[RECIPE] Ham ‘n Cheese Pockets

I love potlucks… but when you have two potlucks in one day, no matter how many recipes you have on your To Do List, sometimes, there just isn’t time… or the ideas are never enough. This past weekend, I was brainstorming trying to figure out what to make. The people? Totaled around 20 and split down the middle when it came to the number of adults and the number of kids. They were mostly Asian, but of the more open-minded sort. The kids tended to like American foods. Then – I remembered these pockets and I thought they looked amazing. The cool thing: I recently bought a big pack of vegetarian bacon ham (I kid you not – they’re called bacon ham).

It all fell into place…

Ham N Cheese 5

Plus, I really wanted some nice salty (humane) protein with some nice, melty cheese. How does that not win anyone over?? The fact that the dough is homemade cinched it. I ended up doubling the recipe and cutting out a total of 32 pieces (there were 8 “breadsticks” per recipe that I halved). Continue reading

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[RECIPE] Creamy Vegan Potato & Cauliflower Soup

Something came up last minute and my dentist appointment this past weekend had to be rescheduled for a weekday afternoon. As such, I got out of the office early to make it to this appointment (still ended up being about 12 minutes late because there was an unnatural amount of traffic and lets not talk about the traffic after the appointment). This got me excited because I found this awesome soup recipe and I wouldn’t need to prep the ingredients the night before for the next day’s dinner and I wouldn’t need to run around when I got home to cook it.

In theory. You know – because I forgot to factor in after-work traffic and how yesterday was the first official day of the Rodeo.

Most of my plans ended up not going through. I didn’t get home on time. I didn’t end up making an absolutely delicious-sounding soup for dinner. It wasn’t a relaxing evening at all. In fact, we were stuck in so much traffic that we (husband was with me… our dentist is a bit far so we try to carpool to save on the gas and book out appointments at the same time) decided to go to Chinatown and get our dinner there, because I have a deadline for dinners (I can’t eat that late and the prep work would definitely push me past my dinner time). I also got a little special treat from Bambu to try to calm my growling stomach for the 1 hour ride back into the city for dinner, so I guess it wasn’t too bad. The only thing that went according to plan was that I did end up cooking the soup – but a much more simple version based off of the original for the next day’s lunch with mushrooms thrown into the mix because I found some that weren’t looking so good in my fridge. Sadness.

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Excuse the not-so-pretty-to-look-at photos. I literally only made it for lunch at 9 PM the night before, so it’s not quite photogenic. How do you make off-white-golden soup look beautiful, anyway? Although it lacks somewhat in the visual department, I have to say that I loved how it tasted. 🙂 It even tastes better the next day (as seems to be the case with most soups)! Continue reading

[RECIPE] Curried Coconut Lentils

With only an hour to spare from when I get home and when I need to leave to go to hot yoga, I am always struggling to figure out what to cook for dinner. Luckily, I decided to make this on my “off day” from yoga. That’s not to say it isn’t quick and easy – it is!!! – but I love not having to rush and actually getting the chance to enjoy the food.

However, because it was an “off day”, I decided that I still had to stay on the healthy track… so when I found this recipe for lentils, I thought it held a lot of promise: full of protein and nutrients and fairly quick to whip up! To be quite honest, what probably took the longest was putting together my mise en place (or basically getting all my ingredients together and in one place). Observe the spices:

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Beautiful, isn’t it? One of my favorite things to do is opening my spice cabinet (which is almost completely full) and getting that first whiff. I have quite the collection and it’s always growing…

Now, this would be my first time cooking lentils so a part of me was hoping it would turn out well, mainly because I had no idea what to expect. Is it hard to believe that I don’t ever recall eating this before? I already had the strong hunch that my BIL (brother-in-law) wouldn’t like it all that much and my husband is 50-50. However, if I didn’t like it, then that would most definitely be a major bummer, because I would be stuck eating something I made that didn’t agree with my taste buds. The thing is that lentils made this way have been on my to-do list for quite a while, so I was also pretty excited! After all, culinary adventures are awesome! Though some are rather daunting (I still haven’t made French macarons or a good souffle yet, but I imagine I should be doing it soon… ish – maybe).

I wasn’t wrong about my BIL but my husband actually liked it a bit – he liked how the lentils were soft and creamy even though curry (and Indian food in general) isn’t his favorite. Something about giving him a degree of indigestion due to the sheer amount of spices; his stomach simply isn’t used to it. In accordance with the recipe (unfortunately, I don’t have the source because I wrote it down), I also made a sauteed side of kale and tempeh to go with – and it was perfect! Kudos to the brain behind this!

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[RECIPE] Gluten-Free Clementine Cake

I admit it: I love food and I love making it (as if you couldn’t tell). No matter how tired I am, when it comes to prepping for any elaborate menus I decide upon, I would be there to do it. After all, a good portion of the time you put into cooking (and baking but to a lesser extent for the most part) goes into the prep work. I would be the one in the kitchen past midnight on a weeknight prepping for the next day’s dinner. With yoga, I only have roughly an hour to cook from the time I get home until the time I have to leave for 90-minutes of yoga so time is something I do not have.

I regularly browse cooking blogs and I came across a pretty interesting recipe for a citrus-based cake – a clementine cake, to be exact – a while ago and had printed out the recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t have the source readily available because it didn’t print out with the recipe. However, I thought it looked great – it used whole ingredients (literally) and was somewhat on the healthy side. It also had me do something I had never done before: boil fruit of the orange/citrus variety. I almost immediately decided that I would try it out one week for one of the weekly family dinners at my parents’ place and I finally got the chance to do it this weekend (mainly because I finally found some clementines).

As a note, clementine and mandarin oranges are in the same family but there are some differences (another site says that clementines don’t have seeds as they’re sterile but the ones I had contained a grand total of 1-1/2 seeds…). I won’t get into the technicalities, mainly because I am far from qualified to do so, but I may try this recipe again with mandarins (then tangerines) and see if there are any major differences, though I suspect there may not be to my inexperienced tongue. The only main issue is the amount to use. The original recipe’s amount of citrus to use did not match up with the clementines I got so I re-adjusted the recipe, because I didn’t particularly want to cut up a clementine to get exactly what the original recipe required. Plus, their recipe only made enough batter for an 8-inch cake and I only have 9-inch pans. I suppose it all works out in the end, but that is why the quantities under this recipe are a bit more flexible.

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[RECIPE] Braised Tofu & Oyster Mushrooms

Although I am Asian by ethnicity, I was born and grew up in the States. Unlike most other families with immigrant parents, my mother was a stay-at-home mom and she was in the PTA. Our neighborhood while growing up, though predominately Caucasian, was still made up of a lovely mixture of cultures and ethnicities and with my mom being a part of the PTA, her friends were not of the usual Asian variety (there were some, but they weren’t her only friends). Honestly speaking, though, she didn’t have to learn how to cook until she got married so though her baklava was pretty good, I still remember her first attempt at making pizza from scratch.

About 70% of it was burnt. We ended up eating out that night.

I actually didn’t get into cooking until I was in college, mainly because it was most convenient, being a vegetarian (my family became vegetarian when I was around 14 years old)… and one that didn’t eat onion, garlic, leeks, and chives, all of which are almost always used in American vegetarian cuisine. And hing (asafoetida)… but that’s not as common unless eating Indian cuisine. I wasn’t even a foodie until I got older. I don’t know what happened, but when I was growing up, I didn’t like to eat. Now, I wish my parents didn’t make me finish everything in my bowl; perhaps then I wouldn’t feel the need to do so till this day and, consequently, gain weight so easily.

Once I got into cooking, though, I made a point not to make a lot of Asian food. My family is Vietnamese-Chinese so though my mom does like venturing into other cuisines, it was still mainly of the Asian variety. They make it well, I thought, so why should I make a mediocre attempt at it? Well, since I got married to a Taiwanese guy and his older brother lives with us for the time being, I have been cooking a lot more. Yay! However, it’s been mainly of the non-Chinese variety, because these two guys can cook and they only cook Taiwanese food. Occasionally, I have been toying with the idea of making Asian food because these two guys apparently prefer it. My husband’s more open-minded but the other one… let’s just say I have a lot of leftovers on the days where BIL (brother-in-law) doesn’t like the food as much. Plus, after staying in Taiwan for a month and eating Taiwanese food about 98% of the time, I suppose I can’t “deprive” them, either. Taiwan is great at their vegetarian food, but after eating almost the same thing day after day, I was having intense cravings for non-Chinese cuisine.

However, like I said, Taiwan is a great country to visit if you’re vegetarian. A good 10% of the population is full-time vegetarian while a portion of the remainder may go vegetarian for a couple of days a month for religious (Buddhist) reasons. As such, there are a lot of choices there. While there, I bought two Taiwanese vegetarian cookbooks. I came across a recipe one day while designing the menu for a Chinese-themed dinner. It seemed pretty easy. Too easy, one might say. It was essentially tofu and oyster mushrooms. How did one make it? You lay it in a pan, pour the sauce over it, cover it, then forget it for 12 minutes. Done.

I was skeptical, but I decided to try it out. Also, it was on the healthy side, which is something I need. The Taiwanese people are all about hospitality and I was fed wherever I went, even when I didn’t want to be fed. I was fed so much that when I returned to the States, I found out I gained 5 pounds. Great. Good thing the engagement photos we had done was at the beginning of our stay there…

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Mini Kim-Jang 2014

As I prepare for the long trip to Asia, one of the things on my to-do list was to make a decent-sized batch of kimchi so it would have time to ferment by the time I return. Ever since I returned from my one-year stint there as an English teacher, I still miss good old Korean food from time to time, one of which is kimchi. While in Korea, I was lucky enough to get the chance to be invited over to a friend’s house whose mother-in-law showed me the basics of making kimchi during their kimjang, a get-together in the winter months (usually in November) where a family makes huge batches of kimchi for the following year. Although kimchi is usually eaten as a side dish for essentially every meal in Korea, I prefer cooking it in dishes like Kimchi Fried Rice and Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew), which requires sour kimchi. This requires a longer fermentation time so I don’t eat the kimchi I make until at least 2 or 3 months after I make it. I sometimes even wait for up to 5 months before I even think about opening the container. As I said, I like my kimchi really sour.

When I returned to the States, I found myself craving the stuff. Sure, you can find them in the refrigerated sections of the Asian market, but they were either (1) not vegetarian and/or (2) had loads of garlic in it. As such, I did some research, as all Asian mothers tend not to use measurements, and made up a recipe of my own for my Vegan Kimchi – sans the garlic. Since I’ve returned, I make around 2 batches a year.  Continue reading

[RECIPE] Alcohol-free Tiramisu

This marks the first recipe I had to go back and make a second attempt for.

I would like to say that this was pretty authentic, as authenticity goes. I found the recipe from the package of Italian biscotti savoiardi, or lady fingers in layman’s terms. Brand: Alessi. In actuality, I found several recipes but all of them went out the window when I went shopping for the actual ingredients and found it on the side of the cookies. After all, the lady fingers were made in Italy and who would know the recipe more than the Italian company that makes the lady fingers, a major component of tiramisu?

I thought it would be simple and I followed the instructions well. Wrong decision. It was a three-step recipe that was squished into a block rectangle text. Of course not all the details were written! Unfortunately, I found out belatedly.. either that or the recipe’s author assumed all people following the recipe were hardened chefs, of which I most certainly am not.

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