Not Quite Rice Noodles – Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry

The massive snow storm of 2010 appears to have abetted, finally. Forecast predicts a wee bit more snow (argh) but we should returning to normal soon. Have I mentioned that I hate winter? I hate winter. At least there’s squash.

Spaghetti Squash Broccoli Wokly!

Another adventure with spaghetti squash! At 89 cents a pound it’s rather hard to pass up. I didn’t feel like going pasta style and had a hankering for stir fry. I think broccoli is my favorite vegetable. I kinda just ran with this one not knowing where it’d end up. Overall, pretty happy; though I’d leave out the bean sprouts next time. They just didn’t add anything, and took away a bit. Still, quite proud and I shall do it again!


Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry With Broccoli

1 small spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large onion; quartered and sliced
1 green bell pepper; cut into slices
4 cloves garlic; minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 jalapeno pepper; diced
8 ounces broccoli; cut into small florets

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon chinese cooking wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Pierce the squash several times and cook at 350° for an hour. Once done, let cool and cut in half lengthwise. Mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Cook the onion and green pepper with the peanut oil in a large wok under high heat for several minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno pepper and cook, constantly stirring until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl, add 1/3 cup of water and the broccoli. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until all the water boils away. Add the remaining ingredients and toss, mixing well, and serve.


My New Favorite Way to Cook Shrimp!

I’m still obsessed with my Anheuser-Busch Great Food Great Beer cook book. I know, it doesn’t look like much… but it really has great easy recipes that you can throw together on a weeknight (and isn’t that what you’re here for?).


This cook book led me to my new favorite way to cook shrimp – drenched in beer. It’s not the first time I’ve cooked or baked with beer and had success… Check out my previous posts:

Guinness Beer Brownies And [photos of] Babes

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans

You don’t need to use a fancy beer, a bottle of Budweiser will do just fine. I adapted the recipe from the cook book a bit, adding a few extra spices to give it more depth of flavor.

greenbeanscooking shrimp in beer and garlic

I also cooked the shrimp in a grill pan instead of a heavy skillet, but because you’re drowning the shrimp in beer it probably doesn’t make a difference. Morgan and I enjoyed this dinner over couscous and spicy Szechuan style green beans (spice-phobes beware!).

drunken shrimp and szechuan green beans

Drunken Shrimp with Szechuan Style Green Beans
(makes dinner for 2)

Drunken Shrimp
16 frozen shrimp, thawed and peeled according to package instructions
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer of your choice
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 turns of salt, 12 turns of pepper

Measure and combine cayenne, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small ingredient bowl. Heat large skillet on medium high heat. Add a little bit of oil when hot. Add garlic and stir quickly so that garlic doesn’t burn. Add shrimp, followed by spice mixture, and stir.

Immediately pour 1/2 bottle of beer into pan and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp and add remaining 1/2 bottle of beer. Cook until shrimp are firm, pink and curled. Serve immediately.

Szechuan Style Green Beans

approx. 1 pound green beans, washed and ends broken off
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Heat medium size skillet on medium heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, followed by green beans. Stir, adding spice mixture and soy sauce. Cook until desired tenderness is reached (about 7-10 minutes).

More faux meat madness! Am I a one-trick pony? Perhaps. It has been a while since I made stir-fry and I was jonesin’. Traditionally I go for the savory and salty over the sweet but I decided to mix it up this time. One convenient thing (or arguably, bad thing) about tempeh is there’s no need to marinate because it won’t really accomplish anything.

Some Wok Smoke Goodness

This dish is loosely based off a recipe in a book a friend of mine gave me a few years back. It calls for some less common items like Kaffir lemon leaves which I’m sure are great, but a little too rare and exotic for me. We like quality food here but hunting high and low for an ingredient I’ll never use again before it goes bad just seems like a waste of time, money and sanity. So some DC-style modifications were in order. What do you think?

Honey Orange Tempeh Stir-Fry with Broccoli

Honey Orange Tempeh Stir-Fry with Broccoli
adapted from Wok Works

8oz tempeh
7 teaspoons oil (2 tablespoons, one teaspoon)
1 garlic clove; minced
1 teaspoon ginger; minced
a head of broccoli; chopped into small 1/2 inch pieces
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lime
Juice of one lemon
7 teaspoons soy sauce (2 tablespoons, one teaspoon)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon rice wine

Steam your broccoli for 4 minutes and immediately dunk in cold water to stop the cooking process. Towel dry. Heat your wok, add two tablespoons oil and (carefully!) swirl around. Add your broccoli and stir fry for 1 minutes. Add your garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds; tossing continually to prevent burning. Add all your remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Continue to cook until liquid reduced to a thick sauce (five minutes, tops). Remove from heat and serve. Enjoy.

Work has been been crazy these past few weeks, forcing me to spend quite a few extra hours in the office. I always feel more slighted about this in the summer months. Why couldn’t this just happen in the winter when I’m all for hiding away in any warm room? True, I prefer hiding under my covers, but hey it beats the cold. But summer? Summer there’s hiking, climbing, picnics, swimming, the list goes on and on. Alas…

Pan-Frying Chickpeas with Broccoli

Of course, a busy schedule is no excuse for lousy eating. All those fast food trips will catch up to you, so it’s good to have some quick and easy options. At only a handful of ingredients and one pan, this sucker fits the bill pretty well. You’re looking at only 10 minutes of prep followed by another 15 of actual cooking. Rachel Ray, eat your heart out (which, by the way, is a ridiculous saying).

Pan-Fried Chickpeas and Broccoli

Pan Fried Chickpeas and Broccoli
This recipe uses very little oil, so be watchful. Stir too often and you won’t get any golden browning. Stir too little and you’ll get some burning.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can chickpeas; drained (or two cups cooked chickpeas)
1 head of broccoli; cutting the florets into halves or thirds depending on size
1 yellow onion; chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large pan under medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and stir occassionaly until the begin to brown and turn golden; 4-5 minutes. Don’t stir too often or you won’t give them a chance to brown. Add the onion and broccoli and continue to saute. Stir more frequently now, but not continuously. After the broccoli begins to brown a bit and the onions have softened (7-8 minutes), add the zest, juice and salt; stirring for one minute for everthing to come together. Remove from heat and serve with salt to taste. Enjoy.

The weather was beautiful this past weekend; gorgeous break in the rain we’ve been having lately. I had a special hope for this weekend because of some climbing plans and couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday. A group of us drove up to Seneca Rocks for a day of climbing the peaks. I had never been to Seneca before and it was an excellent experience. The view from 900 feet is… indescribable.


As usual, when Sunday rolls around I’m drained and really don’t want to make anything involved; I want quick. I also want something that’ll give me plenty leftovers for the week and, hey while we’re at it, something not too pricey. Cabbage is cheap. Very cheap. McDonalds cheap; and, with a few spices and a little stir fry action, tastes much better. This is really more of a side dish than a main dish, but honestly, when I’m feeling lazy I’ll just eat a ridiculous amount of a side dish to avoid the effort (don’t judge me).

Shredded Cabbage Stir-Fry with Green Peas

Shredded Cabbage Stir-Fry with Green Peas

1 head green cabbage; cored and shredded
2 cups frozen green peas; thawed
1 serrano chili (or any small, hot chili); minced
6 tablespoons oil
1 3/4 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon curry powder (hot or sweet)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Heat a large pan or wok to medium heat and add oil (swish around if in a wok). Let the oil heat up for a few seconds then add the turmeric and bay leaves. Cook only for a few seconds until fragrant (too long and it burns) then add cabbage and green peas. Cook, tossing occasionally, for one minute to coat the cabbage and vegetables in oil.

Add the turmeric, cayenne and curry powder; tossing to coat. Stir fry for five minutes until the cabbage begins to soften but still maintain some crisp. Be sure to toss on occasion to prevent burning and ensure even cooking (if you like your cabbage with a bit more crisp, stir a bit less often). Add the chili pepper, sugar, salt and garam masala and cook for a minute.

Thanks to everyone who gave us feedback on the new design. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re proud to say it’s a success. As always, we love hearing from you, so feel free to let us know anytime you have something to say. We’ll keep innovating in DinnerCakes land, so keep your eyes peeled for changes down the road.

Cut Green Beans

As usual, my weekend was packed with things to do. You’re running around all week and then next thing you know it’s 5pm on a Sunday, you haven’t finished your laundry, dishes have stacked up and you’re very hungry. Enter my glorious quickie-fallback: stir fry.

Stir Fried Green Beans with Bell Pepper

Green beans should be in peak season for most people as well as green peppers. I decided to take these as my focus for this side dish. It’s ingredient list is short, but may use more ginger than you’re use to. There’s a style of cooking called Kan Shao, which means “dry cooked” – no stock or water. It’s a bit different than most stir fries, but I liked it.

Grean Bean and Green Bell Pepper Stir Fry with Ginger

Green Bean and Green Bell Pepper Stir Fry with Ginger

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 lb green beans
1 green bell pepper
ginger cut into 56 1/4×2 inch matchsticks
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

Trim the green beans and cut in half. Cut your green bell pepper into half inch matchsticks. This doesn’t work out too well for the top and bottom of the pepper but go ahead and throw them in with whatever shape you can get.

Heat your wok to high heat and add your oil, swishing (carefully) to coat. As soon as the oil begins to smoke, add the green beans and bell pepper and stir fry for 2 minutes. Transfer everything to a plate. Heat the additional tablespoon of oil and add the ginger, stir frying for one minute. Add the green beans, bell pepper and additional ingredients. Stir fry for 2 minutes and serve with salt and pepper. Enjoy.

A friend of mine recently requested more tofu recipes and since I become giddy as a school girl when I receive requests, I decided to accommodate immediately. I also had an extremely late Saturday night and there’s something about the oily feel of some stir fries that just felt so right on Sunday.

Tofu with Broccoli

On the rare times I cook with tofu it’s often in stir-fries. It’s easy to add and since tofu doesn’t really have much of a flavor on its own; the multitude of ingredients has the potential to make a real impact on the stuff. One of the key things to note about tofu is you often want to marinate it prior to cooking; ensuring that whatever flavor you’re shooting for really “sticks” with it. Of course there’s no universal time to go by, but 30 minutes is a good guideline.

Tofu Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Bok Choy

Got any good tofu recipes? Send em along!

Tofu Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Bok Choy
1 1/4 pound firm tofu
3 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoon chili oil
1 tablespoon ginger; minced
2 garlic cloves; minced
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large yellow onion; chopped
1 green bell pepper; sliced
10oz broccoli; chopped into roughly equal sizes (cut large florets in half)
1 head bok choy; chopped

Cut the tofu into 3/4 inch pieces (roughly) and a wide container; preferably tupperware. Mix the oils, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, agave and salt and coat your tofu with it. The bottom layer should be partially covered. Marinate for fifteen minutes then rotate the tofu so the top layer is marinating. If using tupperware, simply lid and turn upside-down. Marinate for another fifteen minutes.

Heat your wok to high and add your oil. Swish around and add your onion and bell pepper; stir-frying for approximately 3-4 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add the broccoli and stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes until broccoli begins to soften slightly. Add your tofu with marinade and continue cooking for five minutes; until tofu is hot. Add your bok choy and (yet again) stir fry until leaves begin to wilt. Serve immediately and enjoy.

D’oh! As I started to type I noticed that my hand felt sticky. I looked down only to find that my wedding ring is covered in cake! This is a pretty typical day in the life of Ghost Baker… actually this is a good day – normally if cake’s involved it’s probably also squished into my clothes or in my hair.

fermented black beans

The reason for today’s mess is that I’m working on a fairly detailed birthday cake for my mom for this weekend. I’ve even drawn specs for the cake to compare what different decorations might look like. We always want to impress our moms, right? Please keep your fingers crossed for me, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Today’s recipe, however, features dinner, not cake. I was given Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook for Christmas (are you sensing a pattern? I was lucky enough to receive many excellent cookbooks!). Though I’d flipped through the book and oogled things several times before, this was the first time I tried a recipe. I was drawn to Martha’s “Stir-Fried Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce.”

black bean sauce

This recipe does require a trip to your local Asian grocery store, but if you haven’t been to one before consider this your special invitation! You can find great deals on certain things at Asian grocery stores (rice in bulk, various sauces, etc).

Let me warn you that fermented black beans smell a bit strong, but they’re just soybeans that have been preserved in salt. They are not the same thing as typical black beans. They give the dish a distinct flavor. If you like Asian food then you will likely enjoy this dish.

This would also work really well with tofu – either replacing the shrimp with tofu or adding tofu in with the shrimp. I didn’t alter Martha’s recipe too much, but I did try to make things a little simpler and take the edge off the salty black beans. I eliminated the soy sauce and scallions and added a little more hoisin sauce. If you try this with tofu, please let me know how it goes! Aside from a trip to the Asian market, this dish comes together very quickly and requires little prep.

shrimp with black bean sauce

Stir-fried Shrimp with Fermented Black Bean Sauce
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook
serves 2

5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed and crushed with the back of a spoon (found in Asian market in a small, usually clear bag)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced (be sure to lightly peel the papery covering off)
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (found in Asian market, or if you have to you can substitute dry sherry or white wine)
3 teaspoons hoisin sauce (found in Asian market, or the international food section of your grocery store)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
12 medium frozen shrimp, peeled and dethawed under cold running water
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup white rice, cooked in a rice cooker or according to package instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, peanut oil, black beans (don’t forget to mash them first with the back of your spoon), ginger, Chinese wine, hoisin sauce and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Heat wok on medium high until it sizzles when you sprinkle a few drops of water on it. Add oil to the wok (never add oil to an unheated wok… remember what my Chinese cooking instruction said, “hot wok, cold oil”). Right before adding the shrimp to the wok, toss it with the cornstarch to coat it. Add shrimp to the wok, count to 5 and then press down on the shrimp with your wok utensil for a few seconds to sear it. Stir it quickly a few times, then let it sit for another few seconds. Continue this pattern until your shrimp turn pink and curl up, just another minute or two. Shrimp cook quickly. Pour in the sauce mixture and turn the heat up on the wok. Cook for just under a minute without stirring to let the flavor lock in, then stir before serving to coat.

Serve shrimp immediately over rice.

Simple Pad Thai, a Quick Fix for Luxuriously Lazy Nights

So, I had been saving an empty boxed Pad Thai kit that I used to make dinner the other night, but it seems as though my husband does not value saving empty food boxes in the same way that I do, and he threw it away! Hopefully we’ll be able to make do here anyway.

Pad Thai spice

We picked up the pad thai box in the international section of the grocery store a few weeks ago. Back when the two of us were lazier, these little kits were an excellent choice for quick dinners and a welcome change from spaghetti.

Well, we were feeling lazy again last Friday, and we had half a rotisserie chicken left from when I made Sante Fe Soup earlier in the week. But as I was cooking the noodles and about to open the spice packet, I turned over the box to read the ingredients –

(Peanuts, Pure Cane Sugar, Salt, Corn Starch, Spices [Chili, Cinnamon, Pepper, Cumin, Clove], Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Yeast Extract, Green Onions, Citric Acid, Peanut Oil, Sesame Oil, Silicon Dioxide [To Prevent Caking])

I already had on hand chili powder, cinnamon, pepper, cumin and cloves, so I thought I could do without this processed version. I picked out a few of the peanuts from the spice packet (woops, that was one thing I didn’t have), threw the rest in the trash and embarked on a journey to recreate it.

pad thai noodles

I knew this wouldn’t be an authentic pad thai – though I have taken a Thai cooking course, this just wasn’t the night to break out the tamarind and fish sauce. I still have nightmares about working with fish sauce; in my Thai cooking course the instructor told us that it’s made by packing a barrel with fish and then collecting the water and liquid that runs off them… voila, fish sauce (shudder).

My attempt at recreating the boxed pad thai was pretty good, but I think I went a little wild with the level of spice. It’s possible that Edwin’s self-proclaimed “spicy wussiness” is making me overcompensate, and noodles are pretty good at retaining spice. I toned things down a little bit in the recipe below. If you have recreated a simple box pad thai with luck, please let me know!

Pad Thai

Thai Kitchen Pad Thai
(revisited especially for lazy Friday nights after a long week!)

1 box Thai Kitchen original pad thai
1/2 rotisserie chicken
handful of peanuts, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 bag frozen stir fry vegetables (or if you prefer fresh vegetables, shop for fresh snow peas, sliced carrots, sliced red and yellow peppers, onion, and broccoli or mushrooms)

Combine peanuts, salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside. Remove rotisserie chicken from bone and cut bite size pieces. Set aside. Soak banh pho noodles according to directions on box. In the meantime, heat your wok to medium heat, then add 2 tablespoons oil. Stir fry defrosted or fresh vegetables until desired tenderness is reached.

When noodles are finished soaking, drain and rinse well. Add noodles to the wok, along with the pieces of chicken and spice mixture. Stir-fry for approximately 5 minutes, until fully combined and noodles are tender. Serve hot, garnish with extra peanuts.

I think I’ve become a bit obsessed with stir-fries lately. My visits to the asian market has become quite frequent and I always find myself buying more than a I need. It’s sad when you’re like a kid in a candy store in a supermarket. Alas…

Chinese Eggplant

This recipe was inspired by a dish I came across recently thanks to Tastepotting, which reminded me of another dish I had when I took a class by Rebekah Lin Jewell a couple years ago. I’ve never liked eggplant but this dish was amazingly good. However, it and many other Szechuan dishes I’ve seen always have ground pork; not much, just for flavoring. However, I’d always inevitably end up with a back of unidentifiable meat in my freezer six months later.

Chinese Eggplant Szechuan with Bean Sprouts

So here is my vegetarian adaption and I’m quite happy with it. As usual, keep my spicy-wussiness in mind when you read this recipe.

Chinese Eggplant Szechuan with Bean Sprouts

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-2 tablepoons hot bean paste (1 was perfect for me; two had me going for liquid relief)
1 tablespoon bean paste
3 medium-large chinese eggplant; chopped via roll cut
2 red bell peppers; cut into slices
3 garlic cloves; minced
1 tablespoon ginger; minced
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups bean sprouts

Preheat the oven to 450. Toss the chopped eggplant with two tablespoons olive oil and one teaspoon salt. Roast for 15 minutes on a metal baking sheet. While roasting, prepare the other ingredients. Wait until the eggplant is out of the oven and cool enough to work with before continuing.

Heat the remaining oil in a wok and saute the red bell peppers until soft; 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and bean pastes, tossing and stirring constantly to prevent burning; approximately 20 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and stir fry until everything is heated and mixed; approximately 1-2 minutes. Serve with rice and enjoy.