Sunday, March 30, 2014

Refried Beans

Here in China it is difficult to find refried beans, and almost impossible to find dry pinto beans.  We have been using red kidney beans in most of our recipes.  But we have had to go to a store that sells imported food to buy refried beans, so we decided to make them ourselves.  We made a large quantity, so I just divided up the rest in ziplock bags and froze it.  Then over the next couple of weeks, whenever I needed refried beans, I just pulled out a bag.  It tasted just as good as it did the first day I made it!  I think from now on, even after I return to America, I'm going to make my own refried beans, and freeze them.

This recipe is simple, and I don't have exact quantities.  You can vary it according to your taste.  But trust me, you can't do too much wrong if you follow this recipe.

INGREDIENTS:
Dry beans (pinto, kidney, or black)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
milk
oil or shortening

STEP 1
Soak beans in water over night.  You should make sure they are covered with at least 3 inches of water.  I would suggest using at least a pound of beans.

STEP 2
Drain the beans and put in a pot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Simmer at a low boil for about 2 hours until beans are soft.  Make sure they are soft!  If they are older beans, they might take longer.  Or, you could also cook them for about an hour in a pressure cooker. (Once the pressure lid starts to "whistle", reduce heat.  When they are done, let them cool for about 20 minutes before opening the lid.  If you try to open it right away, you could get scalded, or they might explode.)

STEP 3
In a separate pan, heat about 2 TBL of oil or shortening.  Add the onion, and cook until softened and golden brown.  Add the garlic the last couple of  minutes.   Add the beans, and begin to mash with a potato masher.  I add a little water at this point just to keep the pan from getting too dry.  My husband adds oil, but I don't like that much fat in my beans.

STEP 4
When the beans are  mashed well, and have thickened up, add a little milk.  That little bit of creaminess really helps the texture.  Season to taste.

When the beans have cooled, you can bag up the leftovers in freezer bags to be used another day!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Snow Peas With Mushrooms

This is a simple Chinese dish with very few ingredients, but it tastes good! 

Fresh Snow Peas--about 3 cups  (Wash them, and remove the stem and stringy part.)

Fresh mushrooms, washed and thinly sliced --about 2 cups

Two cloves of garlic, minced

Combine the following:

3 TB oyster flavor sauce

2 tsp light soy sauce

Salt to taste

Heat a wok and add 2-4 tablespoons of oil.  Cook the mushrooms until they start to soften, stir frying constantly.  Add more oil if the pan gets too dry.  Add the peas and stir fry for a few minutes.  You want the peas to still have some crunch to them when you eat them, so don't overcook.  Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so.  Add the soy sauce mixture and stir fry until the vegetables are evenly coated, and the sauce has had a chance to heat up.  Serve while hot!  If you aren't going to eat right away, I recommend you keep it in an oven safe dish in the oven on warm.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Polenta Casserole

I had never eaten polenta much before I made this casserole.  I bought some polenta, and needed to find a way to use it, so I decided to think of it like I would any other mexican food.  I think it turned out really good!
INGREDIENTS:

Polenta (Mine comes in a box with two bags inside.  One bag uses 4 cups of water.  So adjust your amount  so that you use enough to use 4 cups of water.)
1 can refried beans
About 2 cups grated cheese (I used cheddar, but you could use a white cheese too)
1/2 pound of ground beef or pork
2 cans of diced tomatoes (I can't buy canned tomatoes, so I just cut up about 3 cups of tomatoes and sautee)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup of chopped onion
2  or 3 chopped hot chili peppers
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
Chicken bouillion cube or powder--to taste
1 cup water

DIRECTIONS:
Brown meat in a frying pan.  When meat is almost browned, add the garlic, onion and peppers.  Saute until they are soft.  Add the tomatoes.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, saute until they are broken down and soft. Canned tomatoes just need to be heated through.   Add the chili powder, paprika, and cumin.  Mix well.  Add water and chicken bouillion.  Let simmer
In another pan, cook the polenta according to the package directions.  Mine says to cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  I don't have that much strength, so I probably only cook it 3 minutes, but it seems fine.  :)  Spread the polenta in a 9X13 pan.  Spread the refried beans on top.  Next layer the cheese on top of the beans.  Pour the hot meat mixture over the cheese.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

I like to serve this with some pickled cucumbers and possibly a little pickled onion.  To pickle them, I make a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  You can add a little fresh chopped garlic and some dried basil if you want.  Beat this mixture until it thickens slightly.  Then pour it over the vegetables and serve.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Two Chinese Dishes

Since coming to China, I've been experimenting a little with chinese cooking.  I will freely admit that I'm not the best chinese cuisine cook.  I love to eat chinese food, but I can't quite get the knack of cooking it.  But these two dishes have turned out pretty well, so I wanted to record them so that I remember how to cook them.  :)

Squash, Chicken and Bell Peppers

1 squash cut in quarter size pieces. Total of about 1 1/2 cups. (I use a squash that is popular here that is like the Mexican squash, or Italian grey that is sold in the U.S.)

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in cubes

1 Bell pepper cut in cube size pieces

2 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped

Combine the following:
2 TB oyster flavor sauce
2 TB chili garlic paste
2 TB light soy sauce
Salt to taste

Heat a wok or other pan until hot, then add about 3 TB cooking oil.  Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked through.  Add the squash and bell peppers and continue to stir fry until tender.  Add the garlic and stir fry another minute.  Then add the sauces and stir fry another minute or so.  Serve hot!

Beef, Mushrooms and Peas

1 small beef steak cut in domino sized pieces
1 Cup of fresh mushrooms sliced (I have used different kinds of mushrooms, they are all good)  :)
11/2 cups of fresh snow peas
2 cloves of garlic peeled, crushed, and chopped
Salt to taste

Combine the following:
3 TB oyster flavor sauce
2 TB light soy sauce

Heat wok or other pan.  When hot, add about 3 TB of cooking oil.  Add the beef and stir fry for a minute or so, or until it is almost cooked through.  Add the mushrooms and continue to stir fry for another few minutes, or until the mushrooms become tender.  Add the peas and garlic and stir fry until the peas are tender.  Add the sauce, and stir fry another minute until sauce is hot and the food is coated.  Serve hot with rice.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cooking Chinese

I've lately come up with a couple of chinese food recipes that are winners.  I'll post both here.

Zuchinni, Bell Peppers, and Chicken

1 medium Italian grey squash  (or zuchinni if you can't find the Italian grey) sliced an halved.
1 chicken breast cut in cubes
1 bell pepper cut in cubes
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 TB chili garlic paste
2 TB oyster flavor sauce
1 TB light soy sauce

Heat a wok or other pan until hot, and add a couple of TB of oil.  Stir fry the chicken until just cooked through.  Add the zuchinni and cook another couple of minutes, stirring constantly.   Add the peppers and cook until tender.  Add the garlic and stir fry another minute or so.  Combine the sauces and pour over the mixture.  Stir fry until the ingredients are well coated, and the sauce is hot and bubbly.

Beef, Mushrooms, and Snow Peas with Oyster Flavor Sauce

1 small piece of beef (steak or roast) thinly sliced "domino" sized
1 C thinly sliced mushrooms (I use shitake)
1 C (or more) of snow peas
2 cloves garlic minced
2 TB oyster flavor sauce
2 TB light soy sauce

Heat a wok or other pan, and add about 2 TB oil.  Stir fry the beef until almost cooked through.  Add the mushrooms and cook until tender.  Then add the peas and cook another couple of minutes.  Add the garlic and stir fry for another minute.  Combine sauces and add to pan.  Stir fry until the meat and vegetables are coated and the sauce is hot and bubbly.

Note:  If your sauces ever seem too runny, you can mix a little corn starch in water and add a little bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  Make sure you stir constantly while adding the corn starch.  Also keep in mind that sauces tend to thicken as they cool, so don't add too much corn starch.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chinese Cucumber Salad

I wasn't sure of the right translation for the name of this dish. Chinese do not eat salad as we know it, unless they are trying to cook American food. In fact, they often use lettuce in soup. But this dish is simple, and is a fresh, crunchy addition to any chinese meal. I'm kind of a lazy cook, and don't always use exact amounts. I'm going to estimate for this recipe.

One cucumber, sliced
About 2 TB soy sauce
About 2 TB vinegar (fragrant chinese is best, but you can use white wine)
2 cloves of garlic peeled, mashed and chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil

Put sliced cucumber in a bowl. Mix all other ingredients and whisk until it is emulsified. Pour over cucumbers. Serve cold.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cream Pie Heaven

I've made a lot of pies throughout my life, but for some reason never made cream pies from scratch. I always cheated and used instant pudding. But recently I decided that needed to change, and I have been learning to make cream pies. I have been using the "Lionhouse" recipe book, and the pies have been turning out heavenly!

I first made a lemon cream pie, and a coconut cream pie for Easter. I know the lemon sounds divine, which it was, but the coconut cream was my favorite. Last week I decided to make another coconut cream pie, and a chocolate cream pie. I still think the coconut cream pie was my favorite, but the chocolate was sinfully good! I think next I'm going to make a banana cream pie.

Because of copyright issues, I'm not going to put the recipes here. But seriously, you should google a recipe and try it. The recipe from the Lionhouse uses just the egg yolks. I saved the whites to use in an omelette the next day. It is a little tricky to temper the eggs, but it's not too hard. And then you have to stir..... a lot. It takes a little while for the mixture to thicken, but it eventually does.

If you need a pie crust recipe, try this one that I posted years ago. The key to a good pie crust is to use ice water when making it. I saw one chef that used cold fruit juice to add a little sugar to the gluten mixture. But I just use water, and my pie crusts turn out good.

Although I"m not sharing a cream pie recipe in this post, I just really want to encourage you to try one. You will never go back to instant pudding again. The only really bad thing about cream pies is that you will want to eat a lot! :)