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Making sushi at home is easier than you might think.  You will probably have to make a special trip to the store for ingredients, but Asian markets are usually relatively inexpensive.  Your only splurge is going to be  the sushi-grade fish.  You will also need a bamboo rolling mat if you’re making rolls, which is what we did for this particular dinner.  There is no shortage of how-to videos on YouTube or links to websites with pictures and recipes when you do a search on the Internet.  I have included a few basic tips we’ve learned by making sushi at home, as well as some recipes. *Note:  recipes below were adapted from Sushi, by Lulu Grimes.

* Wrap your bamboo rolling mat in plastic wrap.  This will make it easier to roll, the mat won’t stick to the rice, and you won’t have to spend time picking particles of rice out of your mat either.

* Invest in a mandolin if you don’t already have one.  They are the best when it comes to slicing and shredding with some consistency.  I love how everything comes out so perfect!  You don’t need to spend a fortune on one either.  They can be found at an Asian market or  a Chinatown shop for a fraction of the cost of any mainstream retailer.

* Imitation crab sticks work fine for California rolls.  They’re actually much easier to work with too, for this purpose!  They also freeze well if you don’t use the whole package for your sushi rolls.

* Sriracha is awesome!  We mix it with mayo and a little chili oil for spicy tuna rolls, but you can add it to virtually anything to spice it up.  It’s even good on pizza!

* Only buy from a grocer that sells sushi or sashimi grade fish.  If you’re eating raw fish, you’re always running a risk of getting sick.  However, “sushi or sashimi grade” fish is supposed to have been treated a certain way (i.e. freezing, storage temps, etc.) to destroy parasites.  The fish should be clearly labeled, and often is pre-packaged in smaller quantities.  This is perfect for sushi making, since a little goes a long way.

* 2 cups of uncooked sushi or botan rice yields 4 cups of cooked rice.  This is enough for about 8-10 rolls.

* We haven’t typically followed many recipes verbatim when making sushi.  A lot of the time I’ll just purchase a handful of different vegetables and fish and we’ll just sort of make it up as we go along.  However, I have listed a few basic recipes that are easy for beginners.

California Roll

Sushi rice

Nori sheets

Avocado, cut into thin sticks (ripe)

Crab sticks

Cucumber, cut into thin sticks (I like to use English or seedless cucumbers)

Wasabi paste and pickled ginger for garnish (optional)

Spread a portion of the rice in an even layer on the nori, leaving about ¾ of an inch of nori visible on the ends.  Layer the crab sticks, avocado and cucumber on top of each other, keeping them parallel to the edge of the nori nearest you.

To roll the sushi, fold the mat over, starting at the end where the ingredients are, and tucking in the end of nori to start the roll.  Keep rolling, lifting up the mat as you go and keeping the pressure even but gentle until you have finished the roll.  Moisten the top of edge of the nori with water to seal the sushi roll closed.  Don’t worry if anything falls out the sides, just push it back in.  The edges might look a little ragged, but you can just sample those yourself!  Make sure you slice the roll with a  very sharp knife into even pieces.   Wetting the knife will help too.

Salmon, Asparagus, and Mayonnaise Rolls

Sushi rice

Nori sheets

Asparagus spears, blanched and cut into thin strips

Salmon filet, sushi grade, cut into thin sticks

Japanese mayonnaise

Wasabi paste and pickled ginger for garnish (optional)

Spread a portion of the rice in an even layer on the nori, leaving about ¾ of an inch of nori visible on the ends.  Layer the salmon and asparagus on top of each other, keeping them parallel to the edge of the nori nearest you.  Spread some of the mayonnaise on top of the salmon and asparagus.

To roll the sushi, fold the mat over, starting at the end where the ingredients are, and tucking in the end of nori to start the roll.  Keep rolling, lifting up the mat as you go and keeping the pressure even but gentle until you have finished the roll.  Moisten the top of edge of the nori with water to seal the sushi roll closed.  Don’t worry if anything falls out the sides, just push it back in.  The edges might look a little ragged, but you can just sample those yourself!  Make sure you slice the roll with a  very sharp knife into even pieces.   Wetting the knife will help too.

Spicy Tuna Rolls

Sushi rice

Nori sheets

Tuna, sushi grade, diced

Japanese spicy mayonnaise (recipe below)

Wasabi paste and pickled ginger for garnish (optional)

For the spicy mayo, mix together some Japanese mayonnaise, Sriracha, a dash of rice vinegar, and a dash of chili oil.  You will want to adjust the quantities until have the desired level of heat in your sauce.  Mix the diced tuna with the spicy mayo.

Spread a portion of the rice in an even layer on the nori, leaving about ¾ of an inch of nori visible on the ends.  Spread the tuna mixture in a line, keeping them parallel to the edge of the nori nearest you.  Spread some of the mayonnaise on top of the salmon and asparagus.

To roll the sushi, fold the mat over, starting at the end where the ingredients are, and tucking in the end of nori to start the roll.  Keep rolling, lifting up the mat as you go and keeping the pressure even but gentle until you have finished the roll.  Moisten the top of edge of the nori with water to seal the sushi roll closed.  Don’t worry if anything falls out the sides, just push it back in.  The edges might look a little ragged, but you can just sample those yourself!  Make sure you slice the roll with a  very sharp knife into even pieces.   Wetting the knife will help too.

We served the sushi rolls with some steamed edamame and homemade egg rolls.  But even just the sushi can be a meal in itself!

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Last week I was in the mood for Asian-inspired recipes.  I made this dish, homemade sushi and a fresh ginger cake (which wasn’t really Asian, but I had fresh ginger leftover from this meal).  This recipe is easy enough for a weeknight dinner, but nice enough to spice up the weekend.  Fresh ginger is the key to the flavor hear.  If you haven’t worked with fresh ginger before, here is a nice tutorial on how to grate it :  http://www.ehow.com/how_4546475_grate-ginger.html  A microplane will come in hand for this, and for grating other things like fruit zests and whole spices like nutmeg.

Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs with Edamame and Snow Peas,  courtesy of Real Simple

makes 4 servings

  • 1 1/2  cups  long-grain rice
  • 1 1/4  pounds  ground chicken
  • 2  scallions, chopped
  • 2  tablespoons  grated fresh ginger
  • 2  tablespoons  canola oil
  • 1/2  pound  snow peas, halved crosswise (3 cups)
  • 1  cup  frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  • 1/2  cup  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  tablespoons  brown sugar

Cook the rice according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, scallions, and ginger. Shape into 16 meatballs.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs, turning, until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Wipe out the skillet. Heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add the peas and edamame. Cook, tossing, for 2 minutes. Return the meatballs to skillet.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce and sugar. Add to the skillet and simmer until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve over the rice.

Tip: To keep the ground chicken from sticking to your fingers, wet your hands before forming the meatballs.

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My usual preference for brussel sprouts is to roast them in the oven with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  This is one delicious way to enjoy this winter vegetable.  However, I had a lovely pasta dish at some friends’ house last month with sprouts.  When they first told me about it, I admit I was unsure about brussel sprouts in pasta, but the result was delicious!  This is great way to get those who say they “hate brussel sprouts” to eat them too.  And if you cut them up small enough, those eating it might not even realize they’re consuming this hated vegetable!  My husband proclaimed his hatred of the vegetable as I was preparing our dinner…then proceeded to have two helpings, as well as the leftovers for dinner.

Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Pine Nuts, makes 4 dinner-sized servings

  • 3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1/2 pound dried egg fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts

Slice Brussels sprouts in a food processor fitted with slicing disk.

Cook fettuccine in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat butter and oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and pine nuts, stirring, until golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then sauté over medium-high heat until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta and add to skillet, tossing with enough reserved water to moisten.  Top with grated Parmesan.

 

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The onslaught of winter weather calls for comfort food.  My husband, who is a teacher, had two snow days this week so I decided to make something that reminded me of snow days when I was a kid.  Macaroni & cheese and chicken fingers.  I love mac & cheese right out of the box, but the homemade version is so much more decadent, and you can be more creative with the flavors.  The recipe below is pretty basic, but feel free to mix up the cheeses and toppings.

Three-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese, based on a recipe from Cooking Light

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3  cups skim milk
  • 1/2  cup Swiss cheese
  • 1/4  cup  grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3  cups  cooked elbow macaroni (about 1 1/2 cups uncooked)
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4  cup  panko bread crumbs
  • 1  tablespoon  reduced-calorie margarine, softened

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place flour in a large saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add cheeses; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in macaroni and salt.

Spoon mixture into a small casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Combine bread crumbs and margarine in a small bowl; stir until well-blended. Sprinkle over macaroni mixture. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Baked Chicken Fingers, adapted from http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/buffalo-chicken-fingers/Detail.aspx

yields 8 tenders

  • 8 chicken breast tenderloins or 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into finger-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I like to use panko or Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with a nonstick spray.
    2. In a bag, mix together flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. On a plate, mix the bread crumbs with the rest of the garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.
    3. Shake the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour. Beat egg whites with 1 tablespoon water, and place egg mixture in a shallow dish or bowl. Dip seasoned chicken in egg mixture, then roll in the seasoned bread crumb mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.
    4. Bake for about 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Use tongs to turn pieces over. Bake 8 minutes longer, or until chicken juices run clear.
    5. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce.  I like to drizzle with Frank’s brand Buffalo Wing sauce or the Buffalo Barbeque Sauce.

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    I love fresh homemade pasta.  The taste is so above anything you will buy in the store, that it is well worth the bit of extra time it takes to make it.  I’m still in search of my go-to pasta dough recipe, so this gave me another chance to try yet another one! Keeping in theme with my recent Cooking Light recipe kick, and I came across a recipe for Linguine with Clam Sauce. Below is the recipe I used for the pasta dough as well as the dish.  Both turned out wonderfully – 2 thumbs up at our house!

    Basic Pasta Dough, about 1 pound of pasta, Adapted from Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it, by Karen Solomon 

    3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

    1 teaspoon kosher salt

    4 large eggs

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    In a large bowl, mix 3 cups flour and the salt.  Shape a deep well in the middle of the flour; it should look like a white volcano.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, then beat in the oil.  Slowly pour the egg mixture into the center of the flour, stirring it into the flour.  Keep incorporating the eggs into the flour until the mixture gets too stiff to mix with a fork.  Switch to your hands and add enough flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to mix it together into a sticky dough. 

    Once your dough has come together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.  Work the dough by pushing the sides into the middle, then bringing the bottom over the top and down, in a repetitive motion.  With a steady flow of motion, this should take 8 to 10 minutes of kneading.  You’ll know it’s ready when the dough feels somewhat elastic and it no longer cracks and crumbles while being handled.  It will also take on a bit of a subtle shine.

    Dampen a clean kitchen towel and wrap the dough in the towel.  Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Unwrap the dough and, with a scraper or a knife, cut it into equal quarters.  Roll the first piece into a ball, flatten it with your hands, then roll it out into a 12-inch square about 1/8 inch thick.  Keeping the work surface and rolling pin well floured.  You can also run it through  pasta maker or mixer attachment for pasta.  Then cut with a pizza cutter to make linguine.

    Linguine with Clam Sauce, yields 6 – 1 1/3 cup servings of pasta & 6 clams

    • 1/4  cup  olive oil, divided
    • 2  garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/3  cup  clam juice
    • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1/2  to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
    • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
    • 3  dozen littleneck clams
    • 8  cups  hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Stir in clam juice and next 5 ingredients (clam juice through clams). Cover and cook 10 minutes or until clams open.

    Place pasta in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil; toss well to coat. Add clam mixture to pasta; toss well.

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    Nothing is better than coming home from work to the smell of a dinner that is done!  This dish was pretty easy, and tasty enough that I will probably add it to my permenant crock-pot repertoire.  I used a mixture of chicken breast and thigh meat to give it a little more flavor.  You could use all breast meat to cut down on the fat though.  I found this recipe from www.myrecipes.com, which is a great website if you want the nutritional information for the recipe!  This is also the website where you can find all of the Cooking Light recipes.

    Spicy Chicken Stew, adapted from myrecipes.com

    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 4 hours
    Yield: 6 Servings
    Cost per Serving: $2.22

    Ingredients

    • 2  baking potatoes (about 1 1/2 lb.), peeled and cut into chunks (3 1/3 cups)
    • 1  (10 oz.) package frozen sweet corn
    • 2  stalks celery, chopped
    • 2  carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (1 cup)
    • 1  onion, thickly sliced
    • 2  cloves garlic, minced
    • 1  (12.5 oz.) jar salsa
    • 2  teaspoons  kosher salt
    • 1 1/2  teaspoons  ground cumin
    • 1  teaspoon  chile powder
    • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
    • 1  skinless, boneless chicken breast, halved (about 1 lb.)
    • 4  skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 10.5 oz.)
    • 2 1/2  cups  chicken broth
    • 4  (6 inch) fresh corn tortillas, cut into strips

    Preparation

    Place potatoes, corn, celery, carrots, onion and garlic in slow cooker. Stir in salsa, salt, cumin, chile powder and pepper. Distribute chicken evenly on top of vegetables and pour chicken broth over chicken. Cover slow cooker and cook stew on high for 4 hours.

    Transfer chicken to a plate and shred with two forks into bite-size chunks; return to slow cooker. Mix tortilla strips into stew. Serve warm.  *Optional:  top with chopped cilantros and shredded cheese.

    Nutritional Information

    Calories:  355
    Fat:  6g (sat 1g)
    Protein:  34g
    Carbohydrate:  42g
    Fiber:  6g
    Cholesterol:  85mg
    Sodium:  1101mg

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    I always feel that New Year’s Day calls for something special to eat, something that you wouldn’t normally indulge in on a normal day.  Growing up, we ALWAYS had shrimp cocktail.  I still love shrimp cocktail, but was feeling like I should try something new.  I was browsing through the seafood section at Whole Foods the other day, looking for inspiration, and came across some fresh crab meat.  Crab cakes!  Done.  Something I’ve never made before, and the perfect occasion.  These actually turned out really nice.  My husband is still raving about them this morning – good thing we have some leftovers to enjoy!

    Crab Cakes, makes 12 3-ounce cakes

    (adapted from the Cuisinart recipe booklet that came with my food processor)

    1 lb lump crab meat

    1 garlic clove

    1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces

    3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

    ½ cup parsley

    1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

    ¼ tsp kosher salt

    ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

    2 large eggs, slightly beaten

    1 cup bread crumbs

    ½ cup mayonnaise

    1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

    1 ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning

    2 tsp Dijon mustard

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or a silicon mat.

    Drop the garlic into the bowl of a food processor, while running, to chop.  Add the peppers, green onion and parsley and pulse to coarsely chop, about 10 to 12 pulses.

    Put the oil into a large skillet placed over medium heat.  Cook chopped vegetables with salt and pepper until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove and reserve in a large mixing bowl.

    Once vegetables have cooled slightly, add the crab, eggs, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, Old Bay, and Dijon.  Mix thoroughly but carefully, so not to break up the crab too much.  Form mixture into 2-inch round cakes.

    Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until crabcakes are evenly golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with hot sauce and lemon wedges.

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