Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sweet Potatos Fries

Sweet potato fries have become so darn popular that I wouldn't be surprised if McDonald's started selling them soon. I know I'd buy them!

When my husband decided to smoke 25 pounds of meat, he also decided to send out an email (at midnite, mind you), inviting some people over that night for a last minute dinner party to help us eat it. I was informed of our dinner guests when I woke up in the morning :) Which is totally fine by me by the way. I love having people come over. Short notice or no notice, if show up at my doorstep, I'll gladly feed you. Plus, it forces me to clean, and sometimes, I need that extra push of motivation.

Since this was literally last minute, I whipped up some cole slaw before heading off to work and picked up some sweet potatoes on my way home because I thought it'd be a nice pairing. And they really were. I especially like them dipped in the BBQ sauce my husband made.

And because sweet potato fries tend to be quite soggy, I used my good friend google for some tips and tricks. The secrets that I decided to use were soaking the sweet potatoes in water after cutting them and dusting them with corn starch before frying. The fries came out crisp and delicious, but I'm still open to suggestions on how to make them even crispier. If you've got any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

- Sweet potatoes
- Corn starch
- Salt
- Chili powder

- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into matchsticks.
- Soak the matchsticks in water until you're ready to fry.
- Heat some oil (a heavy bottomed pot would be best) to about 350 degrees.
- Dry the sweet potatoes (I used my salad spinner).
- Dust them in corn starch right before frying. (If your first batch doesn't come out as crispy as you'd like it to be, use a thicker coating)
- Carefully drop the coated fries into the oil and fry until they are golden browned and crispy.
- Remove them from the oil and spread them on a cooling rack, letting the excess oil drip away.
- Sprinkle salt and chili powder while the oil is still hot so that it will stick better.
- Stuff your face - these things are seriously addicting!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

(Secret) Homemade BBQ Sauce

My husband always complains that I don't give him credit for his creations on this blog, but I always do. If he made it or helped, I mention him. He also complains that I don't post about all the goodies he makes around the house, but every time I ask him for the recipe so that I can post it, he refuses to tell me! I just can't win, can I? Well, hopefully this post will shut him up for a while :)

My husband has been wanting to break out the smoker one last time before the end of the year, so when pork butt went on sale, he bought two huge honking ones to make pulled pork sandwiches. Then he figured, if he's going to go through all the trouble of smoking the suckers for 14 hours, he might as well maximize his efforts. Since he can fit 4 pork butts on the smoker, he asked me to pick up 2 more. We ended up with 25 pounds of pork. No, I'm not kidding.

I went to bed at a normal person hour while my husband napped all afternoon. He woke up about an hour before I went to bed, and stayed up all night to smoke the pork. I kept waking up in the middle of night, smelling smoke, onions, garlic, and other tasty aromas that aren't exactly what you want to be smelling while you're trying to sleep, while he toiled away smoking the pork and making this awesome homemade BBQ sauce. It's nice and rich and full of flavor. It's the perfect consistency, isn't too sweet, has a bit of smokiness to it, has the perfect amount of acidity, and packs a lot of heat, just the way I like it.

And here is where I would usually share with you the recipe for this BBQ sauce... BUT HE WON'T SHARE IT WITH ME! In fact, he's joked (at least I hope he's joking) about splitting the recipe in two so that if someone ever finds it (ie me), they'll only have half of it.

So I apologize for posting this teaser of a post, but I had to do it so that he'll stop accusing me of taking credit for his work and for not posting the stuff he makes. If you want to try this magic BBQ sauce, maybe I can convince him to sell you a jar? Or maybe, if I do enough snooping, I can find both halves of recipe and expose it to the world!




Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nachos Grande

The hubz pointed out that we eat a lot of Mexican food. I never noticed but suppose it's true. Maybe that's a product of growing up in San Diego, but honestly, I didn't eat much Mexican growing up. I eat as much as I can every time I visit these days, but as a kid, it was always Chinese food, even when we went out. It's interesting though. Mexican food is one of those cuisines that you can't really find outside of Mexico, California and Texas. When I was living in Hong Kong, boy did I crave a good burrito! I was really excited when we planned a trip to New York and I thought I was finally going to get some decent Mexican, but nope, I was sorely disappointed.

On that note, we love Chevy's. Yes, I know it's "gringo" Mexican food, but that doesn't make it any less tasty. They have the best chips and salsa. So light and flaky. And you can't beat El Machino, pumping out fresh tortillas right before your eyes! A great bonus is that Chevy's has the absolute best happy hour. $3 margaritas (and beer and cocktails) and $3 for select appetizers. Full-sized appetizers, and their appetizers are big!

Even before we tried out their happy hour, the hubz and I always enjoyed going there for a few margaritas and getting a nachos grande to share. Now with the discovery of happy hour, we can't go back to paying full price. So when I came home from work too late to make it to happy hour, we decided to make our own at home.

- Tortillas chips
- Salsa
- Refried beans
- Chicken
- Shredded cheese (mexican blend)
- Additional things that I didn't have on hand but would be super tasty if I did are tomatoes, avocados, corn, black beans, sour cream, guacamole etc.

- Lay a thin layer of salsa on the bottom of a oven-safe plate. (I used a casserole dish)
- Put down a single layer of tortilla chips.
- Put a few dollops of refried beans every few inches.
- Put a few dollops of salsa every few inches.
- Put a few pieces of shredded chicken on the chips, also a few inches apart.
- Sprinkle everything with shredded cheese.
- Lay another layer of chips and layer of beans, salsa, chicken and cheese.
- Pop it in the oven until it's warmed through and the cheese is melted.
- Top it with diced tomatoes, avocados, sour cream, guacamole, etc.
- Serve with margaritas.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lu Rou Fan (Stewed Pork Rice)

I'm a huge fan of Taiwanese food. This wasn't always the case though. When I was 4 years old and spent a summer in Taiwan, I begged for hamburgers, pizza and spaghetti, and there was just none to be found (this was before McDonald's made their way out there). When my mom finally found spaghetti, I refused to eat it becuase it was was basically ketchup over noodles, yuck. So what was a kid to do? I survived off of yakult yogurt drinks, sa chi ma (chinese rice krispy treats), and whatever healthy items my mom managed to force down my throat.

Now that I'm all grown up, I love Taiwanese food and just can't get enough. The best part about visiting Taiwan is the food! But since I can't just hop on a plane to enjoy all those goodies, I make it at home.

- Ground pork (or fatty pork belly would be even better!)
- Shitake mushrooms
- Shallots
- Soy sauce
- Brown sugar
- Fried shallots
- Eggs (optional)

- Rehydrate the shitake mushrooms if you're using dried. (Using hot water or popping it in the microwave for a minute will speed up the process if you're in a rush).

- Finely dice the shallots and set them aside.
- Dice the mushrooms too.
- In a heavy bottomed pot, heat up some oil.
- Add the shallots in and saute them until soft.
- Add the ground pork and some soy sauce. Brown until mostly cooked through.
- Add the mushrooms, the liquid from the mushrooms (being careful not to pour in the grit at the bottom) and enough water to barely cover everything.
- Add some fried shallots to taste.

- Add more soy sauce and brown sugar to taste.
- If you want, you can add some peeled hard boiled eggs and simmer them until brown and flavorful for soy sauce eggs.

- Simmer until the flavors have come together and serve it over rice (garnishing it with more fried shallots if desired).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hot & Sour Cabbage

I love hot and sour flavors together, and I'm assuming I'm not the only one since hot and sour soup seems to be pretty popular (which I'm dying to make one of these days btw, so if you if you have a great recipe, please share it with me).

Anyway, this hot & sour cabbage is a quick and easy veggie dish to go with any meal. It's also decent alternative for when you're craving kimchi but don't have the patience to wait for it to ferment.

And since the secret ingredient for Weekend Wokking is cabbage this month, I'm submitting this to Erbe in Cucina who is hosting it this month.

- Cabbage
- Dried chili peppers (chili pepper flakes will work too if you don't have the peppers)
- Chili oil (optional)
- Vinegar
- Salt
- Oil

- Chop the cabbage into bit size squares. Wash and drain them.
- Heat up some oil in a wok or pan.
- Add the chili peppers or flakes and toast them until you can smell the spice. Be careful not to let them burn.
- Add the cabbage and salt and vinegar to taste. If it's not spicy enough, I also like to add a bit of chili oil too.
- Stir everything around until the cabbage is cooked through but still has some crunchiness to it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Banana Oatmeal Cookie

This time it wasn't my fault. I stopped buying bananas because they always get mushy and then I'm forced to use them for baking and I've learned my lesson. This time, I had mushy bananas because my in-laws brought them over one day and left them behind. Then, to no one's surprise, they got mushy and I had to find something to do with them.

I found this recipe on There's always thyme to cook. I really liked these cookies. They weren't overly sweet and I felt (sorta) healthy eating them since they had bananas and oatmeal. I did mess with the recipe a bit because I had 4 rotting bananas, not 3, but it still turned out fine, which is surprising because if you've followed my blog at all, you know that I suck at baking. Oh, I also kept them in the oven much longer than 12 minutes the original recipe called for because they weren't browning and came out mushy. With or without my tweaks, they were yummy and I definitely approve of this recipe.

Adapted from There's always thyme to cook
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 4 ripe bananas (the original recipe calls for 3, so 3 would probably work too)
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup walnuts

- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Cream the butter, sugar and brown sugar together.
- Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
- Mix in the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon until well-combined.
- Mix in the banana, oats, walnuts and chocolate chips.
- Put spoonfuls of dough on a greased baking pan, parchment paper or silpat and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are just beginning to brown. (The original recipe says 10-12 minutes, but I found that it wasn't enough)
- Cool on a cooling rack and then share them with your friends!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tsatziki (on a Chicken Plate)

Back in college, we used to live off of Durant Food Court aka Asian Ghetto. And while most of the restaurants there are Asian, there was a non-Asian place that we really enjoyed as well - Meesha's Gyros. We'd always order the same thing when we went there, "Chicken plate over rice, with hummus, extra yogurt sauce and spicy on the side - to go". The thing that made this dish was really the yogurt sauce, which I how realize was probably tzatziki.

I hadn't thought about that dish since we graduated (there's no need to mention how long ago that was) until a few weeks ago. It was like all the stars aligned and I really had no choice but to try and recreate it. I had leftover grilled chicken thighs in the fridge, a cucumber that I didn't know what to do with, and a tub of plain yogurt that needed to be eaten before it went bad. The other ingredients I needed are constant staples in this household, so I was set. I cooked up some rice in the rice cooker and got to work on the highlight of the dish, the yogurt sauce, and was very happy with the results. It's quick, easy, healthy and delicious. I'm definitely not going to forget this dish again any time soon.

- Chicken (I like thighs)
- 1 cup of greek yogurt or plain regular yogurt, drained
- 1 to 2 cloves of garlic (to taste)

- 1/2 cucumber

- juice of 1/2 lemon (to taste)

- Salt & pepper


- Salt and pepper the chicken thigh and grill until cooked through. Let it rest, then cut it into bite size pieces and set it aside.

- Put the yogurt in a bowl. If you're using regular yogurt, put in a cheese cloth and let some of the excess liquid drain for a little while first.
- Using a microplane zester, zest the garlic into the yogurt.

- Wash and peel the cucumber. Cut the cucumber in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds (I find using a spoon works well).

- Grate the cucumber and add it to the yogurt mixture, squeezing out the excess liquid with your hands first.

- Add lemon juice to taste.

- Add salt and pepper to taste (though I found that I didn't need any at all).

- Mix well and let it sit in the fridge for a while for the flavors to really meld together (or serve immediately if you're impatient like me).
- Serve the chicken over a bed of rice with a healthy dollop of yogurt sauce on top, a sprinkling of chili powder if desired, a side of hummus and some steamed vegetables, and you've got yourself a healthy and delicious meal.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chicken Orzo Soup

The weather is getting cooler and while I'll definitely miss the summer, I will also enjoy the fact that it's also soup season! Plus I've been saving all the bones from all those summer bbq's in my freezer and have lots of stock on hand for some great soups.

This is a simple and easy classic, but instead of using noodle, I used orzo. I love the fun shape and texture of orzo, it's like fat rice!

- Chicken (I used chicken breast)
- Onions
- Celery
- Carrots
- Potatoes
- Orzo
- Chicken stock (recipe can be found here)
- Salt & Pepper

- Dice the onions, peel and chop the carrots, and chop the celery. Set everything aside.
- Heat a heavy bottomed pot and add a bit of oil. Add the onions with a sprinkling of salt and saute them until they're soft.
- Add the carrots and celery and cook until they've softened as well.
- Add chicken stock to the pot and bring it to a boil.
- Add the potatoes and orzo and chicken.
- When the chicken is cooked through, pull it out, let it cool, shred it, and put it back in.
- Salt and pepper the soup to taste and let it warm you up on a chilly night.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chao Mi Fen

If you're Chinese, you call this mi-fen. If you're Filipino, you call this pancit. If you're Malaysian, you call this bihon. In America, they call it Rice Vermicelli. Regardless of what you call it, I call it yummy!

Asian foods have a lot of overlap. I had a friend in high school who was Korean, and we used to have arguments, along with a Filipino friend of mine, on whether something our moms made was Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, etc. And if she couldn't win the argument, she'd just throw her hands up in the air and declare "It's Mongolian! We all descended from Mongolia!" Whether or not that's true, I don't know (I suck at history), but it was her way of saying "If I can't win, no one can!" :)

I like that there's a lot of overlap in the types of food Asians make and I love how each culture puts their own little spin on the same dish. In fact, even within each culture, there are countless ways to make this dish. I learned this way from my mom, but I've never seen it made like this in a restaurant or anyone else's house, which makes me think that she made it up to get me to eat more carrots, but who knows. Regardless, it's what I grew up with and what I enjoy, so I continue on the tradition by making this way too.

I know it looks like a scary amount of carrots, but somehow, it just works. The carrots lend a sweetness to the dish that I really enjoy and it doesn't taste too carrot-y. Plus it gives the dish color and makes it pretty. It's also a great way to use up carrots that have been sitting in the fridge for waaay too long!

This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, a wonderful event created by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast, which is being hosted by Joanne of Eats Well with Others. Check out the roundup at the end of the week for more noodly goodness.

- Half a bag of dried rice vermicelli
- 5 carrots
- Half a head of napa cabbage
- 2 to 3 chicken breasts or pork chops
- Soy sauce
- Oyster sauce

- Soak the rice vermicelli in water while prepping the other ingredients. It should be soft and pliable by the time you need to use it, which should take about 10 minutes or so. Soaking it longer does no harm.
- Slice the chicken or pork into thin strips of about a quarter inch thick. If you want bigger pieces of meat, that's fine too, there are no real rules to this.
- Mix in a bit of soy sauce and corn starch with the chicken/pork to marinate and tenderize it.
- Peel and shred the carrots. I find the shredding blade of the food processor especially handy for this task.
- Wash and thinly slice the napa cabbage. You can use more or less if you'd like, or use regular cabbage or even other veggies such as spinach if you'd like too. There's a lotta flexibility here. My mom used napa cabbage, so that's what I use too.
- Heat a bit of oil in a large pot or wok.
- Put the marinated meat into the pot/wok and stir it until it's about 80% cooked through. You can add more soy or oil if it seems to be sticking to the pan too much.
- Add the carrots and cabbage and give everything a good stir. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top and put the lid on. Check on it every few minutes, giving it a stir if necessary, until the carrots and cabbage have wilted and softened significantly.
- Add the soaked noodles in and flavor with soy and oyster sauce to taste. Stir everything together until the noodles are soft. If the pan keeps drying out while you're stirring or the noodles are too hard, add more water.
- I love to serve this with Sriracha sauce.