Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Homemade Greek Yogurt

July 20, 2012

After much too long an absence, Squirrel Mama is back with new recipes to share.  I’ve been cooking with my next-door neighbor Alexandra, and she mentioned a friend makes home-made yogurt and it’s easy.  So after some research, I embarked on the journey myself and she’s right, it’s really easy.  The yogurt pictured below was my second attempt.  My first attempt came out perfect except a day later, Johnny said the yogurt was a bit watery.  So the second time around, I folded the straining cloths over the yogurt and placed a bag of dry beans on top.  I over strained it and came up with yogurt cheese (labneh) instead.  It was still delicious, I used it as a substitute for cream cheese in a smoked salmon spread (recipe later).  But to thin it back to Greek Yogurt consistency, I simply added back some of the whey, used my Cuisinart immersion blender to blend everything back together and voila Greek yogurt again.



½ gallon pasteurized (not ultra pasteurized) milk (can be homogenized) (I used 1 percent low-fat milk)

½ cup yogurt with live cultures (I used Fage 2 percent reduced-fat Greek yogurt)

IMPORTANT: use an accurate thermometer that can read temperatures between 110 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour milk into a slow cooker (“Crockpot”) set on the high setting and cover and heat to 180 degrees.  In my cooker, it took about 2 hours, I started checking after 1 ½ hours.  When the milk reaches 180 degrees.  Turn the cooker off, unplug it and uncover the pot.  Let milk cool to 110 degrees (plus or minus 5 degrees is OK but do not go higher or you will kill the yogurt cultures, or lower in which you will inhibit coagulation).  In my cooker, this took about an hour.

When the milk reaches 110 degrees, put the ½ cup yogurt (“starter”) into a small bowl and ladle in about 1 cup of milk. Whisk well and return the yogurt-milk mixture to the warm milk .  Whisk well again and cover the pot.  Wrap the pot in two thick bath towels and leave on the counter top for 6-7 hours.

Unwrap the towels and set them aside.  Lift the lid and you should have yogurt.  Stir it well. Set aside ½ cup of the yogurt in a small clean covered container to use as a “starter” for your next batch.  Line a colander set in a bowl (or if you have a metal steamer bowl insert that fits over a pot you can use that) with a two clean pillow cases or six-eight layers of cheese cloth.  Ladle the yogurt into the cloth lined colander/steamer insert.  Cover it and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning you will have thick Greek-style yogurt in the colander.  Spoon it into clean containers.  It will keep for ten days or ore.  Drain off any liquid (whey) that may collect from resting, or you can mix it back in.  You can wash the straining cloths in mild detergent and reuse them.  Do not use any fabric softener when you wash or dry them.

The whey (liquid) that collects under the colander is high in protein can be added to smoothies, used to make bread or you can drink it flavored with spices. I made a wonderful multigrain bread with it and the recipe will appear in a couple of days. You can also feed the whey to your dog (they are supposed to love it).

½ gallon of milk makes about 1 quart of Greek yogurt, so it gets reduced to about on half its original volume.  YES IT’S THAT EASY TO MAKE, and a lot cheaper than Greek yogurt from the store.  You can even make it with organic milk and it will still be cheaper than non-organic Greek yogurt.  For those interested in food safety and troubleshooting here’s an excellent link.

© Lisa L. Pan, all rights reserved.



Sloppy Junzos

August 4, 2010

This is an Asian variation of Sloppy Joes.  I named is “Sloppy Junzos” after the husband of my friend Masaye Okano.

  • 1 bunch green onions, roots removed and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 pound cleaned baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • Six hamburger buns (preferably King’s Hawaiian bread)
  • Sesame seeds


Heat 1 tsp canola oil in a wok or sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add white part of green onions, carrot and green pepper and sauté until vegetables are soft.  Add ground pork, garlic and ginger and keep stirring until pork loses its pink color.  Blend teriyaki sauce, sherry, water and cornstarch, and chopped green onions (green part) until cornstarch is dissolved.  Add liquid to the pan and keep stirring until thickened.  Add sesame oil.  Scoop mixture into a bowl and keep warm.  Wipe the pan clean, heat up the canola oil over high heat and stir fry the spinach until just wilted.

Top bottom of each bun half with 1/6 of the sautéed spinach and then the pork mixture.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and top with the other bun half.  Serve immediately.  Makes 6 servings.

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Shrimp stuffed artichoke

August 4, 2010

Okay, so I cheated and used pre-made shrimp salad from Costco.  A very easy dinner for a warm summer night.

  • 4 large fresh artichokes
  • 1 large lemon or two small lemons
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound pre made shrimp salad
  • 1 roma tomato, cored and diced
  • 4 oz prewashed mixed salad greens
  • Olives and ground paprika for garnish


Cut the stem end of the artichokes so they will sit flat.  Turn each artichoke on its side and cut off ½ inch of the top parallel to the cut on the bottom.  Using kitchen scissors, snip of the sharp tips of the remaining leaves.  Put the artichokes top side down in a pot just wide enough to accommodate them wedged together to prevent them from floating freely in the water.  Cover artichokes with water.  Cut the large lemon in half (or one small lemon ) squeeze the juice from one half of the large lemon or from both halves of the small lemon into the water and toss in the rind.  Bring the artichokes to boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until you can pierce the bottoms with a knife but they are still firm.  Remove artichokes from the water and drain them upside down on a rack.  When drained put them in a covered dish and refrigerate them till dinner time.

Squeeze juice from remaining lemon and combine well with garlic, Dijon mustard and olive oil.  Dice tomatoes.

At dinner time, gently pull the leaves of each artichoke open and and use spoon to scoop out the fuzzy centers and some of the small center leaves, leaving a “bowl”  Drizzle about half of the dressing over the insides of the artichokes and fill with shrimp salad.  Toss the greens with the remaining dressing and tomatoes.  Line 4 dinner plates with the salad mixture, top with a filled artichoke and garnish the shrimp salad with ground paprika and one olive.

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Italian Stuffed Meatloaf

August 4, 2010

A Sicilian dish.

Loaf ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs (whirl stale Italian bread chunks in a food processor)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 hot pepper (jalapeno), stemmed and finely chopped (use vinyl gloves)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds each ground beef and pork
  • 8 oz tomato sauce


Sauce ingredients

  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves (discard stems)
  • ½ cup packed basil leaves (discard stems)
  • 1 tbsp rinsed and drained capers
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

Hard cook 4 of the eggs.  Put them in a small sauce pan in cold water to generously cover.  Bring the water to a rapid boil.  Turn off the water and cover and let sit for 10 minutes.  Drain and let eggs cool.  Cooking eggs this way prevents that dreaded green-gray ring from forming around the eggs. When eggs are cool, peel them and set them aside.

 Combine bread crumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, vegetables, cheese and mix well.  Add meats, two uncooked eggs and tomato sauce and mix well with your hands (For sanitary reasons, I like to use the vinyl gloves I wore stemming the hot pepper, the meat can be rather cold too and the gloves help to keep your hands from going numb.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lay a broiler pan on your work surface in profile layout .  cover it with plastic wrap with about 3 inches of extra wrap dangling on the end of the pan closest to you.  Put the meatloaf mixture into the pan and pat it out to a uniform thickness to conform to the interior coutours of the pan.  You will have a large rectangle.  Lay the 4 hard cooked eggs end to end about 2 inches from the edge closest to you, forming a horizontal row.  Lift up the plastic wrap closest to you to roll the meat up over and enclosing the eggs.  Keep rolling, making sure the plastic wrap does not end up inside the meat, until you have a nice compact log.  Seal the ends and make sure the log is of even thickness.

Using the plastic wrap, lift the log and set it aside on the counter.  Line the broiler pan with foil.  Cover it with the broiler rack, sprayed with non-stick spray.  Put the loaf in the middle of the rack and discard the plastic wrap.

Bake the loaf in a preheated oven for 35-50 minutes or until it is firm.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Whirl the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and pour into a serving dish .  Slice the meatloaf crosswise into large “disks.”  With the exception of the end pieces, you will have a “coin” of hard-cooked egg in the center of each slice.  Serve with sauce on the side.

Serves 8

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Grilled Yellowfin Tuna with Avocado Salsa

August 4, 2010

  • 4 yellowfin tuna steaks
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 ripe avocado,
  • ¼ cup defrosted corn kernels
  • ½ roma tomato cored, seeded and diced
  • Juice of ½ lemon


Combine oil, mustard, garlic powder and pepper.  Brush mixture on both sides of tuna steaks.

Grill tuna on very high heat until seared on both sides but still rare inside.

While tuna is grilling, Cut avocado in half, remove and discard the pit.  Use a knife to score criss crosses in the flesh and the scoop cubes out with a large spoon.  Combine with remaining ingredients.

Serve steaks topped with the avocado salsa.  I added cheesy polenta and butter peas and garnished the plate with fresh mint from my garden.

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Chicken Breast Prince Orloff

August 4, 2010

I made this for my friend Vladis’s 92nd Birthday.  It’s not diet food but you’re only 92 once!

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 6 very thin slices of ham
  • 12 oz cheese (I used muenster), half cut into 6 even logs*, about 3 inches long; the other half coarsely grated
  • 2 cups chopped sweet onions
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup non fat half and half
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh tarragon
  • Ground paprika


Put each chicken breast half between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until chicken is an even 1/4” thick.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.  Repeat with remaining chicken breast halves. Lay a slice of ham over each chicken breast.  Lay the chicken breast in profile layout.  Put a log of cheese crosswise on the end closest to you and roll the breast over the cheese into a tight log.  Secure with toothpicks.  Repeat with remaining chicken breasts until all chicken, ham and cheese logs are used up.  Lightly spray a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Put the breast in the baking pan, seam side down, making sure they don’t touch.  Bake chicken breasts in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

 While chicken is baking, chop onions.  Melt butter in a sauce pan and add onions.  Cook over medium heat until onions are translucent.  Add butter and stir for about 1 minute.  Gradually add half and half, whisking constantly.  Boil for 1 minute.  Add grate cheese and continue whisking until cheese is melted.  Add minced tarragon and set sauce aside.

 When chicken is cooked, remove toothpicks. Lay one chicken piece on a plate and stop with sauce.   Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with fresh tarragon sprigs.

Serve with cooked vegetables and starch or your choice.  Makes six servings.

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*For a lighter and different dish, you can substitute 6 hearts of palm, rinsed and drained, for the six cheese logs.

Chicken marsala with quinoa pilaf

August 4, 2010

Quinoa is a whole grain from South America.  It has a slightly nutty, bitter taste.  You can get rid of the bitterness by rinsing it in water and draining it before cooking it.  Costco sells bags of quinoa already rinsed.


  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed well and drained if not prerinsed)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp snipped chives
  • 8 oz fresh or frozen green beans.



  • 1 oz dried gourmet mushrooms
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • flour
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup marsala
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp chicken stock base
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves


Put mushrooms in a large glass measuring cup.  Cover with 1 cup water and microwave for 2 minutes.  Set aside to soften.

Combine quinoa, broth and butter in a sauce pan and bring to boil.  Cover and lower heat to low.  Cook 15 minutes turn off the heat and set aside.

While quinoa is cooking, season chicken thighs and dust with flour.  Heat up 1 tbsp butter in a non-stick sautee pan, when butter is foaming add chicken thighs and brown well on both sides.  Drain the mushrooms, saving the liquid.  Add chicken base to ½ the liquid and add the liquid to the pan.  Turn heat to low and cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove chicken to a warm plate and set aside.  Turn heat to high.  Add remaining butter and sauté the mushrooms.  Combine marsala with remaining mushroom liquid, cornstarch and rosemary.  When mushrooms start to brown, add the marsala mixture, stir until a thick sauce develops.

Stir cranberries, pine nuts and chives into the quinoa.

Put thighs on serving plates and cover with mushroom mixture.  Serve with quinoa pilaf and steamed green beans.  Makes 4 servings.

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Sun-dried tomato and olive mini biscuits

May 12, 2010


I volunteered to make a savory snack for chorale rehearsal Monday night.  At 4:00 p.m., I suddently remembered.  I was too proud to run to the store to pick up doritos and bean dip, so I scoured my fridge and cupboard and came up with this creation.  I’ve tweaked it a little after having used my fellow chorale members as guinea pigs on this spur-of-the moment baking attempt, but it hasn’t changed much.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 stick of butter, cold and cut into little cubes
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup plain non-fat yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 dozen pitted Calamata olives, drained and chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
  • ¼ cup minced fresh chives

 Combine well all dried ingredients in a mixing bowl.  In a food processor fitted with a dough blade, cream the butter.  Add 2 eggs (reserving the third), yoghurt and feta cheese.  Process until smooth.  With the food processor running, gradually add the flour mixture.  It should form a soft slightly sticky dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl into a large ball.  Add tomatoes, olives and chives and process only until distributed throughout the dough.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Divide the dough into four sections.  Turn one section out on a well floured cutting board, and coat all sides with flour.  Using your palms, pat the dough down to an even ½” thickness.  Using a 1 ½” biscuit or round cookie cutter cut circles of dough and place them on a cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray, setting them about 1 inch apart.  Moosh scraps together and pat down against and repeat.   You will need two cookie sheets to accommodate all of the biscuits. Continue with all dough until you only have enough “scrap” to make one last rather ugly biscuit.  This is always my ‘test” biscuit for doneness (which I wolf down) out of the oven. 

Beat the remaining egg and brush the tops of biscuits with beaten egg.  You will have left over egg, which you can save for scrambled eggs later. 

Bake biscuits for 10-15 minutes or until knife insert in your test biscuit comes out clean.  Switch baking pans halfway through cooking so they will cook evenly. Remove cooked biscuits from the oven and transfer them to baking racks or place them on a couple of upside down perforated pizza pans to allow air to circulate underneath them.  This will help prevent them from getting soggy on the bottom.  Let biscuits cool at least 15 minutes (I downed the test biscuit before the 15 minutes were up).  Makes about 4 dozen mini biscuits.

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Jerk Pork Spareribs

May 12, 2010

Jerk pork country-style spareribs

You can make your own jerk seasoning (recipe below), or use a commercial brand.  I prefer McCormick’s over Trader Joe’s.

  •             2 lb boneless country style spareribs, trimmed of fat
  •             2 tbsp jerk seasoning (commercial or homemade)
  •             ½ cup orange juice
  •             2 tbsp cider vinegar
  •             2 tbsp soy sauce
  •             3 tbsp canola oil
  •             1 tsp chile sauce (e.g. Sriracha) (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large zipper plastic bag.  Massage contents to evenly distribute the marinade.  Refrigerate overnight.    Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 155 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let rest about ten minutes.  Serve with black beans and salad.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Jerk seasoning recipe

  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion
    2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
    2 teaspoons ground allspice
    2 teaspoons ground black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

 Combine ingredients well and store in an airtight spice jar

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Stir fried pork, mushrooms and celery

May 7, 2010

Stir fried pork, mushrooms and celery

  • 1 ½ cups long-grained rice
  • 6 dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 small sweet onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pound boneless pork, cut into small strips
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp dry sherry
  • Squirt of Asian chile sauce (sriracha)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce

Put rice in a pot and cover with enough water so that when you put you finger tip on the surface of the rice, the water reaches your first knuckle.  Bring water to boil and when the surface water has evaporated, cover the rice tightly and turn heat to low.

While water is boiling, put the dried mushrooms in a microwave safe measuring cup.  Pour in water to the 2 cup mark.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stir mushrooms to saturate with hot water.

Slice celery, onion and pork.  Mix pork in a small bowl with cornstarch, sherry, chile sauce, soy sauce and sugar.  Carefully remove mushrooms from hot water.  Slice off and discard tough stems.  Slice caps.

Heat up 1 tsp of canola oil in a non-stick wok or sauté pan.  Add ginger, onion, celery and sliced mushrooms.  Stir fry for 30 seconds and then add mushroom water.  Stir and let vegetables steam-cook in the mushroom water till evaporated.  Turn vegetables out into a bowl.  Heat the remaining oil in the same pan.  When oil is smoking hot, add pork mixture and stir fry until pork turns color.  Return vegetables to the pan and stir in oyster sauce.  Serve over cooked rice.  Serves 4.

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