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Vietnamese Food, Anyone?

Chayote

Chayote~ they come in white and green

We have a real passion for Vietnamese food, in this house. Usually, we go out to eat it, and if we’re hungry and there happens to be a pho house around, we are almost sure to go in and try it. We usually order the same thing too, just so we can compare and contrast. I go for the green papaya salad, and Monty goes for lemon grass chicken or shrimp vermicelli. We have a couple of favorite places, such as Super Pho, which is one of our favorites. Let me show you a few examples:

Summer rolls are de rigueur for appetizers

Summer rolls are de rigueur for appetizers

I have a real passion for peanut sauce, too.

 

The best green papaya salad… how I love it

The best green papaya salad… how I love it

 

Lemon grass shrimp… get those chopsticks ready

Lemon grass shrimp… get those chopsticks ready

 

As you can see, all of this food looks super-light, healthy and refreshing. Now that you understand that we have a passion for this cuisine, you’ll understand why I’d be interested in learning a bit about learning how to cook some of this, myself.

I’m very lucky in this, on two counts. The first count is that Monty works with someone who grows chayote on his property, and last year he gave us a few. I had no idea what to do with it, so I ended up making a Mexican-stye soup with it. (Chayote sounds Mexican, doesn’t it?) Well, I did learn something, after I cooked that, and here’s where the second count of luck comes in.

I have a very, dear Vietnamese friend name Jess. When she saw my post last year, she got excited because her mom used to make chayote for her—so in her eyes, it’s comfort food! As I’ve found out, it is Mexican, but as it turns out, it is also very popular in Asian cuisine. The good about this food is that it’s very low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. It’s also a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, zinc, copper and manganese. That’s a lot of nutrition for a little squash! There isn’t much of a bad about this food, except that it excretes a sticky substance while peeling it,  that can feel a bit odd… almost like the feeling of superglue. The sensation can last a few hours, but I promise that it’s harmless.

Now, I’ll give you another warning: This recipe is not hard and fast, which means if you want to try this, you’ll need a brave heart. I did make this last week for dinner, mainly because I wanted to get a feel for the recipe. Jess tells me that the usual ratio is 2 chayote/1 egg. I was hungry for eggs so I used 2 chayote/2eggs… no regrets here! Today, I made it for lunch, and I truly enjoyed it. It’s very easy to throw together, and delicious. Another warning to the brave: this recipe uses fish sauce. A lot of people are put off by the smell when they first open a bottle, but I promise you that it won’t taste like you think it will. Fish sauce is a very common ingredient in Vietnamese, Thai and Filipino cuisines. Adding the lime and sugar to the condiment really changes the flavor, and give it the “umami” flavor that is so treasured in these recipes.

What I will do is give you the measurements that I used today for lunch. It was all I ate, so consider this two portions, if you are serving something else with it, such as rice or a salad.

Very few ingredients are needed for this

Very few ingredients are needed for this

What you’ll need:

1 Tablespoon cooking oil (I used olive)
3-4 green onions, chopped into long pieces about 2 inches long (you’ll want to use the green ends)
2 chayote, peeled and ends chopped off and discarded (you’ll want to discard the seed, too)
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed  lime juice
2 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper

Prep the fish sauce condiment to have it ready. Simply mix the fish sauce, lime and sugar in a small bowl.

Slice the chayote

Slice the chayote

Slice the peeled and seeded chayote.

 

Add the chayote to the green onions

Add the chayote to the green onions

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the green onions for a minute or so, then add in the chayote and allow to cook. I liked mine just when it became soft. Add in the fish sauce/sugar/lime condiment and continue to cook for another minute.

 

Add eggs

Add eggs

Drop the eggs in, one at a time.

 

Stir the eggs into the chayote

Stir the eggs into the chayote

Stir the eggs into the chayote and cook stirring, until the whites become solid.

 

Add pepper

Add pepper

When eggs are cooked, add pepper and serve.

 

Serve

Serve

What could be simpler?

 

Makes an easy lunch

Makes an easy lunch

This makes a super, easy lunch or a nice, light supper.

 

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit, and thank you, Jess!

 

 

Happy Easter, Happy Spring!

 

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Keeping it short and sweet, this idea for just the eggs was stolen fair and square off of Pinterest, but I happened upon these cute, little egg cups, and I decided to take it one step farther. Any deviled egg recipe will do to fill these, and all you need are some tiny carrot triangles for the beaks and some tiny olive pieces for eyes. I found the cups at Amazon for about $20.00 and found that they worked perfectly for this. I think they really add a lot to the concept.

I think she's winking!

I think she’s winking!

Enjoy your day and the best of the season! Whatever you are celebrating, Happy Spring!

 

 

An Omelette to Love, Even When Watching Calories

Bacon.

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Okay, now that I have your attention, (unless your vegan, keeping Kosher, or on a fat-free diet) here’s one you’re really gonna love. For me, this is a recipe reminiscent of a place and time in San Francisco, at a place where I frequently had brunch with friends. I had this omelette there one time, and it was all over~ I never ordered anything else there, again.  Even now, anytime I make an omelette, this is how it’s done, in my humble opinion.

Now, it’s true that this could be made to be a lot more fattening than it is here, and I’m pretty sure that whatever the name of that restaurant was that made the original, probably did just that. But I’ve found that making this as simple as I’m doing here, delivers so much flavor, that adding more is almost overkill. I’m talking about the bacon… I’m only using one piece for each omelette. You make cry, kick and scream, but I’m telling you~ that’s all that’s needed. This is a great thing, since it can be a Sunday treat, even when watching fat or caloric intake.

Bacon, spinach, cheddar & mushrooms make the best omelette

Bacon, spinach, cheddar & mushrooms make the best omelette

 

What makes this even better is the addition of steamed spinach and mushrooms~ we adding vital nutrients early in the morning, which makes it even easier to get your 5-a-day bodily requirement of veggies.

Never make an omelette before? Don’t be intimidated~ it’s actually quite easy!

Here’s a recipe for 2, so if you need more or less, simply multiply or subtract~

4 Eggs
2 strips bacon
1 bunch spinach, thoroughly rinsed and stems removed
8 ounces mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
salt & pepper
minced parsley for garnish (optional)

————————————————————–

Steam the veggies together

Steam the veggies together

First thing, prepare the veggies. I usually steam the spinach and mushrooms together, until they are just cooked. Once done, drain. You’ll want to squeeze the water out of the spinach, once it’s cooled a bit. Set aside.

 

Bacon!

Bacon!

Cook the bacon until it’s just crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Drain the bacon

Drain the bacon

 

Now you’re ready to cook the eggs. In a large frying pan, melt about two teaspoons of butter until it’s just starting to bubble, swirling the pan so that the butter covers the bottom. Crack two eggs into a small bowl with some salt and pepper and add about a tablespoon of water. Whisk for about 30 seconds, then pour into the hot pan, again swirling so that the egg covers the bottom. Allow to cook, turning the pan if need be so that it cooks evenly. (I have a very uneven stove, so this is a necessity for me)

Cook the omelette

Cook the eggs evenly, if possible

 

When it looks like it’s almost done, pile on the goodies~ divide the spinach, mushrooms and put on one side of the omelette. Sprinkle on some cheese and crumble the bacon on top.

Load the goodies on

Load the goodies on

Allow them to sit there, until you can see that it’s done.

 

Fold the top over

Fold the top over

Flip the empty side of the omelette over, and slide it carefully onto a plate.

 

Serve with some fruit

Serve with some fruit

Serve. Sprinkle minced parsley, if desired. Add some fruit and maybe a piece of toast!

 

One slice of bacon brings LOTS of flavor

One slice of bacon brings LOTS of flavor

 

One slice is all that's needed!

One slice makes it quite delectable

 

Lots of veggies make it healthy

Lots of veggies make it healthy

Enjoy your Sunday!

Our Haul from Waimanalo Roadside Stands, Yesterday

I can’t resist sharing our haul from our little excursion through the backroads, yesterday:

Free range eggs and lilikoi butter

Free range eggs and lilikoi butter

Actually, the lilikoi butter was on the main road leading into Waimanalo, and it’s more like a syrup than a fruit butter. If you didn’t know, lilikoi is the Hawai‘ian name for passion fruit. It is a favorite of mine, and I was lamenting my loss of fresh frozen lilikoi juice when my stash thawed a few weeks ago when the freezer died. This lovely little jar should hold me over until they come into season again. I’m sure an idea will come to me on how to use it…

Free range chickens

Free range chickens

The eggs were definitely from a backroads farm, with at least a dozen chickens following their owner around wherever he went, at least outside. They stopped at the door when he took my money, and chased after him when he brought me out my eggs.

We will be looking forward to breakfast this morning, once we finally wake up.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

It’s Been a Rough Week… And Now It’s Time for a Breakfast Casserole

Sometimes, it seems like the world is conspiring to kill your smile, and it has certainly felt that way to me over the past couple of weeks. I had a headache start up the week before last, and it was aggravated by a rough week at work. Then last Monday, I realized that I was getting sick. It really felt like I was getting a sinus infection, having had a couple of those before.  So I called the doctor, and I was fortunate to get an appointment that morning. So I figured I would be taken care of and went about the business of making the bed. I suddenly started hearing a very loud noise, like someone was drilling concrete out in the back of our building (our back lanai faces a parking lot), so I went to look out the kitchen window to investigate. I was shocked and horrified to realize that the noise  was no drill, but rather our refrigerator. It went on with the loud drilling sound for about a minute, and then it sputtered and went quiet. I put my ear up to the side of the  freezer, and found that there was a slight humming. Hmmm… at least it wasn’t fully dead, but rather walking with a limp.

Of course, I had to call the landlady and make arrangements for a repairman to come out, and thankfully he was to come after my doctor appointment. To make a long story short, I went to the doctor and was sent home with an armload of medication, (he was pretty sure it was a virus, not an infection) and was told to go home and rest, which is exactly what I felt like doing. So, I went home to wait for the repairman instead, who was to arrive between 3pm and 6pm. He came earlier rather than later, and I was glad for that. He poked around the refrigerator for a bit. He seemed to be a nice, polite, young man, who was maybe around 30, at most.  He then told me some good news and some very, bad news.

He told me that the part the self-defrosts the freezer was no longer working, and that he could replace that. He explained that the gawd-awful sound I was hearing was the fan hitting ice on the inside. That was the good news. The problem was that the freezer wouldn’t work until it was defrosted… and I mean defrosted the old-fashioned way. Anyone who was born before the 70s will likely remember turning off the refrigerator after putting everything into coolers of ice, (or just running out of food) and letting the ice melt in the freezer. You could very carefully chip away at it, once it started to fall off, but you had to be really careful or you could break something and it would leak freon. NOT a good thing. It was never a welcome chore, but back in the day it was the only way.  He told me I could call him if I wasn’t sure how to do it. I suddenly felt really old… I imagine he probably never really had to do that in his life.

I told him that I, ummm… I had done that many times before, thank you very much… and would it be okay if we waited to defrost until Friday? We don’t have a cooler and I had to try to use up the food in the freezer. He was a bit indirect in answering, just saying that it was important to get it done as soon as possible, and that it would be as good as new, once defrosted.

I won’t go into a lot more detail about all of this, because it doesn’t matter at this point. The freezer really showed signs of not working two days later, as food was starting to thaw on its own. I salvaged what I could and put it into the refrigerator. When that wasn’t feeling as cold, (Wednesday) I broke down and bought 2 styrofoam coolers and 2 bags of ice. We were both wondering… if the repairman replaced the part that self-defrosts, what was the point of defrosting… and, would it freeze again? Would it really reset it self after manual defrosting? We were both baffled. Still, we threw stuff out, (including the lilikoi juice I’d saved…. not good!) cleaned it out, turned it off, and opened the door overnight. Needless to say, it was exhausting.

Monty let me sleep in that morning and left for work, before I awoke. When I went into the kitchen to get coffee, I was amazed to see the refrigerator humming… and cold inside! It was also filled with blinding, white from having nothing in it… maybe that makes me nervous? Maybe just a little. Call me neurotic… it’s okay. I must tell you though, there is one thing that makes me smile~ there is now plenty of room in the freezer for my ice cream maker tub… gelato is coming soon~ yippee!

Meanwhile, I managed to salvage a package of chicken breakfast sausage that was still ice-cold from the defrosting freezer. It really did need to be used this weekend, so I give you this breakfast casserole recipe that I whipped up  from the experience of several others I’ve made. If you’ve never tried making a breakfast casserole, I do recommend it. You make it the night before, stick it in the oven for about an hour the next morning, and you have time in the morning to relax. Which is exactly what I need… for the next year.

Breakfast casserole~ make it the night before

Breakfast casserole~ make it the night before

The amounts for this will serve 4-6 people, so we will have leftovers for a day or so. This is not a bad thing, because Monty doesn’t like to make breakfast. Here’s what I did, though you can improvise with other ingredients. This is all put into a 2-1/2 quart casserole, to be baked the next morning:

I had the 1-lb package of bulk chicken breakfast sausage, so I cooked that in a small frying pan, breaking it up as it cooked. While the sausage was cooking, I cut up some bread into approximately 1-inch pieces. I wanted a firm, solid, yet soft bread for this, so I chose some ciabatta rolls that I got at the farmers market. You can use whatever kind of bread you want, though I just prefer a little firmness, like a french bread or even something more rustic. But, you needn’t limit yourself… you can make this mexican style with tortillas or cornbread. Whatever you use, you will need about a half loaf of bread. This is a very flexible recipe, so use your best judgement and the things you like. 

Little ciabatta rolls

Little ciabatta rolls

The bread ends up as the first layer in the casserole, after a good spray of cooking spray to the bottom and sides.

Spread diced bread on bottom of casserole

Spread diced bread on bottom of casserole

I wanted to add some veggies, so I washed some kale I got from the farmers market and steamed it. When it was done, I drained it and squeezed the water from it.  If you have some frozen spinach, you can thaw it and squeeze out the excess water. That would be even easier. Whatever you use, it is a great opportunity to squeeze some vegetables in. I also added a little bit of pressed garlic. When the sausage was done, I added it in and gently stirred.

 

Sausage with kale and a little garlic

Sausage with kale and a little garlic

Sausage, kale and garlic mixture spread on top of the bread.

 

Sausage mixture over bread

Sausage mixture over bread

The eggs are next. I whisked 6 eggs and about 1 cup of milk (I’m a non-fat user, but what works for you is your choice) together with a good shake of salt and pepper. I added about a half cup of grated cheddar cheese that also needed  to be used, to this mix.

Eggs, milk, cheese, salt & pepper

Eggs, milk, cheese, salt & pepper

 

Once well mixed, I quickly poured it over the top of the casserole. I then gave the casserole a good rap on a solid surface to help distribute the milk and eggs to the bottom.

Ready for the oven

Ready to kiss goodnight~ muah!

At this point, you are pretty much done, for the moment. All you need to do is kiss it goodnight, cover it with aluminum foil and put it into the refrigerator until tomorrow morning.

The next morning about an hour and a half before  you want to eat, place the casserole into the oven (keep the foil on) and turn it on to 350°. Set your timer for about 1 hour and ten minutes. Relax and catch up on the news or something~ mornings are much better like that. When the time is up, pull the casserole from the oven and let it rest still covered for about 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Breakfast is served!

breakfast3

 

Ingredient list for this version:

cooking spray or oil to grease the casserole

bread equivalent to 1 1/2 loaf of bread (I used 5 small multi-grained ciabatta rolls)

1 lb. package bulk chicken breakfast sausage

1 bunch kale, trimmed of stems, steamed, drained and squeezed dry of excess water

6 whole eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

salt & pepper to taste

Serves 4-6.