Tag Archives: mint

Rice, Lentils, and Caramelized Onions with Spiced Yogurt

lentils and yogurt


People often ask me what I make for lunches, and I have to be honest; I will make one meal on Sunday night and eat it everyday for lunch the entire week, provided that it’s adequately delicious.

Even better is when the meal gets better over the course of the week, like this one. The longer the flavors mingle, the more comforting this dish becomes. (For the record, it’s actually called mujaddara.)

Even even better is when that meal maintains some semblance of “healthy.” Granted, I doubled the yogurt sauce recipe, but I also added carrots and celery because I’m aware that some of you have New Year’s resolutions that you’re interested in keeping, and my cupcakes are no help. I wanted to redeem myself this week.

Speaking of New Year’s resolutions — what meals are you looking to make more of in 2013? I’d love some new post inspiration.

Note: This recipe can easily be made vegan by substituting the butter for more olive oil, and using a vegan yogurt. (My real vegan roommate suggests the coconut alternative as the almond was too sweet.)

Recipe from Food 52. I added carrots and celery.

Honey Salmon with Noodles

Typical. I leave in three weeks, and now the weather decides to act somewhat summery.

Then again, I leave in three weeks. I have plenty of time to remember what the sun feels like, and perhaps even don a bikini at an outdoor pool. Also on the agenda: more museums, more clubs, a lake visit, and a trip to Salzburg to pretend I’m in The Sound of Music. I’ll even attempt to take pictures of things other than food, but I’m not making any promises. I can only focus on so many interests, and food trumps scenic vistas any time–probably because they possess the power to make me salivate months after being taken. Mountain ranges do not.

This recipe is an Asian-inspired recipe from a cookbook written by an Australian cookbook author and translated into Germany. Oh, globalization. Incidentally, the cookbook is called something completely different in German, but I prefer the title My Spontaneous Kitchen to the original title since mine usually is, and it suits me. (On a purely tangential note, the German title for the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall is Never Have Sex with Your Ex.)

Anyway, I’m basically infatuated with this meal. It’s perfect for summer–refreshing, brimming with fresh herbs and vegetables, and light, so long as you don’t consume as much of it as I did. Also, everything comes together in under 20 minutes. Think of it as ramen for grown-ups. (The ones who don’t want hypertension, at least.)

Honey Salmon with Noodles:
Serves 4
1 package (8 ounces) Chinese noodles
5 sprigs of cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 mint leaves, sliced
5 basil leaves, sliced
2 zucchini, grated
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons honey, divided
4 salmon filets, cut in strips 1/2 inch wide
salt & pepper

1) Set a pot of water to boil for the noodles and preheat a pan on medium heat for the salmon (you could also grill the salmon). In a large bowl, mix cilantro, mint, basil, zucchini, lime juice, soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of honey.
2) Cook noodles for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and toss with the sauce. Taste noodles, then add more herbs as desired.
3)  Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey on the salmon. Add salt and pepper. Cook salmon on the pan for 2 minutes on each side. Serve over noodles and sprinkle with more cilantro.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Shrimp

I spent a lot of my mid- to late childhood looking for opportunities to absorb information and develop new and unusual skills. For attention-seeking purposes, mostly. (I was a classic case of only child interrupted by the birth of younger siblings–who I adore, for the record.)

There was the keyboarding phase in third grade, where I prided myself on reaching the end of our keyboarding book, thus becoming the second most-talented musician in the class. The first was a girl who’d been taking piano lessons for years. I comforted myself with the thought that she’d actually had to practice outside of school.

There was the Titanic phase, where I memorized startling statistics about the lifeboat-to-passenger ratio, the speed with which the boat sank, and the number of chances that the boat manufacturer, captain and crew had to rectify the situation before it was too late. I imagine I was quite a hoot at parties.

There was the petitioning phase, where I envisioned myself as a sort of vanguard for elementary school girls’ rights. My friend and I crafted a particularly angry letter regarding our disgust at being forced to watch Aladdin on a field trip bus. The movie, we felt, was sexist.

Then, there was the chopstick phase. My parents bought me one of those American Girl books that allegedly taught useful skills, like blowing double bubbles and chopstick maneuvering. But, oh, did I think that learning to properly handle chopsticks was an admirable skill.

Every time we went to any Asian restaurant, I’d formally request the grown-up chopsticks and sit there eating in silent pride, just waiting for someone to comment on my cultured demeanor. I’d look eagerly to the door every few minutes, hoping a local television reporter would just happen upon this charming little scene, a young white girl using chopsticks:

Reporter: What…? Is that a young white girl using chopsticks? Why, she can’t be more than eight! She must be some kind of prodigy!
Cameraman: I’ve never seen anything like this. We’d better get this kid in front of a camera stat!

It never happened. If it had, you probably would’ve seen my face on cereal boxes throughout the late 90s. I was ambitious.

Still, when I eat at any restaurant that requires the use of chopsticks, I find myself wondering if that reporter will ever come striding in…

Fortunately, unless you’re feeling like I was circa 1998, this recipe does not require chopsticks. I first made Vietnamese spring rolls in my food studies course last year, although I’ve been enjoying them at restaurants for years. They’re simple, fresh, and light, which means you can definitely have dessert. They also remind me of spring. (It’s made an early appearance in NC this year!)

The rice wrappers, vermicelli and basil can be found at any Asian market. These can also be filled with pork, or remove the shrimp and make them vegetarian/vegan-friendly. I like them with peanut sauce, but you can also serve them with fish sauce, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Oh, and I always mix up the leftovers with additional vermicelli to make a cold noodle salad. You could just skip to that step.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Shrimp:
Serves 4
8 round rice wrappers
2 cups vermicelli (rice noodles), cooked
16 shrimp, tails removed and cut lengthwise
a few leaves/sprigs of Thai basil, mint and cilantro
1 carrot, sliced into thin strips
1 cucumber, sliced into thin strips

1) Take a baking sheet with a lip and fill it with 1/4 inch of water, then heat on low heat over the stovetop. (Really low heat! Your fingers are going to touch this water.) Take a rice wrapper and feel for the rough side. Place the wrapper rough-side-up in the water and left soften for about 10 seconds. Remove to a plate.
2) Arrange four slices of shrimp lengthwise along the center of the wrapper. Top with a few pieces of basil, mint and cilantro, followed by strips of carrot and cucumber.
3) Grab a small fistful of vermicelli and place over the carrot and cucumber. Carefully wrap the rice wrapper by folding the top and bottom of the wrapper over the layers of shrimp, veggies and vermicelli. Then roll the wrapper upburrito-style.
4) Repeat the process for the remaining spring rolls.

Peanut Sauce:
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon peanut butter

1) Stir to combine.

What weird/funny skills did you have as a child?

More Cupcakes

Variety pack: raspberry, vanilla, mint, and chocolate buttercream frosting.

Seriously, no more cupcakes for awhile. I mean it.

Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Yes, I made whoopie. Pies. Recently I’ve noticed that an increasing number of publications are predicting the end of the cupcake trend, with these cookie sandwiches replacing cupcakes oh-so-sweetly, and rather sneakily. (See this Times’ article. Oh, and Lee Schrager has endorsed them, too.) Now, I don’t make a living predicting upcoming food trends, not that I wouldn’t adore a job in that field, but I won’t pretend that I do not appreciate the ease of a whoopie pie. With the cake encasing the frosting rather than sinking underneath it, a one-handed approach to eating is significantly more possible. Also, no frosting up one’s nose. I appreciate that.

Anyway, my dear roommate is celebrating her 21st birthday today, so I made mint chocolate whoopie pies for her party last night. Having served cupcakes at parties in the past, I can honestly say that these babies held up way better under pressure. They didn’t crumble all over our new carpet or induce any serious sugar comas. The Bakerella recipe I used was ideally dark chocolatey, a rich, not overwhelmingly sweet flavor that paired well with my mint buttercream frosting. They’re more like cakes than cookies. And not anything like pies. I definitely recommend using a Silpat for its non-stick qualities and a cookie dough baller to achieve uniformly-sized whoopies.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
3) In a bowl, sift together, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
4) In another bowl, beat butter, shortening and sugar with a mixer on low until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.
5) Add egg and vanilla and beat for two more minutes.
6) Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk and beat on low until incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and milk and beat until combined.
7) Using a tablespoon or cookie dough baller (one of my favorite kitchen gadgets), drop batter on baking sheet two inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes each or until pies spring back when pressed gently.
8 ) Remove from oven and cool for about five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. If you have OCD, pair the similarly-shaped ones next to each other for some good-looking sandwiches.
9) Once cool, pipe frosting of your choice onto one whoopie cookie. Top with another similarly-shaped whoopie cookie.

I cannot recommend these highly enough for parties. I’m already trying to rationalize why I ought to buy the cookbook Whoopie Pies. Actually, I don’t even own Joy of Cooking yet. I need to get my cookbook priorities in order.

Has anyone else tried whoopie pies? Do you think it’s time for the cupcake trend to get burned?

A New Blog with an Old Recipe: Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

It’s appropriate for me to begin my new blog with an old recipe.

Almost a year ago, my mint chocolate (chip) cupcakes won the title of “fan favorite” at the 2009 Chapel Hill Cupcake Competition. They won over my classmates last fall. They earned me the potentially ominous nickname of “Cupcake.” (I enjoy a good cupcake, but I don’t aspire to look like one.)

So, as I embark on my senior year of college and a brand new blog, I want to start with a recipe that’s sweetly optimistic. Unless consumed in large quantities, leading to a diabetic coma.

My tastebuds rejoice in the refreshing flavor of sweet mint combined with the intensely dark, fudgey chocolate cake. It’s one of my absolute favorite combinations in candies and ice cream. So why not translate it into everyone’s favorite food trend–the cupcake?

The chocolate base I use is from Cupcakes Take the Cake. I let them cool for at least an hour.

Then I whip up a simple mint buttercream frosting. Helpful hint: Use store-bought frosting to stick tile to your floors. Make homemade frosting to top your baked goods.

Mint Buttercream:
1 stick of softened butter
4 C. confectioner’s sugar
2 TB or so of milk
1 t. peppermint extract
A few drops of green food coloring, if desired

1) Beat the butter. Slowly combine confectioner’s sugar.
2) Add extract and food coloring.
3) Add a bit of milk at a time, until frosting reaches a whipped consistency.

I like to dump the frosting in a Ziploc baggie and cut one corner diagonally, about 1/2-inch in length. That creates the bakery-style swirls without necessitating the purchase of a pastry bag.

Now I’ll spend the rest of the evening perfecting this year’s cupcake entry. What flavor combinations are your favorite? If it’s a sweet recommendation, I’d love to incorporate it into a future cupcake concoction.