30 Sep 2009

PUMPKIN!!

This month I have chosen to use pumpkin in as many dishes as possible.  I want to find new ways of using it so if you have any suggestions please post them my way.  Jules has offered one of her delightful recipes which I look forward to trying now that I have all the necessary ingredients.   



Japanese pumpkin (Kabocha) is in season this month which is every reason why I want to cook with it.  Fresh is always best. This pumpkin is beautifully sweet and it's colour is a brilliant orange.  High in bita carotene a powerful antioxidant which converts into vitamin A in the body. 
This anti-oxidant has been shown to help improve immune function and can reduce the risks of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  Not only that, pumpkins also contain many other vitamins and nutrients including: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, C and E.  Furthermore One cup of pumpkin contains 3 grams of fibre and only 50 calories.   It is high in carbohydrates so can be a healthy substitute to pasta, rice or potatoes. 


Kabocha is traditionally eaten in celebration of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, when people lack the nutrients found more commonly in summer vegetables. Kabocha is often enjoyed as tempura or boiled in sugar and soya sauce resulting in a soft, sweet dish.

For this blog posting, pumpkin cake is first on the list.  Pumpkin has an amazing texture perfect for baking with and will make your cake beautifully moist and colourful.


It was my day off yesterday and was on the lookout for something easy to make and using the ingredients I already have. That's when I thought a pumpkin cake would be the ideal choice.  I did want to wait until I received my mums amazing squash recipe (which I have to add to this blog when I get it.  It is perhaps the only cake you can't resist to scoff, even if it has fallen and broken into peices on the kitchen floor - ah the memories) however I felt a bit impatient and thought I'd make one up myself.  I didn't want to be too experimental with this one so I thought the best thing to do was to work with something which was already a bit of a success, the banana cake.    The results were even better than expected.  






Again, like the banana cake, this pumpkin one is a must try.  I wouldn't have put it on here otherwise.  Very moist and flavourful.  You can't really taste the pumpkin, but it gives this cake a mouth watering texture. You may find it also beats the banana cake in the tasty stakes.  I didn't think this could be possible, but the proof is in the pudding!! :)

Here are the ingredients and the methods I used.  -




113g butter or margarine/butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup All purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin (if you are struggling to get it into a creamy mash add a little soy milk)
a big handful of crushed walnuts
1 cup raisins (boiled in 1 cup of water - drain)
tsp heaped cinnamon
1/2 tsp clove powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder


1.  Grease the rice cooker bowl/pan with butter or marg
2.  Mash the cooked pumpkin with a sturdy fork or blend in a blender with a little soy milk
3.  Cream the butter and sugar together and mix in the eggs
4.  Mix together the mushy pumpkin
5.  Mix in the sieved flour and spices
6.  Mix in the  raisins and crushed walnuts.
7.  Scrape into the rice cooker and bake for 60 minutes on the cake function. If you don't have that function switch to on then check the mixture when the setting finishes with a chop stick.
8.  If it comes out clean you are in the clear and can let it cool on a rack then eat if not put it on for a further 20 mins. 
9.  If you want to make this in the oven the directions will be the same as in the banana cake recipe I found. 


10.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let it cool before cutting. 







Remember, the steam in the rice cooker cooks the cake so don't look until the timer has beeped.






20 Sep 2009

Scrumptious Cinnamon Porridge

This is my weekend breakfast and look forward to it all week :) It's also one I make for all my friends when they come to visit.  It seems to work every time.  No complaints to far.
I actually found this recipe in a weight watchers recipe book my mum had.  I have pretty much stuck to the recipe, however there may be a few tweaks here and there.

This one is for you Sofie x

Ingredients

quantities for 1 serving.

1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 banana
a few raisins
drizzle honey to taste


How to:

1.  add oatmeal, water and milk to the pan
2. turn head to medium and stir continuously
3.  add cinnamon.
4.  Bring to the boil and watch it thicken.
5. When its bubbling and nice and thick but still soupy turn off the heat and pour into a bowl
6. Chop your banana on the top then sprinkle the raisins.
7. If, like me you have a big sweet tooth drizzle a little honey to finish.

Enjoy :)

Variation : Instead of banana grate 1/2 an apple and add it to the oatmeal when cooking

19 Sep 2009

Banana Birthday



For this cake I used a recipe from one of my links to the left of this page 'Banana Cake'
That one is pretty much what I made but instead of the oven, I cooked it in my rice cooker.   I also added some chocolate chunks, walnuts and raisins...mmm...with a tsp here and there of cinnamon, powdered cloves and nutmeg.

Here is the picture of the finished result.  Unfortunately I can't talk about the outcome yet as I made it for Andy's birthday weekend up in Iya valley.  Not your typical birthday cake, but I think it looks pretty good and it smells even better.  The recipe I took it from has so many amazing reviews, so I think that speaks volumes.

I'm just pretty impressed I made a cake in the rice cooker :)

Note: If you substitute the self raising flour (as stated in the recipe) for all purpose flour, remember to add 1.5 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.

113g butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar (granulated, caster, or mix in some demerara, whatever you have to hand)
1 cup self raising flour (I couldn't find self raising here in Japan so used all purpose)

[1.5 tsp baking powder & 1/2 tsp salt] - if you use all purpose
2 eggs
3 medium, very ripe bananas

Handful crushed walnuts
1 tsp heaped cinnamon
1/2 tsp clove powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 bar of chocolate (broken into small pieces)

1.  Grease the rice cooker bowl/pan with butter or marg
2.  Mash the bananas with a sturdy fork or blend in a blender
3.  Cream the butter and sugar together and mix in the eggs
4.  Mix together the mushy bananas.
5.  Mix in the sieved flour and spices

6.  Mix in the chocolate raisins and crushed walnuts.
7.  Scrape into the rice cooker and bake for 60 minutes on the cake function. If you don't have that function switch to on then check the mixture when the setting finishes with a chop stick.  

8.  If it comes out clean you are in the clear and can let it cool on a rack then eat.  


Remember not to peek in the cooker to see how its going as that will let all the steam out (this steam is what cooks the cake) :) 








Update - Sep 23

*****!!!  This one was super delicious and will be made again this week.
It was devoured within seconds which gives me a clear sign that everyone who tried it felt the same.

18 Sep 2009

Tofu

As you may have noticed this month, my very first month of blogging, I have decided to use tofu in every recipe.

This particular food is very limited in flavour, but full of the most digestible protein of any food.  Containing almost 20 percent of your daily requirement of protein, about the same as a poached egg but minus the 350 mg of cholesterol.
Tofu is possibly the one of the healthiest foods I have ever eaten.  Containing 8 essential amino acids which play a huge role in rebuilding cells in our bodies.  It also contains calcium and iron, so if you are lactose intolerant, vegan or trying to avoid dairy like me then tofu is your friend.

From what I have experienced, tofu is soooo unbelievably versatile and I will try to prove that to you in all my tried and tested recipes.
Tofu is possibly best described as a sponge, as it soaks up any flavour you put it with.  The only thing you need to remember is to drain it to get it to it's fullest potential.
If you are in a hurry and no time for marinading, then 30 minutes in the flavour of your choice and your  tofu is ready for the next step.

This spring was the first time I had even tried it on the BBQ.   From now on I will choose tofu over chicken/beef every time.  It's just sooo succulent and moist...mmmmm....

Tofu and avocado dip

This dip is super easy to prepare and works perfectly with chopped up raw vegetables or on crackers.
You will find out for yourself that it's oishiiiiiiiiiii!!  yummy in my tummy.  Again, the textures of the tofu and the avocado make this dip sooo creamy you won't believe that it's good for you.  Also, the hint of garlic will keep you reaching out for more.

The calories in this dip come mainly from the avocado, but don't let that put you off as avocados are packed with healthy fats (monounsaturated) which speed up your metabolic rate and also contain no cholesterol.  What we should really keep in mind is the total nutritional benefit we can receive from food is much more important than the food's calorie content.
I reckon what sells this fruit to me are the advantages such as weight control (making you feel full and steers you away from bingeing on sugary treats), dietary benefits, fiber and fruit protein source, source of major antioxidants which are amazing for your skin inside and out.

By stating this, I guess I am mainly making myself aware of it's benefits and to stop believing the negative misconceptions of this fruit.

Ok, enough of the lecture and onto the yummmm....

150g soft/silken tofu (1/2 pack)
200g ripe avocado
a little fresh lemon juice
1.5 tsp granulated vegetable stock
2 tbsp low fat mayo
1 clove garlic minced
salt and pepper.

1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper on a sieve for 30mins to drain
2. Peel the avocado. take out the seed and put the flesh in a mixing bowl
    Add a little fresh lemon juice and mash.  Cut or break the tofu into
    bit size pieces, add the avocado and mix
3. Finally add the mayo, granulated stock, garlic, salt and pepper.

Serve immediately





  

16 Sep 2009

Energising tofu breakfast smoothie




I know this recipe isn't one for the rice cooker, but it had to be posted because i love it so much!   
Not only that, since tofu is my ingredient of the month I really wanted to demonstrate
another yummy way to use it.   


You may be a little or a lot hesitant  about trying this one, but believe me you will be impressed with the results. 
This particular recipe was inspired from one of my dads creations.  I had never thought about using oatmeal in smoothies before or tofu actually.  I was bored with my usual cornflakes in the morning , so I gave this smoothie a go and again to my surprise it worked out great.
Next time though I may skip the macha and banana and use melon and strawberries instead.
Not because the macha and banana aren't delicious, but because it's good to mix things
up a bit and try out new ideas.  
If you can think of any other tasty combinations of fruit please leave a comment.  I want to 
stay clear of any carton juices as I feel they contain too much sugar.



Ingredients

2 medium size glasses
400g (1 tub, drained) silken tofu
1 tbsp honey
2 medium size bananas
2 tsp Japanese green tea powder (Macha)
6 tbsp rolled oats
2 cups water

Simply, put all ingredients into the blender and pulse to break the mixture down then blend until smooth.
If you feel this is too thick, just add more water.
This drink is a perfect start to your day.  Filled with goodness, protein and dietary fiber giving you a slow release of energy to stave off hunger and keep you energised until lunch.
I usually make this the night before and keep in the fridge over night.
I really love the taste of macha however it's difficult to find back home in the UK.  You may find it in some Asian supermarkets, if not you can order it online or if you ask nicely I'll send you some.  We could do a recipe swap...:)
If there's one thing I'd want to continue to consume for the rest of my life, it's green tea. It really is one of natures wonder drugs!
The macha does have a really distinct flavor, so it may take a little to get used to it.  Once you read about it's powerful benefits, you will quickly fall in love with it.
Also, if you ever come across it.  Try macha ice cream!! you may just enter heaven for a few minutes. 




VARIATION!!!


Oh my gosh!! You have to try this one!! 
Substitute the macha power for:


1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
put a little ice in the blender too :)


+ for the naughty chocolate lovers in the house add 1 tsp of coco powder...mmmmm......





14 Sep 2009

Yummy Sake Risotto with Tofu



[oops I ate it before taking the picture :)]


This recipe is one I have adapted from one I found on the Internet. It was the first time I had attempted a risotto and it turned out a dream. I reckon you really can't go wrong with this one. Super healthy and super yummy and will work for either an appetiser or a main dish. (This dish also tastes great day 2, just heat up in a pan for 3 - 4 mins... mmmm... yum)


Serves 6
INGREDIENTS


1 tbsp - extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves - garlic chopped
1/2 - onion sliced and diced
1/4 cup - sweet sake/ white wine
2 cups - rice (short grain/risotto rice)washed
3 cups - vegetables - cut into small cubes
[I used asparagus, mixed peppers, tomatoes]
6 cups - stock (vegetable stock or medium miso paste)
1 cup - spinach/water cress/mixed fresh herbs
1 tub - firm tofu drained and diced
sprinkle - cracked salt and pepper





HOW TO:
Switch on the rice cooker to the regular rice cooking setting or 'quick cook' if you have that setting. Wait 3 mins for it to heat up.
  1. pour in the olive oil and wait for it to heat up. Spread the oil with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula covering the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the onion and cook until it becomes translucent then mix in the garlic. This should take around 4-5 mins.
  3. Add the 1/4 cup of sake/wine and heat up until some of the alcohol has evaporated. This should take 2 mins.
  4. Add the rice and mix through, allowing all the rice to be coated in the onions and sake mixture. The rice should become a little translucent around the edges with white in the center before adding the stock. 4 -5 mins
  5. Before adding the stock mix through all of the vegetables except for the spinach/water cress/fresh herbs. Allow the vegetables to saute mixing frequently. Vegetables such as asparagus need a little longer to cook than other vegetables therefore spend a little time here to allow them to soften a little.
  6. Add the stock. Mix the contents together, close the lid of the rice cooker then set the cooker to porridge setting (if you don't have this setting set it to regular cook and check back every 10 mins to check the consistency and stir the contents through.
  7. Check the mixture after 10mins cooking and stir, close the lid and allow to cook until setting has timed out.
  8. This should still be a little soupy in texture.  If you like your risottos that little aldente, just stop the cooking process a little earlier.
  9. Stir through the spinach/watercress/mixed fresh herbs and allow to wilt.
  10. Finally spoon the mixture into medium/small bowls then top with the diced tofu. sprinkle a little salt and pepper to taste.














I decided to make this meal a second time (see photo above) because it was such a success the first time.   I followed the same instructions as before, however  for my vegetables this time I used asparagus, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.   Then just before the dish was cooked through I mixed in a tub of pureed silken tofu (an amazing healthy substitute for cream, low in fat and full of goodness) chopped spring onions and avocado, keeping some avocado aside for garnish.
to add a little extra colour and taste I garnished with pickled ginger.   The end result was a creamy mushroom and avocado risotto which tasted naughty, but minus the guilt. Truly scrumptious!! :)
The textures and flavours worked so well together I could possibly say this is my number one risotto!! Try it!   I promise you, it won't fail!!

13 Sep 2009

Let the cooking begin!!


From having lived in Asia for three years now I feel I am slowly getting to grips with various different foods we rarely eat in the west. Some foods have opened my eyes to a new way of cooking.


Here in Japan, ovens in homes/apartments are very few and far between. The Japanese depend entirely on their rice cookers to provide the staple of their every meal, rice.

I have always enjoyed oven baked dishes from casseroles, roasted vegetables, home made granola and having the opportunity to bake a cake for the occasional treat or take around to friends homes. As soon as this option is taken away from you, you really do begin to realise how dependent you are on certain items.

It has taken me a while to settle into not having an oven to make whatever I feel like. Being solely dependent on my two gas hobs to provide the dinners delights has had it's ups and downs. Constantly trying to find a new dish or combinations of ingredients to make each meal different from the next has been quite taxing at times. Not only that, but cooking in a shoe box size kitchen has forced me to re-think my organisational skills.

I have always been interested in healthy nutritious foods, which are low in calories and provide me with enough energy to see through the day without wanting to snack on sugary treats. mmmm...treats, one of my down falls in staying healthy!! Who doesn't love the odd bar of chocolate or cake and coffee set?? If you can say 'whatever', to this, then I envy you!!

I love food and love eating out, but your wallet and waist line will hate you before you know it!! This is why I'm constantly on the search for new ideas to use new interesting nutritious and tasty ingredients.

Recently, I bought my very first rice cooker. Not only for the reason to save me time and space in the kitchen, but to experiment cooking a variety of dishes and cakes...
This new wonderful machine not only has a simple rice cooking function, but also cake, porridge and risotto settings to name a few. Actually, that's all I understand for now, the rest will have to be translated for me as my Japanese reading skills are still very limited. :)

So far I have made a fruit cake, similar to Scottish clootie dumpling, and a risotto in this wonderful machine and both, to my surprise surpassed all of my expectations and were a complete hit!! Success!!

This is where this blog begins!! I have been truly inspired now and intend to make life in the kitchen easier with less work and cleaning up and more sharing, eating and enjoyment.

In this blog I will be posting my new success recipes along with an ingredient of the month, where I will give a variety of uses for it and explain to you why I love this particular ingredient with a few useful facts, which may interest you.

I would love it if you could post your thoughts on the recipes I add to this blog. If you ever decide to make them, feel free to make any suggestions for improvement.   Also, if you have any ideas of your own that have been a success and would like to share, please mail me and I will try them out and add them to the blog.

Happy cooking!!

Oh, I almost forgot "bendi" as it sounds or "benri" as written in romaji, means useful in English. :)


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