Loving and Loathing my Kitchen

So it has been awhile since I’ve posted. Like everyone else daily life has been hectic and I kept telling myself to post something relevant. Well, for the past several months I have been between loving and loathing my kitchen. If you’ve ever been to my home, I’m sure some of you wonder how I could love my kitchen. Yes, it is small and there is no cupboard space and I don’t have a real oven but that’s what I love about it. All those quirky things make me realize that I don’t need a rockstar kitchen to be a top notch cook or baker. But then there are times when I open my cupboards and want to scream because I can’t get to that skillet unless I remove half the dishes that are blocking it. Sounds frustrating right? Well, yes and no. Sometimes I just have to laugh and yes other times I am royally frustrated and want to sink every dime into remodeling the kitchen.
So you may wonder why haven’t we remodeled? Well, for one I don’t know what I want and two we live in Japan. It is super expensive here to remodel or change anything. So I really want to wait to make sure I know what we want. Plus there are other things more important than a fancy oven. As long as my kitchen is clean and functional, I will deal with loving and loathing!
Recently I cleaned out and organized my cupboards. It may not look like a huge difference but I don’t have things dumping on my head anymore.
Let me know about your kitchen and the cool quirky or irritating things you have to deal with. Sometimes sharing makes those difficult times easier.

Just the basics
Just the basics

This is actually is better than before
This actually is better than before

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Soup to Curry with just a few Spices

So I had two packs of frozen spinach just staring at me in my freezer. Generally I use fresh spinach but I keep a few packs of frozen for certain dishes that I cook. I felt like I should use these two in something new and a bit different. I came across a recipe for spinach soup. I figured it was another one of those fat laden creamed soups but I was pleasantly surprised to find no heavy cream, no milk, actually no dairy but instead just a handful ingredients. Best of all, I went from enjoying a spinach soup and then by just adding a few curry spices I turned it into the best spinach curry I’ve ever had.
I know the color is odd but really it’s good and it cooks up in a flash. I’ve included the base recipe. To make it into a curry add your favorite curry spices and let it simmer a few minutes longer.

From Soup to curry with just a few spices
From Soup to Curry with just a few spices

Spinach Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 dried red chili
salt/pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 boxes frozen spinach, thawed or 2 1/2 lb fresh

Heat the oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic begins to color. Add the onion and red chili. Saute until the onion is golden brown; about 10 minutes.

Turn the heat to high and add the wine. Cook until reduced by half. Then add the vegetable stock and turn the heat to medium. Add in the spinach and continue to cook until the frozen spinach is heated thoroughly or the fresh is wilted.

Remove from heat and chill by placing the pot into a bowl of ice. Once room temperature, using an immersion blender or upright blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Garnish with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream.

*if you like really thick soup, add a diced potato to the soup along with the onion. This adds texture without the fat.
**For a curry, add your favorite curry spices such as curry powder, cumin, garam masala, etc

Simple Sunday

I’m still working on my cookbook. Today I made Asian Mushrooms and Bok Choy, Spicy Poke, and Mexican Cocktail. I also had a small order for my friend to complete. I want to share the recipe to the Asian Mushroom side dish. It’s simple and perfect for when you have little time but want something that tastes complicated and is a side dish that makes you feel good. I love mushroom and I try to incorporate a variety into any dish I can.
Mushrooms have a plethora of nutrients, low in calories, and have been found to have cancer fight properties. So try a variety and see which type you love the best and serve them up often.

Asian Mushrooms and Bok Choy

Ingredients

12 pcs of Eringi (oyster mushrooms)
1 tbsp sesame oil, to sauté
1/2 Bok Choy
1 cup water
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar

Directions
Thinly slice the Eringi. Break the Bok Choy into large pieces.
In a large fry pan, lightly sauté the Bok Choy. Cook until slightly wilted. Arrange them on a serving platter.
In the same fry pan, heat the sesame oil. Add the Eringi and sauté. In a mixing cup, whisk together the water, cornstarch, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Once the Eringi are slightly soft, pour the sauce over the Eringi. Bring the sauce to a light boil for 2 minutes. Lower the heat and sauté for two more minutes. Remove from heat and place the Eringi on the serving platter with the Bok Choy. Serve immediately.

Rustic Puff Oven Pancake

I love cooking in cast iron. I’ve really only begun but I feel like I’ve really done something special every time I use it. Cast iron is really easy to use and it doesn’t take a lot of special care. My cast iron is from Lodge Logic from Amazon.com. It came preseasoned for under $40.00 with FREE shipping! The lid flips over to be used as a skillet and the Dutch oven holds 5 quarts. You just can’t beat it. Basically, after cooking, clean the cast iron with water, no soap, wipe clean, hand dry and then oil with canola or even olive oil. I’ve had no rust issues and it cooks and bakes beautifully. So you’re asking, what can I make in cast iron? For starters, cornbread, puff oven pancakes, Irish soda bread, stews, soups, and pretty much everything else. Cast iron will last forever, check it out on amazon and check out my photos below.
Click on the cast iron pot below to take you to Amazon.

My puff oven pancake followed by the recipe.
Puff Oven Pancake

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup flour
Fresh fruit, sautéed apples, cinnamon, maple syrup, or other desired toppings

Directions
Preheat oven to 450°f.

Be sure your eggs and milk are at room temperature. In a blender or food processor, combine the eggs, milk and flour. Blend until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

Place 1 tbsp butter in each 9 inch round cast iron skillet or cake pan. Place the skillets or pans into the oven and heat until the butter is melted. Remove pans from the oven and swirl the butter to cover the bottom of the pan.

Pour half of the mixture into each pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Do not open the oven during the bake time or your pancakes will not puff.

Remove from the oven and immediately garnish with fruits and syrup. Serve immediately in the skillet or transfer to a large plate.

When it Rains it Pours

This is not going to be a depressing blog about how bad things have been lately. It’s actually how much rain we have gotten here. Okinawa does have a rainy season but in the 15 yrs I’ve been here I think this is the most. Streets were actually flooding and there has been a ton of thunder and lightning. So, you might wonder what I have been doing during this no beach going time? Well as usual cooking, baking and complaining about the rain.
Over the past few weeks I have been really working hard on my upcoming project. I really need to update a lot of my photos so I’ve been remaking a lot of my favorites and retaking photos. So without the sun, it has been next to impossible to take great photos. I’m an amateur, have a ultra cheap camera, and I believe in taking a photo of my food that will untouch, unedited, and when you make it at home you get something similar. There is nothing more frustrating to make a recipe from a magazine, thinking this will be beautiful for tonight’s party only to have it look like puke in a bowl. I often wondered how those magazines have such perfect looking food photos…say it with me now, “stock photos”. I feel so cheated and betrayed. So, just to let you know I never use stock photos and will always use photos of my own. So what you see is what you will get. Nice, right?
So here are my creations from last week: Update Acorn Squash Pudding and Healthy Cream of Mushroom Soup

Acorn squash pudding with maple syrup
Acorn squash pudding with maple syrup

Healthy Cream of Mushroom Soup
Healthy Cream of Mushroom Soup