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How to Easily add Fiber to Cake


Our Albertson's recently converted to a Safeway, and I've had to make some changes in brands and products of several grocery items. They used to carry pineapple tidbits. Those were little triangular-shaped pieces of pineapple, perfect for putting on pizzas. My daughter loves her Hawaiian pizza with mushrooms. Since I could no longer find the tidbits, I spent a few extra minutes in the canned pineapple section trying to figure out what else would work. They had crushed pineapple, which looked liked the right size according to the picture on the can. They also had pineapple slices, which are the round, flat, doughnut-shaped slices. Indecisive as I am, I got one can of each.

Pizza-making time comes, and I go for the crushed pineapples. Nope, not going to work. I opened sliced pineapples and proceded to cut them into little triangles. And I knew just what I would do with the crushed pineapples. Pineapple cake!

I got a simple Betty Crocker yellow cake mix and substituted some of the required water with the crushed pineapples in pineapple juice. I frosted it with plain white frosting and let the kids decorate it with colored decorating icing in a tube :-). They had a ball and were very excited about eating their creation.

I do have to say that the cake baked a lot faster than what the box said it would take. I guess the crushed pineapple that replaced the water didn't quite give it the moisture that it needed. The cake came out a little over-done and a little dry. Still yummy, though. Next time, I'll make sure to add extra water.

It also came out a little too sweet. The cake mix already had enough sugar to make it sweet enough. With the extra cup of sweet pineapple and its juice, it added a little too much additional sweetness to the cake. It would probably be best to make the cake from scratch and use less sugar in the batter. I guess it would take a bit more experimenting.

But all in all, it makes for a cake with added fiber. I always love the idea of getting fiber with my junk food. Like getting chocolate bars with nuts, or Raisinettes.

Seared Ahi


I was a little disappointed that I missed the Amazon Truck special the other day for Ahi tuna. So when I saw the sale on Yellowfin Ahi tuna steaks at our local Town & Country Market, my husband told me to jump on it. I've enjoyed it at restaurants before, but I've never prepared it myself, so I wasn't sure exactly what to do.

I decided to humble myself and confess to the man in the seafood department that I wanted to buy these tuna steaks but had no idea how to "cook" them for my family. Then I thought to myself, isn't it obvious, you just sear them on a pan! But I wasn't about to buy a nice batch of fish only to go home and mess it up. He kindly told me his simple but delicious recipe.

Marinate the steaks for about 30 minutes in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and some ginger. Then coat the steaks with sesame seeds. Finally, pan sear them in a little oil for a couple of minutes on each side.

I came home, followed his instructions, and, to my pleasant surprise, I made some lovely seared Ahi! It was pretty quick and easy to prepare. I seared the steaks on medium-high heat to get a little crust around the outside. But the inside stayed a beautiful pinkish-red. I thoroughly enjoyed it with some Soyaki sauce, sticky rice, and a spring mix salad. If money was no object, I think I could have it once a week!

Korean Pancakes


Flapjacks 'n Shrimp

My mom has been working for a Korean company for a while and has introduced me to Korean food. Last time I visited my mom, she had a boat load of Korean pancakes that she had made. They were essentially savory pancakes cooked with vegetables intermeshed. Not bad, a little bland, some decent sauce would be good.

Back at home, I decided I would make some of my own. I bought some Korean pancake mix, which contains the flour and a little savory seasoning. I mixed it in some water until I got a decent pancake consistency that I thought would hold some stuffings. I then mixed in some tiny shrimp meat, chopped green onions, mushrooms, and red pepper. Once mixed, I used a ladel to spoon the batter onto a hot griddle.

The directions say to flip them constantly for a few minutes, which I tried to do. But I think they could've stayed on the griddle a little longer as they were a bit mushy inside and a little paler than I'd like on the outside.

They turned out pretty decent, though. I would've liked to load them up with a little more shrimp, though, as I mostly tasted pancake dough. I used gyoza sauce and teriyaki sauce to dip them into. With some kimchee on the side, they were a decent meal.

Tandoori Rack of Lamb


We have our favorite Indian restaurant near our house. My husband's favorite dish there is Tandoori Rack of Lamb. He loves the tangy marinade they use on the lamb almost as much as the fat on the lamb ribs. The problem is that the dish is pretty expensive, and you only get 4 pieces of lamb ribs.

Luckily, I found a very similar marinade called Pataks Tandoori Paste. This makes it pretty easy to prepare an expensive meal for a fraction of the price. I cut the ribs apart so that the marinade soaks in really well, and I marinate it overnight, turning it over in the morning.

Since we don't have a tandoor (a special type of oven used in some Indian cooking), I either broil or pan-fry the ribs. For pan-frying, you must be sure to keep the heat at medium-low so as not to burn the marinade because it tends to blacken easily.

Although this Tandoori marinade is quite mild, our daughter does not love the spices in it. So I also marinate another rack with what I call a "Mediterranean marinade". This consists of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary. I actually love this marinade, too!

I like to serve the rack of lamb with garlic naan, humus, and a cucumber and tomato salad seasoned with basalmic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Deep Fried Smelt


Fish Fry Tonight!

We used to have a Thriftway Market near our house, which I loved. But recently it turned into a Town & Country Market, which I've never heard of before. But I have come to know and love it just as much. There I can find fresh local fruit, local beef, my favorite chinese eggplants, delicious in-house-made salmon burgers, crab cakes, bratwurst, and more.

But recently, I found a hidden gem. Correction, my son found it. I'm standing there in the meat section talking to the butcher, and my son tugs at my shirt, "Mommy, mommy! Look at that fish! I want it." I turn to look at a pile of whole silvery smelt staring at me from behind the glass case and can't help but wonder what I would do with them once I brought them home.

Well, the answer to my query looks like a nice young Asian lady walking up to the meat counter. She orders a half-a-pound of smelt. I immediately turn to her with my question, and she gives me the lowdown on cooking whole smelt. I feel confident that I can prepare a decent fish fry with this smelt, and I ask the butcher to pack me up a few.

First of all, I abhor deep-frying. Ick. But I guess if you get the oil to the right temperature, you won't get greasy fry. So I dig out my jug of canola oil and cover the bottom of a deep 12" frying pan about an inch full. I heat it up to medium-low heat.

I find a canister of bread crumbs. I put some in a shallow bowl and mix a little garlic salt and pepper into it. I beat some eggs into another shallow bowl. I don't think I've ever handled a whole fish before. I unwrap the smelt. These things are relatively small. They are a little longer than my hand and sort of narrow little things. They feel slimy and gross when I pick them up. I feel like they are still alive and are going to flip right out of my hands. I'm praying they don't as I dip one into the egg and then into the bread crumbs. Luckily, they all remained motionless as I battered them.

The oil sizzles when I test it with a tiny drop of water. And I begin to lay my fishies down into the oil. A few minutes, and they are brown on the bottom, so I flip them. A few minutes more, and they appear to be done. I'm hoping, anyway. So I pull them out and set them on a paper towel-lined plate. They actually look semi-delicious. I can barely see the eyes through the screen of the fried batter. I present them to the kids.

They don't hesitate to dig in. Our son quickly bites off the tail and the head. They continue to devour the body, bones, guts, and all. And I was worried because I felt like I should have tried it before they did, but it was like fear factor for me. I had to have my husband try before I tried it. He removed the head, busted it open, removed the bones and guts, then ate the clean white filets.

So when I finally sat down to try it, the kids started trying to get dibs on my head and tail. So I was left with the body. I took a bite, bones, and all. And ack!, I realized that I couldn't handle the stringiness of the bones. I felt like the bones were collecting all around my throat, which was feeling dry and scratchy. The spine bone was crunchy and gritty. I don't know, it was just weird. But the white fish meat was good. And the batter was good. There were eggs in a couple of them. That was like caviar, I suppose. But was it palatable enough to make this again?

The kids are already asking for more, they loved it. And I suppose I can eat it again, but I think I will follow my husband's suit and remove the bones and inards before eating it.

You Like Dim Sum?


One of my favorite things to do when I first moved to Seattle was to go have Dim Sum. I loved how they would roll the carts around from table to table. They would ask, "You like Dim Sum?". Then they would lift the lids of each of the steamer baskets so you can see what there was. There would be shrimp balls, Su Mai, Hum Bow, noodle rolls, you name it.

When I had kids, I was determined to get them to like Dim Sum as much as I do so we could enjoy it together. I got this book for them called "Dim Sum for Everyone". It is such a fun little book with full color pictures of the whole Dim Sum experience, carts, little plates, tea pots, and all. It goes through a sweet family's Dim Sum experience and what each member's favorite item is.

To my surprise it worked a little too well. They became Dim Sum-aholics. Luckily for us, Dim Sum restaurants started popping up everywhere. But the frequency of going out to eat Dim Sum was starting to wear on the family budget.

I met a Chinese friend, and she told me that you can get Dim Sum dumplings in the frozen section of some Asian grocery stores. Bingo, just what I needed! I came home with several selections of frozen dumplings. But when time came to steam them, I had but one flimsy folding metal steaming basket for vegetables. I got maybe 4 dumplings steamed at a time. No bueno :-(

So my husband found a bamboo Dim Sum steamer basket. Halleluja! Now we came make Dim Sum for everyone in our own home :-) It comes with two layers of steamer baskets and a lid. You place the steaming baskets on top of a pot of boiling water. I use a metal steaming ring to protect the bamboo from the pot as well as to make sure the bamboo basket is seated properly over the pot. I also line the baskets with perforated parchment paper to prevent the dumplings from sticking to the bamboo.

This is perfect for a Dim Sum lunch for me and the kids. I also throw some Chinese egg tarts in the oven, and we are good to go. Oh, and don't forget the Chinese brocolli with some Hoisin sauce drizzled over the top.

More Cooking articles

Breakfast Shapes


Just when you thought you had your blueberry pancake game down. Kick it up a notch with these cute breakfast shape molds. That's what my husband does. These shapes are perfect for suprising your children with extra special pancakes. You've got a pony, Mickey Mouse, a heart, and more. It even works with fried eggs.

These shapes do take a little extra work to perfect. My husband dips them in vegetable oil before setting them on the pan. That way the pancake batter or egg doesn't stick to the shapes. And the yummy pancake can easily be released from the mold.

These molds are a little deep, so the pancakes can hold blueberries really well. Luckily we live near a blueberry farm and can get wild blueberries during the summer, which are a lot smaller than the typical blueberries you get from the store (often a product of Mexico). But off-season, we drop big Mexican blueberries into these molds no problem. They come out great. Raspberries are still my fav, though. And we're still lovin' that Snoqualmie Falls Pancake Mix.

Berry Pancakes


All this talk of blueberries makes me think of berry pancakes. First of all, I use the Snoqualmie Falls Pancake and Waffle Mix. Ever since I tried this, I cannot have pancakes any other way. It is a very easy mix that you just add water to, for pancakes; water and oil for waffles.

I have made both blueberry and raspberry pancakes with this pancake mix. Mostly during the summer season, when these berries are readily available. I have tried adding the berries directly to the pancake batter and mixing it in. Didn't work quite well. The blueberries all rose to the top, and I ended up with the first few pancakes loaded with blueberries and the rest, not so much.

So now, I pour the pancake and then right away add the berries onto the poured pancake. I do that pancake by pancake. I do make the batter a little thicker to hold the berries better. After flipping, the berries are directly exposed to the pan, so watch out for burning of the sugary berries. I keep the heat just under medium to prevent burning. And I spray with oil each time I lay down a new berry pancake. (not as often with regular panckakes)

Once all done, I like to top off the pancake with the matching berry syrup. But my kids like to use maple syrup. So, to each their own.

I also like to make regular pancakes, with the same Snoqualmie Falls Pancake Mix, and put warm berries on top. I usually use frozen berries for this. I heat the frozen berries, either mixed berries, or just strawberries, in a sauce pan with a touch of sugar. Then top the pancakes with the warm berries and add whipped cream. Yum, I've never had such a delicious breakfast as this!

Blueberry Muffin Mix


I found it really nice to keep around a package of blueberry muffin mix for those "rainy" mornings when you want something a little different for breakfast or are having company in the morning. It is pretty quick and easy to throw together some fresh warm muffins. Usually you just have to add oil, water, and an egg. They have really quick baking times, and are ready to eat right out of the oven.

I have used Betty Crocker, Krusteaz, and Jiffy brand blueberry muffin mixes. I always love Krusteaz brand mixes, but I usually end up getting the Betty Crocker mix because it easier to find at grocery stores. The Betty Crocker and Krusteaz brand blueberry muffin mixes come with a can of real blueberries. Not as good as fresh ones, but still pretty good.

I also like to keep a box of brownie mix and a package of chocolate chip cookie mix on hand, for a quick bake just in case you are craving freshly baked cookies or are having impromptu company. Betty Crocker also makes a nice oatmeal chocolate chip cookie mix, which takes a little edge off the guilt since you are having oats with your sugar .

As for the brownie mix, my favorite is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Caramel Turtle Brownie Mix. It is amazing. There are walnuts in the mix and a nice caramel sauce that you drizzle over the top before you bake it. It melds into the top of the brownie perfectly once it is baked. Try it, and you'll be addicted!

Avocado Oil


Cooking at High Temperatures

I started using avocado oil for pan frying food at high temps, like eggs and potstickers. I used to use olive oil or butter but found them both to turn brown or black pretty quickly at medium to medium high temperatures.

So I came across this avocado oil and saw that it was good for cooking at high temps. I have been using it and there is no more turning brown or black. The oil stays clear, and doesn't get that brownish stain onto food that is cooked in it. I don't notice any specific taste from the avocado oil either. A bonus is that it is supposed to be good for you, too!

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