March 25, 2012

Tub Cleaner

A friend of mine introduced me to homemade cleaners a few years back. For some reason, it has taken me this long time to really try and convert to solely using homemade, natural, toxic-free cleaning products, but I'm almost there. Mixing up a batch of this bath scrub takes 2 minutes - that's easier than any of the other recipes I have posted. One of the best things is that I like this tub cleaner better than any other commercial product I have tried.

Have you heard of castile soap? It's liquid, all-natural soap (extra virgin coconut, olive, jojoba and hemp oils) that works wonders. Really, it's very powerful. Dr. Bronner's is the brand I've found, available at Trader Joe's. It may seem a little pricey, but it's so potent that a little goes a long way. Also, I recommend buying a big bottle of vinegar and a large box of baking soda. The more you buy, the cheaper the unit cost.

I'm convinced that most commercial cleaning products out there are simply a marketing scheme. Before Soft Scrub, how did anyone clean their tubs? That's what they want you to think, but a few generations ago they used common household products to clean. Where did that knowledge go?

Tub Cleaner
from Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan

1 2/3 c. baking soda
1/2 c. liquid castile soap
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. white vinegar

Mix baking soda with liquid soap in a bowl. Add water. Mix with a fork until smooth. Stir in vinegar. Scoop the paste into a pint-size glass jar. Add warm water if it dries out before you use it all, and stir before use if needed.

March 14, 2012

Spring Rolls with Tofu and Mushrooms

Another find from my kitchen cleanout is a package of spring roll wrappers. On 101 Cookbooks, there was recent post for Wintery Spring Rolls. I love spring rolls, but am not quite creative enough to come up with my own fillings. Of course anything created by Heidi Swanson is always bursting with flavor, and this recipe was no exception. The ginger onion paste is genius, and the brown sugar mushrooms were a highlight.

Spring Rolls with Tofu and Mushrooms
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ginger Onion Paste:
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 red spring onions, finely sliced (or equiv. red onion / shallots)
3 tablespoons grated, peeled ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Brown Sugar Tofu and Mushrooms:
12 ounces extra firm tofu
3 medium cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 teaspoons natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

8 ounces mushrooms, brushed clean, sliced 1/4-inch thick

For spring roll assembly:
Ginger Onion Paste (above)
Brown Sugar Tofu and Mushrooms (above)
crisp, crunchy lettuce (baby gems / romaine)
1 small bunch fresh cilantro or other herbs, well washed / dried
about 1 dozen rice paper wrappers

Make the ginger onion paste: Place the onions and ginger in a mortar and pestle. Sprinkle with the salt, and pound until the onions are quite bruised, but not paste-like. Heat the oil in a small saucepan until hot (hot enough that you could saute something in it). Add the onion mixture to the oil, remove from heat, and transfer to a jar to cool. Drain off any extra oil and reserve for another use.

Make the tofu and mushrooms: Cut the tofu into six equal slabs and arrange in a single layer on a rimmed plate. Place the garlic in a mortar and pestle, sprinkle with the salt and sugar, and pound into a paste. Work the oil in, a bit at a time, until the ingredients are completely combined. Use your hands to slather and gently coat each piece of tofu, be quite thorough. Set aside, and leave the bowl dirty.

Cook the tofu in a single layer in a large skillet over medium-high heat until deeply golden on each side. Remove from the pan, and when cool enough to handle, slice into pencil-thick pieces, and salt to taste.

In the meantime, toss the mushrooms gently (but well), in the residual marinade left in the tofu bowl. Once the tofu is done, you can use the same tofu skillet to cook the mushrooms. Use high heat, and cook until the mushrooms release their water and take on a nice, dark color. Transfer to a bowl or platter, and season appropriately.

Assemble the spring rolls: In bowl of hot water, dip each rice paper wrapper for just 3 seconds. Resist over-soaking, even if the paper is a bit stiff it will continue to absorb water as you assemble the wrap. Place on a flat work surface and fold in half. Keep all ingredients crowded into 1/3 of the available surface of the wrapper at this point, not too close to the straight-edge of the semi-circle.

Put down a generous smear of ginger onion paste. Then a lettuce leaf, tofu, a few mushrooms, cilantro. Then, tuck and roll. This method creates an open-sided roll, but you can also make burrito-style rolls.

Makes about a dozen rolls.

March 7, 2012

Brown Butter Parmesan Chicken Linguine

Again, in clean-out mode, I found some linguine. Found this recipe online, of course, and it was fabulous! Buttery pasta with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and Parmesan, how can that not be good?

Brown Butter Parmesan Chicken Linguine
adapted from How Sweet Eats

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 pound linguine
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + more for topping
fresh chopped parsley for topping

Pat chicken dry with a paper towel then toss with salt, pepper and paprika. Heat a large skillet oven medium-high heat and add canola oil. Add chicken to the skillet and brown on all sides, cooking for about 8-10 minutes total. Remove and set aside in a bowl. Turn heat down to medium-low and add 1/2 tablespoon butter. Add sliced onions with a pinch of salt and stirring occasionally, cook until caramelized, about 15 minutes.

While onions are caramelizing, heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add 3 tablespoons of butter. Whisk constantly until butter has brown bits on the bottom, then immediately remove from heat. Whisk for about 30 seconds more just to make sure the bits don’t burn. Set aside. At this time also prepare the water for your pasta and cook according to the directions.

After onions have caramelized, set them aside in a bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter and add mushrooms. Cook for 5-6 minutes until juicy and caramelized. Place onions back in the skillet, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium and add chicken broth. Let the broth bubble and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and pasta both to the skillet, tossing multiple times to coat. Turn off heat and stir in grated cheese. Drizzle brown butter over top, tossing to coat a few more times. Serve with additional cheese and chopped parsley.

March 2, 2012

Fudgy Oatmeal Bars

We're moving to a different apartment, and so I'm in clean-out mode, including the kitchen. I found a few old cans of sweetened condensed milk. Cooking with processed foods like sweetened condensed milk isn't my style anymore, but this recipe was worth it. I remember my mom making these when I was growing up. The chocolate layer is super fudgy and so good.

Fudgy Oatmeal Bars
from my mother

2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
3 c. oats
2 c. chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt

Mix brown sugar, 1 c. butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in flour, baking soda, and ½ tsp. salt. Stir in oats. Reserve one-third of the oatmeal mixture. Press remaining oatmeal mixture in 15 ½ x 10 ½ x1 inch pan (jelly roll) or 9 x 13 inch pan.

Heat chips, milk, 2 Tbsp. butter over low heat until melted, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and ½ tsp. salt. Spread over oatmeal mixture in pan. Drop reserved oatmeal mixture by teaspoonful onto bars. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown at 350˚. While warm, cut into bars.