I am a writer and a Mommy. I am a devout Jew. These are the most important books I have read: The Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu, Stephen Mitchell translation. Spiritual Divorce by Debbie Ford. Living Inspired by Akiva Tatz. My kitchen would suggest I'm a closet carny, as would my love of Branson.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Kosher Lettuce Wraps

Tonight I attempted a dish that is one of the yummier things you can get to eat at a restaurant - but only if that restaurant is P.F. Chang's.

Have you ordered lettuce wraps elsewhere or even dared to try to make them?  P.F. Chang's has the market cornered on this item.

Well, not anymore.  And I didn't even use chicken to make these.

I bought some kosher Empire ground turkey and with great trepidation set out to make some approximation of lettuce wraps.

I know that anything you can buy and eat in a restaurant you can make in your own home but there are some things that are not worth bothering to make.

Lettuce wraps seemed like a very reasonable thing to attempt.

I used the following three websites to figure out how to make them.




And this is how I made them:


Before cooking:
1.  1 tube of Empire kosher ground turkey, thawed overnight
2.  Some cooking sake
3.  Some sesame oil
4.  1 Tablespoon of minced or chopped garlic

Final cooking
5.  1 teaspoon of fresh chopped or minced ginger
6.  1 can of water chestnuts, diced
7.  1 Tablespoon chopped green onion
8.  3 Tablespoons of chopped red onion
9.  Some rice vinegar
10. Some soy sauce
11. Some Hoisin sauce
12. Some veggie oyster sauce
13. Cayenne pepper

That's kind of a lot of ingredients but I always keep most of them in my house.  The things I bought for this included fresh ginger and water chestnuts so this was a great dish for me to throw together.

I guess there is the matter of the wrap itself.  We bought butter lettuce but I found that to be kind of gross so I'm not recommending it.  Maybe you can experiment with iceberg or some other nice, crunchy lettuce or eat it plain or over a little rice.

Marinate the turkey for 1/2 hour or more in cooking sake, garlic, sesame oil and hoisin sauce.

Cook the turkey in peanut oil until it is well browned, in crumbles, and put it aside.

Cook the ginger in a bit more peanut oil and then add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the water chestnuts and all the other sauces in there then add the turkey back in there and cook it all.  Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, some salt and black pepper.

It should look and smell delicious.  Taste it and add some more stuff if there is a flavor you like that you don't taste.

I know this is seriously not helpful to anyone in terms of a clear and exact recipe that you can follow. All I'm saying is that I made this tonight and it was so good I felt that I had to share it (especially so I will remember what I did when I want to make it for my parents because they are going to freak out about how good this is).

Please let me know how you make it and what you figure out with the lettuce wrap part.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Minion Cupcakes

This year I was asked to make a Dave the Minion cake but I thought it was much better to make a bunch of minion cupcakes.
They were good.  One of the kids ate 6 of them.  

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my parents and the care they have given my family lately and always.  I'm sure it is rough to have seven extra people in your house for two weeks.

Especially when one of those people screams frequently for unknown reasons, poops his pants and wanders around constantly threatening to break things or get hurt.

But he is the cutest and sweetest one so hopefully they enjoyed some of it.

It's very hard to go back to our home.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

5 Kids

We sometimes have 5 kids.  Well, we always have 5 kids but they are not always in our care all at once.  About 20% of the time we have all 5 kids.  Usually we have 3 kids in our care and that's kind of normal for us.

But when we have all 5 kids we have to think of ways to keep our sanity.  My latest idea was one of my best.

5 kids means a lot of dishes so we do things like ask the children and ourselves to pick a glass for the day and use it all day to cut down on washing glasses and we pick a captain each night to oversee cleaning up after dinner.  But sometimes it's tricky to get all the kids to eat dinner so I decided to try having them cook.

We started with the oldest boy and youngest girl.  They cooked everything you see below with only my guidance and supervision.
They learned how make rice in the rice cooker, roast potatoes, roast asparagus and bake teriyaki salmon.

This was a yummy meal!  And they all ate (or tried) everything!! 

The other two kids did the dishes after and they can't wait for their turn learning to cook stuff.

It's very exciting to teach kids how to cook.  First you have to have tremendous patience as they spill things everywhere because you must not discourage them at any time.

You have to teach them to be careful with all the different cooking and cutting implements and to teach them about oven safety.  

But the excitement and joy that they have on their faces as they learn and then their willingness to try whatever they made is priceless.

Tonight it's pizza, which seems simple but there are many things to consider and they will be learning a lot.  I can't wait!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Joy of Cooking

Today my daughter brought over a soccer ball ice cream maker so we could make homemade ice cream.  

She asked me if we could do this a couple of weeks ago and I was prepared.  This went kind of well and kind of horribly.

Pros: it's really easy to get going with this.  Unlike our ice cream maker which you have to freeze part of for a day or two before you can even use and then the contraption gets plugged in etc., this is so simple.

You fill the ball with ice and rock salt.  You fill the canister in the ball with cream, sugar and whatever flavor.  

Then you move around the ball until you have ice cream.

It's very good.  We made mint chocolate chip.

But here is what you have to do (that we did not do) you have to go outside in your yard and kick the ball around with four or five people for twenty five minutes.

Cons: if you make your kid move the ball around in the house on your kitchen floor it's totally boring.  There will be a lot of complaining.  And, if you open the ball after ten minutes as the instructions suggest and try to scrape the hard ice cream down into the remaining liquid you may accidentally splash/spill a lot of cream all over your entire kitchen.

So yes it works but no I would never use it again.  In fact, I'm 100% sure if you get a big Tupperware and put ice and salt in it and then put the ingredients in a smaller Tupperware inside of it and shake it for twenty minutes... Well, I'm going to use the ice cream machine next time.

I also attempted vegetarian gyoza tonight  and they were pretty darn good.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Enoki Mushroom Pizza

I like to make pizza.  Yesterday I tried making Noah a Japanese style mushroom pizza.

It looks great! 

Even better cooked but they really don't have the flavor to be noticed on pizza.  Maybe if you simmer them in mirin first and then put truffle oil on the pie it would be good but remember I'm working with a toddler in the background who alternates between screaming, belting out 'Let it Go' and demanding to be held.

I am not complaining.  This is the best toddler ever.  He may be on the far end of the spectrum for grossness but it's really adorable so we deal with it.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Vegetarian Biscuits and Gravy

A few weeks ago I finally learned how to make amazing biscuits at the Silverado Cooking School in Napa.  

I have tried to make biscuits a few times before this class and to say I failed would be an understatement.  

It's really easy to make good biscuits from scratch.  It's great if you have buttermilk but I just did it with D milk and they were great.

You need flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, butter, milk

If you want amazing strawberry shortcake then you can add sugar to the above.

So the exact recipe is obviously very important but equally key is how to make the biscuits.

I'm assuming you have a recipe.  Mine is two cups of flour, 1 tsp salt, t tablespoon baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda mixed well with a whisk.

Then about a cup of milk and 6 tablespoons butter cut into 1/4 inch cubes.

So here is the key:  keep that butter and milk in the fridge until you have whisked your dry ingredients because you want them as cold as possible (not frozen) when you start actually making the biscuits.

First you will use only your fingertips to mix the tiny pieces of butter into your dry ingredients.  This is essential.  Don't let your biscuit dough get warm.  Just mix in that fat - fingertips only - and as soon as it's crumbly and mixed move on to the cold milk.  If you have buttermilk use half cup that and half cup regular.  

Don't pour in all the milk at once.  Pour most of it in.  Now this is another essential moment - run the flour/milk mixture through your fingers.  Don't knead the dough at all. 

Let the mixture fall through your fingers in the bowl until it is the consistency of dough.  Once it is dough like put it on the counter and gently form it into a 1 inch high round.  

When you place the biscuits for cooking on parchment paper they should all be touching each other with one or two in the middle and the others around them.

Cook them at 450 for ten minutes.

If you are making dessert biscuits, add 3 Tablespoons sugar to the dry ingredients. Then you just add fresh fruit and whipped cream.

So for the gravy - well, I used to love biscuits and gravy but they are as not kosher as you can get.  Still, once I nailed the biscuits I wanted the gravy!

Lucky for me this was the easy part.  Any fake meat breakfast sausage works.  I used Morningstar breakfast sausage patties.  Browned them in a bit of oil in a skillet and broke them up into small pieces.  I boiled some milk with a little flour, generous salt and pepper and the fake sausage and then let it sit and thicken.

It was really good!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Birthday Cakes

I wonder if everyone already knows how to make a cookie cake.  You take a tube of cookie dough, flatten it into a circle and bake it at 350 for 10 minutes.  This is probably the best birthday cake you can make for most people.  Get some good frosting, make it look pretty and you have a winner.

We also made a cake this week with an edible topper.  This doesn't require any skill but it really looks nice.  This was a very last minute kind of a thing.  We were trying to figure out what to do for Jacob's birthday cake, knowing that he would probably like a Frozen/Anna cake and I found out about these frosting toppers - they cost about $6.
We thought this was really cool.  We ordered it last minute from Amazon and it came on his birthday just in time.

You put it in the freezer for three minutes and carefully pull the back of.  Then you get one shot to put it on the frosting.  Notice how great a job I did at centering it!

The rough thing was that Jacob really didn't care at all.  He just wanted to eat that cake.

Here is the evolution of the decoration of the cookie cake.  I did great on the little flowers around the edge but I absolutely should have let Chaya write all the words.