Rei's Random Recipes

And crazy/lazy culinary ideas

As far as I know, the following recipes (plus the wine hack) are originals, the result of culinary experimentation and imitation. There's probably rather similar stuff out there somewhere. The other ideas in here are just ideas, but maybe they'll be helpful or inspire something.

Spicy Three-Pepper Sesame Beef

Summary: Beef cooked in fragrant roasted sesame oil and spicy Szechuan sauce, with crisp sweet bell peppers and hot white rice

You'll need:

Preparation: Start the rice (I hope you know how to make rice --- put 1.5 fluid cups of water in for each dry cup of rice in a lidded pot, heat to a spitting boil, and then immediately reduce to lowest heat setting for 15 - 20 minutes). Cut up the peppers into bite-size pieces and put them aside. Next, cut up the thin sliced meat into bite-size strips. Take a bowl. Put into said bowl a couple tablespoonfuls of Szechuan sauce and a spoonful of black bean sauce (note: Szechuan sauce is rather hot/spicy; go easy if you think you can't handle it). Take the meat and mix it with the stuff in the bowl, until the meat is coated.

Cooking: In a wok or fry pan, heat several tablespoons' worth of sesame oil til hot. (Optional: heat some sesame seeds in the hot oil.) Throw in the meat. Cook (stir-fry) until meat is cooked (a couple minutes). Add the peppers and stir-fry for a little while (a couple more minutes at most; how crunchy you want your peppers is up to you, but we like ours rather crunchy).

Optional: Don't cook the peppers; add them raw on the plate. Raw peppers make reheating leftovers much nicer, because you don't reheat the peppers -- just keep them separate, fresh and cold, until use. Reheated peppers get really mushy.

Serve hot meat and pepper stuff over nice hot rice. Yum. 2 or 3 servings.

Spinach-chicken salad

Summary: Cubed chicken on a tender raw spinach bed, with red wine and vinegar dressing.

You'll need:

Preparation: Wash spinach carefully; set aside. Cut up the chicken into bite-size pieces.

Cooking: Heat some cooking oil in a fry pan, and throw on the chicken when it's hot. As it cooks, splash on the salad dressing onto the chicken until it's colored pink. When chicken is cooked thoroughly, place it on the clean spinach and pour more dressing over top to taste. Makes 2 or more servings.

Honey-Worcestershire Chicken

Summary: Sweet (honey), tangy (Worcestershire sauce) chicken

This was a big hit with my aunt from Japan....

You'll need:


Optional: Beat the raw chicken breast with one of those metal cooking mallet-thingies. Chicken breast that is pounded down will cook up very soft and tender.

Cooking: Heat oil in pan til hot. (Optional: throw in slices of garlic). Throw on the chicken; immediately sprinkle some sauce on it. As it cooks, spoon some honey over it too. Yes, it's messy, and yes, it burns to the pan, but the more honey or sugar you can get on, the tastier. Add more Worcestershire sauce, too, until the chicken looks like it's coated in barbeque sauce. Once chicken is thoroughly cooked (make sure it's no longer pink on the inside), serve immediately. Steamed veggies and maybe mashed potatoes go nicely.


Summary: dangerous stuff

Actually, given the ingredients, this tea is probably quite good for your health. Drink it when you're sick (if you're sick, you won't be able to smell the garlic, and you likely won't have to meet people who'll mind the garlic smell, either). You'll need:

Warning: don't drink this on a completely empty stomach. Though ginger and garlic are good for you, they do irritate the stomach lining.

Start the water on its way to boiling. Grind/grate up the knob (small knob; more or less depending on how much fresh ginger you can tolerate). Grind/grate up the small clove (less if you aren't used to fresh garlic). Put both in a mug. Add about a 1/2 teaspoonful of lemon juice to the mush. Shake liberal quantities of the cinnamon into the mug. Grind some black pepper over the mush, to taste. Add a spoonful or two of honey. Drop in the astragalus stick, if you have one. Then fill the mug with hot water. Let cool just a bit, and sip, stirring frequently. Feel your nasal passages open up....!

If the ingredients look deadly to you, you probably don't want to try this tea full strength. Though garlic powder is supposedly worthless medicinally, you may substitute for the fresh garlic a dash of garlic powder (the flavor helps balance the ginger). Also, reduce the fresh ginger to whatever quantity looks the least deadly to you. And remember, this recipe is assuming a large mug, not a small one!

Chicken Soup Recipes and Secrets

Summary: tips for making rich, flavorful chicken soups

Ever tried the joe-average chicken soup recipe? It goes something like:

"Take chicken carcass (leftover from a roast, or whatever). Put in pot; cover with water. Add 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1 cut onion. Simmer gently 3 hours. Strain. Add salt to taste. (Now add any veggies/meat you want to keep.) Serve."

I tried it. Over and over. With chicken feet. Without chicken feet. With bay leaves and cumin and rosemary and oregano and garlic and ... let's just say the soup usually came out OK, but missing a few crucial flavor notes somewhere.

Well, it took a few years, but I finally found a few ways to make soup that actually tastes good enough that MSG or magic Frankenmuth Zehnder's Seasoning weren't necessary. Turkey works with these, too. Here we go:

Method 1: Traditional(?) Chicken Soup

Take the same basic soup recipe as above. You need:

The steps:

  1. If using the remnants of a baked whole chicken, strip the bones of any usable meat, hopefully at least 1/3 of the chicken's total (don't forget the meat hidden on the bird's back). Set aside the meat in the fridge; if you don't have enough, you'll have to acquire some meat separately. Anyway:
  2. Put chicken carcass/chicken bits/bones in pot.
  3. Cover with cold water.
  4. Add veggies: plenty of celery (a couple stalks; make sure they're not too bitter), and at least half an onion. Don't overdo the carrots (no more than 2 unless you want sweet soup).
  5. New key tip, Fall 2002 To get the full benefit of the carcass and richest flavor, put in a teaspoonful or three of vinegar (some places recommend up to 2 tablespoons). The acid leaches flavor and minerals and nutrients out of the bones and carcass (remember the old soften-bones-in-vinegar (or egg shells) magic trick?). These nutrients are the same stuff sold in expensive supplements to help your joints! Also add a couple teaspoons of salt - enough to make the broth fairly salty. This vinegar and salt treatment even seems to get rid of the flavor problem I usually have with simmering bones for more than 3 hours. And you won't taste the vinegar, either.
  6. The other magic ingredient is (and I think I initially read this someplace):
    • dried Cilantro/Chinese Parsley
    • OR, parsley
    • (I wonder if coriander (cilantro seed) would work?)
    • plus some celery seed (not as critical)
    The trick is to dump a couple (or more?) tablespoons of dried cilantro (or use fresh cilantro) into the simmering broth (use parsley only if necessary). Then add any other seasonings, like cumin, celery seed, "Italian seasonings" (rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil), garlic (I sometimes use 4 - 5 cut up/mushed cloves), bay leaf. Add some pepper, and don't forget the salt (add in small increments). Don't use dill, no matter how good it tastes on roast chicken.
  7. Simmer for 1 - 2 hours. Signs that the soup is ready for straining: most of the chicken bones have separated from each other; the carcass is flexible and is largely collapsed or in pieces; larger bones are clean and have nothing sticking to them any more. Any carrots will mush easily with a spoon. And onions ... what onions? They've dissolved.
  8. When ready, strain broth (I run it through a colander). Discard the bones and pieces of very deceased vegetables (feed your garden soil).
  9. Now, you have a choice: either skim off the chicken fat/oil, or stick broth in fridge overnight, let the soup harden, and skim off the hardened fat from the wiggly gelatinous soup. Anyway, now assume you have the de-fatted, skimmed, strained broth simmering on the stove:
  10. Add some fresh small-cut carrots (no more than 1 or 2 if you already used some in the broth), onions and celery.
  11. Throw in leftover chicken meat.
  12. Add extra spices (sure, throw in more cilantro) for flavor and appearance.
  13. Let everything cook til soft (the chicken meat should be falling apart in fibers). Make sure the salt is OK.

OK, now serve! 4 - 6 servings. Good stuff.

Method 2: Japanese Style Chicken Soup

Not so much a method, as a note. To make Japanese-style broth, the main ingredients are: cooked chicken carcass, fresh ginger, and green onions/scallions (and don't forget the salt). Don't let this one boil, or it ceases to be pristinely clear. Add things like cooked chicken, bits of fried tofu, and other such things to this soup.

Method 3: Sweet Fall Harvest Chicken Soup

Use up those holiday "wastes" in soup!

Use that turkey or chicken carcass. And those apple leavings! Ever have too many friggin' apples, apple skins, etc., from someone's experiment with apple-picking and making apple pies? Here's a use for 'em. Plus, get rid of surplus fall tomatoes (even indoor-ripened pink rocks), carrots, and the like.

  • Use Method 1 from above, except add in the initial simmer phase:

    Also, other things: Let simmer, etc.

    Now, in the final cooking phase (after straining, skimming, etc.), put in:

    Simmer together until everything is soft and friendly with each other (don't forget your salt). About fifteen minutes before serving, add:

    Heat through, serve, eat, etc.. Hey, this stuff is pretty good, though pretty sweet. It works out well. It also makes a great soup base for use with making Japanese-style curry.

    Other Chicken Soup Tips

    Simple Beef Stew

    First, clean and then cut/chop your vegetables. Potatoes should be cut into bite-sized large chunks (I clean them but don't peel them). Important: cut ONLY HALF your onions into small pieces. In other words, if you have 4 onions, chop up 2 of them. Leave the other 2 onions for later.

    The beef preparation is a very important step. First off, it needs to be fresh stew beef. If your beef is turning brown from age around the edges, I suggest cutting off the brown portions and getting rid of them -- the browning often indicates rancidity, and rancidity is bad for your health (and tastes bad too). Next, trim off the white membranes and any of the hard, translucent rubbery stuff that tend to occur in meat -- the stuff that goes "boing!" if you chew on it. Better to get it out now than have it ruin your meal later; time spent now will greatly increase enjoyment later. The trimmings are great stuff to fry up and feed your dog. Lastly, cut the beef into bite-sized pieces against the grain. The long muscle fibers are chewy, so cutting against the grain will shorten the maximum fiber length and help make the beefy mouthfuls more tender. It's nice to keep the maximum thickness 1/2 inch or less.

    OK, next: sprinkle flour over the meat until it's fairly evenly coated (or dredge the meat in flour). Now, pour a thin layer of cooking oil into the pot. Heat the oil on medium to medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles nicely, then add the beef. Stir the beef around and let it brown on the outside. The flour should dissolve into the oil. Once all of the flour has dissolved and the meat has gotten some nice browned corners and sides, add the chopped onions and garlic and let it all cook together for several minutes. I like adding some salt and pepper at this stage, to the point where the meat starts tasting like it could be its own side dish.

    Now that everything's all happily cooking together, throw in all the chopped veggies and potatoes (except for the reserved onions). Add just enough water to cover, and stir all the stuff around (but keep the newly added veggies below the water surface). Now, let things come to a gentle boil. Add your rosemary and generous dashes of herbs and spices (say, a tablespoon of "Italian seasonings") and the bay leaf. Adjust the heat down so it's just barely simmering, and let sit like that for about forty-five minutes. If you put in a bit too much water, leave the pot uncovered to let it boil down; otherwise, cover the pot (and be sure to bring down the heat to the minimum needed for simmering -- a closed pot requires less heat).

    At the forty-five minute mark, take the reserve onions. (The reserve onions are a Secret Technique to get yummy onion chunks in your final product.) Cut them in half through their middles. Take the two halves and lay them flat, then cut those through the centers to make six "pie wedges" each (or four if they're small onions). Add them to the stew, mix them in; now's the time to add a quick "glug" of wine, too. Let the stew simmer on for another fifteen minutes. Then adjust the seasonings, make sure the potatoes are done, REMOVE BAY LEAF, and serve!

    Note: You can also add frozen vegetable mixes (peas, corn, carrots) to this stew near the end - give it time to cook to desired tenderness.

    This is really quite tasty with a dollop of sour cream added per bowl....

    If you double the quantities, you get enough leftovers for a few days.

    Note also: Instead of water, I like to use stock made from various bones. See the chicken soup section.

    Hearty and (Relatively) Healthy Instant Ramen

    As a kid growing up in a Japanese-American household, I got many a lunch that was nutritious and hearty -- and based on instant ramen. Yes, really. I make my own version now. It's loaded with vegetables, has protein, and is drained of some of the excess fat and starch that is associated with instant ramen. There's still hydrogenated oil and lots of salt, but this might be a fast way for, say, a starving college student to make a decent meal.

    Thanks to my ramen upbringing, I've never considered just a plain bowl of instant ramen to be an acceptable meal. It's not healthy, in any case -- just starch, fat, and salt. Yuck.

    So, here's my intant ramen serving suggestion. You'll need:

    You'll need two pots, or one pot and a teakettle, for fast cooking. One batch of boiling water is for cooking the noodles; the other is for the veggies -- heating the water in parallel is faster than doing it in series. In other words, you can do this with just one batch of hot water at a time, but it takes longer because you have to wait for the water to boil again.

    Vegetable preparation: Cut napa or Chinese cabbage into bite-sized pieces, by chopping roughly 1"-1.5" apart across the leaf. Chop scallions into thin rings -- how much thinner than about 1cm or 0.5 cm thin is up to you. Broccoli is non-canonical, but I do use them -- I just cut off a few florets and use those. Any other veggies, except for snow peas, should be cut into small pieces or thin slices so they cook quickly. (Carrots should be cut diagonally and extremely thinly, if you do use them.) Set aside prepared vegetables and cook the noodles:

    Noodle pot: Heat at LEAST the amount of water recommended for the total number of ramen packages, but this can be guesstimated if you know what you're doing. (Start the second pot of water/teakettle now too!) When boiling, add noodles. Cook until the noodles are tender and the water has turned whitish from the starch and fat. Now, drain off the water. Easy way: add cold water to the pot from the tap. The noodles tend to sink now. Drain water off, holding noodles back with chopsticks. Rinse in cold water. Divide drained noodles among serving-sizes into large bowls (chopsticks help). Do NOT put veggies into the veggie pot until this is done.

    Veggie pot: Re-using the noodle pot, after a rinse, makes for fewer pots to wash! Add boiling water from the second pot or teakettle. Use about the amount of water recommended for the total number of ramen packages (use a bit less if you like your soup more concentrated). Once boiling, add veggies (save delicate vegetables, like snow peas and scallions, for last; if you use broccoli or carrots, put them in first and wait a half minute before adding others). This is also where to add any frozen naruto slices. Once veggies have wilted or gotten to the desired state of done-ness, add flavor packet(s) and stir thoroughly. Immediately remove from heat. Pour veggies and nutrient-rich broth over the noodles in their bowls, dividing equally.

    To each bowl, add sliced cooked meat or lunchmeat; add also the optional boiled egg, cut lengthwise in two. Try adding 2-3 drops roasted sesame oil and a bit of white pepper for seasoning.

    To save leftovers, separate noodles from vegetable broth. Store both in fridge separately.

    Other ideas:

    Lazy Person's Beef Casserole

    This is loosely based on a spicy Southwestern style casserole dish my mother found. But much, much simpler. Requires some baking.

    Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Pour a few tablespoons of cooking oil into a fry pan. Add ground beef and brown it on the stove. (Suggest adding 1 tablespoon Italian seasonings at this stage.) Drain off fat. Next, return pan to stove. Add the entire can of crushed tomatoes. Add the entire can of olives, INCLUDING liquid. Add the rice. Add the chili powder. (Suggest adding celery seed, paprika, onion powder, etc.; if you are being non-lazy, add the chopped vegetables instead.) Heat, stirring, til hot. Next, pour the stuff into an oven-safe non-metallic baking dish. Cover if possible. Bake for 40 minutes. Good with grated cheese on top; also try with Tabasco.

    (Hint: normally you'd add the Southeastern trio of diced bell peppers, onions, and celery to this, but we're being lazy and not chopping anything. To compensate for their lack, paprika covers for the peppers, celery seed for the celery, and onion powder for the onion.)

    Lazy Person's Bean Casserole

    This is a vegetarian version of the above Southwestern style beef casserole. It's even easier because no stove-top cooking is involved.

    Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. In large oven-proof non-metallic baking dish, pour in the entire can of crushed tomatoes. Add the entire can of olives, INCLUDING liquid. Add the rice. Add the chili powder. (Suggest adding celery seed, paprika, onion powder, etc.; if you are being non-lazy, this is where you add the chopped vegetables.) Mix thoroughly. Either drizzle cooking oil over the top, or cover with aluminum foil (if you don't mind aluminum) or other oven-safe covering. Bake for 60 minutes (20 more minutes than with the beef version because these are going into the oven "cold"). Good with grated Parmesan cheese on top; also try adding Tabasco.

    (Hint: normally you'd add the Southeastern trio of diced bell peppers, onions, and celery to this, but we're being lazy and not chopping anything. To compensate for their lack, paprika covers for the peppers, celery seed for the celery, and onion powder for the onion.)

    Tasty Olive Oil Ground Beef

    Maybe I'm the only person who loves the flavor of olive oil and beef...? Anyway, I was happy to discover that ground beef tastes very nice without lots of tomato sauce, chili powder, cheese, or other coverings. Strange, eh?

    Chop up broccoli into very small pieces (about a centimeter to a side). Chop up onion to about the same size. Next, brown the beef in a thin coat of olive oil in a fry pan. Drain off excess fat. Now, add onion and broccoli. I suggest using at least a half tablespoon of Italian seasoning, plus plenty of pepper, and salt to taste. When everything is hot, take off stove. Drizzle with extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil. Serve on rice or bread. It's not fancy, but the simple flavors mingle very well, and you can really appreciate the flavor of olive oil and beef.

    Easy Cheesy Tomato Pasta

    Cook pasta per package directions. Spread cooked past into an oven-safe non-metallic baking dish. Add the jar of spaghetti sauce. Add the bag of shredded cheese. Add the can of drained olives if desired. After mixing, drizzle olive oil on top if desired. Bake in a 350 (F) oven for approximately 20 minutes or until cheese has melted. (Note: Do NOT let this dry out in the oven... big mistake.)

    This stuff combines the tart zest of spaghestti sauce with the gooey salty goodness of melted cheese, and is "crackalicious" and easy to make. It is technically vegetarian. However, it violates both the low-carb and the low-fat diets like crazy, so go easy if you need to.

    P.S. After having a friend's VERY tasty tortilla chip dip, I might try adding CREAM CHEESE to this!

    Pseudo Mabo Dofu

    This version of Mabo Tofu/Mapo Tofu is based almost wholly on "Western" ingredients (except for the tofu and soy sauce), is not by default spicy (though this flaw can be easily remedied), and moreover doesn't require any special Chinese sauces (although really a good dollop of Black Bean sauce, oyster sauce, and/or other flavorful Chinese sauce is a good idea...).

    Brown ground beef in thin layer of cooking oil; drain off fat. Add ginger and garlic to the beef and let cook for a while. Then add all the liquids, from beef broth, soy sauce, vinegar, to the cornstarch solution (add last). Add the diced tofu. Let simmer up to five minutes, stirring frequently to distribute the cornstarch thickener, and then add the scallions. Heat until scallions are tender, and then serve on freshly cooked white rice. Also not bad on bread.

    Vegetarians can skip the meat and replace the beef broth with vegetable broth.

    My preference calls for addition of at least a tablespoon of hot chile oil, a liberal sprinkling of white pepper, another tablespoon of vinegar, and a good splash of Szechuan sauce, oyster sauce, and a spoon of black bean sauce. Hedonism.

    The Pleasures of White Rice

    If ever one gets used to Japanese food, one really gets to know the pleasures of hot white rice. Although arguably it's not exactly healthy compared to, say, brown rice or whole wheat or whole grains in general, it has a culinary appeal that's refreshing. Almost anything salty tastes good served in small quantity with a bowl of hot white rice. (Sushi does not count because the rice is painstakingly seasoned.)

    Many Asian cultures use hot rice as a backdrop for their foods. The Japanese seem to treat rice as a central player; in fact a number of their rice "dishes" are probably 90% rice, 10% anything else. I suspect this was driven in part by poverty. You can see that sad history in "tea rice" and "miso rice." As a note, though, for a long time millet was the staple of poor farmers, who had to tithe away all their rice or something like that. When they did have rice, white rice was for the rich, brown (healther, ironically) for the poor.

    Vita-Mix Ideas

    In the relatively short time I've had a Vita-Mix (the new "TNC" version), I've found some nice, easy combos and have had some successes and failures.

    (Quick note on the Vita-Mix: It's expensive but extremely powerful and durable. I know one person who kept ruining blenders until he heard about ours and got a Vita-Mix.)

    Quick Tomato Garnish

    Another use of "too many tomatoes" syndrome (aside from the soup idea, above) is a quick vaguely Italian-esque tomato salad.

    Easy: just chop the tomatoes (peel if necessary) into bite-sized pieces, drizzle on olive oil, sprinkle on the cheese and a few shakes of garlic powder (to taste), and add torn up bits of basil leaves. Makes eating even somewhat bland tomatoes a lot nicer!

    Tomato Sauce Tip: You can make tomato sauce from normal, non-paste tomatoes, though you will need more per unit volume final sauce. After peeling, dice or blend the tomatoes and simmer for a while until it's looking like sauce. Let it simmer peacefully for a bit, and then gently pour off/skim off about 1-2 cups of the thinnest liquid from the top, preserving the thicker stuff that tends to settle. The thin liquid can be drunk like tomato juice or discarded or used as soup stock (add cream for instant cream of tomato soup!). The thick stuff that remains is a reasonably nice tomato sauce base. Pouring off the thin liquid reduces or eliminates the need to boil off most of the water content.

    Make Your Own "Hack" Wine

    This "hack" makes several servings of "homemade wine" in about a month without any of the hassle of sterilizing, getting air locks, special containers, etc.. It also allows one to experiment with all sorts of different flavors in small quantities! I've only done this a couple of times, and the results have ranged up into the "I'd drink this over some store-bought wine anyday" range. It is easy and low-hassle, great for lazy people like me, and really allows for experimentation! (People who make beer can get jealous of how easy this is.) If I ever get serious about wine, I can use this as a springboard to figure out what I like/don't like.

    As with all microbial projects, there is a chance to fail magnificently if the stuff is contaminated.

    You'll need:

    1. Mix Ingredients. Prepare yeast as directed on package. Once the yeast is ready, open the jars. (Remember, the less time the juice is exposed to open air and the possibility of insects, the better.) Pour off some of the juice to make room to add sugar. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar to the jars -- I haven't done this often enough to have precise recommendations, but the lower the sugar content of the juice, the more sugar it needs. (Adding yet more sugar may help these wines be less thin, BUT it can give the wine an unpleasant "hot" sharp flavor.) Add yeast to the jars. Close the lids and shake the jars thoroughly to dissolve sugar and distribute yeast.

    2. Put Aside. Now, put the jars in the drip tray or tall pot (if just the drip tray, it is also possible to store them all in an UNHEATED oven to keep safe from insects). Gently loosen the lids so that they are covering the tops properly, yet are loose enough to rotate freely. Next day, make sure that fermentation is starting. (You should see lots of little bubbles starting to rise up and accumulate at the top. Depending on juice, a thick foam may or may not start forming at the top too -- some of the best juices do a lot of foaming!)

    3. Check. The first few days, check that the lids stay on. If they are threatening to fall off, tighten them just enough so they don't. But NEVER tighten lids so much that gas can't escape, or else you will get exploding jars!!

    4. Wait. Next, leave the jars on the drip tray in a clean dark room-temperature place (again, inside a tall pot is nice) for as many weeks as it takes for the fermentation to stop or at least slow down to a near stand still (about 2-4 weeks with beer yeast). Check periodically to make sure fermentation's going OK, that the lids are still on, that bugs haven't gotten in, and that the jars smell alcoholic (slightly yeast-y or "fresh bread"-y is OK too).

    5. Sample and Store. Once the fermentation is pretty much over, sample the product. Note: It is normal to have scum or slime on the mouth of the jar if there was foaming going on. The proof is in the taste. If it tastes really strange or "off," discard it -- it probably got contaminated. If it tastes like wine (having a "yeasty" flavor is OK) and you're happy with it, consume as quickly as possible, and/or carefully pour off the wine into a clean glass container (leave out the settled yeast) and refrigerate. I've had a lovely cherry wine go a bit "off" from sitting around too long. Remember, these are not air-tight bottles and the wine can and will go bad if left too long, especially after sampling and exposure to dried-on foam and open air. Putting the wine into another bottle and refrigerating can also help remove excess yeast (letting it settle out).

    How to Pour Off: When you pour, first let the container settle and then pour very gently and slowly, because there is a thick layer of yeast at the bottom of the jar that you don't want either in your drink or in your long-term storage container. Or, I suppose you can try filtering the wine. While some people like the flavor of yeast, most of us don't, and there are some concerns about the effects of too much live yeast in the body. (BTW,
    yogurt is supposedly a good way to help fight off yeast.)

    Carbonation: Some of these may come out naturally carbonated. This apparently implies there's still enough sugar to keep the yeast busy. Either let fermentation continue (could take weeks!) or pour off the wine and discard the settled-out yeast ... or just enjoy the bubbles.

    Weak wine: "Weak" wine may be due to insufficient sugar to produce the expected concentration of alcohol in the finished product. If the wine comes out weak, you can try adding fruit juices to get a "sweet wine"-like effect (e.g., grape juice plus grape "wine" produced a nice "sweet wine" flavor).

    Clean-up: The only clean-up from the fermentation is of your drip tray/tall pot and the rinsing of the juice jar for recycling! (Well, OK, plus washing any secondary containers. Still, no sterilization or airlocks needed!)


    1. Add yeast and sugar to juice
    2. Loosely close lids and wait some weeks
    3. Sample/drink/store
    (This is what I mean by "hack" -- it's easy and it works)

    Some of my results:

    Good wines
    (Remember to pour off into new container and refrigerate once they're at the peak of "good")

    Hmmm... maybe not.
    Haven't Tried...
    Feel free to add mother of vinegar and experiment with making vinegar (remember vinegar needs daily air and aeration, unlike wine). Warning: mother of vinegar can contaminate wines easily, leading to vinegar when you don't want it. Containers that contained raw vinegar are suspect. And fruit flies love vinegar, know how to crawl under plastic wrap, and will contaminate the entire area.

    Experimental Yogurt Growing

    There are three experimental aspects to growing yogurt (yoghurt):

    Starter: I have some
    Natren yogurt starter that makes some very mellow yogurts. You can also use any acidophilus-based "probiotic" supplement (in fact, this is a good test of their viability), or you can use "live-culture" yogurt from the store. (The probiotic supplements are not designed to make tasty yogurt, but they should at least make some kind of yogurt if they are alive and active. Then again, some store-bought cultures weren't THAT tasty either.)

    Substrate: Various kinds of milk and even milk-substitutes. Soy milk works.


    1. Heat Substrate (Milk): [If you're just making one batch of yogurt, heat the milk in a pot on the stove to 180 degrees F (use a meat thermometer to check), keep there for 5 minutes, then pour into a covered glass container for cooling. Warning: if it overheats and boils it can make a huge frothy mess. Boiling point is above 200 F at sea level, but even at 190 or so the milk may start frothing.] For making a number of different experimental yogurts at once: collect a bunch of clean jars or food-safe glass containers. Pour milk or other substrate into each -- if you're doing different substrates, you might want to note to yourself which one went into which container. Cover with foil or other oven-safe lids. In the smallest and largest jars, insert a meat thermometer. Set oven to about 200 or 250 F. You'll need to babysit the oven and keep checking the temperature of the milk (or milk substitute) over the course of a couple hours (good time to catch up on reading). Heat milk to 180F, let stand at that temperature for five minutes (says the yogurt starter instructions). Smaller jars will reach this point first, so once they've had their warmth you may need to remove them from the oven until the big jars are ready.
    2. Cool and Add Starter: When everything has been heated, turn off oven, open the oven door, and let everything cool for a few hours. Yogurt culture (or starter yogurt) can then be added to each jar when its contents reach 115 F or below. I just throw in some spoonfuls of starter powder and stir briskly, rather than make a paste like the starter instructions call for -- I'm lazy. If you're doing different starters, you might want to make notes to yourself about which went into which container -- and don't cross-contaminate your starters! Also, replace aluminum with plastic or proper lids (aluminum with condensation on it discolors and might contaminate the water droplets with aluminum).
    3. Let It Grow: The jars sit in the OFF oven with the door CLOSED for 8-10 hours (overnight) -- having a large number of warm jars helps keep the temperature at the right level. Sometimes, I heat the oven for about 5 seconds and then turn it off to raise the temperature just a bit -- an oven thermometer is great for checking. Don't let anything go over 115 F, or you risk killing the bacteria, so I leave the oven light on so no one forgets and starts heating the oven :) The temperature should be between about 90 and 115; the flavor may be affected by either extreme. And also note: I once tried making yogurt by adding culture to milk on a hot day with the temp in the 80's... it didn't work. Play it safe and culture it in a properly warm environment.

    Result: When you check on them next, they should be thickened into a fragile white "solid" sitting in clear "whey"-like liquid. It has the consistency of very soft tofu. Stick the jars in the fridge (hope there's enough room for them -- do not freeze!).

    Eat: Lazy way of eating: pour yogurt into a bowl. Add sugar. Stir. Let sit a couple minutes to let sugar dissolve. Eat. (Or add a bit of commercial rose water for a rich lassi-like flavor.)

    Storage: Because freshly made yogurt is a "living" food and is fairly acidic, it tends not to go bad quickly unless contaminated or weakened -- hence, avoid air/light exposure and don't let it freeze, but don't panic if it winds up sitting out several hours or if it sits in your fridge for over a month. If it looks/tastes/smells fine it's probably still edible, but if you have doubts play it safe and chuck it. I've seen yogurt go moldy and I've smelled yogurt that's taken on a "cheesy" odor -- I throw those out.

    Here are some things I've tried or might try:

    Tip: Rinsing Soap/Detergent

    Ever had trouble rinsing soap or detergent (or shampoo)? Just use vinegar.

    At the kitchen sink, fill a sprayer/mister bottle with plain distilled white "vinegar" (dilute acetic acid) and spray on whatever item isn't rinsing well. The acid vinegar dissolves away the basic detergent or soap almost instantly. (You can use citric acid too.)

    This once saved me at a soup kitchen, where the only detergent was liquid dishwasher detergent! It would simply NOT come off a humungous plastic container until I used a bit of flavored vinegar that was lying around. Yay!

    Apparently, detergent tends to leave behind a soapy layer of film on whatever surface it was on (according to one biologist). Although not "toxic," it can't be too healthy, so rinse it off.

    Comments on Green Tea and Good Knives

    Simplest version for tea: Get Asian green tea.

    I've had all sorts of Western brands of green tea in my quest for convenient and cheap healthy fare (green tea is very good for you). But they just aren't very good in terms of flavor. They don't taste right. If you get green tea, whether loose leaf or in tea bags, get a good Asian brand. The best Japanese loose leaf green teas are somewhat pricey ($13 for 10 grams, I think), but they are rich, delicate, smooth, aromatic, and taste like a sunny summer day.

    Don't get the (insert Western brand name here) tea bag and expect to find out what green tea should taste like.

    As for good kitchen knives: Kiya Knives ... best damn kitchen knives I've ever used. Mine was bought in Japan. The blade is much, much lighter than in an equivalent German kitchen knife (though it uses German steel, I think). The knife is much lighter, easier to handle, nicely balanced, and is generally a pleasure to use.

    And I may be confused, but I have this impression the Japanese also have the superstition about not giving away knives to people you care about - you need to sell the knife (even if it's for a dollar or less). If true, bizarre.

    Some Random Thoughts and Things

    Apples: Braeburns and Honeycrisps are surprisingly good. Braeburns have excellent texture for a really long time. Cortlands are great when fresh - the flavor is superb - but texture goes downhill fast.

    Salmon Head Stock: Following directions from various cookbooks, I made salmon fish head stock (removing gills was a pain, though), though I also used vinegar as if it were chicken stock. Although Best Cookbook recommends against salmon, one web site for Southeast Asian food recommends them. Taking the Asian hint, I made a light soup with the nicely gelatinous stock, a bit of soy sauce, chopped onions, celery, thinly sliced carrots, slices of half a fresh orange, udon noodles that were lying around in the freezer, dried shiitake mushrooms, mirin, some parsley from the fridge, ground cardamom, and touches of ground ginger, chile powder, garlic powder, mustard, etc. Actually not bad at all. Sort of wanted to try some coconut milk, too, though.

    Roast Duck and Honey: Adding a drizzle of honey to the skin of the duck (mallard-type, not muscovy) about 20 minutes before it's done roasting creates a nice crusty brown result. The honey tastes amazingly good on crispy duck skin.

    More about stock: I keep one or more plastic freezer bags full of various bones in the freezer. After a meal that results in chicken bones, or duck bones, or pork bones, or beef bones, the bones go straight into the bag. Later, when I'm making soup, I can just add a few to add some gelatine - or use a whole pile to make stock. (And these days I never use bones without plenty of salt and vinegar to leach the minerals out; I just have to let the stock heat long enough to dissipate the vinegar.)

    All full recipes, as random and non-specific as they are, are copyright 1994, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2004 by Eri Izawa (rei (at) (and also Michael J. Bauer (mjbauer (at) for Spicy Three-Pepper Sesame Beef, Spinach-chicken Salad, and Honey-Worcestershire Chicken).

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