Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coconut Iced Coffee

I'm not a regular coffee drinker, preferring only to drink occasional iced coffees, and hot coffee with certain desserts. We all know how much I love cà phê sữa đá, but I also LOVE coconut, and pretty much anything containing coconut (the one exception, though, is coconut water. I tried one after hearing about all the hype, and it had the same taste and consistency as having the flu. No bueno).

Typically for coconut drinks, I stick to Sonic's Ocean Water and Dunkin Donuts' coconut iced coffee. BUT, I found this recipe via Tastespotting and knew that I HAD to try it. The only change that I made was to use double-strength brewed coffee instead of instant coffee - I didn't have any at home, and didn't want to buy any since I don't drink coffee regularly.

PLUS - today is National Coffee Day

Almond Dofu (Almond Jelly with Fruits) - (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Almond Dofu, also occasionally called "almond tofu" isn't actually tofu at all. It's a popular dim sum dessert made from cubes of sweet almond flavored milky agar agar, mixed simply with canned fruit cocktail and occasionally served with evaporated milk. Mom has always made this for me; the only change from her method is that I have added a can of mandarin oranges, which I LOVE. Feel free to use whichever canned fruits you like best!

As I mentioned in my kohi zeri post, agar agar is a vegetarian/vegan form of gelatin derived from a type of seaweed; it sets more firm than standard gelatin as well. Almond dofu is traditionally made from almond extract, soy milk and agar, though I prefer to use a pre-made powdered mix, found at most Asian markets, or online as well.

Inari Zushi - Japanese Fried Tofu Stuffed with Seasoned Rice (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Inari zushi is a type of 'sushi' named in honor for O-Inari, a Shinto deity. This 'sushi' is a humble blend of seasoned rice, stuffed into an abuurage, a fried tofu skin. The skins are sweet from simmering in a soy-based cooking liquid, while the rice stuffed inside is savory from the simmered shiitake, carrot and kanpyo. The flavor is very similar to the kayaku gohan I posted earlier this summer.

In addition to the okazu with takuan that my mother often sets out for me when I visit, there is usually onigiri, or occasionally inari zushi. In fact, I'm KNOWN at home for spoiling my appetite with these, as I can't stop at just one

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole

I ALMOST didn't post this recipe here; I've already posted several casseroles, and I assumed everyone knew how to make tuna noodle casserole. I actually did NOT grow up with this dish like most people; I grew to love it as an adult, when I first started REALLY getting into cooking for myself, starting with the classic gingham-covered Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Back then, quick, easy & cheap (and delicious, of course) were what drew me in to a recipe.

Tuna noodle casserole is considered a classic by many; it's quick to prepare, super cheap, and easy enough to throw together at any time. For me, it's a recipe that I can make at any time, since I almost ALWAYS have all of the ingredients already in the house. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sausage Balls

Quite a while back, I made sausage & cheese muffins and made mention of the greatest sausage balls I had ever eaten. And, as you know, I LOVE sausage for football snacks! With football season in full swing, and to celebrate a weekend of great football (Alabama's first SEC game, the Bears/Packers rival game), I knew it was high time to share (with permission, of course!) THE sausage ball recipe. 

Sausage balls are super easy, and most everyone knows the recipe from the Bisquick box. These are slightly different, mainly using buttermilk for extra tang instead of milk. Uncooked, these freeze BEAUTIFULLY. So, feel free to make a big batch and keep them handy for future game days!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fried Green Tomato Parmesan with Antipasto & Sauteed Lemon-Garlic Spinach

Autumn is finally here - it's that bizarre time of year here in the South where it could be 60 one day and 90 the next. When, driving around, the A/C is a bit too cold, but it's still a bit muggy to go with just the fan or open windows. The time of year where I put away my smelly summer sandals and live in my favorite boots

Fall is also my FAVORITE time to cook. I look forward to hearty comfort meals, traditional Southern spreads, and homey Japanese nabe dishes. Today I decided to prepare a nice Italian meal, but without any meat or heavy pasta. There's still enough cheese to give any lactose intolerant nightmares, but omitting the pasta DOES help (a little bit). The only course with meat is the antipasto, which can be EASILY made totally vegetarian by simply omitting the pepperonis. 

Though I LOVE eggplant parmigiana, once I came across a recipe that "Southernized" this classic by replacing the fried eggplant slices with green tomatoes, I knew that I had to make it happen. The antipasto is easily made ahead of time, and the recipe is simply a guideline; feel free to make as many substitutions or omissions as you like. Bonus - it freezes REMARKABLY well. Instead of a plain, boring salad, I opted to also include some lightly sauteed spinach, seasoned only with a bit of garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice. Throw in a good red wine, and you've got a meal! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Takuan-Zuke (沢庵), Japanese Daikon Tsukemono (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Takuan-zuke (also known as takuwan), is a traditional Japanese pickle made from daikon radishes. It has a pungent smell, a sour-sweet taste, and a BRIGHT yellow color, usually due to food coloring in commercial brands, or from dried persimmon peels in homemade/natural pickles. 

I have several books on tsukemono, several of which lay out the traditional way to make takuan-zuke. This process is labor-intensive and time-consuming. First, the daikon must be hung in the sun to dry for several weeks to make it pliable. Then, it is layered in a crock or pickling press (tsukemonoki) with nuka (rice bran), salt, kombu, and the daikon greens. The fermentation occurs through lactic acid bacteria, and the nuka bed must be carefully maintained, lest it become smelly or moldy (GROCE). The takuan will take several months to fully pickle. 

Growing up and even now when I visit my family, there is almost always a beautiful okazu (side dish) plate on the kitchen counter waiting for me from Mom. Always 2 or 3 onigiri, sometimes some pickled mustard greens, and ALWAYS a few half-rounds or quarter-rounds of takuan. No matter whether I've just eaten breakfast, or if we have one foot out the door to head out to lunch, I always leave the okazu plate clean within minutes of stepping into the kitchen. 

I've always batted around the idea of making my own traditional takuan until I stumbled across a recipe for "quick" takuan from Foodjimoto. A quick inventory of the pantry yielded everything I needed for the pickling, and a lunchtime jaunt to the local Japanese market netted me some beautiful and ENORMOUS Japanese daikon. Within half an hour, the pickling process was well under way!

WARNING: Like making kimchi or sauerkraut, this WILL fill your entire house with a pretty unpleasant stank. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mapo Doufu (Mapo Tofu)

Since watching Bizarre Foods Tuesday night and seeing Andrew Zimmern sweat his way through Chengdu, I have had an insatiable craving for spicy Sichuan food. I love the tingly-numb feeling I get in my mouth after enjoying a steaming bowl of Mapo doufu (Mapo tofu), but, sadly, most Chinese restaurants here tend to REALLY tone down the spicy factor. Even my favorite local Chinese restaurant, which is miles ahead of the competition as far as authenticity is concerned, doesn't have quite the kick I need in my Mapo tofu, though it's still excellent. TRUE Mapo tofu should meet 7 criteria of Chinese cuisine: numbing, spicy hot, hot (temperature), fresh, tender/soft, aromatic and flaky. 

Mapo tofu requires specific Sichuan ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorns, fermented black beans (dou chi) and chili bean paste (doubanjiang/toban djan), and often is cooked with minced pork. However, many restaurants and recipes omit the pork in order to keep the dish vegetarian. You should be able to find both the bean pasta and black bean sauce at any good Asian market - Lee Kum Kee is a good brand that is easily found in most stores, including the "ethnic" aisles of most better supermarkets. 

Sichuan peppercorns - WAY hotter than your standard black peppercorns...

I used a coffee grinder to grind mine.

As requested by MB, this recipe comes straight from Diana Kuan of Appetite for China with some influence from Bee Yinn Low from Rasa Malaysia; the only changes I have made is to use chili black bean sauce in place of the fermented black beans. I have also added chili oil and chili powder for more kick. Just be warned that this recipe is SPICY. Like, HOLY CRAP spicy (This disclaimer brought to you by the National Foundation for the Prevention of Srirach-ass).

PRO TIP: This recipe cooks VERY quickly; it REALLY helps to have everything prepped and mixed and ready to go :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baked Ziti Primavera (Vegetarian)

Most people who know me know that I'm not crazy about Italian food compared to everyone else. Most pasta dishes are too heavy and overloaded with meat and cheese, usually leaving me feeling pretty stymied by the Itis. Also, pasta is typically a big no-no for a low-gi lifestyle. However, I love baked ziti, and have a REALLY delicious and absolutely positively bad for you recipe for it, but today I wanted to try something a little lighter, without losing all of the flavor. Bonus: this took me under 30 minutes from start to finish, even WITH taking photos! 

Here I have used a high fiber, low-gi wheat ziti, and made this dish entirely meatless by using plenty of vegetables cooked in a primavera fashion. Since this dish is already full of flavors, I was able to use lower-fat (skim) cheeses and not notice a difference in taste at all. 

Vegetable Noodles with Chicken & Peanut Sauce

I honestly can't say enough good things about this recipe; I was initially drawn to it solely from the gorgeous photography, but the recipe stayed in the back of my mind. As summer winds down into fall (though it's still 90 degrees here), our local markets have been running sales on what they call "grilling vegetables". I decided to take advantage of some great prices on zucchini and squash and whip up this quick and healthy meal.

Plus, my mom has nicely asked me to post some recipes that are healthy and not bland, but don't take forever to prepare or a ton of expensive ingredients. So here goes! 

Not only is this meal healthy, but also delicious and perfect for those on a low-carb or low-gi lifestyle who don't want to give up taste. Instead of pasta, julienned vegetables quickly blanched in UNSALTED water, become a nutritious and colorful substitute. This would be a great meal to get finicky kids to eat vegetables, as all they will see is "pretty spaghetti". This recipe can easily be made vegetarian by simply omitting the chicken or substituting with seitan or tofu. For vegan, simply substitute tamari for the soy sauce. 

This recipe DOES yield a lot of extra 'noodles', which can be chilled and later eaten with a simple vinaigrette as a salad! A julienne peeler or mandoline with julienne attachment will help immensely, but you can still prepare these 'noodles' with some patience and a good knife as well. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cornbread Casserole (Vegetarian)

Cornbread casserole is a slight variant on cornbread, though baked in a casserole dish instead of the standard cast iron skillet. Though I have an ironclad skillet cornbread recipe courtesy of my Mom (the only Japanese woman who can make cornbread that will make Alabama born and bred boys want to slap their grandmas), this casserole recipe works great when served with a meatless "beans and greens" meal. 

This recipe is easy, cheap and quick with the bonus of making enough to serve a crowd. Chances are, you already have everything you need in your cupboard to make this today!

Collard Greens (The Official Leafy Green of South Carolina)

When buying the ingredients for my Galician soup, I ended up with WAY more collard greens than I needed. So, I decided to make a MESS of collard greens, since they are low-gi, easy to prepare, and delicious. Collard greens also freeze very well and reheat nicely, so I like to make a large batch when I can. 

Not only are collard greens tasty, but they are INCREDIBLY healthy as well. A 1-cup serving of greens yields 85% of your daily fiber needs (great news for those of us who practice low-GI for digestive reasons). Collards are also a great source of antioxidants as well as vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin E, zinc, vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids in the form of ALA (alpha lipoic acid). On top of that, collards can help lower your cholesterol by binding bile acid AND have been shown in studies to reduce inflammation and cancer risk due to the 4 glucosinolates found in collard greens (glucoraphanin, which is excellent for cardiovascular health, gluconasturtiian, glucotropaeolin, and sinigrin). These glucosinolates convert into ITCs (isothiocyanates) when eaten. 

Here in the South, usually the best collard greens are available after the first frost, but the batch I bought looked incredible. Plus, now I have plenty of collards ready to eat at any time, and probably won't have to make any again until the new year

Southern collard greens are a simply, no BS recipe. All you need is some smoked pork, collards, a bit of spice, and some vinegar. Any recipe that tells you to put sugar in your collards should immediately be side-eyed and disregarded. ಠ_ಠ

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken, Mushroom & Broccoli Casserole

Casseroles. People either love them or hate them. Personally, since I'm not one of those strange birds who can't eat foods that touch one another, I LOVE casseroles. They're quick and easy to prepare, without dirtying up a ton of dishes. 

To me, casseroles scream 'comfort'. I love to make casseroles ahead of time to cook later in the day. This recipe is made simple by using some convenience items such as deli rotisserie chicken, 90-second microwaveable rice, and pre-cut vegetables. Also, in keeping with the holy gospel of casseroles, there IS a cream of something soup in it. 

This recipe can be made ahead since everything is precooked before assembly. Though the recipe calls for a 13x9" baking dish, I sometimes use 2 9x9" baking dishes so I can freeze a portion for a later date, or simply share with others. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Galician Soup (Caldo Gallego)

As many of my IRL friends know, I'm a HUGE fan of Cuban food. Luckily, Birmingham is the new home of Atlanta's famed Kool Korner, a fantastic Cuban sandwich shop run by the 85+ yrs young Ildefonso Ramirez. 

In addition to the top-notch sandwiches, Kool Korner also offers a black bean soup as well as Galician soup (aka Caldo Gallego). I recently strayed from my beloved black bean soup to try the Galician version and decided I HAD to try my hand at making it on my own. Bonus - it's gluten-free and will do wonders for your digestion (take from that what you will...). 

Caldo Gallego is a traditional Spanish soup stuffed with chorizo, potatoes and collards. Go ahead and make a big batch if you like since this, like chili and most soups, freezes REALLY well. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Site Update - Printable Recipes!

IBICF now has a PRINTABLE RECIPE option! 

I finally decided to get with the now and add the option once I realized how easy it would be (I can make hollandaise LIKE A BOSS, but HTML isn't my thing). Also, since I DO have a tendency to go overboard with the pictures, I figured I'd save all of the tl;dr folks a bit of scrolling :)

All posts going forward will have this option, and I'm editing old posts as time permits to add this option as well. 

Simply look for the "PRINTABLE RECIPE" link just under the name of the recipe! 

- Julia <3

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Labor Day weekend. The start of college football. Is there possibly a BETTER time to make chili? I think not...

This chili recipe is a slight adaptation of my Dad's amazing chili, which, growing up with, has spoiled me when it comes to any other chili recipe. One of my earliest kitchen memories is making chili with Dad on a Saturday; he'd have me stir the chili to make sure it didn't stick, and I'd always get to slice the mushrooms (with one of those boiled-egg slicers!). I've doubled his recipe, since I like to share the chili and freeze the extra for lazy days. 

If you have an Aldi close by, you can make this entire meal for just under $20! I actually used their brand of chili seasoning this time, instead of the usual Chili-O, and I think it turned out better than ever!