Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Blondies

The winds whipped and howled.
The fierce rain bore down.
It was a scary few days
here in Okinawa-Town!

Now the time has come
for creepy goblins & beasts
to wander the lands
"boo!"-ing & begging for treats!

(Is is just me or does Halloween seem to encourage rhyming? Ok - just me...)


This recipe (though renamed from "Halloween" to "Fall") comes from Martha Stewart. I get a lot of daily recipe ideas delivered to my inbox and don't ever have enough time to check them all out and/or try them out. This time, I couldn't say no. I didn't grow up with "blondies" (other than Momma!) so I thought it'd be fun to try my hand at them and see if I like them as an adult. The verdict? Heck yes, I do!

Ingredients:

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more, room temperature, for pan
  • 1 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 C all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 C each orange, yellow, and brown candy-coated chocolates (from a 12.6 oz bag)*
*I used autumn-colored M&Ms for this, but would really love to make these a few times with different "themes" - alma mater (Hokie, Hokie, Hokie Hi! Tech, Tech, VPI!), sports team, or holiday (how cute would this be on Valentine's Day?). You could also experiment with the M&Ms, making different shapes/designs. Or change up the candy itself and try Reese's Pieces! Either way, this recipe is sure not to disappoint (and is little goblin helping hands friendly). 

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Brush an 8"-square baking pan with butter; line pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2" overhang on two sides. Butter paper.


  3. In a large bowl, whisk together butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt; stir just until moistened.


  4. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. 
  5. Arrange candies in rows on top of dough.

    (They don't spell "mmmm" for no reason!)

  6. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. (*I set the timer for 45 minutes and think 38-40 would have been perfect.)
  7. Set the pan on a wire rack and let cool completely. 
  8. Using parchment overhang, lift cake from pan and transfer to a cutting board; cut into 16 squares.
    (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 2 days.)
Et voila!


Shared here:


Keeping It Simple Mouthwatering Mondays at A Southern Fairytale

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Homemade Pumpkin Butter

(All this talk of sweets and I had totally forgotten to share the recipe for homemade pumpkin butter! That's just wrong!)

From SkinnyTaste, I present: an uber delicious, multi-purpose homemade pumpkin butter! (Try this on toast, crepes, in your yogurt, or use to make pumpkin-spiced coffees, cream cheese spreads, or in a cheesecake!)

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 C pumpkin puree, or (1) 29 oz. can - NOT pumpkin pie filling (*The really helpful tutorial I used to make pumpkin puree can be found here at Chef In You.)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks (*You can use ground cinnamon, but the sticks are more festive.)
  • 1-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (to taste)
Directions:
  1. Combine pureed pumpkin, vanilla, cider/juice, spices, cinnamon sticks and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Stir frequently!
  5. Adjust spices to your taste. 
 
Et voila!
(My newest addition to the kitchen - a little air-tight, light-tight cannister I picked up at the "one-coin" ¥100 store!)

Shared here:



 
The Girl Creative
MangoesandChutney


Monday, October 25, 2010

Seeking Sweets in Okinawa: Part II

You didn't really think we could stop at just honey, did you?

Next it was down the street to Patisserie!


Typical Okinawa, a very tall, very typhoon-proof building that houses a dojo upstairs and Patisserie downstairs.

When we entered the shop, we were happy to see a wide variety of yummies behind a refrigerated glass case. We couldn't necessarily read all of the labels, but much of it was intuitive (cheesecake, tiramisu, and assorted log cakes, including green tea). The rest all looked like they'd be scrumptious surprises. 

One wall was covered with baskets loaded with packaged fresh cookies, muffins, and other baked goods. I was approached by a very friendly saleswoman who (wordlessly) offered me a basket. Good thing hubby was there to keep my baked-good buying in check or I may just have filled a basket!


To keep Patisserie special, we decided to only try one thing at a time (so we have more things to look forward to next time). Our bag held two apple turnovers, fresh that day from the oven, with buttery layers and gooey apple-chunk centers. They would have been delicious with a hot mug of tea or coffee, but I couldn't contain myself and devoured enjoyed it bite by bite for dessert.

Before leaving, I wanted to snap just one more photo - this time, of their adorable Halloween display. Just as a took it, a young Okinawan girl visiting the shop with her family kind of "leaned" (shyly, but purposefully) into the photo. I smiled and pointed to her and then to the display. She nodded and let me take her photo next to it. It was a sweet moment - again, with no words needed. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Seeking Sweets in Okinawa: Part I

It's been a beautiful (though slightly muggy) weekend in Okinawa. I was bummed to only get one day with my hubby as he had duty (that's 24 hours of being at work ... the day before Monday - ick). So! Since we knew we only had the day, we chose to seize it.

When we moved here, we began a list of things to do and places to see. One of the places was Okinawa Yoho, a local honey shop. It's located about two miles from our house and, as usual, tucked in a string of cement buildings off the road. Here's the entrance to it:


(If you can't read the sign, just look for the bee!)

When we entered the shop, we heard a chime announce our arrival, but no one was to be found. The shop was tiny, but well-stocked with products. Everything was written in Japanese so we tried to infer as much as we could from the packaging. 


We suddenly heard footsteps and I had just enough time to snap the photo above before a little, elderly Japanese woman emerged from a side room. She apologized quickly ("gomennasai!") before starting our honey tasting. She squirted dollops of different honeys into our disposable spoons and explained each honey  - in Japanese! Like many "lost in translation" moments, we just nodded and smiled a lot - not hard with how tasty it all was. 

We had the tough task of choosing which honey to bring home - 100% local Okinawan honey? Blueberry honey? Or how 'bout what the saleswoman said was "cookie honey"? Ultimately, we bought one that tasted like vanilla-brown sugar honey. Mmmm!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkin Choco-Chip Cookies

I still have a huge plastic bowl full of homemade pumpkin butter and I have been Halloween-bent on using it!

I got this recipe (thank you!) from Kari, another Marine wife here on Okinawa. Her blog, Cloudy with a Chance of Crazy, has some really fantastic bento box ideas for kids.

Because these cookies are made from spice cake mix, they have a unique texture to them. They're light and fluffy with rich, creamy chocolate treasures tucked in them.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes spice cake mix
  • 1 large can pumpkin pie mix
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (*I really, strongly, highly recommend you go for the full two. I doubt you'll have any complaints.)
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine all the ingredients.
      
  3. Drop balls 2" apart on greased cookie sheet.


  4. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  5. Enjoy!
(Sorry, no photos of the grand finale this time. They quickly got boxed up and shipped out with hubby to share with his commute buddies!)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Vegetarian Korma

As you may know, I try to make at least one vegetarian dinner a week. Sometimes I know exactly what I want (hello, risotto!) and other times, I search high and low for something unique that I think will fill not only my hungry eyes, but my hubby's ever-hungry belly.

This week, I turned to AllRecipes for vegetarian recipes and stumbled across this one. It was rich and creamy, but still very healthy (coconut milk comes from coconuts - I think that is sound enough logic!). ;0) This is a flavorful, filling recipe for vegetarians, people trying to get their daily veggie count up, and everyone in between. (Ok, everyone period!) The best part of this is that you're in control of how spicy you make it - a great meal for Indian food beginners.

Ready in an hour. Serves 4. (Recommend serving over basmati or jasmine rice.)
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger root
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small potatoes, cubed
  • 4 carrots, cubed
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tbsp ground unsalted cashews 
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped (*We use one whole pepper.)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (*Yep, another whole one.)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
Directions:
  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. 
  2. Stir in the onion and cook until tender.
  3. Mix in ginger and garlic, and continue cooking for 1 minute.
  4. Mix potatoes, carrots, jalapeno, cashews and coconut milk. 
  5. Season with salt and curry powder.


  6. Cook and stir for about 35 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Make sure to stir regularly as mix sticks quickly.
  7. Stir peas, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper into skillet.


  8. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  9. Garnish with cilantro and serve. (Optional) (*We like to sprinkle the top with more crushed cashews for extra crunch!)
 
Et voila!
Shared here: 
Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays Beauty and Bedlam 
Tuesdays at the Table @ 


Hey What's For Dinner
MyMeatlessMondays






Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cafe Kugafu

So I mentioned in a tweet yesterday that I was setting out for an afternoon of getting lost and finding little cafes and boy did I (on both accounts)! I've been blessed enough to have a good friend from the states (Hi, Kara!) get stationed here on Okinawa with her husband and I've really enjoyed experiencing new things here with them both. She was kind enough to join me on the adventure yesterday and it was nice to have "girl-talk" away from the world in a really cozy place.

I had originally read about Cafe Kugafu online at OkinawaHai, a great blog with many contributors to help everyone find his/her place here on the island. The cafe is tucked away just past Yaese Town, in Nanjo City. When I say tucked away, I mean, if you're not looking exactly for the building, you will most likely not find it. It's located on the bottom floor of the apartment complex (pretty in [white and] pink!) shown below.


These are the signs you might see from the road, but most likely will enjoy seeing upon entering the small, grassy parking lot. 

 

Here is the front of the cafe - so lush and beautiful! 


After an hour and a half driving (a 35-minute trip), we were not only hungry, but happy to have such an inviting, adorable little cafe. I didn't take any pictures of the inside (aside from the food), but I have to share the details: books (some in Japanese, some in English) were tucked on shelves, toys were available for kids, and light jazzy/indie music played in the background. There was room for maybe 10 people, eight at "max comfortability." The counter you pay at is also the bar with the kitchen running off to one side of it. 

The menus were mostly in Japanese with the occasional English translation. We selected the homemade rosemary bagels with sliced ham, tomato, basil and cheese. Yum! The basil and tomato tasted like they were fresh out of the garden. The bagels were accompanied by a couple small slices of pineapple and a sprig for decoration. 


We had fun not only picking lunch from a mostly-Japanese menu, but we also got to pick our coffee the same way. Since Kara's not a huge fan of the average coffee/tea (and prefers the "sweeter" life when it comes to said beverages), we asked the waitress what would be best and she quickly suggested (in surprisingly clear English) the iced lattes with a flavored syrup. Never ones to say no, Kara went for the caramel and I, the hazelnut.


To make up for not having mozzarella for our bagels (as advertised on the menu), the waitress brought us a small dish of complimentary what-we-believed-to-be coffee Jello. Not quite my cup of tea, but it was a sweet (pun intended) apology nonetheless. 

We paid at the register (¥750 ~ a little over $9 USD) before leaving. As a habit, I like to check out the restrooms in restaurants/cafes. I find they're often a good indicator of the character behind the establishment. (Quirky, I know.) The bathroom here was a single, unisex one. It was fairly simple, but with a home-y touch: pink floral votive holders (I have the same set that I bought back home at IKEA), framed prints, and a handful of postcards on the wall. The postcards were definitely my favorite touch. Here's one that made me smile:

"Look at the sky tonight. I'm singing stars for you!"
:0)

Skinny Pumpkin-Spiced Coffee

You know those days when you're craving that super fancy coffee, but don't want to spend the money on it? Or maybe you don't want to drive across town to go get it ...

This recipe (again, from SkinnyTaste) is the perfect fix. Made with fresh pumpkin butter, it uses ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. It's also a great way to share the "gourmet" taste with guests in your home. (And, of course, it's really perfect for those of us in Okinawa who have Starbucks, but no special seasonal drinks!)

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 C fat free milk
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp sugar (or sugar substitute), to taste
  • 1/4 C espresso (or, if you're like me and don't have an espresso machine, 1/2 C strong-brewed coffee)
  • fat free whipped topping
  • pumpkin pie spice for topping
Directions:
  1. In a small pan combine milk, pumpkin butter, and sugar and cook on medium heat, stirring, until boiling. 
  2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth (or whisk well with a wire whisk). *This is important as not blending well will give a grainy texture you really don't want.

  4. Pour into two mugs, add the hot espresso (or coffee), and top with whipped cream and a dash of pumpkin pie spice on top.
Some of my favorite mugs ... 


Et voila!


Shared here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Here's to You, Momma! Monkey Bread

I've mentioned once before that I've always had two "homes-away-from-home": Hatteras Island (in the Outer Banks, NC) and Fairview Beach. Fairview is a tiny community in King George, VA. My mom and step-dad bought a little house there when I was a kid. Since then, we've had all sorts of functions down there - their wedding, birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, and more Independence Days than I can remember.

All of us enjoyed the community so much that it was all we could do to get our stuff in the car fast enough to get down there after school/work on Fridays. We'd load up the "work truck" (step-dad's) and Momma's Bronco (yes, OJ Simpson's vehicular twin), our bichon Coco in the front seat.

We'd spend the entire weekend in and out of the house, in and out of the water, in and out of the fire house, convenience store, crabhouse - you name it, we were into it. This, of course, accounted for all the sandy, dirty feet in the house. We'd wake up on Saturday or Sunday mornings and reek of smoke from the bonfire, find shmeared marshmallow bits in all sorts of places, and/or have sand in the sheets. (Sorry, Momma!) But the best part of waking up wasn't just realizing how much fun you had the day before, but smelling Momma's cooking ... (or hearing it; she's awful at keeping quiet when everyone's asleep!).

Monkey bread was a beloved breakfast food at Fairview. None of us could keep our hands out of it - come on, dessert for breakfast?! Often served alongside a "breakfast casserole" or with scrapple, bacon, toast and eggs, this hit the spot. Every. Single. Time.

When early Sunday evenings rolled around, my little brother would ride off on his bike in a fury and hide until someone could convince him that we really, absolutely had to go home now. This is pretty much how I feel when I have to make myself stop eating the monkey bread! I never want to leave the warm, sweet comfort of it.

While this recipe isn't my Momma's (I found it on AllRecipes), it is a near-perfect match!

Ingredients:

  • (3) 12 oz. packages refrigerated biscuit dough
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 C margarine
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 C raisins (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9" or 10" Bundt pan
  2. Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Cut biscuits into quarters. Shake 6 to 8 biscuit pieces in the sugar-cinnamon mix. Arrange pieces in the bottom of the prepared pan. Continue all biscuits are coated and placed in pan. If using nuts and raisins, arrange them in and among the biscuit pieces as you go along.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the margarine with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minutes. Pour over the biscuits.


  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. (*I recommend putting a well-worn cookie sheet on the rack below to catch anything that drips or falls out so it doesn't scorch the bottom of your oven!) 
  5. Let bread cool in pan 10 minutes (*Seriously, I didn't and had a heckuva time getting it out). 
  6. Turn out onto a plate. Do not cut! The bread just pulls apart. 
Et voila!
(Please forgive the poor photo. We had guests over and I had to sneak a quick pic before serving it!)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

As promised, I've decided to introduce a few crockpot recipes. My repertoire is small, but I'm trying to expand it. This is another recipe from SkinnyTaste and I found it to be a super tasty throwback to Chipotle! Not only did the house smell great, but the recipe also provided enough food for dinner and lunch the next day.

Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz. (1 1/2 lbs) chicken breast
  • 14.4 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz frozen corn (*We use canned.)
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
  • 14.4 oz can fat free chicken broth
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • salt to taste


Directions:
  1. Combine chicken broth, beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt in the crock pot.


  2. Season chicken breast with salt and lay on top.
  3. Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.
  4. A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred.
  5. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in.
  6. Adjust salt and seasoning. 
  7. Serve over rice with cilantro, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese.
Et voila!

Shared here:
Beauty and Bedlam Get Healthy Cheap

Monday, October 18, 2010

Whatcha Readin'?

With the cooler weather (well, in the U.S. anyways) comes the joy of snuggling up and reading. I just finished Life with Picasso by Francoise Gilot (review to come!). Not sure what I'll pick up next but I do have a few options in mind ... but enough about me!

Whatcha readin'?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coffee Table Book: Alice Walker's "The Color Purple"

I grabbed this book when I was wandering around the used bookstore in my home town. I'd heard the book's title for years, and knew that it had been turned into a film with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. other than that, I hadn't a clue what it was about.

This book quickly became a page-turner for me. It is epistolary, meaning it is written often times in the form of documents (letters, journal entries, etc.). The dialogue that takes place between the characters is raw and honest.

The story revolves around Celie, an uneducated, poor black woman who suffers years of abuse (sexual, physical, and psychological). Celie attempts to protect her sister, Nettie, from the hardships she herself endured. When her sister is sent away, life only becomes harder for Celie as she learns to live with an awful man who takes on a mistress, Shug Avery.

It is the relationship between Celie and Shug that drives Celie to look for, and eventually find, herself. While the bond didn't began naturally, the two women find themselves sharing their home and their hearts. Shug, we could say, is Celie's first true love.

Being set in the South in the 1930s, this book is replete with racism and sexism. Many of the violent scenes revolve around both. Both issues are vulgar and upsetting and are no different when presented in the book.

In the end, it is Celie's self discovery that has us cheering for her as she crosses that finish line. The realization that she is beautiful and loved and worthy of love is her victory. The story reinforces the belief that no matter what you endure, you have a choice to be a victim or to move on. It also reminds us that, as Celie says, "If you know your heart sorry ... that mean it not quite as spoilt as you think" (pg 248).

Conclusion: A truly magnificent piece of fiction, The Color Purple sharpens our faith in the bond and power of women as well as the knowledge that we are the bearers of our own destinies.