Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts

I made a youtube video! Since I’m done being a milk machine for my son, I’ve been gifted the gift of time again. I made a youtube video for chocolate chip cookies and it was really fun. I hope to make more videos in the future! If you decide to give this recipe a try or just even just pop in to check out my video, let me know what you thought!

Vietnamese Pork Spare Rib Soup

This simple, light yet flavorful, and hearty soup is a soup I enjoy making whether it’s in the cold of winter or warmer days of summer. I usually add some kind of pasta noodle like fusili pasta to make it a meal, but since I’m watching my carb intake I only added it for my daughter and my husband’s bowl this time.

The great thing about this soup is as long as you have potatoes, carrots, and onions you’re good on the veggies. But it’s also very customizable to your preference. Sometimes I add corn, cabbage, or cauliflower depending on what I have in the fridge and what I feel like eating.

For a cleaner flavor, I prefer using water to make the broth, but if you wanted to use chicken broth or some other broth you can definitely do that. For this soup, I used pork (hence the name 😛) but I’ve done this with bone-in chicken and it always turns out great as well!

Vietnamese Pork Spare Rib Soup (Serves 4-6)
2 Lbs. Pork Spare Ribs (cut into 1-2 riblets)
2 cups of cubed potatoes
2 cups of sliced carrots
1/2 onion
3 Tbs of fish sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups cooked pasta
For broth
2 celery stalks (optional)
1/2 cup carrots (i usually keep the ends of carrots I’ve grated in the freezer to make broth later)
1/4 cup sliced onions
8 cups water

To cleaned pork spare ribs well:
1. Soak in cold salted water for about 30 minutes and rinse.
2. Parboil the ribs.
3. Bring enough water to cover the pork to boil.
4. Add pork and let cook in boiling for about 2 minutes.
5. Remove and rinse pork and set aside.
6. Drain water and rinse pot.
Make the broth:
7. Add 8 cups of fresh water to pot, add pork, celery stalks, 1/2 cup of carrots, 1/4 cup of sliced onions.
8. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer.
9. Simmer for 1 hr to extract the most flavor as possible from the meat and vegetables.
10. Use a strainer to strain out carrots, celery and onions.
Make the soup:
11. Add in potatoes, carrots, and rest of onions.
12. Season with 2 Tbs fish sauce (add the last Tbs at the end of cooking if needed), 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper.
13. Bring back to boil then simmer until potatoes are tender.
14. Adjust seasonings to preference.
15. Add some pasta to a bowl and ladle soup on top.
16. Garnish with green onions.

Enjoy and have nice weekend!

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb || Hosting for Easter

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Since we moved our little family back home this past summer, we’ve been able to spend so much more holidays with family and it’s been wonderful. Even more wonderful it has been to see my daughter  have more interaction with her grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Most of the time my parents are the one that hosts, but for this Easter I decided to take on the challenge, and at 8 months pregnant, there were moments yesterday where I began to question my ability to make good judgements. But overall, aside from serving food 1 hour later than planned, everything turned out as well as I could have hoped.

On the menu, I wanted the main dish to be something I’ve made before, Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb. I served it was creamy mashed potatoes and a green bean and radish salad to lighten up the meal. I tried a new recipe, for the salad and although my sister really liked it and said I should save this recipe, the recipe didn’t wow me. For the amount of ingredients and work it required, I don’t think I’ll be making it again.

The rack of lamb, on the other hand, is a recipe I’ve made fairly often. I first had herb crusted rack of lamb when my husband used to be a server at a steak restaurant. It was done perfectly, seasoned well and had an amazing unforgettable flavor that made a pretty good lasting first impression of lamb for me. When he stopped working there, I wanted to recreate this dish and found this recipe from Fine Cooking that satisfied both of our cravings for the rack of lamb dish from the steak restaurant. I don’t change anything from this recipe so if you’re interested in making this dish, please just click on the link for the recipe.

One thing that I would suggest getting that has helped me tremendously with this dish is getting a meat thermometer that you can insert and leave in while the meat is cooking. I took out my lamb at 140 degree farenheight and it was the perfect amount of doneness for us. I cooked 3 racks and after letting the meat rest, some pieces were medium rare and some were medium (perfect for everyone’s preference at the table).  Also, every time I’ve made this recipe, the searing step has initiated my smoke detectors to sound off, EVERY TIME. So just be prepared for that.

One last suggestion, get finishing salt! It elevates your finished meat dished to the “wow” that any home cook loves to hear. At the end of my post, I put a link on image for the salt I like to use for finishing meats. It’s not too expensive and a little goes a long way. I only use when I grill or roast meats and want to let the flavor of the meat shine through. This container will last me more than a year. If you do click and make a purchase, I get a little percentage, but I would never recommend a product I wouldn’t use myself! If you happen to use the salt through my recommendation let me know if you enjoyed it! 

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Green beans and radish salad with a walnut tarragon pesto.
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Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb, red wine sauce, and creamy mashed potatoes…Happy Easter!

Vietnamese Beef Stew || Bo Kho

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There are a handful of dishes I consider Vietnamese comfort food, Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) is one of them. Aromatic, savory, full of flavor, it’s one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes in general. I’m sure every family has their own recipe and preference of how to make it and eat. Some enjoy it with rice noodles while others prefer having it along side toasty french baguette. I have grown up with the latter, enjoying this stew with a nice crusty piece of bread to soak up the aromatic robust broth. We already had Hawaiian Rolls at home so we just had the rolls, but definitely get the baguettes if you can. My parents have always used the packet of pre-made marinade/seasoning found at any Vietnamese or Chinese grocery store, but over the years I developed my own recipe that I feel taste just as good and dare I say better than using the pre-made packet seasoning. It’s a recipe that I’m pretty proud of!

Like most recipes, you still have to adjust seasonings according to your preference, but the basis of the recipe will result in an extremely flavorful, deep broth for a delicious Bo Kho. Traditionally, Vietnamese beef stew is made with beef shank and tendon. I’m not a huge fan of tendon and I find using beef chuck gives me the most tender and soft meat, so I always use beef chuck, but you can definitely use shank and tendon if you want! With this recipe, simmering for 2 hours is the minimum, the longer you can let it simmer the better. I think it even tastes better the next day. This recipe makes enough for my husband, me, and my daughter, but she’s 3, so she doesn’t count as a full portion😛, with a little left over for the next day. If you’re making this for at least 4 adults (and you want leftovers) I would double the recipe. The herb that typically gets served with this stew is Thai Basil, but I really enjoy eating an herb called Tia To, a Vietnamese Perilla. Also don’t forget a slice of lime for a little tang. The citrus cuts the richness of the broth very nicely.

Bo Kho Recipe (about 4 servings)
2-3 lb beef chuck cut into 1.5 – 2 inch pieces
1.5 Tbs annatto seeds
¼ cup olive oil
1 yellow onion cut into slices
1 Tbs of minced garlic
4 large carrots cut into 2 inch pieces
2  Tbs frozen lemon grass or 3 stalk of fresh lemon grass bruised
1  Tbs grated frozen ginger or 3 slices of fresh ginger
3 ounce of tomato paste
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs five spice powder
2 tsp curry powder
½  Tbs paprika
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs fish sauce
1-2 cups coconut juice or water
4 cups beef broth, chicken broth, or water

  1. In a small pan heat olive oil and annatto seeds until color has bled and oil is red about 1 minute. Remove seeds and keep oil.
  2. Marinate beef with ½ tbs of fish sauce, garlic, onion, salt, five spice powder, curry powder, paprika and 1 tbs of the annatto oil.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably overnight.
  3. In a large pot add in about 2 Tbs of annatto oil over medium heat, add lemon grass, star anise and cinnamon stick, ginger and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  4. Add meat and brown for about 1 minute on each side.
  5. Add carrots, coconut juice, broth and more water (if necessary) until meat is covered by about 1 inch.
  6. Add tomato paste and bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours until meat is tender.  Add rest of fish sauce and adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Serve with Thai Basil or Vietnamese Perilla and lime.
    IMG_5468Beautiful red annatto oilIMG_5469IMG_5476IMG_5478

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    This broth is packed with flavor.

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    Enjoy!

Creamy Comforting Fish Chowder

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Happy Monday? Hopefully you had a nice relaxing weekend. On Friday I was in the mood for a creamy warm soup. I had some cod filets in the freezer so naturally I thought of fish chowder. I love making fish chowder! It’s not something I make often, but it’s always so easy and delightful when I do make it. It’s a great way to add fish to our diet in a way that is tasty and very easy to eat. It has creaminess from the milk, hardiness from the vegetables, and sweetness from the corn. I don’t usually add mushrooms, but I had them in the fridge and they turned out to be a nice addition. What more can one ask for when one wants a comforting bowl of soup?

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Fish Chowder (adapted from Epicurious) Serves 4-6
4 slices bacon
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2-3 Tbs flour (2 Tbs if using cream, 3 Tbs if using milk)
1 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrots, chopped
1/2 cup corn
1 dried bay leaves
3-4 sprigs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon)
2 cups potatoes, cubed
4 cups stock (I used chicken stock)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 firm white fish filets (cod, tilapia..etc)
1 cup milk, half n half, or heavy cream
3-4 tablespoons fresh chives, minced

1. Heat a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over low heat and add the the bacon. Cook about 5 minutes per side until cooked through and crisp.
2. Remove to plate and cut into little pieces. Set aside. Leave about 1 Tbs of the bacon fat or oil in the pot.
3. Add the butter, onions and garlic, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon,  until the onions and soft and translucent.
4. Add flour and continue to stir for another 2 minutes.
5. Add the potatoes and stock. If the stock doesn’t cover the potatoes, add just enough water to cover them. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously for about 10 minutes, until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center.
6. Add bay leaf and thyme.
7. Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper.
8. Add the fish fillets and cook over low heat for 7 minutes.
9. Gently stir in the milk and adjust any season as necessary.
10. Turn off heat.
11. Garnish with chopped chives and bacon pieces and enjoy!IMG_5442IMG_5445

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Oh, delicious delicious bacon (this was turkey bacon but any bacon would be good)

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Bet you can’t have just one bowl! Enjoy!

Mediterranean Inspired Salmon (and turning a negative into a positive)

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I’m always looking for new ways to cook salmon (that and chicken breasts). My usual go-to recipes are Salmon Teriyaki or Basil Lemon Salmon with Spaghetti. But since I have to watch my sugar and carb intake I’m challenged to find new recipes. It’s always uplifting when something that seemed like such a negative event (like finding out I had gestational diabetes) actually became a somewhat positive event in my life. I always thought I knew a fair amount about healthy eating and nutrition, but after attending a program on diabetes and having to monitor my glucose levels during pregnancy, I realized how much I didn’t know and how important it was to actually apply what I learned.  And since my unborn baby’s health is dependent on me and my diet, I have to be even more proactive and discipline with my nutrition and sugar/carb intake (I just hope that I haven’t learned too late into my pregnancy).

So in search of healthier ways to prepare salmon, I came upon this recipe on allrecipes.com.  I made a few changes to what I had at home, instead of basil and cilantro, I used fresh thyme and rosemary. I left out garlic salt and used regular kosher salt. Since I had to bake some vegetables also, I baked my salmon at 450 Fahrenheit instead of broiling. I squeezed some lemon before serving and just like that, I have a new husband-approved recipe to add to my salmon repertoire! And best of all, this recipe does not use any sugar and is still so flavorful and delicious.

So although I was not exactly thrilled when I found out I had gestational diabetes (there may or may not have been some tears 😅), it has made me learn to eat better and healthier, not only for myself, but for my daughter, husband, and this little baby growing in me.

Mediterranean Inspired Salmon (serves 3)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 fillets salmon
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary (3-4 inches)
Salt and pepper

  1. Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme and rosemary in a baking dish. 
  2. Arrange the salmon fillets in the shallow baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, turning once to coat and sprinkle salt and pepper on other side.
  3. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes. Using a spoon to pour marinade on top of fish every so often.
  4. Preheat oven 450 degree
  5. Bake for about 10 minutes.
  6. Gently turn salmon over. Bake for another 10 minutes.
  7. Squeeze some lemon on top.

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Enjoy!

Fig or Date and Almond Smoothie

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This post was actually suppose to be for a Date and Almond Smoothie recipe, but in my hastiness, I grabbed my bag of dried figs instead of dried dates in our pantry. I didn’t realize it (even as I took this photo) until I finished making the smoothie. Once I noticed my mistake, I gave it a taste to see if it was good enough to still write a post and it was! I felt it was just as good as using dried dates. Even my daughter kept asking more “milkshake”.

I first had this smoothie when we used to live in Loma Linda and once in a while would order produce and meal kits from The Prep Table. One time I ordered a kit for a Date and Almond smoothie to give it a try and was so surprised at how tasty it was. It was super easy to make and helped us incorporate healthy ingredients to our diets like dates and almonds.

You can make this smoothie with any kind of milk you prefer. A positive is that the dried fruit and bananas have so much natural sweetness you don’t have to add any extra sweeteners. I’ve used whole milk in the past but today I used coconut milk and really liked it. I’ve also seen some recipes add turmeric which I was tempted to do, but left it out today to keep it as similar to the smoothie recipe from The Prep Table as possible. So if you’re in a smoothie or snack rut, give this recipe a try, I think you’ll be very happy with it!

Fig or Date and Almond Smoothie (Makes 1 large serving or 2 small servings)
1 cup milk (coconut, almond, or cow)
1/4 cup dried figs or dried pitted dates
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 banana
1/8 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 cup ice

1. Blend on high until very smooth.
2. Pour into glass and enjoy!

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Creamy, sweet, and refreshing!

On that note, see, I promised you guys my next post would be about food!

Baking a Little Something in the Oven

Hi guys! Sorry for a 9 month lapse but I’ve been so very busy. Busy with what you may wonder? Well….what usually happens during a 9 month span? Hmm, I’m sure you’ve guessed it. Yes, I’ve been baking, baking a baby in the oven.  My oven that is.  I’m due next month and we’re expecting a baby boy! I’m so excited since my husband and I agree that we will be a family of 4, two kids and done. 

This pregnancy has been so different than with my daughter. First trimester was the roughest. Nausea, fatigue, and worse of all to me, food adversion. I wanted nothing to do with food, cooking or eating. It was such a terrible feeling that I couldn’t control. I knew I had to eat but it was so not enjoyable. Unfortunately, since I didn’t even want to look at food let alone cook, there wasn’t much to write about. I started to get better in my second trimester and then I found out I had gestational diabetes. Also very tough, since sweets and carbs were the only things I did enjoy. But now I had to really watch what I was eating and cut down on carbs….CARBS!?! As tough as it was, I’m now starting to get use to watching my carbs regularly and walking after every meal, and I feel even healthier than ever. 

With about a month and a half left to go, I’m feeling a bit more empowered to finish my pregnancy strong and welcome my baby into the world. So I just wanted to share this little tad-bit with you about my life. Now that I’ve had my energy and appetite back, I can get back to feeling inspired with my meals and I will post more regularly again. Well as regularly as a mom with a toddler and a newborn can! 😉 My next post, I PROMISE, will be a food post and it will post next week. Come back to see if I keep my promise! =)

Photo Albums, a little musing

IMG_6755Does any one still print photos and make photo albums? I remember when my siblings and I were younger it was such a tedious task that my parents made us do, having to sort through stacks and stacks of photos and then organizing them into a somewhat coherent photo album. 

Now my mom stores these precious albums up high in her dresser cabinet. When I’m spending some time at my parents’ house it’s actually really nice to take down one of these albums and peruse through the years of memories my family created when we were all so young just starting to figure out the world for ourselves.

Now that I have a family of my own, seeing the photo albums my mom kept inspired me to want my kid/kids to have the same experience and enjoyment of cherishing their childhood memories one day. I decided to start the task of sorting through thousands of photos saved in external hard drives and print the photos to organize albums.

What was once a tedious task as a child is now something I’m eager to start as an adult.

A nostalgic challenge I’m up for.

It’s Good to Be Home and Opo Squash Soup with Shrimp

 

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Moving back home has a been so nice. Being near my parents has made a huge difference in our daily lives. A major benefit of being near my family has been the abundance of family support and company they have offered us the minute we got back. From cooking to unpacking, they’ve added so much more enjoyment and warmth to our day.

Aside from the company of our family, the abundance of vegetables and herbs from my dad’s garden has been so enjoyable.  I know we’re adults with our own daughter, but it feels nice to have our parents nearby and feeding our bellies every so often. Opo Squash and Kabocha Squash are two abundant vegetables in my dad’s garden and I’ve been happily accepting them when I’m offered. One of the easiest ways to use it is in soups.

The method is very easy and a trick I learned from my mom is to not add too much water  when making soups because a lot of vegetables release their own liquid so it will make your soup that much sweeter if you don’t dilute it by adding too much water. So for about 4 cups of chopped up Opo Squash or Kabocha Squash I’ll add about 2.5 cups of water.

I usually use water because I prefer the milder flavor for this soup compared to using chicken broth but you can definitely use chicken broth if you prefer! You can use any protein you want to add to this soup, pork ribs are very common addition, but I like using shrimp.

Ooo Squash Soup with Shrimp (Canh Bau)

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup -1/2 cup of onion, minced
4 cup of opo squash, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch to 1/3 inch pieces
1 cup of peeled shrimp, chopped and season with a pinch of salt and pepper
1 Tbs fish sauce (You can always start with 1/2 Tbs and add more later, but I like more salty flavor)
2.5 cups of water (If using chicken broth use less fish sauce to start)
salt and pepper
cilantro for garnish
2 tsp vegetable oil

In a medium size pot add oil over medium heat sauté onion and garlic untill onions are translucent. About 2-3 minutes
Add shrimp and sautee untill shrimp turns pink.
Add water cover and bring to boil.
Once boiling add the squash and slight cover with lid.
Once water comes back to boil, add fish sauce, pinch of salt, and pepper and lower to medium low.
Cook for about 15-20 minutes until squash is soft.
Taste and adjust season as necessary.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

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