Strawberry Shortcakes

– johanna | May 18th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

I put my cooking skills to the test Mother’s Day weekend baking desserts for a Garden Party and Auction event. My day was going to be jammed packed with ferrying kids back and forth to school, volunteering at said school, setting up for the auction, shopping, and baking not only for the auction but a karate camp fundraiser. Ayeesh! Fortunately for me my daughter’s teacher did not need my help in the classroom and the babysitter cancelled changing my schedule from set up Friday night to clean up Saturday afternoon. I was able to finish most of my baking in the morning on Friday freeing me up to play a little Mindcraft with the kids. I even had some time to watch a friend’s daughter so she could take her son to the ER.

Part of my baking assignment was Strawberry Shortcakes. I was a bit concerned because biscuits are not my strong suit. The cheesecake recipe was easypeasy. So I threw all my focus into getting the biscuits just right. We made them small and thin because they were part of a sample dessert plate. To make the biscuits thicker do not roll the dough so thin and use a larger cutter. I found the size to be perfect though. With the custard, strawberries and whipped cream it was very rich and filling.

The trick is not over baking them the slightest. You do not want them to brown at all so remove them from the oven at the just barely done stage. Every oven varies. I found that mine were perfect at 10 minutes as opposed to the recommended 12 minutes. Baking the biscuits this way makes them wonderfully moist. In fact they will stay fresh for about 3 to 4 days. If they brown they will become stale and crumbly by the next day, or even hours later.

My kids were munching on them like they were cookies. I imagine you could top them with icing or frosting and call them a sugar cookie, just not as sweet.

Source: Turlock Nursery School
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened but still cool
3 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter and cream cheese with a pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly. Mix in heavy cream with a fork until dough is moist. Use your hands to press the dough into a ball.

Roll dough out, on a floured surface, to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2-inch circular biscuit cutter. Place rounds on prepared cookie sheet- 4 rows by 4 columns. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Shortcakes should be pale in color but firm. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

To Serve:
Slice shortcakes in half through the middle. Place a dollop of custard on one half. Add a tablespoon of sliced strawberries. Top with other half of biscuit, a teaspoon whipped cream (optional) and a sliced strawberry.

To store:
Place biscuits in a zip-lock bag. Squeeze out excess air as much as possible. Store at room temperature.

Makes 17-20 biscuits

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Cinnamon Cream Cheese Rice Cakes

– johanna | May 11th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Breakfast, RECIPES - Snacks

Cinnamon cream cheese rice cakes is huge hit at my son’s nursery school. The kidos gobble them up like apples, another huge favorite. There is one good thing about peer pressure. At school my son is willing to try more foods and in the process discovers that they really are delicious. Although at home the same foods are still up for debate, like beans. At school he loves refried beans. At home, he turns his nose up every time.

Rice Cakes
Cinnamon Sugar
Cream Cheese

Take a rice cake. Sprinkle a dash or two of cinnamon sugar. Spread a dollop of cream cheese over the cinnamon sugar. Enjoy!

To make cinnamon sugar:
Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

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Orange Yogurt Parfaits

– johanna | May 4th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Breakfast, RECIPES - Snacks

This is one of my youngest son’s favorite snack. We made them together at his nursery school to much trepidation on his part. He seemed a bit scared and was a little hesitant at first, he is our pickest eater, but since we were playing with food he went along with it. He was surprised to find he actually loved it.

Servings: 1
1/4 cup yogurt, vanilla or plain
1 tablespoon orange juice
Dash groung cinnamon
1/2 apple, chopped
1/4 banana, sliced (optional)

Take a small cup and add two tablespoon of yogurt. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon, about a tablespoon orange juice, two spoonfuls of apple, and one spoonful of bananas, if using. Top with a dollop of yogurt.

Add a sprinkle of nuts or granola to make a meal.

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Korean Tuna Pancakes (Chamchijeon)

– johanna | April 27th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Appetizer, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Snacks

Lately we have been learning all we can about South Korean customs. Such as it is bad luck to pour your own drink and always take your shoes off before entering ones home. Respect is of utmost importance in South Korea. The formality of Confucianism dictates so. It is a belief in a code of honor that is viewed as old fashioned by newer generations.

Generally most Koreans are warm and giving. They live by the age old traditions that when an elder enters a room you stand up. On the bus you offer them your seat. If someone is in need you help them. When accepting a gift use both hands to take it. And always be sure to say, “gamsa hapnida.” (Thank you)

The relationship between people of seniority is just as important. In fact, when adults speak to one another they use a formal form of speech; unlike when talking to a child or how youth of the same age converse. When addressing a person they always use the surname first. To call an acquaintance by their name would be considered informal and is frowned upon. For example, the name Eun Sun (first name) Park (surname) would be spoken Park Eun Sun. When familiar or given permission you can drop the surname. Interestingly enough even a slight inflection in the pronunciation of a name (similar to a nickname) is seen as informal.

When addressing a person of status always use their title or position first: including president, director, professor, doctor, Sunbea (senior at school). With permission a younger girl might use the term ‘Uhn-nee’ (meaning older sister) to address a female a few years older than she. A young male could call a female he is comfortable with ‘Noona’ (meaning sister). A female would call an older young male with whom she is close to ‘Oppa’.

Now on to the food! Maangchi’s tuna pancakes are amazing. My kids gobbled them all up. Do not let the word pancake confuse you. Jeon means pancake in Korean but it is basically a tuna cake. Like a crab cake. The onion and sesame oil are what what gives these little cakes flavor. I do not recommend omitting these ingredients as it would drastically change the taste.

Source: Maangchi
(Makes 6 small pancakes)
1 (5 oz) can of tuna
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 egg
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons canola oil

Strain out the liquid from a can of tuna and place it in a bowl.

Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, egg, sesame oil, and flour to the tuna and mix it well.

Heat oil in up a pan until hot.

Scoop a spoonful of the tuna mixture with a spoon and place it on the heated pan. Press slightly and round the edges with the spoon.

When the bottom is cooked golden brown, turn it over and cook until both sides of the pancakes are golden brown. About 3-5 minutes total.
Transfer the cooked pancakes to a serving plate and serve with rice.

Sauce: Mix the following ingredients
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon vinegar
left over onions

** Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat in the microwave or panfry.

– Egg allergies: Egg can be omitted. No substitute needed.
– Gluten free: replace flour with corn flour.

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Korean Panfried tofu with spicy sauce (Dubu buchim yangnyumjang)

– johanna | April 20th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Lately I have been obsessing over South Korean cuisine. My interest began with the Korean series “Protect the Boss” by Boseureul Jikyeora. It is a quirky film about girl who wants to achieve her dream job in a corporate office. Problem is she is lacking the secretarial skills and a degree from a prestigious college.

What captivated my interested the most was a dinner scene at the Chairman’s house. The family members were picking up bits of food, with their chopsticks, from various bowls in the center of the table, and placing it on each others plates. The conversation was somewhat comical as they each loaded one another’s bowl with morsels they “just had to try”. There was so much excitement over the food with the belief that if they ate well they would have a happy healthy disposition. Moreover, it was the wisdom of the Grandmother who had insisted that the two feuding sides of the family join her for dinner once a week until they learned to tolerate one another. She counseled them saying, (English translation) “our friendships are built by this type of dinner.”

In that moment I was reminded that despite all the whining and frustration trying to make dinner and get everyone to the dinner table, there is a purpose. Thus, my interest was peaked to discover more about this far away place and the people who live there. I was curious what the dynamics of the family is like in South Korea.

The kids and I have enjoyed learning the language and the various customs of South Korean culture. They graciously accepted the Korean cuisine, thrilled to try anything placed in front of them, as long as they could use chop sticks.

I have not had fried tofu before; I mostly use tofu in soup. Yet, Korean tofu with spicy sauce is one of my favorite dishes by far. The sauce is very similar to a wasabi sauce in both flavor and heat. I reduce the red pepper to 1/2 teaspoon and it is still pretty spicy. For children you can eliminate the red pepper or greatly reduce the amount. I have even served the tofu with a small bowl of soy sauce for dipping.

Source: Maangchi
1 half package Tofu (about 10 oz)
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1/4 to 1 teaspoon Hot Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon honey
1 Green Onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Sesame Oil
Roasted Sesame Seeds (optional)

Slice the tofu into bite size pieces (¼ inch thick rectangles); about 10 pieces. Towel off each piece with a paper towel.

Heat a pan with 1 to 2 tbs of vegetable oil. Add the tofu and lower the heat. Cook over low heat about 5-7 minutes.

When the bottom of the tofu looks golden brown, turn it over and cook another 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked tofu to a serving plate.

Meanwhile make the sauce:
In a small bowl mix: minced garlic, green onion, hot pepper flakes, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

To serve, spoon the sauce evenly over the tofu. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds just before serving. Serve with a side of steamed rice.

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No Bake Boiled Cookies

– johanna | April 13th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

Photo: Property of Allrecipes

No Bake Cookies are a standard in practically every Grandmother’s recipe box. Rich chocolate mixed with gooey peanut butter and chewy oats.

Do not let the no bake part fool you into thinking this is a quick cookie to make. No bake means just that, no baking required. Consequently, the batter must be heated to a boil, then dropped by spoonfuls onto waxed paper to cool. It is best to wait until they have cooled a couple of hours before eating.

Source: Allrecipes
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 pinch salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat bring sugar, cocoa, butter, milk, and salt to a rapid rolling boil. Continue to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add oats, peanut butter, and vanilla; mix well.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper to cool.

Helpful Tips:
— Under boiling the cookies they will not set properly.
— Over boiling produces dry crumbly cookies.

— Extra-chocolaty Cookies: Top cookies with chocolate chips.
— Easter Nests: Spoon batter into greased muffin pan. Cool. Remove from pan. Fill with shredded coconut and jelly beans.

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Spring Home Fragrance

– johanna | April 10th, 2012

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF

Photo: Property of Morgan Moore

Spring has finally arrived. I love being able to open the windows to air out the winter. Problem is we all have allergies making airing out the house impossible. On the days the pollen and mold count is too high to open the windows this home fragrance adds a pleasant clean aroma without the congestion.

Source: Morgan Moore

Fill a small stockpot about 2/3 full with water. Add 1 lemon, sliced, and a few sprigs of rosemary, and 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla. Simmer, adding water as needed.

Discard after second day.

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Savory Whole Chicken and Wild Rice

– johanna | April 6th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Photo: Property of

January and March were cold wet months here. I wanted something warm to serve the family for dinner, other than soup or stew. I love chicken paired with rice on such occasions. I think the feeling of comfort I get when I eat chicken and rice dates back to college. During the snowy cold wet months my friend Vanessa and I would head back to her apartment after a long tiresome day at work. She would always make chicken or pork with rice. It always seemed to wash the day away.

Source: Martha Stewart
1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut into 10 pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, diced medium
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, diced medium
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
3 cups broccoli florets (from 2 stalks)
6 scallions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lower third. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over high. Cook chicken, skin side down, until golden and crisp, 6 minutes. Flip chicken and cook until browned, 6 minutes. Transfer to a large plate.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, and celery to pot. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, until onion is translucent, 4 minutes. Stir in mustard, thyme, red-pepper flakes, and rice and cook 1 minute.

Add broccoli, scallions, and broth and season with salt and pepper. Arrange chicken, skin side up, on top of rice mixture. Bring to a boil, cover pot, and place in oven. Bake until chicken is cooked through and liquid is absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

– Use a whole chicken for this one-pot meal, or buy a package of precut thighs or breasts.

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April Website Review: Still Tasty

– johanna | April 3rd, 2012

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF

Photo: From website

Ever wonder if that package of ground beef is still good? How about the shelf life of oil and honey? Certainly if the product smells funny, has mold or a funny texture toss it. For all other inquires check out It is the ultimate website devoted exclusively to the proper storage and shelf life of both store bought and homemade foods.

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Garlic Cheddar Chicken

– johanna | March 23rd, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

I bought a package of chicken breasts on sale at the supermarket. It was one of those loss leader type of purchases. The item was not on my shopping list and therefore not on the week’s menu. However, come Thursday night garlic cheddar chicken sounded so much better than leftovers.

Garlic Cheddar Chicken is best served right out of the oven. The butter creates this savory crunchy salty texture to the breading. Pair with steamed broccoli or a salad.

Source: adapted from Allrecipes
serves 4

3 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 heaping tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – sliced thin lengthwise to make four fillets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet, or oven proof pan,  over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic until tender and fragrant, about a minute or two (do not burn).

In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano, pepper, and salt.

Dip each chicken breast in the garlic butter flipping to coat each side. Lay chicken in pan in a single layer. Top with cheese and panko mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Serve immediately.

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