“Takashi’s Noodles” Cookbook Is Finally Here!

Takashi's Noodles

I’m excited to announce that the new cookbook “Takashi’s Noodles,” by Takashi Yagihashi and Harris Salat, is currently in my possession! It’s a beautiful cookbook with amazing photography of incredibly delicious, well-tested (of course) recipes. There are five chapters dedicated to the various types of Asian noodles (ramen, soba, udon, etc…) plus a chapter about pasta and one on appetizers.

Trust me, this book is a must-have. And I should know – I’ve made each and every one of these recipes at least twice if not more as the recipe tester.

So go out and buy it! And no, I don’t get any royalties, I’m just proud of this cookbook and want to share it with you all.

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Another Healthy Recipe: Bison-Barley Stuffed Peppers

Bison-Barley Stuffed Pepper

Bison-Barley Stuffed Pepper

You’ve got to be thinking, can’t Jackie go a week without using barley? I know I’ve used it a lot lately, but it’s just so good. And one small package makes SO much barley that it takes forever to use up. But the truth is, barley wasn’t the main inspiration for this dish. I really just wanted to make some type of stuffed pepper, and to use up the bison meat that’s been in the freezer since I bought it on a whim in January.

Adding garlic to sauteed onions Trimmed red bell peppers

Why would I want to make a stuffed pepper in March, something I associate with summer eating? Primarily because I’ve been trying to eat more vegetables lately and thought this would be a great way to accomplish that. I’ve noticed I haven’t been getting anywhere near my recommended daily amounts, mainly because vegetables are so uninspiring this time of year. There are virtually no local vegetables available, and even the produce in the supermarket that’s been shipped in from Chile or somewhere seems a little fake.But I figured it’s time to suck it up and eat my veggies like a good girl.

Cook ground bison Mix in chopped spinach

This filling recipe for bison-barley stuffed peppers offers the perfect solution. It’s chock full of heart-healthy, nutritious ingredients such as spinach, barley, bison and the red peppers. There’s very little added fat and a lot of aromatic seasonings.

Seasonings Fold in cooked barley

You’ve already “heard” me go on and on, and on, about the healthy values of barley, so this time I’ll focus on bison, a lean meat that tastes similar to beef. According to National Bison Association, bison is nutrient-dense, especially in iron and essential fatty acids, and is significantly lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than chicken.

Fill red peppers Cover and bake

The website says: “nutritionally you are getting more protein and nutrients with fewer calories and less fat. Buffalo is a dense meat that that tends to satisfy you more while eating less.”

Sounds like a winning ingredient to me.

Spoon cheese on peppers Baked stuffed peppers

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Gettin’ My Health On with Swiss Chard, Quinoa & Roast Chicken

Healthy Dinner: Swiss Chard with Onions & Mushrooms, Quinoa and Roast Chicken

Healthy Dinner: Swiss Chard with Onions & Mushrooms, Quinoa and Roast Chicken

My birthday came and went the last weekend of February with an abundance of good food. The whole weekend was an eating frenzy, first with dinner at Sunda, then Farmerie 58, and finally Hugo’s Frog Bar, not to mention the cookie cake my mom made. It’s no wonder I spent the entire last week afraid to get on the scale, and I just know that damn bridesmaid dress is no closer to zipping than it was a month ago.

I’m not going to get all whiny about this (I know you don’t want to read all that, even though it would be awfully cathartic for me…), but I am going to tell you how I finally took action today with a super healthy dinner that will last me at least three meals. It was roast chicken, quinoa and Swiss chard with onions and mushrooms. And despite being incredible healthy (whole grains, low-fat, high-fiber, protein, etc.) it was incredibly delicious and filling.

Separate Swiss chard leaves and stems

Separate Swiss chard leaves and stems

The roast chicken was the easiest part, something I actually made earlier in the day and then reheated in the microwave with the rest of the meal. I bought a split chicken from the grocery store (still on the bone to retain moisture but cooks faster than a whole chicken) and seasoned it liberally with salt and pepper, then rubbed in a bit of lemon juice and olive oil. The chicken was roasted in a 350F oven skin-side up for 40 minutes (until it reached an internal temperature of 170F). I let the chicken cool to room temperature, then covered and refrigerated it. When it was time for dinner I removed the skin and sliced the chicken meat, then reheated it in the microwave. the chicken remained extremely moist and flavorful without overpowering the other dishes.

Next is the quinoa, a whole grain I’ve been reading a lot about but haven’t used much. It’s considered a “health-building grain” that is high in protein, and is light and fluffy once cooked with a bit of a nutty taste. I prepared it with very few ingredients but did take a few minutes to toast the grains in order to bring out more of the nutty flavor.

Rinse quinoa

Rinse quinoa very well

Finally, the showpiece of the meal: Swiss chard with onions and mushrooms. This was the highlight, an easy dish that’s a little time-consuming but oh, so worth it.

I bought one bunch of Swiss chard that happened to be a mixture of the red and green varieties. Swiss chard is a mild and slightly rough leafy green, and the stems benefit from a long cooking time. The leaves, once diced, can be added at the end and then folded in as they wilt, similar to spinach.

Add Swiss chard leaves

Add Swiss chard leaves

Swiss chard is also one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat: high in fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C.

So, how did I feel after my healthy, nutritious dinner? Surprisingly good, and very full. And don’t tell anyone, but I did sneak a very small piece of chocolate for dessert. A girl’s gotta have some sense of adventure… right?

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Spring Forward with Lemon-Raspberry Sunbursts

Puff Pastry Sunbursts

Lemon-Raspberry Sunbursts

Yes, I am getting excited over daylight saving time. Maybe it’s because Friday was an unusually gorgeous day, or maybe it’s just because I’ve been looking for an excuse to use up the two boxes of puff pastry that have been taking up precious space in my small freezer. Either way, this is a fantastic treat that is impressive and easy-to-make: Lemon-Raspberry Sunbursts.

Dollop of lemon curd

Dollop of lemon curd

These are simple, nothing more than puff pastry, lemon curd and fresh raspberries. I like to use store-bought puff pastry because, to be quite frank, it’s a pain in the ass to make from scratch. But I do make my own lemon curd – it’s fairly easy and a lot of fun, not to mention the taste is so much better than store-bought. Of course you could always buy it, but I strongly encourage you to try the recipe below.

Uncovered with lemon curd and raspberries

Uncovered with lemon curd and raspberries

The puff pastry sunbursts literally burst in your mouth with bright, shiney flavors, not to mention fanciful flakey and gooey textures. So when you turns your clocks forward at 2 a.m. Sunday, take a bite of one of these and remember that spring itself is just around the corner.

Baking Puff Pastry Sunbursts

Baking Lemon-Raspberry Sunbursts

They certainly make me want to spring forward!

Sunbursts cooling

Sunbursts cooling

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Tunisian Tagine of Chicken, Prunes, Potatoes & Eggs

Tunisian tagine

Tunisian Tagine

“It was the best of recipes, it was the worst of recipes.”

I know that sounds so cheesey, but it’s seriously how I feel about the Tunisian tagine. I’ve attempted it a few times now and each time the flavor has been fantastic but I seem to mess it up with the eggs, the very component that makes this tagine special.

The challenge began in January as I was reassembling my apartment after a few weeks of painting. I’d had to remove all my cookbooks and culinary binders from the bookshelf which wound up in a heap on the floor. When I finally got around to cleaning up the mess, I decided to flip through some of the binders and came across a long-forgotten set of North African recipes. One in particular caught my eye: Tunisian tagine of chicken, prunes, potatoes and eggs.

The beauty of this recipe was that it didn’t have to be cooked in a clay tagine (a cone-shaped top with an opening in the center and a flat, circular base traditionally used to braise meats). In fact, I learned that the word tagine refers to both the cooking vessel and the dish itself. But the “worst” of the recipe was that it was sparsely written, mainly a list of ingredients designed to feed 20+ people, certainly not meant for home use.

So I did the best I could to figure it out and actually came up with a truly delicious dish with a strong, unique flavor. But I also messed up, specifically the last step where the eggs somehow had to be added to the mixture. I assumed the eggs were a thickener and needed to be tempered in so as not to curdle. Being my first crack at the recipe, I was certain I’d found succes. That is until I began to write up the recipe and decided to research exactly what made this a “Tunisian tagine.”

First attempt at Tunisian Tagine

First attempt at Tunisian Tagine

The answer: a Tunisian tagine is similar to a frittata, something much different than the stew-like dish I had created.

I knew I would have to try to make it again but wasn’t certain I wanted it to be served as a slice. So on the second attempt I hedged my bet by reserving half the tagine just before adding the eggs (I probably should have used more eggs but I wanted to keep the tagine low-fat). This way I would still have some of the regular tagine leftover if the egg portion didn’t turn out correctly. With the reserved part safely tucked away, I whisked together four eggs and added them to the remaining mixture in the pot then placed the whole thing in the oven until the eggs were set.

Tagine two-ways

Tagine two-ways

I’m still unsure which I prefer after tasting the two dishes side-by-side. The flavor is definitely better in the portion with the eggs, but I’m not crazy about the texture. What I did decide was to leave the choice in your hands: I’m providing the Tunisian recipe but feel free to leave out the eggs if you prefer. There is no wrong answer here, you are sure to enjoy either.

As for me, I guess I’m going to have to eat both versions again before making a final decision. Ah… life’s tough choices.

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