homemade ginger ale

homemade ginger ale

Today was the first day of 2013 that I did not wear a coat outside! The temperature went up to 76 degrees. Summer comin’ fe true. So tonight for dinner I made homemade ginger ale to go with the pepperoni pan pizza I made almost-from scratch. I saved time by buying fresh pizza dough from Whole Foods today. The ginger ale recipe, which came from epicurious,  has the freshness and sharpness of ginger. It’s very refreshing and so easy to make.

Homemade Ginger Ale (from epicurious)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Rest time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4-6

1 1/2 cups fresh ginger root
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
about 1 quart chilled unflavored club soda or seltzer

Peel the ginger root with a spoon. Slice it into rounds, cut each round into sticks, then dice the sticks. Put the diced ginger  a small saucepan and cover with 2 cups water. On a low simmer, cook the ginger and water for 45 minutes partially covered. I rested the lid on two wooden chopsticks. Remove the pan from heat. Cover the pot tightly and let the ginger and water steep for 20 minutes.

Pour the ginger and water through a sieve set over a large bowl. Using the back of a spoon, press the liquid out of the ginger. Discard the solids. Return the ginger liquid to the pot. Add the sugar and cook until all the sugar is dissolved, about 1-2 minutes. Cool the syrup then pour it into a glass jar and refrigerate.

When the syrup is chilled, get a tall drinking glass. In it, pour 1/4 cup syrup, 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, and 3/4 cup club soda/seltzer. Mix and add ice cubes. This makes one serving.

soy ginger rice with tofu, edamame, and mixed vegetables

Soy Ginger Rice with Tofu, Edamame, and Mixed Vegetables (adapted from Shape.com)
Tonight is Election Night and it’s a nail-biter, so naturally, I am cooking something vegan! This is a tasty and hearty dish–even my meat lover allows  “it’s all right.” You can use just about any frozen mixed vegetables that you have in the freezer. I had peas and carrots so I used that. And since the ancestor of this dish is fried rice, that’s a sign to use up leftover vegetables too! Don’t be tempted to cook the ginger-garlic-onions in sesame oil. Sesame oil is delicate and is mainly used for flavoring in Chinese cooking, so a little bit goes a long way. 

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4-6


2 cups dry brown basmati rice (rice cup measure)
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth (rice cup measure)
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 square inch of ginger, minced (or more if you love ginger!)
1⁄2 yellow onion, chopped
12-oz package of firm tofu, chopped
10-oz package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1⁄2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 cup chopped peppers (red or green for color)
4 tablespoons organic soy sauce (can substitute tamari)
1⁄4 cup of chopped cilantro
1/4 cup scallion, sliced fine
1 small head of kale, deveined and chopped
1⁄4 cup sunflower seeds, optional
1-2 teaspoons dark sesame oil


Cook brown basmati rice in a rice cooker, using vegetable broth instead of water. When it has finished cooking, it can be left on the stay-warm setting.

Cook’s Note: I’ve always cooked rice the way my mother taught me and it works for rice cookers too. I simply put the rice in the rice cooker liner and fill it with liquid until it comes up to the level of my first finger joint (about 1 inch).

In a large Dutch oven,  heat the canola oil on medium-high heat. Then  add the garlic, ginger, and onion. Sauté for 2 minutes, and then add the tofu, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula so as not to break up the tofu, until browned, about 15-20 minutes. Next, add mixed vegetables, edamame, peppers, soy sauce,  and stir.

Cook’s Note: If you forgot to thaw the frozen vegetables, as I did, just put a small saucepan of water on the stove to boil. Add the frozen vegetable until heated through. Drain and add to the pot!

Once the rice is cooked, add it to the vegetable mixture, turn the heat to low, add salt, pepper, and extra soy sauce or tamari if desired. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons sesame oil and toss gently. Turn off the heat but do not cover, since the heat will cook the vegetables.

Meanwhile, steam the kale and then toss with sunflower seeds, if desired. Divide into four or six portions. Serve the rice with the kale on the side, and scallions and cilantro for garnish.

Cook’s Note: I love the fragrance of coconut oil. So instead of steaming, I stir-fried the kale in a tablespoon of coconut oil until it turned bright green–no more than 30 seconds. Then I seasoned the kale with Fleur de Sel (sea salt) and red chili flakes.

baked tilapia with cilantro, ginger, scallion, and thai chile

This has been a trying week. I am trying out this new “diet” that said eating dessert for breakfast helps you lose weight. Of course, I had to try it. Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too? After suffering an upset tummy from eating a chocolate frosted brownie too early in the morning, I found I wasn’t hungry until the end of the day, when my tummy began growling ferociously, FEED ME. So for dinner, I tried this new recipe called “Asian Inspired Tilapia,” which was such a curiously uninspiring name for a fish dish that has so many flavorful ingredients commonly found in the well-stocked Chinese kitchen. Except for the jalapeño. The jalapeño is for the timid soul. But if you are adventurous, I do recommend the Thai chile pepper instead. It made a huge difference in making this sauce piquant. So I re-christen this recipe–

Baked Tilapia with Cilantro, Scallion, Ginger, and Thai Chile

2 tilapia fillets – about 1 pound
1 Thai chile pepper (jalapeño in the original recipe)
3 scallions or green onions
2 inches peeled sliced ginger
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime (I used half a lemon)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine (I used rice cooking wine)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Sweet Red Pepper, chopped for garnish (Any pepper will do just so long as it’s colorful)
Scallions, chopped for garnish
Extra cilantro, to garnish
1 package/bag Mixed Baby Salad Greens

Heat the oven to 475F. Pat the fish dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in a glass baking dish.

Cook’s note: It doesn’t need salt and pepper, so I left it out. The “dressing” or sauce is salty, sour, and spicy enough.

Add jalapeno pepper, green onion, chopped ginger, and cilantro into small food processor and pulse until combined. Add the mixture to a small bowl with the fresh lime juice or lemon juice, soy sauce, wine, and sesame oil. Mix until blended.

Pour the sauce over the fish, pressing the solid ingredients down into the fish a bit. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is cooked through.

Divide the salad greens between two plates. Remove the tilapia with a spatula and place half on top of the greens on each plate. Drizzle the fish with the marinade left in the pan. Garnish with chopped red pepper, cilantro and green onion.

Serve with warm, crusty bread (or steamed white rice, if you are a traditionalist). I served this fish with roasted vegetables.

buckwheat noodles with beef and sweet ginger scallion sauce

Okay, okay, it’s not vegetarian! That is beef sitting on top of the noodles.

Buckwheat noodles, also called soba, are delicious, as I discovered last week when I added them to the Thai beef soup kao lao. Since I had an extra packet, I decided to try this recipe from a1dente.wordpress.com. I made two tiny adjustments. Instead of chili oil, I substituted vegetable oil and added 1/4 teaspoon chili paste, and I used maple syrup instead of honey.

I also made up my own beef marinade, but you can substitute soy sauce or teriyaki sauce for my marinade, and you can use chicken instead of beef, and firm tofu instead of any kind of meat at all. I spooned the noodles on top of chopped romaine lettuce. It’s delicious, trust me!

Buckwheat Noodles (Soba) with Beef and Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce

8-9 oz. dry soba/buckwheat noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cup scallions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons chili oil (I used 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1/4 teaspoon chili paste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (I used organic maple syrup)
Coarse salt
Fresh ground black pepper

2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

For meat lovers:
1 lb beef sirloin steak sliced into 3 inch strips across the grain
1 tablespoon hoi sin sauce
1 tablespoon soy-ginger sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  1. Mix all the scallions, ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and honey in a bowl. Set it aside for 10 -15 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  2. For Meat Lovers: Skip this step if you want the vegetarian version. Season the steak strips with hoi sin and soy-ginger sauces and the cornstarch. Chinese cooks often use cornstarch as a binder and thickener. According to America’s Test Kitchen, a little cornstarch seals the marinade to the meat during cooking. Chinese cooks have known this all along! Let sit 10-15 minutes while the noodle sauce flavors are developing. Heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium high heat and stir fry the beef until it just turns brown. Even though a little red streaks remain, stop. Do not overcook the beef.
  3. Boil the soba noodles per the package’s instructions and drain. Toss the noodles with the sauce and sesame seeds. Serve noodles hot on a bed of romaine lettuce. Spoon beef strips on top of noodles.

grilled ginger-lime beef

Not usually a fan of beef, I find it tough rather than tender. This is another recipe from the Cooking Light Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie cookbook that I reviewed last week.  I changed the method from stir fry to grill  because the steaks were so thin I was afraid of overcooking them. I only seared them 30 seconds in the George Foreman grill. And because I was afraid they’d cool and toughen, I served them right away on a bed of rice vermicelli. As a stir-fry, this dish would have been 197 calories for a 2/3 cup serving of beef.

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)
1 ½ teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces boneless sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
½ cup diagonally cut green onions, optional
4 lime wedges, optional
Cellophane noodles or vermicelli

1. Combine sugar, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, pepper, and oil in a small bowl. Stir well with a whisk.
2. Heat half a small saucepan with water. When it is boiling turn off the heat and put in two bundles of vermicelli. Let stand 10 minutes or until soft and transparent. Drain well and set aside.
3. Heat the grill. Add steak; cook 30 seconds or until browned. Remove from heat. Slice and drizzle evenly with ginger-lime mixture. Garnish with green onions and lime wedges, if desired. Serve on a bed of drained cooked cellophane noodles or vermicelli.

cooking in a “new” old kitchen: coconut-ginger chicken

We moved. Uptown. To an apartment in a pre-war building with a unique shotgun layout.

The new kitchen is bigger. Three-dimensional, actually. I’m rusty at cooking in a kitchen that has three walls. By comparison, the Teeny Tiny Kitchen was a wall. Here, with the reorganization of the cupboards, I have to think–now, where did I put the…? As I figure out this new layout, I’ve started trying out new recipes again, like this one.

This recipe for coconut-ginger chicken came from this week’s New York Times Sunday magazine. The chicken came out too bland for my taste, even though I added a tablespoon of garlic to the original recipe. The veggie dishes I made up with what I had on hand–which wasn’t too hard to do, actually, if you abide by the basic rule of stir-fry. Prepare Everything For Cooking. That’s my mis en place by the way, in the small picture beneath the stir-fried vegetables on the left.

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Coconut-Ginger Chicken

  • In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast ¼ cup unsweetened coconut, about 10 minutes until golden brown. Stir occasionally. Set aside in a small plate and do not clean the pan.

Cook’s note: I used flaked coconut but I wonder if shredded coconut with larger strips wouldn’t work as well. The flaked coconut actually came out quite well in appearance, a pale golden brown that adhered to the top of the chicken like bread crumbs.

  • Add ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk, ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the chicken in the pan. When the liquid boils, lower heat to simmer; cover and cook chicken for 10-15 minutes or until tender and just cooked through. On an instant read thermometer, the temperature of the thickest part of the chicken should read 155˚F. Test the chicken after 10 minutes then cook for 3-5 additional minutes if not up to temperature.
  • Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.
  • Turn heat to high and boil the mixture until it is reduced by half; it should be fairly thick. Lower heat and return the chicken to the pan to reheat and coat with sauce.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with reserved toasted coconut and chopped fresh cilantro and scallion, if desired.

Jamaican mint-ginger tea

When I was a girl in Jamaica, my mother used to make this tea. I had forgotten how good it is because it’s not the same as a peppermint tea, which I abhor. I had a bunch of mint sitting in the fridge. After chiffonading a few of the leaves for a tzatziki sauce I was left with the problem of what to do with the rest. Solution: mint-ginger tea!

2 cups fresh mint leaves with stems, washed and picked over
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
4 cups boiling water
sugar, optional

I cut off the brown tips on the leaves and trimmed the stems. Then I put the mint and ginger in a one-quart saucepan. After pouring boiling water all over the leaves and ginger, I covered the pan and heated it over medium high heat.  When it came to a boil, I turned off the heat. I strained the tea into a tea pot.  You can sweeten it to taste if you wish. The leaves and ginger can be used again. Not sure how many times they can be re-used but I got two pots of tea out of them!

Jamaican Mint-Ginger Tea

Ginger-Steamed Fish with Troy’s Hana Style Sauce

I’m not sure who Troy is.

I tried this recipe from Eating Well because it only has 310 calories per 5-oz. serving of fish fillet. Anyway, I left my steamer in Bangkok and I was too lazy to improvise one so I baked the fish with a quarter cup of water in the pan. I think that could be increased to half cup because the edges of the fillets were a bit dry. The sauce itself turned out to be slightly bitter tasting which AJ didn’t mind but it bothered me. If it bothers you add a pinch of sugar to the sauce. Or sugar substitute if you’re watching calories like I am.

6 5-oz white fish fillets
6 1/4 inch slices peeled fresh ginger

1/4 cup minced fresh peeled ginger
1/4 cup minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2-3 minced scallion for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (recommended)

Place the ginger slices on top of the fish and steam. About 7 minutes per inch thickness of the fillet. I baked the fillets in a baking dish filled with 1/4 cup water (recommend 1/2 cup) in a 350˚F oven for half an hour.

Meanwhile, in a food processor work bowl, put the ginger and garlic and process until fine. Remove to a small bowl and add the sesame seeds. In a large skillet, heat the canola or grape seed oil and fry the ginger mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sesame oil and heat, stirring. Add the soy sauce. Taste the sauce. If it’s bitter, add a pinch of sugar.

Discard the ginger slices on the fish fillets. Spread the sauce on top of the fish fillets. Sprinkle tops with scallion and cilantro, if using.

Chinese New Year Feast

Chinese New Year’s Eve is traditionally the night in our family when we would get together to eat poh pia, a kind of Chinese taco, to welcome this Year of the Rabbit. But this Chinese New Year, the family is scattered all over,  in Bangkok, Chicago, and New York. Here in New York, AJ and I had a low-key celebration:

  • Ginger-Dijon Glazed Pork Tenderloin
  • Surprise South Beach Mashed Potato (Not! It’s cauliflower.)
  • Chocolate Mousse

You should know that I begin cooking with dessert! That’s because it needs to be chilled. AJ liked this so much he said it reminds him of a Wendy’s frosty. I’m glad because I altered this recipe. This recipe is based on the Cocoa-Nut Mousse recipe in South Beach Diet Supercharged but I left out the coconut. I’m not a fan of desiccated coconut. 

Chocolate Mousse

To make this re-named Chocolate Mousse, you will need

4 cups part skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar substitute
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup light or fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed
4 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds, toasted, for the topping (optional)

Put the ricotta cheese in a large bowl and whip until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the cocoa, sugar, and extracts. Combine until just blended. Fold in the thawed whipped topping. Chill at least 2 hours. If desired, serve with toasted almonds sprinkled on top.

Now the main course: Ginger-Dijon Glazed Pork Tenderloin (adapted from South Beach Diet Supercharged). I made alterations to the recipe because I like spices and I like garlic. You can never have too much garlic.

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon reduced fat sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh ginger (increase from 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (increase from 1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silver
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered (increase from 1 garlic clove)
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Prepare to bake. Preheat oven 450˚F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Make the Ginger-Dijon Glaze. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, sour cream, ginger, thyme, and salt. Set aside.

Prepare the pork tenderloin. Make 1/4 inch slits in the tenderloin about 1 inch apart and insert a sliver of garlic in each slit. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on top.

Sear and bake the tenderloin. Heat a grill  and sear the tenderloin until it is brown on all sides. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon the reserved glaze all over the meat. Put the pan to bake on the middle rack about 30 minutes.

Serve. Remove the tenderloin and pan from the oven. Tent with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with horseradish sauce, mashed cauliflower, and a simple salad. The pork is so juicy and tender. Mmm–mm!

South Beach Surprise Mashed “Potato”

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
Two tablespoons I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (I used real unsalted butter)
Two tablespoons non fat milk
Salt and pepper

Put a pot of water on to boil. Boil the cauliflower 6-8 minutes or until tender. Drain. In a food processor, process cauliflower and garlic until fine. Add milk and butter. You may need to add more or less depending on your preference. Add salt and pepper to taste.