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Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

 
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Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

As Willie Wonka once said, "So little to do and so much time… Reverse that!"

Well, let’s see…

Tortilla Casserole (Foodgeeks.com by Jocelyn Craft)

Delicious! One of my favorite things- the aroma of onions, tomatoes and garlic cooking in olive oil. I could bathe in it. Don’t worry, I won’t- but I could.

I used store-bought meatloaf instead of plain ground beef, which added a lot of flavor (sodium too, I’m sure, but I used low-sodium beans and no-salt- added canned tomatoes). This would be a good one to make extra and freeze, but we ate all of ours. I did make extra for Stefani who recently gave birth to twins.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato (Family Circle Aug. 2008)

We LOVE grilled cheese sandwiches here- my car even has a bumper sticker, "Visualize grilled cheese"… Anyway, this recipe is amazing because it takes the coziness of grilled cheese to a mouthwatering nirvana. All you do is add fresh tomatoes and a bunch of basil leaves to the pile of grated cheese and then instead of butter, I brushed the top of the bread with olive oil. You smush it all down with the spatula and let it sizzle, and then try to resist picking it up and letting the molten cheese burn your mouth- you have to wait (oh no!) a few minutes to let it cool a bit.

 


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Yup, it’s true, I’ve been baking. We seem to have a pattern of cool mornings, somewhat humid afternoons and cool evenings. So we can’t complain, considering there have been some Julys when I’d wished I’d pre-ordered the cool head bands for all of us to get us through the summer. I don’t mean cool as in "Whoa, Dude- you are too cool!" I mean cool as in put it in the freezer first and then wear it, kind of like what the guys in Iraq have to wear. But anyway, we just haven’t needed it this summer. Shhh… I don’t want to jinx it!

Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

I dusted off my copy of Rosie's Bakery All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No-Holds-Barred Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg and made a batch of the Peanut Butter Cookie dough, but decided I’d take the lazy way out and just mush it onto the deep cookie sheet I have (lined with parchment), making bars out of it. Come to find out that it’s more effort than I thought to massage cookie dough all the way to the far corners of a cookie sheet. I don’t have a rolling pin. But I just tried to meditate my way through it and it eventually happened; this was my activity while watching an episode of "The Love Boat" on Fancast with John. Wow, those were the days… I hear that jingle and I’m instantly transported to the late 70s. How old was I then? About 9 or 10. The Love Boat was the height of glamour to me then, and it’s so wonderfully cheesy to watch it now.

The best part of the bars were the corner pieces- they were more cookie-like, and crunchier. But these were good because they weren’t overly sweet. I used natural peanut butter, no sugar added.

Peanut Butter Chocolate-Chip Bars (also from Rosie’s)

Why so much peanut butter? Because we’re trying to use up the last of the school-time peanut butter. We bought a lot when it was on sale at Windmill Farms and the use-by date is approaching.

I’m partial to these bars, if given a choice between the two. The chocolate gives it that extra oomph. And instead of chocolate chips, I chopped up a big bar of bittersweet chocolate.

I wanted to make a peach pie out of some of the peaches my mom and Bill gave us from their tree. But John begged me not to; he said they are just so good to simply eat them. They don’t last long here! And my mom just brought over some nectarines; they were gone within minutes. Other treats this summer have been my parents’ homegrown grapes and tomatoes. Our neighborly greenthumbs; it’s truly glorious what B & B (Barbara & Bill) are able to grow. All kinds of guavas, bigger-than-softball cherimoyas, plums, blood oranges, kumquats, apples, persimmons, squash, I could go on :) but anyway…- Oh, and my mom is determined to grow a successful avocado; she has a few young ones settling in now, looking good.


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

This is a renaissance summer. Or maybe I’m simply entering a renaissance phase of life, more specifically a beginner’s phase. I’m 40 years old and I’m ready to be a beginner again. And again.

My husband John is the primary cook in our family. I sometimes make salads or other veggie mish-mash or pancakes or cereal, but that’s about the extent of my kitchening. We have two sons, Roy, 8, and Leo, almost 6, and they always look up with surprise when I approach the stove.

So today I began my journey into cooking. I will use this space to share how things are going on this journey. I will also be getting into the garden more often, and report any garden musings here. My mother has a natural green thumb and I’ve tried to learn by osmosis from her, but I admit my garden often suffers from neglect.

And I’m determined to conquer my fear of the sewing machine during this beginner’s phase. (Anyone who knows me is gasping with the shock of my mention of sewing.)

So, that’s the plan.

My husband and I are both freelance writers. My writing self is very connected to my tactile self, so I cannot imagine venturing into this renaissance chapter without writing about it… Here we go!

This morning I dipped into my box of dessert recipes and decided to make Peach-Raspberry Clafouti, a Martha Stewart recipe. Why do I have a box of dessert recipes if I don’t cook? Well, the thing is, I adore reading about food and looking at beautiful pictures of food, so I’ve been clipping recipes for years. It borders on an obsession; if I see a delicious-looking recipe, I have to clip it. The list of ingredients, the mixing methodology, the prep process, all of it speaks to me on a primal level.

So now I give myself permission to go forth and create! John is gracious and encouraging about the whole thing, thank goodness.

The thing is, we are going next door to my parents’ house this afternoon for Kaffee Trinken (German coffee hour), and my mom has Celiac. So she can’t eat any gluten, which means no regular flour. I will substitute regular flour for rice flour combined with arrowroot powder. John ran out to get the rice flour and we had some arrowroot powder on hand, by some miracle.

I Googled gluten-free flour subsitute and saw that you get nice results by adding a bit of tapioca flour to the mix. We had some large pearl tapioca on hand so I thought, What the heck? I added a tablespoon or so to the rice flour and amaranth.

Also, we didn’t have peaches and raspberries so I used plums from my parents’ tree and frozen blueberries instead.

I followed the recipe and all went well until I pulled it out of the oven. I discovered that the tapioca pearls were still hard as pearls. Literally. Tooth-breaking hard. So I had to pick out about a hundred of these pearls, which hopefully had all floated to the top. I will have to announce a warning to chew very carefully…

Hopefully it will be as good as it looks though! The plums smelled so good as they were simmering. Oh, and I used Japanese Mirin cooking wine instead of white wine also. We’ll see… I’ll report back!