Tag Archives: cooking

Winter cooking

I’m in a funny mood today.

When I was growing up, I didn’t eat very much meat. I didn’t (and mostly still don’t) like the texture of it. Fish and seafood was a-ok, but not meat. Or ketchup. Or mustard.

I had to have been a lot of fun to accompany to a McDonald’s. I’d have to special order a cheeseburger with nothing on it except cheese, and it’d take a long time. And they’d inevitably get it wrong. Eventually, I switched to the fish sandwich, no tartar, because they had to make that from scratch and they messed it up less.

When they released the Cheddar Melt, I was very thrilled – there was nothing for them to take off, and so nothing to get wrong! I loved them.

As an adult, I’d never eat at a McDonald’s, and if I did, I’d have to eat their salad or something because I’m super picky about meat and fish quality (it needs to have some).

Tonight, I found myself in the mood for a Cheddar Melt. So I’m making one. I couldn’t find Rye hamburger buns, so I made them myself. They are cooling on the cooling rack, waiting to be toasted later. I figured out how they did the onions (teriyaki sauce, who knew?) and I’ll start those in a bit.

I looked around for the cheddar sauce recipe, and found a lot of dreck out there, so I’m going to make my own with a roux and some milk. The meat is from Eastern Oregon ranchers and purposefully a little less lean than I normally get.

I’ll let you know if it turns out! I’m so excited. I’m having a Hopworks IPA with it, french fries and a green salad.


Recipe: Shrimp cakes (Zucchini cakes)

Zucchinis and squash blossoms at the PSU farmers' market.

Zucchinis and squash blossoms at the PSU farmers' market.

We’ve been making all sorts of veggie cakes. Last night we modified my recipe to use up the bay shrimp I bought at the farmers’ market. Other than changing the vegetable or seafood, the recipe stays the same (well, mostly, I toss other things into it as my mood dictates). They have about the same texture as crab cakes, so if you’ve liked those, you’ll probably like one of these.

I mince some onion very finely. I do the same with a clove or two of garlic (heh, I’m kidding, I probably throw four or five in there, but you don’t have to do that, I’m just a garlic fiend). If I have a fresh herb, I mince it and toss it in. Grate about a cup or a cup and a half of cheese (last night we did cheddar and monterey jack and it was awesome). Toss in two cups of panko (or breadcrumbs if panko is not your thing). I always use paprika – maybe 2 teaspoons? Salt and pepper. Other spices as my mood changes. Often a dash or two of cayenne pepper, it doesn’t make the cakes hot, but gives them a nice sharpness.

Then I grate or mince the veggie I’m using. With last night’s bay shrimp, I ran a knife through the pile once or twice just to make the majority smaller. With zucchini, I grate a few of them, toss them into a towel, squeeze a good amount of the water out of them). Toss the veggie into the mix. Add two or three eggs for moisture and binding. Mix it all up. I use my hands because I’m going to use my hands to form the cakes anyhow.

Make them into patties, slightly smaller than a hamburger. Heat some oil in a skillet (we are trying to use less and less oil for this part). Fry each side until they are golden and have a slight crust. Put them on a plate with paper towel as you finish each of them.

We tossed some wheat germ into the ones we made last night and it did great things for the texture. I thought the ones we had last night would have been good with some cornmeal and lime tossed in because we put cilantro in the ones we made last night. We’ve been super low on protein and have been working on that, so I was happy to see that while each cake was about 220 calories, they had a whopping 26 grams of protein, making yesterday the first day that Brian and I had anywhere near what we should for protein (it’s bad – when I first started tracking protein, we would often only get 20 or grams of protein. We definitely don’t have the “eat too much protein” problem so many people in the U.S. have).

These are starting to be our favorite food, especially as the farmers’ market gives us more and more veggies over summer.

We make enough for dinner with a salad one night, and then eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. mmmmm.


I typed this up for a friend and realized I might as well put it out here since I took the time to type it up.

Vegetable Tempura with Dipping Sauce

We made tempura vegetables last night, waaaaay too many of them. Here’s the recipe, in case you are interested in our findings.

After some research, I found out that tempura flour is the way to go. So I went to our local Asian market and got some. We just chose the one that had the coolest packaging, heh.

For the batter, put 1 cup water in the freezer 10-15 minutes before you are going to make everything. We used the 10 minutes to chop everything up.


1 cup cold as you can get it ice water
1 cup tempura flour
1 egg

In a bowl, give the egg a few stirs, then add the water and tempura flour. Slightly mix – the worst thing you can do is over mix this – it will make it heavy and greasy. There should be big lumps in it. Add an ice cube or two to keep it very cold.

Last night we went way overboard for the fixings – onion, zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, mushrooms, broccoli. Waaaay too much food. For the carrots and sweet potato, we just sliced it about 1/4 thick. Mushrooms were by far our favorite.

To make the tempura, heat canola or peanut oil (high heat oil) in your wok, or favorite deep frying implement. Put a bowl of just the tempura flour out. Dredge your veggie in the dry flour, then dunk it and cover it in the tempura batter. Fry until it looks done (not very long, actually) and then set it on a plate with paper towels to drain.

If you like the tempura dip that you usually get at restaurants – you can buy a commercial one in a bottle or to make your own:

Tempura Dipping Sauce:

1 cup dashi (see below)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (you might be able to get away with a sweet white wine or saki)
1/2 teaspoon sugar

For dashi – soak 1 stick kombu (seaweed) in 4 cups water. If you want it to be veggie dashi, add at least 4 dried shiitake mushrooms. Let it sit at least an hour (I do it over night when I am going to make miso soup). If you don’t care if it’s veggie, add 1/2 cup bonito flakes as well as the shiitake. It’s basically just a good broth base.

Brian thinks it’s just as good to dip tempura in soy sauce, so there you go. We’ve been eating a lot of Asian so I always have the mirin & dashi on hand so I make the dipping sauce too.

I was impressed that the sweet potato cooked so quickly. Next time I am going to do thin slices of winter squash – I had that at a restaurant once, and yum!

First meal from the CSA box

First meal we made from the new CSA box was portabella fajitas with roasted poblano sauce.

Decided I was in the mood for roasting peppers last night, so roasted the sweet peppers, jalepenos and poblanos (I picked up the jalepenos and poblanos at the farmers’ market to try this sauce).

I caramelized two onions, and sauted sliced portabellas with olive oil, cumin, chili and white pepper. Just before I took them off the heat, I tossed in garlic and sauted it for about 30 seconds so it didn’t burn and become bitter.

Portabellas and Poblano sauce

The poblano sauce was mainly the roasted poblanos, one of the jalepenos, cilantro and garlic.

Portabellas, sweet peppers, carmelized onions, queso

Fajitas themselves were flour tortillas, the portabella mixture, carmelized onions, sweet peppers and queso cheese. Mmmmmm. Very smoky and filling, exactly what I was in the mood to eat.

Portabella fajitas with roasted poblano sauce

The poblano sauce, which was an experiment, was not our favorite. I won’t probably make this one again, and we scraped a good amount off. It was pretty bitter, which I think may have been from a combination of things – I think the recipe itself didn’t balance well, the cilantro overpowered the poblanos, and my garlic may have been a little old to use raw in the sauce.

Raspberries, fresh whipped cream and vanilla wafers for dessert

Dessert was raspberries and fresh whipped cream with vanilla over vanilla wafers – this was really good, and we will definitely do this one again. Maybe with pears tonight. Hmmm….

CSA items used: sweet peppers, onions, cilantro, raspberries.


Zucchinis at the PSU farmers’ market.

I just found a blog based on the meals created by using up the food in the CSA box from my former (and sorely missed) farmer Harmony Valley (Richard, do you think you could move to Oregon, please?). I love the idea. One of the best things about being a CSA member is creatively coming up with recipes to use up everything in your box before it goes bad. It is always a scramble to get through even just the items you love, much less incorporating the ones you dislike.

I’ve not been happy with our current CSA, which is wrapping up. Many of the items have been damaged or old by the time they’ve come to us. A number of them have tasted worse than what I’d get in the grocery store. For a while, Brian and I were calling it the lettuce & cucumber share, which is super problematic (while I like greens and herb mixes, I hate lettuce, and am quickly bored by cucumbers). There have been entire weeks where I haven’t been excited by even one vegetable in the bag I’m getting from the CSA. But it was cheap, and you have to start somewhere to find a CSA you like.

Our new farmshare starts in October. We are doing a fall CSA to try out our favorite farmers at the PSU farmers’ market, Groundwork Organics. Can’t wait to start it, and it makes me go to the farmers’ market for the rest of the year which is awesome. I’m thinking that I’ll start posting things on here as I use up the box from them – it’ll motivate me to improve my plating, which is definitely my weakest aspect of cooking (and if I had to choose between plating and taste, I’d still choose taste).

Still no camera cord or battery in sight, so I’ve been pretty quiet. Back to unpacking / looking for the cord.