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!