Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pasta alla carbonara

I don't understand why, but it is so dang hard to find carbonara pasta at Italian restaurants!  At, least, thats the case where I live (West Los Angeles).  There used to be an Italian restaurant at Westside Pavillion that served carbonara but that place is long gone, and I haven't found another Italian that place to replace it.

The next thing to do was make it myself!  And I'm glad I did, because apparently, it's incredibly easy to make, almost all the ingredients are basic items I always have stocked in my pantry, and all the ingredients are affordable.  I don't understand how Italian restaruatns can charge close to $20 for a plate of carbonara when I whipped up a week's worth (for 2 people) for under $10.

I have a feeling this recipe is going to be a new go-to recipe in my house for week nights.  Heck, it's so fancy, maybe it can be a go-to dinner party recipe too!

I also wanted to mention that the version of Pasta alla carbonara I made is the traditional Italian version.  The ones you get with peas or mushrooms and heavy cream in it is the bastardized American version.  I don't like the version with heavy cream in it since not only does it make it more fattening, but I never have heavy cream in the house anyways (who does?).

You will need:
1 pound of spaghetti (yes, traditionally it's spaghetti.  Bastardized versions may use linguine or fettucine)
1.5 cups of grated Parmesan cheese (the more the better! hehe)
1/3 stick of butter
1 package of bacon (what are these, like a pound?), diced.  You can also use pancetta if you are feeling rich/spendy/fancy
4 eggs
1 cup of white wine (if you don't want to use wine, you can sub with another cup of stock)
1 cup of chicken stock
black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, minced
handful of fresh parsley, chopped.

Really easy instructions.
Bring a big pot of salted water to boil and add in the pasta.  Cook until al dente (or in my case, mushy because the baby started crying right around the time when I was supposed to take the pasta off the stove).
While the pasta is cooking, brown the bacon.  When the bacon is crispy, put the bacon on a plate and discard some of the bacon grease, leaving about 2 tablespoons behind (if you want to be healthy, discard all of the bacon grease and substitute with olive oil).
Brown the chopped onions and garlic in the bacon grease.  When they are done browning, deglaze the pan with the wine.  Once deglazed, add in the chicken broth and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Is the pasta done yet?  Drain the pasta and set aside.
After the onions have simmered for a few minutes, turn off the heat.  In a large bowl, add in the raw eggs, the Parmesan cheese, the parsley and beat with a fork.  Pour the hot drained pasta into the large bowl, then pour the bacon on top of the pasta, then drizzle the onion broth on top of everything.  Season with black pepper.
Grab a pair of tongs and mix the pasta until everything is thoroughly mixed.  Put some on a plate, garnish with some extra parsley and Parmesan, and enjoy!
That was too easy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thresher Shark steaks

I have a really atypical dish to share with you all today!

While at the supermarket last weekend buying seafood for some seafood risotto (which I still have yet to make), I found these beautiful thresher shark steaks for $8.99 per pound.
I have never eaten shark steaks before, never seen shark steaks (raw or cooked) before, and have never cooked shark steaks before.  This was the perfect opportunity to knock out all 3.

I purchased 2 shark steaks and quickly pulled up some recipe ideas. I adapted a marinade that I found on Chowhound, where I marinated the shark steaks over night in soy sauce, brown sugar, white vinegar, white pepper, black pepepr, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Then adapting from a different recipe, I drizzled the shark steaks in some canola oil and broiled it for 6 minutes on the first side, and 5 minutes on the other side.

The steaks came out meaty, tender, flavorful and more undercooked in the center than I would have preferred. I recommend cooking these for maybe 7 minutes on the first side and 6 minutes on the second side.
It was a very odd experience, as the shark steak seemed like a cross between fish and beef -- it had the flavor of fish but the texture and denseness of beef.

If I were to make this again, I think I would like to just do a simple salt and pepper seasoning with butter on top (like as you would a beef steak) to taste more of the natural shark flavor.  Though I'm not sure if I would have shark steaks again anytime soon, they are high in mercury and I hear are endangered(?).

I plan on making seafood risotto next.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teriyaki chicken - working backwards

A few weeks ago, I picked up a box of frozen teriyaki chicken from Costco.  I normally don't buy frozen meals from the grocery store, but finding time to cook during that time was impossible so it was either buying frozen food, or Mc Donalds!
$10 yielded me 2 pounds of pre-fried, pre-frozen chicken chunks and 2 bags of teriyaki sauce, which you pour over the chicken after you heat up the chicken on the stove top.  Not a very good value if you ask me!

Flash forward to this weekend.  I now have a bit more time to cook during the week so I picked up some fresh boneless, skinless, chicken breasts at the grocery store at $1.99 per pound (what a deal!).  Not knowing what to do with these chicken breasts, I asked some people for suggestions.  I got some suggestions like making fajitas or putting it in a slow cooker with cream of mushroom soup.  Both weren't really what I was feeling.  Maybe it's because I'm not a fan of mexican food and I'm not a fan of cream-of-anything soup.
Then in the shower, I thought of exactly what I wanted to do with the chicken breasts: I'm going to work backwards and replicate that frozen teriyaki chicken meal.

First, I made the teriyaki sauce.
Sweet, thick, garlicky, how can anyone not like teriyaki sauce.
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
5 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 -2 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Mix all but cornstarch and 1/4c water in a sauce pan and begin heating. Mix cornstarch and cold water in a cup and dissolve. Add to sauce in pan.  Heat until sauce thickens to desired thickness.
Set the teriyaki sauce aside.

Take the chicken breast and slice them into thin slices.  Heat up olive oil in a large skillet or wok.
Thinly coat each chicken slice in corn starch and place into the oil.  Turn the chicken over when it's golden and crispy on the first side, and cook until the other side is golden and crispy and the meat is cooked thoroughly.  Around 8-10 minutres.
Turn off the heat and drizzle the teriyaki saucw over the chiocken.  Mix well.

And there you go!  A better version of the frozen entree version for a fraction of the price.  It's easy to make too!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Butternut Squash! It's officially Fall!

Yesterday was the first day of Fall, and what better way to celebrate it than to go to the grocery store and pick up two beautiful butternut squashes.

Normally I would just buy one, which is more than enough for my husband and me, but now that we have a wee little one in the house that recently started eating solids (and butternut squash is a great "first foods" for babies), then two butternut squashes it is!

I simply had my husband slice the necks off each butternut squash, then slice each segment lengthwise, then steamed them for 1.5 hours.
I thought it would take maybe 30-40 minutes to steam, but maybe it's because I tried to steam a lot of butternuts at once that it ended up taking 1.5 hours?
After they were steamed and cooled, I scooped the meat out of the shell, discarded the shells, saved half for my husband and I to enjoy later, and pureed half with a little bit of cooking liquid.  The pureed butternut squash was then placed into an ice cube tray, which makes individual portion sizes for our wee baby.

Today, us 3 all enjoyed some butternut squash!  It was very sweet and was the perfect way to welcome the Fall season.  If the butternut squash is too plain for you, enjoy it with a bit of brown sugar or maple syrup.  Btw, I think butternut squash is my daughter's favorite -- she gobbled it down!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Miso glazed salmon

Apologies for not posting for so long! 
I'm still cooking, but with the new baby (and a new baby blog, hehee), I am falling behind on food blogging.
I've also been cooking a lot more simple lately, so most things aren't blog worthy!  (unless you consider steamed vegetables with a dash of salt blog worthy....)

This miso glazed salmon recipe IS blog worthy.  I'm a fan of asian-tasting dishes and I'm a fan of anything with miso in it, so this dish can't go wrong.
It's sweet, it's salty, and it's the only way I'm ever going to make salmon ever again.  =]

What you need:
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 tablespoons hot water
    2 tablespoons miso (I use red miso)
    4 salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)

Combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, water, and miso in a bowl until evenly mixed.  Lay your salmon on a baking sheet, and brush the sauce over the surface of your salmon fillets. 
Broil the salmon under the broiler (about 4 inches away) on high.
 If you are using salmon fillets, broil for about 10 minutes.  If you are using bone-in salmon steaks, broil for about 14 minutes (for a 1 inch  steak).
Serve with steamed brown rice. yum yum!

(sorry there is no picture! I made this dish a month ago, and I forgot to take a picture. I just dug right in!)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Bread Crusts: another use for old bread crusts

Remember all that leftover bread crusts I had from my baby shower? And how I used some of the bread crusts to make bread pudding (which ended up being more bread pudding than I wanted to eat)?

Well, I recently had to create more space in my freezer, to stock up on food and freezer meals since our baby is due to arrive any day now. 
To create more space, I had to get rid of more bread crusts!
This time, I made Cinnamon Sugar Bread Crusts!  Or as I called them, "Cinna Sticks".
They come out so crunchy, sweet, and airy.

Bread crusts, sliced.  I had probably around 5 cups worth of sliced bread crusts.
1/2 c. butter, melted
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. cinnamon

Place bread crusts in a large bowl.
Pour melted butter on top.
Toss to coat.
Pour in the sugar and cinnamon and toss again
Spread 1 even layer onto a cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, flipping once mid-way through.

By the way... I STILL have not gotten rid of all of my bread crusts yet (I already gave away 1/3 of the crusts to my Mom).
Maybe I will make a meatloaf next. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vietnamese (inspired) grilled pork

The Vietnamese dish, Thịt Nướng, was my inspiration for this dish.  I always love the grilled or charbroiled pork dishes at Vietnamese restaurants but I never order them when I eat out because pho always wins me over in the end.
However, I found boneless, skinless, trimmed pork chops on sale at Sprouts ($1.49 a pound! what a steal!), and I decided to make my own dish at home!

The only differences between my pork dish and thịt nướng is that it is typically consumed with vermicelli noodles, but I had my pork with rice since rice > noodles (that's a fact!).  Also, I did not slice the pork as thinly as thịt nướng typically is and I omitted lemongrass since I don't have any.  But other than that, everything still came out delicious

I know a number of people that refuse to eat pork due to reasons such as "pork is very fatty", or "pork is very unhealthy" ***
However, I think when a lot of people think of "pork" they think of: bacon, sausage, ham, etc... 
And it's true, all these items are really unhealthy.  But what is also true, is that all those items are heavily processed, made of pork fat, and are treated with chemicals.  It is not pork in their true form.
When I say "I eat pork" or "I cook pork", I'm talking about the actual cut of meat and it is typically a pork tenderloin.  Did you know that a 3oz serving of pork tenderloin contains 2.98g of fat and that the same portion of skinless chicken breast contains 3.03g of fat?  Yep, you read that correctly, pork tenderloin is leaner than boneless skinless chicken breast!

That's actually the reason why pork can be very hard to cook: because it is so lean, you can easily dry out the meat.  And similar to chicken, pork does not have a lot of flavor so when cooking pork, you need to add in a ton of your own flavor.  That's why for this dish, I put in so many ingredients into the marinade and marinated the pork overnight.

Ingredients for the marinade:
4 Tablespoons Fresh Garlic, minced
6 Tablespoons Cilantro, finely chopped
2 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoon Honey
2 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
2 Pounds lean pork chops, sliced into 2-3 inch strips

Mix all the marinade ingredients together with the pork and let it marinate in the fridge overnight.

The next day, remove pork from the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before grilling to take the chill off the meat. Heat your grill pan on medium high heat (you want a good sear, but not burn the meat!  Especially since there is sugar in the marinade) and lightly cover with cooking spray (You can also use your outdoor grill!).

Grill the meat until both sides are browned and cooked thoroughly.  Garnish with chopped green onions.

Another reason I've heard from people, for why they don't eat pork, is because it's "gross" and it has "worms" in it.  As far as I know... not all pork has worms in it.  I have also heard that you are more likely to get sick from eating undercooked chicken (salmonella poisoning) than you are from eating undercooked pork.  If that's the case, isn't chicken more "gross" than pork?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Garlic Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves

Let me first begin by telling you how important it is to cook your vegetables rather than eating them raw, if you want to up your veggie intake.
Of course, don't overcook your veggies to the point when all the nutrients are gone, but cook them down, that way, it's easier for you to consume more vegetables per meal.  Also, if you consume more veggies per meal, then that means you will eat less of other stuff, like meats and starches.

I have heard the following quotes numerous times from different people:  "I love eating vegetables, I eat so much!" or "You really should eat your vegetables, just like me.  They are so healthy for you". 
Yet, these folks only graze on a few sprigs of salad during their meal.
If I took the amount of salad that they gnawed on and steamed it, it will be a small coin sized dollop.  (And of course, these folks eats their salad with some dressing, which is a no-no as well, but I won't get into that).
Graze all you want.. 30 minutes.. 1 hour...
No matter how much salad you masticate, it won't be anywhere near the amount of veggies I eat per meal because I simply cook it down, which makes ingesting large amounts of vegetables WAY easier. 

Now with that said, I have a lovely sauteed vegetable dish to share: Garlic Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves.

This is a very little known dish that I have only seen on Chinese restaurant menus, and I have never seen this dish cooked in anyone's home.  Maybe it's because snow pea leaves aren't very affordable... or maybe it's because restaurants do a hell of a better job with this dish since they have their fancy giant woks and high heat.
Eating sauteed snow pea leaves is like eating a tougher version of sauteed spinach, but with a hint snow pea flavor.
I really suggest picking up a bag of snow pea leaves if you ever see them at the grocery store (I've only seen them at Asian grocery stores).  I also suggest ordering this dish off the menu next time you are at a Chinese restaurant!

I picked up a large bag of snow pea leaves from Ranch99.  When I got home, I pruned the leaves by discarding the coils, since these are a bit tough, and rinsed the leaves thoroughly. 
Notice how much snow pea leaves I have in the photo on the right?  That is how the veggies looked raw.  Imagine someone trying to eat that amount of veggies in a salad?  They won't make a dent.

Now, time for the sauteing!
Heat up some olive oil in the largest wok/deep pan that you have. 
Add minced garlic to the olive oil  (I love garlic, so I used about 5 cloves of garlic). 
When the garlic looks golden, add the snow pea leaves into the pan. 
Turn the leaves until it is evenly coated with the garlic and olive oil, then add a sprinkle of salt.
Cover the pan with a lid for about 3-4 minutes, then stir the veggies.  The veggies should be done, but if they are still a bit tough for you, cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Now look at the photo of the cooked snow pea leaves.
That giant bowl of raw snow pea leaves cooked down into a small lump that fits in our cereal bowl.  Just eating a few bites of this dish would be the equivalent of a week's worth of veggie-intake of a salad eater!

Cat Fish Tacos!

This meal is actually from a few weeks back, but I've been so busy posting about Valentines and my baby shower, my poor fish tacos got put on the back burner!

So a few weeks ago, I had 2 avocados going terribly ripe in my fruit bowl.
I was thinking "what can I make that utilizes avocados?"
It just so happened that I also had some leftover corn tortillas in my freezer, leftover from the last time I made chicken enchiladas.

Avocados?  Tortillas?  Sounds like it's time to make some fish tacos!

I am always lamenting that there is no good place near me to buy fresh fish at a great price (I know, I live biking distance to the ocean, yet, I am as screwed when it comes to buying seafood as a Mid-Westerner).

Poor little me, I reluctantly dragged my feet to the local Ralphs and bought the cheapest fish I saw: "catfish nuggets".  I bought 2 pounds.
The catfish nuggets looked as appetizing as the name: random chunks of wet, slimy, catfish meat.

I checked out the tomato and onion prices at Ralphs, thinking I could make some pico de gallo, but after seeing their prices, it looks like my fish tacos will simply consist of fish, avocados and tortillas.

To make the fish tacos, I started by coating the catfish nuggets in some corn starch, salt, and pepper.  Then in my cast iron skillet, I poured a thin layer of canola oil and cooked each side of the catfish nuggets until golden and crispy.  I have to say,  the cat fish actually tasted a lot better than I expected.  It was actually pretty good!
I steamed the tortillas in the microwave and sliced up the avocados.

We assembled the fish tacos at the dinner table ourselves. 
Extra fish and avocados for me please!
Perhaps some people would prefer a little more flavor in their tacos, like some salsa, but we were quite happy with simply the fish and avocados.

By the way, if you know of any good fishmongers on the Westside, please tell me!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Valentines Day Dinner - surf & turf at home

For our Valentines Day, I wanted to cook a special meal at home, consisting of surf (lobster tail) and turf (ribeye steak), mashed potatoes, asparagus, and chocolate dipped strawberries for dinner.
(and an extra bowl of fresh strawberries for Jeff, since he prefers his strawberries chocolate-free... what a weirdo...  ^_^).

Although the price to make this meal for 2 is, literally, a fraction of the cost of what it would cost us at a restaurant (folks, this is why eating out can really put a dent in your wallet), the total bill for all the ingredients still came out to $25, which is around the cost of 1 week's worth of groceries (maybe even more)!!
This is why normally, I would not make meals like this at home.
But since Valentines rolls around once a year, sure, why not splurge.  =)

Making each dish was actually VERY easy, and I made everything in under 30 minutes.  Yet for some reason, when people see this meal, they seem to think its very elaborate! 
I'm not a fan of time consuming, elaborate things. 

How I made the steak:
I bought two rib eye steaks (at $5.99/lb.  Each steak was about $4.50).
Preheat oven to 500 degrees, and warm up cast iron skillet in the oven.
Sprinkle salt, pepper, grill season ing on both sides of the steak, and drizzle with canola oil.
Place cast iron skillet on the stove on high heat, and sear both sides of the steak for 2 minutes per side.
Place the cast iron skillet (with steaks in them) into the oven, and cook for an additional 30 seconds per side.  (this is for medium rare.  Increase time to 1 min per side if you want medium).
Remove the steak from the cast iron skillet and let it rest on a plate so the juices can redistribute.
All done!

How I made the lobster tail:
I bought two 5oz lobster tails (at $6 per tail)
Butterfly the lobster tails.  Forgot how to do this?  Read my post about it here.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Bake the lobster tails for about 13 minutes.
Serve with a pat of butter on top.
All done!

How I made the mashed potatoes:
I bought a 3 pound bag of ruby gold potatoes (for $1/bag).
Chop and boil 4 large potatoes until its cooked.  I like to leave the skin on.
Drain the potatoes and return the potatoes to the hot pot.
Melt in half a stick of butter and pour in a splash of skim milk, add in salt and pepper. 
Mash with a potato masher.
If you prefer the potatoes more wet, add in another splash of milk.
You don't need gravy.  The butter and salt and pepper is flavorful enough.
All done! 

How I made the asparagus:
I bought 1 pound of asparagus (for $1/lb).
Break the woody base off and discard, or peel the base of the asparagus using a veggie peeler
Rinse the asparagus, and place onto a baking sheet.
Drizzle asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Place asparagus into the oven at 425 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  (I actually roasted them at the same time with the lobster tail at 450 degrees and decreased the cooking time by a couple of minutes).
All done!

How I made the chocolate covered strawberries:
I bought two 16oz boxes of strawberries (at $1.50/box)
Melt half a bag of chocolate chips  in a microwave safe bowl, in the microwave.  I microwaved for 1 minute, stirred, microwave for another minute, stir again, until it is completely melted.
Dip the strawberries into the melted chocolate, and place onto a sheet of wax paper.
Place strawberries in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until the chocolate is hardened.
All done!

Everything was so easy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bread Crust Bread Pudding

What do you do when you have a ton of bread crusts leftover from making a ton of tea sandwiches?
You can... throw them away... or... feed some ducks... or... make bread crumbs... or... make meatloaf... or ... you can make bread pudding!

Of those options, bread pudding is definitely my top fav!  (sorry ducks!)
You can eat bread pudding for breakfast or enjoy it a la mode for dessert.
Bread pudding is really not that bad for you either.  All it is, is bread, milk, eggs, a little sugar, and cinnamon.  That's it! And because it's baked rather than fried on a griddle (like french toast), there isn't any fat added to it.

When I was making the tea party sandwiches, I made sure to save all the crusts in a ziploc bag.  I ended up giving half of the crusts to my mom, but the remaining half crusts that I had was still a lot!  (we had 5 loaves of bread worth of bread crusts!)
I used half of my half-crust supply to make this batch of bread pudding.  I threw the remaining bread crusts in the freezer, which I will take out and make more bread pudding later.

I have to admit, my bread crusts had some sandwich filling stuck on them since we cut the crusts off *after* we assembled the sandwiches (that's how you get a clean even cut).  I tried my best to pick off the sandwich filling and cut off the parts of the crust that had too much filling stuck on it.
When you eat the bread pudding, you really can't taste any of the sandwich filling, so that's good.  =)

To make the bread pudding, you need:
- A bunch of bread crusts. 
(If you don't have bread crusts, then just use cut up bread).  Enough to fill up an 8x8 baking dish with. (Maybe around 6-8 slices of bread worth?)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (I love my bread pudding extra cinnamony!)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Fill up your baking dish with your bread.
2. Mix raisins into your bread.
3. In a bowl, beat together eggs, milk sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.
4. Pour egg mixture over the bread, and push down the bread to make sure all the bread is soaked in the egg mixture.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when you lightly push it.

It really can't get much easier than that.
The house smelled so good... almost like french toast.
And the taste is better than the smell.  =)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tea Party Sandwiches For My Baby Shower

For my baby shower, we served tea party/afternoon tea for the food.  The shower was held at 2pm, so it was intended to be more of a light snack rather than a full on heavy meal.

We served the following tea party sandwiches:  Lox Sandwiches, Tuna Sandwiches, Chicken Sandwiches, and Egg Sandwiches.
I briefly considered making cucumber sandwiches, since that is common fare during afternoon tea, but I couldn't think of one person that actually like cucumber sandwiches and none of the guests were vegetarian anyways, so I axed the idea.  1 less sandwich to worry about.

We also served chocolate chip scones and orange vanilla scones with "clotted cream" and strawberry jam, fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, and red grapes), and bite-sized desserts (pound cake and apple strudel braids)

The grand finale was a huge, delicious, beautiful cake that my sister ordered from Kee Wah Bakery.

Majority of the food served was homemade.  All the sandwiches, the scones, the clotted cream, and even the alcoholic sangria were all homemade.  The fruits were from the farmers market, and the bite-sized desserts were from Costco (Costco is a great place for cheap baked goods!)

I knew from the day that we drafted the menu  that I wanted to be in charge of making all the sandwiches!  I let my sister take care of scones, since she has had experience making scones and she is a better baker than me.  =)  I provided my sister with a British scone recipe, since I prefer British scones over American scones.

A view of the sandwiches.
If you can't see it clearly, I made food signs made out of toothpicks and pink post-its.
The signs read (from left to right): Lox, Tuna, Egg, and Chicken
I stole some of the guinea's green leaf lettuce to use as a sandwich partition.  sshhh!

The view of the buffet table from the other side!
You can see the fresh fruit, and bite-sized desserts in the front, scones and sandwiches in the back

I made all the sandwich fillings the night before and assembled the sandwiches right before the baby shower.  Luckily, our cousin Alice was around to help me assemble the sandwiches.  I don't think I would have finished if it wasn't for her help!  We made extra platters of sandwiches that we kept in the kitchen, so when the original platters were empty, we can simply take away the empty platter put out the back-up platters.
For the bite-sized desserts, I sliced them up right before the party, using my super-cool komachi knife.  Things don't stick to their carbon steel blades, creating a nice clean cut while maintaining the integrity of the item you are slicing!  I placed the desserts in my cake stand and placed the glass dome lid on top because I thought it made it look prettier... however, I think this lid prevented people from helping themselves to the desserts.
(so that means, the key to prevent overeating, is to place a heavy glass dome on top of food!)

During the shower, a lot of people mentioned that they really liked the sandwiches.  I was so flattered!  I think the chicken sandwiches was the most popular since I heard people talking about it during shower and it was the first type to be completely consumed.

My friend even asked me to send her the sandwich recipes!  I was flattered x2!
After emailing her the sandwich instructions, I thought my cooking blog would be the perfect place to share the information!!

For the sandwich fillings, it's really up to you what proportion of the ingredients you want to use.  For example, its up to you how much mayo you want in your sandwich or how much celery you want.  My suggestion is to just add them in little by little, mix, taste, and see how you like it.

Lox sandwiches:   
Ingredients: white bread, smoked salmon (lox), cream cheese. 
Lox is sold pre-sliced (I bought it at Costco).  Spread some cream cheese on 2 slices of bread and place a lox slice in between the 2 slices of bread. Cut the crusts off, and slice the sandwich in half, across the diagonal.

Tuna sandwiches:  
Ingredients: white bread, minced celery, mayo, canned light tuna (drained), salt and pepper. 
Mix all the ingredients together and spread in between 2 slices of  bread.  Cut the crusts off, and slice the sandwich in half, across the diagonal.

Egg sandwiches:
Ingredients: white bread, mustard, paprika, chopped hard boiled eggs, mayo, and pepper. 
Mix all ingredients together and spread in between 2 slices of bread.  Cut the crusts off, and slice the sandwich in half, across the diagonal.

Chicken sandwiches:  
Ingredients: white bread, cooked & shredded chicken breast, minced celery, raisins, dried cranberries, mayo, salt and pepper. 
Mix all ingredients together and spread on bread.
If you were wondering how I cooked the chicken breasts, I poached them!  You can also use roasted chicken breasts but poaching was easier.
Put chicken breast in a pot and slightly cover it with water.  Add in 2 bay leaves and some dried herbs.  When the water boils, turn down the heat so the water is simmering, cover the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Then turn off the stove but leave the pot covered and leave the pot on the hot stove for 20 more minutes, so the residual heat continues to cook the chicken breast.
Poaching with this method should keep the chicken breast moist than if you simply boiled the chicken until it was completely cooked.
Take the chicken breast out of the water, and let it cool on a plate.
When its cool enough to handle, shred the chicken breast into tiny pieces with your fingers. (It took me about 2 hours to shred 3 chicken breasts!!)

Remember all those crusts that were cut off?
I saved them and made bread pudding out of them.  Recipe coming soon!
Nothing goes to waste in this house!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lemon Bars

I really like lemon bars.  They are so refreshing and are not heavy at all!  (at least not to me).  The shortbread-like crust with the moist top layer is such a perfect combination.
I can't bet enough lemon bars, but sadly, its quite hard to find!  When have you seen lemon bars sold at a bakery?

I guess I am stuck making them myself!
It just so happened that I had 1.75 lemons leftover in my house from when I was sick with a cold last week and was living off of hot lemon water.  This is the perfect way to use up the extra lemons!

For my lemon bars, I made a small batch (I used a small non-standard baking dish, that is roughly the dimensions of 5"x4") because I am the only one in the house that eats lemon bars!  If you plan on having at least 2 people eat lemon bars, then you should probably double the recipe and use an 8x11 baking pan. 

I prefer my lemon bars extra "lemony", so I used a lot of juice and a lot of zest.
Here were my proportions:
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ~3/4  cups white sugar (I used a big, heaping, 3/4cup (not a flat 3/4cup) to offset all the lemon juice! :))
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.75 lemons, juiced  (or use 2 small lemons).
    (Did you know:  You can get more juice out of your lemon by microwaving it for 30 seconds, then pressing + rolling the lemon on the countertop using the palm of your hand.))
  • Zest of 1 lemon
    (Please do this properly and use a zester or microplane to zest the lemon.  It pains me to see zesting go wrong)
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, blend together softened butter, 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Press firmly into your baking pan.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden.  I like my crust extra crispy!
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cups sugar and 1/8 cup flour. Whisk in the eggs, zest, and lemon juice. 
  5. Pour the mixture over the baked crust.
  6. Bake for an additional 30 minutes in the preheated oven. 
  7. Let the lemon bars cool, and it will firm up.  Cut the lemon bars when its completely cooled and sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kale chips

Enjoy winter veggies while they are still in season! 
Like Kale!
I found some beautiful bunches of kale at thes store for only 99 cents per bunch!  (Another thing I found, is that my piggies absolutely love kale.)

I used to be pretty intimidated by kale because it is such a bitter and coarse vegetable.
I have made kale chips in the past, but it came out way too fibrous, and the mistake that I made, was that I did not remove the stem prior to baking the kale.

This time, I tried kale chips again, and I thought it came out quite delicious.  It tastes crunchy and nutty.
The only problem was, that I salted it too much.
I recommend only lightly salting the kale, and if you need more salt, you can add it later.  You can always add more salt but its really hard to take away the salt!  -_-#

Wash your kale, and shake it as dry as you can (or use a salad spinner).  Remove the leaves from the hard stem and break the leaves into smaller leafy pieces.  Lay the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil and salt.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
Enjoy as a snack or as a side/appetizer.  =)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chinese Steam Salted Chicken with ginger scallion dip

I'm not sure what the official name of this dish is, maybe I've seen it referred to as "steamed chicken" or "salted chicken" in Chinese restaurants.

You've most likely had it.  It's just a simple steamed chicken that is salted prior to cooking, chopped into chunks before serving, and served with a ginger-scallion-oil dipping sauce (the Cantonese seems to love these types of oil based of dipping sauces)
I don't think people realize how simple this dish is!
I've seen this dish served as an appetizer at Chinese banquet weddings, and on a recent visit to the Chinese restaurant, Jeff was tempted to order the dish at $12 per plate (which is half a chicken.  Whole chicken costs double)!  I suggested that we order something else, and I will make the dish when we get home.

I think $12 for half of a chicken at the restaurant is such a rip off.
You can buy a whole chicken at the store for less than half that price, and there is almost no prep work that goes into making the dish.
You can find chicken at the store for about 99 cents a pound (a whole chicken is around 4 pounds).
You can also use other portions of a chicken if you don't want to use a entire chicken, such as bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, or chicken legs.

1. The prep work:
Rub a thin layer of salt under and over the skin of the chicken, and discard the giblets.
Place a few ginger and green onion slices under the skin of the chicken.

2. Cook the chicken:
Set the chicken in the steamer and when the water boils, steam your whole chicken for about 40-45 minutes.
Use less time if you are only cooking a few pieces of chicken.
When you pierce the chicken meat, the juices should run clear when it's done.

3. Take the chicken out of the steamer and let it cool down for 15 minutes, so its cool enough to handle.

4. Optional step: make the dipping sauce:
Using a hand grater/microplane, grate some ginger into a heat-resistant bowl.  Then add in thinly sliced scallions (about half/half).  Then pour about half a teaspoon of salt on top of the ginger and scallions.  In a pan, heat up some oil then pour the oil on top of your ginger scallion salt pile -- you should hear a sizzling sound.
And there you have it, a very typical Cantonese dipping sauce.

5. When the chicken is cool enough to touch, chop the chicken into pieces.  At Chinese restaurants, they like to use the big heavy cleaver to cut through the bone. I don't agree with this method -- not only is it dangerously unnecessary (I like to keep my fingers, thanks), but chicken bones turns into sharp shards easily.  No, I don't like to eat bone shards.
I simply cut the meat off the bones (similar to carving a turkey), into large chunks, then slice up the meat.

6. Plate up the meat, and serve with the dipping sauce. 
Serve with steam rice.
(Note:  you could also use the leftover steamer water to cook your rice, because it has the flavor of the chicken and salt in the water).
I like to eat the leftover chicken cold (rather than reheating it).  This dish feeds me for several days.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Baked goods for the holidays - Russian tea cakes and good ol chocolate chip cookies

For the holidays, I baked up 2 types of cookies for everyone to enjoy.
Of course, this was just really an excuse to show off my new cake stand.

Around 2 weeks ago, Jeff was telling me how he really enjoyed eating these "round" and "white" cookies.  I really had no idea what he was talking about.
Apparently, these cookies tastes "good" and only appear around the holidays.
It really did not ring a bell.

After a few minutes of Googling, Jeff found that these cookies have a bunch of different names, such as "Russian Tea Cakes", "Pecan Butterballs", "Mexican wedding cakes","Snowballs" and "Pecan Sandies".
I have heard of the last name, but none of the other names that the Google search yielded.
(I'm starting to think that no one really knows the name, so people are just making names up.  Lol.  And, btw, Mexicans do not eat these at weddings. )

After pulling up a promising looking recipe (you can usually tell if a recipe looks pretty good based on the ingredients and the proportions), I decided to make my own attempt at making Russian Tea Cakes.  (recipe at the bottom of the post).

Russian Tea Cakes waiting to go in the oven

The recipe was pretty straight forward and easy, and the result was very buttery, flaky, and shortbread-y.
I really liked it.
The only problem was that I finely chopped the pecans by running it in the blender for a couple of seconds, and that gave me pecan powder rather than chopped pecans.  So next time I make Russian tea cakes, I am chopping them by hand!
I also wish that the powdered sugar (that you sprinkle on after the cookies are done baking) did a better job sticking on.  I love powdered sugar....
After eating the cookie, it confirmed that, NOPE, I never seen or eaten these cookies before.
I have asked a few others about this cookie and there was a mix of answers (some have had the cookie in the past, and some did not know of its existence).

I also made chocolate chip cookies because chocolate chip cookies are my favorite cookie of all time!
You can't go wrong!  And I have not met one person who dislikes chocolate chip cookies.

I actually halved the recipe....
The chocolate chip cookie recipe was also very simple and is your typical choc chip cookie recipe.
My only problem with choc chip cookies is that the cookies spread out during baking and never come out uniform!
I don't know how people can make perfectly shaped cookies every time!!  If you know the secret, please share!  (your secret will be safe with me).



16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus about 1¼ cups for coating the cookies

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp. salt

cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy. Add ½ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and salt. With the beaters on low speed, mix in the flour just until incorporated. Mix in the pecans.
  2. Using your hands, gather the dough into a ball inside the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. (The dough becomes very firm when refrigerated for a longer time, but it will soften after about 1 hour at room temperature.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Pinch off small clumps of dough and roll into 1-inch balls, arranging them about 1½ inches apart on the prepared sheet(s). Bake for 11 to 12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden on the bottom and just barely beginning to color on top. (If using 2 cookie sheets, rotate them from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking.) Let the cookies cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes.
  5. Place the remaining 1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl. While the cookies are still warm, roll them in the sugar to coat. (Be gentle, because the cookies are fragile.) Set them on a rack to cool. Just before serving or storing, recoat the cookies with sugar.


    2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 large eggs
    2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. 
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. 
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Gradually beat in flour mixture. 
  6. 6. Stir in chocolate chips. 
  7. (Optional) Place the dough in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.  (To me, this seems to help keep the dough from being runny, the next step easier).
  8. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. 
  9. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.