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Monday, March 18, 2013

Simple Pleasures Are Best

That's something my sister-in-law often says and usually she's right.

I'm thinking right now about the brownies I bake.  No, not from scratch - while I love the idea of from scratch baking I almost always use a box mix of some kind, at least for cakes & brownies.  But I have my ways of making them special.  And they're all simple and easy.

For brownies, I almost never make a batch without adding something extra.  Walnuts or pecans are a natural (unless you're making the brownies for someone who cannot have or does not like nuts).  To make them extra tasty toast them before adding.  This is as easy as placing the nuts on a baking pan in the oven for a few minutes, or in a skillet on the stove top.  Toast just until they become fragrant, shaking or stirring a few times to prevent burning.

Another addition is chocolate.  I like to break a chocolate bar up into little pieces, or just toss a handful of chocolate chips into the batter.  Pour it into the pan and scatter a few more pieces or chips over the top.  The bits melt to different degrees making the brownies extra special.  Bits of caramel or candy bar can also be tried.

You can add spices to the batter while mixing.  I like to shake in a little cinnamon for a subtle boost of flavor.  A shake or two of cayenne pepper adds a pleasant bit of warmth and a hefty pinch of sea salt - well I got those last two ideas from adding chocolate bits that contained those ingredients.  I figured if it's good for chocolate it's good for brownies.

Finally, if you like those marbled cheesecake brownies, well it's as easy as this.  Combine one beaten egg with one package (8 ounces) cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat well.  Pour the brownie batter into the pan, then plop spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture in as well.  Use a knife or skewer to swirl the two batters together in a marbled effect until it's as mixed as you wish.  Bake as usual.

Next time you bake a batch of brownies, whether from scratch or from a mix, try one or two or all of these ideas to make them a little special.

Quotable quotes; in the category Oh, So That's What That Smell Is!

"Childhood smells of perfume and brownies."  David Leavitt, American Novelist

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bento - Finally!

I finally got around to making another bento.   I have been meaning to for a long time but it just didn't seem to get done.  I am so out of practice this bento took me a half hour or more to prepare.  But it was worth it.
I included some of my favorites - chicken teriyaki, sauteed cocktail wieners and my most favorite of all, a tamagoyaki (egg cake).  I also included some peppers, onion & carrots cooked in soy sauce & mirin and a cucumber pickle.  I placed half an umeboshi plum on my rice.  This was my very first umeboshi.  It was very salty but tasty in its way.

I put the bento in a recycled take-out container as I could not lay my hands on an "official" bento box.  The only problem was I could not pack it quite tight enough to prevent any shifting around so I had to carry it carefully to prevent it becoming "messy".

I hope it does not take me so long to make my next bento.  This was fun . . . and tasty!!!

Quotable Quotes; in the category Yes, Especially If There's Bento For Lunch!

"When people you greatly admire appear to be thinking deep thoughts, they probably are thinking about lunch."  Unknown

Monday, March 4, 2013

Long ago I posted about Spam and referenced Spam Musubi, a "snack food" similar to onigiri and popular in Hawaii.  I had purchased a can (read several cans) of Spam and even bought a musubi mold from our local Japanese import store and kept promising Mr. that I would make Spam Musubi.  Mr. loves Spam.  There was no reason he would not like Spam Musubi.  He liked it.

I made a small batch of Japanese rice and opened a half can of Spam (it was on sale at a great price - until we learned it was a can only half the size of the regular Spam - we bought it anyway).  I figured if we did not like it I would not have wasted a full can of Spam.

My musubi was largely based on the recipe found here.  As instructed I sauteed the Spam in a skillet until golden brown, then added a little soy sauce and Mirin (okay, not exactly as instrected since I had misplaced the "recipe" but it worked out great).  I simmered until the "sauce" had cooked into the Spam and carmelized a bit.

I moistened my mold and started assembling the musubi.  The first one got way too much rice in it, meaning the subsequent versions contained too little.  No matter.  The Spam was the important thing.

I sprinkled a bit of seasoning, wrapped it with nori and we feasted on musubi with forks as the rice kept crumbling and falling out.  Note to self:  make rice stickier next time and cut the nori wide enough to wrap the entire thing.

Oh yes, there will be a next time.

Quotable Quotes; in the category Well That's Not Quite What I Meant But . . .

"Life would be easier if you could mark people as spam . . . "  Anonymous