Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Accidental Awesomeness - Tuna and Quinoa Cakes

As some of you know, I've been bachelorette-ing it up here in Bigfork while I music direct shows for the Bigfork Summer Playhouse. It's tough being away from Caenaan, but we make it work. One of the most difficult parts for me is boredom, and with that comes laziness. I often find myself not wanting to do anything, and therefore I make bad decisions about what I eat. It is hard to get the motivation to cook for one at home, but up here it is even harder, as I am away from my own kitchen and my stocked pantry. Making dinner is sometimes frustrating, because I am missing common pantry items and kitchen tools (like a grater... Found that out tonight).

However, I'm always up for a challenge. When I'm here in Bigfork, making a tasty dinner sometimes feels like I'm on an episode of "Chopped" or the episode of "Top Chef" where they have to make a great dish using only items they find in a vending machine. My fridge consists of beer (SO important!), lunch meat, bread, mayo, mustard, relish, yogurt, milk, cheese and a few vegetables thrown in so I can feel healthy. My pantry has an array of nuts and dried fruits that I used to make trail mix, some granola bars, cereal, tuna, coffee and quinoa. That's it. Add that to the spice cabinet, which includes a bunch of plain ol' herbs, salt, pepper, flour and oil (most of which are ancient and some of which are unusable).

Tonight, I went for a run/walk and when I was done, the last thing I wanted to do was cook for myself. But I also felt bad going out to eat, when I had food at home and would inevitably get a burger and fries if I went somewhere. So I forced myself to head back to the Plastic Palace (the trailer that the directors live in) and rummage around for some food. I thought of making a turkey sandwich or a PB&J, but that all sounded so boring. So I put on my thinking cap and came up with these tuna and quinoa cakes. They turned out great, and were quick and cheap. I impress myself sometimes.

Tuna Quinoa Cakes

1 can tuna, drained
3/4 cup cooked quinoa (be sure to rinse it before cooking or it will be bitter)
1-2 T Mayo
1 T Mustard
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2-3 T canned green chiles
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste
2 T cornstarch or 1 egg, beaten
Flour for dredging
Light oil for frying

Mix all ingredients except flour and oil in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle some flour into a shallow dish or plate and season with salt and pepper. Form tuna mixture into medium sized patties and dredge in flour mixture. Pan fry in a few tablespoons of oil over medium heat. For crispier patties, flatten them in the pan with your spatula. Fry until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Drain on paper towels and enjoy with ketchup or tartar sauce.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ShoutOut: Feeding the Dragon

Ooh, look... sexy dumplings
House of Hatfield has been on multiple hiatus's (hiat-i? No.) for the past few months. Mainly because I hate dealing with the blogger interface. Well, they have updated their software on the 'net as well as adding a mobile app! So now I can write blog posts during rehearsal... I mean. After rehearsal. This is the maiden voyage on the mobile app, so we'll see how it goes! Hopefully you will hear a lot more from me in the coming weeks. (Update: Mobile blogger app not so good... yes, I can blog. But I can't put pictures where I want them. Or add captions. Or do any formatting whatsoever. Grr.)

My first order of business is to give a MAJOR shout out to my cousins, Mary-Kate and Nate Tate. Aside from having rhyming names, they're two of the coolest people I've met and their cookbook, Feeding the Dragon, has transformed my kitchen in the past few months. Their super awesome Chinese cuisine is so easy but authentic. And their book is beautifully written and photographed. I love sitting down with it and just flipping to a section, drooling over the food and laughing at the stories of their travels through China. I'm so glad that my family is awesome... Check out their blog/website for all the info on their book. Then buy the book. Then prepare to have your cooking transformed and be inspired well beyond the kitchen.

My favorite part about Feeding the Dragon so far has been learning to make dough for dumplings and noodles. There are no leaveners, and most of the dough consists of flour and water. You can fill dumplings with anything you want, from pork to potatoes. The best part is that they are SO CHEAP! I recently made 50 potstickers for $4. Shyeah. Then I froze them and can eat them whenever I want. Take THAT, Costco.

Perfect pleats
Now, I would hand out the recipe here, but then you might not buy the book! Head over to feedingthedragon.com and check out some of the recipes they have posted there if you are skeptical. Then buy the book.

Pretty little potstickers, all in a row
Since I simply can't leave you hanging, though, here is an insider tip on how to take your Chinese dining to the next level, whether you are eating greasy takeout (still delicious), expensive potstickers from the grocery store (silly), or becoming a master of Asian cuisine in your own kitchen. Buy Koon Chun black vinegar. It is, hands down, the best Asian sauce I have ever come across. You can pour it on noodles or vegetables, dip dumplings in it, use it as salad dressing, drink it... It is THAT good. This ain't no soy sauce, folks. You can slather it on your sushi and not feel guilty because there is a minuscule amount of sodium - 15 mg or 1% DV per serving. Compare that to a whopping 38% DV from ONE TABLESPOON of soy sauce... And be honest with yourself, when have you EVER eaten just one tablespoon of anything? You can buy Koon Chun black vinegar in Asian specialty stores. We tried other brands, and one tasted like burnt molasses. Not good. Koon Chun is the way to go.

If you are from Missoula, go check out "A Shot of International Foods" in the Paxson Plaza behind the mall. It's a fun little store. They have tons of dry goods and a deli case with sausages, cheese from around the world and other specialties from all over. My mom and I bought the last bottle of black vinegar, but since they are a small specialty store, they will order more if there is a demand. Please! I don't want to travel to Canada every time I want black vinegar. It's either that, or buy it for $12 a bottle on Amazon... Not cool.