Not Quite Apple Pie

Also known as apple crumble or apple crisps. If you're craving the homemade goodness of an apple pie but do not quite feel like rolling pastry, this might just be what you need. I love the sweet crunchy granola-like topping which contrasts with the tartness of the lemon and apples. Celebrate autumn with this dessert. This recipe serves 2-4.

1-2 apples, peeled, cored, sliced/diced
1 t ground cinnamon
1 T lemon juice
¼ cup sugar or taste
2½ T cold butter
¼ cup oats
¼ cup flour
¼ cup chopped pecan nuts

Toss apple in lemon juice, half the cinnamon and half a tablespoon of sugar. Spread in a baking dish. Combine butter, sugar, cinnamon and flour in a bowl until well incorporated. I use a fork and then work it further with my hands. Add the oats and the chopped pecans. Spread this topping over the apples. Bake in 400°F for 15-20 minutes until topping is browned and apples are tender. 


Pecan Addiction

Considered a nut in the culinary sense, pecans are actually a drupe or fruit with a single pit surrounded by a tough outer husk.  Before European settlement, pecans were widely consumed and traded by Native Americans. They were a natural choice of food source as they can provide two to five times more energy per unit weight than wild game and require no preparation. A rich nut with a buttery taste and texture, pecans are considered a super food high in protein and low in carbohydrates, and an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. A favorite in pies (pecan pies are traditional to southern US), pecans are also the main ingredient in pralines (candy). I have posted a recipe for glazed almonds, but our family prefers the "softness" of pecans. In this stovetop recipe, I toss pecans in butter in a wok and this results in a moister nut than the baked and no butter version.

1 cup pecans
1 T butter
1 T maple syrup
1 t cinnamon powder

Heat pan or wok. Melt butter. Toss pecans and coat. Add maple syrup and cinnamon and mix until well incorporated. Be careful not to burn. Entire process takes less than 5 minutes. Eat as is or top on your favorite breads and pastries.



If Popeye were Japanese

My kids are not particularly excited about spinach, except when I make this dish. Then, there's never enough and they fight for the last bits. So easy to prepare -- it is my go-to dish when I want to add some green to our meals.

1 bunch of spinach
1 T soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 T sugar (or less)
1 T ground white sesame seeds

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and set aside. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 20-30 seconds until just wilted. Drain. Rinse in cold water until cool. Slice into 1-2 inch long strips. Squeeze out excess water. Mix with the sauce. Serve. Good even when cold.  


Ironmom Bar

I love fruit and nut bars like Raw Bite and Nakd but only get them when they're half-priced. Then I learned how ridiculously easy they are to make. These three-ingredient bars are chewier and more pliable than the commercial bars and I found that I actually like them better that way. You can make your own variations by adding coconut chips, or cocoa, or adding different dried fruits and nuts. We take these on road trips as they keep well. I'll be seeing a lot of these in the next two years as I train for the Ironmom.  

13-15 pieces medjool dates, pitted (deglet dates work fine but I find medjool more moist)

1 cup dried fruit (I love the tartness of dried cherries and cranberries)
1 cup nuts (my go-to nuts are pecans)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until everything is broken down fairly well and the ingredients form a ball, pulling off from the sides of the container. Transfer it to an 8x8" pan or glass dish lined with baking paper and press it flat with a spoon. It helps to use a small piece of baking paper to press the bar flat as it can be really sticky. Refrigerate. Slice into bars. 


Chicken Salpicao

Chicken breast is the cheapest cut of meat in Japan so I do collect recipes that manage to bring out the best in chicken breasts (i.e. keep them juicy). I grew up associating salpicao with cubes of beef and it is usually an appetizer or pica-pica (finger food to go with beer). For us, this is a main dish that goes with plain rice. 

500 grams chicken breast cut into bite-size pieces

3 cloves garlic for marinating + 3 more for sauteeing
3 T worcestershire sauce
3 T Bragg's Liquid Aminos 
1 T ground black pepper
2 T butter
Button mushrooms sliced (dish is still great without mushrooms)

Marinate chicken in garlic, pepper, worcestershire sauce and Bragg's Liquid Aminos for at least an hour. Heat butter in pan. Saute garlic and mushrooms. Toss in chicken but do not put in all the sauce. The dish might end up too salty. Cook until chicken is done and serve hot. 



Punjab Eggplant

Summer's here and a neighbor gives me a HUGE bag of organic eggplant she proudly harvested from her garden. I do not like eggplant. In fact when I was younger, it's the one vegetable I avoided in Pinakbet (a popular Filipino mixed vegetable dish my Dad loved). I was determined though to make good use of vegetables given to me. At the organic center where I work, we sell Tasty Bite's Punjab Eggplant. I looked at the ingredients and kind of worked out how it was made and added my own twists. Now, I find myself buying eggplant just to make this dish. It's that good!

 2 eggplants
oil for brushing on the eggplants
butter for sauteing
1 t grated ginger
1 small onion chopped
1-2 cloves garlic crushed
½ t turmeric
1 t cumin
½ t coriander
½ cup crushed tomatoes (I use half a box of Italian tomatoes)
salt and pepper to taste
chili or cayenne pepper (optional)
chopped fresh cilantro for topping (cilantro is not usually available in Japan so I usually make this dish without but it's wonderful if you have access to cilantro!)

Brush eggplants with oil. Roast for 30 minutes in the oven (roast or broil setting). Cool and peel off skin and discard. Chop up eggplants. Heat pan/pot, melt butter. Fry up onions, garlic and ginger in butter. Add the spices. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer. If you have a Thermos Shuttle Chef, leave the pot inside until ready to serve. 



Goodbye Nantucket Cookies (Pecan Chocolate)

Every time I pass Costco's snack aisles (a dangerous place!), I feel Pepperidge Farm's Nantucket Cookies call my name. They look so scrumptious. I love Pepperidge Farm's Milanos so I know these would be just as addicting. But I refuse to spend ¥1,500++ on cookies. Fortunately, I can make cookies so good I don't feel Nantucket beckon me anymore. I know a lot of cookie recipes say the nuts are optional but in this recipe, they are absolutely essential.

½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
½ T vanilla
1 cup flour
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
½ cup oats
¾ cup chopped pecan nuts
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda and baking powder. Fold in oats, pecan nuts and chocolate chips. Put balls of dough on a pan and freeze (After they have frozen, you can put the dough balls into a freezer bag for later use). To bake, put dough balls in a cookie tray spacing them properly. Bake in 350°F for about 12 minutes or until done.