Strong Arms for Kids

After returning from two years of Peace Corps in Nicaragua, I remember searching high and low for cuajada (farmer's cheese) and corn flour to make tortillas.  Luckily there is a large population of Central Americans that live on Long Island and the simple ingredients needed in order to make an authentic Latin feast is not too difficult to find. 

Now that I have recently returned from Japan, I have been doing a lot of Asian cooking.  I feel like my body craves these foods because it has become accustom to eating them for the past two years.  Its very strange having your diet completely change about every two years and it takes my body a while to adjust, even if everything that I am eating is healthy. 

Looking back at how much I knew about food before I left the United States and seeing what I know! I can't believe how much I have learned.  Now, with ease, I can go into the kitchen, see whats in the refrigerator and make a healthy, creative and delicious meal.  I am so grateful for all the experiences I have hand the culinary education I have received from these adventures. 

While making this miso soup, I was thinking to myself, how I would have never been able to put all these ingredients together on my own, just five years ago.  I wouldn't have even known what some of these ingredients were, five years ago.  And now, I have created a delicious soup just from pulling stuff out what was already in my refrigerator.

Miso Soba Soup

1/2 package buckwheat soba noodles
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms (pretty much any mushroom could be used)
2 tbsp dark miso
2 cup baby bok choy
1/2 block firm tofu, cubed
soy sauce, to taste
4 green onions, chopped
fresh mint, chopped

Boil salted water and add in soba noodles.  Let boil until noodles are soft, drain water and rinse noodles under cold water.  Set aside noodles

In a pot, add 4 cups water, ginger and the mushrooms.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Let simmer for 15 minutes.  While it is simmering, take out some of the water, put it in a bowl, with the miso.  Mix the miso and hot water until it is well-blended and set aside.  After the 15 minutes, add the tofu and bok choy to the soup.  Let cook for another 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, add the miso to the soup.  Then add soy sauce, to taste.

Split the soba noodles between two bowl.  Pour the soup on top of the noodles.  Sprinkle some mint and green onions on top of both bowls. 

This makes a very big portion of soup, and can be used as an entire meal or split into four servings and used as an appetizer.
You know when you are just winging a recipe but you know that its going to turn out so delicious that you don't even taste until you are finished cooking because you are that confident about what you are making.  Well that is how I felt about last nights dinner.  I was day dreaming about what I was going to make on the way home from the city ( I was on the train, not driving).  I knew I wanted to make some sort of orangey couscous thing, so I searched on the internet for an orange couscous recipe just to start me off, and then ended up with this.  It was so enjoyable hot for dinner, and just as enjoyable the next day, cold, for lunch.  


1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 cup couscous

1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup pepitas
pinch of salt
chopped mint

To make the couscous, boil 1 cup of orange juice and the water. Once its boiling, add the couscous, turn off the heat and put the cover on the pot.  Let sit for, at least, 5 minutes.

Heat the rest of the orange juice in a frying pan.  Add the red onions and the cranberries.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the onions are soft.  Add the almonds and pepitas and cook for another 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the salt and mint.  Add this to the couscous, mix well, and enjoy. 
I thought it was kind of weird to post about a sandwich but I couldn't help myself.  Its sandwiches like this that makes me so happy to be a vegetarian.  I think if I wasn't a vegetarian, I would never have taken the time to think about and create such a perfect sandwich.  All the flavors compliment each other so well.  The only problem with the sandwich is that you have to eat it right away, or else the bread gets pretty soggy.  But even then, it still tastes good.

To make the sandwich:  Get yourself some good whole wheat bread, then add cottage cheese, dill, tomatoes, red onions, avocado and sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. 

Its so good, you have to try it!
You should all be proud of me...I am branching out on my squashes.  If the world was a perfect place, I would eat kabocha everyday of my life (and a mango, as well).  But the world isn't perfect and so it allows me to try out all different types of squashes and pumpkins.  This bread uses acorn squash.  I find this recipe on the most imaginative bread recipe blog out there...even the name is really cute The Knead for Bread.  This bread has a perfect texture, slightly moist, with a touch of sweetness.  I copied the recipe almost exactly, except I didn't have whole flax seeds (my mom didn't have any because they are no use nutritionally in their whole form, can't blame her for not buying them), so I put some oats on top, instead.

Ingredients Squash Ingredients
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 teaspoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
Day before:
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • "Day of"
  • 2 3/4 to 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup mashed squash ( above )
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 2 tablespoon flax seeds
Method Take your acorn squash and cut in half ( length wise ). Take a fork and poke holes all around the inside of the squash. Spread butter all around the inside of both halves. Pour equal amounts of brown surgar and maple syrup between both halves. Place the squash into a baking dish and add enough water to fill the dish about 1 to 2 inches. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour or till the squash is soft when poking with a fork. After baked, remove the inside of the squash and mash with a fork. Reserve one cup of the mashed squash and eat the rest. ( You can do all this the day before ). Take the "day before" ingredients and mix together in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest on the counter for 12 - 16 hours. In a large bowl pour out the " day before" mixture. It should have grown and bubbled. Add in the mashed squash, water, salt and instant yeast. Mix with a wooden spoon till the mixture is smooth. Add in the flax meal and the flax seeds. Mix till well blended. Add in half the whole wheat flour and mix till smooth. Slowly add the rest of the flour a little at a time, about a heaping tablespoon. When it becomes to hard to mix, pour out onto a flat surface and knead the dough for about 8 minutes. You may need a little more flour, but you want the dough to be a little on the sticky side. After kneading, add a little oil to a large bowl. Place kneaded dough and flip over a few times to lightly coat all sides of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 1/2 hours or till double in bulk. Remove dough from bowl and press to release the gas. Cut into 2 equal parts. Shape into 2 round balls and place onto a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal ( optional). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour or till double in bulk. Remove the plastic wrap. Take an egg white and beat till foamy. Brush the tops of the dough with the foam and sprinkle a little flax seeds on top. Score the top of the breads with a sharp knife. Place into a preheated 375 degree oven with a baking stone or on a cookie sheet. Create some steam by placing a cast iron pan on the bottom of the oven the same time that you turn on the oven. Once you place the breads into the oven pour about a cup of boiling water into the hot pan and close the door. Bake for 30 minutes or till when tapped on the bottom of the loaf it sounds hollow.

Squash Sweet Potato Soup

I have made this soup countless times, and have never once seen a disappointed look on anyone's face.  I have gotten a number of astonishing compliments including "This is the best soup I have EVER eaten" and a "delicious" from my mother, which means a lot (she is a very tough critic).  As much as I don't want people to know how easy and simple it is to make this soup (I like having people think that I am an amazing cook, who slaves away in the kitchen all day just to please them), I also want my friends and family to know how easy it is to cook delicious healthy food.  For this reason, I am giving up my secret and posting this recipe.  I am even entering the recipe in the food blogging contest "No Croutons Required" for this month hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes.  The challenge of this month is the store cupboard.  Squash and sweet potatoes and ginger can be stored for a long time, and easily forgotten about.  This way, whenever you have them just sitting around, here is an easy satisfying way to use them.

   Adapted from a recipe on

1 butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes or kabocha, steamed (both work well)
2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
4 cups water (or vegetable broth)
3/4 cup soy milk
2 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

If you are using kabocha, you have to steam it first, in order to remove the skin.  To make the soup faster, you can steam the sweet potato with the kabocha, and then the actual soup making process will go much faster.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a big pot.  When the oil is hot, add the onions.  Saute until the onions are translucent, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and the ginger.  Saute for another couple of minutes, until the garlic and ginger just begin to brown. Add the squash and sweet potatoes and saute for another couple of minutes.  Now add just enough water to cover all the squash and potato (about 4 cups).  Bring to a boil, then lower the flame and let it simmer, until the squash and potatoes are really soft, almost mushy, about 20-30 minutes.  The time depends on whether you are using the steamed kabocha or the butternut squash.  Once the squash and potatoes are completely soft, turn of the heat and add the soy milk, and the soy sauce.  Using a hand blender, blend the soup until its completely smooth.  Finally, add salt and pepper, to taste. 

This soup could definitely be made a day or two ahead of time.  It actually tastes better the next day. 
Okay, again, I didn't bring out my camera for this recipe, mostly because I didn't think I was going to post this recipe.  But this was a recipe that I totally just came up with on the fly, and it came out really good.  I was so proud of myself, that I had to post the recipe, even if I didn't have a photo.  How well does kale photograph anyway.

Kale w/ red onions and walnuts

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 lb chopped kale
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in frying pan.  When hot, add the garlic and saute until golden brown.  Add the onions and salt, and saute until onions are soft.  Once they are soft add the vinegar and cook until vinegar has mostly evaporated.  Add the kale and water.  Cook until the kale is cooked to your liking, then add the walnuts.  Turn off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste.
No matter what, I can't make a good glaze or a nice icing.  I actually think its subconscious because all that goes into icings and glazes are things like sugar, and butter, and I just can't consciously make foods whose main ingredients are sugar and butter without trying my best to make it somehow a little healthy.  And that's where the problems arise, I reckon.  If anyone knows how to successfully make icings or glazes without making them completely unhealthy, please send the recipes my way.  Anyway, this time, I did follow the recipe, word for word, for the glaze, but I was still frustrated with the outcome, but then thinking about it later, I think that's maybe the way they were supposed to look.  I just had in my mind, this picture of a beautifully gleaming white glaze drizzled across the cookies.  But they got rave reviews anyway, and I am definitely a believer that flavor and nutrition, by far, surpass the importance of appearance.

I found this recipe on the food blog Bread & Honey.  She adapted it from another website and I followed the recipe exactly.  It really didn't need any changing.  Great recipe and your house really does smell so good while baking them.

Glazed Apple Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup apples - peeled, cored and finely diced
1 cup raisins (I used golden)
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons milk


Beat butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and blend thoroughly.
Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Stir half the dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts, apple and raisins, then stir in remaining half of dry ingredients and milk. Mix well.
Drop from tablespoon 1 1/2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies to racks and while still warm, spread with glaze.
To make Glaze: Combine powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and enough cream to make glaze of spreading consistency. Beat until smooth. Spread on warm cookies.
When life gives you apples, you should be so thankful.  There are endless possibilities for the apple.  To finish off the bag of Cortlands I hand-picked in New Paltz, NY, I decided to make this Spiced Apple Ginger bread.  I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite blogs eCurry, and she adapted the recipe from the blog Food & Fun, which is a new one for me.  I love finding new food blogs to explore.  With every bite, there are different surprises of flavors that pop into your mouth.  This bread is full of all sorts of spices and they all go so well together.  Here is my adapted version of the recipe.  And yes, the photos are back!  It felt so good to bring my camera back out again. 

Spiced Apple Ginger Bread


  1. 2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  2. 1/2 cup oil
  3. 1/4 cup soymilk
  4. 1/4 cup orange juice
  5. 1 eggs
  6. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  7. 1 tsp. vanilla
  8. 1.5 cups sweet apples – shredded or chopped finely
  9. 1/2 cup Prunes – chopped
  10. 4 tablespoons grated ginger
  11. 2 tablespoons orange peels roughly chopped
  12. 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds, toasted
  13. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  14. 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  15. 3/4 tsp baking soda
  16. 1/2 tsp salt
  17. 1 cup finely chopped Pecans
Combine and set aside the oil, soymilk, orange juice, eggs, ginger, sugar, and vanilla.

In another bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, Cumin Seeds (toast them in a pan for a few minutes until they are aromatic), baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to oil mixture gradually. Next add the apples, prunes, orange peels and nuts.

Grease one loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake at 325 deg F for 70-80 mins.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan after switching off the oven, then let it cool completely on a wire rack.

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