Mom’s Homemade Refrigerator Dill Pickles  

I swear, these pickles are better than the pickles you can get at the refrigerated deli aisle at any supermarket or fancy delicatessen. These pickles are so simple to make and they will be ready to eat in as little as 24 hours. This recipe is also budget-friendly, if you know where to shop. You can pick up a large bag of coriander seeds at an international grocery store for just a couple of dollars—which will last for numerous batches of pickles. Buy cucumbers when they are on sale at the supermarket or in bulk at a discount produce market, like Boston’s Haymarket.

My mom shared this recipe with me a couple of years ago. I’m not sure where it originated, but I’ve also tweaked it a bit since I started making these pickles. It’s really easy to modify based on your own personal tastes — if you don’t like spicy things, use less garlic and avoid the hot pepper flakes. You can also use the brine recipe to pickle just about any vegetable. I’m a fan of adding bell pepper slices and carrot sticks to my pickle jars.

photo

Supplies:

One 1-quart mason jar.

Measuring cup

Measuring spoons

Ingredients:

1 lb pickling cucumbers or mini cucumbers, sliced into spears or flat rounds (or a combo of both!)

1 large handful dill (apprx. 8 sprigs of dill)

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp sugar

1 ½ tbsp coarse salt (although regular salt will probably work just fine)

3-5 cloves garlic (cut in half or slightly smashed for more flavor)

2/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar

1 cup water, plus extra to fill the jar

Optional Ingredients:

Dash of crushed red pepper flakes

2 carrots, chopped lengthwise into sticks

½ bell pepper, sliced into ½ inch wide strips

*Note: Reduce the amount of cucumbers if you’re using carrots and peppers

Instructions:

Put the salt, sugar, coriander, water and vinegar in the jar and shake vigorously until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Pack in the cucumbers and dill, garlic cloves as well as other optional veggies, until you can’t fit any more in the jar. Screw the lid on tightly and pop it in the fridge. After just a day the pickles will be delicious. A few days in the fridge will make them really flavorful. They’ll last about a month in the fridge. Please note, these are not shelf stable and must be kept refrigerated.

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The best tofu recipe in the world – crispy fried tofu

I’ve been meaning to blog about this recipe for a long time, because the world needs to know about it. Tofu gets a bad rep, but it’s all about what you put on it to make it taste great, and how you prepare it to give it a palatable texture. My favorite way to season tofu is with a breadcrumb-like mixture of nutritional yeast along with garlic powder and fresh black pepper. Nutritional yeast is a delicious and nutritious seasoning that is really popular for vegetarians and vegans. It has a great savory flavor that is almost cheese-like and a bit salty. Its addictive in the same way as Doritos. You can buy it in the bulk bin at Whole Foods. I realize this sounds crazy — something as weird as tofu topped with something that sounds nasty because it is called “nutritional yeast,” but I swear on my life that this is the most delicious tofu dish I’ve ever had. I’ve made it for many a tofu-doubter and I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t like this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 block extra firm tofu
3/4 cups nutritional yeast
1 tbsp garlic powder
fresh ground black pepper to taste
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tbsp cooking oil
soy sauce for seasoning

-Serves 3-4 people

Instructions :

Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat. I like using cast iron pans. Prepare the spice mixture in a shallow bowl. Slice the tofu block in half lengthwise and then cut it into approx. 1/4 inch thick slices. The thinner you cut them, the crispier it will be, but not too thin otherwise it will break into pieces. Roll each piece of tofu in the seasoning mixture like you would with breadcrumbs, so its evenly coated . Many tofu recipes call for squeezing the water out of it prior to cooking, but in the case of this recipe, I find that the moisture helps the breading stick to it. Be sure the pan is evenly coated with the hot oil before placing the tofu in the pan. It should cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until slightly crispy. I usually pour a little bit of soy sauce on this tofu once I’ve plated it — maybe a teaspoon or two, depending on how much I’m eating. Pro tip: I like to serve this crispy fried tofu as a side dish with pasta and marinara sauce, as well as a steamed green veggie. Serve as separate dishes or mix it all together in a bowl and top with parmesan cheese.

(Photos to come!)

 

 

You can make Thai Iced Tea in a drip coffee maker!

I love Thai Iced Tea. I figured out a couple of years ago that its much cheaper to make at home. I purchased the tea mix at an Asian grocery store and made it every once in a while when I got a craving. But it didn’t happen too often because making it is kind of a hassle. And incredibly messy. The orange color of the leaves always left me with a orange-stained counter, orange-stained hands, orange-stained stove top etc. Most recipes call for steeping the leaves and melting the sugar in a pot on a stove burner. And then straining them out somehow. Or using a giant tea-sock, which I don’t have.

Yesterday, I was craving Thai iced tea while I was in the middle of hosting a yard sale at my house, and I didn’t have time to deal with straining tea leaves, so I was going to attempt to fashion a homemade tea sock out of a coffee filter. And then the genius idea hit me. WHY NOT JUST PUT THE TEA INTO THE COFFEE MAKER?! OMG. IT WORKED!

Thai iced tea made in a coffee maker, enjoyed in a coffee thermos at work in the morning, instead of coffee!

Thai iced tea made in a coffee maker, enjoyed in a coffee thermos at work in the morning, instead of coffee!

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Thai tea leaves
    • 4 cups water
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 can evaporated milk

 

 

 

Directions:

Put the tea in the coffee filter in the coffee maker. Pour 4 cups water into the back. Press brew. When its all finished, you should have about 4 servings of tea. Add the sugar to the coffee pot and stir with a rubber spatula (so you don’t break the glass!)

If you don’t have time to chill it to get it cold, I have an excellent tip for making it iced immediately. I put 1 cup tea with 4-5 ice cubes into a drink shaker to get it nice and cold. Pour over more ice in a glass, and top off with desired amount of evaporated milk (apprx. 2 oz per serving). For best results, drink it with a straw (it’s fun and helps prevent your teeth from being stained orange temporarily!)

Homemade garlic & herb cheese spread

Real talk. I haven’t updated this blog in almost a year. I’m sorry. I know I never even really got this blog off the ground. I’ve been distracted, but I’ll try to make it a more regular thing.

So, the reason I am posting is because I had a really personally important food breakthrough today. Do you know what Alouette Cheese is? Another similar brand is Rondele. This stuff is addictive, delicious spreadable cheese found in the fancy cheese aisle at the supermarket and it costs an arm and a leg for a tiny tub of it ($7, unless its on sale) and I literally have fought with multiple supermarket employees to try to get them to honor sale prices I saw advertised for this cheese. It’s like crack to me, particularly the garlic & herb flavored kind.

Today, I figured out I can MAKE THIS STUFF AT HOME AND ITS SUPER CHEAP AND 2X MORE DELICIOUS!

cheese

This is the best garlic & herb spreadable cheese of all time. Note the adorable little mason jar I used to store the leftovers, which I will be packing for lunch all week.

 

There are a few nearly identical recipes I viewed, such as this one and this one. Other bloggers are calling it a DIY “Boursin” cheese, which is another trademarked soft cheese that I don’t like as much as I like Alouette or Rondele.  I honestly don’t even remember what the Boursin brand garlic & herb cheese tastes like. Or maybe it is amazing, but it’s just that it’s even more expensive than Alouette so I never have even bought it.

Anyways, when I made the recipe, I tweaked it a little bit. One of the above linked recipes calles for 8 oz butter while the other calls for 2 oz. I settled for a happy medium at 4 oz of salted butter (the other recipes call for unsalted, as if that would make this “healthy.”) I also did not use “the real stuff” when it came to adding my parmesan cheese. I used regular old store brand powdered parm.

Sorry I don’t use measuring spoons. This is the spice combo I used, and it was amazing: One small clove pressed fresh garlic, several hearty twists of fresh ground black pepper, large dashes of dried basil, dried chives, dried oregano and dried parsley, a sprig of fresh dill, and a tiny dash of dried mint.

I ate this cheese on fresh slices of Trader Joe’s mini baguette and I wanted to die of happiness. My life is now complete and I may get fat soon.

Kale miso noodle soup

In addition to having a bacon addiction, I have a miso soup addiction. I keep a tub of fresh miso in my fridge at all times. I usually make a giant pot of this stuff on Sunday or Monday nights and eat it each day throughout the week. This is a completely vegetarian dish, as long as you buy the kind of miso without fish oil.

I like to go to Chinatown every few weeks for cheap produce, noodles, sauces, tea, miso and other Asian specialties that are expensive at my local grocery store.

I made up this recipe out of necessity when I was sick. I had almost no food in the house and I really just wanted some soup. My roommate had a container of brown miso paste in the fridge that had been sitting there for months. I almost always have kale in the vegetable crisper, so I got this great idea to use it as a seaweed substitute. I also usually have a half block of tofu lying around. The first time I made this, it was just with the kale and tofu, but I’ve experimented with various additions and I think I’ve perfected the recipe.

Here’s what you’ll need (makes 3 large or 4 small bowls):

  • 1/2 block silken tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup miso paste (white or brown)
  • 2-3 large leaves of Kale, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • 1-2 blocks of cellophane noodles (Pro tips: The Chinese grocery store where I shop sells noodles portioned off already, so look for this kind. The portions are about the size of a package of ramen noodles. If you can’t find the pre-portioned ones, a large handful of the noodles will do. The amounts here are not so important. I usually wing it. Also, sometimes I like to break up my cellophane noodles into bite sized pieces so I can eat the soup using just a spoon. Otherwise, a fork is also necessary, like with Pho.)
  • Optional: Sriracha chili sauce, to taste, 1-2 cloves of finely chopped or pressed garlic
  • Optional side dish to make this a complete meal: Edimame
    Please note: I’m not very picky about the ingredient amounts that I use, so for the most part I gave a range for the measurements. Use more if you like a lot of stuff in your soup, or less if you like a brothy soup. I usually go for more, because when I reheat it I can always add more water and miso paste to the mix and get a couple more bowls out of it.

Instructions: Pour the water into a medium-sized saucepan. Turn the burner on to high heat. Add the chopped kale and bring it to a boil. Toss in your cubed tofu, chopped scallions, cellophane noodles, and optional garlic. Do not add the Miso yet! Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the noodles are soft. (You can do a taste test or follow the directions on your noodle packaging.)

You don’t ever want to let miso boil, so here’s how to get around that:  Use a ladle to scoop out about a cup of the boiling water into a bowl. Turn the burner heat down to medium-low. Let the water in the bowl cool for a minute and then add your miso paste. Whisk it together until there are no lumps and pour this mixture into your pot of noodles and veg. Stir it all together and you’re almost finished! Just scoop some into a bowl. Serve with edimame pods, if you like. Garnish the soup with a little swirl of sriracha chili sauce for a kick.

Bacon guacamole

Last night, my mother took a few cold, crispy, paper-towel-wrapped bacon strips out of the fridge.

“What should we do with this leftover bacon?” she asked.

“WHY DO YOU HAVE LEFTOVER BACON?” I grabbed the strips and without hesitating, crumbled them into the bowl of fresh guacamole I was mashing. I was scared for a second, because what if it wasn’t a good combination? What if I had ruined some perfectly good guac and some perfectly good bacon? Haha. No way. It was just as awesome as it could possibly be. I ruined its aesthetics by eating a giant scoopful before thinking of photo-documentation, but you’ll get the idea from this Instagram:

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Recipe: Bacon guacamole for 2

  • 1 Large avocado
  • juice of 1/2 a ripe lime
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 a small tomato, diced
  • 1 (or 2) extra crispy bacon strip(s)

Mash up that avocado with a fork or small potato-masher. Squeeze that lime juice. Mix in garlic, salt, and diced tomato. Garnish with your fresh bacon bits. Serve with tortilla chips. YUM. (Note: I do not work with cilantro, ever. It tastes like dish detergent to me. Put some in if you’re a fan. I prefer to add chopped scallions to my guac for flavor, but I didn’t have any that day.)

An introduction

Hello blogosphere,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Anna. I’m an aspiring journalist, recent college grad (seeking a JOB), Boston resident, kitchen-experimenter, breakfast food enthusiast, and yes, an ex vegetarian. My parents raised me meat-free, but in my late teens I decided to convert.

For the full background story, check out this column I wrote to accompany my feature article about ex-vegetarians for The Boston Globe. To make a long story short, I first discovered jerk chicken when I was 17, and that was that. A few short years after introducing poultry into my diet, I found bacon. My life has been forever changed. I’m basically a bacon addict. But this doesn’t mean I don’t still love tofu. After bacon, my second-favorite food is fried crispy tofu, breaded with nutritional yeast. This dish is essentially bacon for vegetarians, or tofu that omnivores actually enjoy. I swear! I’ll post a recipe soon.

This will be a food blog. I aim to share my recipes and babble about my culinary experiences, including those in restaurants, at my friends’ houses, and from my recent travels in Europe. Some of my recipes are totally vegetarian. Some of my recipes will include bacon as a prominent feature, which can be substituted with turkey bacon or veggie bacon. In short, this is a blog for everyone who loves eating delicious things as much as I do, especially open-minded, non-discriminatory eaters. I’m not looking for lectures from vegetarians, or vegans. I respect your choices, but I personally feel much healthier with a more varied diet. I can say this honestly after spending 17 years as a vegetarian. I may eat a lot of bacon, but I think I balance it out by eating healthily otherwise — lots of fruit & veg, small portions, very few sweets, etc.