When we lived in Central California, we often weekend-tripped to San Francisco to visit friends. We had a standard list of must-do’s: cable car rides, City Lights Books, dim sum, Burma Superstar restaurant, the California Academy of Sciences, etc… And Bombay Ice Cream.
A tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it storefront, this was where I fell in love with an ice cream suffused with the sharp, earthy scent of cardamom and the intoxicating sweetness of rose petals. This wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill ice cream. It was kulfi. Some argue that kulfi shouldn’t be called “ice cream” because it’s thicker and denser than the Western ice cream ideal. But I suppose the word “kulfi” doesn’t elicit the same wide eyed excitement from everyone so Indian ice cream it is!
Deb and I have only communicated via email and social media, but when I heard she was coming to town, I eagerly volunteered to help. I was delighted to discover that Deb is every bit as lovely in person!
We spent the day of the event (we were expecting 150 people!) prepping, prepping, and prepping.
Here is a slideshow with some highlights:
I’m sure many of you are dying to try your hand at bento “box-ing” so I asked Debra to give us some guidance on putting one together. Note that her focus is on kids’ bento boxes.
1. What are the most important elements of a bento box?
It’s all about balance and using foods that span 5 different colors: red, black/brown, white, green, yellow. With those colors it is deemed that you have a balanced meal
Have a variety of foods, whether in texture, cooking methods (boiled, stir-fry, fried) as well as types of food
Make it visually pleasing
Pay attention to nutritional value and portion sizes. Have smaller amounts of each food but a greater variety (see above, they are closely linked)
And my Japanese friends say “LOVE” is in the box
Usually rice or a carbohydrate (bread or pasta are fine too!) takes up to at least 1/3 of the box for a girl and up to half for a boy
Protein is also important. Sometimes boys will get 2 kinds of protein
Otherwise, meat, fish and chicken are often seen as okazu–side dishes–so they share equally in portion size with vegetables, fruit, etc.
2. What tips can you share with us newbies?
Look at a bento box as a food sampler of sorts
Concentrate on the colors
Have a few neat picks so that you can create a kabob, for example: skewer a turkey meatball, steamed broccoli and a cherry tomato and brush all with a glaze of teriyaki sauce (find cute picks and more bento accessories on Amazon.com!)
View this as a good opportunity to give your child some new foods in smaller amounts
Stock up on silicon cups and put mini salads in them: pasta, leafy greens
Prepare ahead of time: Have several (see-through) containers of precut and cooked veggies, corkscrew pasta, cut fruit, mini-meatballs
Good leftovers equal a good lunch so make more than you need for dinner. The point is to re-fashion it creatively
Definitely add a small treat (try Deb’s matcha mochi cupcakes below)
For me, there are almost no ‘no-no’s.
3. What’s the difference between an adult’s and a kid’s bento box?
Mainly the difference is volume. There are also differences in volume between bento boxes for men and women. Men’s boxes have an interior space that can contain about 30% more food. Also the types of food that go into the box could be heavier on protein and carbs for men, and more fried foods as well.
As far as presentation is concerned, it still has to be pleasing to the eye. The Japanese say “me de taberu” they eat with their eyes. The same care is given to a 5-year-old’s lunch as is to a 15 or 50-year- old. A bento box for an adult may be less cute, but it will still be attractive.
From My Japanese Table (Tuttle Publishing, 2011) by Debra Samuels
“Thai sweet rice (glutinous) flour doesn’t work in this recipe. The best results are with Koda Farms Mochiko. I first learned about mochi cupcakes when a Boston friend who is married to a Japanese-American man. She got the recipe from her mother-in-law’s Buddhist Temple Community cookbook from Los Angeles. It has since been tweaked several times by other cooks.” ~ Debra
Makes about 16
3 cups (one 1-pound box) Koda Farms Mochiko (sweet rice flour, available at Asian Markets and some Whole Foods Markets)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons matcha (green tea powder)
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 can (15 ounces) sweet adzuki beans (optional)
Set the oven at 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper or foil cups.
In a bowl, combine the rice flour, baking powder, salt, and green tea. Whisk well.
In another larger bowl, mix the oil and sugar. Add the eggs and milk and whisk vigorously.
Add the rice flour mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until completely blended.
Fill the cupcake papers half full with the batter. Add a scant tablespoon of the adzuki beans. Spoon a little more batter over the beans. This should come just below the tops of the papers.
Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes or until they begin to crack. Set on a wire rack to cool.
I’ve been on a meatball kick lately, which is a little strange since I’m not a huge meat-eater. Maybe it’s the cooler weather. Maybe it’s all the spaghetti and meatball recipes I keep seeing. Who knows?
That being said, I didn’t want my meatballs to be too stodgy so I decided to lighten them up.
Scouring the Web and my cookbooks, I found suggestions for using extra fillers (breadcrumbs, oats, rice), adding beans, hiding veggies in the meatballs, etc. Then it came to me: why not add tofu just like the Japanese hamburger recipe in my cookbook (pg. 153).
After experimenting with ingredients and proportions, I first tossed the resulting meatballs into my favorite tomato sauce with spaghetti. My husband and son gobbled dinner up none the wiser!
Inspired by Jill, I decided to tweak her sauce and came up with my own sweet, sour, and spicy version.
Asian Meatballs with Sweet and Spicy Tamarind Sauce
These half-tofu-half-pork meatballs are awesome as party appetizers. I’d make several batches because they will go fast, especially when chased with a cocktail or beer. They’re that good. And your guests will never know they’re made with–gasp–tofu!
Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 30 1-inch meatballs
7 ounces firm or medium-firm tofu
1 pound 4 ounces ground pork, turkey, or beef (not super-lean please!)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons chopped green onions (1 stalk)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the tofu in a non-terry dish towel or sturdy paper towel. Over the sink, wring out as much excess liquid as possible. Do this a few times until the tofu is dry and crumbly.
In a medium bowl, combine the tofu, ground pork, soy sauce, green onions, cilantro, sea salt, black pepper, and mix until smooth. Hint: use your hands! I like to microwave a little of the mixture and taste it to see if it needs any more seasoning.
Roll into 1-inch balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets about an inch apart.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the meatballs are golden and cooked through. Toss cooked meatballs with warm sauce and serve.
Sweet and Spicy Tamarind Sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup of sauce
1/3 cup wet tamarind (about 3 ounces)
3/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (About 1-inch chunk ginger, peeled and grated)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons sambal oelek (chili paste)
In a medium saucepan, combine the tamarind paste with water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and stir until the paste softens into a thick puree. Add the ginger, garlic, sugar, soy sauce, and chili paste. Keep stirring to prevent the sauce from burning or sticking, until the sauce becomes thick and sticky, about 10 minutes. Press this mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl or deep dish to remove any solids. Gently toss the cooked meatballs in the warm sauce.
This sauce can also be made a few days ahead of serving and reheated when needed.
You might think me crazy for craving rice pudding in the middle of summer. But this past week or two, we’ve had a deluge of thunderstorms here in northern Virginia.
And we all know there’s nothing more comforting than curling up on the couch with a rich, creamy bowl of rice pudding as you listen to the pitter patter of raindrops and spy the occasional flash of lightning above the rooftops. Especially when it’s chocolate rice pudding!
Now rice pudding recipes are as common as golden poppies carpeting a California hillside, but I was delighted to find Marvin Gapultos’s Filipino champorado (Chocolate and Coffee Rice Pudding) in his new cookbook, “The Adobo Road Cookbook–A Filipino Food Journey–From Food Blog, To Food Truck, And Beyond” (Tuttle Books, May 2013). If you didn’t know already, Marvin is the voice behind the very entertaining Burnt Lumpia blog. And if you haven’t visited his blog, you should!
While I was making the champorado, I imagined Gloria standing next to me in the kitchen reminding me to constantly stir the rice. “C’mon, Pat, keep stirring.” I have to admit, without Gloria at my side, I was a delinquent student and only picked up the spoon maybe once every 10 to 15 minutes. Thankfully, the rice didn’t burn and meld to the bottom of the pot (well, at least very little did!).
You are probably thinking, “I’m not going to make rice pudding in summer.” Oh, but you should.
I don’t have a problem eating hot foods in summer–I grew up eating steaming noodles and hot dessert soups in 100 degree F weather. However, as Marvin mentions, you can refrigerate the rice pudding for a few hours and eat it cold. And when the rice pudding gets cold and thickens up a little, you can do fancy things with it.
Aside from giving you Marvin’s awesome champorado recipe, I’m also giving you a chance to win Marvin’s cookbook. Tuttle Books has generously donated 3 copies of “The Adobo Road Cookbook” so please leave me a comment telling me how you like your rice pudding and any special touches you add. Or just say, “hi!”
The giveaway ends Friday, July 26, 2013. (Sorry, we can only mail the book to U.S. addresses.)
Marvin writes in his book that Filipinos eat champorado for breakfast, and accompanied with dried salted fish. Being the modern Pinoy that he is, Marvin adds his own twist to with bacon. I, on the other hand, chose to eat it plain. Sorry, Marvin, couldn’t do it! Know that this recipe is so simple and so adaptable. If you prefer to eat rice pudding for an afternoon snack or dessert after dinner, then use decaf coffee. Or leave it out entirely (substitute with water) if you’d like to feed it to your kids. If you don’t have malagkit, use Japanese sweet rice (short grain glutinous rice) or any short grain rice like Japanese sushi rice. Even Arborio will do. You can also vary the type of chocolate. I used a bar of bittersweet chocolate instead of semisweet chocolate chips.
3/4 cup (150 grams) malagkit
3 cups (750 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) strongly brewed coffee
1/3 cup (75 grams) sugar
Pinch of salt
1 (6 ounce) bar bittersweet chocolate, crushed, or 1/3 cup (250 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (optional)
Combine the rice, milk, coffee, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over high heat. While stirring frequently, bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the mixture thickens, 30 to 40 minutes. (Be the better cook and stir more often than I did!).
Remove the rice mixture from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir until they are melted and thoroughly incorporated into the rice. Stir in the coffee liqueur if using.
Spoon the pudding into individual bowls and serve warm. Or cover and chill till cold and serve with fresh berries.
Notes: If you’d like to garnish your rice pudding with bacon, cook a couple of slices till crisp, in a pan or in the oven (my preferred method—no splatter). Crumble and sprinkle over your champorado.
Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win one of three copies of “The Adobo Road Cookbook!”
Full disclosure: I tested recipes for Marvin and my lovely quote also appears on the cover of his cookbook. Plus, I received a free copy. However, I am writing this post because I think it’s a great cookbook and you should buy it!
In the U.S., avocados are most often eaten in savory dishes, sliced to adorn salads or made into guacamole.
As a little girl, my mum would make us a very simple snack–she’d halve an avocado, drizzle some palm sugar syrup (made by melting gula jawa a.k.a. arenga palm sugar) over each half and hand us a spoon. I’d scoop out the flesh bit by little bit, making sure I got a good dose of caramelly syrup with each spoonful of creamy avocado.
I still eat avocados this way once in awhile but I’m more likely to make es alpukat, a light and refreshing that satisfies my craving for something sweet on a hot summer day. Es alpukat (literally iced avocado) is ubiquitous in Indonesia, available at just about any restaurant or at a street-side stall, but it’s easy enough to make at home.
The name makes no mention of it but coffee is usually added to the drink. You can always leave it out or substitute with chocolate milk.
What’s your favorite way with avocados?
Iced Avocado and Coffee Drink (Es Alpukat)
Es Alpukat is the perfect dessert if you are following a heart-healthy diet. The rich, creamy flesh of avocado gives this drink richness and body but it contains “good” mono and polyunsaturated fats, is naturally cholesterol-free as well as being chock full of nutrients like Vitamin E and folate. So you can drink up guilt-free. The Indonesian way is to serve it over ice and scoop out the avocado chunks with a spoon, but you can blend it like a milkshake–and add ice cream!– if you prefer.
Makes: 4 (1-cup) servings
1 large ripe Hass avocado
1/3 cup espresso plus 2/3 cup water, or 1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
1/4 cup Pandan Syrup (see below)
Chocolate syrup (optional)
Using a tablespoon, scoop avocado flesh in bite-sized chunks into a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, squirt the chocolate syrup to coat the insides of 4 tall, clear glasses. Divide the mixture equally. Add ice cubes and sprinkle with ground coffee just before serving.
All this is is a rich simple syrup steeped with pandan leaves with a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio so you can adjust amounts according to your needs. Use one pandan leaf for every cup of sugar. The cooled syrup can be bottled and keeps in the refrigerator for up to two months. You can use the syrup to sweeten teas and other mixed drinks too.
Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 2-1/2 cups
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 pandan leaves, trimmed and tied into separate knots
In a medium (2-quart) saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and stir continuously until the sugar dissolves, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove the leaves and pour the syrup into a jar or bottle. Refrigerate for up to two months.
My parents aren’t natural storytellers (perhaps I should ask more often?) but every once in awhile a gem from their childhood pops up. Like this one story my mum recently told me: Ma remembers always waking up from her afternoon naps to the intoxicating aroma of freshly-baked-or-cooked something wafting in from the kitchen. To get her and her siblings to fall asleep with the least amount of fuss, Popo, her mother and my grandmother, would promise her and her siblings a treat when they woke up. The post-nap delights ranged from roti bakso (savory meat-filled buns) to kue mangkok (“cup”cakes), and all were delectable.
While Ma and my uncle and aunts wriggled restlessly in their beds anticipating what lay in wait for them when they woke up, I envision Popo (whom I only know from photos) hard at work in her tropical kitchen. As she rolled and flattened soft balls of dough, she’d occasionally wipe sweat from her brow with a hanky she stuffed into her bra strap. Taking a teaspoon in hand, she’d scoop a mixture of pork, candied winter melon, and green onions into the middle of each dough disc. Gently, she’d bring the dough edges together and wrap it up into a neat oval package as she listened for rogue sounds coming from the children’s bedroom.
When Ma and her siblings woke up in a couple of hours, the buns would be out of the oven and ready to be grabbed by little hands and devoured with squeals of delight.
All this I see in the sepia tones of my mind’s eye, imagining what my mom’s childhood was like and what Popo was like.
Inspired by this perfect anecdote, I decided to recreate this experience for my son with my own post-nap treat.
One Tuesday afternoon after Isaac goes down for his nap, I busy myself in the kitchen. I want to bake banana bread but I only had two bananas (three at first but one was so ripe it fell splat on the floor when I accidentally dropped it). Desperation incites innovation and digging around my kitchen, I discover two bright yellow mangoes, ripe and ready to eat, in my fridge.
Bananas and mangoes are both tropical, I convince myself, they’ll couple very well in a quick bread recipe!
As I prepare all the ingredients, I hear a squawk. My heart sinks, it’s been barely 30 minutes since Isaac went down! Sure enough, the little guy emerges from his room, his disheveled hair in a post-nap Mohawk. I panick for two seconds before realizing, wait, he can help me bake! All kids love to measure ingredients and mix batter don’t they?
Isaac has never really shown much interest in helping me in the kitchen and I’ve never forced him. But this time, I drag his stool into the kitchen and try and talk up the mother-and-son baking experience.
“This is going to be so much fun! You can measure the sugar, flour and butter, and mix everything together. Come help mommy in the kitchen.”
“I don’t want to. I want to watch TV!”
“But baking is so much fun! Don’t’ you want to help mommy?”
“I don’t want to! I want to watch TV!”
A few volleys back and forth ending with a promise of “Thomas the Tank Engine” later, Isaac steps up onto his stool. He starts by scooping sugar into the mixing bowl. Then he helps me add the butter and proceeds to “cream” the mixture with a wooden spoon. After two or three turns around the bowl, he declares, “I’m done!” He hops off the stool and goes off to play with his airplanes.
Nothing I can say henceforth can cajole him back into the kitchen.
Feeling dejected, I finish mixing the batter and shove the loaf pan into the oven.
As I sit down to wait for the bread to bake, I realize how silly I was for getting frustrated. Did I really expect everything to go according plan? Hah, it was definitely wishful thinking on my part.
If there’s one important lesson to take away from raising a toddler, it’s that you should always expect the unexpected. It builds character and encourages a flexible outlook on life. And sometimes results in a new favorite recipe!
Simple and straightforward, the original banana bread recipe came to me on the back of a bag of flour many years ago when I was in college. It’s been my go-to recipe ever since. Over the years, I’ve mixed it up a little: varying the ratio of white to brown sugar, using a combo of all-purpose and whole wheat flour (I add some applesauce or yogurt to moisten it up), substituting butter for shortening, etc., etc. And the sweet smelling loaf—crusted in a shiny mahogany veneer–comes out lovely every time!
3/4 cup granulated raw sugar or brown sugar (I really like Wholesome Sweeteners brand)
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs at room temperature
1-3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 very ripe honey (Altaufo) mango, peeled, seeded, chopped and mashed (about 1 cup)
2 large bananas, mashed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.
In a medium mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and beat well.
Sift flour, baking powder and soda and salt and add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the mango and banana and mix until just blended. It will be lumpy but don’t fret.
Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning the loaf onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing (if you can wait!).
“At least half the grains you eat should come from whole grain sources.” I’ve heard this mantra so many times it’s beginning to play in my head like a broken record.
I find it hard enough to abide by that myself all the time but convincing a toddler that chewy whole-wheat bread with grainy bits is tastier than pillow-soft white bread is an even harder sell.
True, it’s best to introduce your kids to whole grains sooner rather than later. Then they’ll think it’s just, well, normal, and grow up assuming that whole-wheat bread is yummy, and white bread is yucky (yeah, right!).
First things first, don’t assume your kids won’t like whole grains. I just leaped right into it, and I was lucky to get tipped off with some great ideas for one of the world’s most popular staple food, rice.
My most serendipitous discovery so far has been Korean jabgok-bap (mixed grain rice). The bag I found at an Asian market comprised barley, millet, sweet brown rice, brown rice, black rice (which gives the rice a pretty purple color when cooked), and white rice.
The ingredients in jabgok-bap can vary from five to 20 different grains to include legumes like kidney beans, black-eyed peas, soy beans, mung beans, split peas, etc., and even oats, amaranth, and sorghum. Rice is not indigenous to Korea and was very expensive when it first arrived. Hence, it was mixed with other grains to “stretch” the rice.
Don’t you just love how this frugal necessity can stealthily add vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and flavor to your diet?
I was talking to a Korean friend the other day and she told me that she makes her own rice “mix,” ensuring she adds plenty of whole grains like brown rice and millet to the combination. She says her three children love it!
Like any concerned parent, I want my son to eat–and enjoy–whole grains so I decided to try it out on him.
I went to the bulk section of my grocery store and picked out an assortment of grains for my custom-blend. I chose white jasmine rice (which my son already loves), brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, red rice, pearl barley, steel cut oats, millet, and black rice.
I’ve been mixing and matching the grains and so far so good. My son gobbles it up without any fuss, not realizing he is now the poster boy for the USDA dietary guidelines!
Depending on your family’s tastes, feel free to use whatever grains you desire and mix them in any proportion. This is a great way to introduce your kids to brown rice and the very en vogue farro, buckwheat, and quinoa. Whole grains have a chewier texture and nuttier flavor that may not be as pleasing to them, so start off with less and use a greater proportion of the more palatable white rice or even orzo pasta. As time goes by, adjust the proportions. Keep experimenting until you find the right mix that your family loves.
1/4 cup (or more) of any of the following grains and legumes (Culinate.com has a fabulous guide):
Sweet brown rice
Steel cut oats
This is not really a recipe. Rather, it’s more a set of guidelines.
Mix all the grains in an airtight canister. Scoop out however much mixed-grain rice you’d like to cook. Wash and drain. If you have time, soak the grains for 30 minutes so they will cook faster. If not, just proceed to add the grains to your pot and add the required amount of water.
Since different grains require different amounts of water and varying lengths of time to cook, you’ll have to experiment to get mixed-grain rice done to your taste. I suggest starting with the ratio and time recommended for the longest cooking grain in your mix using your choice of method. For example, I cook my mixed-grain rice in the rice cooker with the 1:2 grain-to-water ratio recommend for brown rice. My appliance magically flips the switch when the rice is done.
However, you can cook the grains in a pressure cooker (30 minutes for brown rice) and on the stove top (45 minutes for brown rice) as well.