I’m a child of the 70s and 80s which makes me 1) old and 2) able to remember a time before a lot of processed and pre- packaged foods. That’s not to say that those things didn’t exist. Kraft mac n’ cheese was a much loved (if infrequent) treat as were Swanson’s chicken pot pies, hot dogs and potato chips. But my mom, whose Chinese roots (via Hong Kong) mixed with the hippie, DIY ethos of the time made sure that most of what we ate was homemade and nutritious. I can’t always vouch for the deliciousness. Check out my old meatloaf postfor a description of how my mom riffed on the classic American dish to varying degrees of success. This was also the era of carob bars instead of chocolate and health-food store peanut butter made of freshly ground peanuts (and nothing else) instead of JIF or Skippy which contained a whole lot of salt and sugar and tasted how peanut butter SHOULD taste). But looking back now, I realize how lucky we were to grow up in a house where food was something you cooked and not just retrieved from a box or heated up in the microwave. I credit my parents with making me the eater I am today and the cook. Today all these years later, I’m proud to carry on the tradition of preparing as many home cooked meals as I can and I think it’s having an effect. Judging by the way my kids eat, I’m happy to say they’re little chips off the old gluttonous blocks (me AND Shefali, who’s no slouch in the eating department). I’m also seeing glimmers of a real interest in cooking. First daughter Kaya loves to watch us cook and help out when she can. Second daughter, Mona, not yet two, lacks basic motor skills but if her man-sized appetite is any indication, she’s going to be a beast in the kitchen. It’s fair to say that both girls have spent a good portion of their lives in the kitchen because that’s where we spend most of our time. And so it only felt natural to start making videos with them. After all, Kaya’s been part of this blog and in these videos since she was just a baby.
So for her first video where she is an active and willing participant, we decided to make something pretty easy but really good. In fact this is Kaya’s favorite for breakfast: granola. I basically took a recipe from Alton Brown and made some of my own little tweaks (a little less salt, more oats, coconuts and almonds) and the results have been uniformly GOOD!!! But don’t just take my word for it. Take Kaya’s.
Here are the ingredients:
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups dried coconut flakes
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of dried cranberries.
I’m going to make a bold statement. If you don’t like stew, then you basically don’t like food. Because stew is the quintessential comfort food. It’s a slow cooked melding of vegetables, a little liquid (and some sort of protein if you’re lucky) that combine into a thick, rich, flavorful – well, stew (for lack of a better word) that fills you up with savory goodness and warms you from the inside. Every country and every culture has it’s version of stew and it is my ambition in this life, to taste. Every. Single. One. Some people want to cure cancer. I want to eat stew.
Recently, I took step one step closer to realizing my dream when I filmed Adesha preparing her version of Nigerian Chicken Stew. As a native of Oakland, California she would be the first to tell you that her version of this stew might not be the most traditional or “authentic”, but like all great recipes, it’s got a great story. And Adesha is a great storyteller. As you’ll see, she’s a complete natural (way more than that dork who appears in most of the videos on this site – um, that would be me) in front of the camera. Oh yeah, maybe it’s because she’s a professional singer (www.adeshmusic.com) and so she has what many of us non professionals don’t: stage presence. In any case, she makes an easy and delicious chicken stew and has a good time making it. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did filming it.
Here are the ingredients to make the chicken stew (serves about 4)
3 roma (plum) tomatoes
2 medium sized onions
1/2 bell pepper (green, red or yello)
sea salt (to taste)
Nigerian pepper (to taste) – can also use cayenne or any other hot chili powder
powdered iyan (pounded yam) – 1 cup = approx 4 servings.
I’m not sure exactly when my mom first started making ratatouille, that rustic French stew of eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers. Maybe it was after she took a trip to Paris, leaving me and my sister at home with our dad whose culinary expertise at that time was limited to tamale pieand mac n’ cheese with hot dogs and black olives (I’m actually getting hungry thinking about these meals). Or, maybe it was a recipe she got from one of the Time Life Foods of the World cook books lining the shelf in our kitchen. All I know is that at some point during my childhood, ratatouille became a regular in the meal rotation. While I didn’t love it at first (because what child in their right mind loves eggplant?!) I grew to love it because of what it represented: autumn, rainy days and my mom’s home cooking. Also, it’s really delicious. So that scene in the Pixar movie “Ratatouille”where the food critique takes one bite of the “fancy-pants” layered ratatouille and in an instant, is transported back to his childhood where his mom serves him her version of the dish -one of the best scenes in any movie, animated or not – had particular resonance for me. I mean I didn’t cry or anything. Okay, maybe I had something in my eyes that caused them to water and perhaps at the same time I found myself involuntarily emitting sob like sounds, but that’s totally normal when watching Pixar movies. Am I right?
Now as an adult, ratatouille has been a go to dish of mine for years. So far, my kids seem to like it too. Perhaps when they’re adults they’ll eat it and think fondly back to the simple eggplant stew that I, their father, made for them. Here’s the list of ingredients and watch the video below for how I do it.
1-2 lbs of eggplant
1-2 lbs of zucchini
2 red bell peppers
5-8 cloves of garlic
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
When I look back on my childhood I have to say it was pretty sweet. That has more to do with the love and affection of my parents rather than the presence of sugary treats or beverages in our pantry. Yeah, my mom was the type who bought carob chips instead chocolate, who baked zucchini bread instead of cookies (thankfully the carob never made it into the zucchini bread, because I actually really liked the zucchini bread). Occasionally we could have orange juice – the frozen concentrate kind that you mixed with water – but pretty much never would we get soda like Coke or 7UP. It was only at my neighbors’ house across the street (they had a swimming pool, cable TV and they had ColecoVision. would I get to drink such sweet nectar because they kept their cupboards stocked with all sorts of soda. They even had the mini cans! These were the best because they were small enough for a kid to mimic a “mug” by placing the thumb on the top of the can and the pinky on the bottom and holding the can shaka style. It’s like “Yeah, I’m drinking from a mug that’s actually my hand!” It just didn’t get much cooler when I was seven. I guess I lived a pretty sheltered life. Pardon the trip down memory lane, but all this is to say, I didn’t get soda much when I was a kid and when I did, it was a real treat. I did’t really have much of a taste for Coke, gravitating to the more “healthy” options of 7UP or ginger ale (my parents’ food indoctrination ran pretty deep). But when there was a can of Welch’s grape soda on the table – forget it. That was my jam!
All these years later, I still have a thing for grape soda. But I’m an adult now – at least age wise. And I’m a cliche. I have two young kids whose sugar intake I limit like a dictator and I’m also one of those annoying food oriented (though never mistake me for some newbie hipster foodie) DIY types who likes to make my own food stuffs and blog about it – yeah, even more annoying. So, imagine my delight when I discovered that the house we moved into a couple years ago had a grape vine growing along the fence in our front yard that borders our neighbor’s driveway.
Front yard grapes
I have no idea what kind of grapes they are but I do know that they’re delicious and as they ripen they go from tart to full bodied and sweet. Our yield this year was pretty good, so I thought, why not take the juice of these lovely grapes and make a concentrate of grapey essence that I could add to the seltzer water which I annoyingly adore (I was also an early adapter of and proselytizer for the Soda Stream). So that’s what I did. And you know what? It’s way better than Welch’s – as it should be because this was a whole lot more labor intensive than going the store and buying a can or case of Welch’s or Fanta. And less sugar? See, Mom? I’m still listening.
Hello people (or person or spambot)! Here’s a quick and easy recipe that is guaranteed to make you the toast of the town, the bell of the ball, the king of the hill, etc. And all it takes are beans – green beans. I kid you not, you make these green beans and people will think you’re the shit! in the best possible sense. These green beans are so easy to prepare- maybe taking 20 minutes out of your life – and when you serve them, people will think you’re a culinary genius! Am I selling this recipe too hard? Perhaps. All I know is that my kids love these green beans. And they have really good taste. I mean, they are my kids. In fact watching K and M attack these beans one day, gave me the idea to make the video and put this recipe up. Because who doesn’t love videos about green beans – and adorable kids? (Note to self: for the next vid book cute kittens and a Kardashian for the next vid. Scratch that. Just book the kittens. I want to keep this blog classy).
Back to the beans. What makes them Asiany-ish? Well, I made them. Obviously. Also, the ingredients of the dressing: miso, rice vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Basically you steam the beans and then toss them in the dressing. That’s it! The resulting flavor is a brilliant combination of textural crunch of the beans with the salty, sour, sweet and umami flavor of the dressing. Alright enough reading. Let’s get to doing. Here’s the recipe and check out the video below for how you do it.
1-2 lbs of green beans (blue lake, French, whatever variety of string bean you want to use) – stemmed, cut into 1.5 inch pieces and steamed and cooked to your liking.
1.5 tbsp of miso paste
2-3 tbsp of rice vinegar
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tsp of sesame oil