Archive for the ‘Cooking at home’ Category

Jap Chae

January 19, 2010 5 comments

Jap Chae

I love Korean food. When I lived in San Francisco, I went out for Korean food at least once a week. Here in Chicago, I have only been out for Korean twice (I have more time than money these days) but regularly shop at H-Mart in Niles for my Asian groceries. At Korean restaurants, one of my favorite things is Jap Chae, stir-fried Korean glass noodles with vegetables and a sweet soy sauce marinade. I’ve made this once before (to test the mandoline I took from my mom’s kitchen):

Jap Chae

I’m trying to clear out our food stock and we had the perfect storm of ingredients at home yesterday for a final batch of jap chae: onions, carrots, spinach, shitake mushrooms, and glass noodles. We had some daeji bulgogi in the freezer (leftovers from Korean taco night) and defrosted that for the jap chae too. The first time I made this, I had marinated bulgogi from the Korean market but you could easily throw in whatever meat you may have on hand: chicken, pork, or no meat at all would still be delicious! Read more…


Roast chicken, potatoes & brussels sprouts

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Dinner: Roast chicken, potatoes & brussels sprouts

I used to always buy roast chickens from the supermarket for $7.99 thinking it was a steal…and then I went over to my friend Tom’s for dinner and learned how cheap and easy it is to make a roast chicken! Now it is one of our go to meals. If you buy a large enough chicken, there are good leftovers for a few more meals–in salads, as a sandwich, over grits–and then the carcass goes into the freezer to make stock or soup some other time. I got this one from H-Mart in Niles, IL for <$4 and threw it in the freezer a few weeks ago. It ended up taking about 48 hours to fully defrost.

Once it defrosts, I make sure to pat the chicken dry and then brush it with some melted butter. Then, I liberally sprinkle spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder, mustard powder, basil…whatever you want) on both sides and squeeze some lemon or lime over the top. I stuff the chicken with the used lemon/lime pieces and throw it in the oven for 90 minutes at 350F. If you look around online, everyone has a different method. I have found this works well for me and always, without fail, results in a juicy chicken with crisp skin.

Dinner: Roast chicken, potatoes & brussels sprouts

I served the chicken with potatoes and brussels sprouts. I don’t eat potatoes very often, but we had a few leftover from when we made gnocchi. They were starting to grow eyes so it was either eat them now or toss them. I just diced them up, tossed them with a little olive oil and spices, and threw them in the oven with the chicken for about 45 minutes.

Dinner: Roast chicken, potatoes & brussels sprouts

And finally, the brussels sprouts. I didn’t grow up eating brussels sprouts but I did read a lot of books where the kids HATED brussels sprouts. I even asked my mom when I was nine or ten why she never made me eat brussels sprouts. She said she didn’t really like them so she never bought them for us.

It wasn’t until I was 24 and living with my cousin that I tried brussels sprouts for the first time. I came home from the gym and thought someone farted…turns out she was roasting brussels sprouts. Fast forward 5 years and brussels sprouts are now a favorite in my family. If I see sprouts on a menu, you can guarantee I will order it. They show up at every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter…always sliced and sauteed with bacon. So easy and so tasty!

Dinner: Roast chicken, potatoes & brussels sproutsDinner: Roast chicken, potatoes & brussels sproutsDinner: Roast chicken, potatoes & brussels sprouts

Thai Pizza

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Phuket1/2 Tom Yum & 1/2 Green Curry Shrimp pizza at a beach bar in Phuket, Thailand

I spent a little over two weeks in Thailand in December and experienced a unique Thai-inspired pizza in Phuket that had me looking on every subsequent pizza menu for something similar. Almost everywhere I have traveled (according to my Facebook map, I have been to 27 countries), you can find pizza. Each country’s version is always slightly different…in Brazil and Taiwan, corn seems to be a very popular pizza topping. In Croatia, all you can really find is pizza and pasta…but almost every pizza I tried was amazing!

Anyway, after a day of sipping coconuts on the beach, my friends and I stopped at a beach bar that advertised 2 for 1 drinks. We didn’t have any intentions of eating, but when we saw the two Thai-flavored pizzas on the menu AND the brick oven, we asked the waitress if we could try both the Tom Yum and the Green Curry Shrimp pizzas. Amazing flavor combinations! I’ve had CPK’s version of Thai pizza before and have always liked it, but theirs is a peanut-based sauce–it never occurred to me to put curry on pizza. Since we make a lot of pizzas at home, I knew I’d have to try this myself.

We bought a pizza stone last year after tasting the miracle of home-baked pizza at my friend Tom’s. Since then, we’ve baked up all sorts of pizzas at home:

First pizza on the pizza stoneMushroom, chicken & pesto

Heart-shaped pizza #2Eggplant, olive & provolone

Dinner: PizzaOxtail, cauliflower & cilantro w/sweet BBQ sauce

BBQ Chicken PizzaRoast chicken, tomatoes, basil & BBQ sauce

The first time we tried making pizza, we made our own dough and I fried the motor of our $10 hand blender. We still don’t have a KitchenAid mixer or a large enough food processor, so we’ve since shied away from making our own doughs in favor of the 99-cent bags of wheat dough from Trader Joe’s. Yes, I know making your own dough is easy…but buying it is even easier! One small bag usually makes 4-5 pizzas for us.

A few weeks ago, we had leftovers from Sticky Rice, which I learned today is a favorite of the Thai students in my class (there are a lot of them)! We had purposely ordered two curries (red duck and green shrimp) to ensure that we’d have enough leftover to make Thai pizzas the following day. It was super easy…just rolled out the dough, spread the coconut curry on as the base, sprinkled cheese on top, and then threw on the meat & veggies from the respective curries (supplemented with sauteed mushrooms). We will definitely be making this pizza again! I also make my own red curry from time-to-time and this will be a great use of leftovers.

First, the green curry shrimp pizza:

Green Shrimp Curry Pizza

Green Shrimp Curry PizzaThe pizza got a little mangled before going in the oven…

Green Shrimp Curry Pizza

And then the red duck curry pizza:

Red Duck Curry PizzaWe also added some dollops of mascarpone cheese…

Red Duck Curry Pizza

<a href=”; title=”BBQ Chicken Pizza by venguyen, on Flickr”><img src=”; width=”240″ height=”160″ alt=”BBQ Chicken Pizza” /></a>
Categories: Cooking at home, food, pizza Tags: , ,


January 12, 2010 Leave a comment


I’ve been craving snickerdoodles on and off since last Easter. A summer in Manhattan and a busy Fall quarter at school distracted me and I forgot. A few weeks ago, Joel’s uncle hosted a potluck and someone brought the most delicious homemade snickerdoodles. I ate four that night…four more cookies than I’ve eaten in a while. Ask anyone and they will tell you I don’ t have much of a sweet tooth, but once in a while I do get an itch. The craving showed up again while watching those terribly one-sided playoff games on Saturday…and by Sunday, I was trolling the internet for suitable recipes (it is too cold in Chicago to go outside here and buy one).

For some reason, I always thought snickerdoodles required shortening, which I find kind of gross. However, most recipes don’t require shortening…just cream of tartar, which I don’t have on hand…and again, it is too cold to leave the house. I’m from California, and 14 is just unbearable. I’m going to take a hint from bears and just hibernate for the next few months. Turns out, you can do without the cream of tartar…so I had everything I needed on hand for some snickerdoodles. SCORE!

SnickerdoodlesI forgot to add a 1/2 cup of butter initially and didn’t add it until after the flour was already in…not ideal but the cookies still turned out.



SNICKERDOODLES (adapted from All Recipes)

  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar (which I omitted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine 1 1/4 cups white sugar, butter or margarine, vanilla and eggs. Mix well.
  3. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Blend well.
  4. Shape dough into 1 inch balls.
  5. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Roll dough in sugar/cinnamon mixture and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  6. Bake 8.5 or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets.


When I initially took the cookies out at 8.5 minutes, they were still kind of gooey inside…don’t worry! A few minutes later, they’d finished cooking while cooling. We only baked half the batch. The rest were balled and then thrown into the freezer for another time.

Paula Deen’s Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip

January 11, 2010 1 comment

Paula Deen's spinach & artichoke dip

Though college football season is over (Go Bears!), the Colts are headed for the playoffs, so we’ve been watching a lot of football…and with such events come…hot dips! While we were at Trader Joe’s (obviously one of my favorite places for groceries) we quickly Googled a warm spinach & artichoke dip recipe and settled on Paula Deen’s recipe. She’s known for adding butter and extra richness to everything she makes, but this recipe certainly is not as overly rich as some of the other spinach & artichoke dips I’ve made in the past. This is most definitely the recipe we’ll use going forward. It’s a good balance of artichoke, spinach, and cheese.

Paula Deen's spinach & artichoke dipPaula Deen's spinach & artichoke dipPaula Deen's spinach & artichoke dipPaula Deen's spinach & artichoke dip


  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 (13 3/4-ounce) cans artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup grated pepper jack cheese (or whatever cheese you have…we used a three cheese blend the first time)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Run water over the spinach to defrost and squeeze dry.
  3. Drain the artichoke hearts and coarsely chop in a food processor.
  4. Combine all the ingredients except the jack cheese in a large bowl. Stir well.
  5. Scrape into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle the jack cheese on top.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to a chafing dish and keep warm over a low flame. Serve with bagel chips or tortilla chips.


  • We’ve made this twice in the last two weeks. The first time, I baked it in an 8×8 inch pan…but then you keep having to warm it up (though its also good not hot). The second time, I threw everything (including the cheese meant to be on top) into my mini crockpot a few hours before heading over to a friend’s house and left it in the crockpot on warm throughout the two games. It was a hit!
  • The second time, we also threw in a few ounces of leftover mascarpone, which was delicious. I think you can throw in whatever cheese you want into this dip and it won’t be adversely affected. I bet some brie would be good!
  • The second time around, we didn’t have enough frozen spinach so I supplemented it with some fresh spinach. Boil some salted water, throw in the spinach until its cooked down (just a few minutes), cool down with cold water, squeeze dry, chop, and put it in with everything else.
  • Cracked pepper is always good and a couple splashes of Frank’s Red Hot never hurts either.
  • We served with blue corn tortilla chips, which I think makes for a fun color contrast.

And lest you think we always eat rich gooey foods, this is what we typically eat for lunch:

Lunch: TJ's chicken nugget salad

Leafy spinach salad with chopped apples, carrots, beets, almonds, (whatever else we have lying around) and TJ’s chicken nuggets topped with a drizzle of Japanese miso dressing (the dressing is seriously like crack…so good!).

Categories: appetizers, Cooking at home, dip, food Tags:

Spinach & Cheese Strata

January 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Spinach & Cheese Strata

I have no idea what a “strata” is, but that’s what Deb over at Smitten Kitchen called it. I would describe it as a breakfast bread pudding. My good friend made something similar for the morning after my 30th birthday…and I thought I’d give it a try.

Spinach & Cheese StrataSauteed onions, leeks, spinach, and ham

My modifications from Deb’s recipe:

  • I used a multi-grain seeded ciabatta from Trader Joe’s and three slices of wheat toast for the bread.
  • I also added one leek and two slices of ham I had in the fridge.
  • I also used non-fat milk since that’s what I had on hand, but would use low-fat milk in the future to make it a little less dry.
  • I used a 9×13 pyrex glass.
  • In the future, I would probably add two more eggs, omit the onions, use more spinach, and throw in some bacon & mushrooms.

Spinach & Cheese Strata
Spinach & Cheese Strata

Spinach & Cheese Strata

I had made this the night before with the intention of having company over for brunch the next morning (served w/bacon on the side and many, many mimosas). However, when I woke up that morning I was pretty sick and so we canceled brunch (boo!). When I got out of bed later that day, I threw it in the oven and we had it for a late lunch, which was still pretty good. However, this is way too much for two people…we had it for breakfast for the next several mornings. I served it with some sauteed mushrooms, a dollop of mascarpone cheese, some bacon jam (basically a bacon & onion compote), and a couple splashes of Frank’s Red Hot.

Overall, this is a good base recipe that I will use again in the future…but only if we are having company over for brunch.

Pan-fried gnocchi

January 8, 2010 1 comment

When I was in elementary school, my mom was a caretaker for an old Italian woman, Margeurite. Margeurite was from the old country, had a huge garden and loved to cook when she was younger and healthier. When she got too old to do the housework on her own, Margeurite’s son hired my mom to help her around the house while my brother and I were in school. Often, my mom would help Margeurite cook the traditional Italian recipes that she craved…which is how my mom learned to make traditional homemade Italian foods such as hand-rolled pasta, minestrone, gnocchi, and these light cookie/waffle things that I don’t know the name of.

While I was home for Christmas, I tried to find the pasta roller that Margeurite gave my mom many, many years ago. However, without mom around to tell me where she’d squirreled it away…I was unable to find it. So instead of long ribbons of pasta, I thought I’d try gnocchi. I couldn’t find my mom’s recipe for gnocchi either, but had seen Smitten Kitchen’s recipe using a grater and thought the gnocchi would go perfect with my red-wine braised oxtail.


I followed the Smitten Kitchen recipe pretty closely, but only ended up using about 1 cup of flour. I also opted to pan-fry the gnocchi in butter rather than boil because I thought it would be a better texture contrast with the oxtail…and I was afraid I would end up with a gluey potato mess (which is what happened when my roommate in college tried to make gnocchi). Anyway, the recipe was surprisingly easy (more potato flavor than you get in restuarants) and the dumplings were delicious. I froze 2/3 of the batch for use another time.


Categories: Cooking at home, food, pasta Tags: , ,