Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_7834I know there are lots of chocolate chip cookies out there, but this is my go-to recipe. I prefer cookies that are chewy in the middle, and maybe a bit crispy on the edges. This recipe is quick, easy, and consistently good. For those living in Japan, you can replace chocolate chips with chopped up chocolate bars.

Ingredients
150g (11 tbsp) butter
½ cup white sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
2/3 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180C (350F).

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat for three to four minutes (batter may be dry). Add chocolate chips.

Scoop dough out in 1-tablespoon balls. Place 2 inches (5cm) apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 8-11 minutes. Don’t overbake!

Note: You can freeze the 1-tablespoon balls unbaked and then bake them straight from the freezer later. Just add a minute or two on the baking time.

Swedish Bread

swedish breadI love baking bread in the winter. It makes the whole house seem warmer and cozier, and warm homemade bread is one of my favorite things to eat. This is an old recipe that my Mom and I used to make when I was younger, and I hadn’t made in many years until this Christmas. It’s got egg, milk, and sugar in it, which make the dough rich and sweet, and it tastes like almonds. You can make regular loaves, or braid them like I did in the picture above if you want to be fancy!

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)
½ cup (113g) melted butter or margarine
⅔ cup (133g) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
405 mL (2-1/4 cups) hot milk
2-1/4 tsp dry yeast
¼ cup (60mL) warm water
1 egg, well beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
7 cups (910g) white flour (approximately)

Optional: 1 egg yolk, 1/4 cup almonds (for topping)

Instructions
Mix the butter, sugar, salt, and hot milk in a large bowl and let cool to lukewarm. Stir the yeast into the warm water and let it stand for 5 minutes to dissolve.

Add the dissolved yeast, egg, almond extract, and 3 cups (390g) of the flour to the milk mixture and mix vigorously. Add 3 more cups (390g) of flour and mix well.

Turn out onto a slightly floured board, knead for a minute or two, and let rest for 10 minutes. Adding the remaining flour only if the dough is too sticky, resume kneading until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Punch down, knead for a minute or two, and shape into two loaves. Place in two buttered 9×5 inch loaf pans, cover, and let rise until double in bulk again. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake bread for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks.

For Braided Bread: After the dough has risen for the first time, punch it down, knead for a minute or two, and divide it into six equal pieces. Stretch and roll each piece with your hands until you have six long rolls of uniform size. Make two braids with them, pinching the three piece of dough firmly together when you start braiding and again when you finish. Tuck each end underneath the loaf. Place on greased cookie sheets, cover, and allow to rise until double in size. Brush with 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water, and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Bake for only 25 to 30 minutes.

Simple Donburi (Rice Bowl)

donburi (simple)
Donburi literally means a type of bowl, and the dish called donburi is what is served in it! This dish is basically a bowl of rice with some kind of topping – meat, vegetables, etc. Another example of donburi on this site is gyuudon (beef rice bowl). But this version is very simple, quick to put together, and helps me use up what I have around the house. You can serve it alone, with another veggie side dish, or with a bowl of soup.

Ingredients (serves 2)
100 grams (1/4 lb) ground meat – beef, pork, chicken, or a mixture
2 tbsp yakiniku sauce or your favorite meat seasoning sauce
a large handful of leafy greens: spinach, komatsuna, chingensai (bok choy) etc.
2 eggs (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)

Cooked rice for serving

Instructions

If you don’t have cooked rice already, start the rice first. While it’s cooking, make the toppings.

Saute the ground meat in a frying pan until nearly done. Add the yakiniku sauce and continue cooking and stirring until the meat is done and most of the liquid is gone.

Blanch the green vegetables: Put them into a pot of salted boiling water for 60 seconds, then remove to a bowl of ice water. Let cool, then remove the greens and squeeze out the excess water.

Fry eggs, if using. You can use the same frying pan from the meat, if you remove it to another dish. Crack the eggs gently into the pan and cook over medium heat until they reach your preferred level of doneness.

Finally, assemble the dish. Put some cooked rice into two bowls. Divide the cooked greens and arrange them on top of the rice. Next, add the cooked meat. I like to cover or partially cover the greens, so they get some flavor on them. If desired, sprinkle some sesame seeds on the meat. Finally, add the fried egg on top!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsEven though I love to try new recipes as often as possible, sometimes I really just want to eat something homey and familiar, like spaghetti and meatballs. It does take a little time, but it’s worth it for the delicious flavor, and a lot of the time is just simmering, so you can do other stuff while you wait for it to cook.

Ingredients
Meatballs
280g (about 10 oz) ground beef/pork mix
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Sauce (or use your favorite home-made or store-bought sauce!)
400g (14 oz) canned tomato
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Spaghetti for serving, cooked according to box instructions
Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

Instructions

Mix all meatball ingredients well. Form into 1-tbsp balls and roll between your hands to make a neat round shape.

Brown the meatballs in batches in a frying pan and remove to a plate. (They can be frozen at this point.)

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (One trick I use is that if the canned tomatoes are too chunky, use a potato masher or fork to smash them a little.)

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Orzo Veggie Soup

orzo soup2This soup has simple ingredients, but it’s a delicious lunch. It’s a light vegetarian meal that I also enjoy when not feeling well. The original idea was from here.

Ingredients (1-2 servings)
480 mL (2 cups) vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock too, though it won’t be vegetarian)
1/2 cup (uncooked) orzo pasta, or other tiny pasta shape
1 tomato
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp olive oil
1 egg white
1 handful fresh spinach
Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the pasta and cook according to the box directions until done.

Meanwhile, cut up the tomato and add the salt, crushed pepper, and olive oil. Cook briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop until done.

When the orzo is done, stir or whisk quickly while pouring in the egg white. It will cook instantly when it hits the hot broth. Finally, add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Put the tomato into 1 or 2 bowls and pour the orzo soup over. Stir, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Oatmeal Cookie Bars

oatmeal chunk barsThese oatmeal bars are quick and delicious. They’re still cookies, so they’re not exactly health food, but they include oats and nuts and can be made with whole wheat flour. You can customize these with whatever you want to mix in. I have two common variations: chocolate/walnut, and white chocolate/cranberry/walnut.

Ingredients
1 cup flour (all-purpose or a mixture of AP and whole wheat)
3/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup oats (quick-cooking work best for me, but rolled oats are fine too)
85g (6 tbsp) butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
170g (6 oz) chocolate chips or chunks, chopped nuts, and/or dried fruit

Instructions

Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add all dry ingredients and mix to combine. Finally, stir in your chocolate, nuts, and/or fruit.

The batter will be rather thick. Spread it in an 8-inch (21-cm) square pan, and bake at 190C (375 F) for 18-20 minutes.

(This recipe can be doubled and made in a 13×9 inch pan.)

Runza

runzaRunza are made from a slightly sweet, rich bread dough and a filling of beef, onion and cabbage. Although the ingredients are simple, the results are delicious. This recipe does require some time since the bread dough has to rise. However, you can certainly make the filling while the dough is rising. Another reason these are great is because they can be refrigerated or frozen and reheat extremely well.

Ingredients (serves 4)
Dough:
4-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tbsp yeast
1 tsp salt
180mL (3/4 cup) milk
120mL (1/2 cup) water
100g (1/2 cup) shortening
2 eggs

Filling:
450g (1 lb) ground beef or beef/pork mixture
2 onions, chopped
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg

Instructions

Mix 1-3/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the shortening, milk, and water, and microwave or heat on the stove until shortening melts. Let cool slightly and add to the flour. Add eggs and mix well. Add remaining flour (2-3/4 cups) and mix until smooth. Let rise 1 hour.

Meanwhile, saute meat, onions, and cabbage until meat is cooked through. Season with a pinch each of salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg to taste.

Divide dough into 12 equal balls, and roll into squares of about 6 inches (15cm) on a floured surface. Place about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture in the middle of the dough, and fold one corner over to the opposite corner, making a triangle. Use a fork to seal the edges of the dough very well.

Bake at 180C / 350 F for 20 minutes.