summer food: lo mein

I know, lo mein is a year round food and not just a summer food, isn’t it? We go to the restaurant for a girl’s-lunch treat now and then, and can share a plate of lo mein for $6. Quite the bargain. Now that the price of beef is going up up up, and as my friend with the 8 kids says, “Meat is a condiment in our house,” I thought I would explore cooking dishes with relatively little meat. Since we love lo mein at the restaurant, I thought it was time to make it myself.

I used this recipe, and success!


I did not have on hand: oyster sauce, sesame/peanut oil, and Asian chili paste. I found all of them at Walmart, however, so the ingredients are not difficult to find.

The first attempt I used more fresh ginger than the recipe calls for (I like fresh ginger), and then half as much the second attempt. Over-doing the ginger was not a great idea, I liked it much better with just a hint. And just a hint of the chili heat.

What’s great about this recipe is you can cook up twice as much as you need, and it makes a fabulous cold dish the following day. I am all about not cooking in the summer, am I right? And a cold noodle dish is sometimes better than a salad, because it’s more filling.

Lo mein is going to be on our table a lot this summer. Do you have any favorite dishes that serve well cold the second time? Please share!

food: caramel popcorn

When I was young, we’d go to an outdoor shopping mall after church and there was a candy shop that made fresh caramel corn and the buttery sugar smell would waft over the whole shopping mall. Sometimes we would buy a box.

This recipe makes that kind of caramel corn. I think it’s slightly different than kettle corn, but I don’t know exactly how.


I made this recipe one time and was afraid of “boil for 4 minutes without stirring” in my stainless steel saucepan, so did not let it boil without stirring. This resulted in caramel with crystalized sugar chunks, which still tasted just fine but did not spread over the pop corn correctly. This time I let it boil away, and there is so much butter in the recipe that there’s no fear of burning and sticking to the pan.

Not a recipe for the calorie conscious, but great for putting that caramel smell all through your house and sitting down for movie night once in a while!

food: apple fritters

I was looking for a donut replacement because paying 50-cents (or more) for a donut is starting to seem a little ridiculous. And apple fritters or soooo easy.


Yes, they look a little homely. But they taste GREAT. Plus there’s actual fresh apple in there. What’s not to love? Or you can leave the apples out and you have that state fair perennial, funnel cake.

1-inch oil for deep frying
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tblsp. white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tblsp. vegetable oil
3 cups apples, chopped
1 cup cinnamon sugar.

1. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or skillet to 375-degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients.
3. drop small spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden, about 5 minutes.
4. Drain on paper towels and toss in cinnamon sugar while still hot.
Makes 24 small fritters.

Great for breakfast!

canning: salsa and sweet-and-sour sauce

This year there are only two Roma plants and one cherry tomato, but they are producing like mad! So far I have been able to can two batches of salsa (using 15-cups of tomatoes), and one batch of sweet-and-sour sauce (using 8-cups of tomatoes).

Someone made a comment online that my sweet-and-sour sauce recipe is outdated and I should be using SureGel instead of cornstarch, so I switched to that instead. You shouldn’t be using cornstarch in canned apple-pie filling, either. But you know what? I can my own stuff so I know there is no preservatives in it, and once I read the SureGel package (I used Certo brand), sure enough there is polysorbate 80 in it — exactly what I am trying to avoid.

So you can’t win. The salsa does not need to gel, but the Mandarin sauce does.

Still, look at all that lovely color in the sweet and sour sauce. You know what, I guess the work-around to that is next year I will leave the thickener out, and just add the cornstarch while it’s heating up before serving. Tah-dah.




You don’t get lovely color like that from something off the store shelf.

The salsa tastes fresh and wonderful, even at the end of the year. I love this recipe. Add a splash of lime when serving.



How is your garden coming along? I am so glad I will have plenty of these jars ready to go through the year. Store bought salsa is no where near as good as this stuff.

food: Beignets

Ever since the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog, I get requests to make beignets now and then. They are super easy, so why not? If you make the recipe at night, put the dough in the refrigerator to rise and then fry up quick and easy in the morning!


I used this recipe, and mind that it calls for 7 cups of flour — which is a heck of a lot of donuts! I halved the recipe, then halved again, and it still is enough dough for two mornings. The good thing about is you can hit the setting to increase or decrease the servings, and it does the ingredient math for you.

Maybe you could whip up the dough on Friday night and surprise your family Saturday morning?

food: tandoori chicken and dahl

Hoo baby! Finally a food success!

I left out the red food coloring that gives tandoori chicken its instant recognizability, and I don’t think the taste suffered any for it.


Perfect chicken! I used this recipe, and after marinating threw de-boned chicken thighs on the barbecue for 20 minutes. I first soaked the chicken overnight in a bowl of water with a couple teaspoons of salt, and a quarter cup of lemon juice, as per the recipe.

**Aside: I used to eat almost every day for lunch at a fantastic Mexican restaurant whose specialty was grilled chicken. They proudly displayed a newspaper write-up about their restaurant on a wall by the door, and in the article they gave away their secret: Soak the chicken overnight in water/lemon juice/salt. If you do nothing else to prepare for grilling, at least do this and the result takes ordinary flavor to spectacular.

The following morning, I mixed up the spices in the yogurt, and let the chicken marinate until cooking time before dinner. This means you have to think about in advance TWICE what you are doing for dinner, but the actual steps are easy and sooo worth it.

I barbecued extra, and the following day we had cold chicken on our green salads, and it was fabulous. This was that extra hot day last week (106 where we are!) so having a no-cook meal was welcome. Every time I make this recipe, I will double it so we can use the extra meat the next day!

Do you see the grilled corn in the above photo? I thought I would give that a try, too. You soak the corn in water for at least 20 minutes before grilling (I soaked it an hour) so the leaves don’t burn. I put the corn on the grill at the same time as the chicken, and it turned out perfectly.

This next photo is the dahl. I used this recipe. Lentils, and spinach, and all those spices that you look at in your spice cabinet and think, “Why did I buy this?” Well, you bought it to make dahl! Tumeric, cumin, mustard seeds. (The recipe says it makes four servings, but I think it’s more like twelve servings. A cup and a half of lentils. That’s a lot.)


Both of these recipes are going to go into our permanent rotation. Finally, a food success!

food: bouillabaisse

I have determined we need to be more food-adventurous, plus, we need to eat more fish. With all the healthy benefits to fish, why do we not eat more of it?

I don’t know about your family, but we don’t really like the fishy taste of fish. I’m sure it’s all in how you were raised and how homey it feels to you, but we’re just not fish people.

So starting with bouillabaisse wasn’t the wisest choice. And, probably summing it up in a photo, here is the web’s worst photo of fish soup. Sorry, my camera was on the wrong setting. Sigh.


That’s cod, shrimp, and scallops. All things which when separate are pretty good, but together. . . just too fishy. I used this recipe from, and no, I did not buy five pounds of cod! I eyeballed the fish assortment and had the butcher give me just a little bit, because this stuff is too spendy to throw away.

While talking to the butcher, I asked about the shrimp because I have only one time bought fresh whole shrimp — and that time I did not know I had to devein the shrimp and the dish was a disaster. You know how some things are fantastic at restaurants but not so good at home? Shrimp seems to me one of those things. I deveined them this time, but it was messy and slimy and in the future I think I’ll stick to ready-to-go shrimp. The butcher explained that the other available shrimp was from China, and that the way they kept the price of the local shrimp down was to offer it whole. So I guess that’s a reason to learn to devein shrimp yourself. Next time, I’ll watch a youtube tutorial in advance, and then give it another go.

I substituted scallops for the mussels because the store didn’t have mussels. Scallops were passable in the bouillabaisse, but only because as far as fish go they don’t have a lot of flavor. The cod was okay, but all taken together it was just too much fish. My thought was, “Well, if you don’t like one, then just eat another.” But that didn’t really work.

Oh, and my soup base is so red because I used crushed canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes (a commenter in the recipe said this was the way to go, and I had a can on hand).

Still, as I was looking at the leftovers, I realized an easy fix: pull out the fish bits from the soup, refrigerate until tomorrow, and then mix the bits in with some hot salsa and there you have ready-to-go fish taco fixings. Perfect way to hide the fish!

Why be so food-adventurous? Have you been watching Hannibal? If not, go and watch all the episodes on hulu right now! I have to say watching the epicurean scenes makes me a bit ashamed of my presentation. Not to mention ingredients. Seriously. There’s some food that is just hard to live up to, but why not try? I think I can get behind seeing food as art.

My last-week’s attempt to make a new food, was bread pudding. Another fail. One time at a Mexican restaurant in Monterey, within walking distance of the beach where the divers meet, we were seated and eating those humungous burritos like all the taquerias serve, and at the end of the meal a waitress comes out and says, “You have to try the bread pudding,” and puts down two ramekins on the table. And I took a bite and said, “Why did I just eat that burrito when I could have been eating this?!” because it was the most wonderful bread pudding in the world. So I tried to make some, but it was not great.


I used dried apples instead of fresh, and that was a mistake — or perhaps soak the dried for 20 minutes in advance. . . that might work. But what was really wrong was using regular milk, instead of cream or at least half-and-half. And I suspect the flavor that put that memory-bread-pudding over the top was a dash of rum. Or perhaps Grand Marnier? Maybe I will just have to try it both ways.

There’s so much memory in food, we might as well try to make them good memories. To wit: No more bouillabaisse! Bleah!

Do you have any recipes that hide the taste of fish? Please leave a comment!

the humble egg

We don’t like eggs around this house, not scrambled, not omlettes, not over-easy. Oh, we’ll take them over-easy, but only because there are lingering memories of good times with egg breakfasts at dinky diners. It’s just not the same homemade, though.

We do like deviled eggs, however. Maybe it’s because the texture is different, sort of rubbery, and the addition of mayonnaise makes a satisfying mouth-feel afterward.


A friend told me his secret ingredient to perfect deviled eggs: tabasco sauce. And he was right. I use five drops of tabasco per egg, and the result is a tanginess without any spicy bite.

Give it a try. Perfect for picnics, or potluck at work. They’ll be gone in no time.

making something good better: braised mushrooms

When you go grocery shopping first thing in the morning it is **so** much easier to plan a nice evening meal than when you get to 2p.m. and think, “Now what?”


I bought some fresh button mushrooms just for a change, we don’t eat them often, and when I got home I went to the garden and snipped a stem of rosemary.


Crushed rosemary added to a half-cup of olive oil and a teaspoon of minced garlic makes a wonderful braising oil for the mushrooms.


The flavors in the oil need to combine all day for best flavor, it’s not something you can really hurry up in the afternoon. Another use for the oil is as a dipping sauce on French bread (love this!) instead of butter. Would you believe I was at the store too early for there to be loaves of freshly bagged bread out? Yeah, disappointment. I didn’t know you could be too early.

Still, the mushrooms braised over a medium heat for about 7 minutes until they released their water. When I finished, I realized I could have added a handful of fresh green beans to the pan and that they would have been cooked perfectly along, the right amount of cooking time and the garlic oil would have improved them, too. Next time.