

Perchance because my own mama left this mornin' to head back to the Midwest, I'm feeling nostalgic for all things mom-(mum-)ish and so my thoughts turn to my mother-in-law's plum compote (originally from a Le Cordon Bleu cookbook). She made this for us while she and my father-in-law were visiting recently. Oh my word. Amazing. Mum serves it with a dollop each of creme fraiche and mascarpone and the sweet-tartness of the plums fuses perfectly with the smooth creaminess of the two toppings.

You'll need:
  • plums (why not?)
  • red wine
  • red currant jelly (a whole jar)
  • creme fraiche and/or mascarpone (or ice cream)
Do this:

Wash your plums, halve them, and then take all the pits out. (No need to peel the fruit.) In a shallow (but wide) pan on the stove top, add the red wine and reduce it by half, then add the red currant jelly. Throw in your plums with cut sides upwards.

Bring it back to the boil and simmer with the lid on till the plums are poached and soft.

Devour hot or cold. Either way you're going to be plum happy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

guinness brownies

Beer. Brownies. What could be better together?

When a friend sent me this recipe (she's not sure where she got it originally), I knew I had to try it.

And a couple of years we are. Makin' brownies with a lovely beer.

These are actually better after sitting a day or two, so if you're planning on serving them to guests, make them at least a day ahead. The flavors meld and you can taste the slight hint of tart/sour Guinness, which works perfectly with the chocolate.

You'll need:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 c. flour (I used all purpose)
  • 3/4 c. sugar (I used a bit less than 1/2 c.)
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I use at least 70%)
  • 4 oz. good-quality white chocolate
  • 1 1/4 c. Guinness
  • 6 T. unsalted butter
  • confectioners' sugar
Do this:

Preheat your oven to 375 F and butter an 8x8 inch pan. Combine the egg and sugar with an electric mixer till fluffy, then melt together the dark chocolate, white chocolate, and butter. Remove the pan from the heat then add the egg and sugar mixture to it. Sift the flour and cocoa together, beat it into the chocolate mixture, and then whisk the Guinness in. Pour into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool. Let sit for a day or so (OK, have one piece while you're waiting) and then chow, baby, chow. Cheers! Kanpai!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Tomato season came to Seattle a bit late this year and these were my final harvest (about 2 weeks ago). Aren't they purty?

And the taste--so flavorful they almost made your taste buds wince, but in a good way.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

grandma wright's christmas pudding

You know, I still have a letter on blue paper from my husband's Grandma Wright that she mailed to us in Japan from the UK in 2001. I had asked her for her Christmas pudding recipe and she indulged me (in her usual sweet way). We miss her so much but know we will see her again someday.

In the meantime, my mother-in-law (Grandma Wright's daughter) and I made Grandma's famous pudding today (ready to mature until Christmas and beyond) and it was a wonderful way to remember special moments from her life.

This is a gorgeous "pudding" that is basically a brandied-fruited-succulent-dense-moist-spicy-heady cake.

It takes two days to make so I will break it down for you (and for my own future reference!).

Day 1

Grab 3 "pudding basins" (if you're in the US, just get some round Pyrex glass bowls with lips, 1 quart/950 ml each). Cut 3 pieces of wax paper into circles to fit the tops of the bowls. Cut 3 pieces of aluminum foil into squares, bigger than the wax paper circles and big enough to cover the bowls and go down over the sides. Get yourself 3 pieces of muslin or white sheets, cut into squares big enough to cover the top of the bowls and to be able to tie up over the top (more on that later). You'll also need 3 pieces of string, each long enough to wrap around the bowls (under the lip) about three times and then to tie off.

Soak 12 ounces sultanas (or golden raisins), 12 ounces currants, 12 ounces raisins, 2 ounces chopped candied orange peel, 2 ounces chopped candied citron peel (or a total of 4 ounces "mixed peel" as it's called in the UK), and 1/2 ounce chopped almonds (I bought slivered almonds and then just chopped them a bit more) in "2 egg cups of brandy" (or in my case, two sake cups). I soaked mine in a casserole dish with a lid.

Measure out 4 ounces of breadcrumbs, 6 ounces self-rising flour, 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. If your flour doesn't have salt, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, otherwise leave it out. Store the breadcrumbs in one covered bowl and the rest of these dry ingredients in another bowl for tomorrow's use.

Day 2

Chop 8 ounces of suet (a block of beef fat--I got mine from Better Meat) into small cubes the size of breadcrumbs.

Put the soaked fruit, nuts, and peel into a stock pot (or other very large bowl or pot) for mixing. Add 2 ounces demerara sugar (or dark brown sugar) and mix in well, then the suet and mix that in as well. Then beat 3 eggs in a separate bowl and stir those puppies in. Next comes the breadcrumbs and after they're stirred in well, throw in the flour and spice mixture bit by bit. Stir with your wooden spoon each time you've added a bit of the flour mixture and if you've got a man hovering around anywhere, get him to do it--it gets very thick and hard to move around.

If the batter is a bit stiff with just 3 eggs, splash in a bit of milk to loosen things up.

Butter the 3 Pyrex bowls well and divide the batter into 3 parts. Scoop 1/3 of the batter into each bowl and pat down well.

Butter one side of each of the wax paper sheets and pat one down on to the top of the batter in each bowl (butter side down), making sure there's no air between the batter and the wax paper.

Then place a piece of foil over each one, shiny side down.

Next, tie the muslin or sheet on the top of each bowl, wrapping the string under the lip of the bowl three times or so, then knot tightly.

Pretend you are wrapping an omiyage with a furoshiki and tie two opposite corners together at the top, then the other two corners over that.

Now you've got a Christmas pudding parcel!

All you have to do now is steam them for 4 hours or so (preferably 6). Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the bottom of the pan...

And you can even steam 2 at once if it makes you happy (and if you don't happen to have tons of large pots hanging around with nothing to do). Check often to make sure the water hasn't boiled out and left your pan dry and if you do need more water, boil it in a separate pot or kettle before adding it to your pots with the puddings.

Stay tuned for Christmas Day when we'll be setting our Christmas pudding on fire and serving it with brandy butter!

Just remember to re-steam the pudding for 2 hours before eating it. Oh, and it can be stored at room temp--all that brandy sloshing around in there is great for preserving it. And the more years it sits, the better. Honestly. It just gets better and better, my friends.

This pudding is stunning. Thank you, Little Grandma!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

something's fishy pie

Sorry about that title. I just can't help it if I'm a product of the Wheel of Fortune generation. (Where is Vanna these days, anyway?)

This pie was definitely a joint effort: My aunt peeled and cut up the potatoes, my mother-in-law inspired me to add the parsley to the sauce and also made the mashed potatoes for the topping, my father-in-law minded the white sauce while I answered the door and then he washed the dishes after the meal (mother-in-law dried them), my uncle read to the kiddos, hubby worked, and two boy-beans chipped in and helped me eat it after all was ready.

Went down like a treat.

A Mamatouille special so I'll try to recreate this for you here but my memory is a tad hazy. I mean, come on, I made it two whole weeks ago. Don't hit me if the ingredient amounts are a bit nebulous, either. I'm trying here, folks! (Or am I trying your patience?)

This makes two casserole dish-fuls, one 9X13 inches and one 8X10 or so.

You'll need:
  • 5 pieces of salmon, probably about 1.5 pounds or so
  • 1 package of tiny scallops, about a pound
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoned salt
  • 1 package bacon, chopped and pan fried till crispy
  • Frozen organic green peas, probably a pound or so
  • Grated cheddar cheese for the mash and also for sprinkling on top
  • Plenty of potatoes - peeled, chopped, boiled, and mashed
  • Milk, butter, minced garlic, and seasonings for the mash
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 cups milk, 16 T. flour, 16 T. butter (for the white sauce)
  • S&P
Do this:

Pan fry the salmon and scallops in olive oil (adding seasoned salt), flake the salmon and add that and the scallops into the bottom of the two casserole dishes. Toss over the peas and then add the chopped cooked bacon.

Make a white sauce (I like to use a wire whisk to eliminate any lumps) by melting the butter and then whisking in the flour. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking all the time till thickened. Stir in the fresh chopped parsley and check for seasonings.

Pour the white sauce over the fish, scallops, peas, and bacon.

Spoon the cheesy garlicky mash over the top of the two casseroles and then sprinkle a bit of extra cheese and parsley over the top. Bake at about 350 F/180 C for about 30 minutes or so until bubbly and utterly delish.

Consume with some of your favorite peeps and serve with yo mama's carrot-pineapple-raisin-apple salad, nice bakery bread, vine-ripe sliced tomatoes, and some chilled white vino.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

papatouille's peachy lamb

Buwahaha! When the cat's away, the Papatouille mouse will post on her blog.

OK, well actually, Mamatouille asked me to post this one. Actually, she has been asking me to make this recipe for a long, long time. Approximately 9 years in fact. Or, to put it another way, the temporal distance from our Ireland honeymoon to now.

So, after 9 years of begging, ol' Mama T boxed me into a corner by buying me two of the crucial ingredients - lamb and peaches. What could I do? I couldn't let the lamb die in vain.

All I had to do was to remember the recipe itself. Ah, yes. The other indispensable factor - which I could not remember. You see, when we were in Ireland (near a tiny dot-on-the-map of a place called Dunmanway), I just made it up as I went along. Okay, so I will throw out a small crumb of credit to my darling mother, who I am sure made something like this in the long-distant past of my childhood. But even then, all I was really going on was the lamb and the peaches.

So that is where I started tonight - with a slab-pack of stewing lamb (3/4 lb - or 0.34 kilos in real money), and two peachy peaches.

What to add to recreate the romantic dinner of yore?

Well, if you ever get to see any more Papatouille posts (which is about a 50/50 chance at this stage of this post) you will know that the big P does not let such things as recipes hold him back. The key is to see what you have, and then try to figure a way to blend it - tastefully - together.

A quick raid of the fridge and the pantry resulted in the following haul:
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 1/2 an orange bell pepper
  • A bottle of red wine (a bit excessive to use the whole bottle, so we will try to restrain ourselves and just use a splash)
  • Some salt
  • Some rubbed sage
  • Some garlic in a toothpaste tube
  • A pack of couscous
  • Some Tuscan butter with garlic and Italian herbs
So, without further ado, let's cut to the (food) chase and , in the immortal words of Mrs. M, "Do this":

Slap some butter in the pan and get it sizzling nicely. Now, dump the lamb in and get it nicely browned on all sides. (Don't go too nuts with this. The center does not have to be well-cooked as it will get done as the evening progresses.)

Remove the lamb to a separate plate, and now it is the turn of the veggies. In go the onions and bell pepper. Toss in the bay leaf, a pinch of salt, some Worcester Sauce (oops, forgot to mention that in the list) and the sage. Stir it up until the vegetable matter is slightly browned and soft.

Now the lamb can skip back on in. Throw in a large dash of the red vino and a squeeze of garlic toothpaste and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes. Last to go in are the two peaches, peeled and cut up small.

The interesting and mysterious thing is that, for some inexplicable reason, the arrival of the peaches results in a welcome thickening of the sauce. Another 15 minutes of slow simmering, and the peaches are blending in and looking less like fruit salad.

The Peachy Lamb has reached its peak and is ready to be consumed.

And so you sit down to enjoy your lamb and.... couscous. At which point, you realize you have completely forgotten about that little detail. Fortunately, couscous is deadly simple to prepare, even if it does require the tedious process of actually reading some instructions on a box and following them. No room for ad libbing there, I'm afraid. Sorry about that. But at least you can get it done quickly.

So what are you waiting for? Run along and do that before your lamb gets cold.

Waits. Twiddles thumbs.

You're back? Great. Serve the lamb over the nice, fresh couscous and enjoy.

Bonny appetite, as they say in Scotland.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

zucchini-lime quick bread

Though I've only got a small veggie garden in the backyard, the zucchini seems to enjoy it here in the Pacific Northwest and went a bit mad on ye olde multiplying. I made up my own zuke smoothies the other day and have tried out all sorts fun-ness, including my own take on a traditional quick bread.

You can find a zucchini quick bread recipe anywhere online (I used one from my favorite cookbook, More with Less) and instead of adding the staple spices (cinnamon, etc.), I zested and juiced two limes. (I also used half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose.)

My two favorite little beans helped me put it all together and of course they've also been helping me nibble on it. I like mine with cream cheese! Maybe Mamatouille's a bit cheesy after all. (We knew that.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

zuke smoothie

It's so much fun heading out to my wee garden in the backyard every day and finding hidden treasures (such as this 10-inch zucchini!).

I thought this one was cute.

I have loads of new zuke recipes to post, but for now, I will leave one of my latest smoothies with you: Blitz 2 bananas, 1/2 fresh pineapple, 1 cup frozen blueberries, toasted wheat germ, flax seed meal, lime juice, 1 zucchini, 2 carrots, 2 celery sticks, a huge handful of spinach, and some plain yogurt. Enjoy in a glass with a straw (somehow I can drink a green smoothie quicker with a straw than without).

View from my kitchen window. Stones courtesy of Deception Pass, Whidbey Island.

Friday, August 27, 2010

oh bring me some figgy ricotta!

OK, so these are actually grilled figs with spiced ricotta, a cinnamon-infused syrup, and topped off with sliced almonds...

Have I got your attention yet?

It all started with a bowlful of Californian green figs (grown right here in Seattle) from my next-door neighbor's tree and left on our front porch. You gotta love this street--another neighbor left us a gorgeous bouquet of homegrown dahlias and other flowery goodies recently and if you forgot to buy sesame seeds on your last grocery run, someone nearby will have some for you to borrow a bit.

Recipe adapted from an Australian gem simply called Healthy Eating (published by Bay Books).

Grilled Figs with Ricotta

You'll need:
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 T. flaked almonds
  • 4 large or 8 small fresh figs
  • 125 g (1/2 c.) low-fat ricotta cheese (but I admit I used full-fat!)
  • 1/2 t. vanilla essence
  • 2 T. icing (confectioners') sugar, sifted
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. finely grated orange zest (I used my microplane grater)
  • I also added a splash of lime juice and a pinch of nutmeg to the ricotta mixture
Do this:

Along with 80 ml (1/3 c.) water, add the honey and cinnamon stick to a small pan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 6 minutes, or until it's all thickened up and reduced to about half of what it originally was. Turn off the heat, take out the cinnamon stick, and stir in the almonds.

Preheat your grill (broiler). Grease a baking pan and slice the figs into quarters, being careful not to go all the way through and keeping them attached at the base. Put 'em in your baking pan, side by side and ready for some grilling action, baby.

In a smallish bowl, stir up the ricotta with the vanilla, sifted sugar, ground cinnamon, orange zest, lime juice, and pinch of nutmeg. Divvy it up amongst the cute little figgy-wiggies, spooning some syrup with almonds over each one. Broil/grill (watch it carefully!!!) until the almonds are slightly browned (note: I used my camera carefully because a few of my burnt almonds told me they were a bit embarrassed). Cool for a few minutes, spooning over any juices and almonds that are in the bottom of the pan.

Consume and then roll your eyes in taste-bud ecstasy. There's just something special about figs and cheese--a match made in heaven.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Happy two years to me, happy two years to me, happy two years, dear Mamatouille, happy two years to moi!

Two years...203 posts...

Take a gander at a few of my faves:

Seems like a lot of cranberry and lemon floating around these here pages.

Anyway, thanks to all of you still reading Mamatouille! I haven't kept up with Foodbuzz and I hardly comment on anyone else's blogs anymore, but if you're stickin' with me, I wanna blow you a big kiss from Seattle! Love ya!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

current fave pancakes

I know it's probably not blog-worthy that I (ahem) use a pancake mix, but would it make you feel any better if I told you it's Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix? Only shipped in from one state away? I also figure it's cheaper for me to purchase the mix than it is to actually go out and buy ten different grains to make it myself.

Plus, when you've got at least one little preschoolertouille who wakes up before 6:00 (yes, that's a.m.) every day, then you want something to fix in the morning that doesn't require too much brainwork.

BUT because I'm Mamatouille, of course I mix these babies with a twist. Instead of water, I use equal amounts of whole milk, applesauce, and pureed organic pumpkin. And I also throw in some freshly grated Oregonian cheese. (See, I do some work in the morning! I grate! I probably should have my cuppa before operating any sort of sharp machinery such as a box grater, but what the hey, I live dangerously.)

These are great slathered with honey.

And you gotta love your honeys a lot to be flipping 'cakes at 6.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

red-bean smoothies

After going to an outdoor kids' concert to see Recess Monkey in Kirkland, Washington, the other day, we stopped by Cafe Happy (vegetarian Taiwanese style) on our way back to the car. Their red-bean smoothie was absolutely delish and I decided I had to try to make it for myself!

So I got myself down to an Asian market a few days later and bought a can of sweet red bean paste from Japan. Maybe you've heard of azuki beans? These were the mushed and smushed variety called an or anko.

I made one version with rice milk, ice, bean paste, spinach, cinnamon, and mixed frozen berries. Yum.

The other version was bean paste, ice, rice milk, spinach, and cinnamon. Also very yummy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

yeast-fighting foods

Plain yogurt, homemade iced cinnamon tea, salad smothered in olive-oil sauteed garlic cloves

Sometimes our bodies get out of kilter and yeast decides to rear its ugliness and invade our lives.

This is when I say no to
  • sugary foods
  • bread (even my beloved Wasa crackers have yeast listed as an ingredient)
  • beer
And a resounding yes to
  • plenty of plain yogurt
  • whole garlic cloves by the boatloads
  • cranberry juice (no sugar added) and cranberry supplements as well
  • probiotic acidophilus supplements (refrigerate after opening)
  • cinnamon (tea recipe to follow)

Years ago my grandma gave me a Reader's Digest booklet called Favorite Remedies from Your Kitchen and it has come in handy on so many occasions. Here's their cinnamon yeast-fighting tea recipe: Add 8 to 10 broken cinnamon sticks (I buy them in bulk from the bin section of the store--it's much cheaper that way) to 4 cups boiling water and let it all simmer for 5 minutes, then take the pot off the burner. It goes on to say that you should let it steep for 45 minutes, but I do it overnight and then refrigerate and serve it with ice.

I think yeast problems are more rampant than we like to think (apparently even men can get them!) and if you'd like more information from a source that's a great help to me, check out The Yeast Infection Homepage, which has super-duper ideas for fighting back!

I hope I haven't grossed anybody out, I just really want to pass on creative and helpful ideas to any of you who might suffer in this way. Here's to your great health! Cheers! (Just make sure you're clanking cranberry-juice glasses--no beer right now, please!)