Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Daring Cooks February 2011: Tempura and Cold Soba Salad

When I lived in Washington State I fell head over heels in love with Asian food.

I mean, there is a huge Asian community up there so it's not hard to fall under the spell of the deliciousness Asian food has to offer.

One of the things I loved the most was teriyaki.

Let me tell you. NO ONE does teriyaki like they do in Washington State! There is just something about that Seattle style teriyaki sauce that I have not been able to find anywhere else (except after 10 years of searching I found it in a little place called Kee's Teriyaki in El Paso, TX).

My favorite place to get teriyaki was a joint called Happy Teriyaki outside the Ft. Lewis gate. This was my favorite place because not only was the food delicious and they gave you humongous portions for little money, but also because they had DE-LICIOUS tempura!

For years and years I thought it was the carrot that was my favorite tempura...but come to find out recently, it's the sweet potato! LOL!!

When I first read about this month's Daring Cooks challenge, I about jumped for joy!

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

I got to make tempura??? Seriously?!?!?!

I never would have thought to make this on my own. But I don't know why not! It's actually quite simple, super fun, and it tastes just as amazing (if not better) than what you can get at a restaurant.

And, because I was in charge, I got as much of the dipping sauce as I wanted!

And the cold soba salad was definitely an added bonus to this meal.

Luckily, the weather has been warming up, but I can imagine how delicious this cold soba salad would be on a hot summer day...topped with cucumber and accompanied with a nice cold tea. Mmmmmm....just thinking about this makes me want summer time to hurry up and get here!!

Thanks Lisa, for an awesome challenge this month! Not only did The Hubble and I love it...but Little Butt finally ate carrots and broccoli and even asked for more!!!

As always, if you would like to see how the other Daring Cooks did with this challenge, check out the blog roll.

And if you have fantasies of crispy tempura dipped in sweet juices then look no further than your own kitchen. Let's get started!

For this recipe we were provided with two sauce recipes. One is a traditional dipping sauce, the other is a spicy dipping sauce. I made the spicy dipping sauce for the soba and the traditional sauce for the tempura.

Ingredients for spicy dipping sauce: green onion, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, ground mustard, vegetable oil, sesame oil, sea salt, pepper and water.

Ingredients for traditional dipping sauce: vegetable stock, soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine).

Bring the water to a boil. Add the soba noodles, stirring gently to separate.

When the water comes back to a boil (after adding the noodles) pour in a cup of cold water. Bring to a boil again then add another cup of cold water. Bring to a boil a third time, check for doneness.

When noodles are done, immediately drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water until the noodles are cool. Set aside until ready to serve.

To make the spicy dipping sauce (to serve with the noodles) add the green onion, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, ground mustard, vegetable oil, sesame oil, sea salt and pepper in a covered container and shake it up until the salt dissolves. Add in the water and shake it a bit more to mix in the water. Set aside until ready to serve.

To make the traditional dipping sauce, gently heat the mirin in a saucepan. Add the soy sauce and stock. bring to a boil. Remove from heat to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Now that we have the noodles and our sauces made, it's time to get down to bidness! The tempura!!

For the batter you need a large egg yolk, ice water, cornstarch, all purpose flour and baking powder. For the cooking you need some vegetable or canola oil and your choice of vegetables and seafood. I chose shrimp, broccoli, carrots, sweet potato and The Hubble requested cucumber.

Go ahead and get your oil heating. You want 320 degrees F for veggies and 340 degrees F for seafood.

Slice up your vegetables into thin slices...or small pieces for the broccoli.

Pour the ice water into a mixing bowl. Gently beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the ice water. It's really weird to see it suspended in the cold water. Kind of gross too. LOL!! Stir it up with chopsticks to combine.

Dump the flour, cornstarch and baking powder into the water and egg mixture all at once.

Stroke the mixture a few times with your chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter into an ice water bath to keep cold while you are frying.

Take your vegetables and seafood (starting with the veggie with the least likelihood to leave an odor in the oil. I started with sweet potato) and dredge them through a shallow bowl of flour.

Then dunk into the batter.

Gently slide the pieces into the oil and fry until golden.

Remove the cooked pieces with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack atop a baking sheet to drain and cool. Continue the process through the rest of your veggies and seafood.

Serve tempura hot with cold soba salad (I topped mine with toasted nori) and your dipping sauces. And don't forget the sake bombs!! Enjoy!!

Tempura and Cold Soba Salad
Retrieved from The Daring Kitchen

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Soba Noodles


  • 2 quarts water + 1-2 cups cold water, separate
  • 12 ounces soba (buckwheat) noodles (or other thin Asian noodle)
  1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
  2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
Spicy Dipping Sauce

  • 3/4 cup green onion, chopped
  • 6 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground (dry) mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil (optional)
  • 2/3 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  1. Combine green onion, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, ground mustard, vegetable oil, sesame oil, sea salt and pepper in covered container. 
  2. Shake ingredients together until salt dissolves.
  3. Add water, shake until mixed.
  4. Set aside until ready to serve.
Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:
  • Thin omelet strips
  • Ham
  • Boiled chicken breasts
  • Cucumber
  • Boiled bean sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
  • Green onions
  • Wasabi powder
  • Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)
  • Beni Shoga (Pickled Ginger)
All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated. Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.
Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions.
The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup iced water
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, plus extra for dredging
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • Water bath for keeping tempura batter cold
  • Vegetables and seafood of your choice
  1. Place the iced water into a small mixing bowl.
  2. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour it into the iced water. Stir (preferably with chopsticks) until well blended.
  3. Add flour, cornstarch and baking powder all at once. 
  4. Stroke a few times with chopsticks until ingredients are loosely combined. Batter should be runny and lumpy.
  5. Place bowl of batter in ice water bath to keep cold while frying tempura.
  6. Heat oil in a large pan or wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320 degrees F. For seafood, 340 degrees F.
  7. While oil is heating, prepare your vegetables and seafood.
  8. Begin by frying the vegetables that leave the least odor in the oil, such as sweet potatoes.
  9. Dredge the vegetables and seafood through a shallow bowl of flour, then coat in the tempura batter.
  10. Carefully slip the battered pieces into the hot oil and allow to cook until golden.
  11. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack atop a baking sheet to drain and cool.
  12. Serve hot with Mentsuyu (recipe follows).
  13. Enjoy!!
Mentsuyu - Traditional Dipping Sauce

  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
  1. Gently heat mirin in saucepan.
  2. Add soy sauce and stock. Bring to a boil.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crockpot Green Chile Pork

If you are looking at the picture above you may be thinking "is this girl out of her mind?? That doesn't look appetizing."

I totally understand. Yes, it's a putrid green color. I know.

But please, please, please...if you have never trusted me before...trust me now!

This stuff is good.

And when I say good...I mean G-E-W-D!

I've been trying to find my groove since getting back from our 3 week vacation.

Yes. I do know that it's already mid-February and I've been back for a month!

Even The Hubble decided he couldn't stand it anymore and FINALLY unpacked my suitcase last night. But not before telling me that we have been home for a month now and my suitcase was still sitting there.

I can't help it! I left sunny, warm, beautiful Texas and came back to snowpocalyse iceamageddon.

I've been cold, and I don't like it!

But! I have finally gotten up off my kiester and gotten back in the kitchen.

And if it makes you feel any better, this dish has definitely inspired me again.

I thought for sure it was going to turn out awful...I felt like my culinary skills would never return to me.

I was scared to taste this.

Like I said...it ain't pretty!

But when all was said and done, I stood over the crockpot, lid in my left hand, fork in my right. It smelled amazing. Surely it couldn't taste that bad right??

I twirled the pork around my fork like pasta. I brought it to my lips and took the plunge.


I did that whole "eyes roll into the back of your head this is SO good" thing.

Then I took a few more bites. I had to force myself to stop.

I went to my phone to send The Hubble a text message saying that I wished he was here because OH. MY. GAWD! This stuff was good! (The Hubble was in class by the way).

Luckily, there was a text from him saying he was on his way home. So I called him immediately and told him to hurry because he HAD to try this stuff!

When he walked in the door, his first comment was how good the house smelled (how many more times do you think I can work in the word 'good'??)

I hovered behind his shoulder as he took his first bite...then I watched him do the same eye roll thing.

We quickly served up dinner...

Then just as quickly served up seconds.

This meal is so easy it will make you cry. And it's so insanely delicious (good???) that it will make you want to slap your mother! (Which reminds me of that chicken sandwich commercial. You know the one, don't you?)

Okay. So please go forth and make this meal! Then come back and tell me who you ended up slapping because of it. I'll take the credit.

Ingredients: boneless pork tenderloin (a pork shoulder would be really good too), an onion, green chile enchilada sauce, green chiles, hominy, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Too easy!

Slice up your onion and toss it into the crockpot.

Place the pork on top of the onion. Then sprinkle with a little salt, some pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. I didn't measure, but you can see the amount of seasoning I used on the pork. Do this to your own taste.

Now dump in the enchilada sauce and all the cans of green chiles.

Cook with the crockpot on low about 6-8 hours. The pork should be fully cooked and super easy to shred.

Shred that pork. Then dump in the hominy, juice and all. I only used one can with this recipe but I think it could definitely use another can.

Serve it up with some tortillas, crusty bread or The Hubble served his the next day with cheese and tortilla chips. Any way you do it...enjoy!!

Crockpot Green Chile Pork

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  • 2 lb boneless pork tenderloin or pork shoulder
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 can Las Palmas green enchilada sauce
  • 4 cans chopped green chiles
  • 1-2 cans hominy
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  1. Slice onion and toss into crockpot.
  2. Place pork on top of onion; sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.
  3. Dump in enchilada sauce and green chiles.
  4. Cook on low 6-8 hours or until pork is thoroughly cooked through and shreds easily.
  5. Shred pork.
  6. Add hominy (with juice), cook 5 minutes more.
  7. Serve with tortillas, crusty bread or tortilla chips. 
  8. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Loaded Potato Soup

Okay people! It's cold!!

Not just cold...no...it's freaking COLD!

I thought I escaped the cold and the crazy blizzards when I moved away from Upstate New York.

Apparently I was wrong.

I don't think the Midwest should be this cold.

I mean...today's high is -2.

Did you get that??? NEGATIVE TWO!

LOL! What can you do??

Actually, the blizzard wasn't that bad for what I'm used to.

It's just that this place doesn't know how to handle this type of weather like Upstate New York did.

When we first arrived in New York it was mid February. We were driving through town and I grabbed The Hubble's arm and said "what's that?!?!!" as this huge monstrosity of a vehicle passed by. He looked at it, then turned to me and told me it was a plow.

A plow???? That's not like any plow I'd ever seen!!! That thing was huge!

Regular civilian pick up trucks had plow attachments for the winter months. People owned snowblowers before they owned lawn mowers. It was a different world up there.

Here, when there is a light dusting of snow, they shut down post. Insanity!

It's kind of cute though.

Until we get 6 inches of snow in a day and we are "snowed in" for 2 days. Then it gets annoying.

I enjoy staying at home and having lazy days. But when I'm forced to stay home and I can't go anywhere...then it becomes a problem.

But now, the sun is shining, the cute little plow came through my neighborhood and post is open once again. The Hubble went to work out. And I have the ability to leave if I so choose.

But now, I don't want to go! It's cold!!!

So, what better to warm up a soul than a hot, steaming bowl of soup.

And why not take it one step further and make it a thick, hearty potato soup.

And not only that! But it's healthy!


But no less real than the weather we've had here in the last few days.

Are you ready to warm up and fill your belly at the same time??

Let's get going!

Grab your ingredients: red potatoes, low-sodium chicken broth, low fat sour cream, prechopped onion, olive oil, bacon, flour, low fat shredded cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and chives.

Scrub and clean the potatoes. Pierce them with a fork. Then toss them in the microwave on high for 13 minutes of until they are tender. When fully cooked, remove from microwave and cut in half to cool.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 3 minutes.

Add in the chicken broth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and 1/2 a cup of milk.

Add the flour/milk mixture, along with another 1 1/2 cups of milk, to the skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, let cook 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Coarsely mash the potatoes into the milk/broth mixture. (I tried to remove the skin but decided against it. We like the skins in. If you don't, go and and discard the skins).

Separate the soup into bowls. Top with cheese, bacon and chives.

Serve and enjoy!!

Loaded Potato Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light

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  • 4 (6 ounce) red potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion (prechopped if desired)
  • 1 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups fat free milk
  • 1/4 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 bacon slices, halved
  • 1/3 cup low fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 teaspoons chives
  1. Pierce potatoes with a fork. Microwave on high 13 minutes, or until tender. Cut in half; cool slightly.
  2. While potatoes cook, heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute 3 minutes.
  3. Mix in chicken broth.
  4. Whisk together four and half cup milk in separate bowl. Add to pan with an addition 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Cook 1 minute.
  5. Remove from and stir in sour cream, salt and pepper.
  6. Arrange bacon on paper towel on a microwave safe plate. Cover with a paper towel; microwave on high for 4 minutes. Let cool then crumble.
  7. Coarsely mash potatoes into soup. 
  8. Separate into bowls, top with cheese, chives and bacon.
  9. Serve and enjoy!
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