Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mom's Flan Recipe

I remember a time period when I was younger, maybe about 10 years old, when my mom would bring this flan (or as she called it by it's fancy French name, creme caramel) to every family or friend gathering. It was tasty and looked pretty. Maybe it was a thing to do in the 90's, because my husband said his mom also went through a similar flan phase. Well, here is my mom's recipe. I made it for the first time yesterday when we had a few friends over and I had to get creative with things husband-who-just-had-wisdom-tooth-removed and guests could eat. Though it is a very simple and easy recipe, I was pretty nervous the entire time I made it. Worrying about the caramel sticking to the pan or the flan breaking while I flipped it. Came out great, though!  Like my mom says, it's a simple and easy recipe.

Mom's Flan aka Creme Caramel

  • 2 c. sugar, divided
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 5 c. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. orange liquor 
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced for decoration

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a round 8" cake pan, pour 1 cup of sugar.  Bake sugar in oven until caramelized and brown.  This may take up to 20-30 minutes.  Check the caramel every 5 minutes to ensure even browning by swirling the melted areas with the unmelted sugar and ensure the sugar does not burn.
  2. Remove cake pan and allow to cool slightly.  In a large mixing bowl, combine rest of sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and milk.  Stir until well mixed, do not beat.
  3. Pour egg custard mixture into caramel pan.  Place the pan in another larger pan with water at least half way up the side of the cake pan (Make a water bath).  
  4. Bake at 320 degress for 45-60 minutes or until set.
  5. When ready to serve, flip the pan onto a large platter.  The residual caramel sauce will pour over the rest of the flan. Decorate with sliced strawberries.
Kid friendly: Substitute vanilla or citrus zest for orange liquor
Tastier/non-calorie friendly: Substitute half and half or heavy cream for 2 cups of the whole milk

Simple and easy flan. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mushy Foods for Post-Wisdom Teeth Removal

Right now I am sitting in the office of an oromaxillary surgeon waiting while my husband gets a wisdom tooth extracted.  The hubs will need to eat soft food for the next few days in order for his dental extraction site to heal well.  Knowing him, that will be tough.  This household is not known for it's love of soft food.  So I'm taking this time to brainstorm a potential list of foods/meals to make today.

1)Congee or rice porridge: Probably the most quintessential sick food.

2)Smoothies won't be much of a change here since we usually start the morning with a smoothie

3)Kale soup: use up the last of my garden kale.  This will be great for the leftover leaves that got some insect bites/holes.

  • 1/2 c. kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 c. chopped onions
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes, optional
  • olive oil

  1. Saute garlic and onions in a large stock pot in 1 tbs. olive oil over medium heat until softened ~3-5 minutes.  Add chili flakes if using.
  2. Add kale and stir while wilting ~1-2 minutes.  
  3. Combine chicken stock and allow to come to a boil
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Place contents in blender and blend until smooth.  
  6. Return to stock pot and bring back to warm temperature, Drizzle in heavy whipping cream and serve.

4) Butter and cheddar grits

5) Homemade Ice cream: Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream without the chocolate chips.  Sub chocolate syrup on top
or Salted Caramel Ice Cream
or Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

6) Flan

7) Hummus

8) Go to Soup Peddler's newest location on Airport and pick up some more soups...

9) Soft scrambled eggs

10) Chocolate milk shakes: R's fav!

I think that should be good until he can start chewing again.
Hope he's doing OK in surgery right now...

Look at that smile!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bun Chay Vegetarian Vietnamese Vermicelli Bowl

My last post was a recipe for nuoc mam chay (Vietnamese vegetarian 'fish' sauce).  A great way to use that condiment is on vermicelli bowls.  Rice vermicelli bowls are pretty versatile.  Although there are the traditional pork bowls; see recipe here: http://smokedsaltandpepper.blogspot.com/2013/03/bun-thit-nuong-cha-gio-vietnamese.html

I made a vegetarian version of a vermicelli bowl using a combo of tofu, avocado eggrolls, and other delicious things I had in my kitchen.  This was a great way to use the giant cucumber growing in my vegetable garden!

Bun Chay (Vegetarian Vermicelli Bowls)

  • 1 8oz. package of vermicelli rice noodles, cooked and drained according to package
  • 1/4 c. or about 3 small carrots, shredded
  • 1/3 c. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • canola oil
  • egg roll wrappers (banh trang cha gio)
  • 1 large Haas avocado, chopped
  • small shallot, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 block of firm tofu
  • 3 tbs. soy sauce
  • lettuce, fresh mint, sliced cucumber
  • vegetarian 'fish sauce' recipe here: https://smokedsaltandpepper.blogspot.com/2016/05/nuoc-mam-chay-vegetarian-fish-sauce.html


    1. Cook and drain vermicelli noodles as directed on package.  Allow to drain very well.
    2. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 c. water, rice vinegar and sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add carrots.  Allow to quick pickle while prepping rest of the ingredients.
    3. Combine avocado and shallots plus salt and pepper to taste for egg rolls.  Wrap egg rolls (there are some great videos on how to do this or the egg roll wrapper package usually has some instructions).  
    4. In a wok or tall-sided pan, add about 1/3 c. canola oil over medium high heat.
    5. Fry egg rolls until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and allow to drain on a paper towel lined plate.
    6. Cube tofu into 1x2" pieces and drain any excess water.  Using remaining oil in wok, pan fry all sides of tofu.  Cook in batches if necessary.
    7. Drain any excess oil from pan.  Add soy sauce to tofu in pan and allow to heat through on all sides, about 3 minutes.
    8. Assemble the bowls by lining with lettuce, then vermicelli noodles, then arrange all toppings.
    9. Serve with a small bowl of vegetarian fish sauce and Sriracha sauce.

    Sunday, May 8, 2016

    Nuoc Mam Chay, Vegetarian "Fish" Sauce

    I'm pretty convinced that the only way my dad has been able to stay a vegetarian for the past 10+ years is through the brilliance that is my mom's cooking ability.  She can vegetarianize pretty much anything.  Her bun bo chay (vegetarian Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup) is so good that I prefer it to the real version a lot of the times.  One of the huge struggles for a Vietnamese vegetarian is fish sauce.  We put fish sauce on EVERYTHING.  Like, seriously, everything.  Have you had nuoc mam on scrambled eggs?  Well, it's freaking amazing.  So, rather than having to use soy sauce condiment as the lone vegetarian condiment, some amazing people have figured out how to make vegetarian fish sauce.  

    Of course, it does seem to lack that extra 'funk' that fish sauce has, but it's pretty darn close.  This recipe is from my mom's cousin.  She makes a huge batch and takes most of it over to the Buddhist temple where they use or sell it and then divies the rest up for some of us lucky folks.

    My mom has a short cut version that she will typically use to replenish the veggie nuoc mam.  Here I have both recipes:

    Mo Ba's Nuoc Mam Chay recipe:
    • 2 Dole pineapples, finely chopped
    • 4 lbs. sugar
    • 15 well ripened tomatoes, seeds discarded and cut in eigths
    • 5 gallons of water
    • 1&1/2 c. sea salt or to taste
    1. Cook pineapples and sugar on low heat until caramelized to golden brown.  Add tomatoes and continue to cook until it turns into a jam consistncy.
    2. Add water and salt and boil thoroughly.  Let cool and strain. 
    3. Put sauce in small jars and store in refrigerator for a few weeks.  Keep the rest in the freezer for future use or it will turn into vinegar.
    Mom's shortcut version:
    1/2 c. sugar, 1/3 c. Coco Rico soda, few drops of soy sauce, some lime juice, taste to adjust.  Finely chopped garlic and Thai chili peppers

    My annotations:
    I cut back my mo ba's recipe by about 1/4 of the quantities to cut down on quantity and time and add a bit of Huy Fong Chili Garlic sauce.

    Thursday, May 5, 2016

    4th Annual McCao Crawfish Boil

    Not sure who had more fun: Husband or Dog

    Last weekend we threw our annual crawfish boil.  Well, technically not annual since last year was rained out.  Luckily the storms paused for the day and we were able to power through over 100 lbs. of crawfish with the help of some of our friends.  I didn't take many pictures, but it was a good time.  Reid and I joked it was an adjustment going from lazy Saturdays hanging with our cat to partying outside for over 12 hours.  We started the boil around 1pm and finished the last of the beer around 1am.

    Every year we get a little better about time managment and our boil so this is what we did this year that really helped:

    • Had 2 large boilers going.  It can take up to 2 hours for one of those huge pots of water to come to a boil so this helps ensure a steady stream of food
    • Boiled sausage, potatoes, and corn first to flavor the water and kept them warm in a cooler.  Yea, "cooler sausage" sounds a bit shady but I swear that stuff stayed warm up until nightfall
    • Had something to offer our non-crawfish eating friends and to help supplement crawfish: this year I made chicken and shrimp jambalaya and kept that in a Crock Pot
    • Plenty of tables and chairs and cold drinks
    • Mosquito spray and sunscreen
    There were a few things to improve upon and tackle for next year like providing more shade (maybe a tent next year) and figuring out a better trash system.  You would not believe how stinky crawfish can get sitting in our trash can and compost for week.  Ewwwwwww

    But all in all, it was a good time!