Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thai-style sweet & sour shrimp

Soo...I totally forgot to take a picture of this dish. It was around the time I gave birth to our son but.. Dear. Lord. Cannot believe I forgot. I mean, what's a recipe without a photo nowadays? Promise to update it later with a photo but here is the recipe! 1lb shrimp, shelled & de-veined 1 tablespoon oyster sauce 1 tablespoon sriracha (rooster sauce) 1 tablespoon agave nectar 1 small onion, sliced 4 small garlic cloves, minced zest of 1 lime 2 tablespoons agave nectar 2 tablespoons fish sauce juice of 1 lime splash of shaoxing wine, if necessary Shell, de-vein, wash & dry the shrimp. Put it in a bowl with the oyster sauce, sriracha, agave nectar - give it a good stir and let it marinate for 10 minutes or longer. Before you start cooking, make sure you have all your ingredients ready & measured out. This goes quick! Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil of your choice in a wok until it shimmers. Throw in the onion, give it a few stirs before adding the garlic and zest. Stir fry until the onions & garlic are a 80% cooked through. Throw in the shrimp with the marinade. Give it a few stirs until the shrimp is mostly pink but you can still see some grey. Add the agave nectar, fish sauce, and lime juice. Stir everything until the shrimp is just cooked through. (don't overcook that shrimp! it'll turn tough.) The lime I used yielded a little over 1/4 cup of juice - if your lime is drier, you may need to add a bit of shaoxing wine at this point. If the sauce is still a bit runny, don't try and reduce it with the shrimp still in the wok. Plate up the onions & shrimp first, then reduce the sauce a little. Pour sauce onto the shrimp and serve. If you get a sweet and sour craving, this really hits the spot! Bon appetit :)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mom's "sweet" minestrone

There's a Japanese expression "ofukuro no aji." A literal translation would be "mom's taste/flavor." The closest English equivalent would probably be "comfort food" - something soothing, that brings back childhood memories.

But Ofukuro no aji particularly refers to a probably-universal idea that you'll always think the way your mom made a certain dish (usually a common dish that has multiple interpretations) is the best, or "the" way. Like the way your mom makes lasagna. Or meatloaf.

And usually, when you think of that dish, what pops in your mind is the way your mom prepared it.

This is especially true for me when it comes to minestrone soup.

When I crave minestrone, I don't envision the pasta-laden thick, murky soups that most supermarkets and restaurants have. Nor do I feel like meat should have any part of it.

What comes to mind is the way my mom made it - colorful with tons of veggies, floating in a clear broth, and the clean, sweet taste of tomatoes.

How does your mom make minestrone?

~ Mom's "sweet" minestrone ~

Makes 6~8 bowlfuls (depending on your bowls, and who's devouring it)

a few nice glugs of olive oil
1 medium onion
2 medium carrots
2 medium zucchinis
2 stalks of celery
4 of the reddest, ripest tomatoes you can find (variety doesn't matter)*
4~6 cups of broth or water
salt & pepper
optional: a handful of kale or savoy cabbage
optional: 1 can of beans (cannellini, northern, broad, etc)

*I usually leave the peels on my tomatoes, but if you want to peel them, here's a trick my grandmother taught me: make a shallow crosswise incision in the butt of the tomatoes, throw them in boiling water for 5 seconds, and shock them in a bowl of ice water. The peels will come off easily.

1. Chop all the veggies into small (1/2~3/4inch) cubes, or pieces of roughly the same size. If you're using kale/cabbage, just chop the leaves roughly.
2. Put a large pot (I like to use my Le Creuset) on medium-high. Once the pot warms up, add in the olive oil. The oil should swill around easily when the pot is hot enough.
3. Add the onions, sauté until translucent.
4. Add the carrots, sprinkle with some salt, sauté for a minute, then add the zucchini. Repeat this for the zucchini, celery, and tomato, so all of the veggies get incorporated with each other and the oil. (don't add the leafy greens yet!)
5. Pour in the broth/water in, bring to a boil on high, then lower the heat to low. Add the beans, and let the soup simmer until the veggies are cooked through and tender.
6. A few minutes before serving, toss in the leafy greens and cover the pot just long enough so the greens wilt.
7. Serve in thick, hearty bowls.


You can add more salt & pepper at the end, but I like to let each person salt & pepper to their taste.
For presentation, drizzle some nice olive oil, or float a dollop of creme fraiche.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spicy Root Beer BBQ Sauce

Spicy Root Beer Barbecue sauce

I've never been a big fan of soda.
Never been big on juices either. Think it's probably the sugar.

I used to have a sugar allergy, so my mom avoided feeding me (and herself) any refined sugars until I became three.
My snacks of choice as a toddler were onigiri (savory rice balls) and dried persimmons, and my drinks of choice water & green tea.

Nowadays, even though I'm more than capable of imbibing (and of course enjoying) all types of beers and sparkling wine, I'm really not big on sweet drinks. (translation: keep those chick drinks away!!)

So whenever we have visitors, hubbie and I buy soda solely for them; and by the time they leave, we have a couple bottles of sodas lying around in the garage with no one to drink them.

Today I'm slow-roasting some country ribs courtesy of Elise's recipe and seeing her Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce, I figured I could use those forlorn bottles of root beer sitting in the garage.

A quick Google search led me to this recipe on All Recipes.

I tweaked the spices a little, since we like things hot around here.
Feel free to tweak my version to your liking too!

* Spicy Root Beer BBQ sauce *

2 cups root beer (one bottle is actually 1.75 cups)
2 cups ketchup
juice of 1 meyer lemon (or half a regular lemon)
about 1/2 cup apple cider (put the lemon juice in the measuring cup, and fill up to the 1/2 cup line with apple cider)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger*
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder blend (Whole Food's Valle de sol)
1/2 teaspoon hot curry powder*
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

saucepan (2qt or larger)
heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon
half-cup measuring bowl with a mark at the 1/4 cup line (or regular measuring cup)
1/2teaspoon measuring spoon


1) Mix all ingredients in a saucepan, and set the pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat (low to medium low) and simmer for 15 minutes or until the desired consistency is reached.

*I use Penzey's spices - if you've never tried their spices, I really really recommend it! They're so fresh and much more potent than any other spice brands I've tried, including Morton & Bassett's.


I simmered my batch for a good 30 minutes for a thicker consistency.

Pack it away in a glass jar, or paint immediately onto some ribs. Enjoy :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

first official Paleo recipe: garlic-roasted parsnips & sunchokes

Sunchokes. Have you had them?

There was a book my mom had (one of the few English books in our house when I was little) and it was a mini-encyclopedia of veggies. One of the pages in there that I would read over & over was the page on sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes. Maybe it was because I loved artichokes. Maybe it was because they looked like ginger. Or maybe even, because it had the word "sun" in the name. Whatever the reason was, I was in love with those little veggies even before I tasted my first one.

This is where I'm supposed to tell you about my dreamy experience of eating my first sunchoke. I wish I could. But my memory sucks so much I can't really remember when I had my first one. Probably in California. Probably bought at the farmers market.

I just know that every time I have them, I love the taste. And every time I cook them, I've forgotten how they taste. (they taste like artichoke hearts!)

So when I came across this roasted parsnip & sunchoke recipe in my Practical Paleo book, I knew what to make for dinner.

I adapted the original recipe to make it extra-garlicky, but feel free to leave out the garlic entirely if you're not so partial.

~ Garlic-roasted Parsnips & Sunchokes ~

Serves 2 generous portions, or 4 smaller if you have other side dishes

3 tablespoons herb butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 large parsnip, skin kept intact
3~4 sunchokes, skin kept intact
salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Melt the herb butter in the microwave (30 seconds should do it). Add olive oil and sliced garlic and let stand. If you don't have herb butter, just use regular butter and add a dash of salt & dried or fresh herbs of your choice.

Slice the parsnip and sunchokes into 1/4in-thick pieces about 2 inches long. You want them to look like  2x10 lego blocks. I like to keep the skin on root veggies since there are tons of nutrients right between the skin and flesh, but you can peel them if you like.

Throw the veggie sticks in a large ovenproof dish, toss with the butter/herb/garlic mixture, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 30~40 minutes.


Right before you serve, give the veggies another toss, making sure they get re-coated with the butter/oil mixture that's settled at the bottom of the dish. We had this tonight with steak au poivre (pepper steak - I'll post the recipe soon), but any nice protein would do.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Going Paleo

So we (hubbie & I) have been on a mainly low-carb, gluten-free diet up till now without much difficulty. It takes some amount of creativity to find substitutions in recipes (cauliflower instead of rice, agave nectar instead of granulated sugar, spaghetti squash instead of pasta..you get the picture), but it hasn't been all that hard.  Naturally, I thought I could take on any sort of health-diet challenge because of this..that is, until I was introduced to the Paleo diet a few days ago.

What is a Paleo diet? To be honest, I didn't even know the diet existed until my midwife recommended the book Practical Paleo. The author, Diane, also has a blog on the subject. In short, it's a full-fat, omnivorous diet that avoids all legumes, all grains, and all factory-processed, refined foods.

Coming from a gluten-free diet, I sort of understand the no-grains part. But..oats and brown rice? Quinoa? And forget the no-legumes part. I thought tofu, miso, and soy milk are healthy?? My Asian self is screaming in defiance.

Diane explains that any food that causes excessive gas indicates that your system doesn't digest that food well. Eating legumes (beans) makes you gassy - hence legumes should be avoided. Part of me agrees with her. Before I found out about my gluten sensitivity, I was extremely gassy (chill people, it's a natural phenomenon). After I began avoiding gluten, my system stopped producing so much gas. And yet I still can't accept why home-made soy milk (which requires soaking the beans overnight) or freshly-made tofu from a mom-and-pop tofu shop would be unhealthy. But, I have a feeling it's the Asian culture that's embedded in my brain, willing me to believe that soy products are healthy without scientific proof.

Or, I'm just resisting change..which is, sadly, a natural human tendency.

Whatever the case, I'm still willing to give this Paleo diet a shot.

If I count today as Day 1, I failed already, since in my hurry to get out the door this morning I had a cheddar melted on a corn tortilla as breakfast. For lunch I made "egg in a nest" with sautéed kale & bacon as the nest, and a raw chocolate milkshake. Tea-time was chocolate mousse (made with a sprinkling of refined sugar since I was too big of a wuss to use an alternate sweetener for the meringue) with banana, and for dinner I'll probably make mapo tofu (another no-no). Great.

Hopefully in a few days I'll have the hang of this new diet and maybe some new recipes to post.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Homemade red & white currant jello

My local produce market had red and white currants (and gooseberries!) the other day.

I've never had fresh currants before - have you?
They are tart - but have a distinct flavor, kind of like ume (Japanese plum).

Since they were a little too tart to eat as is, and I didn't want to adulterate it with tons of sugar or cream, I decided to make them into a simple jello.

Fresh currant jello

1 6oz pack of fresh currants
2 cups of water
3 ~4 packets of Splenda or 1/8 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
1 7g packet of unflavored Knox gelatin


Reserve 1/3 cup of the water and sprinkle gelatin little by little into it. Let stand.

Pluck the currants off of the branches and place into a measuring cup. It should yield about 1 cup of fruit.
Place the fruit and the rest of the water into a small pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until the fruit is soft enough to mash with a spatula. Strain juice into a bowl.

Add Splenda/sugar and softened gelatin to the hot juice. Mix well.

Pour into individual cups or container. Chill in the refrigerator for 2~3 hours.

You can use the above recipe with any kind of berries or grapes.
If you have more (or less) fruit than the specified amount, just make sure that the amount of water is twice as much as the fruit, and you're using 7g of gelatin per 2 cups. (So if you have a quart of fruit, simmer in 2 quarts of water. You'll need 4 packets of gelatin to solidify it all.)

If you want to make pretty jello layers, place the cups with the first jello in an ice bath until mostly hardened. Then carefully pour in the second jello on top using a spoon. The red currant jello is a brilliant pink color, so layering it with some yogurt mousse would make a great combination too.

To make jello using cold juice, just heat half of the juice and dissolve sugar & gelatin in it. Then add the rest of the juice. Alternatively, you can melt the water + gelatin mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds, then add it to cold juice.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Recent obsession: chutney!

Ever get a huge pineapple at Costco, and then have the cut-up fruit sitting in your fridge for ages?

A couple weeks ago, this was the case.
The pineapple HAD to go. Of course, I didn't have the heart to chuck it in our 1 horsepower garbage disposal.

How to utilize all this pineapple at once..pineapple chutney!

I hadn't made chutney before, but a google search brought me to this awesome blog by Crazycupcakes.

I adapted her recipe to create a spicier chutney, but feel free to adjust to your preferences.

Pineapple Chutney 

4 tbs cider vinegar (rice or malt vinegar works too)
1/2 heaping tsp of crushed red chili (or 1/2 fresh chili minced)
8 whole cloves (or 3/4 teaspoon ground clove)
6~10 peppercorns (I use a blend of red, white, green, and black)
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raw agave syrup or sugar*
1/2 large pineapple or one whole small pineapple
2 inch piece ginger
2 cloves garlic

* If your pineapple is very ripe and sweet, 1/2 cup of sugar/syrup should be enough. If the pineapple is tart, up the sugar to 3/4 cup.


Lay the pineapple on it's side and chop off the top and bottom. Stand it up, and cut the skin off in strips. Rotate it as you go, until all the skin is peeled. Cut into 4 pieces lengthwise, and trim off the core. Now chop the pieces of fruit into small chunks, about 1/2 by 1/4 inch.

Mince the ginger and garlic, set it aside with the pineapple.

Place all the spices, sugar and vinegar in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10~15 minutes.

Add the ginger, garlic, and pineapple. Simmer for another 20~25 minutes stirring every now and then until the pineapple is translucent and most of the liquid is absorbed.

 Pour into a glass jar or air-tight container and you're done!

For some reason every time I make this, I can't get the liquid to evaporate within the 20 minute time frame. Maybe the pineapple is too juicy? It took at least 30 minutes to get the liquid down to half.
But if yours turns out liquid-y, it's no big deal.

This chutney goes great with some grilled pork chops or cheese, especially Red Hawk from Cowgirl creamery (pictured above). The pungent cheese pairs so well with the vibrant fruitiness of the chutney.